“Best Of” posts are beginning to pop up all over like dandelions in springtime. They’re sparkly and eye-catching. I always like them because they catch the year in review and give the reader a walk down memory lane. But … you knew there was a “but” coming. So often in church-y circles the “best of” posts are either all men or men in overwhelming proportions. I’ve been blogging for more than three years now and I keep hoping this will change. That the onset of the internet will bring about changes to this dynamic. But I’m not seein’ it yet.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some men (Rick “Blind Beggar” Meigs, Bill Kinnon, Brother Maynard, Brad Sargent, John Smulo, Shawn Anthony, Patrick Oden and some others to name a few) who are wholly committed to women in full partnership in life, ministry, blogging, you-name-it. They have gone above and beyond to support women and engage them equally.
What does that look like? I know a lot of folks are put off by idea of feminism and I’m mystified by that. But let’s look at it from another perspective. We all look at families and tend to agree that a “whole and healthy” family includes a mother (female) and a father (male). No matter what your feelings are about who should be in charge and when, we all know that healthy families require both the male and the female perspective to adequately parent, raise, etc. the children. At the very least, there are whole books on the subject of healthy families requiring two parents where one takes on the feminine role and the other the masculine (in the case of homosexual relationships). We know very clearly what the lack of men does to a family and what the lack of a mother can bring to children. So my question is … why do we find this lack of the feminine voice or perspective so very acceptable in church/ministry leadership?
It is in the interest of balancing out the perspectives that I present my Best of 2008 … plus one from 2007 because it was so good.
… in no particular order … UPDATED to include a recent post by Peggy Senger Parsons that is a must read.
Erika Haub – The Margins – “the church that came to me”
“When she saw me her eyes teared up, and as she spoke she started to cry. She told me that she could not believe that I had let her into my home, with full access to all of our things, and then closed my door and gone to sleep. She said that she had never felt so trusted by someone; she had never felt so much pride and dignity and worth as someone who did not have to be doubted and feared.”
Kathy Escobar – the carnival in my head – “what could be”
here’s my hope:
that we’d be people & communities radically in touch with Christ’s love for us & continue to risk our comfort, ego, time, money, and heart to offer mercy & compassion to others. that we’d be somehow known as ‘those weird people who love other people unconditionally, tangibly, and in all kinds of crazy, unexplainable ways.”
Tracy Simmons – The Best Parts – “The Rescue Parade”
When people rescue dogs or trees or human beings, they are displaying how much they are made in the image of their creator. He longs to see all things rescued and restored. It’s in our spiritual DNA whether we are aware of it or not.
Makeesha Fisher – Swingin’ From the Vine – “Missional: It Sure Ain’t Velveeta”
Being missional is hard work. Getting down and dirty in people’s lives, giving everyone a platform and allowing your voice to form from within the context of community versus individual aspirations and spirituality is not a nice easy package deal. You can’t just cut off a block from the end of the yellow brick and nuke it to gooey perfection. It’s time consuming and risky and generally not very “pretty”.
Rose Madrid-Swetman – RMD –
“Building To Serve Others Part 1”
“Building To Serve Others Part 2”
“Building To Serve Others Part 3”
We discussed the pros and cons, the why’s and why not’s of taking the step of leasing a space. Our biggest fear was that we would lose sight of the congregation as the church. You see when we rented a basement room for Sunday worship only, everything else we did as a faith community happened in our neighborhoods, the host community and in homes. Moving into a leased space that we would have 24/7 access to could endanger us to put the emphasis on the building as the church rather than the church being the people.
Heidi Renee – Redemption Junkie – “Great Losers”
I just can’t seem to walk past a smidgen of interesting brokenness or discarded story. I am so moved by outsider and found art because deep in my heart I long to be a mosaic artist. I have not yet begun to piece together those precious bits and fragments pocketed along my journey.
Julie Clawson – One Hand Clapping – “Experience and Empathy”
It’s one thing to intellectually acknowledge the need for better health care around the world, I am discovering it is another thing altogether to attempt to imagine oneself in another’s position. I knew the need for equity before, but my experiences have helped me to empathize. I know I am lucky and privileged. I don’t desire to trivialize or cheapen the plight of others by claiming to truly understand, but I am a firm believer that empathy is necessary if one is to truly care and make a difference. And experience helps with that.
