"I Carved a God Out of Wood..." Letters from Woody Carver Dear friend, I wanted substance. I wanted evidence. So, I carved a god out of wood. It’s not as bad as it sounds. The Bible allows this, you know. The Commandments only forbid multiple gods—gods that are held in higher esteem than THE God Himself. Now, this god IS my god. At least that’s the way I read it. So, don’t judge me. The Bible describes God as a healer. I decided that my wooden god could heal me if I needed him to. I also decided that this god could deliver me from all my trouble. Oh yeah, I decided that this god was indeed the god who created the world. You see, according to me, the Bible is the "Word of God;" therefore, what I read and understand it to say must be proper theology. Through my new wood-based theology (no time now to go through all the exegetical details), I now believe that when the Bible speaks of god, it is speaking of this very god I now hold in my hand. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. You must understand. My god told me so. Well, not so much in an audible voice. He spoke to my heart. You know what I mean. I plan to cover my carved god with gold one day. It will be beautiful. When I do, I will add financial prosperity to his repertoire of blessings to me. He will make me rich and successful. I can hardly wait. I must wait though. Those that wait on the Lord... you know. Some people condemn my idea of god. They insist that god is not a piece of wood; but, they interpret the Bible one way and I interpret it another way. I spend many hours going through the Bible and adding wonderful attributes and characteristics to my god. It’s kind of strange but I’ve noticed god doesn’t practice any of these characteristics until I discover them. It must have something to do with faith or something. No matter. I help him look good to the people around my neighborhood. Sometimes I don’t get healed by him unless I go to the doctor. It seems the prosperity he promises fluctuates with the stock market conditions and whether or not I am employed. But, I always give him all the honor and glory for his blessings. In this way, I witness for him. His witnesses must testify to what they have seen. This is one of the many reasons I carved a god from wood. The idea behind a tangible god, one you can feel and see, is that it eliminates the necessity of such a difficult faith. Actually, I feel sorry for those who have a god they cannot see and feel. I am happy with my creation. I pray to him every day. I ask him for healing and all the things I need and he always answers me. Sometimes the answer is no; but, no matter, “All things work together for good...” An undeniable miracle performed by my god happened just the other day. I had my god in the car with me. (I always consider him my co- pilot.) Anyway, a man pulled right out in front of me. In terror, I turned my wheel and slammed on the brakes. If my car had stopped where I had been– out in the intersection– a big truck coming from the right would have hit me. But, my god was watching out for me. As the car jostled through the intersection, my god fell onto the floor and rolled up underneath the brake pedal, preventing me from fully applying the brakes! When I realized I couldn’t stop, I swerved violently and narrowly missed the car that was causing all the panic. This allowed me to roll my car right through the intersection so that the ever-nearing truck could pass behind me. Whew! I thanked my god for saving me. Wouldn’t you? I’ve decided to name my god, YAH-wood! How about your god? How’s he doing so far? Does he speak to you? YAH-wood doesn’t speak to me; but the way I figure it, I speak to him in prayer and he speaks to me through the Bible. Does your god give you whatever you want? YAH-wood doesn’t. I just assume it must not be his will – or perhaps he has better things for me. “...eye hath not seen...”! So, I praise him anyway. I feel YAH-wood caring for me, loving me, and he’s always with me even when I absentmindedly leave him on the TV at home. After all, he’s omnipresent, you know. I gave him that attribute because all the other gods have it. I figured, hey, my god is as good as theirs, so why not? I have to admit it’s a little harder to prove my god is everywhere at once because he actually does have a location; but, at least he’s with me in Spirit! Oh, and YAH-wood knows everything, too. He knows what is going to happen tomorrow and the next day; but, he doesn’t tell me. It must be for my own good. Wow, what a help he could be in the stock market. Hmmmmmm, he could really perform on that prosperity thing! Oh well, YAH-wood’s will be done. I’ve been thinking a lot about his omniscience lately. Last year, I nearly died from a contagion I contracted from someone somewhere. I am sure YAH-wood helped the doctors cure me. Every day I prayed (at least when I wasn’t in a coma) that he would guide the doctor’s hands. I knew YAH-wood was there at home, on my TV, beside the remote control, and doing everything he could to help me because he loves me. I don’t know why he decided not to tell me in advance about the person with the contagion or about the impending car accident. I could have avoided all that pain, illness and expense. Oh well ...YAH-wood works in mysterious ways and I am sure it was all for my good. Praise YAH-wood! Anyway, after the team of surgeons