May 19, 2015

It was bedtime and James Dobson wanted his dog—a dachshund named Sigmund Freud—to get into his overnight enclosure in the family room. Siggie didn’t want to go. He growled and bared his teeth at his master. Dobson went for his belt. “I had seen this defiant mood before,” Dobson explained in the first chapter of his 1978 book, The Strong-Willed Child. “There was only one way to deal with it. The only way to make Siggie obey is to threaten him with destruction. Nothing… Read more

May 12, 2015

By Barbara Falconer Newhall Patricia Monaghan was 66 years old when she died. One could wish for a longer life for her, but probably not a fuller one. She grew beans in her Wisconsin garden, restored a native prairie, grew grapes for wine. She also made a study of such matters as sacred fires, holy wells, magic cauldrons, and shape-shifters, all of which eventually became entries in the posthumously released, revised edition of her Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. (more…) Read more

May 5, 2015

  By Barbara Falconer Newhall I like Sylvia Boorstein. She makes a great case for the practice of meditation. Her book, Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There, is one of my favorite ways to think about meditating without actually doing it. Letting go of my busy life in order to meditate for a few minutes each day has never appealed to me. Sit quietly for a half hour? I’d rather be sorting laundry or brooming cobwebs from the basement ceiling. I like the… Read more

April 28, 2015

By Barbara Falconer Newhall Here’s a question for you. Do you have to believe to be a Christian? Do you have to believe every word of the creeds? The Apostles Creed? The Nicene Creed? Or is it enough just to trust God? So many of the Christians and lapsed Christians I know are convinced that belief is at the heart of Christianity. They labor under the assumption that, in order to be a Christian, a person must believe – assent intellectually to –… Read more

April 21, 2015

By Barbara Falconer Newhall When Huston Smith turned 90 he did what he’d been doing for a good part of his adult life – he published a book. But this one was different. Instead of exploration and analysis of the world’s great wisdom traditions, this book was an autobiography, Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine, written with Jeffery Paine. Huston doesn’t know it, but he’s been my mentor for decades – ever since I took a job as the religion reporter… Read more

April 14, 2015

By Barbara Falconer Newhall Some people get their spiritual highs from nature. Put them down on an open plain billowing with prairie grass or in a woods fragrant with piney duff and rotting oak leaves and an ineffable feeling of connectedness to all things wells up in them. Humans beings like Nature. They love Nature. But does Nature care a fig about humans? It was Nature, after all, that dispatched a category five cyclone to Vanuatu earlier this year, taking out buildings,… Read more

April 7, 2015

By Barbara Falconer Newhall I’ll get to the equanimity part of this post in a minute. But first a confession: I’m a TV geek. I love “Downton Abbey.” I love “Project Runway” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” And I like — and sometimes love — “Mad Men.” I’m not crazy about Don Draper and his antics. And I’m not as fond of Peggy Olson as I was when she was just a young thing starting out.  But right from… Read more

March 31, 2015

What is prayer anyway? I haven’t a clue. These days, when I go to pray, I often find I haven’t a thing to say to God. Every tradition I’ve observed over the years as a religion writer and reporter recommends — insists upon — prayer. Yet right now I don’t know how to do it. I don’t even know why to do it. That’s why I found my conversations with Sister Barbara Hazzard of Oakland, California, so compelling. Sister Barbara has had a lot of experience with prayer…. Read more

March 24, 2015

When I was a newspaper reporter on the religion beat at the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, California, I talked to a lot of people. We talked about the church budget, the vacation Bible school, the new stained glass window. But we didn’t talk about God. Not really. My religion beat interviews, by necessity were short and formal. An hour at most and then it was back to the paper to write up a quick twelve-to-twenty-inch story. There was little time… Read more

March 17, 2015

If you’re a writer hoping to have a prayer of selling your book — to agents, publishers, readers, and even to loyal friends and family — you know about the elevator pitch, a few words you can use to sum up your book in the time it takes an elevator to get you from the lobby to the third floor. Fifth floor max. I never did cook up a decent elevator pitch for my newly released book, Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith. I was too darned close to… Read more

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