don’t feed the narcissists.

kathyescobar crazy making, rants 17 Comments

don't feed the narcissists

for the most part, i try to stay out of social media madness because it is usually just that–maddening.  i watch things come into my feed and because i have a diverse set of friends the opposing viewpoints right next to each other are sometimes kind of comical. i also made a decision a long time ago to not add fuel to certain stories because i don’t want to contribute to the madness.

but yesterday morning after another tumble of posts about one person in particular i just felt like yelling at my computer–“people, stop feeding the narcissists!” 

i know we all have narcissism in us, but i am talking about the full-blown ones who also tend to be charismatic, strong, and quite-often-the-leaders-of-big-churches-or-organizations.  seriously, when it comes to the whole celebrity-business-model pastor thing, the unhealthy & often abusive systems built around them, and all of the blog churn on their behalf, we need to remember that we are contributors to the whole mess by engaging in it and giving it our time & energy.

it’s exactly what narcissists want.

it’s like they’ve got everyone eating out of their hand.

because that’s what narcissists do. 

any attention is better than no attention. using charisma and humility and well-worded apology letters. strategic communications. manipulating heart-strings and intentionally pissing people off. you name it, it’s happening underneath the surface of all of these kinds of moments, whether it’s conscious or not.

and we are making it worse by giving it even one iota of our attention.

the best possible way to shut down a narcissist it to completely and totally ignore them.

to stop feeding them. 

they are unsatiable.

and often, we are unsatiable, too. we like the drama, the back-and-forth, the “what’s next?”, the “maybe now he’ll actually get change…,” the different perspectives on it that fuel our positions.  both sides–the supporters and the detractors–are getting taken on a ride.

we never do narcissists a favor by bestowing this much attention on them.

there’s no doubt i have been sucked in to giving them my time, clicking on videos and reading blogs or websites and getting enraged at the stories.  they are fascinating.  but that’s exactly the idea–to lure me in so i’ll pay attention to them.

it’s not easy sometimes when the stories are just so juicy, but i’m trying to play my part in refusing to feed this kind of christian narcissism.

the most powerful and holy gift we can give is to vote with our inattention: to hit the delete key. to refuse to pass the posts on. to ignore them. to unplug. to not give them even a glance. to lift them up to God if you feel like you need to privately but do absolutely everything possible to take the public spotlight off of them.

it’s bad for their souls & it’s bad for ours, too.   

most of all, the best thing we can do is turn our attention toward the-far-more-important-things-in-this-world-that-need-caring-about.

yeah, let’s stop feeding the narcissists.

their best hope is to get starved out.

the kingdom of God is like…

kathyescobar church stuff, incarnational, jesus is cool, just because i thought it was fun, spiritual formation, the refuge 10 Comments

the kingdom of God is like

way back when i said i was going to share more about what happens in our living room on wednesday nights at our house of refuge gathering, which has been happening since the beginning of the refuge in 2006.  i never seem to get around to it, but this week i thought i’d take a few minutes and share with everyone because it was such a simple & sweet idea and a great exercise to consider, no matter where everyone is in terms of life and faith.

one of the things i love about our group is that we never know what the facilitator is going to bring. i call it “spiritual show and tell” and whoever is on that week brings whatever is on their heart for us to process and practice.  this week, my friends facilitating reminded us of the places in the gospels where Jesus would tell stories that started with “the kingdom of God is like…”

they read a few in luke 13: “the kingdom of God is like…a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches (v. 19)…it is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough (v. 21).”

then, the challenge to us was to consider a real-life story of what the kingdom of God is like, a moment where we tasted it, felt it, touched it, experienced it.

a moment where on the outside it might have looked like not-that-much, just ordinary, but underneath there was this magical kingdom-y thing happening.

a moment where our eyes were opened to the reality of God in the here & now.

a moment where heaven broke through.

a moment that didn’t make sense but somehow did.

a moment, no matter how big or small or seemingly spiritual or unspiritual or complicated or simple, we got a glimpse of God in a special way.

i had several come to mind that night, so i’ll share them here briefly:

the kingdom of God is like…a mommy with no safety net or family in a courtroom fighting for custody of her son and having 4 members of her community spend all day at court and advocate on the stand for her.  it was just so pretty.

