Sunday Superlatives 3/25/2011

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Around the Blogosphere...

Best Video (see above): 
Alfre Woodard channels Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a woman?

"‎Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him!"

Best Story
Carol Howard Merritt with “Love and Lent” 

I don't remember being let in. I just recall entering and seeing Margaret, our pastor's wife, sitting on a chair in her living room. She remains motionless in the dark room, in her beautiful home, staring at her lavish, white carpet, breathing deeply.

My mother takes the basin, walks into her friend's kitchen, and fills it with warm water. She carries it to Margaret's feet, taking off Margaret's shoes, she cradles her soles as if they are the most precious things in the world. Without a word, mom puts them in the water and washes them. Margaret begins to cry and it doesn't take long before the tears smear all of our faces. Mom takes Margaret's feet out and dries them on the soft towels. Throughout the entire ritual, we don't talk, but we know what's being said. I even understand the depth of it, at my young age. Margaret is about to face some of the worst public betrayal, as people began to pick apart the indiscretions of her husband.

...Mom wanted Margaret to know one thing in the midst of it. Margaret would be cherished, even to the end of her toes."

Best Series:
Matt Mikalatos with “Translating the Parables

Brain Pickings with “Oh, My Hand: Complaints Medieval Monks Scribbled in the Margins of Illuminated Manuscripts

“That’s a hard page, and a weary work to read it.” 

“While I wrote I froze, and what I could not write by the beams of the sun I finished by candlelight.” 

“Now I’ve written the whole thing: for Christ’s sake, get me a drink.”

The Ruthless Monk with “Why ‘the Bible is our instruction manual’ is the worst metaphor in the history of the world

“I think I understand why people use this metaphor. Western society is predicated on the idea that everything functions in a predictable, systematic way. The car, the automatic litterbox, and the cat that uses the automatic litterbox, all operate in a way that can be fixed if something goes wrong. When they break, we reference the manual, do what it tells us to do, and it all works fine again. (In the case of the cat, the manual is a vet, but the principle is the same). Part of this worldview includes the assumption that the most valuable information is that which is immediately useful (or ‘practical’).”

Wendy McCaig with “Letting Junia Fly: Releasing the Called

“The truth is I am afraid – afraid of being caged.  When I think of the institutional church, the memories come flooding back.  I have the memory of serving on a mission’s team and being told that the most important role I could play was to bake cookies for the outreach efforts even though I don’t cook and have a Masters of Divinity.  It is the memory of being told that I could lead as long as no one saw me as a leader because I was a woman and that would be unbiblical.  It is the memory of asking my church for $100 to help a family avoid eviction and being told there was no money because of the multi-million dollar building campaign.  This basically said to me, 'Your call to care for the poor is not a valid call of the church.'

None of these comments were malicious.  None of the individuals meant to cage me.  One by one these limitations, messages and painful situations convinced me that I could not be me in the institutional models of the church. So I left and choose to exercise my call within the non-profit sector.  I know I am not alone in this.  Most people don’t start non-profits but many leave the church to follow their call.

So that is why I am terrified of going back. That is why I have fled what I see as my Nineveh."

Daniel Kirk with “Not To Us, and To Us

“When it comes to interpreting and applying scripture, how we think about what scripture is and what we’re supposed to do with it need to be able to handle myriad verses that we do not, and should not, ‘apply to our lives’–at least, not directly. In short, we need an understanding of what scripture is, and a reading strategy, that allows us to say, first, 'This was not written to us,' and then to say, with equal conviction, ‘This is written to us.’ The first is an acknowledgement of historical distance, cultural difference, and, most significantly when it comes to the Old Testament, an era of God’s work that applies to us only indirectly because of the advent of Christ.”

Saddest (via Scot Mcknight):
Killing the clergy softly: Congregational conflict, job loss and depression

“They are called ‘clergy killers’ — congregations where a small group of members are so disruptive that no pastor is able to maintain spiritual leadership for long.And yet ministers often endure the stresses of these dysfunctional relationships for months, or even years, before eventually being forced out or giving up.

