Sunday Superlatives 8/10/14

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Around the Blogosphere…

Pete Reynolds at McSweeney’s with “A Meteorologist Works Out Some Personal Issues During His Forecast” 

“Are you going to want to die because of how hot it is outside? Yes, you will want to die. I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you. If you want someone to sugarcoat it for you, somebody to tuck you in at night and tell you that there’s a cold front on the way, that the sun-sweetened summer days of your youth haven’t been transformed by global warming and a lifetime of crippling mistakes into a pit-stained heat-hole of suffocating regret, then maybe you should just switch right on over to Kevin O’Dell and the Channel 6 Weather Squad, because you won’t find it here. I’m not Kevin O’Dell, folks. I’m Tom Sykes, and I’m just giving you the straight dope here at Channel 3. I tell it like it is. And what it is, folks, is extremely hot outside.”

Sarah Joslyn at She Loves with “Lazy is a Four-Letter Word”

“I’m learning something about my need to say YES—it comes from a deeply rooted need to prove I’m enough. I need to prove I’m not lazy. I need to prove I’m worth having around. You know what I want to say yes to more often? Nap time. I want to shut down my computer all the way because I have completed my work and I can rest. I want to say yes to rest.” 

Noah Ritter steals the show during interview 

Julie Fletcher photographs Australia’s remote Southern region

Most Liberating: 
Christena Cleveland with “Farewell, StrongBlackWoman”

“My name is Christena and I am a StrongBlackWoman. I am beatable and human, and I am okay with that.  I give myself permission to scream when I am angry, cry when I am hurting, ask for help when I need it, and remove myself from communities that can’t or won’t care for and nurture me as a black woman. Every day is a struggle to put down the StrongBlackWoman façade and take up authenticity, true strength rooted in God and community, self-love, and mutual love. But today I choose to face that struggle and receive the help I need to overcome it.” 

Most Enlightening (nominated by Shirley W)‏:
Jeremy Courtney with “Learning to love the ‘enemy’ in Iraq” 

“The world may watch from afar and denounce all Iraqi Muslims as militants bent on conquest. But up close, the reality is very different. It was a Muslim cleric who may have saved this Christian's life. And I'm not the only one. Even as jihadists justify their atrocities in the name of Islam, millions of Muslims are standing in solidarity with Christians who have been expelled from their homes.”

[Related, be sure to check out and share Karima Bennounce’s TED Talk on people of Muslim heritage challenging fundamentalism. I shared it a couple weeks ago in Superlatives, but it seems freshly relevant in light of recent news.] 

Most Thoughtful:
Kristen Rosser with “The Feminization of the Church”

“Ultimately, ‘feminization’ isn't the real problem.  Women aren't the problem.  Let's face it, in the vast majority of churches the decisions aren't getting made by women-- but Adam's tendency to blame ‘this woman You gave me’ for his choices is still visible in male church leaders today. I firmly believe that if churches will just preach the gospel of the kingdom of God, both its comfort and its challenge-- Christ will take care of the rest.  Men will rise to the challenge to pick up their crosses and endure the stigma of gender contamination in order to identify with Christ.  And this will in time erase the notion that church is a ‘women's thing.’” 

Most Heartbreaking (nominated by Kristin Selby
Stacia L. Brown with “When parenting feels like a fool’s errand” 

“I do not want to talk about this anymore because I was happy this month and you just turned four on the first and all I can think about is the promise I see in you. I think about how well you’re hearing these days with the tiny aids that screech when you hug me and hiss when the batteries are weak. I think about how much easier it’s become for you to simply say, “Help, please” instead of throwing a frustrated fit for the language you cannot find. I think about how often I keep you near me and how many people take umbrage with that. She has to learn, they say, how to live in this world. But how can you learn at 4 to do what still makes me flail and falter at 34? And how can I let you go when a girl a year younger than you was gunned down in our city last week and a boy who would’ve headed off to college for the first time on Monday was executed within steps of his Ferguson, MO home on Saturday?” 

Most Convicting: 
Rev. Erin Wathen with “#BecauseJesus” 

“…Tangled up in each of these contradictions, we glimpse the dark soul of a nation in love with its own comfort, and often indifferent to the suffering of others. And while the Christian tradition may not have conceived this rhetoric of chilled apathy, it has certainly aided in its birth and consequent upbringing.” 

Most Eye-Opening:
Marianne T. Duddy-Burke with “A Lesbian Mother on the Discriminatory 'Inclusion Act'” 

“Adopting these two strong, resilient, loving, generous, talented girls is probably the best thing my spouse and I have ever done. We knew that children who have been in the foster care system would bring scars with them, and that those scars would cover deep wounds. But nothing in the months of training, interviews with social workers that at times felt more probing than doctor's visits, or the reams of paperwork we completed before being certified as foster parents fully prepared us for what lay ahead. We have spent countless hours with trauma therapists, family coaches, physical and occupational therapists, teachers, principals, mentors, tutors, adoption support agencies, physicians, psychopharmacologists, and other adoptive parents than I'd ever want to tally up, all in hopes of finding ways to support our kids.”

