why sometimes i want to throw in the towel

i was about to post something else that i have been wanting to get up here, but i just couldn’t skip over where i’m at today & why i currently feel so undone.  it will also help you understand why i have so much frustration in my heart toward “the church” & the systems and philosophies that tend to go along with it.  yeah, i’m in the tank.  i’m tired.  i’m angry.  i’m a bit confused.  i want to throw in the towel but know that i won’t.  i am deeply committed to the work that we do & i am not going to give up, but i guess i would love for others to know why i want to now & then and just how hard living out what i passionately believe about the body of Christ really feels like sometimes.   when we planted the refuge 2 1/2 years ago we had a dream that “church” wouldn’t look like pretty much what most of us know “church” to be.  we kept the word “church” because we believe deeply in our hearts that church the way it is and the way it should & could be are two different things. i wonder sometimes if keeping the word “church” has been one of our biggest mistakes because we are often misunderstood.  you see, in so many ways (but not all ways) we probably more closely mirror a nonprofit christian agency.  we are in the trenches with friends both in and outside of our community who are sinking, desperate, tired, lonely, struggling, and ready to throw in the towel on life, on God and call it a day.  our weekly gathering on sunday eves is just one small place of hope each week in and amidst other gatherings & the much bigger picture is the scope of relationship after relationship after relationship both in and outside of “the refuge” that is cultivated and nurtured over the other 6 days & 22 hours of the week.   all of these relationships are extremely life-giving to me no matter how intense they sometimes can be; it’s not the relationships, the pain, struggle, or intensity that drains me.

here’s why i get overwhelmed:  we rarely get any extra outside help, some relief. we have tons of people who tell us how much they respect the work that we do, that they have a “friend they’d love to get to the refuge” (aka, they would never cut it at their church) & “think it’s so cool what you are trying” (and i always want to say back to them, umm, this is not supposed to be that out of the ordinary folks).  but very few people outside our community actually show up and say “what can we do to help you live this out?  how can we help relieve some of your pressure?  how can we serve some of these single moms, dads, and struggling families? what do you need?” people inside our community do & the spirit of generosity is amazing, but honestly our needs are so great, resources so few that we just need new wells (and i’m not just talking about money).  i do not want to sound like a whiner, i am sure that some will think i am.  i am just trying to say out loud that sometimes i realize we are “first responders” and sometimes first responders get really really tired & need some extra love and encouragement.  i also have this weird feeling we’d get some if we weren’t a “church” but actually a para-church ministry because somehow it just easier to wrap ones head around.  aren’t churches about worship services & offering boxes & sermons & competition, but “ministries”, now we understand that.  another issue is that so many supposedly “mature” christians (the kind that tithe & serve & show up regularly) want to be “fed” and get their “church needs met” (aka: great sermons, bible studies, kids programs, being with people like them, and a chance to ‘serve’), they really stay insulated from real relationship with diverse, equally-messy-but-maybe-just-a-little-more-honest-about-it people who not only need them, but they actually need, too.  want to know the number one reason people have expressed to us why they couldn’t hang at the refuge:  “we just want to be around less broken people” and “i don’t have the issues these people have” and “we just don’t feel comfortable” and “we just need more.” i get so confused on this because i am pretty sure the kind of spiritual transformation Jesus was talking about was going to come through being uncomfortable, sacrificial, and radically challenged in the love-relationship-people department. i have no idea how the system has become so far-removed from this, but it’s there, it’s pervasive, and it’s so obvious that the average american church culture places a much higher value on christian studliness, strength, power, and pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps than on honesty, vulnerability & weakness (just stroll into the christian bookstore or flick on your tv to see which pastors have made it to the bigtime and it’s kind of hard not to notice).

for the past 11 years the one ongoing difficult conversation i have had with “the church” is to try to help us recognize our brokenness & see that we are all in the same beautiful boat in need of God’s grace, that spiritual poverty is a good thing not a bad thing, that Jesus came for the sick not the healthy, that the outside of our cup means nothing but God is concerned with the inside, that becoming a more loving human being is more important than how many bible verses we know or how many programs we handed out. i have stood on tables & utterly humiliated myself to fight for this theology of brokenness to be lived out in more than just words.  unfortunately, over and over again, i have bumped up against a “we’re well, they’re sick” mentality, a subtle & not so subtle “go get fixed and then you can come back & be with us” when pain starts entering the room, a “you need to stop using words like messy, desperate, broken because they are making ‘some people” uncomfortable (as in, big donors)”.   at the refuge, i don’t have to deal with political players that need to be pacified or they’ll stop giving money or worrying about keeping someone in our hip pocket; we’re all in the same beautiful boat & i am thankful for it, but the truth is often it feels like there are leaks everywhere & we’re bailing water as fast we can but we’re absolutely nowhere on the coast guard’s radar.

