can i at least have a cup of coffee with my slice of humble pie?

if you haven’t noticed by now, i have some pretty strong opinions about church-y stuff that can definitely come across as judgemental and harsh.  harsher than sometimes i want it to.  i do not mean to, it’s not like i set out to let it rip every time i sit down on my computer.  i sometimes purposefully do not read back on old posts sometimes because i know that i will cringe at some of the things i say in there, but really, i am trying to stay in the moment as much as i can.  the whole purpose of the carnival blog is to say out loud, and fairly unedited, some of what was rolling around in my head and also to be some sort of small voice to the many people i talk to online, in coffee shops, in all kinds of places who are expressing similar thoughts & feelings about faith & life & Jesus & the wonderful, beautiful, messed-up thing called the church.   riding this fine line of saying some things that for whatever reason i need to say & being conscientious of how easy it is to become just as pharisaical as all the things i can’t stand is tricky (and maybe nearly impossible).

yes, i have issues with the church.   yes, i struggle with money & power & inequality related to the structures & systems.  yes, the injustices & the inconsistencies do make me more than a little nutty sometimes.  yes,  i dream for something different and see it emerging in all kinds of ways.  and no, i do not have all the new answers or think that i have any kind of market cornered on the way it “should be” even though i sometimes sound like it.

for whatever reason, i  go through seasons where almost every one of my hot buttons related to “big church” gets pushed.  it’s sometimes comical & we manage to have a laugh or two about it, but other times it swoops in out of nowhere and catches me by surprise.  that is kind of what happened to me in the past few weeks in preparation for off the map here in denver.   i have so many amazing friends in this town, all kinds of free-thinkers & ex-church-patriots & dreamers & doers.  every single week i sit across the table from people inside and outside of my community and leave feeling encouraged.   at the same time, in pulling it all off i bumped up against a few things that…well, all’s i can say is:  PTSD.  that’s exactly what it felt like, just a weird tinge of post traumatic stress disorder, that came not just out of the clear blue sky but out of some interactions & circumstances.  it reminded me that i’m not crazy-church self-protection, holding back information from people & fear of certain conversations isn’t just in my imagination.  it tripped the wire to my church issue landmine and another bomb, albeit smaller than ever, went off.   my heart just sometimes can’t take it. it’s unexplainable to some, although i know many of you out there get it and understand. it takes me by surprise and then i am so mad at myself that i let it get to me in the first place.  but it’s just a part of my story, that’s all, no escaping it.  and sometimes the bruises and bumps (or for some, gaping wounds) from our past experiences get rubbed against again, even in a small way, and it just stirs up trouble.  personally, i think it’s good trouble because every time i learn from it and grow in my journey away from what was and toward what could be. i have to say, though,  it’s so weird to me how somehow i can end up feeling like such an outsider in certain select christian circles.  it makes me even more thankful for my true friends in-flesh-and-blood and out here in blogland, people who get me and don’t think i’m some kind of nutty heretic (or at least love me anyway).

so here’s where God continues to work on my heart:  i am humbled. this past sunday at the refuge we talked about the beatitude of “blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” and how purity of heart is an honesty before God, each other, a staying current.  so i’m just trying to stay current:  the big and complicated evangelical church is hard on my soul & sometimes i don’t handle it as well as i want to. no one has to understand it. sometimes i don’t really either.  but for all kinds of reasons, it just is sometimes.  and i am learning to let my feelings be my feelings and call it a day.  at the same time, i don’t want to be a judgemental jerk.  i want to continue to be transformed into Christ’s image & let go of things that hinder life, peace, freedom.   so yet again, i am learning a lot about my brokenness, my pride, my need for God.

yeah, when it comes to church, God is bigger than my limited little craziness.  God is at work in things that i absolutely cannot stand and believe are just a big waste of time and money.  God is God and i am not. yet, even though i say i am glad God’s God, i am sure i secretly resent him for not taking care of things the way i am quite certain they need to be taken care of!   in the many conversations at off the map the most important piece was how to really live with one another, especially when we see things differently. the refuge t-shirts say “it’s better to be kind than right” (brian mclaren said that at off the map in 2006).  i can easily live with atheists, notorious sinners, the least of these, and almost anything in between.  the people i have the hardest time living with are the ones who are dedicated to a system that i fundamentally disagree with.  how can i offer them as much grace as i have myself received and can pass on to many others?

and at the same time, offering grace doesn’t mean compromising myself and giving up my convictions.  we (me & some church leaders) do not see eye to eye on a lot of things.  it’s just that simple.  and that will probably never change. i am not saying i’m “right”, i am just saying “this is what i believe, at least in this moment, and for whatever reason it feels really important to say it out loud especially for others who can’t.”  we all know  any shifts we make in the kingdom aren’t going to come through patting ourselves on the back and saying “good job” to things that honestly we don’t think are good ideas. plus the labor pains we all are feeling are because something is shifting in the fundamentals of the church, the world, when it comes to faith.  these shifts are rocking far more than my laundry list of issues with the church.  one of the things i loved about the off the map weekend is i also met some new people who are actually firmly entrenched in “big church” but are really working on learning to change, shift, morph to become more inclusive & missional (now that’s beautiful).

long story short, i am thankful for the wrestling, the humbling.  i like peace & easy & everything my way. but that is usually never where i change.  and for whatever reason, despite all the churn, this swirl of the past week has unhooked me yet again from something i keep needing unhooking from. it somehow heightened my deep sense of gratitude for my current life & community & this season in my faith.  i have a great hopefulness for the future that requires i focus on what’s right before me.   that’s plenty.

* * * * *

ps:  if you want to check out some great pix from last week’s off the map live born again church tour that my friend jenny herrick took , click here.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

43 Comments

  • Often when I hit post after I have written a blurb – I’m thinking tooo late!!!

    My big struggle is – I have so many friends and much loved family involved in “church” and I am sure much of what I say if they were to read would hurt and I don’t want to hurt them.

    Had a family meal at home last saturday – they began talking about their building program, I had just finished posting on poverty – I think the word I used was “shame” and reminded all how many children would die this night as we fed our dog the scraps from the evening meal … I didn’t sleep well that night.

