Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on October 10, 2018

There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why?
I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?
— George Bernard Shaw

Often, the most intense forms of beauty rise from the ashes of tragedy. Such is the story of how a bombed-out church from the London Blitz ended up in my town in Missouri — restored, renewed, rehallowed. Her name is St. Mary, Aldermanbury, and she's got quite a story to tell.

The Phoenix of Fulton

St. Mary, Aldermanbury stands tall after rising from the ashes—not once, but twice in her long life

Posted by Jay McDaniel on October 1, 2018

Not a lot of my liberal friends believe in angels, but I do. I am, after all, a process theologian.

I think pop songs are angels. They fly through the air with their sonic wings, carrying their kinetic pop energy, helping people feel things that might not otherwise feel, relative to the circumstances of their lives. In this they sometimes serve as ambassadors for God, whose hope is that people will enjoy all sides of life: love and justice and silence and tenderness, but also playfulness, imagination, zest for life, connection with others, positive self-regard, dancing, and peace of mind. Pop angels are especially good at evoking the latter forms of enjoyment, although their effectiveness depends on the circumstances and dispositions of the listeners. Think about it: user-friendly angels you can dance with, alone or with others, just by turning a dial or clicking a button.

Pop song angels are relational . . .

Posted by Jay McDaniel on September 7, 2018

I've been playing hide and seek with God most of my life. Sometimes I hide from God and sometimes God hides from me. I think I've discerned a pattern: Whenever I become confident that God is found in my own favorite institutions, theologies, political parties, creeds, and rituals, or even my favorite memories, I end up acting as if these various contexts somehow contain God. I put God in a box.

Then, in response, God hides from me, no longer appearing in those familiar places, but often reappearing in places where I least expect it. God appears in people whose beliefs and perspectives run counter to my own, for example. Or in forms of music I once thought trivial. Or in ideas I once rejected. Or in relationships I once thought hopeless. God seems especially prone to reappear in the form of strangers.

I’d like to pretend that the game will end sometimes, but I doubt that this end will come in my lifetime.

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on August 22, 2018

“Silence is like a flame, you see?”
—Marcel Marceau

As a lover of words, I wonder why I am so drawn to the wordless worlds of music and dance and art. And then, there is mime, that peculiar silent art form, perhaps brought to its highest expression in the work of Marcel Marceau. After viewing some of his mime masterpieces, such as The Cage and Youth, Maturity, and Old Age, I asked myself: Why does this master of silent storytelling move me so much?

After a little research, I discovered that Marceau's world of mime was "a flame" set against the dark backdrop of his own experience, . . .

Posted by Jay McDaniel on August 14, 2018

There are so many kinds of prayer and so many ways to pray. We can pray with words and without words. We can pray by reaching out into a vast mystery, the Deep Listening, saying "help" or "thanks" or "wow." [1] And we can pray by resting in a silence of our own hearts, without saying anything, sensing that all things are enfolded in a love beyond our understanding, yet also within each of us.

How might we name these two kinds of prayer? I will speak of them as "reaching out" prayer and "contemplative" prayer.

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on July 24, 2018

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.
—Audrey Hepburn

To plant a garden is to practice hope. When we dare to plant a garden — and it does take daring! — we embody the kind of hope that William Sloane Coffin called "a passion for the possible." This speaks to me of a deep, divine source of unfolding possibilities — a divine urgency for beauty and well-being on a landscape becoming more distressed by the minute. This divine passion describes a great suffering heart, a patient lover, a deep tenderness, everything needed to plant a garden.

Harnessing this hidden universe of possibility and passion, we need a patch of earth that is small and manageable and ours, a place among the particulars ...

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on June 4, 2018

"Forgiveness is the only way to free ourselves from the entrapment of the past."
— Richard Rohr

I was recently approached by a young mother who told me that she was having trouble with forgiveness. I invited her to share more. As her eyes filled with unshed tears, she told me of a painful time in her recent past. She spoke of a family friend's molestation of her young daughter, of the trial, of her daughter having to testify — every mother's nightmare! The man is serving time, but her daughter is forever scarred, and the mother cannot forgive. Who can blame her? Should she forgive a monster?

Most of us do not face anything like this horrific crime in our lives, but still, we have our issues.

Forgiveness may, indeed, be the most challenging work of our spiritual lives ...

Posted by Jay McDaniel on May 14, 2018

I'm recommending that everyone in Congress take a course in "religious and spiritual literacy." But why stop there?

Wouldn't it be nice if people all over the world were religiously literate: that is, if they had a basic understanding of the world's many religions? Maybe even all seventeen of them, which is the number of religions presented by the Harvard Pluralism Project. What to know? Not just the ideas and practices, but also the contributions the religions have made to society and an appreciation for the moral exemplars they offer the world. Religious literacy should be required of all government officials, all clergy, all college graduates. Religious literacy is as important as math and science.

Spiritual Moods and Aspirations

But even religious literacy doesn’t really go far enough. It would also be nice if people around the world were spiritually literate …

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on April 26, 2018

Faith rarely comes to us whole; mostly it comes in pieces, sometimes in tiny fragments, especially when life feels broken. Sometimes faith is lost altogether in the breaking. When children are massacred in their schools, where is faith in such a shattered place as this?

Process theologians believe that we are not alone in the shattering; it is the divine experience, too. For when children are murdered in their school, part of God's own self is shattered in a painful cosmic groan that echoes across the universe. Yes, we process thinkers believe that God is in the shattering, or as Alfred North Whitehead says, God is "the great companion — the fellow sufferer, who understands."

Writing from prison in Nazi Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said ...

Posted by Patricia Adams Farmer on March 14, 2018

My mother died. Those three words are hard to write, let alone process. For me, the finality of never hearing my mother’s voice again or having the chance to talk over old issues or discover something new about her childhood — these possibilities are all swallowed up in a black hole of mystery that is beyond me now. Game’s up. No more chances. It feels kind of brutal and unfair.

But she was elderly and ready to go and died peacefully in the night, the way we all wish to go. I did not anticipate any earth-shaking emotions. Oh, how wrong I was! How was I to know that a whole plethora of feelings would suddenly rise up like a chaotic music video filled with intense images and colors and rhythms, a kind of hodgepodge of noisy regrets and bittersweet memories and intense sadness and forgotten angers and irrational bouts of guilt?

I would prefer to turn off the whole grief experience ...

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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.