Sunday Superlatives 3/17/13

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Prayer for the day:  Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. (St. Patrick’s Breastplate)

Around the Blogosphere…

The Lutheran Satire with “St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies

Lisa-Jo Baker with “There is no such thing as perfect hospitality

If I wait for my house or my life to be perfect before ever inviting someone into it, I just might never let anyone in.”

[Related: Henri Nouwen on hospitality]

Ann Voskamp with “Letters to the Wounded #2

“And maybe our deafening silence is just this: Truth necessitates confrontation — and a whole lot of us are more chicken than Christian. We’d rather save our own skin, than the skin of the bruised and battered and beaten. We’re more in love with self-preservation than with Savior-glorification. We’d rather make pain invisible than say injustice is intolerable — so the injustice continues.”

Nate Pyle with “Confronting the Lie: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle

“Ultimately, it isn’t about the questions.  Behind the questions is a deep current of emotion threatening to overtake us.  But too often, when the fracture in the universe threatens to swallow us up in pain we fail to get fully present to our emotions.  In those moments I think we do one of two things.  Either we ask the questions but never investigate what emotion is driving those questions, or we resort to some banal Christian slogan to try and make us feel better. This experience forced me to look at one such statement that gets spouted often when people go through a lot:  God won’t give you more than you can handle.  If I may be so bold, let’s just call that what it is...

Most Intriguing:
Greg Boyd with “Getting Honest About the Dark Side of the Bible

“I only began to discern a way to understand how horrific depictions of God in Scripture bear witness to the crucified Christ when I finally stopped trying to deny these depictions were horrific. So long as we try to tidy up, sanitize, minimize and piously gloss over material that we honestly know in our hearts is macabre and revolting, the best case scenario is that we will succeed at finding a slightly less revolting deity in these portraits than we initially found. This is what standard evangelical apologetic approaches accomplish, on a good day. It is in essence the approach I adopted five years ago when I began this present project. But I came to see that even the very best of these approaches are of no value when it comes to disclosing how this material bears witness to the self-sacrificial, enemy-loving, non-violent love of God on Calvary. And to make matters worse, all the while we are tidying up our macabre depictions of God, we are bearing some responsibility for the way this material continues to serve as a precedent for people to appeal to in order to justify their hatred and violence, as it has served throughout history.”

[I cannot WAIT to get my hands on this book!]

Most Frustrating:
Samantha at Love, Joy Feminism highlights the multiple facepalm moments in Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ interview at Focus on the Family, including the accusation that egalitarian women are selfish, worldly women who despise children.

Most Stunning:
Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest 2012 Finalists

Most Encouraging:
Sarah Kelm with “Eshet Chayil, or Getting Over My Arch-Nemesis”

“So don’t be surprised if I call you out, if I proclaim “woman of valor!” to you when you send me the spreadsheet I was looking for, or you share of a hard conversation you had with your mother, or you run a 5K, or you tell me you and your husband are going to try to have a baby. These are all things to be celebrated, big and small. These are all things which deserve a hearty eshet chayil. Instead of seeing fellow women as my rivals, as those who are good in ways that I cannot be and who will steal the limited amounts of joy this world contains, I want to see them as fellow women of valor, women who inspire me and boost my own strength. I want to see them as women who make me more brave by their own brave deeds.”

Most Helpful:
Joy Bennett at Alise Write’s place with “Sibling Rivalry” 

…We get so passionate about faith (or our approach to the big questions, even if we don’t define it as faith per se) because it’s such an integral part of who we are, how we think, and how we view and interact with the world. I think we get so upset with our families over faith disagreements because our families are so important to us. We want to share this incredibly important thing to us with the people we love the most. We want to be loved and accepted for who we are. When we disagree about those things that are so much a part of who we are, when someone rejects our ideas, it often feels like they also reject us.”