Adding to the strain is the process, which is often shrouded in secrecy. No one – from denominational officials to church members to the clerics themselves – want to acknowledge the failure of a relationship designed to be a sign to the world of mutual love and support.

But new research is providing insights into just how widespread – and damaging – these forced terminations can be to clergy."

Most Practical: 
Elizabeth Gilbert with “Confessions of an Over-Giver

“Now, over-giving is not quite the same thing as generosity. Generosity is neither entangling nor aggressive, because the generous person doesn't expect anything in return. The over-giver doesn't expect anything in return either -- except to be petted and feted and praised and loved unconditionally for the rest of time (and I was) -- so that's not emotionally loaded. Nothing toxic there!”

Most Vulnerable: 
Caleb Wilde with “Nine Months of Emotional Labor

“Part of me wants to see the birth father as MY enemy.  An enemy of my dreams, of my hopes for a family, and enemy of Jeremiah.  But then I realize that he’s unintentionally gifted me this little guy that’s tucked into my chest even as I write.  No, I want God to bless the birth dad.  And I pray for him.  I pray for him because I can’t help but love the birth dad.  I pray for him, asking God to love on him something awesome.

If he doesn’t sign off his rights, according to the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, they will terminate in roughly five months.  After those five months, Jeremiah will legally be in the custody of our adoption agency for four months.  And after those four months are over, we meet with a judge and Jeremiah legally becomes our son.

It’s nine months of emotional labor, with these first four to five months being extra taxing on Nicki and I. We’re jumping all in, though.  We’re NOT going to be the parents of the Iron Age and attempt to distance ourselves so as to avoid being hurt by loss. We’re going to love as much as we can, the best we can, with as much of ourselves as we can give."

Most Relatable (again!): 
Sarah Bessey with “In which I have an evangelical hero complex

“Here is the funny thing I learned when I began to dis-entangle from my Evangelical Hero Complex: I'm pretty sure that there aren't actually any big things for God. There are only small things being done, over and over, with great love, as Mother Theresa said. With great faith. With great obedience. With great joy or suffering or wrestling or forgiving on a daily completely non-sexy basis. And grace covers all of it and God makes something beautiful out of our dust.” 

Best List:
Brain Pickings with “27 of History’s Strangest Inventions” 

Best Reflection:
Micha Hohorst with “Practicing Benedict: Receiving Guests, Receiving Christ

“Busyness is the enemy of hospitality because hospitality demands a slow enough pace to notice. And at the same time, hospitality demands what Benedict calls a  'hurry to offer welcome.' In order to encounter someone in their time of need, we generally have to open ourselves toward them quickly.”

Most Likely to Be Cited in Your Pastor’s Sermon Today:
New Research: How American Adults Read the Bible

Most Disconcerting Tweet: 
Neil deGrasse Tyson ‏ (@neiltyson) with “In 7-billion years our Milky Way collides with the Andromeda galaxy. Not to worry. Sun burns Earth to crisp well before then.” 

Most Convicting Tweet:
Will Ferrell  (the "real" one?) with  “I live in a country where a chick that threw flour on Kim Kardashian was arrested on site, but the man who KILLED Trayvon Martin is still free."

On Trayvon Martin...


"Weep with those who weep." - Romans 12:15

I am not Trayvon Martin.  I will never understand what it’s like to be black in America.  The hoodie is simply an expression of solidarity, a small gesture of public mourning in honor of Trayvon. The Jesus I follow was falsely accused and killed too, so I wear it also in remembrance of Him, the one who fellowships in our suffering.

Most Helpful:
Kristen Howerton with “Require Reading on the Killing of Treyvon Martin

Most Infuriating: 
Think Progress with “What Everyone Should Know About Trayvon Martin (1995-2012)"

Most Heartbreaking: 
Jesse Washington with “Trayvon Martin, my son, and the Black Male Code

“Always pay close attention to your surroundings, son, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood where black folks are few. Understand that even though you are not a criminal, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes.Never argue with police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. When confronted by someone with a badge or a gun, do not flee, fight, or put your hands anywhere other than up. Please don't assume, son, that all white people view you as a threat. America is better than that. Suspicion and bitterness can imprison you. But as a black male, you must go above and beyond to show strangers what type of person you really are.”

