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Reading Together Since 1999

Susan Baller-Shepard

 Susan in her own words...


I'll forever be indebted to Rabbi Jay Goldstein at University of Iowa, for the way he bridged literature and spirituality in his "Quest for Human Destiny" course.

Writer/Speaker/Minister/College Instructor
Thankful to be a part of this site, to know and love our local spirituality book club group, and for this journey of over twelve years together.Ordained as a minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), with a dual competency: master of Social Work and master of Divinity. I'm also a writer and I've had the opportunity to be a speaker in a variety of local and global venues.

Having served as a pastor in churches in Springfield, Peoria, and Rochester, Illinois, and I'm currently what's called "a parish associate pastor" at First Presbyterian Church, Normal, Illinois  , which gives me time to edit this site, write for various publications, finish the non-fiction book I've been writing, and do the international work I adore. Active in our Presbytery's partnership with north-eastern Brazil for years, having worked on projects in various parts of Africa, involved with a book about Peter Hesse's work in Haiti, I've turned my focus on global projects helping orphaned children, in the People's Republic of China in particular.

I write a lot. My book Doe is now available from Finishing Line Press and on Amazon

Here is Garrison Keillor reading a poem, "Taking That Bite Before Leaving," a poem from Doe, on The Writer's Almanac.


The writing I've done has appeared in a variety of venues including the Washington Post's "On Faith," the Chicago Tribune, Spirituality & Health magazine, Writer's Digest magazine, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Church & Society, denominational publications, www.rhinopoetry.org, and in every Outrider Press Black and White series anthologies since 2003 with TallGrass Writer's Guild.

Presently I'm working with the fine folks of Writing by Writers and the amazing people involved in Winter DRAFT to complete a new book.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the other writing women who rock my world with their wisdom and grace and skill and talent and all of that: the ArmadillHers: Jody Hobbs Hesler, Charmaine Wilkerson, Teresa Burns Gunther. Along with these women there are Ruth Everhart and Judith Valente who have faithfully been writing on this path with me for a long time :-) I'm grateful.

Thanks for coming along on this spiritual journey, enjoy the books, music, links....

Sit back and enjoy our blog of interviews too—

Glad you're here.




Susan Baller-Shepard, MDiv, MSW
» Susan Baller-Shepard

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2020-03-26 @ 15:20 pm

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”― Augustine of Hippo   We’d gone to all the wrong places. Of course we had. The Chinese government hadn’t yet released the news about SARS, in December 2002, the news wouldn’t be released until February of 2003. Travelers like us would go …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2020-03-16 @ 12:55 pm

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2020-03-16 @ 12:55 pm

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2020-03-16 @ 12:50 pm

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2020-01-15 @ 15:25 pm

TITLE INFORMATION DOE Susan Baller-Shepard Finishing Line Press (102 pp.) $19.99 paperback ISBN: 978-1-63534-904-7; April 12, 2019 Kirkus Reviews BOOK REVIEW A debut collection of verse delivers meditations on nature, womanhood, and a wide range of other topics. Novelists and poets use words differently. The first group heaps sentence on sentence, paragraph on paragraph, creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. In this context, individual words matter less. …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2019-08-25 @ 14:50 pm

*Message Sermon #NowIKnow on Day1.org on February 3, 2019 *Preaching at First Presbyterian Church March 3, May 5, August 3, 2019 *Attending the Association of Writing Programs (AWP) conference with the ArmadillHer Writing Group which includes outstanding writers Jody Hobbs Hesler, Charmaine Wilkerson, and Teresa Burns Gunther. *Presenting at the North American Review's 50th Anniversary Conference in April *Poetry Reading at New Covenant Community April 24th *Featured Poet with Tall Grass Writer's Guild on April …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2019-08-25 @ 14:15 pm

http://www.garrisonkeillor.com/radio/twa-the-writers-almanac-for-august-22-2019/   Yes, feeling very grateful to get to hear my poem "Taking That Bite Before Leaving" read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer's Almanac on August 22, 2019. Friends around the country contacted me to tell me they'd heard it, which was a treat. Having listened to The Writer's Almanac, and appreciated hearing poetry read for years by that unmistakable voice, it was such a treat. Thankful. Thankful. Thankful.  …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2019-05-08 @ 13:55 pm

