life, God…God, life

richard rohr church practice

immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in Him. His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light–a light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazes through murky bottoms.  it cannot and will not be quenched.”

– john 1:3-5, the voice

last week i was out on a walk by myself, trying to get some sanity back, pondering why certain simple things at the refuge seem to sometimes “work” better than others. what i mean by that is why are certain gatherings easy to pull off, filled with wild and beautiful surprises, and compelling?  why do other things sometimes feel like more work?

this simple thought popped into my mind:  “when we start with real life and open ourselves up to seeing God in it, it works. when we try to start with our notions about God (or what-we-think-we-should-be-talking-about-because-it-counts-as-“spiritual” ) and try to fit life into it, it sometimes feels contrived.”

it doesn’t mean real life first, God second.

it means when we feel the need to lead with ideas about God, many times we never get to real life. (i know so many people were in small group bible study after small group bible study but no one actually knew they were depressed, addicted, lonely, or on the verge of divorce).

but when we start with real life, God can always, always be found (even in the honesty of acknowledging we don’t feel or see him right now)

God’s kind of amazing that way.

but there’s no question, we have to open our eyes and hearts and eyes and ears and hands and feet to notice.sometimes it’s in a language that we’ve never heard before that doesn’t at all sound religious. sometimes God smells and tastes and looks differently than we’ve ever experienced before. sometimes it’s a clear–here’s where i’m seeing and feeling Jesus–and other times it’s not quite so evident. sometimes it’s in the beauty of the scriptures that bring life or hope and challenge in a moment or in a poem or song or moment that stirs a soul. but goodness gracious, is it pretty when the Holy Spirit blows through a room where people are talking about their real lives, no matter how simple or complicated those lives are.

it’s so much easier for me to think of a Bible verse that stirs my heart after i hear a good story than to think of a story that goes with a Bible verse.

it’s so much easier for me to experience God’s healing, freedom, hope, peace, mercy, compassion when i am tangled up in a real-in-the-flesh relationship with other people, engaged in my own story and their story  than when i am sitting in a room abstractly talking about God’s healing, freedom, hope, peace, mercy, and compassion or reading a book or a blog about it.

it makes me think of why 12 step groups are  incredibly transforming.  there’s a desperation for God that has nothing to do with head knowledge. it’s about real lives in need of God’s help.  it’s about the unplugged rawness of the good, bad, and ugly parts of our lives shared out loud with others who are trying to become better human beings, too, and become less divided.

when i think of all the crazy little spaces where i see God in my week, where my faith is somehow renewed, where my soul is somehow stirred, where my belief in the crazy wild ways of Jesus is re-born yet again, it is always always always in organic wild and incredibly simple moments of people sharing about or engaging together in real life.

i know some are already thinking the “but what about’s” and how important it is to keep God at the center of everything.

[quote type=”center”]but what if we started with the premise that God is already at the center of everything, God is and was and will always be. and the best way for him to be revealed is through real life. through our stories, through our friend’s stories, through the world’s stories.[/quote]

through flesh and blood in desperate need of spirit and hope.

if we’re not careful, we’ll always default to wanting to talk about God first instead of talking about our real lives and noticing and honoring God-alive-and-moving in them no matter how small or big.  we’ve got a default to want to stay up high and in our heads and in our biblical interpretations and our spiritual language and in our protect-ourselves-from-how-vulnerable-it-is-to-share-our-real-lives-with-others-and-be-brave-enough-to-notice-God-in-the-midst.

i keep realizing it’s not sacred or secular, sacred vs. secular, or sacred better than secular.

it’s somehow about honoring the sacred in everything.

//

ps: here’s a picture of the refuge’s new space, which will hopefully be a place where real lives and God’s hope collide in all kinds of beautiful, natural, and simple ways. thanks for your love and support for our little crazy dreams; it means more than you know.

the refuge new space

 

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.

19 Comments

  • I recall seeing the recent film about princess Dianna in which the wrods the actress plays her said that she liked to be around peopl in hospices becuse towards the end of their lives people are “real”. and of one speach where she said “most of life is just froth an d bubbles, amdist tht are two grat stonse, courage in one’s own dificulties and compassion for others in theirs”.

    I had a recent conversation with a frieind about how down hearted I had been with the amount of BS, the pseudo-christ likeness passing off as somethign real. And your stories of bible studies and folks with issues unelyign that which dont’ ge addresssed mirrors simlar expereinces for me in frustrations with church.

    In a church where I was expereincing such, I decided to leave the bible study group – it was too depressing for me and I couldn’t find a way for the depression to lift. Churich life too became too frustrating for me. After a two hour conversation with thepastor the frustration was not relieved, in fact it was worsened. I decided to leave the chruch.

    On the last day at church someone came to me with a vision she hd – she said it was of an acrorn. Unknown to her I have an association of an acorn with honour. You see, when I joined the Air Force, the emblem of the apprentice squadron I was a member of was an acrorn. the motto of the squadron was “non plerique deligaturi”. this means “few are chosen” which, of course, reflects the numper of applicants for the position in complarison with the number of those selcted. On another occasion a lecture I attended a coplrison wa smade between Joseph and Jesus, the lecturere saying it was like comparing an acorn to an oak tree and that both were rejected by their own people.

    So – there I am an acorn, honoured by God in spite of frustration that had led to either rejection or me needing to leave the church for the sake of my sanity. I hve a simlar story about how I came to be at that particular church which I may share another time. On reflection it has become apprent that it had been the right place for me to be for a season, but when that season was over, it was time to be moving on. Because of this and knowing God in it all I am comforted and can look back at this time without resentent for the BS that went on there. (As BS goes on in a lot od human interaction both inside and outsde church).

    Reply
  • I love it when themes start popping up in different places… Have you read Rob Bell’s new book, “What We Talk About When We Talk About God”? He wrote quite a bit about finding the sacred in everything, too. 🙂

    Reply
    • thanks, danielle. one of these days when my kids are all grown i am going to catch up on all of the good books and TV shows i’ve missed…i haven’t seen it yet but hope to.

      Reply
  • So good. I always think about one my friends when we were in semiary together.. He started getting disillisioned (therefore labeled a bad influence, but that is a different post) He was getting a degree in urban ministry, and was actually *doing* the work in a non-profit in Phoenix.. and he verbalized in class that he was spending all this money in a grad program, so that he could be a part of the projects where they didn’t give a rip about degrees or hermaneutics. Our professor was like, “yes, but you need to be prepared with the right scriptural backing and blah blah”.

    I used to feel safe when I saw one of those christian fish or a verse tacked on to something. Now I feel safe when I taste authenticity. I used to feel God when the acoustics told me that it was a holy moment. Now I feel God in moments that my guard is down. 🙂

    Reply
    • it’s interesting how much those expensive degrees don’t teach so much about the real stuff of life. imagine how much more we’ve all learned this way…”now i feel safe when i taste authenticity…” love.

      Reply
  • Everything about this is so true. I especially like ‘what if we start with the premise that God is already at the centre of everything’. There is a teaching that we need a list when it comes to God … God 1st, family 2nd, work 3rd & self last. I had this list but I felt like I was continually striving to meet these religious requirements & when I didn’t I failed somehow. This clearly wasn’t working so I threw the list out. Best thing I ever did. God is now at the centre of my life and I no longer have to strive to please Him. I have found that He is in the messiness and craziness of life and He loves to be there.

    Reply
    • yeah, i was taught that order of things, too, and it can really jack us up. grateful for God’s so-not-linear-ness…thanks for taking time to share.

      Reply
  • “Human beings may separate things into as many piles as we wish—separating spirit from flesh, sacred from secular, church from world. But we should not be surprised when God does not recognize the distinctions we make between the two. Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars.”

    Taylor, Barbara Brown (2009-03-06). An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith (Kindle Locations 337-339). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

    Reply

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