From Jim O'Brien
March 23, 2018

Hi Friend,

Wooden Heart

Driving through Cherokee, North Carolina a visitor is greeted by majestic carved wooden figures of Indians standing in front of local stores. Country singer Hank Williams recorded a song, both grammatically and politically incorrect for our day, about one named Kawlija (Kaw-li-ja) who fell in love with an Indian Princess standing in front of an antique store across the street. But Kawlija, a wooden cigar store statue could never express his love. Worse, as the song goes, he had a heart of "knotty pine" so he lacked a source from which emotions could be expressed.

The cigar store statue just stood there, mute to the events of normal human life. "Poor old Kawlija", the song goes, "he never had a kiss. Poor old Kawlija, he don't know what he missed." In the end the Indian Princess was bought by a wealthy tourist and taken far away. Kawlija was left to wish he had forever remained a tree.

The arts have a way of reaching the spirit in man through music and metaphor with deeper truth. Country music may be less sophisticated, but the spirit of country people is no less genuine than those with classical tastes.

It was ten years ago that a group of us attended Kristallnacht, a memorial of the 70th year since the beginning of the Holocaust. It was the night that German citizens were encouraged to rampage through towns in and around Germany and burn Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues. I surveyed the faces of teens in the audience for telltale signs of the impact the program was having. There is no way of telling what was going through their minds.

A letter was read from a mother to her daughter detailing how she had watched as Nazi soldiers came to town and called all the Jewish men into the streets. The children watched through windows as their fathers were beaten and whipped. The children wept but were not allowed to cry aloud.

There is a strange similarity between Kawlija and a world watching Nazi soldiers brutalizing other human beings and yet lacking a voice to resist. Did the world have a heart of wood? Was it crowd hysteria and Nationalism that killed the spirit of human compassion?

One of the sad commentaries of WWII is the story of the SS St. Louis, a German passenger ship that was leased by Jewish refugees trying to escape the Holocaust. Hitler's propaganda machine conceived of a plan to show that Germany was not alone in its hostility toward the Jews. He wanted to prove that the "civilized world" agreed with him, that there was a Jewish problem which Germany was trying to resolve humanely. He wanted to show the Jews that the entire world was against them. The SS St. Louis came to North America and was refused entry by Cuba. Then it came to the United States, but Southern Democrats threatened to unseat Roosevelt and he turned them away. Finally, Canada rejected them.

When does a human being become real to other humans?

Recently I read about a program by Focus on the Family to provide expensive high-tech imaging machines to Pro-Life clinics. These new machines give a four-dimensional image of the fetus providing the mother with a real-life view of her child while still in the womb. Why invest so much money just to see something you know is there? Curtis Harris, M.D., a trustee with the Christian Medical Association, says, "Several studies have documented a simple fact: Show a woman considering abortion an ultrasound picture of her unborn child and, she is far less likely to have an abortion."

A mother gets a sense of reality when she feels the first kick from her child in the womb. But, for some mothers, the child isn't real until she sees it.

When Jesus was hanging from the stake, the religious authorities mocked him saying that if he would descend then they would "see and believe." (Mark 15:32) Would they really?

Even the disciples needed visual proof to believe what is real. After the resurrection the disciples told Thomas that Jesus was alive. Thomas responded angrily, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails...and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."

A week later when the disciples were together Jesus appeared to them and invited Thomas to do just that. "My Lord and my God!" exclaimed Thomas. "Because you have seen me, you have believed;" replied Jesus, "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:25-27 NIV)

One of the undeniable truths of life is that a bedrock of values does not come by sight. It comes through the Spirit. The distinguishing mark of a Christian is the "Spirit" within. The Spirit of God isn't visible to the eye-it is discerned by the spirit. Christians with the Spirit of God do not worship a wooden god and our God does not call us to be wooden statues. In a world of Kawlija's, real Christians respond to the Spirit.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien