Being a Christian means ALWAYS having to say you’re sorry.

I am a Christian.

(But not like, one of THOSE kind.) 

I always feel the need to add that caveat because sadly, I totally understand the staggering array of knee-jerk negative stereotypes that come with that word.

I was born a Southern white female to Christian parents, so you know, religion kind of came with the package, like egg rolls. It was dang near a pre-existing condition. But my parents had a very authentic and real relationship with God and they not only taught that to me, they lived it out in front of me. When I was nine, I did the “every head bowed, every eye closed, raise your hand” statement of faith and was duly baptized by Pastor Small (I know! And he was!) in a Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. Though never what you’d call pious– I’ll take a moment here to let those of you who know me stop laughing hysterically– I weathered my adolescent years without too much spiritual angst, and entered my twenties with a brand new marriage and my Christian faith intact.

Then Real Life happened. Throughout the next thirty years give or take, Real Life handed me a veritable smorgasbord of experiences of the” Destined To Knock The Faith Right Out Of You” variety. I’m not special, life does that to everyone whether you profess a belief system of some sort or not. But if you are raised a Christian in this country (and you are very honest with yourself), in your secret heart of hearts there is usually a tiny part of you that thinks there should be at least a little bit of an exemption in the pain department for people of faith. Not a free pass, but come on, shouldn’t getting up on Sunday mornings when all the agnostics are sleeping in count for something? Yeah, well, apparently not so much. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. (Oh hi! I just quoted scripture! Touchdown dance!)

Anyway, to cut to the chase and save you the reader from having to endure my litany of sorrows, suffice to say I got my fair share of soul-shattering, bone-crushing, teeth-gnashing life experiences that fundamentally changed me— hopefully for the better in some cases, but they also left a kind of sticky, grimy residue in my heart. It was what remained of my untested childhood faith in the aftermath of life’s scorched earth policy. My faith wasn’t destroyed, it just slowly and wholly mutated, evolved if you will, into something that could accommodate the lessons I’d learned, and reconcile what I had walked through with what I’d always believed to be true about God. Asking myself the hard questions didn’t precipitate a huge crisis, it wasn’t a desperate search for meaning. It was just a season of the soul. I needed to re-evaluate everything I’d been taught in the Christian tradition and weigh it against actual experience to see what measured up. And more importantly, what didn’t. What came out of that time wasn’t really a new faith, but it was MY faith. Not my parents’, not the church’s, not our founding fathers’, not my husband’s faith– mine. It was stronger than I’d expected, but also surprisingly elastic. It was much more inclusive than exclusive, and was full to overflowing with what I believe to be the personality and character of God; an endless, fathomless ocean of unconditional love and grace. Always, always.

Now since I have spent my entire adult life in the belly of professional Christianity, I understand that some of the things I just wrote might make a few of my fellow believers nervous. Some of the ‘buzzwords’ I used are seen by some fundamentalists as divisive, and could automatically indicate to a lot of people that I am teetering on the brink of a fate worse than death– liberalism! OHHHHH NOOOOO!!!!! Ok, can I just tell all of you in the family of God that, honestly? I don’t even know what that word means. Either one, really– fundamentalist, liberal, whatever. I mean I’m not stupid, I know the political implications, I know why people who fall under both categories inevitably end up yelling at each other, convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the other guy is riddled with scriptural error and represents everything abhorrent to God. But they are labels that are essentially meaningless, since the parameters that define them really depend on the viewpoint of the individual doing the defining. That’s why I say in my blog introduction that my liberal friends are surprised at how Christian I am and my Christian friends are surprised at how liberal I am. My beliefs get categorized in different ways by different sets of people. And that’s OK, it’s my faith, it doesn’t have to be theirs. Or yours.

And yes, (she says, beating you to the punch) I do do know about the ongoing, ever-popular ‘inerrancy of Scripture’ debate and I am well aware that people freak out if they think you’re trying to push an agenda of ‘there are no absolutes’– but that’s not what I’m saying, those are all fightin’ words and I honestly don’t have a dog in that fight. Whatever side you come down on in any given doctrinal argument doesn’t threaten me or my faith or make me determined to prove you wrong. It’s yours. I imagine your viewpoints are born out of your experiences in the same way that mine are. It’s not my job to sort it out, thankfully, it’s God’s. There are so many blatantly evil things in this world to battle against, and so many horrific wrongs against the innocents of this world that need to righted– if I spend even a portion of my life trying to do something about all of that mess, I doubt that I will ever have the time or energy or desire to try to engage in a theological smackdown with a fellow believer! 

But before you start thinking that I’m going all Kum By Yah on you, please know that I am not saying that some contrasting viewpoints don’t get on my last nerve, because oh dear Lord they do. I don’t like being told that all Christians are judgmental, homophobic, racist hate-mongers (they aren’t) anymore than I like being told that I can’t be a Christian if I didn’t vote for Bush (I didn’t. Twice.) There are more than enough broad-brushed, ill-informed generalizations to go around on both sides. That’s why even though I have no qualms or embarrassment about identifying myself as a Christian, I always feel compelled to clarify a few things, to distance myself from the very bad taste that so many Christians, in all of their gloriously flawed humanity, have left in the mouths of, well… everyone! I always feel like I should apologize (NOT FOR BEING A CHRISTIAN, geez, put your stones down!), but for all of the horrendous things that have been foisted upon the world in the name of God– from the Crusades to the PTL Club, and everything in between. 

So… Everybody? (Including other Christians)–

I’m sorry.

I am really, really sorry that we have blown it so spectacularly so many times. I’m sorry that though we gave the world Martin Luther King and Billy Graham, we also produced Jimmy Swaggart and John Wesley Fletcher. (Google them, it’ll come back to you.)  I’m sorry that we have a tendency to circle the wagons and zealously guard our beliefs instead of proving what we believe by opening the circle to everyone. I’m sorry that we often kill our wounded. I’m sorry that some of my opinions might make you think that we are irreconcilably separated, when the truth is, we are irrevocably bonded.  I’m sorry that we have blamed/credited God for everything from Hurricane Katrina to badly written gospel songs. I’m sorry that we have wasted so much energy fighting against people instead of for people. I’m sorry that we haven’t always shown each other the grace that we have been shown. I’m sorry for every nickel that’s been manipulatively wrung out of people who couldn’t afford it, but gave it with a pure heart anyway. I’m sorry that we have sometimes been such poor reflections of such a magnificent God. And I’m sorry that because we are usually so convinced of our ‘rightness’ in every situation, it is so hard for us to say we’re sorry.

Well, there you are. Far from perfect. Hopefully, we’re learning as we go. But the the thing is, against the odds and in spite of the all the reasons not to, I do believe. To the core of my being, I still believe.

 And I am grateful beyond words for that.

So, yeah. I am a Christian.

50 Responses

  1. themema

    Right on! Tori!!!!

    Years ago, a close friend and I walked (or rather talked) thru the valley of weeds that tried to choke out our Christian faith of our childhood, and reached the other side where we could claim the title Christian without much of the baggage, that often goes with that term. She cared for my family and fed them while I endured chemo, radiation and surgery. I sat quietly through hours of her railing at God for the sudden death of her 6 year old. (her husband was a minister and my pastor).

    When we finally reached the oasis where the weeds no longer entgangled us, and the love of God surrounded us, she shared our triathalon of faith with her elderly Mother, who calmly said, “Be thankful that you have found your own faith. Many people never do.”

    Now that I am old, I understand that. I see friends still fighting the weeds of faith that I was able to mow down decades ago, and I can be so thankful for the smooth path of belief and faith, even when sometimes there is a rock or two that I have to kick out of the way.

    Another excellent entry, Tori.

    Now, about your political persuasion….l o l

  2. gracelynn

    Preach on Tori! That was definitely a great blog.

    I have dealt with the battle all my life from my parents over ‘the battle of religion’. As a teen, I never could understand why they got so upset when I wanted to attend a church that was not Baptist. All I wanted to do was go and worship God (with my grandmother and my best friend) in a church that fell under a different classification – Pentecostal. But no! no! no! Not in their house. Uh uh. BTW, this was after my parents had quit attending the Baptist church they were thrusting upon me. I had to go but they didn’t. (Never figured that one out either.) Like you said, it was my faith – not theirs, not the neighbors, not anyone else’s. And I was worshipping the same God that they professed to be worshipping as well. But my father, nearsighted by looking only at the people attending the church he once did, automatically judges everyone based on that handful of people that were there and his study of philosophy in college. It’s so sad that people can get so caught up in their own agendas and so-called beliefs that they fail to see that we are all in the same boat. I don’t care what tag you wear – like Russ sings, as long as there is love, we will stand.

    And I’m proud to say that I too believe and am honored to have you as my sister-in-Him!

  3. kwr221

    Yeah, you can write for me.

  4. kwr221

    I hope it’s okay, I linked your post on my blog.