yesterday was just one of those days from start to finish that was filled with friends in despair & mental illness & brain tumors & safehouses-to-escape-abusive-husbands & divorces & suicidal thoughts & brutal church woundedness, and i only had one thought running in my head over and over and over again “people have no freaking idea that this is what an average day at the refuge looks like” (that was right after the “i just got paid all day what some therapist friends get paid in 25 minutes“) and then it was followed by “where in the $!^#)%$*@ is some help outside of us?” and then i just cried all the way home.  i am not working alone, don’t worry about that, we have a great community that shares the load and radically cares for people, but what we are missing is stability, help, and resources.  and what’s so brutally painful for me is that i am aware of several new church plants that basically are completely funded & have no money worries.  guess who they serve:  white, evangelical suburban christians.   yeah, there’s a good ol’ club with lots of money & power floating around out there & i’m definitely not a member.  and yeah, i know the suburban poor & marginalized & invisible & really really hurting & church burnouts & fringers aren’t too sexy…

some of this is our fault, i recognize that, part is that we are always so caught up in the current crises that we don’t have time to get ahead of things, tell our story, and cultivate proper help.  but at the same time, i will say, many many many people know our heart & the work that we do & praise our names and tell their screwed up friends & neighbors about us but very very few have actually said “we will help you.”  i need to say something so important here: some of our/my closest most amazing supporters have come through this blog & a few other wonderful networks.  you cheer us on from afar, you send me/us emails that support & encourage & keep me in the game, you send a check now and then & have absolutely no idea how much it means to us in a tangible way.  please know i am so grateful for your love, your help, your hearts.  please know none of my ramblings are meant to diminish any of that.

tonight, i just feel a little extra tired & frustrated at “the system” and wanted you to know where i was at instead of pretending like everything around refuge-kathy-land is hunkey dorey.  thanks for listening, for caring, for understanding (or at least trying to, i am sure some of you disagree with some of my church ranting, that’s okay. just be nice to me, please, at least today?)

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Um, is it super weird that your venting about how “messy” things are there made me want to move to CO even more? 🙂 Super encouraging e-mail on its way, check. <3 you, S

  • Kathy…
    Even in your despair…you bring me courage. Your expereince is palpable for me. I have spent more than half my life in ‘the church’. The last 5-10 years or so beating my head into a brick wall or a glass ceiling…to no avail. Recently tho…after years of trying to influence change in a church touted as one of the most innovative churches in America ( officially on TV and Time magazine woohoo!)…I have practically lost my faith all together…I have become a quitter. I didn’t really fit…most people don’t. Sure…I could tell you stories but somehow I know you’ve already lived it.
    I am so excited to see you succeeding at actually living what has been burning in my heart for so long. While I know you are overwhelmed and exhausted…I am elated and watch in amazement as you do what you do.
    I hope to see you in Denver!

  • Kathy, you rock.

    Your honesty and integrity are quite amazing, and incredibly encouraging.

    There’s a slow churning going on in me, wondering how most appropriately to respond to you (and some others) – not just in word, but in deed.

    Thank you so much.

  • Nothing to add … but …my love …and my prayers.

    Let me lift up your arms as Arron did to Moses (Exod. 17:8–13). In the thick of battle, whatever the struggle, we all have limits; no one can make it unless we hold up others—and allow the same for ourselves.

    Let us not develope a safe theology because we partake in such a dangerous faith.

  • I’m just drained, overwhelmed, frustrated & heartbroken READING it much less doing it.

    I’m sorry that the failures we have as the body – effects all of us.

    Although I disagree with you about 75% of the time.

    Although I am extremely devoted to my church that I am a member of (because I know that it is the part of the body of Christ that God lead me and wants me to have mercy for – despite all of the failures and hurts and mistakes they make)….

    Despite our differences – we can still all learn from each other. and because I am open to all perspectives & think everybody is worth listening to…I have been blessed with tidbits from your blog. I appreciate so much your open eyes & hearts to the world. You have influenced me and opened my eyes to a lot I would never have seen elsewhere.

    sooo make no mistake about it – you are making a difference. God IS using you. your blog alone I mean has some wonderful seeds that you throw out into the world.

    Regarding this specific situation — just wanted to say that we are completely dependent on Him & if He wants you all to continue doing what you’re doing — well then He will provide. He is in control.