    Was it because I offended my family or was it because I knew how many children were dying – why we continue to play church? I need to show them the grace that God has shown me on this journey.
    For my family have lifted me up in times of struggle and I shall continue to do likewise.

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  • Whoa, Hey, stop the bus Girl!!!!!!!!

    Now I don’t see any one offering Jesus some coffee with a slice of humble pie at the end of Matthew 23, do you!

    It is one thing to rail against an Institution; another if you attack everyone in that Institution personally.

    You go against Institutions and I, for one am here on your side.

    Why? Well because I get the same accusation all the time:

    “Hey, come on Pops, lay of off Warren, Hinn, Copeland, Bentley ,,,,,,, cool down man.”

    And the very next week they are trying to promote one of these guys books or sermons down our throats and encouraging us to buy this cause “It is good stuff man, everyone else is buying it! Come on, we need to be up to date with the rest of the world.”

    I think it is high time a lot more people stood up off their proverbial and said “Thus far and no further!”

    and yes it is possible to do that in all humility – (pity no one ever asks these chaps to do their marketing and stuff with the same attitude of humility they insist we display????????)

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhh!

    I remember Tony Campolo relating a story about a kid that gave a talk at a conference at the college.
    Kid got up and said:

    “20 000 kids would have died of starvation by time I am finished speaking here tonight and the problem is that most of you don’t give a shit! An even bigger problem is that most of your minds are so filled with indignation thinking about the fact that I just used the word “shit” than what you are thinking about the 20 000 dead kids I just mentioned!”

    Methinks this is what often happens here Kathy when you raise very pertinant issues?

    Tons of love!

    Pops

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  • very beautiful post. you’re such a good writer.

    Thanks for being willing to be humble and allow Him to empty you & fill you back up with those things we all want – peace, freedom, etc…. very powerful words here. you’re such a good example/leader

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  • Kathy, one of the things that sets me a little bit more free every time I read one of your posts is that you are not afraid to show us where you are in the middle of the process, mid-stream, mid-wrestling it all out. You don’t say, “There, I’m all finished now so I will finally let you look at the finished product.” Watching you put yourself out there, even “unfinished” is exactly what many of us need to see modeled for us. This, to me, is real humility. It has helped free me up to write things even while I know I don’t have it all together in whatever area I’m currently exploring or wrestling with.

    Don’t ever change that, woman, or I’ll have to come to Colorado to kick your butt! 🙂

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  • Kathy,
    I thought this was a remarkable quote:

    “i can easily live with atheists, notorious sinners, the least of these, and almost anything in between. the people i have the hardest time living with are the ones who are dedicated to a system that i fundamentally disagree with. how can i offer them as much grace as i have myself received and can pass on to many others?”

    That brings up such an important point for all of us who are struggling outside the box. We can critique the “system”, ask tough questions, live in a holy revolution, learn to show mercy to sinners, and all that…but we must still show the same love all around. Very good point.

    At the same time, I’m reflecting on Jesus’ example. He actually had a very different method of dealing with the out-and-out “sinners” than He did with the religious people of His day. He told the adulterous woman, “Go and sin no more”, but then we have the infamous “woes” He pronounced against the Pharisees and Sadducees–total, open and complete confrontation against the religious system.

    But He ate with them both. He loved them equally, even though He dealt with both groups differently.

    I think the problem for folks like you and me is that we haven’t been hurt by the outcasts, but we *feel* outcast by our brothers and sisters, and that *does* hurt. It’s hard sometimes to discern between righteous anger and personal wounding, and that’s where we need Jesus’ help in unraveling all this.

    Thanks again for a thoughtful post. Off the Map was great, and meeting you and your family was even better. 🙂

    Reply
  • Kathy you are so awesome. A great example. The only reason I kept coming back to your blog was your humility and fearlessness to say what you mean. You do not dance. You stand and say “I don’t like this or that. I don’t agree.” You were part of the system. Now you are not. But you extend the heart and hands to those that still are. That to me is humility. To accept and love but disagree without putting up walls. The coolest part of you and your heart is that you are OK with that. Man girl you got a way of oozing love even in your blogs and even in a state of intensity. Passion and wisdom did not pass over you. And it is lovely.
    I am still in the church…however peripheral. I have to stay there on the fringe. But I have tried to separate the system from those who are still a part of it. It’s so hard sometimes to see The System or hear The System on my friends or coming out of their mouths. It is disheatening. All I can do is love them. And you DO that too!!
    Just so you know…we’re all pilgrams on this road. In the system. In the gutters. In foreign lands. In the ghettos. In suburbia. Trying to find our way to Jesus and what He calls us to. I am so glad that you share your journey and your heart right here.
    And girl if it’s humble pie you feel you have to eat….I think that quite a few of us out here would be more than happy to share it with you. Pass me the fork!! HUGS!!

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  • Thanks, Kathy. I ran into a friend in Montrose whose teenage daughter is feeling bruised and disillusioned by the way their church ate up and spit out a new pastor, the wrongness of the way “organized religion” can treat people. I’m going to refer her to this blog and to you, okay?

    Also – “It’s better to be kind than right” – also an Amy Grant Lyric from the song “Happy” on her Simple Things album. 🙂

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  • Hey Kath. I’m just going to point to this post as a disclaimer for my blog, too. Because you’ve said it all and said it well, as usual. I so appreciate your voice and heart.

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  • Hi Kathy, I know what you mean about the PTSD. Talking with people like Sally Morgenthaler and David Kinnaman one on one really helped quiet my PTSD symptoms because they’re both wonderful listeners; they were curious about my story and respectful of my experience.

    the refuge t-shirts say “it’s better to be kind than right” (brian mclaren said that at off the map in 2006)

    Actually Jim said it and Brian then added “I’d put it like this: if you’re not kind, you’re not right”

    I remember this because a few weeks before the conference I was telling Jim that I was going to tell my story at the conference as five choices I made; one of them was the choice between being kind and being right. I chose being kind. So when Jim opened the conference with “It’s better to be kind than right” it got my attention 🙂

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  • Thanks for the whole inside story on “kind than right”, it is good to know, and to give credit where it is due (thanks Jim, and thanks Helen for planting the seed). it is better to know the story than being “kind of right”. 😉

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  • Hi Kathy, after reading this post, I’m still loving who you are, what you think, and how you write. Can’t imagine who you know that is still entrenched in “big church” 😉 As long as you keep offering rides on the merry-go-round in the carnival in your mind, I’ll keep stopping by to take a spin. It’s a great way for me to get out of the trenches.

