Sunday Superlatives 9/15/13

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free



I felt right at home this weekend with the good people of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina, who not only make amazingly delicious food but also love to talk college football! It was a special privilege to meet Suzii Paynter, (left), the executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and one of just a few women in the U.S. elected as the head of a Christian denomination. I’m pictured here with Suzii and Jay Kieve, coordinator for CBF South Carolina and all-around "dude of valor."  Now I’m an SEC girl through and through, but I confess I may have caught just a touch of Clemson fever while in town! Thanks to everyone at CBF for their encouragement and support. 


Also, please be in prayer for Dan's sweet mom, Norma. A CT scan recently revealed a tennis-ball-sized pituitary tumor in her head. While it is benign and likely operable, it's still scary. Pray for Dan and his brothers and sisters as they surround Mom Norma and support her through this tough time. 

Around the Blogosphere…

Most Inspiriting (nominated by Rebecca Lujan Loveless
Rachel Macy Stafford at The Huffington Post with “Six Words You Should Say Today

“My daughter slowly leaned into me, resting her damp head against my chest for several seconds, and expelled a heavy sigh. And in doing so, I swear I could read her mind: The pressure's off. She just loves to watch me swim; that is all.”

Most Insightful: 
Geoff Holsclaw at Missio Alliance with “The Scandal of the Evangelical Memory, Part 2”

“…Only by understanding our history will we understand that evangelicalism should not be judged by its adherence to Neo-Reformed distinctives, nor that being “conservative” as opposed to liberal is its founding moment.  If we don’t know our history we are destined to continue repeating our false history, perpetually stuck in a conservative-liberal battle.  And we are liable to keep blowing people away just like Leon the replicant.” 

Most Relatable: 
Abby Norman with “Maybe We Need to Need”

“But when are we allowed to be tired? When does someone pick us up? I wonder if we are leaving the church because what we need is to put on yoga pants and have some tea and really see each other. We need to spill the tangled mess of our harried lives to each other and just cry together.  Instead, what we are being offered is more programming that someone has to run. Maybe us.”

Most Powerful:
Diana Trautwein  at Deeper Story with “The Language of Lament” 

“But. . . I cannot, indeed, I must not, get to those words without first singing out the plaintive words of lament, without first acknowledging my pain, my confusion, my sorrow. Lament leads me where I need to be. Lament loosens something inside, opens doors and windows into the soul and the psyche. Lament, even the angriest, darkest lament, allows me to be me, to be real, to be honest. And when someone comes alongside me when I am in the midst of the grief, I need that someone to listen, maybe even to offer some harmony in that minor key. I do not need reminders of God’s goodness, God’s plan, God’s sovereignty. Not yet. I’ll get there. But when I’m sitting in the in-between, when I am walking through the valley — please let me sing the sad song for as long as I need to. And if you can, sing it with me. Then, together, we can turn the corner as the psalmists do. We can pour out the pain and make room for the praise, we can sit in the ashes and reach for the roses, we can discover again that we are safe in the presence of God.”

Most Challenging (nominated by Kelley Nikondeha)
D.L. Mayfield with “If You Knew Me, You Would Care” 

“But it’s easier to close the book, go back to my life of worries. I write blog posts about downward mobility and dream at night of one day having a space for my child to run in the grass; I spend an hour or two praying for eyes to see and hands to bless my neighborhood, and sink exhausted on my couch every night, escaping either into a book or a television show. Because I know people now, and they have made me care. But here is the other truth that no one want to talk about, that we spend all our time protecting at all costs: our culture thrives on forgetting. On distractions, petty concerns, and the crushing pursuit of individual comfort. Every day is a struggle to care. The only thing that makes it easier is if you are forced to confront it, time and time again. If you put yourself in the position where you can’t opt out–where there are no drive-through Starbucks, clean and bright Barnes and Nobles, massive church complexes with state-of-the-art sets. Where instead there are tangible evidences of the disparity of our economic system, where people are much more comfortable in voicing both their joys and complaints in the streets. In order to care, it turns out, I have to be in a place where every day I have to look one simple truth in the eye: my reality is not the reality of the majority world.”

