Sunday Superlatives 6/9/2013

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Thank you for all the kind birthday wishes yesterday! We drove 40 minutes to the nearest Sweet Frog because all I wanted for my 32nd birthday was some froyo. (I’ve recently developed something of an addiction.) Superlative for best flavor combo goes to pomegranate yogurt topped with chocolate chips, Oreo crumbs, and chocolate animal crackers. Try it. 


Now, on to superlatives…

Around the Blogosphere... 

Most Inspiring: 
Give ‘Em Heaven
Fourteen-year-old Larissa Heatley, Dallas Willard’s only granddaughter, delivered a personal tribute at his memorial service. (See video above) 

Most Powerful: 
Jamie The Very Worst Missionary with “Where’s the Sanctuary?

“She told me she didn't know why she was there, she'd never stepped foot in a church before, she didn't know where else to go. She was lost, she said. Tears began to well in her dazed eyes, and the purpose of her visit came with them. “I got hammered last night... and I f*cked my husband's best friend.” Those terrible words were holding in so much, and that's all it took for the flood gates to open and a tormented soul to pour out on the floor, right there in front of me. She cried. I cried. We cried... together... which sounds kinda weird, but it wasn't.”

Most Relatable: 
Katie Noah Gibson (at Micha Boyett’s place) with “With All Kinds of Doubts” 

“I really and truly believe in God with all kinds of doubts,” Madeleine told Una. And from a distance of forty years and several hundred miles, I say: Me, too, Madeleine. Me, too.”

Most Fascinating: 
What wine would Jesus drink? (A new book tells you)

“Joel and I were also fascinated by just how important of a commodity wine was in the ancient world. We discovered that by the Roman age, people on average drank 100 gallons of wine a year.  The biblical writers mention wine over 235 times and it was one of the largest economic sources in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean culture.  Hence, vineyards were one of the first things destroyed in war because the destruction of the wine industry crippled the economy.”

Most Thoughtful: 
Rachel Marie Stone with “Modesty All Over the Map” 

“Whatever one thinks of the evangelical modesty movement—and the growing back-and-forth debates online—we must recognize this cultural context for how we perceive what's appropriate. A fixation on our own definition of modesty threatens to warp our perceptions and hurt our interactions with others—particularly as we venture outside our own culture.”

Most Challenging: 
Anne Marie Miller with “The Unexpected Face of Mercy

“To say I floundered in self-pity is an understatement. After a particularly frustrating evening, a friend sat with me in my pile of bills and confusion and tears. With a defeated voice, I told her I wondered where God’s grace was in everything I was experiencing. I wanted respite in every imaginable way and thought God was holding back His mercy from me. In hindsight, that simple correlation was my problem. I equated mercy with relief. In her wisdom, my friend asked me one simple question: “Do you want relief? Or do you want to be whole?”

Most Prophetic (nominated by Kelley Nikondeha and Micah J. Murray
Brian Zahnd with “When America Went to Hell

“If we console ourselves with the promise of heaven in the afterlife while creating hell in this present life, we have embraced the tawdry religion of the crusader and forsaken the true faith of our Savior.” 

Most Honest:
Preston Yancey with "When I have made altars of sand in want of stone"

"Preston, if you believe that what comes after repentance of sins is the work of the kingdom, the kingdom of God that has no end, then leave the words when the last period falls and go and do. Do not only talk about the marginalised, go to them. Do not only deplore the darkness, walk the flicker of your light into its midst."

Most Likely To Make You Consider Scuba Lessons: 
“Lost Egyptian City Revealed After 1,200 Years Under the Sea” 

Most Likely To Make You Feel Less Guilty About Curling Up on the Couch This Afternoon With a Novel: 
Enuma Okoro with “Read, Write, Worship”

“Reading can create an intangible sanctuary where all are invited, regardless of faith, to receive benedictions that send us back into our respective broken worlds with more courage, strength, and hope. Reading can be an invitation to turn, face God, and live.” 

Best Conversation: 
Peter Enns with “5 Main Challenges to Staying Christian and Moving Forward Anyway” – Part 1 & Part 2

"My intention for writing the post was not to undermine faith nor to set up issues for which I could give pat answers. I simply wanted to give people the space to express themselves in a spirit of trust and group support for the ultimate purpose of encouraging a continued walk of faith, however that might be configured in each person’s experience, community, or theological tradition. To utter one’s deepest fears about their faith is for some only slightly less risky that buying heroin on a street corner, and such fear is too common a phenomenon in the various iterations of conservative Protestantism, i.e., for traditions rooted in the importance of detailed and absolute knowledge on a wide range of topics. For a variety of reasons, these “systems” are not viable for a considerable element of the Christian population. It is what it is. And, like any conflict–internal or otherwise–talking about it unloads a burden, a first step to at least getting some perspective."

Best Interview: 
Krish Kandiah interviews our friend N.T. Wright about the meaning of the Gospel

Best Idea: 
David Henson with “The Patron Saint of Poop: How My Kids Fell in Love with the Saints” 

“But, every now and then, something special happened, and my children asked questions about the saints and their work. We talked about racism and slavery in the United States when we remembered Absalom Jones and later Frederick Douglass. We talked about how sometimes people are killed for what they believe and for standing up for the poor and the oppressed when we remembered Polycarp. We talked about standing up for oneself and for others, even when the powerful disagree with you, when we remembered Martin Luther. We talked about poets, and teachers, and priests, and prophets modern and ancient. We talked about the women and men who lived holy lives. We learned about Christianity together, not through repetition of doctrine or theology or Christology but through seeing it in practice by people like us, our brothers and sisters in faith from all over the world.” 

