Sunday Superlatives 2/17/13

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Prayer of the day: “Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weakness of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (Collect for First Sunday in Lent, Book of Common Prayer)

A hearty welcome home to reader Hillary Hoover who sent this tweet on Friday:


We’re glad you’re okay, Hillary! Get some rest.

Also, in Lent news, Rethink Church launched their Lenten photo-a-day challenge this week. You can follow some of the contributions here.

Now on to superlatives…

Around the Blogosphere…

Best Video:
Goats Yelling Like Humans

Best Tribute (nominated by pdxPinay):
Daniel Fan with “Farewell Uncle Richard” 

"In Heaven
a circle of grass
Tread down
by the prayers of dancers…"

Best Advice:
Jena Nardella with “Tough Advice for a Young Idealist: Struggle Less for Ideas, and More for People

As a 21-year-old, I co-founded Blood:Water Mission with the belief that we could eradicate HIV/AIDS and provide safe water for all. If we could simply rally enough people to care, certainly there could be enough resources in the world to make these things happen. In my naiveté I believed early on that I could be the one to usher that change….”

Best Analysis:
Skye Jethani with “Calling All Christians

“If the church wants to reach young people, start by affirming their callings outside the church.”

Best Idea:
Sarah Bessey with "In which I add 'Gibor Chayil' to our lexicon"

"Men of valour! for standing up for, and with, us. We see you loving the women in your life well, we see you honouring us–your wives, your sisters, your mothers, your grandmothers, your daughters, your friends–we see you serving with abandon, we see you hungering for justice, we see your dedication to true purity, to wisdom, to knowledge, to honour, to respect, to beauty, to mercy. We see you working and loving and fighting and dreaming. We see your heart, your mind, your strength."

Most Stunning:
NBC with “World Press Photo 2013 award winners gallery

Most Powerful (nominated by Hannah)
Elora Nicole with “There’s Always Another Story

And this whole time, no one spoke of what happens when these things are taken. No one told me how to handle my body if I didn’t feel as if it were mine to own. No one whispered how breaking the bondage of abuse would hurt like hell and the mess would spill over into my marriage bed. No one told me that it was okay, that I wasn’t less than, that there was goodness and bravery in figuring out the dust of belief left over from His fire burning through the lies.”

Most Relatable:
Jessica Misener at Buzzfeed with “33 Ways to Know You Were a Youth Group Kid

Most Provocative:
Brandon Ambrosino at The Huffington Post with “Why I’m Giving Up God for Lent

“Indeed, the God of my rigid ideologies, of my complacent Theology; the God who validates my unwillingness to explore heresies, and rewards me for arrogantly dismissing them as sinful; the God who grounds my intellectual arrogance in His omniscience, and my politics in his omnipotence; the God who vanquishes all of His and my inquisitive foes, forever silencing their obnoxious questions with the fires of Hell; whose very Nature demands that humans separate and categorize the world into manageable divisions; the God who has made His Will known to us through Natural Law, and a Holy Book, every word of which we are to follow without hesitation or consideration; whose ethical character remains beyond discussion; whose decisions remain beyond the scope of human analysis; the God who grounds all Thought in his Being - this God, who is Himself nothing more than an idol of Modernism, is dead.”

Most Informative:
Kevin Eckstrom and Alessandro Speciale at RNS with “What happens next at the Vatican?

Most Thoughtful:
Hannah at Wine and Marble with “Masturbation, Shame, and Christian Sexual Ethics

“And the problem wasn’t whether masturbating was right or wrong. The problem was that I was using it to cope with stress. I sought out the cathartic high instead of facing the real issues I was living with — loneliness, anxiety, fear, anger. It could have been any number of things — I could have discovered cutting, I could have developed an unhealthy relationship with food, or become obsessed with working out or studying. But instead I developed an imbalanced, unhealthy relationship to my sexuality. But like any “addict,” I supplanted one addiction for another to overcome the initial habit: I replaced masturbating with emotional self-flagellation. And I never addressed the most fundamental missing puzzle piece to this whole thing: I never bothered to pair up a grace-centered understanding of myself as BOTH a child of God and a sexual being. Stopping the “addiction” didn’t fix what was broken.”