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  • Would love to write a long, thoughtful response, but heading out to the woods for the weekend with my son soon…

    Just wanted to say how much I appreciate you, this blog, and the folks who hang out here — while there are definitely a lot of different perspectives represented, we can all unite around our common need to see our Savior more and more clearly. Thanks for letting us see Him in you through your frustrations, and your hopes…

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  • Once again…this is why I love who you are. Humility…the ability to examine honestly your own perspective and admit you might not be right or that you may have said something truthfully in an unfortunate way…is a profound grace. Seems more value should be given to this seemingly rare human expression!
    Humility is what I find is missing many times in the IC and in the religious system I have finally chosen to walk away from…In fact…I truly believe that if more people in leadership and the body in general…would just live this out…so much less wounding would occur in the body. More people giving more grace and enabling the healing and restoration of those who have experienced hurt or disappoint would make huge strides in restoration of the church.
    A wise person once asked me…”Do you want to be right…or reconciled”? There was a day when I would have had to seriously give that question some thought…now…I KNOW …out of my own painful expereinces…I have hurt and been hurt…there is only one RIGHT answer to this question. Be Reconciled.

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  • “a nutty heretic” is a compliment in our book; your only problem was that you got kicked out before the bastards could excommunicate you.

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  • i liken the church to the congress, senate, the whole political system. every one is doing what he or she thinks is right. all have a common goal, the good of the country. all are also driven by an agenda, some good and some evil, that has been formed through their life experiences. their brokenness, depravity, and their upbringing. no one, us nor them, is all good or all bad. we are a combination of both. it is better to be kind than right. reconciliation is the goal to shoot for. Jesus says, “blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called sons/daughters of God” thanx for speaking your mind and being aware of you heart in the midst of the carnival. mike

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  • Kath –
    You already know what I think, but just for the record – I’M WITH POPS!!!
    Watch out for the idea that your anger disqualifies your discernment. Not so.
    No apologies necessary.
    love ya.

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  • I know anger is okay…. it’s just how we express it and what we do with it that can be destructive instead of constructive….

    I love your honesty & authenticity and I feel safe here which is why I stick around. so here’s me being honest again:

    I just wanted to say that I really believe you love Jesus and it shows… so I don’t ever mean to make you feel like you’re being too harsh. I like reality…. but as I was telling Pops… ultimately – the real reason I stick around is because I can tell you love Jesus. Not because of the way you do church, not because of your viewpoints, solely because you love Him. That’s the best example you can give to others in my opinion. Loving Jesus, falling more in love with Him every day and not making an idol out of anything else — no specific group of people, way of doing things or type of structure…. ‘just’ Him. Him above all else. Allowing Him to change you and continuing on that path.

    As well as making idols out of certain groups/people/stuctures… I sometimes think we even make anti-idols which in turn become our idols. We focus so much on what we don’t want and don’t like… it becomes our negative idol. I can’t think of a better way to put what I’m trying to say, sorry….

    anyway — that’s where my heart is right now. I just want to love Him no matter where I am, what others around me are doing or not doing, no matter what culture or structure I’m in…. He has given us that freedom to be able to tanscend our surroundings and not be defined by them…. I want to take advantage of that….

    I just want to love Him and put Him # 1 and allow Him to work in me and I know He’ll lead me where I’m supposed to be…. ultimately things that seem so big & huge just become so small when we focus on Him don’t they? There’s so much more to be joyful & thankful about than upset & worried about

    you’re awesome – thanks for your words, authenticity, honesty & allowing me to journey behind you learning from u 🙂

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  • ((pulls up a chair, places her steaming cup of coffee on the table and cuts herself a HUGE slice of the humble pie))

    Beautiful, raw and as always a “needed to read” for me. 🙂

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  • I think you got some backing here Kathy!

    Just one thing I am not too keen on is this “Being kind and not being right”

    I may have the wrong end of the stick because of it being a written communication – is it any wonder we battle through the Bible? – and of course what is being said may not be what I am reading but, kindness can lead a bunch of folk to hell (or a loss of rewards depending on your take on the hell issue)having wonderful kind feelings.

    Sometimes we need to ‘stand’ but without being arrogant or aggressive, however we do need to speak the truth, in love.

    More tons Kathy! (of love that is before I get misunderstood ;-))

    Pops

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  • Pops, you have a good point. Our little sayings and mottos are finite, not one of them can be held up as a free standing, literal, exclusive bearer of all truth and wisdom. You have inspired me to muse a little, this has nothing to do with you or others here- just some general thoughts.
    The bible is the story of God’s relationship with us, and all things. As a whole, the bible brings the truth of that to us. In little excised sentences, we bring the same human failings to the bible that we experience with our little mottos. Jesus taught in parables, saying seemingly opposite things at different times to convey the truth in love- an eternal, unchanging, dynamic, living truth about love and the kingdom of God. Hanging on to one passage over another misses the point, that God’s word is wild, ultimate, contextual, and alive. Our human wisdom is finite. Citing one passage by itself literally without context is like pounding nails in the little god box, and God isn’t that small.
    Just stirrin’ it up a bit-

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  • Ultimately there just needs to be a better balance between knowledge (being right) & love (kindess).

