"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.

Was That Old Testament God Just Trying to Keep Us in the Game?

Monopoly game board. Old testament God.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

People like to grumble about the out-datedness of the Bible in general, and of the very male, very judgmental Old Testament God in particular. But that fiery, ancient God of Hebrew Scripture has at least one redeeming quality, one he shares with my son Peter.

When Peter was four or five years old, he spent an afternoon with a little friend who was developmentally disabled. Peter was ready to play that afternoon. That is to say, Peter was ready to play – with somebody.

I watched my son try strategy after strategy to engage the other little boy. Patiently, he set aside one superhero figure after another, one truck, one train, one pile of blocks until at last he had found something that held the other boy’s attention and allowed the two of them to interact genuinely as friends.

Peter Newhall engaged in a fierce tug of of war game. Like the Old Testament God. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Peter at age 8. He didn’t give up easily, like the Old Testament God. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A few years after that, Peter discovered Monopoly. He was good at the game and, if he was playing with me, Park Place and St. James Place soon fell under his purview, and my stack of bills quickly dwindled to a few tens and a couple fifties.

At this point, I’d be ready to quit and get back to the kitchen, but Peter wanted to keep on going. He wanted to play – with somebody.

To keep me in the game, my son would stake me to atrociously large loans. His generosity was beyond reason – but it kept the game alive until dinner time or bedtime finally intervened.

Redeeming That Old Testament God

The God of Genesis is a lot like Peter. Crusty and angry and judgmental though he was much of the time, he had one endearing quality: he wanted to interact with humans — with somebody.

In Genesis 9, for example, when human beings mess up, the Old Testament God sends a massive flood and gives creation a fresh start. He quickly recognizes, however, that these creatures of his are bound to mess up again. It won’t be long before humanity is reduced once more to the moral equivalent of a few tens and a couple fifties.

To keep creation in the game, God ties one hand behind his back: he promises never to use the flood punishment again.

That old God, like little Peter, didn’t give up easily.

More about Peter at “When Your Six-Year-Old Wants to Talk Money.”  More about God at “John Shelby Spong: Christianity (Some of It) Is Bunk”  More about my new book at WrestlingWithGodBook.com.

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At Orinda Books: The Author Talked — And So Did the Audience

Author Barbara Falconer Newhall and interviewee Sister Barbara Hazzard gave a book talk at Orinda Books in Orinda, California, May 16, 2015. Photo by Jon Newhall

Hesed Community founder Sister Barbara Hazzard, right, joined me for a book talk at Orinda Books yesterday. Photo by Jon Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Maybe it was the coffee we served. Maybe it was the chocolate chip cookies. Maybe it was something about the self-selected score of people who decided to spend their Saturday afternoon listening to the author read from Wrestling with God.

Or perhaps it had to do with the welcoming ambiance that owners Maria and Danny Roden have established for authors and readers in the months since they took [Read more…]

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Coleman Barks and Rumi — What a Few Lines of Poetry (and a Witch) Taught me

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Coleman Barks is a nice guy. And a southerner at that. He’s the amazing artist who’s been translating Rumi’s poetry for decades now. I’d always imagined Barks to be a stern scholarly type — till I emailed him for permission to use a few lines from his Rumi  [Read more…]

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The Best Things in Life . . . Have Been There Since High School

Cindy Weyant plays chess at the National Open in Las Vegas in 2010. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Cindy played chess at the National Open in Las Vegas in 2010. Attending a chess tournament en masse is the Newhall family’s idea of a good time. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Jon looked at me over the telephone receiver. His brother was calling. “Cindy died,” he said. “She died last night. In her sleep.” [Read more…]

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What Happens When You Drop Your Cell Phone Into the Sacred Buddhist Sand Painting?

Monks of the Yellow Hat Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism create a sand paining in    Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism created a sand painting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in December, 2014. A photo of the Dalai Lama is at left. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

The red-robed monks have spent days creating this intricate Tibetan sand painting. It’s a sacred mandala. At its center sits the Ashokbhya Buddha. Meditating on his image will help you overcome your anger and hatred. In his hand the Ashokbhya Buddha holds the vajra scepter representing unshakable enlightenment. The painting is nearly finished, and it is exquisite. [Read more…]

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