Most Encouraging:
Megan Westra with “My Manifesto (or, how motherhood unexpectedly turned me into a feminist)

“It became quite clear to me, cradling my little girl in my arms, reading the accounts of my sisters in Christ of days long past that I had to cast a bigger vision for my daughter than what was cast for me.”

Most Poetic:
J.R. Goudeau with “Let Him Easter in Us

“ For whatever reason, I need Lent this year. And I need, more than ever, the underlying sense that after these dark and holy forty days, Easter will come…”

Most Ironic:
Fred Clark with "Mary Bird explains the 'post-evangelical perspective on the BIble, in 1842"

"But, Mary, just listen to me. Your feelings are all quite right, dear, and interesting, and I love you for them; but, then, dear, we mustn’t suffer our feelings to run away with our judgment; you must consider it’s a matter of private feeling, — there are great public interests involved, — there is such a state of public agitation rising, that we must put aside our private feelings.”

See my comment after Fred's post to find out why I bumped into this at a very odd time (I had literally read the very same passage from Uncle Tom's Cabin just minutes before his post appeared in my feed. How weird.) On a related note, we WILL be discussing The Civil War as a Theological Crisis next week, because that book is seriously blowing my mind...not because of its novelty, but because of its familiarity.

Most Inspiring:
The Work of the People with “Painter and Welder”

Most Fascinating:
Mary C. Curtis at the Washington Post with "Strom Thurmond’s black daughter: a symbol of America’s complicated racial history"

Most Likely to Make You Feel Less Alone:
Zack Hunt with “I Wish I Didn’t Have Faith

“But faith is not a vaccination against doubt. It is the embracing of it. Faith embraces our deepest doubts, faces them head on, and chooses to believe anyway. We have faith because we doubt. If we didn’t doubt, we wouldn’t have faith. We would have knowledge.”

Most Likely To Give You Hope for Washington:
Elizabeth Warren asks the most obvious question ever and stumps a bunch of bank regulators

Glennon Melton with “Lover of the Light

“Sometimes a woman leaves because she knows the difference between right and wrong- not because she doesn’t…”

Kathy Escobar with “whatever you do, don’t let them take your faith

i think one of the greatest gifts of a painful church experience or even a slow & far less dramatic disillusionment can be an opportunity to really re-examine our faith, to unravel what needs to be unraveled, to question things that needed to be questioned, to strip away the unnecessaries to find the core. in the end, that is the hard and beautiful work of shifting to a more meaningful and free relationship with God.”

Robert Krulwich at NPR with “A Crazy but Rational Solution to our Electoral College Problem"

Best Reminder:
Marlena Graves at Christianity Today with “The Westboro Baptist in All of Us

“Most of us wouldn't go to the same lengths as those at Westboro, but collectively, we have our own prejudices, rigid rules, regulations, and zealotries. These drive us to marginalize, cast aspersions upon and exclude others within our own churches, Christian organizations and institutions who so much as dare to differ, even slightly, from our own political or theological stances.”

Best Reflection:
Julie Clawson with “Celebrating Valentine’s Day During Lent

To me, Valentine’s actions embody what it means to live as a member of a body. He chose to love and serve others despite the imperial voices dictating that he withhold aid. As a priest, he could easily have devoted himself in such a time of persecution to personal devotions that would have drawn him closer to God (and saved his own neck), but instead he opted to help those in need and include those the powers-that-be demanded be excluded. He became a martyr for the sake of love. I wonder how different the church could be if during the season of Lent this year, we Christians chose not to see Valentine’s Day as an awkward dilemma to deal with but as a guide for our practices. What if we too chose to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of love?"

Best Conversation-Starter:
Emily Maynard with “I Don’t Think God Has  a Plan for My Love Life

Because if God has a plan like that for my love life, it really sucks. If God is charting and manipulating my relationship journey so I, The One, can finally meet you, The One, and then everything will be fine, then I want off this boat. Not because I want to quit difficult things or avoid challenges or stop growing or don’t trust God. It’s not even because I don’t think that romantic longevity is possible; I think it absolutely is. But this “plan” thing seems like it’s totally crazy making. It involves me saying that a large section of my life will only matter once I have a ring and some holy vows to mark it. It eliminates the stories of suffering or pain that happen in marriages, even good ones that last. It requires me to pretend like getting dumped by someone I was beginning to trust, someone I saw as a friend and colleague, doesn’t suck. Whether or not I get married some day will not change the pain of that experience. And the suggestion that God’s plan was behind that pain rather than a human decision makes God out to be kind of sadistic.”

