Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

The Kingdom of Heaven—Commit Completely

December 13, 2019

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

What else need be said?

When we find the kingdom, it is more valuable and important than anything.

For you who are still seeking for spiritual roots, when you find the kingdom of heaven, you commit completely.

It is definitely not saying you have entered the kingdom of heaven. You are known by your commitment as you live minute-by-minute. People will look at you and thing, “There goes someone living in the kingdom of heaven.”

An old joke concerns a conversation between a pig and a chicken about supplying breakfast for a human. The pig says, “For you, it is merely a contribution. For me, it is total commitment.”

Jesus said that we will know by how a person loves. He was so clear, yet people who think too much make it so opaque. How committed are you? Not to busy work in some organization, but to living in the kingdom?

The Kingdom of Heaven Permeates Everywhere

December 12, 2019

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.

What kind of breads do you make (buy) that have no yeast and what kinds have yeast?

Yeast changes the entire batch of dough.

If Advent can be seen as anticipation of the coming of Jesus (which today we think of the first coming, then it can also be considered as the coming of the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus never found the entire population of Palestine (both Jews and not) as his followers, yet the small numbers spread throughout the world as far as they could go changing the culture everywhere.

We who say we are followers share the same “yeast”, that of permeating and changing the world around us not so much by words as by what we do and how we act.

Yeast takes time to realize its mission in the dough. So, the kingdoms of heaven also does not happen instantaneously.

But we work at it.

A Mustard Seed

December 11, 2019

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.

Looking at Advent as the coming of the kingdom of heaven.

It is easy for us to overlook the power of the kingdom of heaven. Compared (at the time) to the mighty and powerful Rome, what Jesus offered appeared tiny and insignificant.

Yet, when it is planted within people it grows large and gives shelter. And, indeed, 300 years later, it conquered Rome (sort of).

Coming of the Kingdom of Heaven

December 10, 2019

  • Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
  • “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
  • “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
  • “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
  • The kingdom of heaven, the realm where Jesus-followers live, exists alongside the rest of the world. It’s not that we’re set aside into separate communities. We live and work and provide a living witness (love your neighbor) alongside everyone else. It’s not us to condemn anyone. That is someone else’s job.

    The Coming of the Realm of God

    December 9, 2019

    “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Mark 1

    If Advent is preparation for the celebration of the coming of Jesus, then this must relate to the coming of the “kingdom” of God–or I have seen it translated as “realm”. Over the centuries, the intent has changed a few times from anticipation of the second coming to celebration of the first. In modern times the meaning has become centered as “Jesus’s birthday”, something which it obviously is not, at least not literally, since he was almost certainly not born in December.

    Jesus said it was the “good news” (Greek: gospel) that the realm of God is here. Now.

    The Mediterranean world at the time was filled with spiritual anticipation. The time was ripe for something to happen.

    And Jesus came proclaiming the message that we can now live a different kind of life within the realm of God, with different rules, upending the worldview of the Romans–vestiges of which continue to exist in power politics and rule of violence and power.

    But we can choose to live by Jesus’s example and teaching and live a different kind of life.

    That is something to celebrate this season as we momentarily dust off old concepts like peace and good will and joy. Maybe we try to keep them alive all year.

    You Need To Change

    December 6, 2019

    The first steps to wisdom I wrote about yesterday. About recognizing our own feelings and realizing that we have feelings, but we are not our feelings.

    Often it is someone or something that brings out negative feelings.

    It’s Christmas season. But we hardly feel the optimism of looking forward to celebrate the coming of Jesus.

    We feel pressured. Parties to attend (some good, but always something else). The same old tired seasonal music, which would be good, but we hear 24/7 it seems on every radio and in every store–especially the stores. Expectations of others for presents. How we must be nice to everyone–especially certain everyone’s.

    The most important next step toward having and living wisdom is to realize there is only one variable we can control in all this mess.

