On Being Barbara Anderson

The 18th century rabbi, Zusha, lay crying on his deathbed and no one could comfort him. One of his students asked the rabbi, “Why do you cry? You were almost as wise as Moses and as kind as Abraham.”  Rabbi Zusha answered, “When I pass from this world and appear before the Heavenly Tribunal, they won’t ask me, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you as wise as Moses or as kind as Abraham,’ rather, they will ask me, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you Zusha?’ Why didn’t I fulfill my potential, why didn’t I follow the path that could have been mine.”

Each of us has an original giftedness, from which we need to live and a calling to which we need to be faithful. Like Jean Valjean in Les Miserable, we need to ask the question, “Who am I?” and then live the answer faithfully and passionately.

Weird Happens

In all honesty, I haven’t found this to be easy. A critical part of my struggle with it happened in 2005. One Sunday morning three months into medical leave because of severe congestive heart failure, I tried to worship at the church where I was a Senior Pastor. It was the first time since my diagnosis that I’d been back. I quickly got so exhausted that I left the service early, drove home, and went straight to bed.

Curling up in a fetal position, devastated that I might never be able to be a pastor again, I cried out to God, “How will you use my gifts if I can’t be a pastor? What will I do?” My spiritual anguish made my body hurt all over. I pleaded for an answer.

The heavy, dark storm clouds outside my window split apart and a beam of sunlight shone through the hole. When I felt its warmth, I opened my eyes in surprise. Then, as clearly as if someone else was in the room, I heard a voice say, “You will be a writer.” The clouds immediately moved back in front of the sun, and its warmth faded. The pain in my body melted away. Finally, I felt peace and purpose.

I know it’s weird, but that’s what happened.

Being Barbara Anderson

So, here I am, all these years later, beginning the book I’ve thought about since that day. I could give lots of excuses as to why it hasn’t happened sooner, but no matter. If I am to be the Barbara Anderson I’m meant to be, my life and writing will be my pulpit. The time has come. I have finally begun a book to be published in the summer of 2020.

With this step, I am changing my blog–a new name with a new purpose. I’ll still write about the humor, wisdom, and struggle of ordinary life, but reference my faith more often. I’ll adapt some of my sermons as blog posts. And, I expect to have a few guest blogs.

Here’s where you come in.

Through my blog, I’d like your input for what to include in my book. If something I write inspires, comforts or challenges you, please let me know. If you remember particular sermons or blog posts that you want me to revisit, let me know that, too. Give me feedback on what you struggle with in life, what you question, what you believe. What would you like me to address in my blog and book?

Barbara Anderson wasn’t created to be a hermit–I think and write best when I’m in conversation with others. So, join me in a conversation that bridges time zones and continents. Help me speak to you and those you love. Please comment on what I write and comment on other readers’ comments. Let’s be partners with God, together. I”m eager to hear from you.













19 thoughts on “On Being Barbara Anderson

  1. Frances Nicholson

    Barbara, there were several sermons on the inclusive love of God which struck me – particularly peeling back the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah for what it meant to the people of that age, rather than the ways it has been interpreted to exclude. Also the one after – could it be – 9/11? A moment of terrorism, anyway. As for that light speaking to you, as I have shared with you, I heard that voice telling me I was okay being me during a Taize service. I resonate with your sense of both peace and intention based on it. I am so happy that your voice is to be heard again, as it was one which guided me through dark times. I look forward to seeing where this goes.

    1. Barbara Anderson Post author

      Frances, I have been grateful you had that experience in the chapel, and I’m glad you reminded me of it. I came across that Sodom and Gomorrah sermon recently and wondered, myself, if I could adapt it for a different context. It was a decent sermon. I sure did enjoy tackling the difficult texts and topics. Thanks for that and the 9/911 sermon comment.

  2. dlsmith671

    It may not be helpful to you, but I have found inspiration and thought provoking content in the few sermons from you I heard and in ALL your written blogs. I too struggled with my calling, plagued by my hearing loss and often wondering what my future could possibly be. To my surprise now I’m doing more preaching than I ever did prior to retirement. I’ve learned to be a better communicator, in part thanks to models like you and Mark. I hope you won’t abandon the spoken word entirely. Your delivery is also an important element in your effective communication. Blessings, Don

    1. Barbara Anderson Post author

      I miss preaching and wish I had a way to do that here. Maybe someday. In the meantime, I am glad you hear you’re preaching these days. It’s odd how these things work out, isn’t it? Life takes on different hues at different times. I’d like to hear you preach, friend. I also appreciate the comment about struggling with call. Thanks.

      1. dlsmith671

        I remember being present for the “Room at the Table” sermon now that I see that mentioned. A fine piece of work! I do recall coming away greatly impressed.

  3. Anonymous

    memory of specific ones fails me. But I always remember looking forward to hearing & seeing you @ WG. much love & prayers to you. kha @ wg

  4. Sandi Schwarm

    Dear Barbara, anything you write will come through in your voice! I am looking forward to your publication. A sermon that I remember well, and refer to often, was titled “there is room at the table”. I am fond of the analogy with the Presbyterian table, especially when reminded it isn’t the Presbyterian ‘s, but God’s table! Your sermon also referred to a table with numerous leaves to be added as new friends arrived. Oh, what a feast!

    1. Barbara Anderson Post author

      Hi Chandlee. It was long, hard work, excruciating actually. But, understandable why I was so guarded. As I went through the journey (which is probably still on-going) it has been wonderfully freeing and periodically scary.

  5. Anonymous

    Oh Barbara, I think you know how much i have appreciated your “words” over the years and SO look forward to the up-coming time with you to share my re-imagining journey here at Villa.

    Certainly i remember your “Making room at the dining table” example in a Sermon, and have tried to use it in my life.
    Much love,

  6. Elaine Rose

    Barbara, the stories you shared with me about your childhood experiences and how they still affect you now impacted me greatly: helped me feel more understood & less alone in my struggles.

  7. Anne Weirich

    I’m currently writing a series of sermons on Mary Oliver’s poetry – so much of it fills me with longing to be able to return to a way of living when I can spend more time with nature – more time, as she says, paying attention as a way toward devotion. When I think of your writing these last years, what comes to mind most of all are the joy you would share as you felt the victory of planting pots with flowers or taking a walk among blossoms, feeling well enough to brave some pollen for the sake of joy. I think that remembering the access to these small joys in the face of all the overwhelming odds humans face is so important now. Your words, as Bruggeman says, are poetry in a prose world. So if you can figure out how to get that in your book, in your winsome way, that would preach, I’d say.

  8. Kathy hoskins

    Barbara – I remember part of a sermon you gave at PPC years ago. It mentioned that if a pot is broken and repaired with love and care it can be stronger than it ever was. Somehow that struck me in and I thought about it since at times when I felt as if I was falling apart. I don’t know how this would fit in your book but it popped into my head as Iread you New Direction post

    1. Barbara Anderson Post author

      Hi Kathy. I remember that sermon, too, but hadn’t thought of it in a long time. Thanks for the reminder. That’s exactly the kind of input I was hoping for. Thank you for that.


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