During Advent, we wait for Christmas in the glow of burning candles: flames that stretch up into the darkness, as if in passionate plea. Our spirits burn, too, for we long for fresh manifestations of Christmas — tiny bursts of hope, swaddled in vulnerability and gentleness. Our waiting becomes almost an ache, a prayerful yearning for goodness and compassion to be reborn into our world of injustice, division, and fear.
Posted by Jay McDaniel on December 11, 2017
Sometimes when people talk to us, we aren’t really listening. We may hear them speak and look them in the eye. We may nod our heads in encouragement. But inwardly we are distracted by our private concerns and want to turn the conversation in our own direction. Before they complete their sentences, we are busy composing our own responses.
And sometimes, of course, they are doing exactly the same thing. We may be sharing ideas and feelings that are very important to us; we may want to be heard and taken seriously. But inwardly they are distracted by their own private agendas. They, too, are composing their responses to our sentences before we have finished uttering them. An observer might say that the two of us are having a conversation, but in fact we are having two monologues simultaneously. Two people are talking, but no one is listening.
Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on November 28, 2017
“Enthusiasm means ‘one with the energy of God.’ It derives from root words pointing to be inspired and possessed by the Divine. There is something awesome about this spiritual quality. They are vibrantly alive.”
— Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spiritual Literacy
Until I encountered the concept of enthusiasm through the eyes of Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, I associated this lovable, five-syllable word only with youthful passion or extroverted salesclerks. But much to my delight, through the pages of Spiritual Literacy, I discovered this word is imbued with the sacred, offering spiritual pilgrims of all stripes a fresh alternative to cynicism, lethargy, and apathy.
Posted by Jay McDaniel on November 21, 2017
We believe that democracy as a way of life can be strengthened and deepened through spiritual practices — both those traditionally considered to be "inner work" and those that require active engagement with our neighbors and communities.
— Spirituality and Practice: The Practicing Democracy Project
I’m listening to John Coltrane’s "Love Supreme" as I write this. It makes me think of St. John Coltrane Church in San Francisco. I live in Arkansas, but I think I am a member of the church, at least in spirit. I like the whole idea that people might sing along, clap, and dance to Coltrane’s "Love Supreme" on Sunday mornings, understanding it as a spiritual practice in its own right. As they dance they are putting on the mind of Coltrane and entering into Coltrane-consciousness; and many think of it as a kind of Christ-consciousness: open, free, celebratory, loving. Makes sense to me. I think Christ can be in Coltrane and Coltrane in Christ. Isn’t everything interconnected?
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 2:5
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.
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."
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."
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?
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:
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
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:
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.
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.