Most Eye-Opening:
Ethan Bronner at The New York Times with “Right to Lawyer Can Be Empty Promise for Poor

“Billy Jerome Presley spent 17 months in a Georgia jail because he did not have $2,700 for a child support payment. He had no prior jail record but also no lawyer. In Baltimore last fall, Carl Hymes, 21, was arrested on charges of shining a laser into the eyes of a police officer. Bail was set at $75,000. He had no arrest record but also no lawyer. In West Orange, N.J., last summer, Walter Bloss, 89, was served with an eviction notice from the rent-controlled apartment he had lived in for 43 years after a dispute with his landlord. He had gone to court without a lawyer…”

Most Quotable:
Fred Clark with “It’s Not Your Stance, But Who You’re Standing With

“Jesus did not say, ‘take this stance,’ but rather ‘Follow me.’ We’re supposed to be moving, not striking a pose."

Most Likely to Make You See it From a Different Angle:
Dan Pallotta via TED with “The way we think about charity is dead wrong

“People are weary of being asked to do the least they can possibly do…”

Most Likely to Relate to Previous  Conversations:
The Atlantic with “Old Earth, Young Minds: Evangelical Homeschoolers Embrace Evolution

“Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. "I nearly choked," says the mother of three. "When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them." Instead, Warton has pulled together a curriculum inspired partly by homeschool pioneer Susan Wise Bauer and partly by the Waldorf holistic educational movement.”

[I know many of you have expressed concern over a lack of faith-based curriculum that presents theistic evolution as an option. I actually have several friends who have received grants from BioLogos to work on science-friendly homeschool curriculum.]

Best Image:
A photo that defines a generation

Best Interview:
Naomi Klein at Common Dreams with “Dancing the World Into Being: A Conversation with Idle No More’s Leanne Simpson

“The alternative is deep reciprocity. It’s respect, it’s relationship, it’s responsibility, and it’s local. If you’re forced to stay in your 50-mile radius, then you very much are going to experience the impacts of extractivist behavior. The only way you can shield yourself from that is when you get your food from around the world or from someplace else. So the more distance and the more globalization then the more shielded I am from the negative impacts of extractivist behavior.”

Best Reflection:
NPR with “In St. Peter’s Square, History Unraveled Slowly

Best Insight:
Zach Hoag with “SGM and the Counseling Cliff

“I have personal experience with this style of counseling at a church I served in 7 years ago. It was one of the primary reasons my wife and I finally decided to move on. One of the mainstays of this style is an antagonism toward “secular” counseling or “modern” psychology, leading church movements like SGM and Mars Hill Church in Seattle, for instance, to require members to only receive counseling from their pastors. And, sometimes, to seek that counsel from elders even in place of alerting the police.”

Best Analysis:
T.F. Charlton at Religion Dispatches with “A Church Group, A Lawsuit, and a Culture of Abuse

“It’s no accident that so many allegations of serious abuse have arisen across SGM’s churches. The combination of patriarchal gender roles, purity culture, and authoritarian clergy that characterizes Sovereign Grace’s teachings on parenting, marriage, and sexuality creates an environment where women and children—especially girls—are uniquely vulnerable to abuse.”

Best Question:
Carrie McKean at Love Is What You Do with “The Rabbit and the Apple

And then the clencher… though she couldn’t read the English text, she perceived the tone from the pictures and she said, ‘People don’t buy my products because they want to help me; they buy my products because I’m a talented seamstress.’ It seems that in my very attempts to empower her and give her dignity, I’ve unwillingly taken it away. I still don’t know how to resolve this… Telling her story is an intrinsic part of selling her products, but how do I tell her story without making you feel pity? How do I tell her story in a way that would make her proud to read it? How do I emphasize our commonality instead of our differences?”

Best Challenge:
Ed Cyzewski with “It’s biblically impossible to be biblical

“While “biblical” could technically mean ‘influenced by the Bible,’ it has become a code word for ‘possessing the one and only way to interpret the Bible on a particular issue.’ In our zeal to follow the teachings of scripture, we have sought a definitive, once and for all time way to read a book that has always been a work in progress. In one sense, we all want to be guided and informed by the Bible. However, the pursuit of being biblical more often turns into: ‘I know God’s definitive and authoritative perspective, you better agree with me, or you’re going to be unbiblical.’ If I don’t agree with the ‘biblical’ perspective being presented, then I’ve rejected God’s truth. The possibility of ambiguity is lost, even if that ambiguity is all over the Bible.”


