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.

Advent: Witnessing to the Light – With Tinsel and a Plastic Santa

A box marked Advent overflows with Christmas decorations, including an angel, a Santa and shiney tinsel garlands. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Just one of many boxes in the basement labeled “Advent” or “Christmas.” Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

It’s Advent, the traditional time of (quiet) preparation for Christmas.  This Sunday in churches around the country, congregations will be reading the Magnificat — Mary’s song in praise of God and God’s generosity and justice. They’ll also be hearing that odd desert wanderer, John the Baptist, testify to the Light that was to come.

As for me, every year, as my Christmas tree twinkles its lights at my children, my husband, our next-door neighbors and the occasional UPS agent bringing packages – I like [Read more...]


The San Juan Islands Ecosystems: The Woods Are Alive — And So Are the Meadows and Beaches

On the San Juan Islands, a variety of ecosystems exist side by side. Here a woods, a meadow alongside a bay shore. Photo by Barbara Newhall

On the San Juan Islands, a variety of ecosystems exist side by side. Here a wood, a meadow, and a salt water cove. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Beach, forest, wetland, meadow — in some places the various San Juan Islands ecosystems coexist just steps from one another. An afternoon’s walk can take you past woodsy kinickinick, sun-loving oxeye daisies, and salty pickle grass [Read more...]


A Patch of Fireweed in the Northwest — What Color Are Those Blossoms? Do I Need to Know?

Fireweed blossom glowing pink in the San Juan Islands summer sun. Photo by Barbar Newhall

Fireweed blossom glowing magenta to pink in the full summer sun. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

I couldn’t make up my mind about that tall stand of fireweed I saw growing on the edge of a woodlet in the Pacific Northwest last summer. Were those blossoms purple? Blue? Pink? Or what?

I was having a good time last Friday morning pondering those questions and poring over the photos I’d taken of the fireweed, and I was just about to google myself over to Wikipedia to see [Read more...]


San Juan Islands Flora: Or, I Cling, Therefore I Am

The view from the bow of a ferry boat making its way through the San Juan Islands in summer. Photo by Barbara Newhall

To get to Washington’s San Juan Islands, you have to take a ferry boat. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

The Buddhists have a name for it—clinging. Westerners call it greed, getting attached to the earthly at the expensive of things eternal and divine. Greedy clinging is not good for you, the wise folks say. It’ll make you suffer.

Some of us do it anyway. We cling. We cling to stuff. We cling to moments in time. Last summer while vacationing on one of the woodsy, marshy, rocky San Juan Islands, [Read more...]


Atheist to Catholic–Two Brainy Women Get Religion

Outdoor portrait of Jennifer Fulwiler, author of "Something Other than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It"

Software programmer Jennifer Fulwiler resisted God–then went from atheist to Catholic

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

An atheist friend of mine once confessed that if he were to give up atheism and go over to God, he’d do the thing whole hog – he’d become some kind of born-again, true believing Christian.

Many people, including lots of atheists, want that kind of clarity and certitude. Me, I’m good with murky. [Read more...]