Grace – Kingdom Grace – “Disciples or Converts”
I think that we often circumvent the real life of the Spirit in conversion methods, discipleship methods, and in the way that we function together as groups of believers. What are the ways that we tamper with natural growth and unintentionally cause lack of reproduction and other genetic deformities?
Pam Hogeweide – How God Messed Up My Religion – “First Time To Notice A Homeless Person”
He looked over at me. Our eyes locked, me the middle-class teenager from a middle-class Vegas family; him, the ghost of someone’s son now orphaned and phantomed like the nobody he knew he was born to be and die as was. It was a definitive moment for me. In that one glance I saw past the dirty beggar who didn’t have a job or a home. I caught a swift glimpse of a man who was not born for greatness, but was just born. He had no purpose, no grand plan. No derailed American dream to be somebody. For an instance I saw my brother, my father, my son and my husband. This unknown man was more than a Utah phantom. But that one look told me that not only had he become invisible to others, the true man of who he was – this beggar was an imposter of his true greatness – but more urgently, he had become invisible to himself. He did not matter.
Christine Sine – Godspace – “Discerning The Winter Blues”
I was reminded that I once read that the tradition of Advent wreaths actually began because farmers took the wheels of their wagons during the wet winter months and this became the framework for the Advent wreath. Now I am not sure that any of us would consider taking the wheels off our cars over the winter but I do think that we need to build times of rest, reflection and renewal into our schedules. Maybe we should stop driving our cars at least for a few days so that we can relax and refresh. We are not meant to continually live in harvest season. We are not meant to be continually producing fruit or even be continually blossoming. In fact plants that are forced into bloom at the wrong season by florists never recover their natural rhythm. Most of them will never blossom again.
Cheesehead – A Cheesehead In Paradise – “A Sermon for the Celebration of the Reign of Christ”
(Let me say for the record, if any of you are considering running for elected office, and someone comes to church to see what kind of sermons you listen to, and nobody finds anything even the least bit sketchy that I have said—if nothing I preach is found to be even the slightest bit counter-cultural and it’s all perfectly agreeable—that’s probably not a good thing and you should call me on it.)
Christy Lambertson – Dry Bones Dance – Abortion Series
1 – Late Night Comedians, American Politicians & Abortion Week
2 – Nuance is Bad For Fundraising
3 – Put Away the Coat Hangers
4 – Let Me Tell You About Your Experience
5 – We Have Met The Enemy and They Are Partly Right (part I)
6 – We Have Met The Enemy and They Are Partly Right (part II)
That’s why I have declared it to be Abortion Week here at Dry Bones Dance (or possibly Abortion Month, depending how long I go between posts.) Whatever your position is, I’m not going to try to change it. Really. I promise. I just want to take an emotionally charged, extremely polarizing issue, and show how our public conversation about it – from both sides – virtually guarantees that we won’t ever get anywhere on the issue.
Erin Word – Decompressing Faith – “The Tribe”
This tribe is not bound by collective adherence to a doctrine or by a building, but in mutual love for each other and a desire to set each other free from the things which have chained us. My tribe is not a place where anyone has to justify their experiences, but a place where we learn from a myriad of voices. My belief in the value of Jesus in my life is unwavering; many other aspects of my faith are in constant flux as I learn and grow. This I am able to do in a community where boundaries are elastic and belief is defined only by a love for Christ. Searching together for ways to better love on the world and on others, as Jesus exemplified, is the common thread we share.
Sally Coleman – Eternal Echoes “Perichoresis”
Sally writes gorgeous poetry and takes stunning photographs of beaches, sunsets and people.
AJ Schwanz – AJ Schwanz “High Bar”
And then I wonder: am I just being me-centric? Is this something God’s calling me to, or is this me being idealistic and believing the grass is always greener? What if it doesn’t look the way I think it should? What if it’s right in front of my face and I’m ignoring it because I don’t like the way God’s engineered it? When push comes to shove, would I make the sacrifice; or would I be sad, hang my head, and walk away?
