Spiritual or Just Religious?


Middle Class White Boy and the Moonshiner’s Daughter

Frankie and Ellie

Frankie saw Ellie as equal.

A few years ago, I wrote a novel called Touched. It’s the story of a young man growing up in the Appalachian Foothills. He comes face to face with the hypocrisies of religion and the authenticity of genuine spirituality.

On the surface, it’s a story about a forbidden friendship between a middle-class White boy, Frankie, and the local Melungeon moonshiner’s daughter, Ellie. Their friendship turns the community upside down when Frankie dares to see Ellie through the lens of spirituality rather than religion.

I reference the novel because it dawns on me this morning that I’ve been proclaiming that there’s a great divide between religion and spirituality for years.

So, just what are the differences? 


Religion is a system of time-tested boundaries and accepted rules.

Its purpose is to maintain a system, order, control, structure, and an acceptable way of thinking.

It seeks to glorify the system and reach divinity or a higher state through the keeping of standards.

Religion exalts the chosen few to an elite status of “the elect.”

It elicits an air of self-righteousness and moral superiority.

It is maintained through fear and criticism.


Spirituality, on the other hand, is an understanding of one’s place in the universe.

It does not depend upon adhering to a structure (although, it can occur within or without a structure or system).

Spirituality seeks a sense of balance, and inner peace.

It operates on the axis of letting go of ego, of understanding the basic principle that a cup is only useful because of the empty space inside which can be filled with something besides self. 

It brings out the genuine best qualities in a person.

It elicits joy, love, hope, faith, kindness, forgiveness, patience and peace. 

Spirituality is determined by one’s personal relationship with a divine source.

It is cultivated, not by keeping rules, but by seeking to be aligned with the divine way of doing things.


The difference in religion and spirituality reminds me of the principles of internal martial arts such as Tai Chi and Bagua. Soft overcomes hard.  Flexible overcomes rigid. Humility overcomes self-importance. 

Religion focuses on external acts to obtain eternal security. On the other hand, spirituality operates from the premise that eternal security cannot be earned by performance but is assured because of our oneness with eternity. It flows from being in alignment with the Way of God, from staying true to our own spirit-path.

EDIT: A spirit inspired friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, recently sent me this beautiful clarification of one of my above statements. 

Spirituality implies by its very nature, the Supernatural and the eternal part of man.  While universe implies the temporal, the natural, something less than eternal. Therefore according to my reasoning, I believe your statement should read, “Spirituality, on the other hand is an understanding of the eternal nature of the soul of man and one’s place in the universe.” 


That Quickening Moment: Part I



To Quicken Means to Animate, to Bring to Life

The Quickening

I’m sitting here early on a Sunday morning, sipping coffee at the kitchen table, listening to two of my favorite sounds, the clicking clock and the humming fridge. Outside it’s been drizzling rain. I take pleasure in slow rain. It brings me a sense of calm, like the ticking clock and humming fridge.

I think about my life and smile. Lately, I’ve experienced a life-altering moment of profound clarity. Every action that I’ve taken in the days since then have been because of that life-altering moment, a moment that changed my entire outlook on myself and on my life. I call this moment, the Quickening.

I take the word quickening from Romans 8:11 where the apostle, Paul, uses the Greek word, zoopoieo (quickening) to refer to the way the spirit of God makes a person “alive.” So, to quicken something is to make it fully alive. 

The last time that happened, I was thirteen. Can a person have more than one life-altering moment, more than one moment of coming to life, more than one awakening? more than one quickening?

I believe they can. 

A quickening moment is best described as an awakening. We all wake up every day in the natural, so too, we can re-awaken in the spiritual sense. We may need to re-awaken because we allowed ourselves to be lulled to sleep.

Some people wake up in an instant and spring into their day. Others wake up slowly and go through a morning ritual of sorts before they’re truly alert. Well, spiritually, it’s the same way. However, it happens for you, a quickening moment is a spiritual awakening that shifts the entire meaning of your life and outlook on everything and everyone. It’s a moment when you wake up and are “born again.”


There are Two Realities

There are two realms of existence.

