This week’s posts…

comments

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/this-weeks-posts

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.

Help me make the blog better in 2013

Last year was a record-setting year on the blog (7.3 million pageviews!), but there’s always room to grow and improve.  So I’ve set aside this first week of the new year to brainstorm, schedule, plan, and troubleshoot some new ideas for the blog in 2013. I wanted to let you know a little of what’s on my mind so you can weigh in with your own ideas in the comment section. So here’s what I’m thinking:

Sexuality and the Church – Yearlong Series

Next week I’ll be announcing a new series on sexuality and the Church that I’m super excited about. Like our Bible series from last year, this one will extend through most of 2013 with a new post appearing every Monday. We will work through several books, including Justin Lee’s Torn, Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting, Jack Rogers’ Jesus, The Bible, and Homosexuality, Amy Frykholm’s See Me Naked, and more. In addition, the series will feature multiple interviews and guest posts. I’ve selected a group of friends to keep me accountable and provide some leadership as we work through this series, as I am keenly aware of my own privilege leading this conversation as a straight woman. When I ask people what they want to talk about, this is the most common response. So let’s talk about it!

Weeklong Series

I loved, loved, loved working on our Week of Mutuality last year, so I want to introduce more weeklong theology/Bible series in 2013. A few ideas: “Hell Week” (discuss various positions on heaven, hell, and salvation), “The Future of Evangelicalism,” “5 Days to a Better Blog” (I rarely discuss blogging/writing here, but would like to do more of that for my fellow writers!), “Submission in Context” (maybe I’m the only one fascinated by Peter and Paul’s remix of the Greco-Roman Household Codes found in the epistles, but every day I am confronted with the ways in which misunderstandings of those passages have influenced gender assumptions in the church; worth spending some serious time reexamining them), “Singles Week” (a series of guest posts from single folks), “Practical Egalitarianism” (what egalitarian relationships look like in real life), and "Domestic Violence & The Church." Let me know if you have any other ideas for weeklong series. These would typically be coupled with a synchroblog through which you can lead your own discussions. I doubt we will get to all of them, so let me know which ones are of most interest to you. 

“Ask A…” Series

The “Ask a…” series will continue, though a little less frequently, with one or two interviews each month. I’d also like to include more personal interviews, and have already spoken with N.T. Wright about doing “Ask N.T. Wright…” this spring! If you have ideas for specific individuals you would like to interview, leave those suggestions in the comment section. And if you have ideas for regular editions to the “Ask a…” series (“Ask a Buddhist,” “Ask a Reform Jew,” etc.), let me know, but be as specific as possible by including a name of someone I might contact for the interview. I’m also looking for several participants to help us with Hell Week, so if you have suggestions for “Ask an exclusivist,” “Ask an inclusivist,” “Ask an annhiliationist,” or “Ask a universalist,” please help me out!

Miscellaneous

Some other things to look for this year:

I plan to share more personal stories and photos this year, including stories from “the road,” since I will be travelling like a crazy person this spring. (Will post the schedule later today or tomorrow). We’ll also be talking a lot more about CHURCH—which is consistently the most popular topic on the blog and possibly the topic of my next book. I hope to partner with World Vision for another fundraiser or two, and I’d like to talk more about the idea of sacred time, particularly in our fast-paced, chatter-filled world. I am making an effort this year to make the voices represented here more diverse, with perspectives coming from other parts of the world, not just the U.S.  Sunday Superlatives will continue. Our Women of Valor series will continue, at least for a while longer. Look for more amazing guest posts from some very talented writers and friends. I’d also like to respond to more of your questions, so leave some in the comment section and they may turn into posts!

That said, with as much travelling as I’m doing in the spring, it’s unlikely that I’ll get a post up every single day. While I’m a stickler for blogging consistently, ultimately it’s more important to me to share quality posts than to stick to a daily schedule, so expect some interruptions, particularly in March and April.

