waking up

i have come to see that america is in danger of losing her soul, something must happen to awaken the dozing soul of america before it is too late.

– martin luther king jr.

what a week it’s been.  a historic election that none of us will ever forget.  a sense of hope & purpose & we-ness that hasn’t been felt in a long time by so many (i realize there are some that don’t feel that way and i understand, but the reality is that no one can deny that something big & powerful is really happening in our country with people coming together across race & socioeconomics & religion & all kinds of other ways like never before).  i myself have been in a bit of a fog, lots happening around here with kids birthdays & refuge parties & crazy escobar chaos and so some of what happened last week is a bit of a delayed reaction for me, and i am just catching up.  we finally watched obama’s acceptance speech last night (and mccain’s concession speech as well) and i definitely continue to feel this wonderful sense of excitement about “what could be.”

i know there are so many out there who say that we aren’t supposed to put our hope in a person but solely in God.  i agree with them on one level; i am one of the most anti-hero-worship people i know.  i do not worship barack obama. i am glad he became our president for all kinds of reasons, but i do not put my hope in him.  what i do believe, however, is that for whatever reason something is happening in the hearts of people that can’t be ignored, something beautiful, powerful, hopeful, and risky & scary, too.   you see, i think people are actually “waking up.”   a stirring is happening, a rumbling, a deep desire for change & equality & diversity & caring for the poor and marginalized & loving our neighbor for reals &  coming together in true community & all kinds of other in-the-image-of-God ways.

while there are many out there who have been waking up for a long time, there are also others who have maybe been sleeping for a while, settling for the status quo, letting the tides wash them in and out and not really believing that something might ever shift.  maybe a little stuck, paralyzed.  maybe a little (or a lot) hopeless. maybe just sure that any real change in their lives, in their churches, in the world, is just too complicated and will require way too much work so why even bother.  oh it is so easy to live there. i know it well, that feeling of seeing a hill ahead and having that sense of “there’s no way around this so let’s just forget it now before we even take one step toward it.”   so we go back to sleep.  the dreams, desires, hopes get re-buried, lying dormant somewhere in the crevices of our heart and we continue our slumber, hoping that they won’t pop back up and cause us more trouble again.

but i think God is in the wake-up business.  i think what many are experiencing right now in response to the nation’s election is more than just “obama hype” (although i am sure that some of that is in there).  i personally think it is something deeper, a desire for community, change, voice, hope, diversity & unity that God created in people from the very beginning.   i think this stirring just happens right now to be reflected in politics instead of the church, that’s all.  and personally i am so excited that this awakening is happening in such a tangible way for so many.  i think the question that i am asking myself and i hope that others are asking, too, is “what is God waking up in my heart?” is it a call to step into something i’m afraid to step into? is it a call to relationship?  healing?  community?  serving?  moving?  leading?  changing?  waiting? is it clear or is it fuzzy? how can i participate in the movement of God in my own life, my own family, my own community?  i know people are all over the map on this one, but i do honestly hope that in this next season we become more and more in tune to what God might be waking up inside of us and be willing to act on it.  take the risk.  step out into some weird and wild wilderness and give something a try no matter how stupid it might feel.  do something rather than nothing.  grab someone else’s hand and say “i need you to help me stay awake so i don’t let this idea, dream, hope pass me by.”

in all of us is a tendency toward the path of least resistance.  and that path will usually lead us to status quo, stagnancy, staying-the-same-because-at-least-we-know-what-it’s-like-here. i think that’s why so many people stay in jobs they don’t like, churches they are bored in, and circumstances that are safe and predictable no matter how unfulfilling.  real change takes some pretty serious energy & i am just wondering how many of us, when we are really honest, struggle with believing that God will take good care of us if we step out into the wild unknown & risk our hearts to hope?  i know that i sometimes feel that way, no doubt. but one thing i am clinging to, maybe more than ever before, is that life is short.  and i want to know that in whatever time God gave me that i was a person who did my best to stay awake & participate in this one short life i was gifted with.  i do believe the world gets changed one little life at a time & that the kingdom isn’t something that is impossible to taste, experience, participate in in the here-and-now.  it is right before me.  right before you.  i want to keep waking up to be part of it.

early last year, my friend sage gave me this rumi poem that always lingers:

For years copying other people, I tried to know myself
from within I couldn’t decide what to do.
Unable to see, I heard my name called
and then I walked outside
the breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you
don’t go back to sleep.
you must ask for what you really want
don’t go back to sleep.
people are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
the door is round and open.
don’t go back to sleep.

he had given it to a friend with a bottle of no-doze (i have to admit, it brought back some college flashbacks of those all-nighters & my use of legalized speed).  but in all honesty, i think if i had a little gift to give us right now when it comes to any form of “awakening” that God might be stirring up in us, it would be a bottle of no-doze, a reminder to not go back to sleep.  to keep opening our minds, our hearts, our hands, our feet, our lives to what could be, whatever that looks like for each one of us, individually, corporately. i’d love to hear some of your thoughts.