the kingdom of God is like…when you are all alone and sick and someone comes over and pushes your hair back when you are puking. (i happened to stop by a friend’s house who was a single mommy with a rough story and not very much kindness around her. she told me afterward, “no one has ever pushed my hair back when i was throwing up, ever.” i’ll always remember it).

the kingdom of God is like…when you need a pair of shoes to get on an airplane and someone in the hotel bar gives you theirs without even blinking. (long story, but my entire family got kicked off a standby flight because i had these cute flip flops on that didn’t meet dress code and i ran into a hotel bar crying, “would anyone sell me their shoes so we can make this flight that’s leaving in 5 minutes” and a woman immediately said “sure, take mine” and took off the world’s ugliest tevas and gave them to me without even blinking. it was amazing).

yeah, the kingdom of God is like that.

since then, i’ve been thinking of so many more stories, and each and every one of them warm my heart, remind me of the crazy-weird-ways-of-Jesus, and renew my weary soul.

can you think of a kingdom of God story, no matter how big or small?

if you do, i’d love for you to share it.  

it helps open all of our eyes to the beauty that is sometimes so easy to miss.

the kingdom of God is like…

rock boats, upset apple carts, ruffle feathers. it’s worth it.

kathyescobar church stuff, dreams, equality, ex good christian women, injustice, leadership, women in ministry 18 Comments

rock the boatsaturday was  international women’s day.  i wrote this post that morning but never got around to posting it so it’s going up today. i have written about it in the past–we just can’t stand by & the power of being wanted belonging, and for a few consecutive years i shared why i am an advocate for women.  this year, though, after 4 different conversations in the past week all centered on the same topic, i decided to write something new because it’s on my heart in a really strong way.

women in the church have come a long way, and i truly want to celebrate that.

but when thinking about breaking chains of women around the world, i am always reminded that we have a long, way to go, too.

equality won’t drop out of the sky; we will have to rock a lot more boats, upset a lot more apple carts, ruffle many more feathers, and live with a lot more disapproval to keep getting to a new place.  

in my sincere opinion, Jesus followers should be leading the way on this justice issue of equality for women around the world, reflecting equality in all of our structures and blowing the world’s minds with freedom.  but alas, instead of modeling a kingdom-of-God-here-on-earth way, sexism pervades so many of our structures and practices.

power is still way tilted against women in the church.

many seminaries are filled with women counseling students & male m.div’s.

far-too-many churches are filled with male leaders and a few women sprinkled in, and often only in support roles.

men & women are often segregated and not encouraged to be friends, brothers & sisters, alongside each other in freedom.

and all kinds of faithful & true & supposedly-not-old-school christians still don’t realize how deeply the patriarchal culture is embedded in our DNA and how easy it is to not want to be lead by a woman, to somehow not feel comfortable with women in full and equal roles, or to just be completely apathetic to the issue since it doesn’t feel like it affects them directly.

the forces against equality in the church are strong for all kinds of reasons–cultural grooves for generations, limiting scriptural interpretations, and group norms that are hard to break.

add to those the reality that we just don’t have that many examples of women & men leading alongside each other equally.

the path of least resistance is always to maintain the status quo.

my hope & prayer is that we keep cultivating a movement of men & women who are crazy enough to believe that when Jesus said “on earth as it is in heaven” he meant it was possible and that we are called as his followers to participate in creating it.

i’m not sure of all that much, but i’ll bet my bottom dollar that in heaven women (and anyone else who’s been marginalized) are not less than, that there’s no more over and under each other in terms of power, and that there’s no crappy theology that keeps half of heaven’s population stuck underneath.

if i’m wrong, i am going to be really, really mad about it for all of eternity.