So that’s what I’ve scribbled in my big fat idea notebook.  But this is ultimately a community, so your ideas and input are critical for making all of this work. What suggestions do you have for the blog in general and for the themes I mentioned above specifically? What would you like to see more of/less of? What questions do you have for me? What questions/issues are you working through in your own journey?

I’ll be paying close attention to the comment section all day today. Thanks ahead of time for your ideas!

comments

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/blog-ideas-2013

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.

A (Blogging) Year in Review

'Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich' photo (c) 2010, Link576 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

From the beginning, blogging has surprised me. I never dreamed it would lead to so many career opportunities, never dreamed it would connect me to such wonderful people, never dreamed it would start so many interesting conversations, never dreamed I would love it as much as I do. 

This year brought a string of new surprises. I could never have predicted this time last year that in 2012 folks would find this blog by searching for “vaginagate,” or “woman of valor,” or “feminist Chick-fil-A,” or “Whoopi womanhood,” or  “egalitarian pleasuring party.”  But that’s what a year of blogging brings—weird, dirty-sounding keyword searches.  

Our very first post of 2012 was about loving the Bible for what it is, not what we want it to be. This post set the tone for the year and launched a series on the Bible that started some fantastic conversations in the comment section. We discussed several books related to the Bible, including The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith, Scripture and the Authority of God by N.T. Wright, and Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns. 

I started speaking more regularly this year, which meant I got to meet more of you in person—at churches, conferences, and colleges from Waco, to Portland, to Minneapolis, to Lynchburg. Some highlights included hanging out with the ladies of Truett Seminary, dancing to “Call Me Maybe” with the youth of the United Methodist Virginia Conference, getting the chance be Nadia Bolz-Weber’s roommate at Wild Goose West, and getting the grand tour of Chicago, complete with pizza, during STORY 2012.  

review-truett.jpeg

In March, what has affectionately become known as “Vaginagate” happened. So did Kony 2012. Then Anne Rice shared my post on “Rush Limbaugh and Thee Evangelical Blindspots.” It was a good month for blog stats. 

team-vagina.png

Our “Ask a…” series continued, with some amazing contributions from Jonathan Martin (“Ask a Pentecostal”), Helena Burns (“Ask a Nun”), Dianna Anderson (“Ask a Feminist”), Sonny Lemmons (“Ask a Stay-At-Home Dad”), and many more. 

In April, I totally pulled your leg with a special edition of Sunday Superlatives

In May, we spent a week discussing gender, the Bible, and the Church in a weeklong series called “Mutuality 2012.” This turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my blogging career, as I heard from so many readers who were challenged and changed by God’s good news for men and women. Your contributions to the synchroblog started conversations around the blogosphere that I know changed lives. 

We talked a lot about church this year. I shared 15 reasons I left church and 15 reasons I’ve returned. Kim VanBrunt shared what it’s like to leave church with a family in tow. I wrote about why I don’t always fit in with mainline churches, and Aric Clark wrote a fantastic response about “the passionate mainline.” We talked about nurturing better conversations between the churched and the un-churched, and then we listened to one another’s church stories—from a young woman with Asperger’s, to an African American calling for reconciliation, to an Episcopal’s love for, and struggle with, the creeds.  Look for more of these stories in 2013 as we spend more time exploring denominationalism and church trends and as we “visit” various faith communities around the country. 

In June, I explained how to watch an entire season of The Bachelorette and still be too good for it.  I also learned that sometimes the shortest posts say the most.  

In July, I pissed off some guys at the Gospel Coalition by suggesting that not every woman thinks getting “conquered and colonized” sounds like a good time. 

We launched our Women of Valor series in August with an essay contest that brought in some of our finest guest posts ever. Your contributions to this series have been such a joy to read and to share. They truly make the Internet better. 

review-valor.jpeg

Then, in September, we switched to a new blogging platform (Square Space) and celebrated our 1,000th post. (A big shout-out to Dan for all his work on that.) I started a series on Esther that I never finished (but hope to in the New Year). 

