Church Talk

“As Christian ministers we both follow a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew named Jesus who called together ALL of the folks who had been rejected by society because ultimately he declared that nations would be judged by how we treat the poor, the prisoner, and yes the undocumented immigrant.”-Rev. Dr. William Barber

Watch the full speech:

God is love–deep and abiding, platonic and sensual, challenging and overflowing.

Jesus did not care if you did things “right.” If you waited until marriage to have sex, if you were divorced, if you stayed home with your kids.

And yet today’s church is often in love with an idea of holiness that is tied to doing things right—getting closer to Jesus and farther from sin by following rules and playing roles.

None of this is true. It’s church talk.

Church talk can be helpful. It can give people a way to live that helps them get closer to God. But we have to remember it’s just talk. There are so many ways to be holy. And they revolve around walking with God and loving your neighbor (and especially the poor).

It’s our job to get rid of the church talk that makes us think it’s okay to hate queer folk, to blame the poor for things that have gone wrong, and to make a mother working minimum wage drive hundreds of miles and arrange a patchwork of babysitting to get to a reproductive clinic that offers abortions—only to be harassed in the name of Jesus at the door. Nothing in that is holy.

It’s also our job to get louder about the things we know to be holy—our radical compassion, the deep love of God’s creation, and our fullest empathy towards all of our neighbors. I have been silent and complicit a lot. You may have been, too.

It’s okay, because nothing is stopping us from stretching our plasticine brains and working out our muscles of introspection and getting the blood pumping to our vocal chords and to our hands that can type beautiful words.


Rev. Dr. William Barber is co-leader of the The Poor People’s Campaign for Moral Revival, a nonpartisan moral fusion movement reviving MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign, that he heads along with the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. If you haven’t joined, now is the time. 


My Birthday Social Media Toolkit


It’s almost my birthday, which has me thinking about what my husband will write on my Facebook wall. As we know, this is a thang. It’s like, “Hey babe, I’m here whispering mildly intimate bday affirmations to you and 600 of our acquaintances. That’s right: I’m that kind of boo.”

Social media PDA is not my husband’s jam, so I’ve prepared options he can copy and paste:


Ev, it turns out you don’t really care for the baby phase, but you stayed. I’m grateful. Raising three kids is a lot. Happy birthday.


Ev, remember when you forgot our anniversary, and you ripped off the front of the anniversary card your mom got us and turned it into an ‘anniversary postcard’? You never give up. I love you, babe.


Ev, burps and farts don’t bother you—yours, mine, or the kids’. Thanks for all you do. You complete us to the moon and back with fierce, fierce flaming love.


You are better than all the other Facebook wives.

Since the chance of his copying and pasting one of these is zero (especially since I’m always on social media and I never write on his wall on his birthday—turnabout::fair play), feel free to… you know… just grab one of these and copy and paste it right at me.

I’m already working on my FB post for him to make up for my past negligence:



I know, [C] was missing. It was too serious and it didn’t fit.

Ev, you can’t save someone from mental illness. It was hard to watch you go through postpartum depression. You felt hopeless sometimes. But overall you were dogged. I hope you feel like I helped.

My Friend Is Dying

My friend is dying of brain cancer. She’s three years younger than me. Some days I think maybe I’ve caught it. I went to the doctor this week with some weird back pain. A persistent tender spot right next to my spine, possibly on it. “Can we make sure I don’t have spinal cancer?”

Outcome: unlikely.

We’re in a culture that’s not awesome at death. We distance ourselves from it, like it’s contagious. Or put it in boxes in our brain that never see the light.

I’m sitting here listening to the crows. They’re loud. I’m told they recognize us. Their lifespans are short I imagine.

A small finch-ish bird died suddenly against our front window in the fall. We all held it and examined it and dug into our Audubon bird guide to see which kind of song bird it was.

At the beginning of Lent I thought I might give up TV, or add in an exercise routine.

But this Lent is about death. Possibly the most on-the-nose Christian statement ever written.

And through it, people keep bludgeoning others with faith—telling queer people they’ll have to answer to the Creator. Mysteriously fighting for the unborn by pitting them against their number one enemy: mothers.

The volume on paint-by-numbers Christianity is so loud you need ibuprofen to help with the headache.

