Saturday, January 4, 2014

Favorite Blog Reads of 2013

For New Year's again this year, I'm remembering the past year by highlighting what I think are the best things other people have said on their blogs during 2013.  These are the things that moved me, that made me think, or that made me shout, "Yes!"  Things that uplifted me, or humbled me-- or both.  Things I needed to read, and I'm so glad I did.

In roughly chronological order, then, here are my favorite blog reads of the year, with a quote from each:

The Missionaries Brought the Bread of Life, but We Choked on the Packaging by Jenny Rae Armstrong.
I grew up ultra-aware of two important facts: It’s extremely rude to talk about a group of people as if they’re all the same, and if you try to make people act the way you think they should act, you may actually drive them away from Jesus. The shudder-worthy image of someone choking, gagging, and suffocating as a well-intentioned outsider shoved a loaf of cellophane-wrapped bread down their throat was hard to shake. The gospel can be deadly if you don’t remove the cultural packaging and offer it freely, instead of forcefully.
The Day It Got Broke by Jessica Clemmer.
Imagine with me, if you will, splitting a piece of wood, via a good ‘ol karate chop, to the middle. When the wood breaks, what happens? The middle pieces drop downward, and the ends fly upward. Summary: when something breaks, one part goes down, the other part goes up. It’s the natural result. 
I propose to you the same result occurred when sin snapped the one-flesh relationship of that first husband and wife. 
One went ‘above’ the other.
When It Matters Because of Two Gardens by Preston Yancey.
I think of how one little verse, one little verse of a redemption in the twentieth chapter of the most beautiful Gospel, the story of us, could mean all this. 
Could mean systemic patriarchy has been overthrown. Could mean that equality is now. Could mean that the Law of Moses would be overcome by the law of grace. Could mean that a woman is a person not a thing, joy of father or husband, and that her word is worth, her voice use.
This Doesn't End with Salvation: From Inspiration to Disabled Superhero, But Never Human by Hel Gebreamlak - a guest post on Black Girl Dangerous by various authors.
The heroic and inspirational tropes assigned to acceptable enough people with disabilities and ‘successful’ people of color, albeit in different ways and inseparably intertwined for disabled folks of color, is not simply the result of unawareness of well-intentioned white and nondisabled people. It is a way to deny their entanglement in our oppression by individualizing our experiences, removing it from the context of identities and social group membership. It is away to justify the ones who were thrown away, because they couldn’t plan their way out of the danger. Besides, everyone can’t be a superhero, and the families we left behind were living proof of that.
Feeling at Home in My Smallness by Jonathan Martin.
There is so much weight assigned to us to be special, to be unique, to distinguish ourselves. There is a great deal of pressure to be “great.” But what if, today, I want to enjoy my status as my Father’s awkward, backward son, absurdly treasured and irrationally loved?
The Day I taught How Not to Rape by Abby Norman of Accidental Devotional.
If you want to keep teens from being rapists, you can no longer assume that they know how. You HAVE to talk about it. There is no longer a choice. It is no longer enough to talk to our kids about the mechanics of sex, it probably never was. We have to talk about consent, what it means, and how you are sure you have it.
The Most Difficult but Greatest Lesson I've Learned in One Year of Marriage by Lauren Dubinsky at The Huffington Post Online.
I have looked around at the empty faces of the women around me, knowing that their hearts are crying out to hear that they are okay if they don't fit every gender role, every gender expectation. That their husbands are okay if they don't fit every gender role, every gender expectation. That they are not screwed up women with broken femininity, and their husbands are not being 'girls.'
"Defrauding" or how men can keep women from stumbling! by Hopewell Takes on Life!
Women cannot respect a man who is defrauding them with a brazen display of thick, luscious chest hair or smooth, freshly waxed bare chest. Don't be fooled! At church, your white shirt maybe crisply starched and ironed by a loving wife or sister, but it can still DEFRAUD. This then is your essential "shade shirt." There's a reason Mormon's have special underwear beyond it's spiritual uses! This shirt shows a girl you care and shows her, more importantly, that you know modest really IS hottest. Save that sexy Godly chest for the wedding night please.
'In Which I Know, I'm Sorry, and I Hope I was Kind" by Sarah Bessey
These are just two seasons of my life: I also had my anti-instutitional church season, my I’m-not-a-Christian-season, my agnostic season, my angry feminist season, my new-wanna-be-theologian season, my screw-it-let’s-knit-things-season, my I’m-a-new-mother-and-I-know-everything-now season. I have had seasons for my marriage, for my work, for my processing, for my mothering, for my relationships, for my writing, and so of course, I’ve had them for my journey with Christ. I imagine I’ll have a dozen more, I’ll look back on the me-right-now with wiser eyes someday, I’m under no illusions.
Everyone's a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring up Gluttony by Rachel Held Evans.
In short, we like to gang up. We like to fashion weapons out of the verses that affect us the least and then “clobber” the minority with them. Or better yet, conjure up some saccharine language about speaking the truth in love before breaking out our spec-removing tweezers to help get our minds off of these uncomfortable logs in our own eyes.
It's Not the Rules That Are the Problem by Samantha at "Defeating the Dragons."
