Sunday Superlatives 12/1/13 (First Sunday of Advent)

'Adventkranz' photo (c) 2009, Benjamin Nussbaum - license:

Prayer for First Sunday of Advent: “Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”  - Book of Common Prayer 

Around the Blogosphere…

Best Quote: 
Pope Francis on the papal mission 

“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security ... More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: 'Give them something to eat.'”

Best Find: 
Alan Rickman reads Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130

Best Perspective:
Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times with “Where is the Love?”

“Successful people tend to see in themselves a simple narrative: You study hard, work long hours, obey the law and create your own good fortune. Well, yes. That often works fine in middle-class families. But if you’re conceived by a teenage mom who drinks during pregnancy so that you’re born with fetal alcohol effects, the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against you from before birth. You’ll perhaps never get traction. Likewise, if you’re born in a high-poverty neighborhood to a stressed-out single mom who doesn’t read to you and slaps you more than hugs you, you’ll face a huge handicap. One University of Minnesota study found that the kind of parenting a child receives in the first 3.5 years is a better predictor of high school graduation than I.Q. All this helps explain why one of the strongest determinants of ending up poor is being born poor.” 

Best Headline: 
The Onion with “Woman Who Had Almost Formed Healthy Sense of Self Rejoins Social Media” 

Best Writing: 
Shauna Niequist with “What My Mother Taught Me” 

“I watched my mother become herself. I watched her come alive. I watched her discover her gifts. I watched her eyes sparkle when she returned from a meeting or a trip. I listened to her bubbling over with passion about what she was reading or learning. And as I watched her, I promised myself that I would follow this new example she was leaving for me, to pay attention to my gifts and passions. The life I was seeing in her for the first time was so inspiring to me. I loved it in her, and I wanted it for myself.”

Best Moment: 
Toni Morrison Honors Maya Angelou at the National Book Awards

“Easy reading is damn hard writing" 

Best Interview:
N.T. Wright discusses Paul and the Faithfulness of God

Best Lecture (nominated by Matt Saler
N.T. Wright on The Big Story of the Bible 

Best Debriefs: 
Peter Enns with “Inerrancy and the Recent Non-Apocalyptic Discussion at the Annual ETS Meeting in Baltimore” and Michael Bird with “Reflections on ETS and the Conference Theme of Inerrancy” 

From Enns: “As a biblical scholar who deals with the messy parts of the Bible (i.e., the Old Testament), I came away with one recurring impression, a confirmation of my experience in these matters: mainstream American evangelicalism, as codified in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, doesn’t really know what to do with the Bible as a historical text.”

In other news, Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy releases next week and looks like a book we’ll need to discuss! 


Best Response: 
Caryn Rivadeneira, Rachel Marie Stone, and Marlena Graves at Her.Meneutics with “Things Broke People Do” 

“The Bible doesn't indicate that people must be worthy of such generosity, no provision made for excluding the person from charity because of laziness. We see that kindness and generosity are to be given without reservation, without restriction. Perhaps this is because all good things—including the ability to work hard—come from divine grace. The prosperity that can follow hard work is not exclusively our natural and inevitable reward, but in fact a gift from God.”

Richard Beck with “Drinking Christians” 

“That's the dark side of post-evangelical drinking. Given that drinking is a sign of liberation from a troubled past, many progressive Christians find it emotionally difficult to address alcoholism, or to put the drinks away because of a "weaker brother" in our midst.”

These Goats

Sarah Bessey with “In which this is also about the men” 

“In the Kingdom of God, we don’t have to choose between lifting up men or lifting up women, it’s not one or the other: it’s both together, it’s the sacred union, the created purpose as co-image bearers of God.”

Ben Blatt at Slate with “A Textual Analysis of The Hunger Games” 

“These lists give us a sense of the authors’ respective proclivities and reflect the general tone of each series. The Hunger Games is a technical dystopia relying on detailed descriptions of the action (thus the prevalence of words like 'intensely' and 'electronic”'. Twilight is wrapped up in emotion (thus 'anxiously,' 'unwilling,' and 'unreadable'—the last is typically used to describe a character’s expression). Harry Potter is an exploration of a world by turns wondrous and frightening (thus 'dreamily,' 'terrified'). Collins’ adjectives are often used in a utilitarian manner, to describe processes (as in 'One of the heaviest days of betting is the opening, when the initial casualties come in.'). Meyer, meanwhile, is more likely to use her adjectives to describe people (as in 'he asked in his silken, irresistible voice').” 