Most Fascinating: 
David Mitchell with “A Peak Into My Son’s Head” (on the translation of Naoki Higashida’s “The Reason I Jump” into English) 

Most Vulnerable: 
Osheta Moore with “For the days I don’t feel black enough

“Then my own hair betrayed me, telling me, ‘you’re not even black enough to take better care of me.’” 

Most Prayerful (nominated by Leigha Cann and Abby Norman
Esther Emery with “Blessings for the Weary” 

“For the hour of the weary, and the day that you are just plumb tired. I pray that you would know this hour, too, as sacred. Even these weary moments. Even these gaps between gold stars and Hallmark cards.”

Most Thoughtful: 
Joyce Maynard at the New York Times with “Was Salinger Too Pure For This World?”

“Sadly, this is not an uncommon story, and has been played out by many besides Salinger. It seems the myth survives in our culture still, that a young girl’s worth, measured against that of a great man, may be of lesser consequence. As the mother of a daughter myself, I would say rather that a man who treats those offering up their love and trust as expendable is lesser himself for having done so. There is art, and there are artists. Let’s not confuse the two.” 

Most Important:
Luke Harms at Deeper Story with “Your Story Is Worth Finishing”

“I started thinking about a new note, one to reach out for help instead of offering premature goodbyes.”

Best Storytelling: 
Nathan Kennedy at Registered Runaway’s blog with “These Hallowed Grounds: Nathan’s Story” 

“And yes, people will make fun of me for being the guy in white loafers. They will mutter their insults and their epithets, try to convince me that the God I seek hates everything about my sexuality, and even have me fear for my very safety at times. But they can never take from me what I have won for myself: the unity of my outer and inner worlds; the integrity of my identity with my expression. That, after all, is what being out means. It’s the reclamation of the humanity of my sexuality – and the refusal to submit it to inauthentic definitions.”

Best Analysis: 
Nathan Smith (with Vinoth Ramachandra) with “The Gospel Coalition’s ‘Theological Famine’” 

"Sounds loving, until one asks: who decides who is theologically famished and who is not? who selects what “resources” to send the famished? who decides what constitutes “equipping” and who should be doing it? The answer is always the same. A small group of white, well-to-do American or British males. We have experienced such paternalistic, colonial “mission” before- others deciding what is the “Good News” for us, what is “sound doctrine”, which authors to read and whom to avoid, etc. They have exported their theological blind-spots and sectarian rivalries, reproducing carbon-copies of themselves in the global South rather than nurturing real leaders. The learning and theological traffic is all one-way. Perhaps a day spent with leaders like Pope Francis or Desmond Tutu may be more useful for African pastors than all the “resources” from north America.”

Best Lecture: 
Scot McKnight with “Are Atonement Theories Like Golf Clubs?” 


Best Series: 

Best Series:
Brown-Eyed Amazon with “Out of the Closet and Into the Pews” 

Best Line: 
Joy Ubani in “#BlackGirlProblmes at a Christian College" with ““Frankly, I thought my hair washing regimen was my business.” 

Best New (To Me) Gif-Based Tumblr 
Ev’ry Day I’m Pastorin’ 

Best Critique: 
Michael Wiltshire reviews Mark Driscoll’s book “Pastor Dad” 

Grace Biskie with “Come Hiter, Men, I Have Sex Demons” 

“This little girl who was 4 feet, 10 inches tall & barely 80 pounds with no breasts was given one repeated message: the whole of you is for sex.” 

Charles Self at Missio Alliance with “Liberated From Ideological Captivity: Becoming Creative, Ecumenical and Hospitable” 

“When free from ideological constraints, the creativity of the Holy Spirit can inspire solutions to apparently intractable problems. Creativity is more than compromise or a facile “third way.” Within the bounds of the ways of God, creativity comes to individuals and communities, church boards and mission agencies. It may even be found among business and political leaders willing to serve the common good.”

