"strap in, we're going down"

i got back last night from DC and the first tranFORM network gathering.  it was a great weekend in all kinds of ways, but of course by far the very best part were the people.  such kind, humble, passionate, nutty, real courageous men & women who love Jesus & people & have hope for the church. i won’t be able to recap all of the ins and outs of the weekend, but over the upcoming weeks hope to share what i can here and there.  for now, i was reminded that this path that i’ve chosen, we’ve chosen, is a path of descent not ascent.  it’s a path into the dark, ugly places in the human experience where we get to see hope & life & beauty in the strangest of places.

and while it’s a lonely path in some ways, it’s not in others–especially when we are connected to other friends-on-the-journey who are passionate and crazy enough to risk their ego, their pride, their educations, their salaries, their time, their hearts, their lives to create places for others to love & be loved.


i cannot recreate the experience for anyone, but i can share a few slices with you.  i did the opening session on friday morning, and you can watch it HERE (yes, i’ll never be able to say the word “stud” again without chuckling and i’m going to have to start collecting money in a jar for every time i use the word “hard”, ha ha).  the entire session was videoed, and just to prepare you, the rhythm is music, a video from brazil, my piece, about 10 minutes of everyone processing the thoughts, my closing,  then some q&a, and then last announcements before the break.

i’d love for you to interact with some of these thoughts, whether you were there or if you are just watching it for the first time.  i focused on 4 things we are learning after 4 years of this nurturing the refuge & entering into the wild on missional community cultivation:

  • this is a path of downward mobility, of descent not ascent
  • there is no us and them, only us
  • we must re-define success
  • we need networks of support & love

the other main sessions were also streamed, and so over the upcoming weeks if you’d like to be part from afar, check them out:

  • session 2 – peter rollins did a deep & powerful piece on faith & doubt. watch here.
  • session 3 – anthony smith–who is also on the transFORM team & is an amazing preacher–shared on the church as “hush harbors.”  it was incredibly inspiring. watch here.
  • session 4 – brian mclaren wrapped up the weekend with stories from africa & some very important reminders to “just do it…” when it comes to cultivating faith communities of justice, mercy & hope. watch here.

over the weekend i was on the panel of 2 workshops–the nuts & bolts of faith communities & ministry in the margins–so i’ll share a few fun stories at some point of both of them.

the bottom line for me is that i was deeply encouraged to meet more dear & dedicated followers of Jesus who are practicing the ways of love in their contexts and continually growing in what it means to “go down” into the dark & low places in this world, across faiths & socioeconomics & gender & a long list of things of other things that separate us.  down where grace and mercy and hope pool up in the strangest of ways.

thank you for being on this nutty journey with me; this weekend confirmed some good things inside of me that always need re-confirming, re-affirming, re-minding–this is work worth doing.  it’s freaking beautiful.  and it’s horribly ugly.  it’s a privilege to get to do it alongside of you in heart and spirit and mind–up close and personal here in denver and from far, far away through the weird & wild connections on the internet.   God is really fun, really wild.  peace & hope to each of you. you bless me in more ways than you know.

i’ll leave you with what i closed my piece with–what i think is Jesus’ heart not just for people individually, but collectively as well:

blessed are communities who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

blessed are communities who mourn, for they will be comforted.

blessed are communities who are meek,for they will inherit the earth.

blessed are communities who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

blessed are communities that are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

blessed are communities that are pure in heart, for they will see God.

blessed are communities that make peace for they will be called sons of God.

blessed are communities who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3-10


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.


  • I think you’re ok, Kathy, as long as you don’t use “stud” and “hard” in the same sentence. Oh yeah, I said it!

    Kathy, you used to be my little secret, but now everyone I know has heard you, and had their hearts changed by it. I’m living in a swirl of excitement about doing this love thing. Holding on to my hat!

    Thanks so much, for so much! <3 Angela

  • “strap in, we’re going down”….
    I immediately got the picture of the ride on top of the Stratosphere called the BIG SHOT. It shoots you straight up and then drops you straight down. And there’s a camera inside of the ride that takes a picture. I’m starting a collection of these photos of Tony–the look of hilarity and terror all in the same moment. So is this what this downward ride is….a combination of terror and hilarity?

    Excitment and….hardness?
    Ok, I’m in. 🙂

  • Just watched the first session (thanks for the link). There truly is hope–not hype, but hope.
    Thanks for sharing the reality, the pain, the joy, the value. So much resonates….
    I look forward to watching the other sessions.

  • Oh, this was so good. I love how being physically @ Transform was a cup of cool water for many, yet I even felt refreshed by watching & hearing.

    It *is* so very hard being in the trenches, and as it aproaches one year (!!) in this crazy/bee-au-tiful/wacky/oyster-like community, I was reminded.