In October I explained why I love the Bible and why I don’t think ambition is a sin. Dan hijacked the blog one day. 

Things get a little blurry after that. At some point Dan and I flew into New York City during a hurricane, got interviewed on The Today Show and The View, and celebrated the release of A Year of Biblical Womanhood, which you helped catapult to the New York Times Bestseller list for ebooks. 

Today-1.jpeg

We managed to mostly steer clear of politics this election year, with a few exceptions. On Election Day, we participated in a virtual Election Day Communion

December was pretty quiet on the blog, with the exception of our most-read post of all time, “God can’t be kept out.” 

Another year full of blogging surprises! And I am so, so grateful for each one. Thank you for being a part of my life in this small way. I have learned so much from you, been so profoundly challenged and encouraged by you, and found myself so richly blessed by you, it’s hard to find the right words with which to express my gratitude. 

I plan to spend next week plotting for 2013, so if you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below. 

And now, for the obligatory “most popular” list: 

Most Popular Posts

1. God Can’t Be Kept Out

2. Some Words for Christians on Both Sides of the Chick-fil-A War

3. How to Win a Culture War and Lose a Generation

4. 15 Reasons I Left Church & 15 Reasons I Returned to Church 

5. Enough: Or Why We Should All Be Laughing Hysterically in the Magazine Aisle 

6. They Were Right (And Wrong) About the Slippery Slope 

7. The Gospel Coalition, Sex, and Subordination 

8. 40 Ideas for Lent (2012) 

9. Christian Bookstores and Their Chokehold on the Industry 

10. “All Right Then, I’ll Go to Hell”

Best Comment Sections 

1. Barbara Kingsolver and Church Misfits

2. 90s Christian Music Night at the Roller Rink 

3. From Waging War to Washing Feet: How Do We Move Forward?

4. Scattered Thoughts on My Life in the Christian “industry”

5. Bible series posts 

Popular Guest Posts (in no particular order) 

1. “Will you always believe in Jesus, Mama?” (Anonymous)

2. Ask. Seek. Knock. Breath by Beth Woolsey

3. Church Stories: Embracing Faith as an Aspie by Erin Thomas 

4. Church Stories: A Plea to Engage in Racial Reconciliation by Grace Biskie 

5. Women of the Gospels: The Fab Four by Carolyn Custis James 

6. When Men and Women Ministered Together as Equals…In the Early Church by Ed Cyzewski

7. Dear Mother by Sarah Bessey 

8. Is God Really Omnipotent? By Tripp Fulller and Bo Sanders

9. Taking My Thumb Off the Scale by Lois Tverberg  

10. Just a Mediocre Miracle by Neely Stansell Simpson 

So, what were the most popular posts on YOUR blog this year? And what would you like to see more of/less of here in 2013? 


comments

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/2012-blogging-review

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.

10 Cool Things We’ve Done in 1,000 Posts

Well, today marks our 1,000th post!  If we were all gathered together in a room, I’d be pouring each of you a glass of champagne to celebrate. 

...Actually I wouldn’t. That would be super-expensive. This is better. 

When I look back on nearly four years of blogging, the posts that mattered the most to me are the ones that were collaborative, the ones we created together. And so in that spirit, here are ten cool things we’ve done together in 1,000 posts: 

10. We rallied to restore unity. 

Last year, around the time Jon Stewart held his Rally to Restore Sanity, John Piper “farwelled” Rob Bell, and Stephen Colbert hosted his Rally to Keep Fear Alive, we hosted our own response to the increasing theological and political polarization online: The Rally to Restore Unity. You guys made hundreds of signs for our photo collages and wrote hundreds of blog posts for our synchroblog. The results were laugh-out-loud funny, touching, challenging, and bizarre...just what the internet needed at the time.  See the Rally Round-Up here

9. We raised over $5,000 for Charity:Water. 

As a result of the Rally to Restore Unity and a fundraiser for my 30th birthday, together we raised more than $5,000 to benefit Charity:Water. This was enough to fund two major water projects in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. According to the latest update from Charity:Water, our contributions have been invested with Relief Society of Tigray (REST) and International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Ethiopia and Concern Worldwide in Sierra Leone. The funds will be used to build and rehabilitate freshwater wells and spring protections for people in need and will help provide information about safe hygiene practices and forming local Water Committees to look after the projects when they're finished. According to Charity:Water, we will receive a complete report - including GPS coordinates, photos, and stories  - of the finished water projects before the end of the year! I can’t wait to share that with you. 