It’s very quiet in my friend’s room at hospice. Just the machine clicks of the pain medicine cassette. She speaks in a whisper-way that her family understands, but is hard for me who is not there as often. I like to massage her feet with lavender lotion. It makes me feel like I’m giving her something. I always ask, “Is it okay?” On Monday she whispered, “It’s always okay to massage my feet.”

The pull of my friend is her love toward everyone and everything. It was contagious from the beginning. She is Catholic. Her love is that rare kind that truly loves her neighbor, the kind without us and them boundaries. She is the radical, sacrificial love of Christ.

Holy Week approaches.

Thursday is Maundy Thursday—foot-washing day. It has always been my favorite.

Oregon’s No Funds for Abortion Ballot Measure 106 Is Neither Moral nor Christian


Oregon has a ballot measure that offers us the option to disallow public funds that go into state health plans from being used for abortion. The Yes on 106 site says:

Oregon ballot measure 106 is a statewide citizen initiative to stop our tax dollars from funding elective and late-term abortions.

Measure 106 doesn’t stop anyone from choosing an abortion, but it will give Oregon taxpayers freedom from having to pay for other people’s personal choices.

There are a lot of things to unpack here.

One is that abortion is an immoral choice that upstanding people shouldn’t have to pay for. We allow this to stand in Christianland because we don’t talk deeply about abortion and what it actually means for women. The less you can talk openly, the less chance to listen about all the moral abortion choices.

Since I started writing and talking about reproductive rights, I’ve gotten to hear a lot of stories. People of faith, I challenge you to start saying to more people that you believe in reproductive justice. If we don’t get to share our stories, people get to keep thinking God is with them and not with us. That’s not how God works. God is with all of us.

Here’s a story.

On a big anti-abortion protest day I was escorting a woman and her husband and toddler daughter to the front door of a clinic. She was getting an abortion. We had to walk by a Catholic priest with a microphone and some of his gathered. This kind of thing is awful for women, and yet we let it happen every week. We Christians gather to humiliate people in their most vulnerable moments. “They don’t even know me,” the woman said. “I’m married. I have a child.”

Her husband was taking their young daughter to a park while she was receiving care. I don’t know why they didn’t have childcare that day for their daughter so he could be with her. It could have been that our cultural dialogue on abortion is so terrible that you can’t tell anyone that you’re going in to have an abortion and need someone to watch your daughter. We talk about abortion in such hyperbolic and absolute terms that it’s even hard to talk with your closest friends. This is the toxic isolation that our abortion climate wreaks.

I’ve also heard stories of women who felt like an abortion saved their life from an abusive partner. Measure 106 won’t stop them, we hear.

“Measure 106 doesn’t stop anyone from choosing an abortion.”

“That’s right,” I can tell myself. Because I have money to pay. I know that another pregnancy would make me suicidal and be destructive to my family. When you have struggled with mental health you know that it’s critical to avoid things that take you to the darkest places. I’m allowed to make this moral decision because I can pay.

But for our poorest women in Oregon who work hard at jobs that don’t provide healthcare, Measure 106 does stop them. They work hourly jobs that don’t have paid sick leave or maternity leave. Low-wage jobs that mean it’s already impossible to afford the childcare they need for their first.

We can’t stand on these imagined morals when Jesus spends so much of his time talking about the poor. So much more than any other thing he talks about. He sits with the marginalized, the outcasts, the prostitutes. The people who have to make the toughest decisions. He might have something to say about Oregon taxpayers being released “from having to pay for other people’s personal choices.” But he might not have time to say it because he’d probably be sitting with the wife whose husband couldn’t be there with her and holding her hand.

Plenty of non-Christians and non-believers are pro-choice.

This blog post is for those of us who have holes in our hearts filled by God. Who are pro-choice and need to talk about it more. This toxic dialogue on abortion has to change, and we have a role to play in it.

Here’s a quote from Rev. Dr. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign:

“The faith [right now] is not in Christ and in justice and treating people right, but this kind of Christian Nationalism that says that if you hate gay people and if you hate abortion and if you want prayer in school and you believe in guns and you believe in state’s rights—that’s all God cared about. And that God doesn’t really care about health care, even though Jesus everywhere he went set up free health clinics…”

And a final thought. One of the key points in the Yes on 106 campaign says this:

“Today, anyone covered by OHP [Oregon Health Plan] can have an unlimited number of free abortions, for any reason and at any stage of pregnancy — even late-term abortions when the baby is perfectly healthy.”