  5. rockin robyn

    Wow! That was awesome…

    But you know what – in a sense, I kind of disagree… In that, the need to say “I’m Sorry” as a Christian for others who have stumbled or see fault in other Christians… no,!! if you go into a situation with eyes wide open and you understand the true Christian faith that we all have flaws and we all are going to “trip and fall” every once in a while, you would have forgiveness in your heart and understand their individual flaws and not label the faith as a whole, as a result of that mistake or “screw-up”…

    If you put Billy Graham and Jim Baker together and label all Christian preachers “they are all alike”… you’re not going to get an apology from me. You’re not worth my wasted breath to debate you, because you are not seeing the full beauty of the painting. We are all God’s children and He loves us all the same… He knew Mr. Baker would disgrace the Christian belief in non-believers eyes and in believers eyes, but He still loves him the same as He loved Martin Luther King. As humans that’s hard to accept but we should.

    I’m not an Obama supporter and I didn’t go into a hotel in California and as a Christian, get my picture taken with an Obama sticker or sign (I forget what it was… lol). But as another Christian I see who you are and from following your husband’s career I’m alert to and aware of the struggles in your lives (don’t know all the details – none of my business) but through my heart I see who you are and I love your strength and strong will and I respect you for all that.

    I’m such a weak, weak person and I didn’t get dealt the tough cards you and Russ apparently did. But I see it as God knew your strengths (obviously)and He knew you would “take it” for the team so when weak people like myself come along and are knowledgable of your struggles and see how strong your faith is now, it places an influence in them (me) and teaches of His love through you guys… Then you understand that those struggles shaped you and are a result of who you are today!

    So instead of damning you for “your” opinions, I take away with me what I can use and discard what I can’t. Life is just a game of “Go Fish”!! Why would I keep a “9” of hearts when I can’t use it, but someone else can. Christians or not if we all had the same passions and thought process it would be a boring world and God would have surely come for us already. This life is a learning process and the people Christians feel the need to “say I’m sorry to” aren’t learning yet – but they will! Soon enough!

    I’m such a conservative I have two “right” hands but I don’t criticize the “leftists” if they, in my eyes, stand by their beliefs and don’t flip flop to be popular and I can take something (learn something) from their beliefs!

    Thank you Tori for being you and being someone who can “Say it” in a song or even in a blog…. Your writings are golden!

  6. kwr221

    Okay, I just love, love, love this phrase:

    “But before you start thinking that I’m going all Kum By Yah on you”

    Hah, hah!

  7. LindaB

    WHAT??? No boob jokes? No nonsense? Just soul searching introspection and apologetics?

    I’m sorry, but I’m gonna go watch the convention on TV.

  8. tori

    Linda– HELLO, you’re supposed to be bringing the boob jokes and nonsense. I’m the Deep Writer Type, all moody and emo and wearing too much black eyeliner. Too sensitive for this world and misunderstood, so very, very misunderstood…
    (Oh, and that’s the DEMOCRATIC convention you’re watching, right? heh heh)

  9. themema

    Hi, rockin robyn. You have some very valid points, as a Christian talking to a Christian.

    My concern is most oten the very faulty picture that we as Christians give to non Christians as we squabble over the wrong things, and teach heretical positions.

    Linda and Tori, I can supply the boob nonsense…..but I promise I won’t. It gives Barb the vapors just worrying that I might.

  10. auburn60

    OK-I think…(everyone waits breathlessly)…
    Well, I’m not sure what I think. I used to struggle a lot with the terminology of ‘conservative,liberal,evangelical,etc.’ until I realized most people who used those terms were attempting to describe someone else’s theology,not their own. I came to the conclusion that Paul’s admonition to ‘work out my own salvation with fear and trembling’ was probably gonna keep me too busy to worry about everybody elses. Not my salvation itself–that seems pretty straightforward–but where others around me are in their faith. And I am at a different place on any given day,so I assume others may be also.
    I have a visceral reaction,however, to groups like the Westboro Baptist. That is the group that pickets military and gay funerals.I don’t know that a general apology covers their behavior. They come from a place of so much hate and smugness in their position that they speak for God in spewing their vitriol.I can hardly talk about them coherently.Talk about giving Christians a bad name!
    I remember a concert–maybe at FF–where we stood and held hands and sang ‘We will Stand’. I remember almost being driven to my knees at the power I felt in that room –the power we have from loving God and each other. I think we as a body are learning…learning to leave behind what divides us and embrace what unites us. And re-learning to reflect God to each other and the world,instead of showing dogma and a desire to find fault.
    And I don’t even have a boob joke up my sleeve. Don’t want Momma Lloyd having vapors.

  11. tori

    Beautifully, beautifully said.
    And yes, I cannot even speak about the Westboro Baptist monsters without losing my shiz. I will never, never forget watching Matthew Shepherd’s family walk into his funeral past a sea of “Matt’s In Hell” signs. Don’t get me started, seriously. I go postal.
    (And what’s your boob doing up your sleeve, anyway?)