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.

21 Comments

  • I also refer to all that’s happening as a “wake up call”. I really believe this instant is a great opportunity for The Body to make a big move. It’s apparent people are ready, craving, looking, seeking, aching, wanting, ready to help, ready to make a difference, ready to really love others different from us….. and we as the Church know who created us to make us like that. We know who is the only one that can fill those longings long term. and we know we are called to help people cross that bridge to Him. 🙂 let’s do it exactly where we are, who we are in this moment. bloom where you’re planted sort of thing, right? 🙂

    awesome stuff Kathy, thanks 🙂

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  • Kathy,
    The theme of change is running so deep in so many areas (spiritually, emotionally, economically, etc.) that it really isn’t much of a surprise that Obama was elected. (I’m still an honest skeptic about whether this is the specific change we needed, but still, it’s change.) If nothing else, it is rattling the cage for the future. And if God is the One behind the change, who am I to argue with that? He is certainly behind the change in other areas of our lives.

    At any rate…I very much relate to the need to wake up. We happen to live in an area that is very sleepy spiritually, so we are having to purposely tell ourselves to be awake, stirring our own hearts toward what God has for us. So I appreciate this little reminder from you, and hope you will stay in my ear.

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  • Kathy,
    This is beautiful…love it!

    “i do believe the world gets changed one little life at a time & that the kingdom isn’t something that is impossible to taste, experience, participate in in the here-and-now. it is right before me. right before you. i want to keep waking up to be part of it.”

    Amen! Great post, Kathy!

    Blessings,
    ~Amy 🙂
    http://amyiswalkinginthespirit.blogspot.com

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  • kathy, loved what you wrote. There is something electric and bigger than all of us going on. As a child of the 60’s I am especially excited to see all of the young people passionately involved in the changes. There is a healing going on that is hard to put words to it would be difficult to sleep through this. Pam

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  • Great thoughts kathy. I am hoping and praying that the church isn’t last to wake up to what God is doing.

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  • My three year old has quit taking naps. Even before she could talk she could see angels. I don’t know why this is what I thought of after I read your post but thank you for the encouragment.

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  • randi – i really like what you said here “It’s apparent people are ready, craving, looking, seeking, aching, wanting, ready to help, ready to make a difference, ready to really love others different from us.” yep!

    jeff – yeah, no doubt that there’s a definite rattling of the cages. keep that bottle of nodoze right in front of you, so much is ahead for you guys, i am excited to see what happens…

    amy – glad you connected with these thoughts. lots of stirring going ’round.

    pam – great to hear from you here, it’s been a long time since i’ve seen you! yeah, some of my friends who were around for that season have said the exact same thing. electric.

    grace – me too. i have my doubts, but we’ll see.

    minnow – beautiful….

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  • oooh.. this hit close to home…I personally feel as if I have been in a deep coma for too,too long. The scary/neat part about waking up is coming into awareness about the crevices of my heart that have repeatedly hit snooze…I am now starting to be honest about what it means to be alive, and my heart is getting so ready to come into the wild unknown of Colorado! ;)Yes, it is taking a lot of energy, and as I have been explaining to people, it does not make a ton of logical sense, but my heart is very much worth the risk. Here’s to hope for this summer & life-changing decisions. 🙂 🙂

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  • Kathy, once again, Thank You! That was wonderful. I feel, desire, and ache for that change as well. I am hopeful, but with some amount of scepticism as well. I see and hear how many react to the results of this election with hope and that sense of change and “Yes We Can”. I sooo feel that it is true. I soooo want to be a part of that.
    But, I also run into others who see this as the end of the world (or at least America). I’ve had one “friend” question my beliefs and tell me that I can’t beleive in the same God as he does if I voted for Obama. There was such judgement in that I can’t even explain it and I’ve become completely fed up with people believing only one candidate (a Republican one) would be a Godly choice. I’ve had to tell others, “if being a Christian means having to vote on that basis, then I guess I am not a Christian anymore”. There is so much of this I am fed up with arrrrrgh!
    Maybe it is just harder for us because we are in one of those red states. At least there is hope that others do see this as a time of change. Right now, I just wish I was there, cuz being here is hard.

