tender faith stories, handle with care.

kathyescobar faith shifts, healing, spiritual formation 7 Comments

our faith stories are tender

Can you say “vulnerability hangover?” Brene Brown talks about them and at The Refuge we joke about them, and let me just tell you–I have a big fat one right now.

When I first saw the clip online from my conversation on The Work of the People, I could feel it in my stomach. That knot, that uh-oh feeling, that oh-my-goodness-what-have-I-done-by-sharing-so-much-so-publicly about one of the most tender places in my life, my faith? It’s scary enough to put it in print, but there’s something even more raw about it coming directly out of my mouth and heart directly, in real life, to whoever hits “Play.”

It stirred up a lot of thoughts & feelings, but the primary things rattling around in my head seemed to be along the lines of:

What will ____ and ______ and ______ think of me now?

How can I still be a pastor?

What in the $(#&!^!^ was I thinking? 

Then I take a breath and remember–it’s just the truth.

It’s just my truth.

It’s just my story.

And really, telling it is a strange but good spiritual practice–it heals, it reveals, it transforms, it stretches.  For me, it draws me closer to God in all kinds of simple & sweet & kind-of-weird ways.

But more than just me-feeling-all-exposed, I have been struck with a really important reminder this week, something I “know” but can easily forget–our faith stories are one of the most tender, vulnerable parts about us.

When we talk about our faith journey, we’re talking about our souls.

The depths of our hearts.

Core parts of our identity.

Places that are tender & fragile & raw & sincere and really hard to put words to.

I know why people are hesitant to share the truth of what they’re struggling with related to faith out loud.

There are so few spaces and places to put it out there without being met with blank stares or scripturizing or fixing or advice or “i’ll-pray-for-you’s” or”you’re-in-danger’s.”

Yeah, sharing our faith stories is incredibly vulnerable.

Many people don’t understand, often in our closest circles–family, friends, leaders.

Every time we gain the courage to share what’s going on inside of us related to faith and put it out on the table, we are taking a risk.  

We risk losing respect, positions, trust, connection, church, jobs, and a long-list-of-other-things that looks different for each of our unique circumstances.

I have had some friends tell me that they have been nervous to even share about the release of Faith Shift on their Facebook walls because they knew it would expose some of their journey to friends-of-a-more-conservative-persuasion and they might lose friends or have to explain themselves in a way they weren’t up for.

It’s easy to say, “just own your story and move on” and I do believe that’s ultimately true. But when you’re on the edges of it, when there’s a lot on the line, when we’re not-really-sure-which-way-the-conversation-could-go, when we’re tired & fragile & aren’t ready to defend ourselves, it’s much more complicated than that.

That’s all I really wanted to say today.

Our faith stories are so beautiful, so brave, so tender. 

If you’re hearing one–please handle it with care. Listen well. Honor it, respect it, and don’t try to fix a thing.

If you’re trying to share one–just know you’re in good company in the tenderness and you’re really, really brave. It takes a lot of guts to be spiritually honest, to share our true struggles, doubts, questions, and transforming theologies despite the potential fallout. Some people might not be able to handle it, but I truly believe God and some other safe people can.

I love another thing Brene Brown says, too: “Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.”

Our faith stories are unfolding, evolving, ever-changing.  Where we are today is maybe not where we’ll be in 3 months or 6 months or a year.  We can’t wait until they’re all figured out until we share them out loud–because they’ll never be figured all the way out.

No matter where we’re at, it’s our tender, fragile, beautiful, strong, messy, unique, holy story.

Let’s keep handling them with care.  

Thank you for taking good care of mine; I’m really grateful.

Have a great weekend.

peace, kathy

//

ps: two other quick things to share that are out there this week related to Faith Shift:

  • I wrote a post for On Faith called 4 Reasons It’s Okay to Lose Faith. Yeah, losing faith doesn’t have to mean losing it all.
  • I also was in an online livestream conversation for Convergent Book’s new Make Room series about Re-thinking Church with some other pastors & friends. The audio was jacked up at the beginning and I dropped off several times (right before the question on vulnerability & church, too, ha ha) but lots of interesting, challenging, and hopeful perspectives about church.

it’s here!

kathyescobar faith shifts 14 Comments

Ecologist Mural Painting on Wall

Yes, finally! Whew!  After months and months of forming the project, gathering stories, writing, editing, re-editing, and production, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Part is out!  It’s a messy & surreal process, especially on top of a lot of kids & the refuge & our crazy life.