Andrew Sullivan with “Reliving Iraq” 

“No writer is always right. What matters is how he or she grapples with being wrong.”

Ed Cyzewski "roasts" Zack Hunt on the arrival of his new baby with "An Open Letter to Zack Hunt" 

"Your entire life will now revolve around naps and what you find or don’t find in your daughter’s diapers. Maybe you don’t want to use the word 'poo' because it’s not amenable for your sophisticated Yale tastes. Now is the time to get the thesaurus out and pick your word of choice for 'poo”' because you’re going to talk about it A LOT."

Most Relatable: 
Twenty Pixels with “5 Differences Between Life Now and Life Before Cell Phones”

Most Encouraging: 
Micah  J. Murray with “How I Became a Jesus Feminist” 

“I stopped listening to the men in suits and their the fear-mongering doomsday predictions about feminism. Instead, I started listening to feminists talk about what feminism meant to them. What I heard wasn’t hatred or bitterness or anger or arrogance. I heard brave, strong voices. I heard hearts turned toward love and justice.” 

Most Practical:
Deseed pomegranate in 10 seconds using a wooden spoon

Most Inspiring: 
Bill and Lynne Hybels with “Evangelicals and Gender Equality” 

“Over the last three decades I have had the pleasure of standing on a church stage and introducing women teachers, knowing that the congregation was about to hear a message inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit. I’ve sat in elder meetings and listened while godly women brought wisdom and discernment to bear on complex issues of church discipline. I’ve bounced ideas back and forth with gifted businesswomen who provided thoughtful perspectives on the fiduciary matters of the church. I’ve listened to church members tell stories of transformation that occurred as they sat under the pastoral care of female small group leaders. I’ve watched women and men stand side by side as they served communion and collected the offering and led worship.”

Most Succinct:
Mark Love with “Miami Dolphins and Female Preachers”

“I think a room full of preachers is better when some of them are women.”

Most Helpful: 
Nish Weiseth with “The Reality of Special Needs and How You Can Help” 

“If you see me dealing with a massive meltdown, pray over us from afar. Pray for peace and calm over my kid, pray for strength and determination for me.”

Most Powerful: 
Dawn W. with “On Being Poor” 

“It’s taken me a lot of my growing up years and a decent amount of time studying theology for me to see what was really happening. We were poor for a multitude of reasons, among them being the failure of the system and a minimum wage that is (still) too low. Now is not the time for that. More importantly, I learned that God does not favor the rich and fiscally responsible. Monetary success is not a sacrament. My Lord is manifested in the bread and wine of the Table; the love of a friend; the poetry of the liturgy; the truth of His Word.”

Most Insightful: 
Enuma Okoro at The Washington Post with “Naughty by Nature, Hopeful by Grace”

“I get it now in a way I haven’t before; how temptation can slip slowly from shiny surfaces into the sin of unfaithfulness and undisciplined desire, from things that look good and usually are good, in the beginning. But no one talks about how to keep your balance on the slippery slope. No one wants to talk about it till everyone has slid right off. Then every pastor, priest, and prophet begins to preach about Eve and Delilah, biblical women culturally synonymous with the evils of temptation and the fall of men. In my friendship with Chris I felt the flutters growing and I wanted to start talking about it. I wanted to steady my stance on the slippery slope.”

Most Thought-Provoking: 
Christena Cleveland with “Crossing Boarders in the Church: On Embracing Undocumented Immigrants” 

“The good news is that where the church is pressing into the unity to which Christ calls us, relationships form and attitudes change.  Political scientist Ruth Melkonian-Hoover finds that white evangelicals who worship alongside immigrants are far less likely to view immigrants as a threat (19.6%) than white evangelicals as a whole (50.7%).  Those who have heard a positive message about immigration from their pastor—presumably, one that highlights the scores of biblical commands related to how immigrants ought to be treated—are only about half as likely to think of immigrants as a threat and are also much more likely (81.5%) than white evangelicals as a whole (54%) to support immigration reform policies including an earned path to citizenship for the undocumented.” 

Most Fascinating: 
Jenny Armstrong with “Opposition to Gender Equality, East and West” 

“Don't mess with the dowry system! It's biblical!”