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  • Jim, I sure heard Romans 13:1 served up to me a lot in the last 8 years. I wonder how they feel about applying that passage to themselves now? Yet, instead of throwing that back at somebody, it seems to me a great time to read Paul’s writings with an increasing amount of care and consideration, so that we might understand that better for all times, and learn what Paul is talking about.

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  • after reading Jim’s comment — it made me think of some things. Jim this is very much not directed AT you…. but your words just made me think so I had some more comments I wanted to add:

    I just wanted to say that I don’t think the election had anything to do with the state of people’s hearts & what is happening in the Body/country… my comment above was completely apart from politics.

    This political machine through a well orchestrated campaign just brought to the surface what was going on in people’s hearts and sort of put a magnifying glass on what had already been brewing and building up.

    I will support and pray and respect President Obama but I didn’t vote for him. I am pretty sure he should not even be in consideration for getting credit for creating any fire at all in any people — but instead through his charismatic speaking, he brought attention to it and again put a magnifying glass on it. He didn’t create, he drew out.

    God Himself is the one and only who created us to desire change, justice, freedom, peace, love and the desire to help others. He designed us like this. I just pray that people recognize this and crave for the change that only the Holy Spirit can do in our lives and not wait for some leader to bring change to us…. that power is in ourselves not any party or leader. Jesus very much did not use political power to transform others and to change the world — why do we always depend/wait on politics/government to do so for us?

    again Jim not in any way directed to you specifically — just what’s on my heart after reading that article & reading these comments.

    God bless! 🙂

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  • Randi, I appreciate that, and I do agree with what you said. I am thankful for people like you with that opinion and point of view. I do see that change of any sort is dependant upon each of us listening to God. Are each that mustard seed that Jesus talks about?

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  • stacy – yeah, the waking up is terrifying! it is much easier to sleep. but i do believe what God is stirring up must be listened to and of course we are excited that it means for us that our paths cross in such a glorious way 🙂

    jim – oh yeah i am so with you. it is hard to be in those conversations & i think what is most painful is this assumption about “godliness” and the things that get tacked to it. one of my daughter’s friends parents asked her how we could possibly vote for obama as a christian. why does that never work the other way? anyway, i feel your pain. it is frustrating, angering & can feel so lonely sometimes but that is why we need to continue to connect like this! see you guys soon.

    sage – i am with you that sometimes paul gets thrown around & has become so separated from the gospels that it can be really confusing. i like your ongoing take that the bigger picture & more reflection on paul’s intent, context, etc., in so many passages, must always be taken into consideration.

    randi – i appreciate the spirit in which you shared & definitely agree with you that it’s not obama that made this happen, he just tapped into something that i believe is/was already there, that’s it.

    thanks all for your thoughts here.

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  • Complacency!

    We get used to things being the way they are and we just slot into them and go along. Maybe a bit of rumbling to change but not that much – well not on the scale of a Zwingli or Luther.

    IMO:

    The trouble is that God never ever stops working out His plans and purposes. Never.

    We have a choice to slot into them or not. Somehow we got to thinking that if we weren’t doing it, it would not get done, but God works on regardless.
    Sure, He would really like us to be part of it, but there is no pressure on us to be part of it.

    Possibly what is happening now is that God has moved ahead and we are just waking up to see Him going over the horizon! So we have a lot of running to catch up with Him.

    Just my thoughts!

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  • Kathy — great thoughts here — I sense and see a rumbling and a yearning for change as well — I see this among Christians and church leaders who feel stuck, discontented, disillusioned, and dissatisfied with the way “church” is practiced…

    Folks are now questioning everything…causing some to get defensive and wish for the good old pre-change days; others to work harder doing the same things to stave off change; others to try to balance on the cutting edge, staying ahead of change; still others to copy the best change related practices; others to embrace change, any change, for change’s sake…

    Kind of makes you tired, doesn’t it? 🙂

    Perhaps the best advice is staying radically in tune with the One who holds the keys to the future…

    Key question is do we really trust the Waymaker to show us the way? Do we believe God has a unique path for us to follow, or do we simply follow the well worn paths that others have blazed, or are blazing?

