Review of ‘Indigenous Theology and the Western Worldview: A Decolonized Approach to Christian Doctrine’ by Dr. Randy Woodley

This article I wrote for Wiley Author Services provides a brief summary of Dr. Randy Woodley’s text, ‘Indigenous Theology and the Western Worldview: A Decolonized Approach to Christian Doctrine.’ The review can be a helpful resource if you are trying to decide if you want to read this text. Dr. Woodley’s text is helpful if you are curious about the juxtaposition and mutual learnings between Indigenous Theology and a Western Worldview or decolonial approaches to Christian Doctrine.

My Top 10 Books of 2022

I have completed my Goodreads 60 books in 2022 challenge:

As a result, I wanted to identify my favorite 10 books. Here they are listed in order:











Honorable Mentions



What Makes a Home?

My husband and I recently purchased a condo in the Chicago neighborhood of Edgewater. Was this the worst possible time to attempt a home purchase due to the volatile housing market? Absolutely. Did we have any other choice? No.

Luckily, we were able to find a wonderful place at a reasonable rate. Once moved in, we found many unexpected projects that demanded our time, energy, and resources. While we found ways to memorialize and ritualize the move, the demands of life, the stresses of home projects, and the volatility of the economic realities of our time often distracted us from the overall blessings of first-time homeownership.

As a result, I found myself caught off guard during a blessing my parents offered when they visited from Omaha, Nebraska about a month after we moved. Borrowing the blessing from the 1946 film, It’s a Wonderful Life, my parents presented us with a fresh baguette from a local bakery, a container of salt, and a bottle of red wine. Reciting the words of blessing from the movie, my parents offered ‘bread’ so that our household would never know hunger, ‘salt’ so that our lives would always have flavor, and ‘wine’ so that joy would always be found in our home.

In this moment, I realized that our home is more than a physical space: it is a place from which love, family, community, and life can be nourished in our lives as a couple. Our home is a place from which we can find strength and grounding to go out into the world and enact that same love, community, and life.

For the first time, our new condo felt like a home from which our new lives could be formed. And all of this came from a little blessing of bread, salt, and wine, offered from the wisdom and love of parents.

Happy Fourth of July

Be grateful for what you have,

they say.


I’m grateful for my marriage

with my husband.

But many folks across the country,

emboldened with power,

want to rip our marriage apart,

calling our love unconstitutional,

along with many other nasty

words, phrases, and threats.

Seeking the goal of allowing

states to make our union illegal,

or perhaps a full-fledged federal ban.

So I’ll be grateful for what I have,

as I’ve been told,

before it all gets legislated away.

Happy Fourth of July

Reflection on the ‘In-Between’ Times

In a few weeks, I HOPE to be able to make a post revealing our wonderful new condo, celebrating that the move-in process is officially complete, and expressing excitement over the start of our homeownership journey.

But, amidst that post, and other posts of joy, the public-facing reality of life’s daily hardships and grind gets lost. During my prayer time this morning, as I grappled and struggled with the anxiety, struggle, and fear of this time of tremendous upheaval and change, I felt convicted to share this reality: Moving sucks. Especially compounded with the stress of everyday life.

I thought it was important to share a post of the ‘in-between’ joyful posts because it is more honest. But also because it is in the moments of trials and tribulations that I find myself most cognizant of God’s power of love and care in my life, especially through the incredible tribe of family, friends, and holistic supports (yay therapy) around me. It is these ‘in-between times’ of day-to-day life, as well as the hardships, that make the joyful moments so divine.

And in these ‘in-between times,’ and times of hardships, I give thanks for the unceasing presence of God that so often shows up in the form of YOU. I give thanks for you and the community of support you have all been for Connor and me.

While I look forward to being able to make the joyful post about our completed move, I thought it was important to name that this is a very challenging time and that I’m struggling. And that is both okay and honest.

Life isn’t living from joy to joy, as our social media accounts seem to display, but being present with God, and one another, in all the times: joys, hardships, and the in-between.

Love, thanks, and blessings to you all!

