Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on November 14, 2017

"It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

— David Steindl-Rast

Say Thank You to a Tree

Here in the Midwest, mid-November is a season of raucous beauty in the woods and parks. Aromas of cinnamon and apples fill our homes in anticipation of Thanksgiving, and dinner menus are already getting underway.

This morning, I walked in a nearby botanical garden filled with stunning maples and oaks, all dressed up in variegated hues of red, yellow, green, and orange — colors that seem to melt into one another, softening the landscape with something close to tenderness. Their delicate beauty, translucent and fiery against the cold November sky, brought me close to tears. All I could do was thank the trees: Thank you for your beauty, your mystery, your willingness to let go and change with the seasons, and for your graceful dignity as you bow towards winter. Thank you, too, for your luminous inner light that suggests the joyful presence of your creator. Thank you for sharing the earth with me.

A sense of joy flooded me ...

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on November 3, 2017

"There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground; there are a thousand ways to go home again."

— Rumi

A Quiet Word

Devotion is a quiet word, and quiet words often get lost in our clamorous, high-strung, information-clogged world. The quiet rebel called "devotion" grounds us in stillness against the easy addiction to the latest tweet from the President or the fear that if we stop, unplug, and rest — even for ten minutes — something dreadful might happen and we won't know about it.

As a spiritual practice, then, devotion asks of us: "a moment please?" It takes us aside for a quiet season of prayer or meditation or Lectio Divina or some other form of private worship. Like a librarian, devotion stands over us with an index finger to her lips. "Quiet," she says. "Be still. Look deeply into the text of your life and discover your truest love."

What is Your Truest Love?

Posted by Jay McDaniel on October 25, 2017

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

– John 3:8

Imagine that you are an eyewitness to the second coming of Christ. It only lasts fifteen seconds, but still it is impressive. It comes in the form of a little daily action undertaken by your next-door neighbor, a fifteen-year-old teenager named Matthew. You had thought the second coming might come in the form of a more religious person: a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hindu, maybe even a Christian. But Matthew?

Matthew has no readily identifiable religious affiliation. . . .

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on October 18, 2017

"An atheist friend of mine is fond of saying ‘I just don’t believe that God is an old man sitting on the throne in heaven.’ Me neither. Nor do the millions of people who still trust in God, yet reject this particular conception of God. . . . Instead of seeing God as distinct and distant from the world, we are acquiring a new awareness that the universe itself is God’s body, a complex and diverse interdependent organism, animated by God’s breath, the spirit of creation."

— Diana Butler Bass, Grounded

Is Somebody in Charge Up There?

Once, in a discussion over climate change and the dire consequences of doing nothing, a zealous Christian woman offered this theological argument:

But God is in control. . . .

Posted by Jay McDaniel on October 6, 2017

"The spiritual practice of transformation holds within its wide embrace the personal renewals that come with a spiritual awakening, a conversion, a mystical epiphany, or an enlightenment. It covers the deepening that takes place when we get in touch with our Higher Self or Spirit."

— Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Childhood Ephiphanies

Sometimes mystical epiphanies come very early in life, on playgrounds. And the lessons they offer are not about a cosmic source from which all things emerge, or even the absolute interconnectedness of all things. The lessons are more practical and pertain to how we might live our lives, year by year, month by month, by pumping: a metaphor for reinventing ourselves in light of new situations. At least this is the case with my mother, Virginia McDaniel. Now 100 years old, she wrote at age 95:

I remember when I was a little girl . . .

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on September 26, 2017

“Through compassion, we conquer the numbness and the daze which keeps us closed off from the messes and miseries of the world.”

— Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spiritual Literacy

The Womb of Compassion

Of all our practices, compassion lies at the heart of the spiritual life. It is the uniting theme running through every major world religion. The writers of the Gospels frequently described Jesus as being "moved with compassion." In the Qur’an, the phrase “in the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful” appears 114 times. In Buddhism, compassion combined with wisdom — the “great compassion” — is the path to enlightenment.