We will call one realm the physical realm and the other realm the spiritual realm, (Kingdom (realm) of God (Supreme Magistrate, Divinity). We could even say that there is God’s reality and physical reality.

The spiritual realm has no starting point and no stopping point. The laws of physics do not apply to this realm. They apply to physical reality. The physical reality is inferior to the spiritual reality in that it is temporary and subject to the laws of thermodynamics.

The laws of the spirit realm operate on principles of a particular kind of energy and that energy is the creative force behind all that exists in the physical realm.

That energy is God, love, the source of all.

The physical realm is like parentheses in eternity. The beginning and ending parentheses are time. Or we could think of the physical realm as a bubble floating in the vast expanse of the spirit realm. The spirit realm is so much more expansive that everything inside the bubble is minute in comparison.

Now beings from the spiritual realm can take on a carnal, physical form and enter the physical realm for a time. While they’re there they experience what it means to be finite, to have a beginning and an ending.

So often these beings come into the physical realm and experience trauma, hardship, and pain, because they forget who they are and, just like Adam and Eve in the garden, they believe a temporal lie that enslaves them while they’re here.


However, there was one particularly unique being from the spirit realm who came with all of his memories and awareness of his true origins still intact. This being defied the laws of physics at every turn, starting with his birth. He was born to a virgin. He walked on water. He raised the dead, healed the sick and confounded the most brilliant and highly educated minds of his day.

He never sought earthly credentials and was unmoved by both praise and criticism. These things meant little if anything to him because he knew who he was, where he was from, why he was here and where he was going.

Nonetheless, his final demonstration of the origin of humanity was when he allowed himself to be crucified and laid in a grave. Then he left his physical body for three days before returning to it, healing it, and reanimating it. (see Romans 8:11) 

He came to open our eyes and show us who we are and the kind of life we are meant to live while we’re in this physical realm. He said, “…he (those) that believes on me (trust me, adhere to what I say) the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

In another place he said that he had come to give us life and life more abundantly. He said he came to seek and to rescue those who were lost, off their path, wandering around with spiritual amnesia.

So, now that we’ve established that there are two realms of existence and that we are really spiritual beings having a physical experience, let’s look at how to get our memories back! What happens when that occurs?

I will discuss this in the next blog post.


Secrets to a Happy Life from Mother Teresa


Love is not self-centered.

Be Kind and Forgiving.

“People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.”

It’s only in forgiving others that we can find freedom. If we wish to know release from bitterness, then we must let go of past wrongs. As Wayne Dyer said, “There are no justified resentments.” 

“If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.”

Kindness is the quickest way to get rid of an enemy. Returning evil for evil, blow for blow, just keeps the cycle of violence and hurt going. 

Shine Your Light and Build Your Dreams.

“If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.”

Dimming your light won’t make others shine brighter.

“If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.

The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians that speaking the truth in love helps us to grow.

“What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.”

Nothing in life is permanent. Everything made my humanity fades, withers and gives itself to entropy  eventually. However, while we are here, the things we create and build give joy to so many.

Do Good and Be Happy.

“If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The old cliché “misery loves company” is true. Feeling guilty over being happy will not make anyone else’s life better. It will only rob you of your life’s strength. Remember that there is vitality and strength in joy.

“The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.”

People are often fickle and forgetful. It might be easy to feel like we deserve some recognition or accolades for the good we do, but Jesus taught that the reason for doing good is not to be remembered. The reason we do good is because it is in our hearts to do it.  We have nothing to prove. Doing good is its own reward.

Follow Your Bliss and Know God.

“Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.”

There will always be those who don’t understand, those who criticize. The late Joseph Campbell called them “dream killers.” Don’t let anyone’s view of you keep you from following your bliss.

“You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

In conclusion, as my dad once said, “A lot of people say a lot of things about me, but none of what they say matters. It only matters what God says.”

I’d like to say, that a lot of people say a lot of things about all of us, but the majority of the things they say about us only matter if we believe them. Each one of us has our own personal path to walk and in the end what counts most is how true we were to that path.  All we will take with us when we cross over is the love we give and the love we receive. Everything else is temporal.

Do it anyway.