  12. tori

    themema, gracelynn, rockin’ robyn– Great comments, very thought-provoking. Keep it up and I’ll start spewing Deep Thoughts all over this blog every week! (Somebody stop me!)

  13. LindaB

    Well, Tori, I didn’t want to break the mood here. I’m not insensitive. Insane, maybe, but not insensitive!

    Of course, I’m watching the Democratic Convention——I need more material! LOL

    BTW, I enjoyed your writing today. We all come from different places and see things from many different viewpoints. And we can ALL learn something from EVERYONE if we take the time to listen to each other. Like in your above blog entry, I learned that you may have a cholesterol problem (“a kind of sticky, grimy residue in my heart”), for which I’d like to recommend red yeast rice. I picked up on that one right away. I’m lookin’ out for ya, Sister!

    Seriously, my favorite statement was this: “There are so many blatantly evil things in this world to battle against, and so many horrific wrongs against the innocents of this world that need to righted– if I spend even a portion of my life trying to do something about all of that mess, I doubt that I will ever have the time or energy or desire to try to engage in a theological smackdown with a fellow believer!” AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH!!! AMEN SISTER! (You’re not gonna sue me for copying that line, are ya? IF so, my name is Betty Morris. LOL)

    Theology is as theology does, I say. Well, I would say it but I just thought of it. I’ll say it again tomorrow. After the Ritalin.

    Hey, did you know that when a pilot ejects from a jet, IF he survives, the force of the rockets that launches him out of the cockpit compresses his spine about an inch. So, after that, he is an inch shorter for the experience! Isn’t that weird? And painful! So……if you ever meet a jet pilot about 4 foot 10 inches tall, you KNOW he’s had more than his share of bailing out of moving jets. Just for your info.

    Sorry, I’m going to bed now.

  14. auburn60

    Boob up my sleeve?
    Well, those puppies do have a tendency to wander.
    I’m going to bed and dream of cholesterol and compressed spines and pilots bailing out in the middle of the DNC.
    Sometimes Linda makes my head spin.

  15. LindaB

    If there’s a boob up your sleeve, Alyson, DON’T WAVE AT ANYONE!!! Even short pilots or Democrats!

  16. tori

    Aaaaaaaand….. THEY’RE OFF!

  17. LindaB

    We’re “off” alright! WAY “OFF”!

    Say good night, Gracie!

  18. drmani

    Amazing, isn’t it, just how startlingly similar our thoughts about issues like this can be, even if geography, religion, upbringing and life circumstances differ as widely as ours do!

    I went through my metamorphosis earlier, around age 21 (due to peculiar circumstances surrounding my professional career) and also “needed to re-evaluate everything I’d been taught… and weigh it against actual experience to see what measured up.”

    A lot did… but some didn’t too!

    Great post. I’ve been telling many folks to read BabyBloomr :-)

    All success

    P.S. – Have you read Eckhart Tolle’s “New Earth”. I think you’ll enjoy it!

  19. Tina

    This is beautifully written and so true to my own experiences and thoughts, although I don’t think I could ever have expressed them with such clarity.

  20. tori

    Dr. Mani– Thank you for the endorsement! :) I haven’t read “New Earth” yet, but “The Power of Now” has truly changed my husband’s life. It is referred to at least once a day around here!

    Tina– WELCOME!! Thanks for commenting, and for your encouragement.

  21. BrownEyedGirl

    Great post. I feel that I am a strong Christian, but I never come close to fitting the mold . You definitely make me feel that it’s okay not to, and I truly thank you for that. The more I listen to sermons , whether about marriage or how Christians are “supposed to act” , I sit there thinking…..that’s not me…… My religious views work for me and I”m totally committed to God ( in my opinion)
    I just love the way you think, Tori! :o)


  22. LindaB

    Okay, I totally get what Tori is talking about in her post. And then I heard that Russ is a fan of “The Power of Now”, and I wanted to see what that’s all about. So I googled it and got a list of quotes from the book, and I’ve gotta admit this—–I don’t get it! It might as well be written in Swahili for me.

    Here’s one for ya:

    “The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind.” – Page 27

    WHAT THE HECK IS HE TALKING ABOUT??? I’m sure it’s something deep and insightful, but WHAT? And, what is wrong with me? Do I need to up my Ritalin or something? Should I be on Elmo’s blog?

  23. tori

    Ok, Linda– (I’m kinda with ya on this one! Don’t tell Russ!)