    Think I need a nap now…

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  • Hmm… a friend and I were talking about something similar this afternoon at lunch. The idea that we were talking about was this: religion is very rigid about what we should believe, with no room for growth in understanding. I think Papa would like us to be more fluid in our thinking, more flexible, more willing to believe things that go against religious dogma, traditional theology and sometimes, even simple logic. And find peace that defies simple logic (passes understanding). More and more, I am seeing that Papa is not nearly as concerned with the things we were taught He was or even what we think He should be. To not settle in the place of new discovery – to keep the mind flexible for newer discoveries – that is, perhaps, the trick.

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  • I would imagine my comment might bring some negative feedback. But since this is offered from the safety of anonymous cyberspace, I’m going to be honest.

    The recent election did not and has not stirred me to see new possibilities. I wish it had. And no, I didn’t vote for the other guy. Maybe it’s depression. But I think it has to do more with being tired. And desensitized. Every day I’m bombarded by people wanting something from me. I go into Wal-Mart to buy something and am asked at the checkout to donate money for a Miracle Network. Go to a grocery store and am requested at the check out to donate monies for Toys for Tots. Take a stroll down Main Street and am asked to donate several times to different charities. Please don’t get me wrong. I realize how fortunate I am to even have the means to do the previously mentioned things. And I know that many, many can not.

    Like I said, I’m just tired. And with so many people with needs, asking for help at every turn, I’ve become blind to it. It’s become so overwhelming that I have shut down. I know, I know. What does that say about me as a person? As a person supposedly seeking God? I don’t have an answer to that.

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  • I would like to respond to Gina.
    I think I have similar feelings. There was literally dancing in the streets and fireworks, on election night, where I live. I do pray for positive change, but have had expectations destroyed before. Turning the “ship-of-state” will not be easy and many will try to block the path.
    I like time for prayer and study before I come alongside my neighbors, be they in Africa or next door. I too am weary of guilt-tripping commercialism of so called charity. I have watched those ahead of me in the check out lines and have often seen expressions like resentment. I hope we can find a better way to love our neighbors.

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  • status quo … to safe, way to safe for me!!! Living in the Kingdom is far more exciting!!!

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  • Gina — I think your experience is shared by many — there are more opportunities to do good things than ever. But with them comes the potential to become so scattered, knee jerk responsive, and overcommitted that our actions lose focus and become devoid of any real connection or meaning.

    Perhaps our greatest challenge today is tuning out all the “good” distractions that keep us from engaging in the unique, focused, localized, personalized, relationally connected missional life Christ has called us to lead?

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  • pops – i am so with you!!! i really like what you said here: “Possibly what is happening now is that God has moved ahead and we are just waking up to see Him going over the horizon! So we have a lot of running to catch up with Him.”

    steve – yeah, i think people are all over the place and it really can be tiring if we’re not careful. i love what you said here and i always associate the word “imagination” with you because i know you are so passionate about people really imagining and dreaming and cultivating new forms of church that are aligned with their specific mission, gifts, passion, etc. i do think that is the heart of this conversation, really, listening to what God is stirring up in each of us and being willing to take steps toward it.

    katherine – the idea that there are always new discoveries, to never settle, to never assume, to never think we have it mastered, to never rely on formulas or programs as the end-all-and-be-all, those are the ideas i want to lean into, too.

    gina – i so appreciate your honesty and glad that you took the time to share your thoughts. how’d you hear abour the carnival? what you are expressing, i think so many feel, and i do believe that the social activism thing, while very good and necessary, can get exhausting and confusing for so many. that is why i think it’s important to be clear for each of us individually what we are passionate about, alive to, willing to sacrifice for, and pour into that in whatever way we are able (sometimes it’s just a teeny weeny contribution because of our life circumstances) and be able to see what other people are doing or asking for or thinking we need to be part of and be clear enough to say “yeah, that’s not my thing, but this one is.” i do think we need to be careful that we do not grow weary in doing good, that we allow for room for wrestling & doubt like you are expressing, and not somehow assume that do-good-ing is somehow the arrival of our faith. so hard to have a real conversation over blog comments but thanks for sharing.

    doug – i really like what you said here. we need to be so careful not to get caught up in the next trend but to prayerfully seek God’s direction & what he is wanting us to consider.

    mark – i am so with you!!!!

    steve – i really like the words you used here: unique, focused, localized, personalized, relationally connected missional life…

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