8. We honored women of valor. 

Transient

A single mom. A feisty professor. A midwife. A foster parent. An abuse survivor. A brave grandmother. A master seamstress.  A young Ugandan woman who reached out to a sister in need.  

We have honored these women of valor and will continue to honor them in what has become one of my favorite series on the blog.  Eshet chayil—woman of valor— has long been a blessing of praise in the Jewish community. Husbands often sing the line from Proverbs 31 to their wives at Sabbath meals. Women cheer one another on through accomplishments in homemaking, career, education, parenting, and justice by shouting a hearty “eshet chayil!” after each milestone.  Great women of the faith, like Sarah and Ruth and Deborah, are identified as women of valor.  One of my goals after completing my year of biblical womanhood was to “take back” Proverbs 31 as a blessing, not a to-do list, by identifying and celebrating women of valor. To help me in this, you submitted nearly 100 essays to our Women of Valor essay contest. There were so many essays that made me laugh, cry, and think I decided that, in addition to the eight winners of the contest, we would feature more of your essays in a Women of Valor series on Saturdays that will carry us through the end of the year.  

Best of all, the original series helped promote the great work of  Hill Country Hill Tribers, a non-profit helping Burmese refugee women in Austin earn supplemental income and learn marketable skills. 

Check out the entire Women of Valor series so far.  

7. We made a few posts go “viral.” 

Most notably: 

(See other popular posts.)

6. We shared the platform with other voices. 

I believe that once you build a platform, you have a responsibility to share it, and we’ve been blessed with some of the most amazing guest posts over the years. I especially appreciate those posts that challenge me to see the world, and the Church, from a new perspective. Some recent contributions to this conversation include Grace Biskie’s plea to engage in racial reconciliation, Erin Thomas’ story of what it’s like to be a person of faith with Asperger's Syndrome, Aric Clark’s defense of the passionate Mainline,  Dianna Anderson’s explanation of what feminism is not, and Registered Runaway’s heartbreaking post about what happened when his father learned he was gay.  I have learned so much from our guest posters through the years and am grateful for their contributions. 

5. We interviewed a whole bunch of interesting people.

Perhaps the most popular recurring series on the blog has been our “Ask a...” series. Again, this represents a collaborative effort, as the interview questions are always yours! We’ve interviewed an atheist, a nun, a gay Christian,  a funeral director, a pacifist, an indigenous theologian,  a Pentecostal, a Mennonite, an evolutionary creationist, an Orthodox Jew, a Mormon, and more. The resulting dialogs represent some of the most productive and civil conversations on the blogosphere. 

Check out the entire series

4. We sponsored more than 20 Bolivian children through World Vision 

Transient

When I traveled to Bolivia with World Vision last year to see what child sponsorship looks like on the ground, I admit I was skeptical. But armed with questions you submitted via the blog and a notebook in which I scribbled notes like a reporter, I came to see just how powerful and life-changing child sponsorship can be. As a result, the Bolivia Bloggers trip generated over 120 child sponsorships, more than 20 of which came from you. You can see all the Bolivia posts here

3.  We  wrestled with tough questions of faith together.

We talked about the slippery slope, about being caught in between liberal Christianity and conservative Christianity, about Calvinism, about washing the feet of our LGBT brothers and sisters, about creation and evolution, about doubt, about “Love Wins,” about following Jesus, about how to love the Bible for what it is not what we want it to be.