Because this system is built on an ugly foundation of power, abuse, domination, and control. The people who perpetuate it aren’t there because they genuinely love people and want to protect them. Legalism gives them the power to wield massive control over entire groups of people– but they can only do that not because of the rules, but because of belief.
Belief in a God whose most dominant, over-riding characteristic is a demand for absolute righteousness, for the acknowledgement of his children that they are completely broken, miserable, worms, barely even worthy of his attention.
In Which Love Looks Like an Empty Parking Lot by Sarah Bessey.
Could we have imagined? Could we have imagined the life we now live and the choices we’ve made? Could we imagine the places we’ve gone and the tears we have wept together and the babies we’ve lost? Could we have imagined the way we smile at each other in such perfect knowing when our son – our son! – raptures over a plane ride? The way you make our daughters laugh until they shriek over tickles and the way we sleep altogether at night on our family holidays? Could we have imagined even something as simple as family holidays together with your parents and your sisters and their families? 
We could not. But here we are, nearly fifteen years later , kissing in an old abandoned breakfast restaurant parking lot while the rain falls and we remember?
400 Years of Blinders, Counterintuitive Solidary, and the Epistemological Advantage of the Oppressed by Drew G. I. Hart.
What we are moving towards as a solution is completely counterintuitive. It is to trust the intuition of oppressed people over against one’s own gut and experience, which is proven to lead you astray when operating from a vantage point of dominance. Privileged people must do something very absurd and unnatural, they must move decisively towards a counterintuitive solidarity with those on the margins, while allowing the eyes of the violated to lead and guide the way.
I Am Not a Sex-Fueled Robot by Micah J. Murray
It doesn’t have to be this way but when these systems are reinforced and repeated from the time we’re teens, we tend to assume that it’s just the way it is. Men just give love to get sex, and women just put up with sex to get love. 
Then fear and suspicion become the common factor in all our interactions, and we go along with it. Men just give up and allow themselves to become the slaves of their sexual urges, which women are then forced to accommodate and avoid and control. We eventually realize we that we have emotional and sexual desires that don’t fit neatly into categories, but we keep quiet because we know our roles and we play the game. 
Let’s be human again.
Come Hither Men, For I Have Sex Demons by Grace Biskie at A Deeper Story.
When a white-haired, 60 yr. old, married, white dude practically broke his neck trying to stare me down last week, I walked it through: “Grace. You look normal today, you aren’t showing cleavage, you aren’t communicating sexually, your proverbial demons aren’t hanging out, you are walking to your car, in flats with a laptop bag and his nasty ass has nothing to do with you. Ignore this stank hoe and keep steppin’.” 
“This has nothing to do with you,” I say to myself now. ”You have no responsibility for his lustiness.”
Learning the Words: Love - guest post by Timothy Swanson at Defeating the Dragons.
Thus, the series of half-truths twists the meaning of “love” as it is commonly understood until it is unrecognizable. I actually had a Reconstructionist friend of a friend make the claim that forcing people to obey God’s law was the same as sharing the Gospel with them. Not “as important as,” not “similar to.” The same as. Because forcing people to follow the rules is now defined as the best way to show love.
25 Biblical Roles for Biblical Women by Marg Mowczko at New Life.
Our culture and customs in western society today are vastly different to the culture and customs of the Ancient Near East and Greco-Roman world of Old and New Testament times. Differences in culture are factors that must be considered when trying to extract biblical principles from the text for application today. Not everything that was done in the Bible has a universal, timeless, or useful application.
On Labelling Women "Crazy" by Harris O'Malley at Huffington Post.
At its base, calling women "crazy" is a way of waving away any behavior that men might find undesirable while simultaneously absolving those same men from responsibility.
Love is the Basis of Everything by Metacrock.
When I say love is the basis of everything, I mean it really is. I believe that when the Bible says "God is love" it means it literally. In other words, we should put an "itself" there. God is "love itself,": the thing that love is actually the essence of what God is. Now you may ask how can God be both being itself and love itself? Because these two are inextricably bound up together.
What Women Want from the Church: Voice, guest-posted by Rachel Haas at Preston Yancey's blog.
They didn’t hear the words that were coming out of my mouth. They heard the words that my neckline expressed. They noticed when I said something that might not have been the most “fitting.” I was a child. I was a rebel. They had to fix that. There was duct tape on the shelf, and it found a place across my mouth.
Cultural Exchange in the Multicultural Church - a guest post by John Farmer at By Their Strange Fruit (various authors).
Cultural exchange is a way we move towards knowing our brothers and sisters. And cultural exchange is a way that we move towards knowing our God, whose image can only be represented by a mosaic of many different cultures.

So that's it for this year.  I could have gone on, since there were many more blog posts I read this year that impacted me-- but these are the ones that impacted me most.  I highly recommend spending some time clicking these links!

And happy 2014, everyone!

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