I cannot be clearer in stating, this is not what’s happening. Elective late-term abortions and unlimited free abortions are happening in the same way that trans people are assaulting children in bathrooms. Women who need late-term abortions because they will die or their child will die have to pay tens of thousands of dollars and fly to one of the few states where she can receive a medically necessary late-term abortion behind bullet-proof glass.

Women want to make moral choices for themselves and their families. It’s time to radically reinvent the dialogue.

Want to learn more about Measure 106, I recommend the “No Cuts to Care” website.

Are you free for a couple of hours to help canvass or phone bank in support of the No on 106 campaign? Sign up for a slot in Eugene, Portland, or Ashland by clicking here.

My White Friends, Let’s Do A Quick Check On If We’re Racist

This is like a Cosmo quiz, but for racism! And it has one question:

Have you ever told anyone that you’re not racist?

Like maybe you said, “I’m not racist.” Or maybe you whispered it to yourself. Or maybe you said to a confidant, “Thank God I’m not racist!” Or maybe when you’re hearing about the racist things happening in politics you think Those people are awful.

Then we’re racist, you and me.

It’s that simple. But we could think about it a little more.

  • Do we ever do a casual count of the number of non-white friends we have? Do we get really excited when we make a new non-white friend?
  • Are pretty much all the people we’re closest to in our life white?
  • Do we ever feel a little like one or two of our non-white friends have distinguished themselves from the rest of their group? Especially latinx or black friends?
  • Do we feel a little uncomfortable when people talk about racism because they might be implicating us when in fact we’re not racist?
  • With all this awful polarization happening in our country, have we been putting racists on the other side of divide, away from us?
  • Are we getting mad at me because I’m a snowflake liberal who hates the Constitution? (It’s probably time to move along to another blog.)

Even though we have a useful yet incomplete checklist above (“What are your thoughts on welfare, Pandora’s Box?”), racism isn’t that simple to admit—not because we’re not racist—but because self-reflection often pits us against our worst enemies: shame and embarrassment. We do all kinds of things to avoid shame and embarrassment because they’re the worst.

Here’s a story. When I was 10 I remember being in my kitchen by myself, having a snack, mulling over life. “I’m glad I’m not black,” I thought. “That would be hard. I like my life.”

That wasn’t a pivotal moment. It was just a moment. My 10-year-old self making sense of the world.

Here’s another story. After college I was interviewing for a Rhodes Scholarship. I received this question: “You went to a woman’s college. What do you think about all-black colleges?” I said that I didn’t believe in them followed by something like it’s better to face the world and figure out how to be successful in it.

It was a weird answer even as I was saying it.

In my early 20s, I wouldn’t have described any of the people I knew as racist. I had learned about slavery (abhorrent!) and looked up to the work of the Civil Rights Movement. But I had not thought about Historically Black Colleges and Universities. I’d gone through my life barely realizing their existence, let alone thinking about their power or purpose.

I did not get that scholarship.

My plan with the Rhodes Scholarship was to study human rights law. I would have been excellent at it.

Like Judge Kavanaugh who didn’t have any connections at Yale Law School and worked his butt off to get there (don’t worry, we’ll deal with “Are we sexist?” in the next post), I had done the same. I got a full scholarship to an excellent college based on my writing skills and academics. Similarly I was accepted to Teach for America, which is just as competitive as most Ivy League schools. Then I beat out a blind pianist to win my state’s endorsement for the Rhodes Scholarship and interview for the final cut.

None of those things made me not racist. And I was right to have not been given the scholarship.

The woman who asked me this question was the only black person on the scholarship panel. Years later I wrote her a letter to apologize. The letter wasn’t so she would feel better about me. I had already made my impression. The letter was for me so that I could continue to be active in the process of figuring out my racism—which is a do-goody way of saying that the guilt was killing me.

I had never examined the ways my life might have been shaped by my whiteness. I had chalked all my successes to my own hard work and my excellent upbringing. And as I ignored race and lifted up my personal achievements, the underlying racism of our society seeped in. Sure, I had black and brown friends. But as we know, this doesn’t make you not racist. It just gives you a shield to hide behind.