    Knowledge without love leads to intolerance with others, lack of mercy & pride….

    and love without knowledge leads to eternal darkness….

    but I think with our first interactions with people kindness should out rule anything else… whenever you become offensive/aggressivem, people become defensive & retreat. Nobody cares about our knowledge until they can trust us, feel safe with us and know we won’t blast them out of the water with Truth. We have to discern when somebody is ready…. and step on their toes without ruining their shoes & leaving permanent damange if they haven’t build up enough faith muscle in them…

    I read a good blog entry on this right here:
    http://blackandreformedministries.com/2008/10/24/a-case-against-the-quarrelsome-christian-how-a-christian-is-to-handle-opponets/

    people will be able to tell if we have peace kindness & faith that God will work… or if we have pride, intolerance, turmoil & frustration as we put pressure on ourselves to do the working….

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  • my friends, thanks for so many of the thoughts you have shared… i always am thankful for this crazy little community out here…lots of things have been stirring up in me over the past few days since i hit “publish”- the initial feeling for me is always “why’d you have to go and share that…did they really need to know?” and then the other one has been this weird sense of peace, a God kind of feeling that just settles in somewhere and makes a difference. thanks for listening and for challenging me, too, to see this from all kinds of different angles, too. that’s the idea of community.

    mark – yeah, i know this moment, not so much with family but when people have some up to me, “don’t you think it’s so great that this church is doing that or this?” and i want to yell and scream and shake them “don’t you see what an utter waste of money all that is?” but love in the moment is the option. love doesn’t mean agreeing. i don’t think we are supposed to change our convictions–they are far too deep and we’d be big fakes if we did. but love does mean respecting we see it quite differently, maybe resisting the shaking and screaming, and listening well instead.

    pops – oh how i always love your voice here!! i so appreciate what you are saying and get it. it helps me clarify something really important here: i do believe the institution needs to be spoken against. i do. there are too many injustices and wacky things that hurt people going on to just go “well, good for them, let them do their thing and we’ll just do ours…” Jesus modeled this in all kinds of ways, primarily against the religious systems that were made up of people who had hardened their hearts toward the ways of the kingdom. matthew 23 is extremely powerful. whoa. or should i say woe. i could not be me and not continue to speak out against what i believe are harmful practices and systems that perpetuate spiritual harm. i know some might say “well, it works for them” and i’d still say “just because it ‘works’ doesn’t mean doesn’t make it the best idea” and we are all entitled to our different opinions. Jesus shook up the status quo. and i do believe we are in a season in the life of the church where the status quo needs to be rocked more than ever (and don’t you worry, i’ll keep stirring the pot and rockin’ the boat!) i just might shift a bit of my energy in a more forward direction because that is the place i am wanting to live in at this stage of the journey & want as much of my focus to be on what could be…not just in words, but also in actions, things we are experimenting with here in community that i believe we are learning so much from. LOVE what you are saying about humility when it comes to the bigwigs. no one thinks twice about it, do we? hmmmmm. i was telling some good friends yesterday, man, we put up with human & social injustices all around us everyday in all kinds of ways like they are nothing, we are oblivious to them, but say some negative things about the church and LOOK OUT, that is the thing that gets people outraged. i am thinking there’s something wrong with that. sorry for the novel here, pops, thanks always for who you are and how you share. it’s lovely.

    randi – thanks. it is good to have all kinds of perspectives on this blog. the diversity will always cause us to think!

    tracy – oh it was great to hear from you. i had just thought yesterday “i miss tracy” out here and checked your blog to see if maybe you were writing again and maybe i had missed it. oh yeah, the right word is definitely ‘unfinished’!! lots of processing going on that is for sure. last year erin word wrote something about blogging as a spiritual discipline and i think there’s really something to that. you know, it’s sort of wacky what God uses to keep moving in our lives. kind of wild. tons of love to you.

    jeff – yeah, it was great hanging out with you and shelby and josh! i love what you said here about it being hard to discern between righteous anger & personal wounding. i think that’s what pops is talking about and phyllis too and so many others that i have conversations with. and i so agree. this does take a lot of discernment and God’s help because i do not want to lose the righteous anger–it is too important–but the healing and releasing from wounds, that is a different story. i do think there are always layers to the process and that’s what’s happening here for me–and so many others. we all need grace for the process!

    tara – oh how i love your heart and who you are. yep you get it in so many ways. we are all learning so much, what to let go of, what to hold on to. thanks for joining me at the table 🙂

    beth – of course! no question, i am always happy to have any of those kinds of conversations. i hate people feeling so alone and crazy. i hope your colorado trip was awesome and that next time, denver’s your stop.

    erin – thanks my friend. right back at you. glad we’re all in this crazy boat together. who knew?

    helen – thanks for the clarification. we have always been giving credit in the wrong place 🙂 the thought is such a great thought and it’s so funny how contrary it is to so much of the way many have been taught in church–that right is right is right and that was that. i am so glad you got to come hang out with us in denver and i really think your voice is such an important one in conversations about faith & life. you have a way of shooting things very straight with kindness and respect.

    sage – i don’t know, sometimes like being ‘kinda right” 🙂

    mike – welcome, glad you found it, and i look forward to hearing from you here! where’d you hear about it?

    elizabeth – oh it was fun meeting you and getting to know more of you and your heart and journey. looking forward to staying in touch and you can provide an insiders view on lots of things here…happy writing.

    steve – hope you have fun camping. i appreciate your voice here, too. yep, we all pull in different directions and that is how we learn. thanks for sharing and for your heart for the church. i look forward to many more good discussions in the future!

    azjoy – thanks for sharing and i think you speak to something so important–and pops said it, too–what if on the whole the ‘church’ just took a more humble stance in terms of all kinds of things there would be far less hurt. we can disagree on all kinds of things but love and respect and honesty and kindness, oh if those were present, there wouldn’t be so much woundedness out there. i really love your powerful words about reconciliation or rightness…i am learning, too, though, that reconciliation doesn’t always mean that there will be restored relationship. i can’t wait to hang out in december, so much to talk about!

    john – oh you make me laugh. i’m glad we can be nutty heretics together…thanks for bailing water & rowing out to rescue the drowning. i hope we get further and further away from the ship so we only hear the band playing on from a distance…

    mike – yeah, it’s all the same kind of systems, eh? i guess because all systems are made up of people. i do really agree with the combination of good and bad. we all are always both. nothing’s all bad, nothing’s all good. the biggest question i think we need to wrestle with is what peacemaking looks like. i loved seeing gandhi in action in the movie, that resistance is not actively fighting but refusing to submit to unjust systems. that is how change took place. hmmm, lots to think about, but i think what you are hitting on is exactly the point of this post–seeing the good and seeing the bad and recognizing they’re both mixed up in there and there are good hearts on all sides trying to live out faith in all kinds of ways.