I confessed my fears of motherhood (the comment section after that one is perhaps my favorite ever), my struggle to find identity in the Christian “industry,” my not-so-holy Holy Week, my mistakes, my questions, my April Fools jokesmy joys

You listened. You debated. You asked questions. You contributed. You pushed back. You gave me permission. You left comments that I printed up and hung on my wall. There are conversations that happened on this blog that changed my perspective on life forever. I hope you can say the same. 

2.  We stood up for gender equality in the Church. 

There are folks who don’t like the fact that we talk about this on the blog, and no doubt it has cost me some readers, but in spite of all the criticism (some of it deserved), I am incredibly proud of the way we have stood up for gender equality in the Church.  This is no easy conversation to have, but it’s an important one. 

I am glad that we stood up to The Gospel Coalition and Doug Wilson’s damaging language regarding women and sex.  I am glad we responded to John Piper’s call for a “masculine Christianity” with a beautiful celebration of women in the Church. I have heard from many women who have told me that our boldness in these contexts has given them the courage they need to speak up in situations where their voices have been drowned out or, in some cases, silenced. 

By far the most rewarding week of my blogging career was Mutuality 2012, when I did my best to make a case for gender equality  in the home and  Church, drawing support from Scripture, reason, tradition, and the example of Christ. With your help, I addressed Genesis 1-3, the Peter and Paul and the Greco-Roman household codes, misconeptions regarding egalitarianism, the problems of patriarchy, and those difficult passages about Ephesian women teaching and leading men. The week included a synchroblog that added many of your voices to the conversation, and the comment section that week was packed with its usual gems--from Hebrew scholars, to experts on Greco-Roman culture, to women pastors, to moms and dads who just want to make the Church a more hospitable environment for their daughters. 

I printed my favorite comment from the week, (posted after MImi Haddad’s interview), on a piece of paper and hung it above my desk: 

"I'm sitting at my desk reading this response after a very busy, tiring day of work. And I have tears in my eyes. To think that I, as a woman, am equal. To think that I, as a woman, am a reflection of my Creator. To think that I, as a woman, have God-given(!) gifts to serve AND to lead. And to think that God (my Creator) and Jesus (my Savior) actually care about the all of the wounds that feel so raw, that They (and even others I've encountered here) care about justice for a woman like me. I don't know how to explain this and please forgive me if it makes sense only to me: I feel like a woman whose dignity is being restored word by word by word in this beautiful series. And God Himself is restoring it. I feel myself literally sitting taller in my chair as I write these lines."

That one comment made every day of blogging prior to it totally worth it. 

1. We created a safe place for “travelers” to talk. 

In my very first blog post, dated December 28, 2007 and entitled “Traveling Mercies for the Consummate Ass,” I wrote this: 

"Spiritual pride is always a temptation for the believer, and I sincerely hope it is avoided on this blog. No one's journey is the same. There is much to learn from one another. So instead, I would like this little spot on the Web to serve as a sort of traveler's forum, a place for exchanging adventure stories, survival tips, and those priceless hole-in-the-wall recommendations that make a journey memorable. I look forward to sharing my own ideas, and I look forward to hearing from you."

I am grateful beyond words to have travelled these 1,000 posts with you. You have made this blog what it is, and despite its faults, I think we can be proud of it. 

Here’s to 1,000 more! 

***

To celebrate, I’m giving away three advance review copies of A Year of BIblical Womanhood!  To enter, leave  a  comment indicating about  how long  you’ve been reading the blog and, (if you can think of one), a link or reference to your favorite post. (You can search here.)  I'll randomly choose 3 winners to receive a copy of my new book and a thank-you note. **Contest will run today only, September 24, through 11:59 p.m. EST**)

***

Update: Congrats to Bob Keeley, Janet, and Stephanie Crabtree - winners of the review copy of "A Year of Biblical Womanhood"! (Selected via random.org.) And thank you all for your incredibly kind comments. Brought tears to my eyes.

Comment thread is now closed. 

comments

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/1000-post

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.