But I am so excited that basically all of the stuff that I’ve been writing about for the past chunk of years is now in one place, in order–with a lot better editing and capital letters! (and, best of all, real stories from a bunch of my amazing and brave friends).

I can’t begin to tell you all how grateful I am for the stories, emails,  comments, and messages over these past years that have reminded me that I’m not crazy, and I’m not alone, and that faith shifts are oh-so-real. It’s been so healing in more ways than I can count. My hope for this book is that it can help others find their way through the scary, weird, messy, beautiful process of life after an unraveled faith.

I won’t go on and on about the book in this moment; now you can get a copy for yourself online or you can take a peek inside.  But I will share a few quick things this morning about it:

  • It’s written for spiritual refugees, church burnouts and freedom seekers. It’s definitely not for everyone. It’s for people who have experienced a significant shift in their faith and feel lost and tired and lonely in the process. It’s for people who know some of these feelings or experiences.
  • It’s meant to be interactive. It’s not a read-my-words and breeze to the next chapter kind of book. It’s to participate in, with questions and thoughts to consider, and ways to engage with it related to our own unique faith stories.  There are questions for personal or group reflection at the end of each chapter, too.
  • I really hope you will share what it stirs up in you, either on the blog or in messages. I have a new link on the Faith Shift tab specifically for responses to the material and to share your own experiences and ways you’d maybe illustrate your faith evolution or different words you might use to describe your journey. I’d love to hear more, and that’s another place to share where everything’s in one place.
  • None of this would be possible without you. Your stories, your honesty, your courage here on the blog and in real life is really what Faith Shift is all about. I am so grateful!  There have been others that have gone before us and others who will come after us, and that’s why sharing our stories–the good, the bad, the ugly–matters.

A few other things floating around related to Faith Shift this week:

A me-rambling-about-faith-shifts video / If you want to hear a little live snippet with my friend Travis Reed of the Work of the People, here’s a little video, part 1 of a fun (no way to be around Travis and not have it be fun) conversation we had together last month when I was in Texas.

A blog post / I have written a few pieces for the Convergent blog related to some of the ideas in the book. I already shared about the first one here–You Know Your Faith is Shifting When–and the second one came out last week–When our Faith Unravels, We Lose a Lot.

A livestream conversation about re-thinking church / It’s not directly related to the book, but for me, creating a space that can hold these shifts in tension is so important.  All of the details are here.  It’s on Thursday October 23rd at noon Mountain Time.

Coming soon:

The thing I’m most excited to do with Faith Shift is create little pockets of people who want to process it together live. Not a book-reading, but a really-engaging-with-the-material-together kind of gathering (always my favorite).  Some friends in some different cities are organizing a few spaces & places for this in early 2015 and will keep you posted when and where (November 13th will be the first one in Colorado Springs).

Most of all, I’d love to hear what your thoughts about it! Please, share with me. You will see things differently, you will have things to add, you will find yourselves in the stories.  The best part is hearing from you!

Have a great day. I know mine will be definitely filled with smiles and gratitude…

peace, kathy

when we’re spiritually hangry.

kathyescobar faith shifts, healing, just because i thought it was fun, spiritual formation 9 Comments

hangry

When I was last visiting my daughter in New York she started getting cranky because we hadn’t eaten and been walking all over town forever. She said, “Mommmmm, Feed me! I’m getting hangry!”

I get angry sometimes, too, when I’m hungry.

It’s that desperate feeling like I better get some food now before I go off the deep end. My husband, Jose, thinks it’s kind of funny but the truth is funny is not the word I would use to describe it in the moment.

This past Sunday night at The Refuge we processed some of the core ideas from Faith Shift together at our service. A dear friend texted me afterward that she loved the conversation and realized how she was “spiritually hangry.” It made me laugh out loud.

It is such a great description for so many of us!

When it comes to faith shifts and losses in our spiritual journey, we are definitely hangry.

We’re often angry and hungry at the same time.

Sometimes the anger is directed toward the church. We’ve been hurt by systems that we gave our heart to and don’t want anything to do with it. Leaders betrayed us. The places that once fostered a sense of belonging and connection now feel lonely and empty.

Other times, our anger is directed toward God. Where in the $(&@&!! is God in our shifting faith? Why can’t we hear him, feel him, experience him anymore? Why does God let such crazy stuff happen in his name?

And then often we’re mad at ourselves. Why did we leave church? Why did we stay? How did we check some of our logic at the door? How did we lose so much of ourselves in order to belong?