Jesus blew the roof off of the old systems & ushered in the new, telling us that despite our humanness, through his spirit, heaven could break through now. and our call as people of the way was to taste it ourselves and then pass it on in any way we could–to rock boats, upset apple carts, ruffle feathers, and live with disapproval because freedom and equality–real, deep, lasting, crazy, contagious, world-shaking, life-giving freedom and equality–is what Jesus was all about.

when i hear about a woman’s calling to lead in a new and brave way, my heart leaps for her.  but then i take a big gulp, too, realizing what’s ahead for her.  how many times she will experience disapproval. how many moments she’ll question that fire God put in her heart and wonder if it’s just her pride and if she should push the feeling down and keep playing nice. how many situations she’ll be placed in where she’s the only woman in the room. how many questions she’ll get asked about her credentials and her education while most men never do.

how many moments she may feel tired of rocking boats & upsetting apple carts & ruffling feathers and wonder quietly why she ever chose this path when the one with least resistance would have been so much easier.

and then my heart leaps again, because i know that when she takes that step into what she was made to be–despite the cost–that heaven breaks through.  that the little girls of the world who need to see strong women leading will have someone to look to, that the little boys of the world will grow up seeing a better way, that the people she influences will be blessed by her beautiful, wise words that would once be silenced, and that she will know she listened not to man & the ways of this world or even “the church”,  but to God’s deep & prevailing voice that she knew she had to follow.

our freedom is not just for us.

it’s for the women of the world who need us to get free so we can participate in freeing them, too.  

i always think of what toni morrison says–the function of freedom is to free someone else. 

this international women’s day (a few days late), i implore all of us–men, women, young, old, to bravely keep rocking boats, upsetting apple carts, ruffling feathers, and living with disapproval on behalf of equality in absolutely every way we can.

it’s worth it.

heaven needs to keep breaking through. 

40 days for wanderers, wonderers, and somehow-allergic-to-churchers

kathyescobar advent & lent, faith shifts, healing, just because i thought it was fun, spiritual formation 12 Comments

open sign

today is ash wednesday, the mark of the beginning of lent. for some, it’s a season that has sincere spiritual significance. for others, it’s just another time of a lot of prayers and posts on facebook that can feel annoying. and for others, there’s not really a big connection to lent in its traditional form but there is a desire to connect with God in some way that doesn’t feel trite, forced, or cold.

when our faith has shifted and we’re not sure which end is up anymore, any smell of religiosity just won’t work.  even though i am a person who enjoys this season for the most part, i notice that some of the stuff i read makes me cringe a little. it can feel so exclusive, only for a certain group who speaks a certain language. it can feel privileged, seemingly irrelevant to many people without resources or margin.  it can feel contrived, a little like christmas where there are actually 11 other months of the year where our hearts are supposed to be just as open to God and others.

i like lent on the whole because i  love the Jesus stories & appreciate intention; it always helps me. at the refuge, we do stations & reflective stuff that help me dial down a bit and connect with God and my soul.  i don’t always give something up but i decided this year to try one thing for 40 days that will be really hard for me but i know i need:  to not have my phone in my car when i am driving, to put it in the trunk (trust me, i can always find a way pull it out of the back seat!) and to keep the radio off.  the radio part isn’t near as hard as the phone.  but there’s no doubt, i need more quiet.  i need more unplugged. i need more space.

this past weekend at the refuge the grownups and kids brainstormed 40 different ideas for lent.  we read nadia bolz-weber’s list to inspire our own ideas, and then everyone wrote a possibility on a sticky note and we pulled it all together.  the 40 days of refuge lent was formed, and i extra love it because it wasn’t just made by the adults but all the kids, too.

in that spirit, i thought it would be kind of fun to make a list of 40 possible ideas for those of us who have somehow shifted in our faith and might feel a little lost this season.  we want intention but aren’t part of a church body anymore.  we want to notice God but can’t seem to find him in the old spiritual disciplines.  we are a bit confused & lonely and don’t quite know how to find our way.  we are weary of religion but long for a breath of life & hope & mercy & peace. we want to keep waking up to new life and find our way out of the fog.

i love the thought that my friend pam wilhelms shared at our fall theology camp, that “spiritual transformation is all about waking up.”

waking up to ourselves. waking up to others. waking up to a new image of God. waking up to healing. waking up to life. waking up to….you fill in the blank, you know what you may need to wake up to these days.

these ideas are just a mix of possibilities. some are from the refuge & nadia’s lists and others are off the top of my head as i think through some of the questions, hopes, and dreams i have during this season of my faith. i have no idea if this will be helpful to anyone or not, but it was kind of fun to create. take whatever you need from them. they’re just ideas, ways to wake up, ways to engage with our soul, ways to love others, ways to notice beauty, ways to be open to God in the unexpected.

so here you go:

40 days for wanderers, wonderers, and somehow-allergic-to-churchers

1 / consider one thing you still believe about God, no matter how big or small.