    phyllis – ah, my friend, i know what you are saying. i agree with you, too, that the anger is good, it’s propelling, it’s a natural emotion and that so many of us have been taught to put it down and not listen to it. i am listening to it. i will keep listening to it. i think my anger is what has moved me to any kind of growth i’ve had in the last few years, no doubt, and i will not push it down, i promise! just trying to keep directing it in the right way so that i can be the change i want to see. hold my feet to the fire, girl!

    randi – lots of what you’re saying of course is true for you but i think there’s always a little tad of the reality that we all experience God a little differently. i’d say the holy discontent, the stirring, the passion is actually what moves me more than joyfulness…it’s not that i’m not happy, i am so happy about where i currently am in my journey, i absolutely love our community & the things God is up to in me personally through it and corporately as a body. but i do think that dissonance is good, a holy stirring that sort of keeps us up at night. this is how we are all wired differently and experience God differently. i like that. i think the danger can always be (and some of us have experienced this in action) that we assume when we are wrestling and doubting and struggling and questioning that somehow we’re not being faithful enough. that is a common subtle (or sometimes direct) message that has been sent to some of us and can cause all kinds of trouble! i don’t think that’s necessarily what you are saying at all, i am just saying that is sometimes how i might interpret some of those kinds of statements–frustration is good, anger is good, unbelief is good, doubt is good. they force us to connect with God and ourselves in ways that sometimes need connecting. thanks again for your thoughts here!

    jenn – oh i hope one of these days that is a reality and we can get to have a real conversation!

    pops – yeah, i think you are hitting on something really important–that in our kindness we don’t compromise some deeply held beliefs. i think it’s much more a matter of respect and kindly disagreeing and seeing things very differently but coming from a place of love instead of ugliness.

    sage – we need another theology pub soon! so much to talk about…

    randi – i will check out the link later. and i really agree with you “there needs to be a better balance between knowledge (being right) and love (kindness).

    Reply
  • yeah I would never want you to interpret my words as trying to tell you that you weren’t being faithful enough. In fact, I honestly most of the time am just talking in general terms and not talking about you or to you specifically at all. Just trying to figure out this ‘group’ that is so against ___ I don’t even know what you’re against haha or what you call yourselves. I’m just so ignorant in all this — which is why I’m here and trying to figure out what the heck this is all about because it really is a different distinct ‘group’ that you all are in, isn’t it? hahaha…. sorry I probably sound so ridiculous….

    I never felt that you weren’t being faithful enough. and I have many of the same frustrations/anger but for different reasons so I love seeing those thoughts too…

    I do not think that lack of faith is what causes holy discontent…. that discontent is just knowing there’s something better… stretching ourselves more and that’s great…

    I believe holy discontent and wanting to move to be more christlike is a great thing… but my ‘issue’ tends to be what we do with that discontent. Do we become bitter, controlled by emotion, fear and hatred rather than becoming merciful, peaceful, and controlled by the Spirit…..

    I question those with critical spirits filled with turmoil/anger for different groups…. because isn’t that what those same people are speaking against?

    There seems to be this group that doesn’t like systems/specific groups of people because of the way these systems generalize and stereotype and speak down to people that are unlike them… but this group that is rebelling against the system often time begins to do the very same thing they originally didn’t like in the group they are rebelling against…. so it confuses me….

    I don’t think we ourselves can change others when we are critical, condemning or judging…. actually I don’t think we can change anybody at all, ever. that’s God’s job… but what I mean is I don’t think that God can ever use us when we’re overcritical… when we’re bitter… or when we let the anger get the best of our and act out of our emotion.

    Who will listen to anybody that comes at them swinging? If somebody comes attacking…. very clearly, that group will be on the defensive and try to stick up for even more what they believe in….which is what the pharisees did…..

    but I want to know if anybody knows if Jesus sought out the pharisees and religious leaders to show them their ways?? ….. no He very much just did His own thing didn’t He? When they questioned Him, He would answer and very clearly point out their hard hearts & wrong motives and all that……. but He didn’t seek them out to argue… or stand in the street yelling about them did He?… I don’t know the answer — but I haven’t found a place in my readings yet that shows that He goes seeking to argue with them, debate them or even bring them up to rail against them……. He didn’t even care to pay attention to them. He didn’t come to speak out agaisnt them…… He came to speak FOR Truth and came for the sinners & those who were not ‘leaders’… that’s who He put His focus on right?

    Sometimes we get so caught up in movements and falling in love with them… we don’t just fall in love with Him…. but ultimately He is enough isn’t He? I do believe that a side effect of losing our focus on Him is hatred & bitterness.

    but doesn’t change occur when we pull others to us… not push them to be better? The old adage of trying to push a string – it just doesn’t work. You have to pull…. by being the change you want to see and then inspiring others by example and sometimes words.

    So put simply, I just want to figure out how to have this discontent and use it as fuel for good change…. rather than fuel to a fire of anger & hatred & condemnation of people who do things differently…

    Jesus got angry yes…. but He saw right through people’s actions to their hearts. Once again, what was wrong was their hearts. they missed the target. They missed falling in love with God because they were focused on a way of doing or not doing things. They kept themselves far away as possible from people different from them….

    but Jesus didn’t dispute their orthodoxy did He? from what I know, He spoke against the proud & unloving way they upheld it. their hearts…. what others couldn’t judge.

    I’m just not sure any one group has the ‘right’ to rail against any other group for the way they do things…. right or wrong comes down to an individual’s hearts, intentions, motives & things unseen…. not rituals, actions, or structures..

    and I don’t think that you, specifically, kathy are wrong in anything you do/feel….I love your heart and very clearly admire you. my thoughts just sort of end up on your blog becuase you’re willing to let me put them here…. but my thoughts really are a result of reading lots of different blogs of people rebelling against parts of the Body. and this is my response to all that….

    you all know a lot that I don’t, experienced a lot I haven’t…. which is why I want to learn, show me more… bring it on! 🙂 I want to figure out what in the heck is so wrong that you all have seen. I do want to understand.