    ACTUALLY… The main thing that was so life-changing to Russ about Tolle’s writing is that because of Russ’ incredibly dysfunctional upbringing coupled with that particular brand of Christianity that held up an impossible standard of (external) perfection, he has spent a huge amount of time and energy in his life trying to be his own “thought police”. He hated himself for every thought that was ‘less than perfect’, that was human or flawed. His faith life has been colored and shadowed by the feeling that he is completely unworthy– of everything! His parent’s attention, God’s love, the good things that have happened in his life. A deep sense of shame (from the trauma and violence in his childhood) has been at the core of his soul his entire life. VERY typical of trauma survivors.

    One of the main messages of that book is that we ONLY have the ‘now’– this moment. Can’t change the past, can’t predict the future, and if we TRY to, we miss the beauty that God has for us NOW. Tolle talks about being fully ‘present’ in your life, aware and engaged–and for someone with Russ’ background, that is incredibly difficult to do. When anything triggers that childhood pain, he just emotionally checks out. Some of the tips and exercises in the book on how to do that have been life-changing for him. The other main message that he loves is that “you are not your thoughts.” They don’t have to define or control you, you can just mentally and emotionally take a step back and observe them without letting them take over and dominate. So when his painful past comes rushing in, he doesn’t have to just succumb to the shame and the hopelessness that comes with it. He can step back, ‘look’ at the thoughts, and decide to just let them pass on through.

    Tolle’s writings are hard to slog through to those of us (like me) used to more “1-2-3 how-to” books– he sure ain’t Dr. Phil! Some people get really wierded out because they think he’s all new age-y and mystical, but if you take it in small doses and are coming from a secure place in your own faith, there is a lot of ‘meat’ to digest in his work. And Russ has really , really benefited from it.

    (Does that help at all?)

  24. trishARKANSAS

    Sometimes the Christian walk can be hard. It does rain on the just and unjust. And many time I find myself in both categories. Life just happens. Sometimes it can make you question your love for God. Other times it can make you question His love for you.
    Life did that to me not long ago. My faith was shaken. I questioned “God do you love me? I know the whole John 3:16 thing. I know it with my ‘knower’ but God I need to know it in my heart.”
    During this faith shaking time I continued to go to church. One night I went down to the altar to pray and a sweet lady named May came down and knelt beside me. She said “Trish Jesus loves you” Not just one time but @20 times. For a brief second I caught a brief glimpse of the Lord telling me He loves me.

  25. meb

    Tori what an incredible post. Thank you for being so open and honest. I have added a link to this post from my blog. I hope you don’t mind.

  26. tori

    Here’s MY translation, based on Russ’ take on the book– (somebody else might take something totally different away from this, but here’s how it pertains to Russ’ personal experience):

    “The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is.”
    (Painful ‘emotional flashbacks’ that Russ sometimes experiences can come from not really working through, or accepting the harsh reality of what truly happened to him as a child– how bad it really was. He resists taking a hard look at it because it hurts.)

    “On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment.”
    (Russ immediately turns those painful memories into thoughts of “I shouldn’t feel that way, it was a long time ago, my parents are dead now” He even judges himself for having those memories triggered!)

    “On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity.” (His emotions regarding the violence in his childhood are very, very negative and hurtful.)

    “The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind.”
    (He tries very hard to resist those memories and flashbacks from entering his mind, and it flat wears him out. He can’t control what causes them. And the more he ‘lives in his head’, not sharing his pain or letting it be opened up to God’s light and healing, the more he shuts down and just tries to push those feelings away. Which of course, never works.)

    That’s kind of how he has used these writings to relate to his particular journey out of the shame and abuse of his childhood. There is a whole lot of information about letting go of the pain, and exactly how you can start to do that. The ‘power of now’ for him has been to stop trying so hard to suppress the past, but to live fully present in the blessings of today.

    Or something like that.

  27. trishARKANSAS

    I’m learning and I am continuing to learn that God loves me. Regardless of idiotsyncrosies. (I did mean to spell it like this on purpose.) God loves me and I can rest in His love for me. I was raised a Pentecostal in Arkansas and I know the struggle that Russ is dealing with. But just knowing that God loves me has helped me to deal with this.

  28. LindaB

    Oh! Sort of “Don’t worry (’bout the past), be happy (today!)”? Over-simplified, of course, for us noncollege grads?

    Thank you, Tori! A glimmer of light has broken through! I need to go lie down now—-my head hurts.

    Hey! Elmo’s on. Later!