When I’m mad at people or things, the last thing I want to do is move toward them. In those moments, I want to harden my heart, build my case, steel myself, protect myself, do absolutely-anything-i-can-to-not-let-myself-get-hurt-again.

But what happens when at the same time we’re angry about some of the things that have happened to us spiritually that we’re also hungry?

When we long for spiritual connection with God again.

When our souls feel dry and we don’t know how to find water.

When we’re tired of what my friend Stacy calls “spiritual anorexia” where we’re withering away spiritually but can’t find any nourishing food to eat.

What happens when we’re spiritually hangry?

What are our options?

Oh, this is always the part where it would be so much easier if there were a list of 10 sure ways to satisfy our spiritual h-anger or a magic pill we could take that could easily transition us out of a season of spiritual desert after a long season of our faith unraveling.

But alas, it never seems to work that way.

It does seem, though, that there are some possibilities to consider to help us with our spiritual hangriness:

It’s always so good to process some of our anger. It’s not a sin. It’s real. It’s human. It can be a propelling emotion. It also is a big part of grief, which is a core element of a lot of our faith shifts. Some of these posts about anger can help vent a little, but really, anything we can do to allow honesty helps. It’s also good to remember we don’t have to get all of our anger issues squared away before we can re-connect with God. That another good part of paradox–we can be angry at and hungry for God at the same time.

Find something, anything, that works to get some spiritual food. To me, anything that brings hope, light, joy, love, peace is a signal it’s the right direction. Sometimes we think certain kinds of food are more “spiritual” than others (the Bible, church, etc.) when really, if we break down the lines between the sacred and the secular we can find God in all kinds of surprising places–art, music, nature, friendship, quiet, creative endeavors, helping others, and more. Contrary to what we may have been taught, it can be enough; noticing this as satisfying food instead of dismissing it as a snack can be really helpful.

Grieve the loss of inspiration addiction because it’s probably not coming back. I personally think one of the reasons we get so hangry is that if we came from a certain kind of evangelical/charismatic background, we are used to a certain kind of spiritual high. When our faith deconstructs, we at first are glad to shed it. The problem is that once it’s gone, we don’t know what we’re exactly looking for when it comes to new spiritual connection. Is it supposed to feel like that again in a different way? Or is it completely new? For me, spiritual connection has radically changed. The high has never even come close to returning. I have moments where things are stirred in my heart and soul that touch me in a deep way, but it is often so subtle, more a still, small voice that is sometimes tricky to hear.

Experiment. While finding what works helps, another thing can be open to trying new and interesting things you’ve never “eaten” before. Meet with a spiritual director, try a radically different kind of church experience or faith tradition, read a spiritual book that is out of our comfort zone, try something that feels foreign and see what happens. These experiments can help us feel less angry, more open, and can even bring some fun into it (part of the problem, too, is we are good at taking our faith seriously but not so good at playing with it). What if we engaged in some of these things with a lightness, a willingness to laugh with God at what we are learning and experiencing?

How do you identify with being spiritually hangry?

Anything that is helping meet your spiritual hangriness right now? It always helps to hear ideas from others.

busy blog.

kathyescobar blog, healing, incarnational, spiritual formation Leave a Comment

blog

Sometimes I don’t blog much here, but I’ve got other posts floating around in various places. I usually always write them at totally different times but then they all hit at the same time, which is kind of weird.  This past week was one of those weeks!

Here are some posts out and about that you might want to check out because they are part of other interesting things worth knowing about:

  • Christine Sine has an awesome blog and is one of my most favorite liturgists & spiritual guides. She creates all kinds of lovely resources for Advent & Lent and hosts blog series on different spiritual formation topics here and there. This month she’s got a series centered on spiritual direction and faith shifts. Some of you have already seen a modified version of this post before, but when she asked me to contribute, I knew exactly which one i wanted to share–the role of Spiritual Midwives in our faith journey.
  • Lastly, every month I write a little Down We Go column for Sheloves Magazine. I really enjoy being part of that team from afar. There is so much great content over there if you haven’t seen it before. This month’s theme was “Listen” & my post is called “Thank You for Sharing.” There are all kinds of other posts coming this month centered on the art of listening.

Have a great rest-of-your-weekend!  See you later this week here.  9 days until Faith Shift releases. So excited!

peace, kathy

 

survival of the fittest church

kathyescobar church stuff, equality, incarnational, injustice, jesus is cool, leadership, rants 37 Comments

matthew 19

A few months ago I made a big plate of nachos for all of the kids. Within 10 minutes, they were devoured and I made a joke about how life around here is like “survival of the fittest.” The strongest and most-able-to-elbow-everyone-out-to-get-the-guacamole wins.

