faith shifts: what about the kids?

kathyescobar ex good christian women, faith shifts, mommydom, video convos 11 Comments

be kind and gentle with yourself

One of the most tricky parts about shifting faith is wondering what it means for our kids. I wrote a post several years ago called kids & faith: what are we creating and recently shared a little bit more specifically about the kids & faith shifts in this me-just-talking-to-Travis-Reed video conversation on The Work of the People:

I thought today I’d also share a little excerpt from Faith Shift centered specifically on this because so many of us struggle on how to navigate these tricky waters as parents. As a mommy of 5 kids, I know it’s not an easy dance.

Ways Faith-Shifting Parents Can Help Their Kids 

Kids don’t need to know all the details. We said too much out loud at a time when our oldest two kids were almost teenagers in Christian school. While some things can’t be avoided when you live in the same house, my weeping, my anger about the church, and the specifics of how I had been hurt were details my kids didn’t need to know. Frankly, it left them really confused. There’s a way to be honest and authentic without exposing them to all the intricacies and emotions. I wish I had just said the truth: “I am going through a really weird season in my faith where I am struggling with God and the church, but I am going to be okay. We’re going to be okay.” I understand that you might be thinking, I’m not sure I am going to be okay and I don’t want to lie. But I’ll remind you: somehow, some way, you’ll make it to a new place even though you’re not sure what that place may be yet. Kids need this kind of security from their parents.

Kids can live without church programming. It’s okay to give that up. There are all kinds of ways to teach kids about God and faith without going to church on Sunday mornings. It’s amazing how much instruction we have handed over to the church instead of engaging with it ourselves, and it’s a good challenge not to rely on outside forces to teach our kids.

Kids can live with church programming. It’s okay to keep participating in church if that’s what you choose. Faith shifters need to be cautious about what kids are being taught, but remember, kids love stories and ideas. There’s a way to take part without having the church system infiltrate every part of your family’s lives and hearts. At the same time, it’s important to stay on top of what they are being taught and not assume it’s completely safe or doesn’t matter. Ask questions and find out what they’re learning. It’s okay to disagree with teachings and talk about it together (depending on their age). I have said to my kids, “I don’t agree with that” or “I don’t interpret the Bible the same way they do,” and it has helped them see that there are multiple perspectives. We need to be careful, though, that we are not part of systems where we are constantly at odds with teaching because that is too confusing for children.

Focus on what you do still know. My three youngest boys are probably the healthiest when it comes to spiritual things because they have been part of a free system for the longest. Even though there’s a lot I doubt now, a few truths remain that I can pass on: God loves them, God will always be with them no matter what, and Jesus’s ways are worth following. These truths have helped them become more secure.

Discover what’s going on with the kids by asking questions. “What do you guys think about this?” became one of my favorite questions, because they always share the most amazing little kernels of beauty and truth. In my Fusing days I would have wanted to correct them and make sure they knew the “right” answers. Now, I appreciate their responses and acknowledge the richness of their thoughts even though they might be challenging. This means we, as parents, will have to live with answers that might freak us out or things they may say in front of our old friends from church. It’s good to loosen our grip on these things, defuse power struggles, and let our kids participate in their faith development in a more organic way. We can teach our children to ask questions instead of blindly accepting whatever someone in authority is teaching them is “biblical.”

Decide on your essentials. Every family has its own essentials, but it’s a good idea to decide and name what those might be. Then you know you can let go of the nonessentials and release guilt that you might carry for not passing on “enough” to the kids. Essentials are enough. Some of ours are love God, love others, love yourselves in whatever ways you can.

Trust their long-haul journeys. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and see only our mistakes or what our kids are lacking. Every child has a life of spirituality ahead, and each will wrestle with faith in different ways over time. Seeing the big picture is wise. As you trust your own long-haul journey, you can trust theirs as well.

Actions are better than words. Kids are visual learners. They love to practice, engage, and participate in learning. Instead of talking about our beliefs, we started acting on them by loving people, sacrificing our time for others, and just serving instead of talking about why we’re supposed to do it. My husband went to law school a few years ago so he could get a second job serving domestic-violence victims as a pro bono lawyer. He didn’t say “God wants us to do x, y, and z to serve him properly”—he just did it.