2 / go outside and sit in silence for 10 minutes, even if it’s cold & enjoy the quiet.

3 / look at the stars one night.

4 / notice your feet on the ground all day today.

5 / pray in some way, shape or form for your enemies.

6 / make a whine list, all the things that are driving you crazy right now.  let it rip until you are tired of hearing yourself whine.  throw it in the trash as an intention.

7 / disconnect from the internet for the day(s) and enjoy the peace.

8 / try to remember a really good church memory, no matter how big or small.  don’t evaluate it; just celebrate it with tenderness.

9 / before you go to bed, think through your day and try to recall a moment where you felt loved in some way, shape or form.

10 / before you take your first sip of coffee (or whatever you drink) in the morning, pause and remember what you want to be more aware of and awake to today.

11 / create something–a collage, an art piece, a food item, a ______________.

12 /  think about who in your life might need some extra encouragement right now; send them an email or a text or give them a call.

13 / read matthew 5:3-10 in the message.

14 / ask someone, anyone, for help.

15 / finish this sentence and reflect on it throughout the day.  the part i really like about my life now is….

16 / think of something Jesus said that you really appreciate.

17 /  look through old scrapbooks.

18 /  go through your bookshelf and purge the books you can’t believe you used to like.  celebrate and keep the ones that you still do.

19 / read the 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous (yeah, they’re for everyone).

20 /before you eat your meal, take a few minutes and remember those who are going to bed hungry tonight.

21 /  expect something good.

22 / give thanks for something unexpected that happens.

23 / scoop up all the spare change in your house and give it to someone who needs it.

24 / bring someone flowers.

25 / go on a walk when you should be doing something “more productive.”

26 / eat something sweet; as you do, reflect on the sweet things in your life right now.

27 / don’t turn on your car radio.

28 / meditate on this today:  what’s a dream buried in your heart that is hard to say out loud?

29 /  write a letter, sharing how you’re feeling about your faith, no matter how short or long.  don’t edit.  don’t evaluate how dumb it might feel. just let yourself say it.  it can be to God or to yourself or however you want to address it.

30 / call an old friend that you keep meaning to connect with.

31 / forgive someone.

32 /  light a candle (or 2 or 3 or 10) and say a prayer for your friends who are hurting.

33 /  make a donation, no matter how big or small, to a local non-profit you feel good about supporting.

34 /  pay for the coffee for the person behind you in line or in the drive-through.

35 /   make a gratitude list with at least 5 things on it.

36 /  watch the sunrise.

37 / donate a bag of clothes with stuff you actually like instead of only giving your throwaways.

38 / write a positive message on your bathroom mirror with something you really need to hear today.

39 / send a friend a card, a good old-fashioned one with a real stamp.

40 / remember that one thing you believe about God that sustains you. it’s enough.

//

ps: i have a post up this week at sheloves magazine for march’s down we go column. it’s called everybody needs an advocate. we all need one, we can all be one. see you next week! peace, kathy

breaking our american hearts

kathyescobar church stuff, incarnational, jesus is cool, spiritual formation, the refuge 5 Comments

listen with the ear of your heart

this past friday night we hosted a theology camp called “the radical welcome of God: wisdom from benedictine spirituality.” two nuns from benet hill monastery shared their hearts & stories & practices with us. it was beautiful in more ways than i can count. my amazing friend & local spiritual director ellen haroutunian facilitated questions for the sisters and then we processed together and made a space for reflective time walking through 7 stations that represented the pillars of benedictine spiritualitycommunity, humility, hospitality, reverence, stewardship/partnership, integration, and discernment.  pictures are below.

they shared countless wise thoughts about inclusion, welcoming every person we meet as Christ himself, love above all things, the transforming power of community, good conflict, and humility being about bringing our most authentic self to everything we do.

during their talk they kept referring to our “american hearts” and the need for them to be transformed into monastic ones, or in my words, kingdom-of-God hearts, radically-transformed-hearts, the way-of-Jesus hearts.

to me, what they meant by american hearts is the part of us that is not only our default but also what is accepted in american culture & western contemporary christian church. these contrary-to-Jesus values are so embedded we probably don’t even know how much they are messing with our lives.  so many of our churches, systems, media, and practices perpetuate them subtly and overtly.