    Prayers for you all that this season (or even just day) of discouragement passes so quickly and you come out of it with renewed vision & renewed passion and dependence on God.

  • Sis, you are not alone.

    I think whenever you are the tip of the sword, it is a lonely and isolated place, simply because you’re blazing a trail and it takes a while for people to catch on. You’re doing something that is completely out of the paradigm of the mainstream; many hear through their filters, and they just don’t “get it,” no matter how many tables you stand on.

    Our mission differs a bit from yours, but it has been just as out-of-the-mainstream, and so many times we feel the exact same way. We’ve alredy been fighting recently this feeling of insignificance, like nothing we’ve done has made any real difference here–and along comes a nasty, “anonymous” email from one of those broken people we couldn’t help, totally blasting us and devaluing us as ministers. Pretty rough week.

    Anyway…whatever encouragement I can offer you today…I totally respect what you are doing at the refuge, and tell you (and myself) that we need to keep going. People need what you’re doing, even if they ignore you (or beat you over the head) while you’re doing it.

  • Hey Kathy
    I have said these same things, asked the same questions, spent many nights crying myself to sleep not for the plight of the lost but in for the sheer frustration of having a huge assignment without the tools (people, money, prayer support, encouragement,mentors)to accomplish it.
    Then some leader from another church will come along and say something like “where God guides, He provides” and when you ask for help they say, “Well,let’s see if God breaths on your project.” Well, apparently God is holding his breath! Does this mean that God does not love the poor and the broken? Absolutely not! It means we must sharpen our theology. It also means that you and I have the amazing, though painful, experience of feeling life just how Jesus did.

  • I’ve been mulling your post over all morning and have had a million and one things running through my head to say to you. But in the end, I decided to just say this: The path you are on is the same one Jesus walked. I know you know that as it comes through in all you write. One thing I love about the spirit of this post is that you know when you need to vent, which is great, and even when it’s really hard going, you know you have no choice. You couldn’t turn back even if you wanted to. I suspect if you ever “threw in the towel”it would miraculously leap from the ground right back into your hand!

    Praying for you and loving you from across the miles.

  • Deborah, I sure agree with you. It is typical but kind of bizarre that people take a hands-off approach to helping others, because of mushy theology. It seems like an abuse of the miraculous capacity of God to make damn sure that we need it, by not stepping up and doing anything to help. That flies in the face of the judgement promised to all of us based upon our works. Our salvation is never dependent on works, but we surely will be judged on them. Does everybody have Matthew 25 ripped out of their bibles, or what?

  • Keep your head up sister. We’re treading new ground and someday we’ll smile and say it was all worth it.

  • ((Big Hug))

    I know we don’t know each other but you inspire me in ways you’ll never know. You shine Jesus and it emulates even through your typed words. The people that you journey with are SO blessed to have you as a friend.

    Cheering for you. 🙂

  • Kathy – I would love to lend a hand! Anything administrative I could do I would love to do. i am looking for a place to give my hands, heart and time and I am open to working with you. Let me know how I can encourage you.

  • Wow! Thank you again for your honesty and vulnerability. Wish I was in CO. Lord, Be with Kathy now and the other folks at the Refuge. Encourage them. Be present in their days and in their dreams. Pour your spirit out over them like a healing soothing balm. And bring forth some workers!

  • Hey Kathy
    been thinking about you today and wondering if being away at the conference and all the get go, might of clouded comming back to samo samo?
    Often when my wife goes away I get a little nervous when she comes home, she’s had a great time away with “the girls” been ministered to and has ministered – but then she comes home to me!!! I ain’t been anywhere. I think to myself this is tip toe time!!!

  • Reading this made me want to pack up and move to CO right this second. Even if I could do nothing more than offer some support, I still want to. Remember how many people are praying for you guys that you don’t get to see or hear from everyday. Some people pray that God will order their steps, but they are unwilling to take a step. God is ordering your steps even as you run.

  • Here’s my prayer for you and the Refuge.

    May the One who wept over Jerusalem and healed the sick give a kick in the pants to any members of the body of Christ with an ounce of compassion and within a stones throw (or a reasonable commute) of the Refuge. May the body of Christ get over itself and come together in Colorado to work as one for the healing of many. May it be so this day and in the days to come to the glory of the Sacred in our midst. Amen.