    Reply
  • Kathy, sooo much said here already. I just want to add what happened to me today. I was having coffee + discussion w/friend who is still very much inside the IC. He was relating how his pastor (my former pastor as well) did this huge humble thing and said how he yelled at his kid. My friend was blown away by that. So, I’m asking him, why is THAT such a unique thing for his pastor to do? Why aren’t pastors more real, more often about their lives and struggles. Instead of presenting everything as the finished product.
    THEN, I tell him about this DIFFERENT kind of a Pastor who tells us (wife Joy, friend Stacy and I) in parking lot outside OTML how sometimes she wakes up wondering if it isn’t all BS. I often feel the same way. I told him that and asked, why aren’t more pastors like that?
    All I can say is, keep doing what you are doing…

    Reply
  • THEOLOGY PUB?

    YEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWW!

    WHERE?
    WHERE?

    We had Nicky Vujicic at the pub this morning – I’ll post a blog about it soon – it was the first time he has been told he is too tall – he couldn’t walk around on the bar counter because he would have bumped his head, so he had to stay on one end of the bar – too funny!

    But seriously, Kathy, a theology pub: is that like what we are doing here?

    Reply
  • Pops, we haven’t had one for a while, we go out for drinks and talk theology. We don’t have a regular home for ours now, thesarcasticlutheran holds one in Denver once a month.
    Randi, “we” are not a coherent group, just random knuckleheads who have found friends in values, experiences, and conversation. One way to look at this-
    You don’t have to answer here, but think about your middle school years. Were you one of the popular ones? Or were you not? I was not. Got pushed down the stairs, slammed into lockers, and attacked many days on my way home from school. Was that my fault? since I didn’t know any better how to handle things at that age, no. High school was less violent but no more popular for me. I found friends who didn’t fit in to the IN group, we were diverse but at least we had that in common.
    Many of the contributors here have had an unpopular middle school like experience inside of Church (I personally have not). so some licking of wounds does go on. If that was all there is, this would be very uninteresting to me. I can see that we really do love Jesus, care about the bride of Christ, and work for the kingdom of God.
    .
    While being in opposition to something can bring people together for a time, it is always a bad identity. You are forever locked in a relationship with the thing you are opposed to. That is why there is so much value to keep working toward how to bring the kingdom of God every day, which some days includes talking about what doesn’t work, and why.

    Reply
  • Sage —

    Interesting parallel about the ‘in’ crowd in school….I can sort of see how it might be a bit relevant to churches….

    and I can think of an example in schools that is a parallel for my thoughts on the out crowd. I remember some of my friends talking bad about… and filled with soo much anger because of how the in crowd looked down on people who didn’t wear a & f…. They defined themselves by abercrombie & fitch. I remember a friend was like, “I can’t believe how much they care about clothes. They really care so much what each other wears. It’s like you’re not allowed to hang with them unless you wear a & f. I can’t stand anybody who wears a & f.”

    and I remember speaking to him later about this. In paying attention to their clothes and being sure to never wear anything they would… he himself was doing exactly what he didn’t want to do. He was mad at them for paying attention to clothes & for judging others who weren’t like them…. but what was he doing? The exact same thing. He focused so much on clothes – to make sure he never looked like them. He would never talk or even accept as a friend somebody who did wear A & F. He started judging people by their clothes as well. Started judging others by what they did or did not wear and wouldn’t accept others (out of fear, or fear of rejection or just out of principle) that weren’t like him. He became the exact same thing he hated.

    So that’s the parallel I’m seeing.

    I’ve heard it said once that we can’t hate in others what we don’t have in ourselves. I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

    and I’ll go ahead and tell you since you shared a bit of your story…. I was always intentionally in & out. I remember on my wedding day how crazy it was looking at my mixmatch of friends. The only thing they all had in common was our love for them…. they all didn’t have anything in common to each other at all and couldn’t relate. such a hodge podge. I never understood (and still to this day don’t) the divisions we create. I don’t get all the discord that is created among people and the need to split into defined groups we can claim to be part of. I’m not anything but me. I don’t get the need to have a definite and clear ‘group’ to be a part of.

    Many times even now I find myself neither in nor out or any group or way of doing things…. because of my compassion for the out and in alike. I can relate to all and take each person as an individual not define them by who they hang with or how they even define themselves. I believe that I am blessed to be amphibean like because I love everything and have a wide range of interests so just love talking to people about anything….

    what you said here:

    “While being in opposition to something can bring people together for a time, it is always a bad identity. You are forever locked in a relationship with the thing you are opposed to.”

    yes… that’s what I was trying to say before about creating anti-idols… and making what we’re against our idol vs. making what we’re FOR (Jesus) our idol. The point is — what is the focus? I love how you wrote this.. thank you!

    I agree that talking about things that don’t work & why is a great thing…. I would just hate to take the cat out with the trash.

    I would hate to make the mistake of judging a person’s heart or maturity by those around them. I would hate to judge a person’s motive or maturity by what they do or do not do 1 day a week. I’d love to hear more critiques on actual structures, systems, power issues, etc. etc….. but often times I don’t hear that. I just hear a “those people” type condemnation.

    thanks so so much for your attention/words as always. I appreciate so much you taking time for me.

    thanks!!!!!!