Come Holy Spirit Come! Sermon: Created Courageous to Carry the Story preached at First Presbyterian Church, Normal, IL May 5, 2019 First Reading Acts 9:1-6 (7-20)   1Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2019-03-12 @ 15:40 pm

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2019-03-12 @ 14:20 pm

In April, Celebrating National Poetry Month! April 19-21st at North American Review's 50th Anniversary Writing Conference, speaking on Sunday  Wed. April 24, 7:30pm Growing Hope through Poetry, Normal, IL April 27th TallGrass Writers Guild Poetry Reading, Chicago, IL Fall 2019 Teaching Literature of the Bible at Heartland Community College 12:30-1:45pm Mon/Wed Literature of the Bible 260 

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2019-02-03 @ 09:30 am

Doe will be loose in the world at the end of March 2019, you can preorder now at Finishing Line Press.    To read the poems in this fine first collection is to stroll through the lives of many females – human and animal alike — with a most companionable guide. Baller-Shepard is a remarkable new poetic voice equally at ease with observing farm women at work, discussing Einstein’s Grand Unified …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2019-02-03 @ 09:20 am

Susan Baller-Shepard had the great good fortune to meet with Day1.org host Peter Wallace and be the featured speaker on that program. Check out the other speakers listed on Day1.org's site, including Royal Wedding preacher Bishop Curry. Her message is entitled, "Now I Know."

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2018-11-11 @ 11:25 am

We at #SpiritualBookClub are big fans of the Erie Benedictines,  an amazing group of women including author Joan Chittister (author of over 50 books). They are spiritual dynamos. Different writers are asked to write for their web site Monasteries of the Heart  in a section entitled "Monks in Our Midst." For years I've been writing for this section, out of my deep respect for what they do and who they …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2018-11-11 @ 11:15 am

Poem "Prayers for the Sick" was selected for inclusion in the Fall Issue of Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine http://www.theintima.org/prayers-for-the-sick Along with photo "How A Heart Grows" http://www.theintima.org/how-a-heart-grows   Recorded for the Intima Journal since I was couldn't make the reading at Bowery Poetry Place https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCHn4F7ow2o

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2015-11-30 @ 21:00 pm

The pool at our friends’ house looked inviting and blue the day our three-year-old son decided to skip his flotation vest and jump into the deep end. I was at the other end of the pool, putting sunscreen on my other son, when I saw him jump in, and sink. This was years ago, but I still remember what I was wearing because the denim mini skirt had no give, …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2015-11-18 @ 07:50 am

Blessing Your Work Space Holy One, I come to work today, and this is what I offer: Me. Here. In this place. Use this life of mine for a higher cause, a greater good. If this is not a place that is good for me or for the world, then help me to move on from this work. May this be a place of transformation. May I learn the lessons …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2015-11-11 @ 11:40 am

5 Thank You's to Say Now from the Mean Minister* *Mean, Because I Care When I was a child, one of my least favorite phrases was, "You should be grateful." So, I'm not telling you that. What I am suggesting here is that this month is a great time to say these five thank yous. It's a heartfelt endeavor. You'll see. It does a soul good. 1. Thank a Teacher …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2015-11-04 @ 15:00 pm

An e-retreat for seekers during what Madeline L'engle referred to as "the irrational season" What do a minister, an editor, a soup kitchen director, an old monk, and a renowned spiritual master have in common with you? Like you, they are all seekers on an Advent journey. And these five women want to break the Word with you as all of us prepare to birth God into our world. Join Susan …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2015-06-24 @ 17:25 pm

To pull a trigger is easy. Clay pigeons flung out in an arc, hit them one by one, pop, pop, pop, a child at summer camp. To pull a trigger in the United States has too often been child's play. Most recently, by someone barely old enough to buy alcohol. What is hard, is forgiveness. In fact, to mention forgiveness in the same week as the killing spree in Charleston, South Carolina? …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2015-04-28 @ 15:20 pm

The incarnation of God in Jesus Christ in many ways is not a "one and done." Sure, we can go into theological debates here, but my point, and I do have one, is, the love of God in Jesus, in that flesh, has got to continue to mean something in the lives of human beings here on earth. Being a follower of the way of Christ is a tall order. …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2015-04-28 @ 15:10 pm

