Together at the Table

Opening Keynote
Gay Christian Network Conference
Portland, Oregon
January 8, 2015

At my house, we eat family-style.

In a Chinese family, the table is perhaps the most important space we have. It is where we gather. It’s where family dynamics, in all their mess and dysfunction and beauty, play out. In a family-style meal, you see the diversity of our personalities and the drama of our lives echoed in the narrative of the food. In the story of the Chinese family table, a complete meal balances salty read more

Prayers of the People

I hate public speaking–nobody ever told me that, as a writer, I’d have to do so much talking–and no matter the venue or the size of the audience, my heart still races, my hands get clammy, and there’s no escape from the feeling that I will self-destruct physically at the microphone. But I’m learning to like leading prayers during worship, one of the unexpected privileges of being a lay leader at my church.

There are so many ways we can talk to God. Some folks are more read more

Counting the Costs

photo (60)

Writing is a business. I wish I could say that I’ve done it for entirely altruistic reasons. Certainly, at times during the reporting of Does Jesus Really Love Me?, as I racked up credit-card debt for the first time in my life, it felt like a bad business. Was I doing better or worse than anyone else who writes a work of journalism like mine? I didn’t know, because people rarely talk about the financing of book writing.

We’re secretive to our collective detriment. I know I’m among read more

How I Write

writing

“Writing is so hard. How do you do it?”

A friend recently asked me this when we met for coffee. She thought words came easily to me, that I could sit at my computer and just spew whole and lovely sentences. Hahahahahaha!

When I confessed to her that writing was a struggle for me, she seemed perplexed. I wondered whether it was because the kind of stuff I write is meant not to be too terribly challenging to the reader—at least not in structure and syntax. (I am no Joyce, who famously took read more

My Words Are Not My Own

butchers-blossoms

Not too long ago, I interviewed the Philippine artist Patricia Eustaquio, who has an eclectic body of work that includes a series of paintings called “Butcher’s Blossoms.” Each depicts a strange, curvaceous, dappled object that looks something like an alien flower or a mutant mushroom. These paintings actually depict one of two things, in super-zoomed detail: a cut of meat or an orchid. And it’s Eustaquio’s intention read more

It Feels Right to Be Wrong

NZ1

I’ve always wanted to be a uniter. Though I’ve never described myself as particularly conciliatory, I dreamed, when I was in junior high, of being a diplomat, of bringing people together. It wasn’t a very sophisticated dream. My adolescent notion of what it meant to be a U.S. ambassador didn’t extend much beyond having a nice house in a foreign capital and throwing big parties at government expense.

I ended up becoming a journalist, which, in 2013 America, is nobody’s idea of a uniter. read more

The Journey Continues

When does a pilgrimage end? I’d argue that, done right, it never does.

The testimonies I recount in “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” were recorded in 2011, my year of pilgrimage/reporting, when I crisscrossed America meeting people and visiting churches. While that phase of the journey is over, I’m now in a new one. I’ve spent much of 2013 retracing some of my routes, visiting bookstores and congregations, talking about the experience of putting the book together and hearing from readers read more