A contextual adaptation of ‘United Methodist Book of Worship’ Blessing 548

This is the Pastoral Prayer I wrote for the May 24, 2022 Clergy Session of the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church.

God of eternal presence with us,

amidst all joy and pain,

guide us in this gathering today

as we tend to the grief of what we have lost

and as we celebrate the excitement of what is new and expanding.

This gathering today may revive in us memories of loved ones, colleagues, and friends who are no longer with us today.

May we take time to tend to this grief

and remember the happy memories we shared together

while they were still with us.

In the next few moments, may we speak the names of those whom we have lost out loud OR quietly in our hearts.

[Speak out-loud or reflect]

Lord, thank you for the time we had to share with these beloved people.

May our memories together be a blessing until we meet again.

Three years have passed, and yet we still feel the looming presence of the pandemic.

May we take time to acknowledge this grief,

remembering and honoring what has been lost:

plans, justice, communities, dignity, events, rights, services.

In the next few moments, may we speak that which has been lost out loud OR quietly in our hearts.

[Speak out-loud or reflect]

Lord, thank you for your constant presence with us during this time, weeping along with us and our communities.

May we continue to rely on your boundless love as our strength as we continue to care for our congregations, communities, families, and selves.

During these three years, we have also encountered new persons, deeper relationships, and the expansion of families.

May we take time to tend to these joys,

holding the faces and names,

of those we have met and grown to cherish and love.

In the next few moments, may we speak the names of those whom we have met out loud OR quietly in our hearts.

[Speak out-loud or reflect]

Lord, we name these relationships with gratitude, and we bless them.

May we continue to tend, cherish, and rejoice in the beloved people and relationships whom you have placed in our lives today.

These three years have been marked by forced innovation and change.

May we take time to acknowledge the good that has come from the Holy Spirit

helping us to expand and imagine our communities in exciting new ways,

emphasizing justice, dignity, accessibility, safety, and creativity.

In the next few moments, may we speak the good out loud OR quietly in our hearts.

[Speak out-loud or reflect]

Lord, thank you for the innovative power of your Holy Spirit, leading and guiding us in these times of profound change.

May we find strength from your Holy Spirit, and from one another, to continue the ministry work to which you have called us.

God among us,

our unrelenting listener,

we give you thanks for this time to share

our griefs and joys with you.

Bless us, keep us, and inspire us

in the great work to which you have called us –

yesterday, today, and tomorrow –

in collaboration, accountability, and support

with You,

with our ministry communities,

and with our colleagues here today.

In Your name,

we rejoice and praise.


Showalter-Swanson: Coat of Arms Explanation

We are excited to announce that we are now legally…

  • Connor Alexander Showalter-Swanson
  • Grant Tyler Showalter-Swanson

Reason: Over the past four years of marriage, we have spent a lot of time discerning how we can (a) best honor our wonderful families through our family names and (b) create a unified last name for our family in the future. After much time of prayer, listening, and conversation, we have settled on the hyphenated last name: Showalter-Swanson. We are thrilled that this hyphenated last name enables us to be unified in name as we contemplate the future of our household and pay tribute to our incredible families who have poured into us, loved us, and formed us into who we are today.

Coat of Arms: During our name merging conversations, we noticed that four values from our families continued to come up that were not only deeply meaningful, but also came from both our Swanson and Showalter families. When we concluded that hyphenating our two names was the best way to honor our distinct family experiences, we also wanted to find a way to name and celebrate these joint family values. As a result, we decided to create a Coat of Arms in consultation with artist kerrysilkpainting / silkandtimber. We weren’t interested in a Coat of Arms in the traditional heraldry sense, but in the sense of family history, legacy, and four named values. The consultation process was amazing and allowed us to not only honor our families’ values, but think about how we, as the Showalter-Swanson family, can continue to embody and live out these values in our present and future.

The following is an explanation of the different parts of the Coat of Arms.