  • Kathy — thanks for sharing, and being honest and open about your struggles — Just wanted to pass along a note of encouragement:

    Matthew 5:3-5 — You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

    My prayer for you is that God will show you how blessed and rich you really are — right now. You are a blessing and inspiration to me, and many others as well it appears…

  • thanks my dear friends who live close & afar, i am grateful for each of you and felt the love in all kinds of ways in the past few days. please know how much it means to me, it is like a cup of cold water in the desert. with love & hope, kathy

    stacy – oh my favorite refuge cheerleader from the southwest! thanks so much for the love and look so forward to off the map & a weekend of crazy denver fun.

    jamie – thanks for understanding. i loved your post about “sick of the slandering emails” btw!

    azjoy – thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself & share a bit of your story. i can already picture it, feel it, the attempting to change what is so entrenched. i was recently talking to a good friend who said “you know, i tried for so long, to call out injustice, embrace equality, shift the power structures that are so messed up in ‘the church’ that now i just don’t have any more steam. i lost it along the way.” i so understand that. hope we can stay in touch. thanks for the enouragement.

    matt – thanks. taking time to pass on some hope means a lot.

    mark – i always feel it from you, always. plus, all of your blog posts make me laugh and God knows i need as much of that as i can get 🙂 thanks for your blog-land friendship, hopefully one of these days we’ll get to hang out down under, who knows. nah, no conferences for me so that wasn’t part. off the map’s not until october. this was just good old fashioned it-just-caught-up-with-me-in-the-moment!

    randi – i do like that we disagree on lots of things but you are interested in these thoughts. that is cool. i think when i hear “if God wants you to do this, he will provide” it makes me cringe a bit. of course God is in the midst and i know he will not leave us or forsake us, no matter what the outcome is, but i really really resonate with what deborah says in her comment related to this. i used to think when i feel overwhelmed or tired or discouraged it makes me think “oh i am not relying on God properly and i better figure this out” but now i am much more apt to say “yeah, this is how i am feeling because it’s honest AND yes, at the same time, i can have faith that God is with me in the midst.” thanks for caring.

    jeff – thanks for our continued faithfulness across the miles. i always feel your encouragement. that sucks, the email, boy do i know that feeling! hope to see you & the wild one in denver soon.

    deborah – oh my friend, thanks so much. not to offend anyone else because i am so grateful for all of the comments & perspectives, but i do need you to know that yours means the very very very most to me because i know that 10 years into the bridge you get it like none other. yes, i do think it comes down to really messed up theology that is so pervasive in the american church culture. love you & we’re always cheering you guys on from afar. we ever hit it big on the lottery, trust me you guys are first on our list 🙂 see you in november.

    tracy – dear tracy, how could i somehow skip you? thanks for your ongoing support & prayer & tangible love from afar. i have felt it. when i read your stuff i am like “oh yeah, this is the right path for me, for us.” i get filled up. and yeah, your image of the towel is probably so accurate! xoxxo

    sage – thanks my friend-in-the-trenches. i am with you and deborah all the way on the mixed up messed up theology. i suppose we all see it differently but it’s really hard for me to ignore so much of what Jesus said & lived out so clearly.

    jonathan – oh i do hope you’re right, i think you are, just need to strap in and hang on. thanks my friend

    jenn – thanks for the love from afar.

    phyllis – thanks for lifting up my arms week after week after week…

    patty – okay sent you an email. oh i do have some good stuff that would be so helpful. thanks for caring enough to offer, it means a lot.

    minnow – thanks for praying and for your ongoing encouragement.

    meagan – thanks and hey, we’re not going anywhere so if you ever get the itch, come on down!! just knowing we have such good cheerleaders helps more than you know.

    lisa – http://www.sxc.hu, all free!

    carol – oh thanks for that prayer. beautiful. we hope to see you guys next time you are up here. lots of love and thanks for caring. sure wish we lived closer, we could have a lot of fun together as communities.

  • Kathy~

    I understand. And I wish I had the means to give you more than words right now. As I have said, you give me hope that maybe, one day, I will find a church that I will feel safe in again. If I am in Denver, I will try to visit. It’s sad that so few want to be where the real true action of God is. I pray His Grace and Peace on you. Hmm… yeah.

  • Kathy,
    Sigh…wow. There’s just so much here in your blog. My heart truly goes out to you. I honor and love the beautiful honesty and rawness here. Thank you for sharing.
    I genuinely will be praying for you. And…I’m not just “saying” this. I truly mean it. I will be praying for you and the refuge…and all who you serve. That more will give…of time, resources, love, encouragement, support, money, whatever is needed.

    ~Amy 🙂

  • So how many times since you posted this have you regretted it and wanted to edit it just a little?
    You ever worry that people read it and go “Wow that woman is a little hormonal today.”? Did you not get the memo, real pastors never whine…..