Most Challenging: 
Michael McBride (at Amy Julia Becker’s place) with “In Christ there are no racial stereotypes” 

“Along with pastoring The Way Christian Center in the Bay Area, I serve as the director of the LIVE FREE Campaign, a faith-based movement committed to organizing the moral voice and actions of the faith community to end gun violence and mass incarceration. I remember speaking to a largely evangelical audience about the destructive impact that gun violence and mass incarceration are having on the youth and families in my congregation and neighborhood. I explained how these families are largely working class, black and Latino families who find their kids and loved ones caught in a maze of broken systems and structures as soon as they make a bad decision or mistake in judgment. At the end of my talk, a pastor, who described his congregation to me as white suburban dwellers, said to me, 'You know Pastor Mike, I am just gonna' be honest, why don't your people just get a job, stop asking for a free pass and stop committing crimes? My people are struggling just like yours and we are not looking for anyone's help!..."

Best Writing:
Jessica Bowman at Deeper Story with “His Hands They Heal, His Hands They Bruise”

“His fists fly frantically and I raise my arms in protection. He batters against my weak barrier of forearms and fingers, unconscious to the struggle. He isn’t fighting me. He’s fighting someone far away, in deserts of trauma, in wars without hope. A wrist, a shoulder, I manage to cling to him.” 

Best Response: 
Michael Gungor with “I’m With You”

“But listen, huddle people… I’m for you. I really am. And I’m with you. I was raised in the huddle. Some of the best people I know are in the huddle. But you don’t need to be so afraid. You don’t need to repress your intellectual ability to ask questions and seek truth in order to stay in the shadow of the huddle. Because, let me tell you something, there is light outside. In fact, God is both inside and outside of your huddle. And you can still love God and love people and read those early Genesis stories as myth with some important things to teach us. Not all of you will be ready to do that, and that’s perfectly ok. But know that if you create these dichotomies where we force people to either fall into the camp of scientifically blind biblical literalism or a camp where they totally write off the Bible as a complete lie, you’re going to rob a lot of people of some of the richness that the Bible offers. You’re going to create a lot more jaded, cynical people that are completely anti-religion out there. And you are going to continue to repress the questions that lurk in the back of your own mind. And that’s just not healthy. That sort of thinking actually quashes and limits human thriving in the world.” 

Best Reflection:
Richard Beck (quoting Cornel West) with “Love Your Way Through”

“I think a lot of theological conversation ends up in absurdity. In the face of pain. In the face of suffering. In the face of death. In the face of things we know nothing about. In the face of all that absurdity I think Christians talk too damn much.  Me included, given the flood of words on this blog. But the main reason I am a Christian is that it gives me a way to ‘love my way through.’” 

Best Interview: 
Grace Wong interviews Helen Lee and Kathy Kang in “There’s No Such Thing as Passive Aggressive Peace” 

“’It’s hard to be a peacemaker if you don’t have an understanding of the different ways of communication and wrestling with different conflicts and styles,’ Lee said. ‘Diversify your own relational circles. Ask yourself if you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to interact with people who are different from you.’” 

Best Question:
Kathy Schiffer with “Should the Catholic Church Sell St. Peter’s Basilica to Help the Poor?”

“If the great art of the Church were sold, it would most likely be preserved behind closed doors, in private collections of the very wealthy.  Better, I think, to allow everyone–even persons of humble means–to enjoy the works of the Masters, to allow their hearts and minds to be drawn upward toward heaven by the rich imagery of the saints, by the glow of alabaster and the sheen of marble and the intricacy of fine metalwork.  The Church has been a repository of great art, and has made its treasures available for all to enjoy."

Best Perspective:  
Elizabeth Esther with “Some thoughts on what it means to forgive our abusers” 

“Forgiveness means I have no more resentment or the desire for revenge. It DOESN’T mean I tolerate more abuse. It DOESN’T mean I must “accept” empty apologies.”

Best Step in the Right Direction: 
Acts 29 Removes Mars Hill, Asks Mark Driscoll To Step Down and Seek Help

Best Point: 
Rachel Marie Stone with “Inclusive language for God does not equal heresy” 

“Beneath all this, I can’t help wondering: Surely God is not really so fragile as to need all this defending? ‘I AM WHO I AM,’ God says to Moses. God gets to define who God is, and no one else does. If God is pleased to express God’s nature in female metaphors, as a birthing, nursing, comforting mother, who are we to object?” 

On my nightstand…

Julian of Norwich: A Contemplative Biography by Amy Frykholm

I’ve long been interested in the life and writings of Julian of Norwich, and Amy Frykholm brings her world to life in this lively and accessible volume, which I devoured in a matter of hours. Highly recommended for fellow Julian fans. 

Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength by Chanequa Walker-Barnes 


I was so moved by Christena Cleveland’s review of this book I decided to check it out myself, and I’ve not been disappointed.

Walker-Barnes seamlessly weaves together the academic and pastoral in this book that has me rethinking everything I thought I knew about race, womanhood, and even the Trinity. I’m hoping to feature an interview with the author on the blog later this month, so keep an eye out for that. 

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen

This book has been recommended to me about a thousand times, but since I have never been the victim of serious spiritual abuse, I figured I wouldn’t have much to learn from it.

But since we’ve been discussing the subject so much on the blog, I finally delved in. This is such a wise, instructive, and enlightening book, I wish I’d read it sooner. I recognize so many of your stories in its pages. We will definitely be discussing this one in the weeks to come. 

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson 

Because some books are just worth reading twice…or three times…or four times. 


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

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