Most Grace-full 
Osheta Moore with “A Letter to My Sisters in the Suburbs” 

“We would love for you, our suburban sisters to join us in caring for Samaria. But know this— urban ministry is not a better way and it’s definitely not the only way to seek God’s Shalom in this broken world. My ‘all or nothing’ will never look like your ‘all or nothing’ and I think that’s the mark of a true disciple: knowing your Shepherd’s voice and following him into your specific all or nothing.” 

Best Assessment: 
Kate Wallace at the Junia Project with “The Incomplete Gospel of Biblical Womanhood”

“I am a single, educated, working, Christian woman, and the “biblical womanhood” message doesn’t really apply to my life. I simply don’t fit into the patriarchal/complementarian teaching of what a woman should be. I may fit better in the future, if I get married and have kids, but what if my life doesn’t take that path? What if I am unable to have kids? What if I’m poor? What if my future husband leaves me? What if I remain single?

Best Storytelling: 

Stacy Sergent with “I Was Told to Knit While the Men Prayed” 

“When I returned to the US, I felt it was important to pursue a theological education, to prepare for ministry and discern what kind of minister I was meant to be.  I had to visit a couple of schools before I found one where women were welcome as full participants.  I’ll never forget my first seminary campus visit, during which the tour guide ignored me completely and directed all his commentary to the male prospective students, until we passed one of the education buildings and he mentioned their excellent preaching classes.  ‘Of course, you wouldn’t need to worry about those,’ he said to me.”

Best Analysis: 
Andrew Arndt with “Coherence at the Core: Some Thoughts on Love and Wrath” 

“Christians believe that Jesus is where the narrative of Scripture was heading all along.  That everything that happened before Christ was a shadow–revealing God, yes, but dimly, provisionally, awaiting further elucidation.  In Christ, God gets specific.  We come to the “hard core” of who God is and what he’s like.  And what is God like, revealed in Jesus?  He loves “sinners”, dines with them, and makes himself comfortable with them.  He heals the lame and the disfigured, extends mercy to the oppressors of Israel, and calls everyone within earshot of his voice into the range of his Father’s redeeming love.  Jew and Gentile, Israel and Rome… it matters not to him – the whole world is the focus of his work, for the whole world has been the focus of his Father’s work from the beginning.”

Best Point: 
Mike Raburn with “On Women and Slaves”

“The hermeneutic (method of interpretation) Rev. Wilson used to sanctify slavery in 1861 is exactly the same that is used now to make suppressing and subjugating women in the church seem holy too. You can see it in that same quote. Husbands are to wives as masters are to slaves. Same logic. Same way of reading the Bible.” 

On Twitter...


On the Blog….

Most Popular Post (…of all time. seriously.):
Are You Being Persecuted? 

Most Popular Comment:
In response to “Are you being persecuted?” NotMonday wrote: 

“Thank you! The idea that American Christians are persecuted is, in my opinion, quite offensive to Christians elsewhere that actually are persecuted.”


So, what caught your eye online this week? What’s happening on your blog? 


Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.

Sunday Superlatives 10/13/13


My sister-in-law Priscilla makes the most amazing all-natural, homemade granola and is now shipping it to your home! Be sure to check out the Wize Harvest Web site (which Dan just finished developing) and consider sampling the deliciousness. My favorite is Le Chocolat Nut. They’re celebrating the launch with free shipping on orders of $50 or more for a limited time using coupon code:  Z47ZQMO


Despite the fact that I endured the most frightening flight of my life into Louisville, Kentucky Last week, I had a wonderful time with the good people of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and all the readers who came out to hear my presentation on Sunday night, including the delightful Connie Esther, who I met in the bathroom of all places! We had a great turnout, and I was so encouraged by the response. Special thanks to Rev. Thomas Momberg who really cheered me on and offered constant encouragement on what was an especially busy weekend. It was a joy to gather around the Table with these folks and I hope to do it again. 


Next Stop: On Tuesday at 7 p.m., I’ll be speaking on my “Year of Biblical Womanhood” at Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, Kansas.  So if you’re in the area, stop by and we’ll hang out. Let me know if you plan to be there! 


Around the Blogosphere…

Best Reaction: 
Malala Yousafzai leaves Jon Stewart speechless 

Best Headline: 
“America Likes Nickelback More than Congress” 

Best Idea: 
Rachelle Mee-Chapman with “Tithe Your Power” 

“Listen Friends, what I want to tell you is this. The world needs you to start leading again. To step out of the shadows and into your strength, your skills, your compassionate heart, your crazy ideas. But you don’t have to be THE ONE in charge. And you don’t have to go it alone. Let’s share our strength. Let’s make room on the stage for the voices that have a whisper in a crowd. (They want to roar, and we need to hear them.) Let us – well and truly – LEAD.” 