    That would be us.

    We can choose to wallow in our role as Ebenezer Scrooge or Mr. Grinch.

    Or like they did in their stories, we can choose to change our story. Pick a new outlook on life. We can choose to enjoy people, or at least avoid those who seem to go out of their way to annoy us.

    Realizing that we can be the change is the next step to wisdom.

    I Have Feelings, I Am Not Those Feelings

    December 5, 2019

    Yesterday I talked a bit about Advent. That is in the Church Calendar. It’s for “Church People”.

    For most of us, it is “Christmas Season.”

    With the season, come rushes of emotions.

    Melancholy for past experiences.

    Acute feelings of loss of family members.

    Repressed anger for long-simmering family issues.

    Depression (not clinical, or maybe) because everyone else seems to be enjoying the season (they are probably faking it).

    We must dissociate those feelings from our being as individuals. We have feelings, we are not that feeling. We can observe them. Play with them. Pause and breathe mindfully.

    We’ll survive the family gatherings, the business gatherings, the gatherings of friends, too much cakes and candies, worries of buying the wrong presents.

    Real people, those without some sort of happy facade, have fears, and struggles, and doubts, and then also joy, and happiness, and peace. We actually can choose once we recognize where we are.

    Take a deep breath. Pause. Choose to focus on the good parts.

    Advent

    December 4, 2019

    Advent began Sunday.

    It’s not something we practiced while I was growing up, nor one I’ve practiced since marriage.

    Some think that it is related to Christmas. But, that is a relatively recent linkage in the history of the Christian church.

    Some think Advent was practiced by the 5th Century (400s) as a time of fasting and preparation for baptisms on the Feast of Epiphany.

    Some think that advent (the word comes from the Latin which is a translation of the Greek for coming) related (or relates?) to the second coming of Jesus when he’ll judge the world.

    Looks like it was a time of recognition of God entering the world whatever the theology of the times called for.

    The Celebration of Christ’s Birth (Christmas) is such an ingrained cultural phenomenon globally (even among people not wishing to be called Christian or even Jesus-followers) that Advent necessarily is tied to it today. Until a time when all that changes.

    For me–my wife takes great joy in decorating the house in celebration of Christmas. I’m writing this staring at an accumulation of mugs once filled with mulled wine or hot chocolate from Chicago’s Christkindlmarket that come out every year with the addition of the latest one acquired on “Black Friday.”

    So when I rise from sleep and go downstairs to read, meditate, and pray, I turn on the Christmas tree lights and meditate on the coming of Jesus into the world. I guess that is preparation for the coming.

    Having Skin In The Game

    December 3, 2019

    That means we are risking something by doing something or advising something.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb advises in his latest book, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, that we should beware of advice from financial planners, consultants, and others who do not have skin in the game where they are advising.

    How many people do you know who profess to be Christian (or, for that matter Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist) yet when you look at their life you cannot differentiate it from the life of a pagan or anyone else?

    That is why only part of the Spiritual Disciplines address inner work.

    And only part address gathering with other, like-minded souls.

    Part addresses having “skin in the game”, that is, getting up off your (butt) and serving someone–or many someones.

    The work need not be publicized. However, over time people will reflect “there is a person who actually acts like someone who is spiritually in tune with God”. Or, “she is a genuinely nice person”. Or, “they have skin in the game”.

    Doing, not just saying, puts skin in the game.

    [Oh, I don’t recommend the book unless you’re interested in the mathematics of probability or are into philosophical discussions. If you are, read The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable first.]

    Principles

    December 2, 2019

    In the realm of the soul–walking with God, living the with-God life.

    In the realm of the individual–virtue, don’t do to others that which you don’t want them to do to you.

    In the realm of the social, of the groups of people–justice, construct laws that provide for the greatest justice for the greatest number, aka “Liberty and Justice for all”. Neither the “it’s all about me” or the cynical “reward my friends”.