  • Shield: The shield is the focal point of the Coat of Arms since it memorializes the four common family values we identified in our family legacies, our upbringing, and in the familial future we hope to create together. 
    • Quadrant 1- Faith: Faith is a central tenet of our lives that was instilled in us by the Swanson and Showalter families and through our church communities. Our families taught us to pursue God’s goodness in our lives and in the lives of others. Faith will always remain a central guiding value in our lives. One of the places that this faith has shown up is within the United Methodist Church. Connor grew up attending a United Methodist Church and Grant’s grandfather and uncle were both United Methodist pastors. As we have grown together as a couple, we have found a church community and home at Urban Village Church (UMC). Grant is also ordained as a Deacon in the UMC. As a result, this quadrant is represented by the UMC cross and flame symbol. Additionally, we want to partner with the Holy Spirit in co-creating the Church as a place where all people can find community and church precisely because of who they are, so the flames include the colors of the progress pride flag.
    • Quadrant 2 – Love: The Showalter and Swanson families have always been places of love, warmth, and joy. This familial model has greatly impacted how we interact with the world as individuals, and as a couple. One of the ways that we have understood what we mean by this ongoing tradition of love is through Galatians 5:22-23: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Since the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ translates as singular, we like to interpret ‘love’ as the fruit of the Spirit, and ‘joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ as descriptors of this love. As a result, we can be attentive to the ‘fruit’ of our lives- individually, as a couple, and in community- to assess if we are being faithful in our commitments to God, one another, and our communities. As a result, this quadrant is represented by two tree trunks that have intertwined and bear the literal fruit of love. The two trees represent the union of the Swanson and Showalter families through us. 
    • Quadrant 3 – Hardworking/Trailblazing: Both the Swanson and Showalter families are extremely hardworking people. Both families are committed to putting in their best effort, whether in work, family, relationships, faith, etc. Not only that, but the Swanson and Showalter families have a tradition of being trailblazers: seeking vocation and occupation that fulfills their particular callings and giftings, whether there is a family precedent or not. Ranging from a rancher, pastor, attorney, mechanic, legal judge secretary, domestic engineer, prevention program specialist, and development director, there is a clear family precedence of blazing new paths in the pursuit of God’s call and vocation in our lives. We continue in this family tradition of hardwork and trailblazing as an educator, recruiter, and soon to be PhD student. As a result, this quadrant is represented by a bright and shining north star. Just as the wise men in the Bible made a new path pursuing God’s call in their lives by following a bright and shining star, and just as travelers used the north star as a guide to find a path out of now way, so too do we pursue God’s vocation and call in our lives with God as our focal point. Stars are also particularly important to us since we began dating under the geminid meteor shower and Grant’s proposal for Connor occurred at the Adler Planetarium. 
    • Quadrant 4 – Education: The Showalter and Swanson families have always placed great importance on the power of education. Education was modeled and encouraged at an early age. We have lived into that with a deep love for learning, 6 total post-secondary degrees (and one more to come), and a vocational call to the ministry of education. We have witnessed the transformational power of learning and feel called to be co-laborers with the Holy Spirit in the ministry of education. Connor has now been a teacher and educator for a decade and is a leader at his school and network. Grant taught for five years and is now pursuing a PhD to be able to teach at a post-secondary level. As a result, this quadrant is represented by an open book with flames coming out of it. The book represents learning and the process of education. The flames represent the transformation possible when ideas ignite through learning and the power of the Holy Spirit through pentecost. Also, the flames are shaped as hands, demonstrating that education is a ministry of helping and accompaniment between the relationships of student, teacher, community of support, and the movement of the Holy Spirit. 
  • Banners
    • The top banner pronounces our merged family name: Showalter-Swanson. The doves holding the banner both represent the Holy Spirit moving and guiding our lives and the desire for peace to be a fruit of our partnership together. 
    • The bottom banner memorializes the date of our wedding: February 18, 2018 
  • Crest
    • The crest begins on the outside with the two stars that symbolize two unique individuals coming together in one bond. As mentioned before, stars are particularly important to us since we began dating under the geminid meteor shower and Grant’s proposal for Connor occurred at the Adler Planetarium.  
    • Next moving inward on the crest are the olive branches, symbolizing peace.
    • The center of the crest memorializes our love of cats, particularly our cat Nessa. Nessa has been our fur baby since the beginning. She has brought us much life, joy, and love – traits that we hope to bring to those with whom we interact as a couple. The gray and white design mimics Nessa’s fur markings.
  • Border:
    • We love to travel. Being able to see the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, both in our front door in the United States, and around the world, is a particular passion of ours. For Connor, that love of travel is best represented by his family’s pilgrimages to the Ocean City, NJ seashore. As a result, waves comprise the bottom part of the shield’s border. For Grant, the love of travel is best represented by his family’s frequent trips to the Vail/Beaver Creek areas. As a result, mountains makeup the top half of the shield’s border. 