    Reply
  • Hi Sage! ::waving::
    I wanted to chime in the conversation, specifically usisng the middle school analogy, as I think it is a really powerful one. Bouncing off of Sage’s analogy, I also think that others who find themselves in this aftermath of church pain may identify with where I came from. For me, the angle that this whole crazy church ride has impacted me on the popular end of pendulum. Being known ( at least at the surface level) & respected & sought after in many church settings is having arrived in the Christian circles. Somehow, in the midst of meeting after meeting about what the church should be doing, i.e, loving, serving, being, and seeing first hand & a birds eye view about what is really not happening, things begin to shift. I started to wonder why we are talking about loving people unconditionally, but there are types of people that would never ever feel comfortable in my church. I questioned how money was allocated, when I was pretty sure we were commanded to care for each other. Since I was very immersed & emeshed in this culture for about 10 years, I can see how easy it is to buy into all of hype, the lights, the money raising campaigns for things that do not feed people on any level, and the steps that it takes to “arrive.” Being not too far removed, I can, at times, have grace for those who are still in that world, and nibble from my slice of humble pumpkin pie. However, for me, the scales fell from my eyes, and I, for one, want to really really live out the ways that I have been talking about for so long. I can’t go back to what it was, as I know to much now, but I can move forward & see what is in store. Hope that helps clarify a little more in the journey.

    Reply
  • I liked that link Laurie. It was a good entry. seemed like an extreme example of what you all here are agaisnt – but I guess big buildings like that are going up everywhere? I don’t know. It would be interesting to see how much of a % of their money that church body does spend on missions in their community and beyond vs. the building….

    you all are against way more than big buildings right? it’s more than that right? is it just about how church bodies allocate their money? (which is a huge deal, I’m not saying it’s not)

    I’m so sorry Kathy for taking over your comment section. I’m beginning to feel bad about it…. I’ll shut up for a while after this post.

    Reply
  • I don’t know why my name changed from Randi 🙂 to randijo … but Randi 🙂 = randijo in case u all were wondering.

    weird…not sure what’s going on.

    Reply
  • Hi Stacy :waving back at you: yeah, once you get the depth of Jesus’ teachings, it is hard to “go back”.
    Laurie, nice link. that makes the case well.
    Randi- hi! my point was not actually about popularity, it was about PTSD.

    I just want to juxtapose a couple of your quotes-

    “but often times I don’t hear that. I just hear a “those people” type condemnation.”
    and
    ” …you all here are agaisnt – but I guess big buildings like that are going up everywhere?”
    and
    “you all are against way more than big buildings right? it’s more than that right?”
    I’m starting to feel like one of “those people” a little bit 🙂

    Basically, Jesus foretold that the temple would be destroyed, which it was in 70 AD, and that in the new covenant, the the house of God is within us. In Matthew and everywhere else he didn’t concern himself with creating more monuments, but in really laying out what it is to LIVE the kingdom of God. Matthew is a good read- try reading it like a story instead of in snippets. you’ll get the idea.

    Reply
  • no clue what PTSD is…

    and ur right I am purposely speaking in generalization of ‘this group’ and trying to figure out more about this group of people that is what I guess some are calling ’emerging’??

    sorry if I wasn’t looking at or speaking to any one individual… i’m just using anybody who will listen to learn more about this group.

    I AM trying to find out about the group — rather than finding out about you individually – though I’d love to find out about you all as well.

    I don’t define any one of you by the group…. but very clearly there’s a group out there rebelling and doing something different – so I want to figure out more about it…

    Reply
  • lol oh goodness gracious. after a long night with a throwing up boy – I just came back to look at my previous comments and realized I am doing exactly what I usually do not do…. I am feeling the need to learn more and define this ‘group’ and it’s not necessary…

    I will retreat quietly for a while and leave you all be.

    thanks for entertaining my thoughts & questions!

    Reply
  • Hahahahah, RandiJo

    *in jovial mood*
    How do you see me as part for this group?

    For one, I live thousands of miles away and the chances of me ever meeting the folk that comment here is practically zip!

    Secondly, and I am assuming alot here but I think a lot of the folk commenting here are also very far apart.

    So, apart from sharing my thoughts and ideas, I am not part of any group uness you consider this airwaves internet thing a group? But then again, you have no clue whether I am actually who I say I am because unless we meet up, you will never know!

    I, as well as the other contributors may even be Kathy just writing under different names!
    🙂

    But, the thing that draws me back is the honesty expressed here by a large number of folk but not just the honesty about what has happened, and perhaps continues to happen, but also how they address the way forward despite what has happened or is happening.

    I do not look at these blogs as a ‘teaching’ place or a ‘home’ or a replacement for ‘church’ but rather a sounding board and a sharing board from many perspectives and people.

    As the Body of Christ is the real Church, then these folk are part of that Body and I respect that and I respect their opinions because they help me to see things from a different perspective.

    They also help me, stuck out here in the bush, that I am not alone in my situation – from both perspectives, that is, some are in the same boat but some are not and never have been.

    It broadens my horizons in other words and compels me to think beyond just me and my little situation and it helps to consider the thoughts and opinions of other people, with whom I can not express anger or frustration because after all, in a sense they are just another avatar! so I find it a stretching exercise and like any exercise, it may be painful no and then but eventually, it brings me relief!
    Which is really no wonder because Jesus lives in and through them and so, what else can I do but rejoice in their interaction, which is interaction with my Lord!

    Phew, sorry abut the length there 🙁 ))

    Reply
  • Pops,
    I know you all are very much in different places and are in different parts of The Body…… but very clearly, many of you here are part of a movement… and that is what I’m trying to learn about. That movement…. I am just trying to figure out what this movement’s beliefs are and what connects you all…. why this movement is formed, in what shapes it takes, and what fault people in this movement have found from whatever they have moved from.

    but clearly I haven’t done a good job of asking the right questions the right way so let me clarify:
    a) I haven’t phrased something right if my words insinuated in any way that I thought you all knew each other offline or were part of the same part of the Body. I very much realize many of you are not near each other. but you do some common ground/connection that I’m trying to figure out — but still don’t really get…

    b) I clearly have made the mistake of talking to individuals and asking questions of individuals — but asking them to speak for a bigger movement – which is basically impossible and wrong of me so I’m sorry to try to simplify a very vast & huge & diverse movement..

    It’s amazing to me how my words were interpretted way different than what I was trying to say hahahah funny… that’s the internet for ya!