Most Thought-Provoking:
Tea Berry-Blue with “I was arrested once

“I’m frustrated and angry when I see other white people pulling the 'I am Trayvon Martin' thing, because it’s so dismissive of the real issue, which is that we’re not Trayvon Martin. None of us ever will be. We’re George Zimmerman. Even if we don’t go out and shoot kids for fun, when we allow the images in the media to perpetuate the idea that young black men are violent, when our own speech (I don’t want to talk about the conversation I had to have at lunch today) perpetuates an idea of black Americans as criminals, especially young black American men, we are accessories to murder. We are creating people like George Zimmerman. That’s on us. And it doesn’t matter if we have black friends, or black relatives, or black ancestors– that doesn’t absolve us. In fact, it’s worse when we do, and say nothing, because it’s our loved ones who are suffering and we’re not doing anything to ease that.” 

Best Writing:
Black Snob with “No Apologies: On the Killing of Trayvon Martin and Being ‘Good’” 

“In the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin, there's no safe place. There's no real excuse to cling to. None of the usual dismissals work or fit.

It's just bad. Real bad. And sits there and stares at you with it's cruelty and unfairness and ugliness and says, 'Take this.' Take this load. And pick it up.

Just take it. And accept it. And choke back the lumps in your throat. As it has happened before. And it will happen again. And again you will be told to 'take this.'"

Most Honest:
Denene Millner with “Black Boy Swagger, Black Mom Fear

"He is a normal boy.
A brilliant boy.
A college-bound boy.
A sweet boy.
A black boy.

And every time that child leaves this house, I fear that someone will look at him, his size, his skin color, his swagger, and see what they want to see, and not who Mazi is. Not a day goes by without us warning him to be respectful, to watch his tone, to be extra vigilant when approaching people in his path. And last week he got his license and bought himself a car with the cash he makes as a lifeguard, which of course means that now when he snatches his keys and heads for the door, I’m a nervous wreck thinking that he’s going to get stopped by the cops."

Best Evangelical Response: 
John Piper with “Trayvon Martin, Grace, and The Gospel

 “...The appeal is to heartfelt empathy with the mistreated, because you have a body!
Not a white body. Not a black body. Just a human body.

This is a cry for Christian whites and blacks and Asians and Latinos to feel the human flesh on their faith in Jesus. Trayvon’s flesh.

His dad’s flesh. George’s flesh. His dad’s flesh. That kind of getting in their flesh will yield a long night’s groaning.”

[John and I don’t always agree, but he was pretty much the first prominent white evangelical to offer a strong, compassionate response to the killing.  And I really respect him for that.]

On the blog...

It was one of those CRAZY weeks on the blog! And I just want to say how much I appreciate some of the comments that have rolled in. Thank you for your honesty, your thoughtfulness, your encouragement, your wisdom, and your wit. I am convinced that I have the best readers in the blogosphere.

Most Popular Post (close to breaking an all-time record):
"15 Reasons I Left Church"

Most Popular Comment (with 182 "likes"!): 
In response to "15 Reasons I Left Church, Jessica wrote this: 

“I guarantee there are more of us than it looks like who are resisting from the inside. We are deeper than we look on the surface. We fight injustice with casseroles. We deliver light with hospital visits. We change lives by holding hands and holding babies. We are ugly and old and wrinkled, or young and too dressed up and distracted by our children. We are not living the lives people think we should live. We're probably not living the lives WE think we should live. But God is working in us. And the story of our churches, when it's all played out, is going to be bigger and more beautiful than any of us can imagine.”

And in the shuffle between "15 Reasons" and "Vaginagate," I hope you didn't miss these two powerful guest voices: 

"Ask a Pacifist" - with Tripp York

"Will you always believe in Jesus, Mama?" - the first in a new series on faith and parenting  

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

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