My Top 16 Books of 2021

As an avid lover of reading, I have enjoyed finding time to read throughout the year of 2021. This year has been a particularly robust year of reading, completing my 65/65 book reading challenge AND reading more nonfiction than fiction books (this is a rarity for me)!

I intended to chose only 10 books for my top books of the year list, but I just couldn’t narrow it down past 16. As a result, you will find a comprehensive list of my top 16 favorite books of the year.

Some of these books made me laugh, while others made me cry. Some were highly informational, and some educated me toward righteous rage and justice-action. Many of these books fed my soul and spiritual practices. Others were highly creative in imagined worlds, while some envisioned something different in our own world. Some of these books are classics, and some are brand new. A few books are written by friends and colleagues while others are written by people I’ll never know. This list crosses the scope of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

I hope that this list inspires you to add a few books to your 2022 reading list AND encourages you to reach out and connect with me about them! Please know that I’m always happy to chat about any of the listed books. I’m passionate about each and every one of them!

Please enjoy my ‘Top 16 Books of 2021’ list:

1. ‘Sister Outsider’ by Audre Lorde:
2. ‘The Interior Castle’ by Teresa of Ávila:
3. ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ by Ursula K. Le Guin:
4. ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’ by Isabel Wilkerson: ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ by Ursula K. Le Guin:
5. ‘The Land Is Not Empty: Following Jesus in Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery’ by Sarah Augustine:
6. ‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus:
7. ‘Teaching to transgress’ by bell hooks:
8. ‘The Naked Now: Learning to See As the Mystics See’ by Richard Rohr:
9. ‘The Color Purple’ by Alice Walker:
10. ‘The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America’ by Richard Rothstein:
11. ‘Advancing the Mission: The Order of Deacon in the United Methodist Church’ by Margaret Ann Crain:
12. ‘Gideon the Ninth’ by Tamsyn Muir:
13. ‘On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century’ by Timothy D. Snyder:
14. ‘Nature Poem’ by Tommy Pico:
15. ‘The Prophets’ by Robert Jones Jr.:
16. ‘Who Was Jesus and What Does It Mean to Follow Him?’ by Nancy Elizabeth Bedford:

Top Ten Albums of 2021

2021 has been a year full of ups and downs. Through it all, music has remained an important force of well-being, emotional connection, and joy. As a result, I wanted to celebrate the music that meant so much to me in 2021 by creating a ‘Top Ten Albums of 2021’ list. I hope that this playlist can bring you as much joy as it has brought me!

1. Lil Nas X, ‘MONTERO,’
2. Olivia Rodrigo, ‘SOUR,’
3. Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine, ‘A Beginner’s Mind,’
4. Justin Bieber, ‘Justice,’
5. Imagine Dragons, ‘Mercury – Act 1,’
6. Kacey Musgraves, ‘star-crossed,’
7. Leon Bridges, ‘Gold-Diggers Sound,’
8. Halsey, ‘If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power,’
9. Taylor Swift, ‘evermore,’
10. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, ‘Raise The Roof,’


I hope that you enjoyed this list! What have been some of your favorite albums/songs of 2021? I’d love to hear/get some song suggestions in the comments section!

Thanks for reading and have a blessed end to your 2021~