Best Point: 
Nour Armagan with “On The Never-Ending Need of Western Churches to Warn the Non-Western Church”

“Works of African, Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern theologians are designated as ‘contextual’ whereas works of British or American theologians are marked as ‘theology’, as if they were not also products of their context, as if they do theology outside of parameters of a language, culture and preferred methodologies of interpretation and application. This grants Western theology a supra-contextual status and relegates non-Western theology to an inferior, semi-theology status. Obviously, such a classification is not empirical, but merely a sad reflection of how Western Christians see themselves in relation to the rest of the world.”

Best Conversation-Starter:
Kate Wallace at the Junia Project with “Why I am a Feminist and an Egalitarian (And Why They Are Not the Same)"

“We need feminism outside the Church to fight for women’s rights. We need egalitarianism inside the Church to advocate for mutual servanthood.”

Best List: 
RNS with “Best Tweets From #AddaWordRuinaChristianBook trend

Best Storytelling: 
Matthew Moore at The Atlantic with “Growing Up with An Autistic Brother in the 1990s” 

“Outside of our immediate family, relatives had a hard time accepting that they could not treat Michael the same way they treated me. Countless Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners were spent with someone trying to tell Michael what to do, which often led to passive aggressive arguments about the best way to raise an autistic child.”

Best Reminder: 
Carleen Lane with “You Are Enough” 

“You don’t have to be at All The Things for church. It’s ok to say no to things, even good things. It’s ok to skip just because you needed some time spent alone, or with a friend. God isn’t shaking His fist at you. You, in all your weariness and introverted-ness, are enough."
Best Series: 
Richard Beck blogging through “Christ and The Powers” by Hendrik Berkhof and Scot McKnight blogging through N.T. Wright’s latest 

Best Analysis:
Margaret Mowczko with "Busy at Home" 

Best Campaign (Like, Ever):
Sarah Bessey’s “I am a Jesus Feminist…” campaign 
(Some of the reader-submitted photos will bring you to tears! Be sure to add yours!) 


Most Creative:
“15th-Century Flemish-Style Portraits Recreated in Airplane Lavatory” and “Dad Takes Crazy Photos of Daughters” 

Most Hilariously Informative (nominated by Kristina Amundsen
The Oatmeal on Columbus Day

Most Eye-Opening: 
Project Unbreakable

Most Relatable: 
Jamie Wright with “Better when”

When is a dangerous place to hang your Hope.”

Most Sobering: 
Pete Enns with “If They Only Knew What I Thought: The Sad Cycle of Evangelical Biblical Scholarship” 

“Folks, we have a real problem on our hands, and everyone has to bear some responsibility. Here’s the familiar scenario. The “best and brightest” students in Evangelical seminaries work hard and are encouraged and aided by their professors to pursue doctoral work. Many wind up going to some of the best research universities in the world. This is a feather in everyone’s cap, and often they are hired back by their Evangelical school or elsewhere in the Evangelical system. Sooner or later, these professors find out that their degree may be valued but their education is not.”

Most Moving: 
“When We Came Out”: A Collaborative Post at Redemption Pictures 

“Had it not been for that little hastily scribbled note, I may not have remained in the church, much less become an ordained minister – but Love made a place for me – as Love always does.”

Most Enlightening: 
Christena Cleveland with “So you wanna be a diverse church? Here’s how” 

Most Insightful: 
Rachel Stone at Relevant with “Just Because It’s New Doesn’t Mean You Should Care”

“We need old books not because they are necessarily better or somehow infallible (“People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we,” Lewis writes, “but not the same mistakes”) but because to read only new books is to join “at 11 o'clock a conversation that began at eight,” and thus to be unable to understand fully all that is going on.”

Most Empowering:
The Girl Declaration

Most Beautiful:
John Blase at Deeper Story with  "Vigilante"

Abi Anne with “Plans” 

“God’s Will was like a tricky Choose Your Own Adventure book in which every storyline but one ends with you being eaten by alligators or run over by a lawn tractor, and if you turn to page 46 instead of page 23 you’re doomed to a lifetime outside of God’s favor.”

Benjamin Moberg (Registered Runaway) with “These Hallowed Grounds: Our Story”

“As unbelievable as it sounds, I think I first knew I was gay the morning my pastor said it was evil.”