I am particularly drawn to the favorite Talmudic name for God: Rachmana, "the Compassionate One." The root of this Hebrew word rchm means “womb.” God has a womb. And in that womb, we are nourished and formed and loved. Compassion means “to feel with” and so divinity feels with us like a mother. This kind of God appeals to me. This is why I was drawn to process theology, for it suggests that "God is the great companion — the fellow sufferer, who understands" (Alfred North Whitehead). The more we come to know this intimate companion, the more we know our practice of compassion as a divine calling. By entering the suffering of others, we move deeper into the very life of God, whose womb contains the whole world.

The Practice of Self-Compassion

Posted by Jay McDaniel on September 21, 2017

A first step in developing a theology of onions is to recognize how beautiful they are. When I watched the video above from the Spiritual Literacy DVD series​, using the words of Mary Hays Grieco to help me find God in an onion, I saw this clearly. I, too, believe that we can experience the beauty of God in the beauty of the world, onions much included.

At the same time as I saw this video, I received a meal from Blue Apron meal delivery service that included onions to be used in a salad. I watched the videos on dicing onions (shared at bottom of post) and thought to myself: "Well that's interesting, but it's not exactly mystical or spiritual, you can't chop God up with a knife."

My partner, Kathy McDaniel, quickly disabused me of this illusion. . . .

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on September 12, 2017

“The biggest gift you can give is to be absolutely present, and when you’re worrying about whether you’re hopeful or hopeless or pessimistic or optimistic, who cares? The main thing is that you’re showing up, that you’re here and that you’re finding ever more capacity to love this world because it will not be healed without that.”

— Joanna Macy, On Being interview

Not as Easy as It Sounds

Being present, the most basic attitude for the spiritual pilgrim, is not an easy practice. For being present means not only letting the bright gladness of summer daisies seep into our souls; it also means a face-to-face encounter with the fears that haunt our days.

Rilke says:
“Let everything happen to you
beauty and terror.
Just keep going,
No feeling is final.”

Being present means being present with all of it . . .

Posted by Jay McDaniel on September 6, 2017

God … is not far from each of us. In God we live and move and have our being.

— Acts 17:27-28

There are many different ways to think about God: as a force, a feeling, and a cosmic person, for example. Each has its wisdom. In times filled with violence and the threat of war, one of the most promising ways is called panentheism. Panentheism (with the en between pan and theism) is different from pantheism. Pantheism is the view that everything added together is God, pure and simple. Panentheism, on the other hand, is the view that everything is part of God, but that God is also more than everything added together. There are seeds of panentheism in all the religious traditions, including Christianity, which is the religion I know best. In this short "process musing," I want to introduce it to readers.

Panentheism is best understood by reference to its opposite . . .

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on August 28, 2017

“To participate in Beauty is to come into
the presence of the Holy."

— John O’Donohue

Beauty as a Holy Sanctuary

Beauty is a holy sanctuary where heaven and earth greet each another with gladness. Beauty offers us glimpses of something more: the promise of a “a hidden wholeness” underneath the brokenness of this world. Beauty, I believe, is where we find our true home with God and the world.

And God is beautiful.

So many have been injured by the very word “God” and so cannot use such language; that is understandable. I use the word “God” throughout this Spiritual Alphabet Series in the sense that Alfred North Whitehead wrote of God, as the “poet of the world.” And, as a progressive minister, I also embrace the vision of Jesus as a lens through which we can imagine what God is like: Not an all-controlling king “up there,” but Love incarnate — in the world — weeping with those who weep and transforming our brokenness into novel possibilities for wholeness. As a process thinker, I believe in a beautiful God.

The Beauty of God

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About This Blog

Welcome to Process Musings for the spiritually curious, the creative, and the open-hearted. We, Jay McDaniel and Patricia Adams Farmer, are two bloggers from the world of process thought, inspired by the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. This multi-faith blog features articles, essays, stories, videos, and poetry which invite you to discover fresh possibilities for wholeness, creativity, and joy. Read more.