american hearts value:

  • self-sufficiency & individualism – i can do it alone, i’m not supposed to “need,” it’s all up to me.
  • power & success  – which often equals money, resources, position, education, stuff.
  • competition – there’s a winner & a loser, a who’s right and who’s wrong, a top & a bottom.
  • segregation – we are good at creating homogeneous groups and staying comfortable with people who think like us, believe like us, act like us. segregation leads to so many forms of violence.
  • busyness – we fill our lives with do-do-do-do-do.  we’re online & plugged in & amped up. trying to keep up often consumes us.
  • comfort & protection – not wanting to be bothered, annoyed, challenged, vulnerable, or mixed with other people not like us.

in so many ways, arrogance and pride are good ways to describe our american hearts.

the story that comes to mind in the gospels is luke 7 and Jesus’ encounter with the sinful woman in simon the pharisee’s house.  simon was full of pride; the woman was full of humility. her neediness was simon’s disdain.

i see myself in both simon & the woman.

i have both an american heart & a kingdom heart.

in my own personal summary of friday’s conversation, a kingdom heart values:

  • community & connection – relationship is the center of it all; there’s no way around needing people.  this requires true humility, which is to present our true selves to others & to accept others’ true selves.  to practice and try and fail and need grace and offer grace and stay with each other for the long haul.
  • strength in weakness – the measures of the world are not the measures of the kingdom.  we may look like losers, we will be misunderstood, we may be considered weak or crazy or even faithless. but the truth is that God’s spirit is at work in our small simple acts of vulnerability, kindness, love, mercy, grace, and presence.
  • companioning – contrary to rugged individualism and competition is what the sisters called “companioning.”  staying in for the long haul as equals, alongside each other instead of over or under, comfortable in our differences, free in our hearts.
  • silence & solitude – learning to be comfortable in the quiet, to still our hearts and tend to our souls, to discover that we are, in the words of the sisters, “children of God, loved, forgiven, and blessed.”
  • radical hospitality – welcoming others of all shapes & sizes & circumstances & perspectives, especially the other, the hurting, the outcast, the poor, the marginalized, the silenced. that’s the way of Jesus, the way of peace.  i’m in the middle of this book & it’s worth the read.
  • being uncomfortable  – diffusing power, not having all the answers, engaging in conflict, rubbing against our humanity–all of these things are what transform us into gentler, kinder, free-er, and more authentic people. this is one of the core problems with the american church & our american hearts–we do everything possible to avoid pain and discomfort when it’s the most transforming part of a real & connected life.

pride vs. humility 

self-sufficiency & individualism vs. community & connection

success vs. strength in weakness

competition vs. companioning

segregation vs. radical hospitality  

busyness vs. silence & solitude

comfort vs. discomfort

i want to say i don’t have an american heart, but i do. as much as i truly need God and my community, i don’t necessarily “want to need.” as much as i love being around other people different from me, sometimes it’s so hard i want to run for the hills. as much as i value holding a space for disagreement, sometimes i want to stand up and walk away from the conversation forever.  as much as i value quiet, i am most comfortable in the chaos. as much as i grow in the discomfort of pain, struggle and real life, i often want to never hear another hard story and only watch netflix for the rest of my life.

yeah, my american heart constantly needs to be transformed into a kingdom heart.

and it’s definitely a life-long process.

but it seems that the path toward a kingdom heart starts with listening, a lost art in american christian culture.

listening to others, listening to God, listening to our souls instead of talking, talking, talking. 

st. benedict talks about “listening with the ear of your heart” and the sisters also talked about us having “two big ears and one little mouth.”  the above image below portrays this.  oh, how i’d rather talk than listen! the place we can learn this kind of listening is in community.

if there was one big take-away from the evening with the sisters, i got this–it’s through some form of community that we are transformed. 

it’s through community that our american hearts can become kingdom ones. 

and i’ve no doubt that our families, neighborhoods, cities, churches, and, the world need more kingdom hearts and less american ones.

God, transform us from people of pride into people of humility. break our american hearts and form them into kingdom ones.

//

here are the stations & a few pix from our evening:

theology camp collage