and skilled medical personnel, tens of thousands of dollars, six months of therapy, and hundreds of pills, shots and the special diet I have to maintain for the rest of my life, I thanked YAH- wood for healing me. Of course, if it wasn’t for YAH-wood I’d be dead! I know all that really matters is that when I do die my god is going to take me to a beautiful place. I call it “The Forest.” It’s kind of like most folks’ understanding of “Heaven.” Want to come with me? Can’t you just envision it? No? Well, you gotta to cut down those trees and get to making gods if you want to clear the way. As one of our prophets said, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” Does your god do any better than mine? That omniscience thing has me a little discouraged. I may be willing to trade my god for yours. Oh wait, you’re a Christian. You don’t have as much proof in your invisible god as I do in mine. Sorry, I need proof. I need evidence. Never mind. I gotta go. Your friend, Woody Carver ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "I Carved a God Out of Wood..." (Part 2) Letters from Woody Carver A second letter from the poor soul named Woody Carver. He wrote a convincing missive on the benefits of a “tangible God,” in his case, this was a carved, wooden God, who, he insisted, was indeed the true Creator of the universe. Whether you agree or not is up to you, whether you condemn him– well... is up to me. At least, I will only allow those who do not have his same problem to do so. Our Apostle Paul said, “... [are you] confident that [you are] a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes...[you] therefore who teaches another... [Let’s see if you can teach yourself something...] You who preach a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say a man should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you commit sacrilege?” (Ref: Romans 2) Paul asked great questions. In particular, that last question needs not be answered too quickly. How about you? Are you quick to condemn? Will you be quick to judge and banish our brother, Woody Carver? Or, will you instead take some good advice as given in James 1:19, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:” and again in Proverbs 14:29, “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty [may end up looking foolish].” Ok, good questions need answers and good advice for keeping us on track! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Dear friend, In my first letter, I told you about an old oak tree that was in my back yard. It was great in size, and I thought it would yield a beautiful wood. It did! I cut it down and took from its stock a large portion of the most beautifully grained wood I had ever seen. The wood’s grain was so lovely and wondrous to the eye that it was an inspiration to me. It spoke to me of the wonderful Creator'’s power and matchless ability. So in remembrance and memorial of His inspiring creation I carved this into an image of God Himself (at least what I thought He would look like) and placed it in my home. Almost immediately I found this practice was causing grief to my Christian, Muslim and Jewish friends. “I Figured It Out...!” I figured it out and was able to fix this problem! I found the answer! Albert, a Jewish friend, came to see YAH-wood, my new carved God. Although, he would not say YAH-wood’s name for some reason he wouldn’t explain. Albert merely held up his hand to me, shook his head insistently, and protested it was offensive. I said, “How will we talk about Him if we can’t say the name?” Albert was insistent, so for the rest of his visit, we called YAH-wood “The Name” He said there was some Jewish precedence for it. Albert agreed the wood was indeed beautiful, but insisted that doing what I did was a blatant violation of the second Commandment. He said we are not to engrave images of God, (but he saw nothing wrong with an image of Jesus. I can only suppose he didn’t care about blasphemy of a God in whom he had no faith). I didn’t want to offend my friend nor the Commandments, so I carved a little more, changed the facial features a little, made His beard black instead of white, and called it “Jesus” instead of YAH-wood. Albert also was willing to say the name “Jesus.” I was enjoying my new God of wood when another friend, Bob, a reformed Catholic, told me, “We are not to have statues of Jesus around the house. God looks severely on persons having statues of Christ.” Again, to avoid offending my friend, I carved more of the image. I changed the facial features a little and made the beard white again. It now became a statue of Moses. Still this offended some of my other friends like Carl. Carl said we should have no religious statues at all. What was I to do? I didn’t want to sacrifice the lovely piece of wood; so, this time I carved my God into a statue of Apollo, the sun god of Roman mythology. Surely the mythical pagan gods wouldn’t object. Then, I found that other friends, like Dave, complained about paganism. I still had plenty of wood, so I conceded to his suggestion and carved it into a cross. For a long time, this carving satisfied many of my friends until the day Earl saw me looking at my cross (too admiringly, I suppose). I was telling Earl about the day God created the world as I held the cross in my lap. I told him of YAH-wood’s wonderful works. When Earl