  29. LindaB

    Okay, seriously, I grew up in a very strict legalistic church too, Trish. I remember once hearing at church that we should not buy Coke in cans because someone may walk by our house and look in the window and see that can and think we’re drinking beer! (Nevermind that window peeking isn’t a good moral choice.) My mother did not cease buying pop in cans either! We sort of shrugged it off. There was a list of “things Christians don’t do” a mile long. We pretty much shrugged that off too. Cause we had a higher model to follow—–Jesus, who ate with prostitutes and dishonest tax collectors, and hung out with a bunch of misfits! What kind of rumors could that instigate if someone peeked through the window walking by? He broke with all sorts of legalistic Jewish religious customs of the day……not because He could, but to serve hurting, needy people, and show them God’s love. I want to live like that, God help me. And I want to live, not according to what some church body deems right, but in sync with the heart of God, which I believe is very discernable from reading God’s Word with an open mind and His truth-revealing Spirit. There are some “mysteries” we can’t understand about God, of course, but He left us with some simple guidelines for living—-“Do unto others……..”, and “Love the Lord, thy God, with all your heart…..”. That’s enough for me. In fact, I could work on those two precepts my whole life and still have some work left to do on it! It’s a pretty simple and straightforward life philosophy, but deep in it’s impact and implications.

    But then again, I didn’t suffer the childhood abuse and trauma that your husband did, Tori. I can understand that he needs to work this out in his own way using whatever helps him personally. I didn’t mean to make fun of Mr. Tolle’s book. If it helps Russ to reach a place of peace and health in his walk with God through this life journey, then GREAT! God bless him!

  30. tori

    So, then I need to email Eckhardt (I call him Eckhardt) back and tell him to cancel the ninja death squad headed your way?
    Ok. No biggie.

    (And I TOTALLY agree with your interpretation of Jesus!)

  31. LindaB

    I have a teenager living in my house! I’m not afraid of a ninja death squad! But do cancel it—–the price of gas, you know. Al wouldn’t like it—being wasteful, that is. LOL (I love ya!)

  32. auburn60

    Yeah, I tried to read that book once on my own ‘healing path’ and sort of went ‘Whaaaaat?’. And,seriously, sometimes I think Russ and I led the same life up to a certain point.
    The ‘resistance’ and the ‘I shouldn’t feel this way’ are totally reinforced by society,many times ‘church people’ who mean well but don’t get it. And I think the ‘how strongly you are identified with
    your mind’ part also relates to how we analyze a situation when we are in it. A child in an abusive situation looks for it to make sense and frequently blames themselves or feels they are not worthy of love or even decent treatment. After all, if those primary people in our lives don’t give unconditional love why should anyone we encounter after that? And I have found those thought patterns hard to break.
    Personally, someone I knew and trusted gave me permission to be angry,to acknowledge that my life had been damaging and to realize that the responsibility for that was not mine to own.And then he challenged me to do something about it. But that’s another topic.

  33. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Wow! What a blog, Tori! Once again you have rocked our boats and you have done it so well. As I read alone, I could identify with each of your feelings throughout my life. And, how wonderful it is to come to that point in time when you are comfortable with your own faith. When you are released from the poison of critical spirits and you are able to reach out and claim unconditional love as your means for dealing with life. I believe this deepens with old age and I am so thankful for this.
    Now about this boob thing….I hope we will get off this subject before Betty drags forth (pardon the expression) her set of before and after photos.

  34. trishARKANSAS

    Linda B. You just wrapped everything up. We are to work out our own salvation. My grandmother used to warn us that buying a dog would send us to hell. I was raised thinking that anyone not in my particular branch of denominationalism was going to go to hell.

  35. LindaB

    I want to just clear up this one point: I’m not saying we should forsake having a church life. I think it’s a wonderful idea (actually, it’s God’s idea) to meet with other Christians and comfort one another, bear one another’s burdens, encourage each other, discern the times, read the Word, eat together (heavy on the “eat” together), serve the community together, and pray together (as we all know, God likes several of us to pray together about something instead of just one. I don’t know why, that’s just God.)

    I guess what I am saying is don’t let the organized church be your conscience. Don’t accept denominational rules as written on stone straight from the mountaintop. When we stand before God in the end, I don’t believe there will any mention of church rules or doctrine at all. It will be more “what did you do for the least of these, my brethren……’cause what you don’t do for them is a personal affront to ME!”

    When chosing a church for myself, I like to run it by this test: If Jesus himself was coming to my church, and bringing with him a prostitute, a drug dealer, and an inmate on a tether, would He be welcome and feel comfortable? Would He and His friends be allowed to join in the fellowship? Would that church jump at the opportunity to serve them, or hit them over the head with rules and their denominational standards and doctrine? And…would they sit alone? Works for me.

  36. trishARKANSAS

    Linda, I agree with you. We need our brother’s and sister’s. My girl’s when they were younger thought that fellowship meant that it was time to eat.
    I go to a church that has outreach. I got back from India last November and my outlook totally changed as to what the church was here for. God has shown us great mercy. Shouldn’t we be his arms reaching out to other’s in our community? That’s a pretty heavy thought “what did you do for the least of these, my brethren….”