Best Series-Starter:
Scot McKnight with “On the Way to the Cross (With Mary and Peter)

“If we walk with Mary, we will find a woman who is visited by angels, filled with prophetic words about what God will do through her Son, informed of her Son’s suffering, and who year-in and year-out pondered just how in the world her Son would become the Messiah. She grew year-by-year in her perception, and her growth actually mirrors our own: struggling with a crucified Messiah is our story, too. She came to terms with a crucified Messiah, but she came to it honestly: she struggled with Jesus. If we walk with Peter, we will find a man who encountered Jesus early, who was called to be a disciple at the very beginning, who became a prominent leader among the apostles, but who also — not unlike Mary — thought a crucified Messiah was an unacceptable and unbiblical idea. Peter, too, struggled with the cross and with a Jesus who thought his end would be on a cross.”

Best Challenge:
David R. Henson with “On Our Behalf: Reclaiming Repentance As a Progressive Christian

“Rather than calling us to go back to a simpler time, repentance beckons us further and deeper. It is progressive, rather than regressive. If we are lost, repentance isn’t about pulling out a compass and searching for the original trailhead. Instead, repentance is waiting to be found and then discovering that we have been found all along. For God is already with us in the middle of the path we’re on, no matter how thorny, steep or mired it is. Repentance helps us to see where God already is. It helps us get past that heresy of believing God would quit loving us. Repentance restores the relationship, not by bridging the gap over sin but by removing our blinders so we may see God with us, in us, before us, calling us further into the desert, into the wilderness, into the work of bringing God’s Reign to earth as it is in heaven.”

Best Guidance:
Shane Claiborne with “Fat Tuesday and Skinny Wednesday

In a world filled with clutter, noise, and hustle, Lent is a good excuse to step back and rethink how we think and live. In a world of instant gratification, it’s a chance to practice delayed gratification – to fast – so that we can truly appreciate the blessings we have.  In a world where virtual friends are replacing real ones, it is an invitation to turn off TV and computer screens so we can spend time with real people again…There isn’t an anecdote, but there is an invitation – an excuse – to try something new.”

Favorite Tweets…

@AlisonLeiby Coworker: Are you eating candy for lunch because it's Valentine's Day? Me: Um, yes, yes Valentine's Day, that's why.

@annabeloakes Be a writer, kids! Have unfinished homework until you die!

@theharryshearer CNN: the most trusted name in “poop in a bag” news

On my nightstand…

The Civil War as a Theological Crisis by Mark A Noll
(Like I said, we're gonna be talking about this one for a while. Highly recommended.) 



I had a wonderful time hanging out with the students of The Wesley Foundation on the campus of The College of William & Mary. They greeted me at the airport with t-shirts that said “Team RHE” on the front and “Operation Vaginagate” on the back. They also gave me a gift basket of bread and cheese from The Cheese Shop and lots and lots of chocolate…so we are forever friends. Thanks for the warm welcome to Williamsburg!

On the Blog….

Most Popular Post:
40 Ideas for Lent: 2012

Most Popular Comment:
In response to “Torn Chapters 12-13: Back to the Bible,” littlepanchuk wrote:

While I find arguments like Justin's quite compelling, I still find myself uncertain about this issue. But what I think Christian heterosexuals, including myself, need to remember is that we have a luxury that some of our fellow Christians don't have. We can remain uncertain for as long as we need to. There is no hurry to figure out the answer. While the question may be important to us because we deeply care about our GLBTQ friends and family members, the answer does not directly determine the course of our lives. For many Christians, it does. It determines the choice to date, or not; to propose to the love of one's life, or not; to commit to celibacy, or not. I don't think the gravity of the question changes the truth of the matter (whatever it is), but I think it demands that we react to our brothers and sisters conclusions with much grace, realizing that we are not faced with that very difficult decision in quite the same way.”

[The comment section after that post is definitely worth a read. Fantastic. Thank you all for your contributions.]


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

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