    So I apologize for getting kathy’s blog way off track. For me this IS a place to learn and stretch…. but now I will continue to learn just by reading blogs instead of trying to make more interaction since I clearly do a horrible job of getting across what’s on my heart in a clear & succinct way haha….

    but mostly I have decided I will just choose to be intentionally oblivious of the discord I sense and just try to be the change I want to see and let God do the rest….

    thanks again for your responses! out

    🙂

    Reply
  • I don’t like internet communications either! 😉 but here we are anyway.
    PTSD- used here in a “pop” sort of way
    http://depression.about.com/od/glossary/g/ptsd.htm
    we are not in one movement or group, and the Refuge does not call itself “emerging church” but it is that to some people. since you brought it up and are curious about it I highly reccommend-
    http://www.amazon.com/Great-Emergence-Christianity-resources-communities/dp/0801013135
    I do hope your son is better today, and that you can get some sleep.
    best wishes,

    Reply
  • thanks for those links Sage.

    I have something to say.

    God has laid it on my heart my need to apologize if I have come across unsympathetic to the real & deep wounds some have had to endure from others…

    I was just sitting here thinking about Jesus and God laid this on my heart so I wanted to share:

    One good that can always come out of suffering & struggle is an increased capacity for empathy. Empathy, understanding and compassion are such key components of loving others and being relatable, of being accepting and comforting to those hurting…. rather than judgemental, impatient or unmerciful.

    Jesus is the most empathetic & compassionate person ever because He has gone through the most struggle & suffering a million times more than we ever will.

    His capacity for empathy is beyond comprehension.

    what a Savior He is!!!!!! and what comfort He has left for us!

    I am sorry that my lack of wounds & suffering & struggle in these areas has caused me to lack empathy….

    on another note…. isn’t it okay to pray for God to give me an increased capacity for empathy & understanding for others… without having to go through the struggle/wounds!?

    I think that is part of my motive to want to learn from others who have been hurt. I’d rather learn from other’s experiences and burns then be burnt myself!!

    I’m sorry again to take up kathy’s comments here….. I keep telling myself I’m going to shut up for a while. But I just wanted to express this Truth that God spoke to me and apologize.

    Reply
  • oh boy, i can’t keep up! sorry i am behind but i love that some of you are carrying on a great conversation without me, that’s always the idea here!

    randi – oh so much there and that is why blog commenting communication is sometimes so hard & i think the other comments by pops and sage are helpful in fleshing things out in different ways. i think what you are seeing/experiencing on blogs is a movement of people who are just mixing it up and longing to live out the ways of Jesus in all kinds of ways that might be counter to where they came from or some of the institutions that have long held a lot of power and influence. that’s really all. and whether we know or experience it personally or not, any movements away from status quo always are met with some resistance. every pioneer who left for the west left with a dream and in some ways some kind of hope for the future. i don’t think we can lump everyone together and i think that’s your point–every institution is not messed up. every pioneering group is not angry. i do not personally want to be associated with any one “group” because then all kinds of assumptions get made that aren’t necessarily accurate. i am glad that you feel safe enough here to ask the questions you are asking. i am not sure, though, you’ll get all the answers. some will come with time & the truth is that we are all experiencing a season of christianity where huge shifts are taking place that are rocking all of our world and causing a lot of disorientation for so many.

    jim – oh i know this exact conversation, i have heard it before, too. i am so with you, why should that be foreign????? crazy. can’t wait to hang out with you guys in december. sounds like you had a good gathering on sunday 🙂

    pops – yeah, we used to do now and then and i like to go to nadia’s but it is hard to pull off sometimes on a weeknight. sounds like you guys have a really fun thing going here. yeah, i do promise that the only comments i make are kathyescobar ones 🙂 i am with you, though, that i do not like being identified as any part of one group. i just like to think of myself as one of many on the journey, that’s all. and that’s why i like blogs because we get a lot of different perspectives that stir up conversation and thoughts and change. no one out here is “right”, that’s so not the idea, but i am glad so many are risking putting their thoughts out here so we can all chew on it.

    sage – so many great thoughts here. thanks for sharing.

    stacy – ah, when the scales fall off our eyes (and that looks different for everyone) it is very freeing and also very scary. now what??? that’s the question so many of us wrestle with & i for one am really glad that you are willing to risk your heart a bit, as terrifying as that might seem, and dream a bit about what could be…

    laurie – i will check it out…thanks!!

    randi – just wanted to say thanks for sharing what God layed on your heart. i do believe in 2 corinthians 1, that we comfort others with the comfort that we’ve received. we all have our own stories, some of us find ourselves in this crazy church one and others have a different journey. you will never be able to know exactly this story no matter how hard you try to understand it, and that’s okay. that just is. it’s just like i don’t know what it feels like to be divorced, but so many of my other friends unfortunately intimately know this pain and sometimes are the best ones to love that person. but compassion & love we can pass on no matter what. thanks for being so willing to put your heart out there, it is lovely.

    Reply
  • Hello Kathy,

    Minnowspeaks has been raving about your blog to me for months now, and I finally had a chance to check it out. Besides the awesome masthead, you’ve got a way with words that makes me feel like you’re sitting right next to me in this internet cafe which I’m typing at, resting your weight on the arm of the brown leather sofa next to my big, comfy chair, and sipping from your tall, skinny, double-latte with just a titch of hazelnut. OK – hope I just haven’t freaked you out. In any case, I really enjoyed your post about humble pie — especially the part about feeling kind of awkward in some Christian circles. I know what you mean, or, as the Italians say, “I have felt that on my skin.” It’s a weird feeling — knowing that my faith is the most authentic it’s ever been, and yet, the people in those circles would probably see me as some quasi-church-goer who really hasn’t gotten it yet. Isn’t growth grand?

    Thanks for the great posts. I look forward to reading more. With your permission, could I add you to my blogroll at radicallyauthentic.wordpress.com? Thanks, Kathy.

    Shelby

    Shelby recently completed her first book, “Church Picnic: How God Saved Me from My Religion,” which you can read at http://www.shelbyhumphreys.com.

    Reply
  • hi shelby! glad to have your voice around here. i love connecting minnow from afar and hope one of these days we all do get to sit across the table from each other for a real conversation 🙂 of course on the blogroll and i will check out your site for sure. the book sounds great!

    Reply

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