    OK just kidding, my way of trying to cheer you up and possibly offend people who read your blog.

    I read this right when you posted it and it has stuck with me since. It made me think. It made mad, don’t worry not at you. It made me want to wipe my @$$ with a high glossy “wow” church program or go punch a plasma tv in a kiosk. It made me want to make every pastor I’ve ever known to define the word pastor. It made want to dress like one of those code pink people and interrupt the next sermon that I won’t be attending.

    Don’t think for a minute i’m saying I get it Kathy, because I don’t…but honestly, I don’t think most people get “it”. If you are indeed in a leaky boat, rescuing people from drowning and sharing the little you have with them, then…..

    ……there is a super huge ocean liner steaming right past on which life is good and the captain(s)are oblivious or indifferent to the plight of those smaller vessels that they share the sea with. And I know that in their minds they think, “Well if those folks (refuge) had their s@#t together they either would be on this boat or they wouldn’t be drowning.

    And what about the people on the boat, hanging on the railing looking over at you. Do they see you? Of course they do. Do they care? Of course they do. Do they write you a check????….. “Hey was that the dinner announcement I just heard? Can’t be late, they are promising lobster. Wish you well,love you guys,good luck!” Is that too harsh? Maybe.

    You know my feelings about church. You know my feelings about what you do.

    But maybe Satan knew what he was offering.

    “All this will be yours..” just pull yourself up, don’t be messy, don’t be smoker friendly, dont march for “illegals”, vote the right way, kiss only people who are not the same sex as you, take your meds,dont fall apart, dont smell, etc, etc,etc.

    Is that what you got to do; is that what it comes down to? Just bow down and give in? Unfortunately for a lot of people who are still “in”, reluctantly the answer is yes.

    You say no.

    So all that to say……I’m in. I’ll join this church thing with you. And if you get rid of the “church” thing that will be easier for me to take but I’ll still be in. Give me something to do, give me somebody, give me a bucket to bail water with or a paddle…..as long as you don’t mind when I yell nasty things at the big passing ship.


  • thanks Kathy for the response back. I didn’t mean my comment to infer in any way that you weren’t doing something right…. or were feeling something wrong….or were not being faithful enough, etc. etc.

    It was just (what I thought to be) a word of encouragement. That I had faith for your purpose here on earth and that I trusted God was in control. I have nothing else to offer you than my words.

    my words (“if He wants you all to continue doing what you’re doing — well then He will provide. He is in control”) were meant to express that you can’t control what you can’t control. It’s always okay to feel drained, to feel discouraged, to feel doubtful —- but as a fellow christian – I feel it’s my job to encourage you and I thought I was.

    I feel that no matter how it looks right now to you — that you will accomplish what you are supposed to as long as you continue to abide in Him. He has a unique purpose for you on earth but above all else your purpose is to be with Him and be defined by Him and receive your value from Him not any work you do here… He will bring your earthly purpose to fruition as long as you’re worth Him….so as long as you focus on that – on growing with Him/ in Him – then you will fulfill whatever you are supposed to on this earth. You will touch who you were supposed to. You will make a difference here.

    I wasn’t trying to express that you shouldn’t feel a certain way —

    I was trying to express that your job isn’t to be the answer and solution to everything you see all the time. Our hearts will always be broken – there will always be more injustice and more pain and more discouragement and more heartache for us to see…… BUT my point was — we have to trust that God is leading us where we’re supposed to go. We have to trust that God is in control.

    You disagree? My words meant to encourage — were discouraging for some reason?

  • correction — 4th paragraph from bottom

    “with” Him not “worth” Him

    I’m so sorry if I am misinterpretting your frustration and am totally misreading what you wrote. but I read it again 2 more times — and I still have nothing new to add. I still believe that God is working in the hearts of the body and there is hope for the system as well as these people you meet @ the refuge…I still believe that it’s impossible for any ministry to fail if the leaders are abiding in Him – which you obviously are…. and I still believe that He is using voices like yours to pierce hearts… and I still believe that you are doing all you can so that as long as you continue to put Him above all else – that’s all you can do – you will be used as He wants. Doesn’t everybody wish we had more resources & could do more? You are building quality relationships and community — I believe God is using you a lot more than you realize. Are you frustrated that it’s not more quantity relationships or are you just frustrated you don’t have more resources? and others do? I mean isn’t it true that we just have to do what we can with what we have?

    As much as it hurts to be so broken-hearted and filled with compassion for what you see… as painful as it is to be frustrated and at the end of your rope for the misdirect of resources that exists… that is what makes you so great in my eyes. There IS hope and God is at work and He is using you and you are making a difference. Thanks for being willing to hurt.