Best Insight: 
Richard Beck with “The Little Way and New Legalism” 

“What is needed, in my estimation, isn't a generic call to ‘faithful presence’--be nice and a hard worker wherever you are--but a way to get the radicalness of something like the Sermon on the Mount infused into ‘everyday ordinary living.’ And that, I would argue, is the genius of St. Thérèse."

Best Reminder: 
Kathy Escobar with “Everyone’s Fighting Some Kind of Battle” 

“God, give us eyes to see beyond what’s on the surface. give us ears to listen beyond what we hear. help us learn to live without assuming, without judging. give us hearts filled with compassion because of our shared humanity, our shared experience, our shared trying-to-make-it-through-the-day-as-best-we-can-despite-the-obstacles, our shared desire to be known and loved and accepted not for what’s on the outside but for what’s on the inside, too. no less-than, no better-than.”

Mary DeMuth with “When the Church Prefers Perpetrators” 

“The church does far better when it acknowledges its sin, living fearlessly and honestly, than when it prefers to show a pretty, unadulterated face to the world. Unfortunately, we have become so enamored with the ministries we have built, forgetting that God Himself builds His church (and thinking it weighs on our shoulders), that we have lived in depraved fear, preferring the words of perpetrators over the words of those abused. We wrongly believe that we are in the business of reputation management.”

Nadia Bolz-Weber with “The Authority of Apology” 

“People still want leaders and they are even willing to hand them the authority to preach and teach – they just don’t want any curtains to look behind. The people I know want leaders who, when they screw up, can be  the first to admit it and to then ask for forgiveness. I try as a leader in the church to be transparent about my shortcomings and seriously, my parishioners love that their preacher is never the best Christian in the room, it kind of takes the pressure off, you know?  Pastors used to be the one who were the shining example of perfect piety but now I think people are hungry for leaders who are consistently the same person in every situation they are encountered in.  Clergy who don’t have their pastor personality and their regular personality.  In other words, I think people are ready for spiritual leaders who don’t lie to them or pretend to be someone other than who they are.”

Young-earthism cost her faith

“Discovering that so many apologists for young-earth creationism (including the writers of my Christian textbooks) actually appeared to have misrepresented evolutionary theory and the evidence for it in a way that I can only describe as dishonest (whether they intended to be or not), and discovering that many of them also lacked the credentials to speak authoritatively on the topic in the first place, made up a major link in a chain of things I discovered that resulted in me “losing my faith,” as it were.”

Best Questions: 
Bo Sanders with “Privilege is Not Racism, Sexism, or Oppression: A Proposal” 

“I would like to see us move away from either-or options based on limited binaries and make a move toward multiplicity that more accurately reflects the complexity of the situation. This would be done by first adding a third category – then and here is the big one – by distinguishing within each of those at least 2 postures: active and passive.”

Best Reflection: 
Joel Miller with “The secret behind the Bible’s most highlighted verse” 

“Read instead as the ancient Christians read it, Paul’s statement is not merely that we should take our anxieties to God, good as that may be. It’s that the judge of the universe is near so we can have confidence that wrong will be set right. It’s not about trying to suppress our worries and trust God, which is for many a necessary but challenging effort that contains within it many of its own worries. That’s the wrong focus. It’s about the realization that God will soon wipe away every reason for worry. It’s a reminder of our real hope.” 

On the Blog…

Most Popular Post:
Christians & Masturbation: 7 Perspectives” 

Most Popular Comment: 
In response to the post on masturbation, Hope made an excellent point: 

What a great assortment of perspectives! One thing that has not been addressed here, though, (nor has been addressed in any discussion on the topic I have heard) is masturbation as a basic physiological function without any moral implications. Here is what I mean:
For as long as I can remember, I have been able to masturbate. I do not remember a time in my life when I could not get "those tingly feelings," though around the age of 4 or 5 I finally figured out I should not do it in front of anyone. I was 8 or 9 before I had a name for it (thanks to a crude bumper sticker about a "master baiter" that instigated a family discussion). Even then, though, I had no idea what it was. I was probably 11 or 12 before I started thinking, "Maybe this has something to do with sex." So when people question ask if masturbation can be decoupled from pornography or lustful thoughts, my answer is that was my experience for years, even into my teenage years. Yes, it is totally possible.
As a child, I wasn't longing for relationship. I wasn't trying to control a sexual appetite. I wasn't filling a void that only God could fill. It just felt nice. That's it. I remember feeling some level of shame about it, but I think it was more because I didn't understand what it was; I just knew I was supposed to hide it.
Maybe my experience is extremely rare (I haven't really asked around about it, you know). When I got married, I had no difficulty stopping (it seemed redundant at that point), but I definitely feel like this self-knowledge has enabled my husband and me to develop a mutually satisfying sexual relationship more quickly (though it certainly isn't perfect).
This information might not be helpful to anyone else, but I have just never heard someone say "Well, sometimes masturbation is just a natural bodily function." I absolutely agree that, like anything, natural or unnatural, it can be used for sin or for God's glory. In my reflection, though, I genuinely believe that my childhood masturbation was morally neutral, and I've never heard anyone acknowledge that possibility.

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

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