It’s so hard to parent through a faith shift! It’s scary, and my heart hurts for all of the suffering many parents have endured wondering if their choices were going to damage the kids. It’s important to let go of perfectionism and control when it comes to this important task. We will mess things up. We will make mistakes. We will feel afraid. But in the end, the best we can offer is modeling our own authentic faith.

Remember, we’re always doing the best we can with what we’ve got. This is tough stuff, but your caring about it matters.

Be kind and gentle with yourself. We’ll need grace and mercy to fill in the cracks.

(Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart, pp. 207-211)

I am sure there are many others, too, and would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

I asked my older kids to quickly share with me what advice they had for parents related to their kids and a shifting faith. The best quote: “Better to be honest than pretend you have all the answers.” 


let’s stop joking about the word “whore…”

kathyescobar equality, injustice, rants 28 Comments

words matter

This could possibly be my shortest blog post ever, a close second to “we let women lead.”

In the past month or so I have heard several different men & women say things like this: “I’m such an approval whore” or “I’m a whore for chocolate” or “I’m an attention whore.”  Everyone laughed.

It made me cringe inside and I remember thinking, “This is what happens when your eyes get opened to injustice. You start noticing stuff you never noticed before and then you have to consider doing something about it.”

And then I pushed it down in the moment because I don’t want to be one of those hard-ass judgy people who critique every little thing that people say. That feels yucky, and I know I can say all kinds of unintentionally-not-good-things, too. I also know when they said these words it doesn’t come from a bad place or a mean heart. These people care about women and people deeply and were just using it as a figure of speech.

It’s just become normal to use the word “whore” as a common phrase without thinking of its underpinning. 

It’s supposed to be funny.

But it’s not.

No woman sets out to sell her body for sex.

No woman is meant to sell her body for sex.

No woman should have to sell her body for sex.

And we shouldn’t be joking about it.

When we use the word “whore” tacked onto our language like it’s nothing, it desensitizes us to the plight of our sisters.

It minimizes the reality that right now as i’m writing these words and as you are reading them there are countless number of women whose bodies are being used for sex because they are either being forced to or they have no other options.

Yeah, “whore” is just something I hope to see taken out of our vocabulary completely.

Words matter.

I would love for us to find another way to say what we’re trying to say that doesn’t further degrade what’s already being degraded.

It’s really not funny. And it’s definitely not the right word.

listening in on some faith shift conversations.

kathyescobar church stuff, down we go, faith shifts, healing, incarnational, leadership, spiritual formation, video convos 9 Comments

hope begins in the dark

Some of you may already know about The Work of the People and the interesting and beautiful material they have.  Interviews, visual liturgies, and all kinds of other awesomeness abound on their site. If you don’t subscribe yet, it’s so worth it.  There is so much beauty and hope packed in there! My personal favorites are the Jean Vanier pieces, and we’ve used the visual liturgies for different Refuge gatherings over the years.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago on Facebook, in September I spent some time gabbing with my friend Travis Reed, founder and filmmaker of The Work of the People. I had no idea what he would do with our rambles, but he pulled them all together into a little faith shifting series.

Here’s a link list of all the videos. 

A lot of you have already seen the first one–Faith Shift: How do we find our way forward when everything we once believed comes apart? 

We talked about all kinds of things related to faith that day, too, and they are each on different videos:

  • Hearing the CallWhen our faith unravels, we lose a lot, but death is part of resurrection. This one is really part 2 of the first one and centers on Unraveling.
  • Holding Onto Power: All roads lead to power, and that’s why we need to talk about it.  I am so glad that he focused one video specifically on power, a topic that is hard to talk about but that we need to address. Misused power is often a catalyst for faith shifts, too, and we are going to be talking all about it this weekend at the Denver Faith and Justice Conference.
  • Signs of Life: What happens when our old spiritual tricks stop working but we’re desperate for signs of Life?  For me, one of the hardest things about rebuilding faith after so much unraveled was how to find ways to connect with God again.

I’ve already shared here how freaking vulnerable the past few weeks have felt, so adding more to the mix isn’t really my favorite thing.  At the same time, I hope listening into conversations like this help others keep processing their shifting faith in whatever ways are helpful.

If you watch them, I’d love to hear anything they stir up for you.  Your stories & reflections always bring me hope.

peace, kathy

why i still love the church.

kathyescobar church stuff, down we go, faith shifts, incarnational 13 Comments

people God gathering

Yes, I call out unhealthy church systems all the time.

Yes, I rant and rave about equality.

Yes, I believe sometimes people need to leave church-as-they-knew-it to save their souls.