Coolest Initiative: 
Redefine Positive

[And a hearty “eshet chayil to Jode Howerton for spearheading this project!]

From Guatemala…

Jamie Wright with “Fighting Poverty is Like So 2012” and “Seedlings” 

“Admittedly, World Vision is doing a whole bunch of cool things here in Guatemala that are way more practical than a music program. But this? These proud kids and their proud Moms, this was the thing that moved me. I know it's not gritty or gross. It's not appalling. It's certainly not the face of poverty we're used to. But maybe it's time to give poverty a new face. And maybe it's time to change her name. I think Hope has a nice ring to it, don't you?” 

Micha Boyett with “Let’s Be Ordinary. Let’s Be Extravagant.” 

“I’m in Guatemala this week to tell you small stories about real people. I’m here to ask you to do the most ordinary sort of thing, which is to love one person extravagantly.” 

Zack Hunt with “What if we’re the ones that need saving?”

“And so amongst the ruins of my old theology, rich and poor, old and young, Americans and Guatemalans, we broke bread together and shared the cup together and together we caught a glimpse of the kingdom of God.”

Shelby Zacharias with “Guide Mother” 

 “The Guide Mother, like Marta, is a volunteer with World Vision. She is trained and in this case she opens her home to be a community center to evaluate the progress of the children and to teach their mothers proper care. Recovery starts with a 12 day educational course where mothers come to learn about health and nutrition. After the 12 day course, the mothers monitor their children’s health over time as they implement the skills they learned. Once a month the mothers meet for meals like this to continue their education and to evaluate the well-being of the children. They also receive help in the areas where they are struggling. They learn skills like how to prepare water for various tasks, how to properly wash dishes, how to make their meal more nutritious and how to maintain basic hygiene practices. As the mothers learn and practice good nutrition and hygiene, they go on to share what they have learned with their friends and other mothers, becoming guide mothers themselves. This is the knowledge chain that World Vision uses to create sustainable health practices. Where mothers teach mothers. This is community building. Neighbors helping neighbors. Mothers helping mothers.”

Matthew Paul Turner with “Proof That God Exists”

“Instead, when we hear the word poverty or read about the thousand or more consequences of poverty, our hearts and minds shut down. We grow cynical. We turn skeptical. We’re bored.”

Note: I confess I was something of a child sponsorship skeptic before I had the chance to see what World Vision was doing on the ground in Bolivia. After soliciting questions and concerns from readers, I wrote a post entitled “Confessions of a Sponsorship Skeptic” that you can check out if you have questions yourself, and you can read all my posts from Bolivia here.  Please consider sponsoring a child in Guatemala. 

On the blog…

Most Popular Post:
“The Thing I’d Love to Forget About the People I Disagree With”

Most Popular Comment: 
In response to “From the Wife of a Queer Man,” Tiffany Bridge wrote: 

The writer is careful to say (which I appreciate and strongly agree with) that her marriage should not be used as a cudgel for other LGBTQ people. I do think there is one instructive point here, however, that I hope is not too presumptuous of a conclusion to draw: It seems to me that this marriage is a blessing to the people in it for the same reason marriage is a blessing to other people- no one is trying to hide who they are from their spouse, and their spouse isn't sitting around waiting for them to change. It's based on openness, honesty, and enthusiastic acceptance. Whether the husband thinks of himself as someone attracted to men but with the significant exception of his wife, or whether he thinks of himself as bisexual, is beside the point. They've created an atmosphere without shame where they can be fully themselves. The reason "reparative therapy" and "ex-gay" ministries are so destructive is because they are, fundamentally, based on shame and lack of acceptance. If we stopped shaming people and assuming that we know better than they do about the contours of their sexuality, how much better could we love LGBTQ people.


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


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