Cynthia Ware – The Digital Sanctuary – “Lord Teach Us To Pray, Virtually”
I see the benefits….yet there is a part of me that still feels like something is funny about it. It feels like it should be ‘in addition to…’ instead of a replacement for interacting with your small group or people that can actually pray and stop by and drop off a casserole.
Molly Aley – Adventures In Mercy – “Obama Ushers In End Times”
I literally thought that God wanted me to war against my culture. I believed that culture was out to get me, out to get my kids, out to get my church. I mistakenly forgot the real enemy, and thought it was my culture instead, unlike God, who knew exactly what the real problem was when He came down INTO an equally-fallen culture. He saturated Himself in it, unafraid to pal around with the worst of the lot and, interestingly, the only ones He had a real problem with were the ones righteously abstaining from said culture.
Peggy Brown – The Virtual Abbess – “Abi and Covenant”
What The Abbess is looking for as part of the whole missional order discussion is a “rule of life” and a “rhythm of life” that provides a group of Christ followers with a focus, a framework, for the working out of our cHesed — our already-existing sacred duty to love God and love each other — in the context of apprenticing disciples.
Sr. Joan Chittister – From Where I Stand – “A Glimpse Of Oneness For A Change”
The struggle between “red states” and “blue states” in the “United States” may be a political problem but, if truth were told, “oneness” is not something religion has been particularly good at over time either. Religions and religious professionals have been far more devoted over the years to creating Absolutes of themselves. They routinely cast other religious and their scriptures and prayers and beliefs into hellfire. They persecuted and oppressed and either forced people into their own religious tribe or hounded them out of it. They made converts at the end of a sword and divided families and called one another pagans and infidels. Many still do.
Judith Hougen – Emergent Self – “Part Two – Incarnational Reality”
With very few exceptions, none of the people who’ve helped me understand and walk in incarnational reality have been Evangelical Christians. Which might help explain why conservative Christians can be mean sometimes. You really must deny incarnational reality (except in theory) in order to behave so contrary to the way of Jesus. You would have to work awfully hard to denigrate others while walking in a conscious awareness of God’s loving presence. Incarnational reality demands a response–either we open to Christ in each encounter, each breath, or we honor–I dare say worship–our own feelings, agenda, and sense of rightness.
Elizabeth Potter – Still Emerging – “They Used To Call Me Betty”
The lack of fit intensified as I grew older such that when I relocated to a new city a number of years ago, I decided to ‘change’ my name. Rather than introducing myself to new people I met as “Betty,” I asked them to call me “Elizabeth.” It has taken years for my family to adjust to this ‘new’ moniker, but finally I have a name that fits. It is strong, and regal, and seems ‘just the right size.’ They used to call me “Betty,” but I have chosen to rename myself. Hello, my name is “Elizabeth.”
Kim Petersen – Chrysalis Voyage – “Robust Faith”
Maybe it’s why I liked this response from a listener who wrote in: “Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Doubt is faith struggling. Where God is concerned there must always be room for doubt.” Chief Rabbi Sacks picked up on it earlier in his interview by challenging Humphrys: “If you didn’t have faith you wouldn’t ask the question…Faith is in the question.” Humphrys dismisses the statement as a cop out meant to shut down the conversation, but for me this statement contained the crux of the whole issue. Contrary to popular belief, there is not a shut down in intellect and a blind leap into the unknown. There is an intentional ongoing search for Truth and a coming to grips with and peace with that which will always remain a mystery. They are not mutually exclusive. A robust faith encompasses the doubt, the struggle.
Peggy Senger Parsons – A Silly Poor Gospel “My Bus Karma”
“Bon Chance, Madame” is one of my code words with God. It usually means “Heads Up Peg – this may get rough”. With no great leading on the line, I should have taken my bag back, called my daughter and gone back to their house for another week of baby snuggling. But one of my character flaws is a severe allergy to anything that feels like going backwards. And one of my consistent delusions is that the normal rules of the universe don’t apply to me. The combo gets me in trouble all the time.