April is National Poetry Month as well as the month we celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day.  Our editor, Susan Baller-Shepard, was part of a poetry reading and photography exhibit called "Eyes To See: Celebrating the Beauty of Nature," co-sponsored by the Illinois Grand Praire Master Naturalist program and the new Van Leer Academy for the Arts at Normal's Broadview Mansion. Here she reads her original poem, "Inland." http://wglt.org/wireready/news/2015/04/08142_04-23PoetryMonthShepard_093059.shtml    

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2015-03-01 @ 14:50 pm

"The adoption of the clock was the most important event in the NBA." --Maurice Podoloff, the NBA's first president Invariably, it happens. I'll run into someone at the grocery store, we'll be having a deep conversation over kohlrabi and Gala apples, and she'll say, "If I die, I want you to do my funeral." I can't help myself. This is when I ease green beans into my cart, interrupt, and …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2015-03-01 @ 13:45 pm

Adopting? Proceed reverently, says the Mean Minister*   I remember most the heartache. Having worked in child welfare as a social work intern, I saw how parenting, termination of parental rights, and the process of adoption could go all go terribly wrong. Parental rights were ended, while emotional ties remained strong. More than once I sat with a prisoner as she recorded her final message to her child, as her …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2015-03-01 @ 13:40 pm

Podcasts of Poetry Radio on WGLT: http://wglt.org/podcasts/poetry_radio/audio/012915CROW.mp3

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2015-02-01 @ 20:55 pm

    Holy One, I come to work today, and this is what I offer: Me. Here. In this place. Use this life of mine for a higher cause, a greater good. If this is not a place that is good for me or for the world, then help me to move on from this work. May this be a place of transformation. May I learn the lessons here …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2014-12-16 @ 10:20 am

Wild Hope (mp3) Publish Date: 12/09/2014 11:03 AM Run Time: 3:12 Written and read by Susan Baller-Shepard Buck photo by Susan Baller-Shepard Music by Todd Walton (Wedding Prayer from 43 Piano Improvisations) -  See more at: http://wglt.org/artslife/poetryradio/#sthash.1oGVJrdr.dpuf  

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2014-10-29 @ 21:50 pm

"I am your Mother, Not Your Shelter" poem  Publish Date: 10/09/2014 on WGLT's Poetry Radio Program http://wglt.org/artslife/poetryradio/ Run Time: 4:04 written and read by Susan Baller Shepard; music by Wynton Marsalis and Karen Briggs (Morning Song from Reeltime)  http://wglt.org/podcasts/poetry_radio/audio/100914MOTHER.mp3

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2014-10-27 @ 10:40 am

  I jump in. There's no "easing back into" this. There's no easy way to catch a glimpse of myself in a Speedo, even though my friend Nancy assures me the fabric "sucks it all up, in all the right places." The water's warmer than I like, languid, no burst of cold to make me want to warm up quickly. Aqua Fit bobs over there on their side of …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2014-10-26 @ 13:40 pm

  From Jesus to Hollywood: Author Jay Parini Perhaps you know his name from his book Jesus: The Human Face of God, or perhaps you know him as author of The Last Station, which was turned into an Academy Award-nominated film? However you might know Jay Parini, Jay's a man of many stories. I asked Jay about his work, here are his answers: Q: As a poet, author of historical fiction, and …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2014-10-25 @ 16:15 pm

  10 Wedding Tips from the Mean Minister* *mean, because I care 1. A wedding, a marriage, does not make.  Let's start with this one. Bridal magazines and Pinterest boards don't often speak of this, but I will: Your wedding day is one day of your life. Your marriage, God willing, will last longer than one day. Case in point: Once, a few years after I got married, I …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2014-10-19 @ 20:50 pm

      This first appeared May 03, 2014 4:00 am  •  By Susan Baller-Shepard FOR THE PANTAGRAPH   When I'm anxious, the words we say during communion resound in my brain: "And when Jesus had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is …

Posted by Susan Baller-Shepard on: 2014-10-19 @ 16:20 pm

Some day you will stand before the casket, and the last sentence you had with that person is what you'll remember. You'll recall the last smile, the last joke, the last knowing glance, when you caught her eye, and you knew she knew exactly what you were feeling, without saying a word. This will happen. The one you love will die. Maybe you'll be alive for her death, still …