  • steve – thanks, i love the message version of these passages. we are starting a series of conversations about them this sunday & so i have been reflecting on them a lot. this one hits it on the head. & yes, the thing that i am reminded over and over again in these moments is how thankful i am for all that IS, right now. i am blessed.

    katherine – yeah, you get it. i do hope at some point you make it up this way and we can hang out. in so many ways your story is one that keeps me in, fighting for safety in the beautiful messsy glorious body of Christ.

    amy – i always feel your love & encouragement, thanks for your prayers. we need them 🙂

    john – oh where to start? first of all, YES, i was like “damn, why did i hit publish on this one???” but i have been of course thinking a lot about in these past few days and i am like “yeah, this is where i really am at…the intensity, not too hard. the craziness & chaos, do-able. the lack of resources, support, etc. for our dear friends when there’s money-a-flowin’ all over the place to support buildings & programs & slick flyers you want to use as toilet paper, ummm, that is what makes this so hard. i do love your metaphor in all kinds of ways…did we have the titanic discussion? if we didn’t, oh boy that will be a good one & we can add all kinds of good things from your commments to it 🙂 meanwhile, it’s just semantics anyway, hahahha, and you can call it/church/the refuge whatever you want, but yes, we have some pails & some paddles & i couldn’t think of greater people to sink with than you guys.

    randi – one thing that is clear is that you have such a good & encouraging heart and i so appreciate the time and thought that you take to pass on the love & thoughts. of course this is where sometimes words typed into a computer are so different from real conversations. yes, it is very true that i am probably hyper-sensitive to certain words & phrases & thoughts. i don’t mean to be, but the reality is that i am and i am trying to keep it real here and just wanted to be honest. because we do see some things differently, it makes sense that some ways we’d feel ministered to or encouraged are probably a bit different. here’s the part that is so great, though: i really do feel your heart & encouragement, it is so evident. so i need grace for my christian-weirdness and probable misinterpretation & i am glad to pass grace right back on to you, too. ps: yes, the heart of the refuge isn’t too hard, it is energizing and beautiful to be part of. the lack of resources & support is what makes it extra hard. yes, we are creative. yes, God provides & we see miracle after miracle in all kinds of wacky ways. and yes, it makes it a lot more tiring sometimes when i know it doesn’t have to be this way.

  • Thanks so much Kathy – I really do look forward to learning more from you and to be challenged by your words. I want to be able to learn from what you’ve seen since I have experienced so little compared to you.

    Have a great day! Thanks again for all you do & for being so merciful.

  • Our churches are very different and yet I have cried out many of those same feelings. Some issues are different but others amazingly the same. What does it mean to be church? Something beyond each separate group just taking care of its own thing, I think.
    I love you and I believe in you.

  • Kathy,
    I understand… Reading through this reminded of the feelings we had while living in Ukraine working with orphans. So many people here at home had the same kind of comments.
    “It’s so amazing what you’re doing.” “We wish we could do something like that.” “It must be so fulfilling.” “God will reward you for that.”
    In reality, it was hard, it was exhausting, frustrating, and yet we didn’t want to be doing anything else.
    Sometimes I wish the people with these comments would realize that God does want to help out people who are actually doing something (like you), by having some of these other observers actually do something themselves!

  • You have got my mind racing in so many directions, I am not sure where to even start.

    In our current church experience, I know that we have had quite a few Christians who have “shamed the finger” at us for putting our children in “harms way” when we have them at our dinner & church service for the “less fortunate”.

    We hear so often, “do you know who is down there ?”, “do you know what could happen”

    And the list goes on and on.

    Not that was the central theme of your post. Back to topic. I need to get in touch with you regarding something – have to make a note of that.

  • Oh, so we ain’t the only ones that go thru these things then!

    Hiya Kathy! *waving*

    It is tough and I know what you are talking about here, it can be really off putting.

    Then I wonder how Paul and the guys felt when they started a whole new thing back then?

    It’s a right pain in the arse, especially when people just give you the “But look at those people, they are so much worse off than you” crapolla!

    I realy don’t have any answers and yes, watching the lot up the road, constantly patting each other on the back for being such good Christians and “lets all jet off to someplace for a week holiday because we deserve it” really drives me cuckoo!

    But you know what, it is not my job to get everyone right – I have a handful of folk I REALLY work with and if I can have a part in changing their lives, it’s worth it.

    I can not be crucified on every cross I see, there is only one that He wants me to bear and I must be faithful to that task.
    For that task, He will supply – maybe not in the way I think best, but I think He knows a bit more than me as far as that is concerned.

