Sunday Superlatives 1/20/13

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free
'MLK Jr Memorial' photo (c) 2011, Alves Family - license:

Prayer for the Week:  Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen. -  Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Book of Common Prayer

Around the Blogosphere…

Most Poignant:
Giles Fraser at The Guardian with “The London helicopter crash site, where no meaning can be found

“It is often said critically of religion that it seeks to impose meaning on meaninglessness, that it is a sort of anxiety reduction strategy in the face of the general randomness of things. This is not the religion I know. What I see in church is a place that is remarkably accommodating to confusion and doubt. A place where people bring their not knowing what to do. They sit and light a candle or say a prayer, not fully understanding what this really means or expecting some instrumental purpose. "I don't believe in organised religion," people often say. That makes me laugh. All religion is intrinsically disorganised. Forever perched over chaos.”

Most Fascinating:
The Atlantic International with "Beautiful and Terrifying Photos of Orthodox Epiphany"

Most Relatable:
Kimberly Knight with “Called to Serve

“We all have our parts to play in kingdom building, my tools just happen to be monkey-barrel brimming with anxiety, a nearly balanced scale of love & anger, an almost naive sense of idealism, a generous helping of prayin’, dark coffee, light toast, a dozen or so notepads, pencils, screens and keyboards. Eventually we have to shut up, stand up, turn off the damn computer and get our hands and hearts dirty in the world…”

Most Inspiring:
Grace Biskie at Deeper Story with “Be Careful With Me

I hear you, Rhys.  Mama is listening.  As we approach Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, I am keenly aware of your need for me to listen well. One day, King Rhys you will use your voice and change the world.  But you will have changed mine first.”

Most Challenging:
Kelley Nikondeha at She Loves with “Swords Into Plowshares”

When Isaiah and Micah spoke of swords into plowshares they were most likely quoting an ancient song. Maybe they heard their grandfathers sing it or their mothers hum it as they pounded grain into flour. The hope for peace stretched back generations and endured in a simple song that expressed human longing and divine hope. The song haunted these holy men.”

Related: Check out Shane Claiborne’s Facebook Page. He’s learning to weld so he can literally turn guns into farming equipment. Pretty cool.

Best Series (nominated by Ashley P):
NPR with “Losing Our Religion,
a weeklong look at the growing number of people who say they do not identify with a religion

“These were the kids who were coming of age in the America of the culture wars, in the America in which religion publicly became associated with a particular brand of politics, and so I think the single most important reason for the rise of the unknowns is that combination of the younger people moving to the left on social issues and the most visible religious leaders moving to the right on that same issue."

Best Reflection:
Chaplain Mike at iMonk with “We are far too easily pleased

“Don’t imagine God is pleased with your sacrifices. Don’t believe he delights in your strenuous efforts at holiness, your morbid introspection, your sober demeanor and serious attitude. Don’t think for a minute that he wants you to reign in your passions and turn your back on pleasure. No! No! A thousand times no! Not for nothing does the psalmist say to God, ‘In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.’ (Ps. 16:11)"

Best Cartoon:
The Oatmeal with “When your house is burning down, you should brush your teeth

Best Imagery:
Jonathan Martin with “The God of the Sea and the Sea Monster

What is so disturbing about the book of Job is that it blows the lid off the theology of retribution.  That is that theology that says, If you do good then good things will happen to you; if you do bad then bad things will happen to you.  That is the kind of world we can understand, order, and best of all, control.  When Job encounters the sea, He encounters the chaos and disorder within the creation.  He is presented with an undomesticated God who is not the originator of the chaos, but who does in fact allow it for a time until the creation will be restored to its intended beauty.  There are no tightly ordered systems, there is no guarantee that any created thing will avoid the wildness or even suffering.  Job must learn how to confront a world like that where there are no guarantees, and yet learn to live without fear.  I think here of Frederick Buechner’s beautiful quote: ‘Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.’”