Micah J. Murray with “Beware of Thinking Biblically”

“This is what’s so radical about Jesus. He is “the Word made flesh“. Jesus IS the Scripture – alive with blood and skin and breath and tears. And when we see him for the first time, we realize that we’ve been reading the Holy Words wrong all along. We MUST allow all of our reading of the Bible to begin and end with the words and life of Jesus. Otherwise we will most certainly get it wrong and miss the point completely.”

Best Synchroblog:
Sarah Bessey hosts “Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives: International Women’s Day Synchroblog

Most Surprising:
Steve Holmes with “Why I Can No Longer Defend the Ministry of Women in the Church

“Take Phoebe Palmer. She began to be involved in leading a Bible study in New York around 1830. She soon received invitations to preach across the USA and in the UK. Something like 25 000 people were converted by her ministry. 25 000 people. Converted. Does that need defence? Really? She visited prisons regularly, ran a society helping poor people in need of medical attention, and was involved in an ambitious project to challenge the new problem of urban poverty through the provision of low-cost housing, free schooling, and employment. She had a particular concern for orphans throughout her life. Challenging injustice on a grand scale. Do you want me to defend that?"

Most Hope-filled:
Liuan Huska at Her.Meneutics with “It Takes a Church to Raise a Child

“At our Spanish-speaking immigrant church, people don't have the luxury to think too hard about what it costs to raise their kids. Most have children (it probably never occurred to them not to) and keep busy making ends meet. The kids in my church don't have Baby Mozart albums, parents who attend every school function, or a neighborhood in a top school district. Yet, they seem to be doing just as well as kids who have it all. Why? Because their moms and dads love them exorbitantly, and everyone in the church parents them as well. My church, though not perfect, does better job than most of living up to the proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child." An older empty-nest couple, for example, used to take care of a younger couple's two daughters. The pastor's wife goes out of her way to pick up children for Sunday school when their parents can't come. We treat each other like family, and we treat all the children in the church as our own.”

Most Likely to Make You Cry:
Dianna Anderson with “Carrying the Banner

“This is the church I know. The church that preaches justice for the marginalized. The church that does not let anyone fall behind. The church that pushes us to be better people but that understands the enormity of the takes before us. This is the image of God that carries me through the rough patches and the hard times – the Trinitarian God of love who is community in Themselves, the God in whose image we are made. We, the church, are the Imago Dei. We, the people, are his banner carriers. And when one of us falls, someone else will carry the banner while others help the fallen.”

Most Likely to Make You Dance (nominated by Jennie Marshall) 
Dancing Nana

Most Likely to Make You Hungry (nominated by Gregory Jeffers
Michael Ruhlman with “Cook Your Own Food. Eat What You Want. (Think for Yourself)

And by the way, Dan of Team Dan & Rachel is now blogging at!

On my Nightstand…

[And by “on my nightstand,” I mean “on my Kindle so I wouldn’t go crazy on my total of 7 FLIGHTS this week”]

The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity by Soong-Chan Rah - This book has been profoundly challenging and convicting for me. I read it just a week before my presentation at George Fox Seminary on the future of evangelicalism, and it dramatically changed my angle! We will definitely be discussing this one in the future, and I’m hoping to rope Professor Rah into a guest post or two.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – “I know. I’ll just read to the halfway point and then go to bed like I said I would two hours ago…just to the halfway point and then, WHA!!!!!! O MY GOSH!!! JUST ONE MORE CHAPTER.” (Note: This book would have an R-rating if it was a movie, so I'm not, like, recommending it for your church group or anything.)

On the Blog...

