"Wrestling with God" book with Barbara Falconer Newhall

Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith

"Any seeker of any faith will be blessed to read the words of this fine author and observer."

Publishers Weekly, starred review

Click to learn more about "Wrestling with God"

My Rocky Spiritual Journey

You don't have to be a big believer to find something interesting to read here . . . You'll find excerpts from the spiritual journeys of people I've met on the religion beat as well as reports of my own fraught encounters with religion and spirituality . . . as well as updates on my book, "Wrestling with God," to be published early 2015 by Patheos Press.

Isaiah and the Of-Courseness of God

Isaiah. Lake michigan sunset. The of-courseness of God. Barbara Falconer Newhall travels up and down Michigan's lower peninsula, visiting friends and family and putting on book events for "Wrestling with God."

Isaiah: He stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain. And (yet another Lake Michigan) photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

For most of my adult life I haven’t been so sure about God. That such a thing could exist seems far-fetched, too good to be true.

But now that I’m firmly located in the second half of my life – okay, okay, the third third of my life (And no, I’m not calling it the last third of my life; I’m not ready to go there – yet) . . . now that I’ve moved along in my life, past the time when I have to make my mark on the world, produce those babies, get them raised to adulthood, achieve some success and glory as a writer, stash away some money for retirement . . . now that the gotta-do part of my life is behind me – I seems to me (on a good day) that God’s existence is right there for all to see, plain as day.

You can’t miss it. Something is going on out there. Of course it is. It’s common sense. How else could things be?

The eighth-century BCE Hebrew prophet Isaiah appears to share my sense of the of-courseness of God. This exuberant Bible passage is attributed to him:

Have ye not known? Have ye not heard?

Hath it not been told you from the beginning?

Have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth,

And the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers;

That stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain,

And spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in . . . .

– Isaiah 40:21-22, King James Version

If you enjoyed this post (and even if it was too Bible-y for you) you’ll probably like my book, “Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith.” Also “For Lent, Trying Giving Up That Old, Outworn Story About Yourself.”  And “What Happens When You Drop Your Cell Phone Into the Sacred Buddhist Sand Painting?”


The First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Michigan — Last Stop on My One-Woman Road Trip

Facade of the First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Michigan. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

It had been a wonderful tour around Michigan’s lower peninsula. Just me, a full tank of gas, and my trusty point-and-shoot. And now it was over.

Grosse Pointe. Pentwater. Ludington. Traverse City. Howell. And finally, [Read more…]


Which Way America? Compassion With Francis? Or Vitriol With Trump?

The cover of Donald Trump book, "Think Big and Kick Ass."

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Pope Francis has arrived on our shores just in the nick of time. In time maybe to put to shame folks like the spitwad-throwing, invective-spewing Donald Trump . . . and usher them quietly from the public eye.

Cover of Pope Francis' book, "Open Mind, Faithful Heart." With a picture of the pope.

The two men couldn’t be more different. And I’m not talking about their politics or their theology. I’m talking about the way they respect (Francis) or disrespect (Donald) their fellow human beings.

Some examples:

Donald on Lindsey Graham: “A total lightweight. Here’s a guy — in the private sector he couldn’t get a job. Believe me. Couldn’t get a job.”

Francis: “Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs, or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life.”

Donald on Sen. John McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who [Read more…]


I Love Pope Francis — Or Do I?

The papal keys in bas relief over the tomb of John Paul II, Vatican. Photo by Barbara Newhall

The papal keys — symbol of the pope’s authority over the church and its people. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

My honeymoon with Catholicism’s newest pope is over.

I’m done with getting all hopeful and goosebumpy about Pope Francis and the breath-of-fresh-air tone he’s setting for one of the world’s largest and most powerful international institutions.

Yeah, yeah. Pope Francis says nice things like, “Who am I to judge?” He [Read more…]


Tori Isner, Poet: ‘You Are a Vehicle for Spirit’

Tori Isner says look for Spirit in nature. Monzogranite rock formation at Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Barbara Newahll

Monzogranite rock at Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Barbara Newahll

I encountered dozens of wonderful people — artists, activists, preachers and business people — in the course of conducting interviews for “Wrestling with God.” Tori Isner was one of them.

An adopted Lakota Sioux who traces her roots to the Eastern Band of Cherokee of North Carolina,  Tori is an Army vet and a grandmother. But as I edited the transcripts of our conversations, I realized that she was also a poet.

Here’s what — the Whitmanesque — Tori Isner had to say about Spirit. — BFN

Tori Isner’s Song

It’s a family thing, the spiritual world. It’s a connectedness to everything around you, Mother Earth, Grandmother Moon, Grandfather Sun.

Everything is part of the family. The buffalo is your brother. The standing people are the trees. They’ve been here a lot longer than you have, they can teach you.

Go stand next to a big rock, see how big you really are. Go look at the ocean. That’s Creator, that’s beauty.

With us, it’s Creator who created the food, created the buffalo, created the rocks, the grass, Mother Earth, and everything we have. Creator did that. And we’re honored just to walk on it, just to live, just to be.

The trees are the standing people, says Tori Isner. Here, the limbs of a joshua tree seen against a rich blue sky at Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A Joshua tree. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Creator is in everything we do. And in everything we do, we give thanks. If I eat a meal, I make a Spirit plate. I take a little bit of food from everything that I have on my plate, and a little bit of tobacco, and put it out on the back porch.

That’s giving thanks to Spirit for the food that I have and for the abundance that I have. It’s just a small thing I can do for the gifts that I get.

You acknowledge that everything comes from Creator and that none of this is truly yours. You’re just borrowing it.

Your body is a vehicle. Like the trees, that’s their form. And the plants, that’s their form. And the buffalo, and the horses and everything, those are their forms. These are all vehicles to carry the Spirit around.

Everything that I am is from Creator. The greatest gift I can give is myself back to the one that created me. I am the only one that can authorize the offering of myself. No one else can. And I do that willingly.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like “Anne Lamott on Gettting Older — Drop That Rock.” Also, “On the Shores of Lake Michigan — A Wild Place Tamed.” For more about my book, go to WrestlingWithGodBook.com.