"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"

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.




Weight Lifting Can Kill You — Shall I Email the News to My Weight-Lifting Son?

Weight lifting. My son Peter Newhall, a young man in his 30s, bench presses at a gym. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Bench pressing — with a spotter. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Oh, my gosh. Weight lifting can kill you. I didn’t know that. Well, yes, of course, I knew that a bar loaded with 180 pounds of weight dropped on your neck during a bench press will finish you off pronto. What I didn’t know was that death by dead lift can sneak up on you weeks later, long after you’ve put the weights back on the squat rack. [Read more…]


Author Don Lattin: Americans Are More Thoughtful About Religion Than We Think

In this video Don Lattin talks about psychedelics at Harvard — at Harvard. Check it out.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Apparently I’m not the only one wrestling with God. In his foreword to my new book, Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith, veteran religion reporter Don Lattin asserts that Americans everywhere have been doing a lot of wrestling with the divine in recent decades. [Read more…]


Dying Jesus . . . Dying Churches?

The flogging of Jesus Christ, and crucifixion,  a painting at the Melk Abbey, Austria. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Just one of the many images of the dead and dying Jesus that I saw in Europe last month. Here, the crown of thorns and the mocking of Christ, a detail from the sixteenth-century Joerg Breu altar at Melk Abbey, Austria. Photo by Barbara Newhall


This stone imae of the crucifixion, of Jesus on the cross is on the outside of the University of Bamberg auditorium. Aula. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Stone image of the dying Jesus on the outside wall of the University of Bamberg auditorium. Even today, crucifixes are a common sight in public buildings in Austria and Bavaria. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Churches were at the top of my list of photo subjects as Jon and I set out last month for a three-week river trip across Europe. Stained glass windows, paintings, mosaics, murals — I knew those old buildings would be stuffed to their soaring arches with wonderful old art objects. And I planned to capture as much of that medieval and renaissance beauty as I could.

I saw a lot of Jesuses in those old European churches. But, sad to say, in church after church, Jesus was almost always . . . dying. Or dead. Or staggering under the weight of a cross.

True, there were plenty of images of the Baby Jesus: unblemished and adorable, but often (it seemed to me) no more than a stage prop to highlight the sanctity of Mary, [Read more…]