In this process it wasn’t until the day after the election in 2016 that I really started listening (spoiler: the bulk of our anti-racism work is listening). The more you listen the clearer it becomes that our future depends on dismantling racism and that starts internally. It’s a hard process, I get that, because shame and embarrassment are so powerful.

So let’s take a break and look at these fun maps.

How the Electoral Map would look if only ________ voted.


Map by Ste Kinney-Fields from Brilliant Maps.

Now let’s read this fun article:

“’People’ Aren’t Divided on Kavanaugh’s Confirmation, White People Are.”*

*Bonus activity for my R-MWC sisters: What university is the sweatshirt from on the guy on the right-hand side of the photo?

Admitting that we’re racist and saying it out loud does not make us terrible people. Ignoring our racism does. Not doing the work of dismantling it does. Dr. King had something to say about this:

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” From Letter from a Birmingham Jail

“Aaaaaahhhhhh!!! It’s so overwhelming! Where do we start? How do we reengage? Where do I share cool stuff?” The comments. Especially on Facebook. They tend to be the most responsive.

Also read this stuff and tell us about the things you’re reading:

Me & White Supremacy series by Layla F. Saad on Instagram

Five Ways to Check Your White Privilege

Let’s Talk About Kegels

This is the story of how Western medicine diagnosed me as anal retentive. This diagnosis was not surprising to my family.

I was at my OB-GYN and she said, “We have a urogynecologist on staff now. Do you want to see her?”

You never know how long you’re going to have primo insurance in the U.S., so I said, “Sure.” After three kids, a urogynecologist seems wise. Because… leakage. Also, when I did pilates last year I got a muffin top instead of a tight core. I thought maybe my abdominal and pelvic muscles had switched locations. Mostly, I thought, “When I’m shopping for adult diapers in thirty years, I’ll wish I’d said yes to that urogynecologist.”

Honestly, I was hoping never to be saying these things. After two kids and tons of Baby Boot Camp, everything was working as it should and wasn’t all that stretched out. It’s nice to take the lucky things in your life and ascribe them to good choices and fortitude. The Fairy Pig—fulfilling her purpose in my life—destroyed that hubris. Last week K-Pants came up to my tummy. “Are you growing another baby in there?”

I was going to be that mom of two with tight abs, a cute outfit, and a light dusting of makeup every day. Instead, my goal for this school year was, “Wear less athleisure.” This was a stupid goal. I walk my kids to school, then I get to work, then I cook some stuff, and sometimes I go outside and chop some other stuff with my saw. This routine has athleisure written all over it. “I know,” you say, “but you just….” Shove it.

So there I am at the urogynecologist, undressed from the waist down, relaxing. And the urogyn is pushing around on all my inside muscles, asking me to tense and let go, and asking if there’s pain. “You’re strong,” she says, “but your muscles don’t know how to relax.”

“Yes!” I wanted to scream. “I AM STRONG! AND I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO RELAX!”

She continued, “That means your muscles are always constricted and they can’t do their job of stopping fluids as well.”

She gave me a referral for physical therapy.

Physical therapy seemed like a good idea because it would make me show up and do the work. But I wasn’t expecting to have my mind blown.

Did you know that when you do a Kegel you’re supposed to breathe in and release your pelvic muscles, then breathe out and tighten your pelvic muscles?

Breathe in, relax pelvic muscles.

Breathe out, tighten pelvic muscles.

Breathe in, relax.

Breathe out, tighten.

And it’s supposed to be fast, not the elongated, 5-second Buddhist nirvana breathing I was doing.

And when you’re sitting around typing you should be letting your pelvis and abs be fully relaxed, instead of holding them in as if you were willing them to hold their form.

Besides this revolution in Kegel-work, I’ve also learned that deep breaths that engage the sympathetic nervous system should basically be done all day long to relax your muscles.

Thank you, pelvic physical therapist.

That’s it. We’re done. This concludes my public/pubic service announcement.


Epilogue: I also would like to say that I think I’ve got a rockin’ bod. I’ve been lucky to have a great relationship with my body and not want to ever own a weight scale. And it’s been a challenge to make sure that that relationship remains robust after three kids, because we get all these messages about how our abs should be flat and our legs should touch in three places and all that other bullshit. We get fed this stuff and then we feed it back to other women. I like to feel strong, but I haven’t felt very strong after the Fairy Pig, so I’m working on that. Otherwise, I shave when I’m feeling like it. I don’t pluck or wax my eyebrows. If it makes me feel good, I do it. So if you’d rather spend that waxing dime on gas money to escape town, do that. I’ll see you on the road.