  37. tori

    Dang, you guys never cease to amaze me.
    You keep raising the bar!

  38. auburn60

    Years ago I heard a preacher say (in complete exasperation, I think):

    ” You people do understand,don’t you, that when God calls us up on Judgement Day that we’re not gonna all lower our heads,link arms and shuffle up as a group? You are all on your own that day!”

    I’ve laughed at that image many times.

  39. LindaB

    I LOVE THAT, ALYSON!!! There will be no “props” on that day. Just Jesus, our Defender.

    Ya know, I have to smile to myself when I hear some folks say, who think they are being judged harshly by other folks, “I’m glad God is my Judge and not people!” I think they need to rethink that one. People are easy to fool, subject to ego and a host of other faulty thought processes! But God sees straight to the heart! He sees clearly your motivation and your priorities! And He hates pretense and anything false. (Well, that’s what He said in the Bible anyway.) So……maybe we’d get off easier with people judges???? LOL

    You made us think today, Tori.

  40. trishARKANSAS

    I once heard a preacher say that discernment and suspicion are not the same thing.

  41. rockin robyn

    You know what – when I came into this site I called myself “rockin” cause I’m into music and you know the song “Rockin Robin” (tweet tweet) etc. but you guys “rock”… I don’t know, I came into this site looking for something – I’m so into Gaither music and gospel music and Mr. Taff’s music and when I saw his wife had a blog (she’s a writer) and I thought it would be really kewl to read what would go on in these blogs, but these conversations of late have blown the lid off of anything I would have or could have imagined.

    Go ahead Tori “start spewing Deep Thoughts all over this blog every week!” You give us a workout. It’s been very therapeutic!

    Do you mind if I tell you I cried when you explained Russ’s take (what he gets out of) “The Power of Now”. As a fan and again he’s my hero – through the years I knew there was “stuff” (Hello: I’ve listened to Right Here Right Now) but wow!

    … see that is what I’m saying – looking back and with all the heavy stuff that has been discussed here on this subject – you two were put together for a reason. With Russ’s struggles you were his rock… God new you both had it in you to get through it but only together! As a single person I look at couples and analyze why God matched two people together. Sometimes it’s magical to see God’s hand in a special marriage… and for some couples I just plain learn that God didn’t have a hand in that relationship! at all!!… but you two have been through hell and back and still your love for God and knowing He is where you go for help has made you two examples for someone like me to study and learn from… That is really beautiful, and if I ever get to meet you both in the “real world” I would just like to shake your hands and thank you both for being and serving that purpose. That calling! As Christians you have paid the price for His love and you don’t have anything to “say your sorry about”…

    Did I do enough gushing over Tori and Russ?! Sorry! (Just needed to get that out)

  42. gracelynn

    WOW! I came back on here to check out the comments after teaching all day and was just amazed! Bear with me if you will for a moment and just let me say that I know where Russ is coming from. I too was the victim of emotional and mental abuse for almost 18 years of my life. And I can tell you, it leaves lasting scars. And I’m not afraid or ashamed to say this – only Jesus Christ can heal the emotional scars that were left on me from this kind of abuse. I literally spent years beating myself up over the comments that were spewed at me as a child by the two people that I had been taught were supposed to love me, no matter what. I was blessed though because, unlike many teenagers who turn to alcohol, drugs, etc., I was able to find the comfort and help I needed in my extended family (cousins, aunts and uncle) who provided the love that I could not find from my parents and sibling. And still do at times. But for years I was unable to tell anyone about the pain and turmoil that I went through as a teenager because 1)I didn’t think anyone would believe me (“Oh you’re joking right?! Not you! No way! You’ve got it all together!” – Believe it or not, I heard that from people more than once); 2)it just hurt like pure torment to even talk about it (I understand Russ from that aspect completely; and 3)like Russ, I not only suffered from the emotional flashbacks but I still had to return to my parents’ house and at times, relive some of those horrible experiences over again. I have literally had nights that I’ve told friends that I hated to return to the h&^% that I lived in. Because that is how it felt. But I am very thankful that God has used several people in my life, Russ and Tori included, to help me work through that painful chunk of my life and He has shown me that, no matter what happened to me, the past is gone and He loves me, no matter what happened to me. And I know that even if the entire world turns me away, I can rest assured that I can lay back in the loving arms of my Father and know that He loves me, regardless of what the world thinks. Letting go of that past was hard but when I finally did let go – completely – I found the love and acceptance I’d been looking for the vast majority of my life. And I am very proud to say I am a Christian and a child of God.

