formation friday: noticing

formation friday noticing

twice a month at the refuge we have a gathering called “refuge advocates”, a time for learning, training, encouragement, and soul care for people who journey with people in hard places.  i love this group!  it is not just for refuge advocates but for friends from other churches & ministries, too, to come and have a space to process and learn together.  this past week we did a neighborhood prayer walk as part of lent & being more aware of what’s going on around us and inside of us at the same time.

oh, it was so pretty, what can happen with intentional quiet space and a little guidance.

it was also really hard, seeing what maybe we hadn’t seen before in new ways. the area where the refuge is located is in the suburbs but it is the ghetto of our town, on the other side of the railroad tracks, and the contrast between it and other parts of broomfield is really evident.

the exercise made me think of christine sine’s new book, return to our senses: reimagining how we pray.  i hope you’ll get a copy (i gave some as christmas presents this year. it is so good!) .it is centered on opening ourselves up to diverse and meaningful ways of connecting with God.  i love what she says in the book about prayer:

“Prayer is not about finding the right words to say to God, it is about becoming alive to the loving presence of God in each and every moment. It is about waking up to the fact that the love of God shines through every act, every object and every conversation. The speaking of words can become rote and repetitive, even boring at times, the developing of relationship requires flexibility, creativity and constant willingness to change and to grow. Anything that connects us to the love of God, or expresses our love for God is an act of prayer. Sights, sounds, tastes, smells, textures can all be acts of prayer that draw us into deeper intimacy with God.”

i love this reminder that anything that connects us to the love of God, or expresses our love for God, is an act of prayer.

we started our walk with this prayer:

God, help us see.

help us feel.

help us taste.

help us smell.

help us hear.

help us listen.

help us understand.

help us love. 

for our walk, we used the beatitudes as a guide and had some reflection questions to consider (yep, i’m a broken record). each one had a personal reflection in addition to what we noticed in the neighborhood as we were walking.  i thought i’d share it here today for formation friday and for those of you who might want to try it, even if in the comfort of your own home, as a practice of “noticing” and tuning into our hearts and what we are wrestling with and also what’s around us in prayer.

blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness ,for they will be filled.
blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
– Matthew 5:3-10

as you walk, notice:

spiritual poverty. practical poverty. // consider places where God’s presence is needed.

  • what are some ways we are spiritually poor?
  • what are some ways this neighborhood might be?

places of pain and grief. // consider what’s going on behind certain doors, up certain streets.

  • what are things we are grieving right now?
  • what are some things that people around here might have lost?
  • who is comforting them in their pain?

dry and hungry places. this can be practically or spiritually. 

  • what does it look like, feel like there?
  • what are we hungry and thirsty for right now?
  • what do you think others out here are hungry and thirsty for?

places that need healing, mercy. // imagine some of the things people around here struggle with: broken relationships, job loss, divorce, depression, shame, abuse, struggling kids, addiction, mental illness, chronic pain, physical illness, immigration.

  • what are some areas of your life that need God’s healing & mercy?
  • how do you think God’s mercy shows up here?

places of beauty. // notice God’s beauty.

  • where are you seeing it in your own life right now?
  • where do you see it today?

places in our heart that are hardened and judgmental. // notice our hearts as we are walking. 

  • what are our hearts hardened to right now? 
  • how are we judging others in our own life?
  • how are our hearts hardened to the needs around us or protected by our judgmentalness?

places in need of peace. // think of God’s shalom–wholeness.

  • how are you finding greater peace & wholeness in your life right now?
  • what would God’s shalom look like for this neighborhood?

places of persecution. // consider how people here are persecuted for all kinds of reasons. 

  • how do you maybe feel persecuted in your life right now?
  • what are some things people who live here might be persecuted for?
  • what would it look like to be persecuted on others behalf, for doing what’s right no matter the cost?

as you walk, keep asking yourself these three questions, courtesy of my dear & wise friend from mile high ministries, ryan taylor:

  • what’s the struggle?  
  • what’s the hope?  
  • what’s the invitation?

God, we don’t want to miss you.  we want to notice you in new ways, creative ways, beautiful ways, hard ways. may our hearts & eyes & ears & mouths & hands be open.  

have a great weekend. love, kathy

* * * * *

ps: a lot of you may have already this on rachel held evans’ blog, but in case you didn’t yet, this is a lovely simple thought on turning ugly into beautiful as a way to pray.  now that’s cool.

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.


  • Hey Kathy,

    When I read what you wrote about “intentional quiet space and a little guidance” what came to my mind was a meditation group I go to . We sit in silence, and the idea is that for 30 mins we are still and invite Jesus in, focussing on him. More difficult withan you might think with our minds being busy with the “weeds” of daily concenrs. A lot of the time we find that we are in the weeding out process.

    For some of us, what we find is that in meditiation pain comes to the surface. Issues that have been “kept down” arise, and we talk about that. There is freedom that comes with that. Though it often comes with challenges and difficulties form the issues that arise that need to be addressed.

    For me, to think of the pain from divorce, depression shme abuse etc that you talk of with happening in others, I have a great empathy for. I often am overwhelmed with this to the point of taking on others burdens in a way that weakens me to the point of not being of use to people in their difficulties. Something I am discipling myself about and having compassion for myself with at the moment is with boundaries. My natural instinct is to give and give of myself. But I don’t have the resources to meet every need I see in others ans sometimes I have needs that need to be met by what others provide. That has been another learning step for me – to let others in to provide for me and when it is safe to do that and when to put up a boundary for that not to happen. It’s great to let lovin, safe people in. At the same time, sometimes folks with the best of intentions end up doing more harm than good.

    As we see CS Lewis put it, when you love, you are vulnerable. 🙂

    • thanks, adam, yes, there is that balance of being able to care and love and be in the midst of the pain and also be careful not to have it sink us. refuge advocates is a group that focused on a lot of that so that we can learn ways to be in the midst of pain and not take it on. we definitely always need God’s help with that!

  • Kathy, This is so great. So sorry I missed that prayer walk, but I appreciated sitting with the questions this morning. Each of these areas of noticing would be worthy of its own Lenten journey. Thanks.

    • i am glad you got to catch up a bit. we missed you! it was really fun and hope we can do another one with some different questions and maybe the wider community.


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