[Benjamin had been blogging anonymously, but came out online this week.]

Funniest (nominated by Carrie Nettles): 
Stacy Sergent with “Who Wants to Date a Reverend?” 

“Waiting until the first date (or at least the first phone call) to lay this on him gives him a better chance of seeing me as a whole person.  The results have been mixed.  Sharing with one guy about my sense of calling nearly made him choke on his beer.  “What’s that like?” he laughed.  “God just showed up and said, ‘Hey, Stacy, get off your ass and work for me’?”  We didn’t have a second date.  Another man was okay with my being a chaplain, but was horrified to learn that I’d done mission work.  From the look on his face, you would’ve thought I’d told him I strangled puppies for fun.  One guy said he was very impressed by what I wrote in my profile about my theological beliefs, which were quite different from his own.  So I went ahead and laid out for him what I do and how being a chaplain has affected my understanding of God.  His response was simply, “Wow.  That is pretty damned cool.”  (“He’s a keeper,” I thought.)” 

Third Way with “New Mennonite Programming” 

“Breaking Bread – a Mennonite pastor finds out he has terminal cancer and starts selling unpasteurized milk on the side to raise extra money. Does his new secret life harbour hidden dangers like the bacteria in the milk he sells or is he simply freeing himself from needless religious and governmental restrictions?”

Mark Deymaz with “It’s Not Resurgence We Need But Reformation” 

“I'm not arguing against those who would extend the love of God (the Gospel) to people with a similar background. Rather, I am suggesting that nowhere in the New Testament will you find the apostle Paul or anyone else encouraging you to plant, grow or develop a church that is focused on a single people group.”

Most Honest (nominated by Kristin Lee Williams)
Esther Emery with “Some Words About Jealousy and Christian Feminism” 

“Then I had to ask myself some hard questions. About joining. And supporting. And there, in the darkness of my chest, I ran into a feeling I don’t much care for…which is jealousy.”

Most Beautifully Vulnerable (nominated by Tanya Marlow
Leigh Kramer with “If, Not When” 

“People tell me to be glad I don't have the baggage that comes with break ups and broken hearts but we all have baggage. We've all made mistakes. There's real pain in the baggage of never being picked. From not being pursued. From not being asked on a second or third date. From never hearing, "I love you" from the one you love."

Most Needed: 
John Blake at CNN with “Holy Trollers: How to Argue About Religion Online”

“Gordon Newby, a professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University, said most people change religious beliefs “not because of one argument” but only after long conversations and intimate exposure to another faith. ‘Logical arguments are nice but they're not going to change someone’s life,’ Newby said. ‘We’re way too complicated for that. We’re not programmed machines. We have this whole limbic system of emotions and appetites and everything else.’” 

Most Provocative: 
Jody at Between Worlds with “When White People Don’t Know They’re Being White”

Most Relevant to Recent Conversations (nominated by Micah J. Murray
Nate Pyle with “Stop Using the Bible”

“The room was really silent as the elder’s words rang through the room. I quietly leaned forward and, in as non-anxious a voice as I could muster said, “I love the Bible. But people don’t need the Bible. They need Jesus.”

Most Likely To Make You Cheer (nominated by Sarah Ellerbusch Monson)
Brian Wiele with “Women Are Called” 

“God chose and called gifted women to leadership positions; the Bible is full of examples of this truth. This is foundational, and not open to our exegetical interpretations or “holy tradition” to understand it differently. And nothing has changed; God still chooses and calls women to this day. The King of kings and Lord of lords decided that his household— a strongly biblical term for the church—will have a distinctive motif of men and women prophesying and serving and making decisions together. Display this theme prominently, he says to the men of the church; don’t put women on the lower shelf of leadership or assign them to the children’s wing or the kitchen. It may not be your personal preference to have them lead with you. It will run counter to patriarchal cultures, where the guy gets to rule the roost. It may not be easy. But you need to get used to it.”

On Twitter…

On the Blog….

Most Popular Post: 
A Year of Biblical Womanhood Genre Cheat Sheet

Most Popular Comment: 
In response to the Year of Biblical Womanhood Genre Cheat Sheet, Ben Emerson wrote: 

“Well now, here's your problem: you wrote a book with too many genre changes. How can you expect us to know which is which? Now if you will excuse me, I am going back to some simple reading we all can understand: the Bible.”

So, what caught your eye online this week? What’s happening on your blog?  



Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.