Featured image by Jeff Boothe

Sibling Fights Are Normal But They Break My Brain Apart

MWord A Team

My husband fought with his siblings. I fought with mine.

With three kids in our house, there are many, many opportunities for fights. The kids get to live out jealousy and sharing and retribution and forgiveness every-day-all-the-time. We live in this emotions lab where the full-contact work they’re putting in now will hopefully have some benefit in the future.

But how do I survive it?

A good friend and parenting mentor of mine who has three kids older than ours told me, “We discovered that when all three are together, fights are constant. When you remove one child—and it doesn’t matter which one—things calm down.”

Oh Pythia. Oh Oracle! Why did you move away when I still need to suck up more wisdom?

But even with just two kids sometimes a full day of school—or maybe the first five days of the school year with new teachers and new friends—will set the boys into a tornado of emotional destruction that sucks me in and blows away anything in its path.

I don’t remember getting explosively angry on a regular basis at any point in my life until K-Pants turned two and Boy Woww was born. I will have weathered insults, whining, sassiness, complaining about household jobs, and general background bickering—and then when that next sassy comment hits, my internal thermometer goes into WARNING mode and starts shaking. And one last thing will make all the chips fall.

We were on our way to the Oregon State Fair on Friday. We had passes they earned from a summer reading program (our au pair did the program with them—I hadn’t been able to get it together any other summer, so either feel good about yourself or solidarity about your imperfections). It was just me and the two boys in the car. They really, really wanted to go. Friday was the only time. If I could do it over again I still would have picked Friday–even though it was Labor Day weekend and I-5 South would be packed and the boys would be exhausted. They earned these passes and we were all bought in and it was the only feasible time.

I told them in the morning as we waited for the bus that we would go to see the animals. “We want to do the rides!” they said. “We’ll use our own money!” I hate carnival rides, but okay. I prepped a picnic dinner, picked the boys up from the bus and they got in the car.

There was traffic. There was sassiness. There was disrespect. First we dropped a pre-made dinner at friend’s who broke her leg.

K-Pants, irritated: Why do we have to bring food to people?

Me: Because it’s nice and when something happens to us, people will help us, too.

Boy Woww: I’m hungry.

Me: Eat the food I packed for you.

Boy Woww: I can’t reach it. I don’t want it.

Me: I made potato chips.

K-Pants: You can’t just put potatoes in the oven and call it potato chips.

Boy Woww, whining: I HATE traffic. Why do we have to sit in traffic?!?


Yes. I did that thing. That thing where you turn the car around and go back home.

As you can imagine things went really well emotionally for all of us in the ensuing drive home.

K-Pants’ chants of “I hate Mom!” were soft on the ears. My screaming gave me a headache and made them cry. Later, in that eerie calm after the storm, K-Pants said, “Can we make it up to you? I don’t understand what it’s like to be a parent.” And Boy Woww said, “You know why I’m really sad? I told all the people at school I was going to the fair.” I almost wanted to turn around, but it was too late. We’d all been too horrible to each other for too long. And we were wiped out.

Would I have done anything differently? I honestly don’t know. It’s kind of nice to have a big reset moment where the kids go, “Whoa. She’s serious.” And it set us up for a weekend of doing chores in which K-Pants learned how to scrub pans and start the dishwasher. It also came to light that Boy Woww enjoys sweeping.

And although I hate getting that angry because it’s bad for me and my body and my emotional wellbeing and it’s not awesome for the kids, I’m not perfect. And anger is normal. And the kids’ fighting and sassiness is going to continue to scratch on my brain chalkboard with fingernails.

I will continue to try new strategies, because being a parent is something I love deeply and defines much of who I am. I want to get better at it and accept its challenges because that’s the only way I will grow.

But my biggest goal this school year is to be radically kind to myself in the midst of my imperfections not in spite of them. We’re always comparing ourselves to some idealized version of ourselves and others. Honestly that comparison tool worked out really well for me for some of my adulthood, but it’s not a great core to build on.

So here we are.

And here’s to the new school year.