Yes, I am deeply disturbed by how power and control has hurt so many.

But I also still do love the “church.”

I believe in what it’s supposed to be.

I believe in its power.

I believe in its possibility.

I believe in its purpose.

Remember, though, I have a very loose definition of church. I say it all different ways:

The longer version: People gathered together in some way, shape or form to learn & practice the ways of Jesus and pass on love, hope, mercy, justice, and healing in a broken, weird world.

The short version: Pockets of people learning to love God, others, and ourselves & be loved by God, others, ourselves.

Church is so creative. Formal, informal, big, small, conversational, liturgical, in bars, in recovery meetings, in parks, in buildings, in houses, in sweet-space-next-to-food-banks, in coffee shops, in trailer parks, at dinner tables, at campfires.

However, there are a few constant key ingredients: people, God, and gathering.

And here’s what’s beautiful–there are all kinds of people, and all kinds of ways to intersect with God, and all kinds of ways to gather.

My sadness is that the church has become systemized and not spirit-ized. It’s supposed to be the best reflection on earth of heaven–oozing equality & justice & hope & authenticity & healing. But instead, it’s so often filled with hierarchy & control & power & hiding. It’s often stuck in the rut of certainty, conformity & affiliation instead of releasing people as they grow into a maturing faith of freedom, mystery & diversity. It’s often tame, controlled, manageable, domesticated.

That’s really never what it was supposed to be.

But, like humans from the beginning of time, we have always tried to shape things into what worked for us and kept us safe & protected.

I think Jesus turned all that upside down and like so many religious leaders and followers then, we still don’t like the message because it calls us to discomfort. It calls us to break down the walls between us & them. It calls us to clean our own cups first. It calls us to leave religion and find faith. It calls us to mercy. It calls us to practice.

Most of all, it calls us to relationship–with God, with others, with ourselves.

There are so many amazing things that happen through relationship with people when we gather in some way, shape or form to learn & practice together.

When we create little pockets of love and freedom in all kinds of unique ways.

To me, there are things that can’t happen in my life in my house all by myself. Left on my own, look out. I implode. I cave in. My eyeballs turn in and the only thing I can see is myself, myself, myself.

That’s why I still love church.

It helps me to connect with the beauty & hope of humanity. To look in eyes and share hearts. To reckon with my pride, my self-protection, my fears. To receive and not just give. To remember I’m not God even though I try to act like I am. To uncover the rubble in my own life and help remove some in my friends’ too. To practice friendship.  To participate with God to create little slivers & tastes of heaven here on earth.

Church–my life with people-who-don’t-have-to-be-with-me-but-choose-to-anyway–forces me to grow, heal, become more whole.

I don’t believe in going to church. Those days are so over for me.

But I do believe in being the church with other people who are growing, healing, becoming more whole, too.

And there are so many creative, wild, beautiful, unexpected, simple, amazing ways that is possible.

A new pastor friend in Denver shared the most soul-stirring sermon I have heard in a long time, centered on church and the state of Christianity. Please, read it. It rocks! It made me cry because sometimes I get so confused on what I feel about church and faith shifts and all of the ways I’ve changed over the years. I hear the voices of people who have criticized me along the way, telling me I was leading people astray or that the slippery slope was too dangerous.

I won’t restate everything in the sermon because it’s worth reading on your own, but the essence I gleaned is that we can trust God with the future of the church & Christianity.  He’s not proposing to take it lightly, but to hold it lightly…“to cling to it less, to let it go from the grasp of our certainties, to free it from our obsessive focus and our faithless worry that if we don’t protect it, preserve it, reinvent it, spruce it up, perpetuate it, it will somehow just disappear and we will have failed.”

That, like Moses’ mother putting him in a basket and sending him down the river not knowing where he’d end up, that we can trust the wild and crazy ways of God to supersede our biblical interpretations and our tendencies to manage and make-sense-of-things-in-a-way-that’s-comfortable. That Christ-alive is bigger and more powerful and more prevailing than our man-made constructs. That “church” will survive because the Holy Spirit isn’t going anywhere and will keep working in people’s lives instilling courage & love & hope. That the Jesus-infused call of justice & mercy will always inspire people to tangible love & care in our neighborhoods, our cities, the world.

That we’ve got a big creative God who’s with it no matter what.

Yes, I still love the “church.”

And I always love seeing it set free.

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.