Most Popular Post:

Most Popular Comments:
In response to “Ashamed,” Nicole Cottrell wrote:

“Not that it matters much, but this is my favorite thing you've ever written. Because at the end of the day, this is it. You and I could sit across from one another with all of our (perceived) theological differences and it wouldn't matter... Because of this and what you shared here. Because you echo my very own heart with these words. Because Jesus binds us, our love for Him and our hope for the rest.” 

And in response to "The Bible: It's Just Not That Into You," Eric, sang:

Altogether now:
"You're so vain,
You prob'ly think the Bible's about you,
You're so vaaaaain,
I bet you think the Bible's about you,
Don't you? Don't you?"

And don’t forget! Next week we’ll be hosting “Into the Light: A Series on Abuse and The Church


I had a wonderful time on my West Coast Tour…even after a very long overnight flight home. It was such a joy to meet so many of you in person! There were hugs, tears, lots of laughs, food (, long talks, quick hellos, sad goodbyes. I am so grateful for each story, each question, each new insight, each gift.

I started at Hope International University in Fullerton, which felt a bit like a homecoming as it was one of the first schools I visited when I began speaking, and one of the most welcoming and hospital communities you will meet. In Fullerton, I had the chance to grab lunch with fellow bloggers (and friends) Elizabeth Esther and Kristen Howerton. We basically solved all of the world’s problems in the span of two hours…(can’t explain the reasons here). Also, it hailed. In Southern California.


Next it was on to Azusa Pacific where I was welcomed like a sister by women like Ariel Price and Kate Wallace. (Kate and her mom, Gail Vaughn Wallace, maintain the very awesome Junia Project board on Pinterest, one of my favorites). I also met an amazing woman of valor named Leslie Wickman, who is also basically a rocket scientist. The event that evening was one of my favorites, with lots of thoughtful, fun questions from the audience about my year of biblical womanhood.

I spent my Saturday running around LA with my dear friends Adam and Rachel Crownoble and their three girls. We visited the Getty Museum on a beautiful, breezy California day and I ALMOST understood why people like them would move there….even though it’s too far away from me.  (Miss them so much!)


Then it was on to Portland, where I couldn’t help but think of the Portlandia song, “The Dream of the 1890s is Alive in Portland,” when my gracious host Andy Campell, (who homebrews his own beer, of course) presented me with AMAZING homemade bread from his wife April and began talking about his friends who make their own soap and, you know, pickle things. (“We can pickle that!”)  While in Portland, I had the honor to attend the public memorial for Richard Twiss, which was a moving and challenging experience that I will be mulling over for months to come, and I also got the chance to hang out with the delightful Emily Maynard.

Next it was on to George Fox Seminary in Portland, where Roger Olson and I discussed the future of evangelicalism with a very smart, very receptive group of students, faculty, church leaders, and locals. (I really enjoyed Roger’s presentation – learned more about my evangelical heritage in 20 minutes than I have in 20 years!)

Photo by Andy Campbell

Photo by Andy Campbell

At the seminary, my friend Bob Henry presented me with a gorgeous painting inspired by Chapter 10 of Evolving in Monkey Town. I love it when artists and musicians bring their creativity to my writing; makes the whole process so much more collaborative.

My final stop was in Newberg, where the students of George Fox University totally blew my mind with their intelligence, thoughtfulness, and hospitality. Seriously. At lunch, a group of students were asked about their thoughts on the future of Christianity and several mentioned the importance of looking to the global South and East since the center of Christianity seems to be shifting in that direction. Smart! I also connected with the small, but growing and gracious LGBT group on campus.

In Newberg, I also had the privilege of connecting with Beth Woolsey, whose life epitomizes real hospitality. She literally built her house around a giant table! Also, she still had her Christmas decorations up. “You can’t wait until everything is perfect to invite people into your life,” she said. Amen.


This is just a brief overview. I met and connected with so many more amazing people on this trip—you know who you are! There are just too many memorable meals and conversations to include. I don’t know if I have ever felt more humbled and grateful to get to do this work, this work that has intersected my life with yours, if only for a brief time. I prayed prayers of gratitude all the way home.


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

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