    One thing I do know, no matter what I say here it is not going to change your situation because I am sure that there are huge stories untold in your post.
    Trusting in Jesus is really a lot more than a cliche and that is the only answer.

    Lots of love!


  • We started out with more diversity of backgrounds in our midst. We didn’t intend (so far as I remember) to be a body of Christ who is comprised (to a rather large extent) of folks who are in tough situations. We just set out with the values to hang in there together, walking with God thru good times or hard times and helping each other out as much as we can.
    We are suburban, and not who you’d usually think of as “the poor”, but many of us are as a result of one situation or another- missed a rung or took a tumble off of the ladder of success.
    I do have empathy for the disciples who just couldn’t hang with Jesus as he prayed thru the night before he was killed- it is hard to stay awake, isn’t it?
    I also have empathy for Jesus that long night. From a woldly objective view, Jesus was in a lot of trouble and his life was really messed up.
    He looked around and found that he had been left quite alone.

  • Kathy, WOW!!! There are so many people I want to share this with.
    For so many years Joy and I poured ourselves into what we thought was important only to wake up one day to the question, were we really following Jesus? Were we really doing what’s important? Whew, is dangerous to ask questions.
    After fighting, fighting, fighting, I have become a quitter. Joy and I had become so disillusioned with the ocean liner we were on (thanks John for the awesome analogy). We had to jump off (or maybe we where shoved). Now we find ourselves drifting, searching for God. I hear what you are saying, about what’s going on at the refuge, and SO want to be a part of it. Why can’t every place we call church be like that?
    I don’t know if there is any encouragement in this, but I have been very inspired by your words. They give me hope that maybe the true Church, The Body of Christ is out there somewhere.
    Thanks, Jim

  • Several years ago, the radio station I worked for organized a month of awareness for local ministries that were independent of church organizations yet were doing their part to encourage the less fortunate in our city. It wasn’t pretty, the stuff we saw. And it was life-changing.

    You’re there, in the mud and blood and beating heart of the least of these and making a difference, lifting them up with a genuine smile or a tear of pain.

    Hang in there, sister. Your reward? Don’t miss it . . .

  • randi – glad you are here.

    brother maynard – thanks for the link love

    ellen – oh yeah, something has gone quite awry, that is for sure. i am so glad for your heart and all that you are pouring into change in the church. love and hope and strength for you, too, from down the hill.

    rainier – nail. on. head. thanks.

    jeff g. – look forward to connecting. yeah, we have had our share of comments from family about this issue, we drive some of them crazy with how we have chosen to live, but i think now they sort of leave us alone but their disapproval sometimes squeaks out.

    pops – i always love what you share. i think you are so right–we can’t fight every battle & so we must listen to what God is asking us to do and be faithful to live it out and not get too distracted by the many things that we can’t change or control. oh, that is hard, and yes, my friend, that is what trust is. thanks for taking time across the miles!

    sage – yes, that is so true. i know without a doubt that was never the intention and even within our community there is greater diversity than sometimes i probably communicate. i sometimes believe that the only reason it looks so “messy” is that there is a culture of vulnerability & openness, that the pain & struggle that we are experiencing is no different than any average group of people, it’s just that usually keep it bottled in so it’s not so obvious. the bottom line is that real relationship it is counter-cultural in “church” and i don’t think it should be. in re-reading the beatitudes tonight at the refuge i was so struck with how crazy what Jesus was saying then is and how crazy it still is now, especially in the church-prosperity-pull-yourself-together culture we live in. no one is crazy about humility & feeling & sacrifice & ‘weakness’. calling people to that was lonely then, lonely now.

    jim – great to hear from you here! yeah, there are many of us out here in the big wild ocean bobbing around, clinging to life preservers, trying to build some new rafts that might stay afloat. i hope from afar somehow you can feel a little bit of buoying. i think there are pockets of so many things going on right now in the kingdom that are new expressions of “church” that look so different from everything that we’ve been taught. ours is just a small one of those expressions but what i love is the idea that more and more people would try to live out what ‘the church’ hasn’t killed–a deep desire to love God, love our neighbors and not settle the convenient. look forward to continuing to connect with you guys…

    brian – yeah, there is some pretty amazing stuff going on everywhere that is never considered “church” but is the real deal, that’s for sure. i am in awe of so many i know who are truly living out the ways of Jesus without the structures that we’ve built. it’s so cool. the beauty & glory i get to see in the weirdest & smallest of ways is the best reward. thanks, my friend.

  • Yes Kathy, I think the Refuge does still carry real diversity of that kind still.
    Ant to the other great Brothers and Sisters here, I want to consider labels. Jim Henderson noticed that the term “the lost” is insulting to the folks that are at the receiving end of it. see http://www.youtube.com/OffTheMapProductions
    In the same way, “the poor”, and “the least of these” sound like such termanal terms to throw at a person. I’m just saying that I don’t want to be tagged as hopeless and then have THAT be my only point of relational identity with my brothers and sisters in Christ. If I let that stick on me as my identity, from the receiving end of the conversation I would have to call everybody else “the rich” (whether you are or not-it is a continuum) and call everybody who wasn’t down at my level “the most of these” Who in their right spirit wants to be called “the most of these”? So I don’t think that Jesus intended for us to come up with another label to objectify someone with, but rather to open our own eyes to what is around us with God’s compassion and grace, and boots on the ground willingness to HELP! “The Kingdom of heaven is like…”
    I think that the Refuge does confession well, just by being a place we can be honest with each other without feeling like we have to dump everything out all the time. It is a way of living out the kind of prayer that often comes before communion- one in which we reflect on our sinful being, our imperfection without God, so that we remember that it is through humility that we enter the Kingdom of God. “blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall see God”. Confession is a way of cleaning not only the outside of the cup but the inside as well.
    I think that that is mostly what we are doing at the Refuge, and the “broken, Least and Poor” labels that come in don’t quite get the spirit of that, even if they do apply in some cases.

  • Kathy,
    Sorry to have gotten in so late on this one (and now you have posted an addendum…sheesh!). Just wanted to confess a similar desire (to some of those above) to move to your neighborhood and work with you. Admitting weakness tends to motivate others to action frequently. I’ve noticed that whenever I have gotten to the “whining point” in my own journey.

    And before anyone gets all uppity over the whining point comment, let me just say that whining is greatly underrated. Most of the Psalms are basically whining, and can actually make you laugh if you read them with a bit of whiney, nasal intonation. There is something about whining that God really likes, I think. It is a point where we seem to come to the end of ourselves, albeit reluctantly. It becomes a point of invitation to others to join with you and serve. It is in weakness that we are strong.

    Of course, as my pastor friend Scott Parker would say, you must whine with hope. This is what we find in the Psalms, and this is what brings about transformation in our own lives and the lives of others.

    And this is what I heard from you in this wonderful post. I think God is about to unleash something in your midst…

    See you in October!

  • @randy cool description of psalms.

    I agree that God wants us to express to Him above anybody else our frustrations, our worries, anxieties, our whining — just like any child to their parent voicing their needs & concerns right?

    I am disgusted at how much I tend to whine to Him — but I know that He already knows what’s on my heart so it’s better to get it out then to hold it back – then after it’s out – I can truly focus on Him & being grateful and just listening – now that all that ‘crap’ is out of me.

    also — I really believe it’s better for me to whine to him then to be all bitter and negative with others – I feel like it’s helped my relationships a lot to go to Him first and let Him take away the majority of my anger/frustration/bitterness/negativity – so that I don’t blow people totally out of the water when I am open about what’s on my heart. They just can’t handle what God can 🙂

    thanks for everybody’s words even though they weren’t for me — they have affected me

  • sage – i agree with you, the whole label thing is so dangerous. it is the thing i have always not liked the most, actually, because bottom line we are all just people on the journey. i do appreciate the reminder you are giving us to use caution with them and i like jim’s, too, some perspective what it feels to be “those ones”. my hope continues to be that all of those barriers would come down, there would never be “those broken people” and “those more fixed people” we’d all be people who recognized our spiritual poverty, our need for God, in the mix seeking together. unfortunately, that has not been my experience for many of the reasons i have shared in the previous post, but that is what i feel deeply dedicated to continue to pursue and am so glad you are alongside on the crazy journey.

    randy s – oh i am always so happy to hear from you here. and i love your thoughts about the psalms and being unafraid just to be so honest with God and say what he knows anyway. the whining word doesn’t bother me a bit 🙂 i know God can hack it, it’s other people who get annoyed and i think in my heart i have that weird thing that says “you’re not supposed to complain, like ever” so clearly my blog is a way to make some shifts in that department! the freedom that comes from honesty before God & before my fellow sojourners is just that–freedom. i can’t wait to hang out at off the map in october & get to have some real conversations!

    randi – i am with you, many people can’t handle what God can.

  • You just keep showin’ up, girl. Do what’s doable. I will, too.

    Five loaves and a few fish in the right hands can be more than enough. You inspire me.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *