Down We Go – Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus – Chapter 3

Ever since I first started reading Down We Go by Kathy Escobar I’ve been promising you a discussion of some of the main points of the book. So here we go…

Chapter 3 – There is No “Them or Us”…Only Us

This is the chapter that drove me to explore my new “missional” calling at Interfaith Housing Coalition. Kathy says:

Missional ministry often begins with an us/them mindset that is built upon a foundation of, “We’re going to be good Christians and go help those poor people who are not like us.” I believe this heart to serve comes from a sincere place, but it perpetuates a dangerous divide.

I am reminded of the classic ‘Murder in the Orient Express’ an Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot thriller where in response to Poirot’s question, Ingrid Bergman says, she left the USA to look after the ‘poor brown babies of India’.

1. When you think of “to,” “for,” or “with” relationships, which type comes more natural to you? – I have always had a revulsion to approaching mission work as if I were the “great, white savior” ministering to the poor, downtrodden unfortunates. So much so that I have, for many years, refused to participate in “mission opportunities” that were hit and miss and designed more as an excuse to travel and visit exotic places than as chances to get to know and work with other people.

2. What scares you about “with” relationships? What inspires you about them? – I can be timid about approaching new people in new situations, so it’s difficult for me to get out of my comfort zone and try to meet folks who are not like me. I’m always afraid of appearing like the “Lady Bountiful,” to people who have less than I do materially. I’m usually inspired by the resilience, and faith of those less fortunate than I am monetarily. They have plummed depths of fortitude unknown to me.

3. Think of some paradoxes in your own life. Write them in your journal “I am __________ and __________.” How easy or hard is this to accept?

  • I am knowledge-wise and relationship-ignorant. – I’m self-aware enough to know that this is so, but I struggle daily to become more relationship wise.
  • I am quick to complete tasks and I dislike correction. – I know I should be more careful about being sure tasks are correct before I declare them finished, but I struggle with this.

4. Do you have more of a tendency to be codependent, independent, or interdependent? Write which one best describes you and why. – I am very independent, and I know I will have a hard time sharing control of meetings with my resident that I am mentoring at Interfaith Housing Coalition. I’ve only had two meetings there, and I know I will have to lean heavily on the techniques I learned in Stephen Minister training, of being non-judgmental, and listening carefully, and fully, before jumping in. I will have to be careful not to be controlling, but to allow the resident to work out their own problems, only offering advise when asked or when absolutely necessary.

Down We Go – Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus – Chapter 2

Ever since I first started reading Down We Go by Kathy Escobar I’ve been promising you a discussion of some of the main points of the book. So here we go…

Chapter 2 – Dreams Are Much Prettier When They Are Just Dreams

In this, the second chapter, Kathy begins to flesh out what the Wild Ways of Jesus actually look like.

1. What scares you abut raw, messy, incarnational relationships? – I pride myself on “having it all together,” and I’m usually frustrated when things go awry. I’m uncomfortable around people with emotional problems, and who may have mental or physical disabilities. I know it shouldn’t be, but it’s hard for me to connect with folks who have that kind of problem. I’m deliberately trying to get outside my own comfort zone and connect with people who don’t have it all together.

2.  How addicted to inspiration are you? What draws you to it? – as a little background, here’s what Kathy has to say about inspiration addition.

Many of us thought that going to “church” was about being inspired. Yes, it’s important to be inspired by G-d. But it is also possible to go only for the feeling of inspiration. My friend Karl calls it “inspiration addiction.” It is the powerful pull toward being entertained and inspired while sitting in our seats. I was definitely an inspiration addict. I remember leaving many a church service energized and filled up, thinking how amazing it was to listen to a powerful song, watch a moving film clip or hear a stirring sermon that made me laugh or cry. The problem is that very few of those inspirational moments translated into change in my real life. It became about getting a fix once a week.

It’s really easy to fall into that trap – to begin to see worship as an end in itself, because it inspires us, or touches us. But it seems to me that we need to be changed by our worship. That it needs to not just inspire us, but also to motivate us to follow Jesus into the nitty gritty of life.

3.  What is your Jesus School right now? What are you learning right now about yourself, G-d, and others at this season in your journey? – I’m learning that my “inspiration addiction” isn’t enough. I’m learning that in order to faithfully follow Jesus I need to do something. I commend to you this sermon from Margaret Aymer Oget. She has a way of reminding me that following Jesus is about action, not feeling good. I’m also learning that the words we use may be as important as the ideas we have, particularly after doing my series during Advent from Words Matter.

4. As you look around, what are you seeing now that you used to not see? – I’m seeing people who I thought were self-centered and basically worthless doing incredible work with folks less fortunate than themselves. I’m seeing new forms of worship and of spiritual discipline that I may have know existed, but didn’t recognize earlier. I’m hearing sexist, ageist, and racial language that I didn’t realize was there. And I’m attempting to point it out and counteract it as and where I can.

5.  Have you ever felt like you were in G-d’s Ghetto? How? – Fortunately, I don’t ever think I’ve felt like I was in G-d’s Ghetto. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know that I was loved by G-d, even if other people didn’t know that. I complain and stew about wanting to do things and not being able to because of circumstances, or because of other people, or for whatever reason, but I’ve never felt like it was because G-d abandoned me.

Today is Big Al’s Birthday

Big Al is 71 years old today! (How did I get old enough to be married to a 71-year-old man?)

It was a techy upgrade birthday for him. On Tuesday, he got new Bose speakers from #2 son. They are really first-rate as far as the sound goes.

Then today, this came from #1 son.

We wrestled it back down the hall, and he proceeded to unpack it. He moved his old monitor (15″ flat screen) across the room and cleaned off his desk. Then we started looking at the cables that came with it.

And trying to decipher the instructions,

I sent pictures of everything to #2 son by text message and he reassured us about what plugged in where. Then Big Al crawled under the desk and plugged it in and …

It brings a whole new dimension to his games (Zuma and QBees)!

I got him several DVDs, and he’ll probably get excited about them later, but right now he’s entranced with his new computer play-toys.

We’re planning on a trip to Fogo de Chao for his birthday dinner tonight. I think he’s pleased with his birthday!

Spiritual Disciplines

On Saturday, I took a course on Spiritual Disciplines from Tracy Brown. We explored several disciplines and learned a process for developing our own practices to follow.

I yearn for more corporate practice of spiritual disciplines, but I understand there’s not much history for that in the Presbyterian Church. We are often so focused on mission, that we neglect our inner life.

The main thing I learned on Saturday was anything done mindfully and regularly that we do to further our spiritual growth can be a spiritual discipline. So social action can be a spiritual discipline. My coming mission to use my talents with Interfaith Housing Coalition in helping teach budgeting to their clients is a spiritual discipline if I practice it mindfully and regularly.

Yesterday, Blair’s sermon was about our “call.” Again, I heard that any vocation done prayfully and intentionally can be an effective call to discipleship.

Then, this morning, I read this piece on conscious habits as a way of spiritual development.

I figure any time the Holy Spirit hits me over the head with something three times in three days, it’s something I need to learn.


My grandmother used to have a million little poems and sayings that she used to underline the lessons she taught us. I have no idea who wrote this little poem, but it was one of her favorites.

Too Tired To Pray


She thought, when night had finally ended day,

“Dear Lord, tonight I am too tired to pray,”

And wearily she closed her eyes in sleep,

Slipping far into the shadowed deep.


Up in Heaven the dear Lord heard and smiled.

“Today she soothed a little, crying child.

She stopped her work to take old Ella Kloop

A fragrant, warming bowl of her good soup.

Her house was orderly, her garden tended.

Her children fed, their clothes all clean and mended.

Her husband, home from work, found happiness

And quiet peace in her deep gentleness.”


The dear Lord smiled again. “Too tired to pray?

Her hands have offered prayers of love all day!”


Down We Go – Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus – Chapter 1

Ever since I first started reading Down We Go by Kathy Escobar I’ve been promising you a discussion of some of the main points of the book. So here we go…

Chapter 1 – It Stinks Down Here but I Really Love the Smell

Kathy begins by telling us this book is based on the Beatitudes, and on 12 Step programs.  She says

I love the Beatitudes and I hate the Beatitudes. They are powerful words from a radical man who messed with my life…. Success, war, vengeance, power and strength are the guiding principles of our day. Humility, gentleness, desperation, spiritual poverty, advocating for justice and being persecuted for standing on the side of the oppressed are sure to make us inconvenienced, challenged and humble.

Questions for Reflection:

1.  What does “downward mobility” mean to you?

It means that I have to quit looking for the loveable people around me, and start looking for the unloveable. There are plenty of folks who will love the loveable, but the unloveable need someone to support and help them.

2. Where are you seeing pain right now? Is it in your own life? the lives of others?

Most of the pain I see right now is in the lives of people who are struggling to find employment. These are folks who have been upwardly mobile all their lives, and maybe, through no fault of their own, find themselves struggling to make it in the world. They may be middle-aged and have lost their job and have run out of unemployment insurance. I see pain in their families when I learn that almost 30% of the children in South Dallas go to bed hungry every evening. I see it when I learn that many of the clients of North Dallas Shared Ministries, used to volunteer there and help others, and now they have to go there to get enough food to feed themselves and their children. I see it in the new graduates from seminaries who search desperately for a church to serve and can’t afford to serve in the churches who desperately need a minister because they have student loans to pay off and families to feed and the churches can’t afford to pay them even the Presbytery minimum.

3. Read the Beatitudes several times. What verses pop out? Consider re-writing them in your own language as a way to connect with some of their power.

Presbyterian Women are studying the Beatitudes this year, and I love “The Aymer Translation” from Margaret Aymer Oget, the author of the study and a friend.

Greatly honored are the destitute in spirit, for of them is the kingdom of heaven

Greatly honored are the humbled, for they will inherit the earth

Greatly honored are those who are famished and parched for justice, for they will be satisfied

Greatly honored are the merciful, for they will receive mercy

Greatly honored are the pure in heart, for they will see G-d

Greatly honored are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of G-d

Greatly honored are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for of them is the kingdom of heaven

Greatly honored are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven, for so also they persecuted the prophets who were before you

The ones that really “pop out” at me are the ones about the destitute and the hungry (see #2 above), and the ones about justice. We first started the study when the Occupy Movement was coming to national prominence. That movement, at its core and at its purest, is exactly about the destitute and hungry pleading for justice.

4. Reflect on the 12 Steps. How are they similar to the Beatitudes?

The 12 Steps encourage us to take an honest inventory of ourselves. They remind me that I am unable to cope by myself, that I must have the help of other people and the help of G-d. My particular addiction is to food, and I am in the midst of a struggle to keep it from ruling my life – either the eating or the not eating. The problem with being addicted to food is that you can’t say “I’ll never eat again” like you can say “I’ll never drink alcohol again” or “I’ll never smoke another cigarette again.” You always have to keep on eating – the trick is not to OVER-eat. I quit smoking cold turkey, after a 25-year, 2.5 pack a day habit. I tried for months to “cut back”, but the only way I was able to kick the habit was the stop completely. Unfortunately you can’t do that with food. So I struggle daily with my diet.

5. When you hear the call of Jesus to come and follow him, what does that mean to you?

It means I need to leave my comfort zone of interacting with people like me, and to get to know those who are struggling even more than I am. It means being willing to give up some of my personal enjoyment, so I can help folks who can’t help themselves. I have volunteered to be a financial mentor for people who are experiencing the most difficult times of having either lost their homes, or being on the verge of losing their homes. But because I have had periods in my life when my disposable income was severely curtailed, I believe I can help them dig out of the hole they find themselves in.

A Plot Against Me

There must be a plot against getting the next post up and running. I had full intentions of writing something incredibly pithy and important today, but, once again, life got in the way.

First, the cleaning ladies were scheduled to come between 12 and 1 o’clock. At 1:10 I got a call saying they were going to be 15 minutes late. Big Al and I had put off eating lunch because we didn’t want to get in their way, so we went ahead and started to eat. They turned up about 5 minutes to 2:00.

Okay – so I knew I couldn’t concentrate on the post until after they had left and the noise of the vacuum had diminished (at least a little). So I decided to run up to the Toyota place and get the oil changed, and come back and write the post as soon as I got home.

They changed the oil and rotated the tires, and then came to tell me there was a leak in the water pump. It was under warranty, so it wouldn’t cost me anything for them to change it out, but it would take longer.

Consequently, I didn’t get home until almost 6 p.m., and I really am out of the humor for writing that post. I want it to be a good one, so you’ll have to wait a little longer. I have a bookkeeping job tomorrow morning, and a conference on Spiritual Discipline all day Saturday, so it looks like it will be Monday before I will get started on Down We Go. (Of course, I can’t be expected to write anything on Sunday afternoon with some of the last of the football for the year on.)

I promise I’ll get started on it one of these days…

Best Laid Plans…

I had full intentions of writing a post today, but life got in the way. I spent the morning trying to unscramble Al’s IRA holdings (I finally got it straight, I think.)

Then this afternoon, I had to run to the grocery store, and that always takes about 45 minutes longer than I planned.

Just as I was getting ready to start to begin to commence to write the thing, I got a phone call from #2 son who wanted to chat on the way home from work and show off his new tech pimped-out car with hands free phone calling etc.

So here I am again with nothing helpful to post.

I’ll try to do it tomorrow, because I really want to get started on my series on Down We Go by Kathy Escobar. I need to reread it and process, and I’m going to inflict it on you, gentle readers. It will probably be a one-day-a-week post, and I was hoping it would be on Tuesdays, but maybe it will be on Wednesdays or Thursdays. *sigh*

We had PW circle last night, and talked a little bit about the book, which again brought it to mind. I DID put in my application to do volunteer work at Interfaith Housing Coalition as a financial mentor. (You’ll understand why if you’ve read the book or when I talk about it.)

Until tomorrow…

Tweetup in “Far North Texas”

We had a great time at an Epiphany party in Durant, OK, yesterday evening. We were invited by Stephanie Shepherd, and even though we didn’t know the hosts at all, folks came from Dallas, Carrollton, Ft Worth, and Oklahoma City.

@RevJCMitchell was the gracious host

along with his wife @RevMindy.

Others in attendance included @philshepherd and @rk-p

@mightymere and @revrevwine


of course, Big Al!

We had great Cuban Black Bean Soup, cornbread, Pumpkin Cake, chips and dip, veggies and dip, accompanied by whatever anybody wanted to drink (JC is a bourbon collector and Chris brought some of his wine). Us oldsters left pretty early (before 10 p.m.) and we were driving, so we didn’t drink anything, but it was a great time even without the liquor. Really fun to see some of the folks from UNCO11 again.

Testing iP

Well, I obviously don’t know how to do all the things on the iPad that I do on the computer. The title got itself in there and I can’t figure out how to fix it.


Now to figure out how to add a picture from somewhere else instead of just what I took.

So I have to already have a photo on the iPad in the photo store. I can’t go to stored photos on the server.

Today was a day of getting all those little things that need to be taken care of done. I had an appointment with the dermatologist this morning, and a trip to the dentist this afternoon for a filling. Consequently, even though it’s Epiphany I still haven’t put the Christmas decorations away. I do have an excuse – I can’t reach the boxes on the closet shelf, and Big Al hasn’t gotten them down yet. And I’m being careful not to nag him about it.

Responsibility v. Accountability

I read this article this morning in the Atlantic Monthly about Finland’s success with kids in school. The author was emphasizing that their success is based largely on equality of opportunity for education, not on private schools and colleges available only to the wealthy.

But my biggest take-away was in these paragraphs.

Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what’s called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.

Instead, the public school system’s teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.

As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”

For Sahlberg what matters is that in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master’s degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal’s responsibility to notice and deal with it.

This really struck me! How often do we insist on accountability instead of requiring personal responsibility? I know in my case, when I’m on a diet I often find myself seriously considering “fudging” on the amount of food I’m eating.

It’s like I’m afraid that there’s someone looking over my shoulder.

And there isn’t!

I’m tracking my food and exercise in Weight Watchers Online, but NOBODY but me is looking at what I put down. How did I get like that? Why do I think I need to “cheat” on my food tracking?

The author of the article is right! I need to take responsibility for my diet, instead of expecting that I need to be accountable to someone else. I remember when my mother-in-law was in her 70s or 80s, she would “sneak” a piece of candy or a cookie. She was overweight and diabetic, and nobody even lived in the house with her, but she still hid candy bars. Who was she hiding them from?

I’ve decided that while I’m not making a “New Year’s Resolution”, I AM going to try to remember the difference between accountability and responsibility, and accept that the only one responsible for what I eat is ME and I don’t have to be accountable to anybody else.

It’s a hard distinction to learn. I’m not sure where I got the idea that I have to be accountable to some authority. Maybe is came from some bad theology deep in my past. I don’t know. But I know I’m going to try to attempt to change my ideas. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, Yoda. I know. There is no TRY! There is only DO!)