    Reminded of how magical it is to see people learn to let themselves be loved, not just with words. To see new sparkles in eyes that were not present before.

    Reminded of my own weakness, and how the gospel lived out plays a role in my redemption; how caring about the words of Jesus matters.

    Love doing this nutty refuge life & I would so easily choose us all over again. Incredibly, assuredly, worth it. xo

  • I need a place like tranform to top up my tanks it seems but the miles are way too many.

    Kathy – your take on the Beatitudes should indeed be the mandate of all communities who declare the cause of Christ, thankyou.

  • Thank you for posting these ‘community beatitudes’ – I love that so much. I am astonished almost daily by how much more sense many parts of the Bible make to me once they are viewed in relation to the community rather than the individual. How much more can we experience God’s love, healing and changing power in our lives when we gather and allow ourselves in weakness and vulnerability to be God’s hands and voice to one another?

  • Kathy,

    One of the things I love about the inspired conversations of God found in the Bible is the ability for us to filter the meanings of those rich words through our own experiences as well as the intimate way in which those words examine us, purging the soul and transforming the mind.

    Your take on the Beatitudes is a prime example of how adding to the conversation a tiny bit can bring truths to light that need to be seen. The Word requires our involvement in the conversation doesn’t it?

    Thanks so much for “going public” with what God has shown you and continues to reveal to you and your friends at the Refuge and beyond.

  • Kathy – It was so great to see you in person at TransFORM this past weekend and I am looking forward to reading your thoughts about the weekend. I was overwhelmed with all the good stuff that was happening. In the midst of getting back home and doing all the catching up that is required I still haven’t had time to process everything. I have lots of notes, photos and memories to sift through as I also attempt to blog about what I saw.

  • angela – i will certainly try not to use them in the same sentence, but with me, you just never know what i might say unintentionally….love your heart and passion and am SO glad you were all there in DC. lots of beauty emerging in all kinds of ways. xo

    mary – okay that has to be a fun photo album. i am glad we’re going down together, my friend. let’s try to laugh as much as we can on the journey downdowndowndown.

    al – thanks for reading and watching and being part of the conversation here and at communitas. it is so great that somehow we can find hope together from afar through each other’s stories…

    stacy – yeah, the weakness thing wasn’t one that was taught very well to us, was it? glad we are learning together…

    mark – i thought of you there and wish you could have been there, so much beautiful hope for the kingdom lived out now. i always think of you and that word together.

    theexile – that was such a big shift for me when i started viewing the scriptures through the lens of communities instead of just me personally. that is a way under-utilized idea and so transformational–and the transformation is personal and corporate together when it happens…so glad you were there!

    john – it was a gift to meet you guys and be able to share in that time together. looking forward to staying in touch and hearing what God continues to stir up for all of us…

    liz – yeah, it was a gift just to be able to give you a hug and see your face after the past 2+ years of connecting from afar. love your heart and passion for the kingdom and am so glad that we are friends from afar…

  • Thanks for the links to the main sessions. I enjoyed listening to all of them, in spite of some spotty audio, but the best were definitely yours and Brian McLaren’s. Your voice is definitely a positive addition to this conversation.

  • I think your organizational chart is actually IN the Bible. Jesus definitely “came up from underneath”…or became a servant to those around Him…servant-leader. What I wish I could understand is His timing of when He “came up from underneath”. Did He come up underneath and support someone at their most desparate moment, during one of their “good moments”(and maybe capitalize on that, build momentum, keep them on their feet) or did He do both? I want to believe it was both…or as you would say staying in through the seasons or strapping in…not abandoning.
    Wanted to watch this again, one of my favorite talks of yours and one that made me want to “jump in” too and try to understand the “downward mobility”. And, as you know, am just wrestling with all of it and other stuff.
    Honestly, today, I emailed a professional colleague of mine(@ Regis) and just asked her if she had ever treated patients at Project Homeless Connect…she said, no…never even heard of it. I guess it just dawned on me that it’s always the same few PTs every time. Between that and listening to Circles out of Poverty guy…I don’t think a majority of the population even “bothers” with the poor…or even KNOWS about how to help/get involved. I hate that I don’t have resources to help others right now, but I have my hands so, maybe can keep doing that? I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem like enough.
    Unsure what is right anymore and well, not feeling that important…as you know.
    But, out of all the peeps I’ve evaluated and treated there(PHC), maybe a few got “better” or at least felt a “good touch” for a small amount of time.
    Maybe that’s it. Going down, planting seeds and trusting the Holy Spirit with the outcome.
    God bless you, Kathy. Please pray as I “wrestle”…feel like I’m at a crossroads…and, the fear is hell, rejection, making a mistake, a wrong turn and a whole lot of other things.


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