The past few weeks, I also talked to some amazing pastors & leaders who are some of the most humble and kind and dedicated people I know but are struggling with what it looks like to lead in their contexts. Their communities are small, the people they care about don’t have resources, and people-who-fund-these-kinds-of-things just don’t come be part.

It made me think how often church has become about “survival of the fittest”, too.

Even though Jesus spoke boldly against this in the gospels, the one “system” that’s supposed to be contrary to the ways of the world has adapted its methods and structures to fit in. The result: over time, the “strong” are surviving and what is perceived by the world as “weak” are becoming more extinct.

Mega-churches with big budgets keep building buildings; small, simple, in-the-trenches communities find it hard to stay alive. Strong charismatic leaders keep drawing people in; ordinary average pastors-who-are-just-doing-the-simple-day-to-day-work-of-taking-care-of-their-congregations keep dwindling in numbers.

The same principle applies to extensions of “church”. Take blogging, for example–often, loud, mean, provoking voices rise to the top and humble, kind, honest ones never get hits. Beautiful underground practitioners are doing the tangible work of living out their faith without the help of sustaining financial support but those with seminary degrees & charismatic communication abilities & strong-in-the-world’s-eyes leaders are the ones being fully funded.

Over the past 8 years The Refuge has been alive, I have seen a lot of churches & leaders come and go. The saddest part to me is that on the whole, the ones that have gone have been friends who were trying new things, deeply and humbly dedicated to people, and really passionate about the incarnation of Christ in all kinds of creative and wonderful ways. They made deep sacrifices over time to live out their dreams for Christian community, but in the end, some just couldn’t make it. Others, like us, continue to struggle along as best we can but money is always tight and the “strong” rarely come.

Bottom line: Human beings don’t like to be weak.

Many contemporary Christians like it even less.

We like to be on the winning team.

We like to be the ones who aren’t like “those people.”

We like to feel comfortable.

We like the safety of numbers.

We like certainty and conformity and affiliation.

We like the path of ascent, not descent.

And those are all contrary to the ways of the kingdom, where the last will be first and the first will be last. Where stopping on the side of the road to help the man bleeding is more important than the next-great-sermon-to-prepare-or-listen-to. Where spiritual poverty & humility & mourning & meekness & peacemaking lead to blessing. Where it’s worth it to leave the 99 to find the one. Where restoring basic human dignity and offering tangible love and connection trump programs & budgets & the law. Where mercy is more important than sacrifice.

I always wrestle with the paradox of feeling despair about the reality of church while witnessing hope, too. For some reason today I just feel extra bugged because I still see the strong getting stronger and the weak getting squeezed out. 

I am tired of hearing about yet another church plant with big plans for growth and funding when there are so many small struggling ones who could really use some brothers & sisters to come alongside and pitch in and help instead.

I am tired of hearing about the next, new great church idea when there are countless local agencies and organizations who could desperately use more volunteers and help and will never, ever benefit from another Sunday church service cropping up in their town.

I am tired of hearing of yet another amazing, small, beautiful community evaporating because of lack of funding to sustain the so-under-market-value amount some of these pastors & leaders need to keep doing the hard-and-painful-work-of-truly-living-alongside-others.

I am tired of hearing about yet another male leader of some church or network or ministry or organization who gets away with being a narcissist and mistreating and using people and somehow keeps getting paid good to do it because they have charisma and know how to woo the right people.

I am tired of hearing of another incredibly gifted female leader with no church to serve in or staying stuck in one that’s “as good as it gets” but will never see her as a full equal.

I am tired of yet another privileged argument about the scriptural interpretation of homosexuality while the poor are getting poorer and the grooves of oppression continue to get deeper and wider at home and around the world.

I am tired of hearing about many incredible, sincere people who long to find a spiritual community to be part of after a faith shift but have few options because most everything out there is either “strong” or dying or unwelcoming because the money & resource won’t tolerate the fringe.

I am tired of a heckuva lot of people being influenced by a theology of power & strength & hierarchy week after week after week.

Goodness gracious, I’m tired of a lot of things!

I’m not trying to highlight all the negative; there’s no doubt so many good things are happening all over the place, many that we never hear or know about. I definitely borrow hope from that and truly believe that ultimately the ones on the underside of power win.

Mostly, I think I am just tired of “survival of the fittest” accurately describing the church of Jesus Christ–the one group that should defy all of man’s theories.