Moments that Move

Bob Wiley (bobble head) is excited to see the end of the book.

One day last week, I was typing along, trying to wrap up the rough draft of Wil Clarey: The Mystery at the Mill, when I got to the end of a paragraph and tears threatened to spill from my eyes.

No, it wasn’t some emotional scene.

It just hit me, as the last few words hit the page, that it was the end of the book.

With my busy schedule, it has taken me over a year and a half to write it.

It was a momentous occasion!

I was brought up to stuff emotions inside.

“If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about”

was heard around my childhood home more than once.

Later in life, even my father realized how destructive that phrase was.

Now I’m a big softy.

My kids like watching emotional movies with me so they can see me cry. Of course, I use the “I’m just stuffed up” excuse every time but they know better.

The same thing happens to me at a powerful worship service – especially if we sing songs that hold nostalgic significance to me.

Brant Hansen writes about having experienced emotional envy. (Blessed are the Misfits c. 2017, Brant Hansen). Being on the autism spectrum, situations that would be emotional to others didn’t faze him. He makes the point that those experiences and the faith that goes with them are not dependent on emotion.

When I lived in Arizona, I attended a church where the worship leader got so emotional every week that it distracted me from the worship experience. After a couple of months there, I ended up going to a different church because of it.

Worship can be an emotional experience.

So, what am I trying to say?

Is emotion good or not?

Anyone who has experienced tears of joy should be able to tell you that emotion is good. I agree. But,

Emotion should never take the place of faith.

Faith will produce an emotional response in most people. But faith based on emotional experiences has an unstable foundation.

In preparing for this blog, I tried to think of experiences I’ve had that were emotional. There were many. But it wasn’t the emotional response, but the situation and the faith involved in it that were life changing.

I could go on and on about emotions. There are so many negative emotions that can make people feel trapped.

I’ve been there.

I can offer no easy escape, but I can say that positive emotions help.

So, next time that song has you in tears, that unexpected blessing brings tears of joy, or that leap of faith brings release from anxiety, savor the emotional experience without basing your life on it.

You may just find those flashes of joy help light the way to an emotionally and spiritually healthy life based on

truth and faith.

A Lack of Religion at Dawn

A week ago, at 5:30 in the morning, I was on the porch of a cabin at our Fall Youth Retreat snuggled under a sleeping bag (I forgot a jacket) enjoying the quiet early morning.

It was a noisy crazy weekend so the quiet stillness of the early morning was like heaven.

I soaked up the sights of the slowly brightening sky while I absorbed the Word of God through the Bible.

Sounds pretty religious, huh?

The fact of the matter is,

I hate religion!

Okay, now I’m being harsh, but maybe I need to be. I mean, I can appreciate the amazing art inspired by religion. I certainly appreciate the generosity and benevolence inspired by religion.

But I hate it.

Specifically, I hate that religion has fooled millions into trying to earn their way into heaven.

This was a major topic of discussion between me and the 6th grade boys at the retreat. I am blessed with a group of kids that grew up going to church all their lives. They were very good at giving nice religious answers to my questions.

The challenge for me is to get their brains wrapped around the wonder and joy and life there is in trusting Jesus.

I grew up in church. A very religious church. I didn’t see that wonder until much later.

From an early age, I felt like there must be more than just obeying a bunch of rules.

Mind you, I was very good at obeying the rules, or at least making people think I was obeying the rules.

But, like every human, I didn’t obey them all the time. I always had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t being quite good enough.

Like the dawn that I enjoyed last week, the truth slowly crept up on me.

As I proceeded through life and through a variety of churches, I began to realize that my good would never completely erase my bad. Life began to turn upside down. Instead of relying on my good, I began to rely on my God.

  • My God came as a human (Jesus) to intervene for humanity.
  • My God took on the judgement for my bad behavior.
  • My God made the ultimate sacrifice so that His good would outweigh my bad.
  • My God loves me as a Father who would do anything to have His kids with Him for eternity.
  • My God gave commands not to stifle my freedom but to help me live in freedom.
  • My God doesn’t force me to obey but rejoices when I make wise decisions.
  • My God welcomes me with the greatest love of all time.

– My God is love! (1 John 4:8)

It is no coincidence that I love leading youth at camp. It was at a camp just over 44 years ago that I began my journey of faith in earnest.

What made me turn the corner was the love of God I saw in the people at that camp poured out on the campers and each other.

So the next time you’re tempted to call me religious, remember that I hate religion.

But I love God!

Do you hate religion? What about the Church? More importantly, what about God? Let’s talk about it. Feel free to comment below or on the Facebook and Instagram posts.