  43. LindaB

    Trish, GraceLynn, Alyson, (and Russ)—-I am humbled by your faith and your survival from a childhood of abuse and your struggle to find peace and self-worth….and God. Coming from a loving and confirming family life, I’m sure I cannot even imagine the pain and isolation you endured. And I’m pretty sure God has something wonderful for you when HE sees you that will totally make up for those tormented years………’cause that’s just like Him! That’s His M.O.!

    Thanks for sharing your stories!

  44. themema

    I, like Linda, came from a loving and caring home and church. I can not fathom what a childhood of abuse, or neglect would have done to me. I only know how angry it makes me that people in their distorted view of Christianity can destroy their own. I know the personal anger that I feel everytime I listen to Russ speak of his parents with respect and even kindness when I want to hate them for his suffering.

    Yes, we have probably all listened to the words of Right Here Right Now, and felt the torment. We have also listened to the lyrics that Tori and Russ have written together over the years, and marveled that God could use them to convey those messages even as they suffered individually and as a couple.

    And I do believe that God has and is using Tori and Russ right now through her blog and his songs and their openess to share with the world their struggles, to witness to HIS heart and soul, and redemptive powers.

    May the Lord continue to bless you, Tori and Russ, and keep you. May He continue to wrap HIS arms around you and give you comfort and increasing peace. May you continue to be “Happy and Healthy”.

  45. BrownEyedGirl

    It breaks my heart to read the stories of abuse and how it seemed to be the norm in so many lives ( in the blog and out) I was blessed to grow up in a “Brady Bunch” world and I must say it was a real eye opener when I got out into the real world. I thought our family was normal… seems it’s not the case

    I am amazed at those that still consider God a friend after what they went through. My sister was in an abusive marriage and my parents and siblings have never gone back to church after that point in all of our lives. I was angry at God for awhile , but then found peace.

    Thank you for sharing your stories.

  46. Max D

    What a great blog! Tori couldn’t agree with you more – as well as the comments by Betty, Linda and Alyson. Have been so engrossed in the convention that I couldn’t seem to write and listen simultaneously. Long ago, I decided that while I loved the teaching of the scripture I could not endure the intolerance of the SBC directed at certain groups. But God is so good and in His time gives us the wisdom to find our own place and our Faith (at least for me) seems to then be strengthened.

    I love Eckhart Tolle’s writings. In “THe Power of Now” I especially enjoyed the section entitled “The Joy of Being” While his writings can be a little deep, I found that he gave me much to think about. I especially enjoyed and learned from his comments regarding not being concerned about the fruit of our action. The fruit will come of its own accord. Isn’t that what Jesus tells us as well. If Russ hasn’t read The New Earth I would encourage that he do so. For me The Power of Now dealt with solely me and how I need to change things for myself. The New Earth really deals with how we live among others on this earth. I know it has been billed by some as New Age (don’t even know what that means) but I think it gives us as Christians much to ponder!

    Loved, loved, loved this piece and all the responses. And love your politics! lol

  47. morgitta

    It is such a joy to read your blog. I always install myself for it, sit down with coffee and a sigaret (I know), not that I plug out the phone and desinstall the doorbell, but you know what I mean.
    I’m especially glad you posted this issue. Thanks.
    Your over-the-ocean readers grant you a gold plaque, instead of the one you got.

  48. meb

    LindaB I love the “test” that you put a church to. As part of the “creative team” that is currently in the middle of a church plant in the Atlanta area, it is my hope that we can be a church like that. I will definitely be bringing a lot of the ideas expressed here to our next meeting.

  49. » My Blogoversary!!!! | babybloomr

    […] so much for your loyalty, wisdom and humor– especially your humor! Thank you for honoring my desire for an authentic faith and tolerating my questionable use of language. Thank you for encouraging me, allowing me to be […]

  50. Leisa Hammett

    Oh, wow. This one’s gettin’ shared. Thank you, Tori. I left the faith three years ago at the culmination of nearly a lifetime of questioning the absolutes that just didn’t seem right TO ME in their exclusitvity. But I honor those who stay and who strive to be real. Jesus was real. And I coulda sworn by some remark you made at Blissdom that you’d read A New Earth. I highly recommend it. It’s different than The Power of Now. And, five years ago, I didn’t get the Power of Now either. Not at all. I wasn’t ready. To the person who posted and probably won’t look back and read this: Buddhism also happens to teach acceptance. (But, that’s beside the point.) Tolle is talking about accepting the present moment. We don’t have to love it. But accept what is. When we fight, resist, we create our own misery. The past is dead. The future is not born. All we have is right NOW. Thank you, again, Tori. Beautiful. Applause. Applause. Applause. Gosh.

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