"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"

Retired Is a State of Mind — Six Ways to Know If You’re There Yet

How to know when you're retired. You're on a  trail alongside Bon Tempe Lake in Marin county, California. Photo by Barbara Newhall

On the trail around Bon Tempe Lake: That barely visible orange speck at the upper right is my hiking buddy. No doubt  I wasted some time taking photos, and she got way ahead of me. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Retired is a state of mind. Not a state of paycheck, or work schedule, or commute, or how much time you spend at the office.

I work full time. Forty hours a week, these days. Sixty maybe. But some time ago, I realized [Read more…]

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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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Telephoning Those Teenage Babysitters — Rejected Again

An ivory colored touch-tone telephone, c.irca 1980s, with coiled cord and handset. A babysitter phone list is next to it. Photo by Barbara Newhall

One of our 1980s phones. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Note to readers born since the turn of the century: Back in the olden days, before email, before texting, before Facebook and Twitter, Moms looking for a Saturday night babysitter had to set aside a good chunk of time early in the week to conduct the search by telephone — aka land line. Also, just so you know, back in the twentieth century, there used to be this quaint custom whereby teenage boys would call up teenage girls and ask them for a date.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall, The Oakland Tribune, June 21, 1987

Jon won’t do it.

He will make our bed. He will set the breakfast table. He will empty the cat litter box. No problem.

But, no, he will not call a babysitter for Saturday night. Jon argues that it would not look right for a man on the fast track toward middle age to be making telephone [Read more…]

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“Listen to Your Mother” — Moms Across the Country Get the Mic for Mother’s Day

Nancy Davis Kho read from her story published in "Listen to Your Mother" (Putnam)  book reading at A Great Good Place for Books bookstore in Oakland, CA, April 24, 2015. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Nancy Davis Kho read “In Praise of Other Mothers” at  A Great Good Place for Books.  Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

It was a fun night at A Great Good Place for Books in the Montclair district of Oakland. Some very funny ladies gathered to celebrate the publication of Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now, an Erma Bombeck style collection [Read more…]

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