Best Critique:
Julie Clawson with “Emergence Christianity, Women, and the Fall of Christendom

“The story as she told it made sense – constructed narratives work that way – women are to blame for the post-Christian era and if we just got back in the home the faith could thrive again. But it is important to note that in her narrative instead of focusing on what has emerged that brings hope in this world, she was telling the story of why things have changed – which are two vastly different perspectives. At some point in telling the story of change it is hard not to get nostalgic about one point or another and hold a sugar-coated vision of that time up as the period we must all try to harken back towards. The problem with such an approach is that it ignores the underside of said period and it imposes guilt upon those who find hope outside that period’s restrictions.”

Suzannah Paul raises some questions about privilege & the emerging church.
Krista Dalton worries about the witch hunt.
Bo Sanders offers some practical advice. 

Best Challenge:  
Heretic Husband with “John Piper and the No True Complementarian Fallacy

“Well here's the thing: conservative Christians like Piper generally agree that Christ was perfect. So in saying this, they are essentially saying that in order for complementarianism to function properly, it requires a perfect husband. Or, to put it another way, the more Christlike a husband is, the better a complementarian relationship will function. This gives them a great deal of leverage when arguing with egalitarians. Any concerns that egalitarians raise about abuse of leadership by men can easily be dismissed. That's not true complementarianism!”

Best Interviews:
Matthew Paul Turner interviews Shane Hipps and Joy Bennett interviews Jason Boyett

Most Thoughtful:
Enumka Okoro with “God Favored Older Parenthood” 

I am not suggesting that we refute or ignore science when it comes to trying to make wise decisions about when to parent. But I am saying that my perspective on what is possible and wise is also largely determined by a narrative that begins with the impossible reality of a God who engages with humanity in often times illogical and seemingly foolish ways. As a Christian woman who is in the “high-risk” bracket and not in a position right now to have a child there is this crazy, but convicting element of trust, and hope. I have to trust that if raising children is in my future then God will make a way even if the “facts” say there is no way, or that the way is full or risk and danger. I have to trust that when it comes to my desire to one day be a parent that God’s imagination is larger than mine with regards to how that might come about. I also have to trust and hope in the sustaining power of God to help bear the weight of desire that may very well go unmet. Those are risky moves too."

Related: See Enuma’s response to criticism that she is naïve here.

Most Provocative:
Wendell Berry on Gay Marriage

“Condemnation by category is the lowest form of hatred, for it is cold-hearted and abstract, lacking even the courage of a personal hatred. Categorical condemnation is the hatred of the mob. It makes cowards brave. And there is nothing more fearful than a religious mob, a mob overflowing with righteousness – as at the crucifixion and before and since. This can happen only after we have made a categorical refusal to kindness: to heretics, foreigners, enemies or any other group different from ourselves.”

Related: Evangelical Pastor Steve Chalke endorses same-sex marriage

Most Practical:
Brain Pickings with “How to Write With Style with Kurt Vonnegut” 

“Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.”

Most Likely to Make You More Interesting at a Dinner Party:
The Week with “14 Wonderful Words with No English Equivalent

Most Likely To Make You Too Interesting at a Dinner Party:
Skymall with “Wine Glass Holder Necklace"

60 Insane Cloud Formations From Around the World 

BBC: “Paul Salopek: Going for a seven-year walk

“US journalist Paul Salopek is going to spend the next seven years walking from Ethiopia to the tip of South America, retracing the journey of early humans out of Africa and around the world.”

Kate Bassford Baker with “Please Don’t Help My Kids

So I'll thank you to stand back and let me do my job, here, which consists mostly of resisting the very same impulses you are indulging, and biting my tongue when I want to yell, "BE CAREFUL," and choosing, deliberately, painfully, repeatedly, to stand back instead of rush forward. Because, as they grow up, the ladders will only get taller, and scarier, and much more difficult to climb. And I don't know about you, but I'd rather help them learn the skills they'll need to navigate them now, while a misstep means a bumped head or scraped knee that can be healed with a kiss, while the most difficult of hills can be conquered by chanting, "I think I can, I think I can", and while those 15 whole feet between us still feels, to them, like I'm much too far away.”

Kathy Escobar with "When You’re Mad at God

“When it comes to God, some of the same things apply. We either tend to flee or fight and often don’t end up in a better place.”

Women of Valor…

Join me in praying for the Women of Valor headed to Moldova, including  Idelette McVicker, Alise Wright,  and a bunch of amazing women whose tweets you can follow here.  

Favorite Tweets…

Anjeanette Carter () with “Donuts are like if sugar could give hugs.”

Bethanne Patrick (@TheBookMaven) with “Willa Cather: I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.#fridayreads

Daniel Kirk (@jrdkirk) with “If 20 theologians in a room shared the same identical theology, that would be your 1st clue to take your leave from that room." -Paul Allen

Emily McCombs (@msemilymccombs) with “I bet a lot of mermaids just want a nice, low-maintenance pixie cut.”

Melissa Hatfiled (@melissahatfield) with “I don’t normally LOL while reading  but @rachelheldevans's "A Year of Biblical Womanhood" made me that person on the plane.”


You know the Turquoise Wonder? The one we recently ditched for an upgrade? Well, it’s sitting in our driveway now, and overnight, this happened.


Dan says it’s got something to do with moisture and ice and leaving it out in the elements. I’m convinced it’s some kind of hellish possession triggered by our recent rejection. Anyone got some holy water or something?

Travel Plans…

On Sunday, January 27, I’ll be speaking at Blacksburg United Church in Blacksburg, Virginia. There are three services: 8:45 a.m., 11 a.m., and noon. At 1:30 p.m., I’ll be hanging out with the Wesley Foundation at Virginia Tech. Learn more here and here.

On the Blog…

Most Popular Post:
Torn, Chapters 1-5: What Happens When ‘God Boy’ is Gay

In response to that post, JClyde wrote:

I love this book. I gave it to my mom and she told me it was as if she was reading our family's story. I so desperately want my Christian friends who are confused about how to deal with the "rainbow elephant in the room" to read this book. I've posted my story on here before so I won't bore you with the details but I guess what I and others like me need Christians to STOP doing is to make us feel like we couldn't possibly have a genuine relationship with Christ and be in a same-sex relationship.
Building a relationship with God takes a great deal of spiritual effort, discipline, understanding of the scripture, prayer and courage. To assume that I, as a gay man and a Christian, have simply decided one day that I wanted to have my cake and eat it too belittles the years and years or heartache, prayer, suicidal thoughts, rejection, more prayer and meditation and work that I had to go through to finally understand that "Yes God loves me and he doesn't want me to be alone".
 I just want people to stop trying to define my relationship with God as "less than" or "corrupted" because it doesn't conform with your interpretation of the scriptures. It doesn't give me a free pass to do whatever I want in life but God's grace is the most powerful thing in all of creation. I pray everyday for him to guide me and every day I am strengthened by what I know to be true. I am who I am and though I may have many flaws and sin is woven through my soul, God loves me and he wants me to extend that love to my neighbor. And most of all I want to meet other people who think like that. They are becoming more and more vocal on sites like this but I would love to meet people in real life who are committed to Christ enough to embrace the "Misfit Toys" like me. People who are like me need friends and allies so much more than they need "tough love". We are wounded, hurt, rejected, hated and laughed at. So swallow your pride and I will swallow mine and we will walk into that church someday and sit next to each other and you will see me as one of God's children and I will see you as my friend/brother/sister and we can all stop this ridiculous fighting about what a REAL Christian is.

The entire comment section after that post is worth a read. In fact, all of these week’s posts have yielded fantastic comment sections, so check them out. You will likely lean more from the comments than the original post! And if you're interested in reading along with Torn, you can find it here


“That you may have the wisdom to know the story to which God calls you, the power to pursue it, the courage to abide its mysteries, and love in every step.”
– Jan L. Richardson

And don’t forget! You can find me on Facebook,follow me on Twitter, and read Evolving in Monkey Town A Year of Biblical Womanhood. 

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

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