saw adoration rise within me as I looked at the cross, he condemned it as an idol. "Now What Am I To Do?" I was at a loss to know how to continue to please my friends, but I had to try again. Finally, I carved my beautiful cross into a common walking stick. It wasn’t beautiful anymore, and I didn’t like it as much; but, I carried it with me wherever I went. From then on my walking stick and I were inseparable. With love and admiration, I once again spoke of my God’s creation to everyone I met. Sometimes, I couldsee a remnant of YAH- wood’s lovely grain and it would conjure adoration in my heart. My joy was short-lived, however, because Fuahd, my Muslim friend, pointed out, “Although, the stick has meaning to you, it is not apparent to others. Something must be printed upon it to tell the story... maybe a verse from the Koran... and use a lot of bright colors... and gold leaf!” I wasn’t familiar with the Koran, so I printed some benign modern verses of encouragement. They might have been sayings by Mohammed, Confucius or even Mark Twain, but I don’t remember; they were just sentiments designed to create happiness. In addition, I took the leaves of the oak tree from which my carving was originally made along with some of its bark, and I boiled an ink to imprint on the sides of the stick the wonderful works of God. "Finally," I thought, "THIS will make all people and all religions happy. I have created the perfect God!" One day, I was feeling blue, so I went to my new God to gain strength and comfort. As I read the words on the side of the walking stick for encouragement, I noticed it wasn’t working. I was not encouraged! I called my Christian friend, George, asking for advice. He said, “It is not right for a man to violate the first Commandment, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before Me’. "Inspiration At Last!" Still depressed and discouraged, I overreacted. I took my God and ground it into fine shreds along with all of the shavings from the carvings before and put them in a caldron to boil them to a pulp. Then the inspiration came to me! I took the pulp and made paper. With the ink I had made from its leaves and bark, I printed the words of the Bible upon the paper. I even included a picture of God. Next, I made a wooden cover with some of the oak branches and carved into them a picture of Jesus, complete with a halo from the sun god Apollo behind His head. I even carved Him holding my walking stick in His hand! To finish, I carved a cross on the back cover and the words “Holy Bible” on the front. Now, I carry my God with me wherever I go. I take it to Al's house, to Bob's place, to Carl's church, to prayer meeting with Dave, to Earl's prayer breakfast, to Fuahd’s Country Club, and to George's soul-winning classes. I finally found the form that satisfies everyone– a Bible! After all, don’t we all – Christian, Muslim, and Jew– have this in common? We are all “People of the Book!” Everyone admires my God. My Friends are no longer offended. My God is intact. No commandments are violated. Some even comment on how beautiful He is. No one even minds my admiring glances. Your friend, Woody Carver ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Benefit of a Tangible God "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." John 5:3 Isaiah had it right. None considers in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, “I have placed my faith in paper and ink, I have forsaken the author. I worship what was said to the neglect of what He is saying or who it was that had spoken. It’s just paper and ink! Shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?” Isaiah 44 It’s NOT That Simple! You’re right. It’s not simple! It is so complex many don’t even know the simple difference between the creation and the Creator. Many do not make any distinction between their God and the book He gave as a gift. Let’s face it. The gods we create, whether ethereal or tangible, Biblical or pagan, private or congregational, constantly disappoint us. Regrettably, although discouragement ensues to the point (in some cases) of suicide, we never even entertain the prospect of making any changes. We egomaniacally hold on to what we have always believed; or, in the eyes of religion, we commit some damning sacrilege by honestly questioning what we have always believed. As a result, we offer convoluted reasoning and make outright excuses, coupling these with pathetic theological rationale. This is done while making all the evidence of life’s disasters into unintelligible spiritual malarkey to help salve our agonizing intellects and common sense. When will we toss these gods of our own creation? Envision throwing a picture of Jesus into a trash can.Imagine a trash fire burning a statue of Jesus along with the kitchen garbage. Does this bother you? Has it ever occurred to you that there is no such thing as an image of Jesus? Why then is this disturbing? I knew a man whose Bible was left in the rain. It was soaked then dried. Pages stuck together and tore as he tried to open it. He just couldn’t throw it away. Instead he wrapped it in cloth and buried it. Why was he so attached to paper, ink, and leather? Is there any difference in his behavior and the man with his YAH-wood god? SELAH! Think on these things! If you can understand this unfounded apprehension in burning a Bible, you will be well on your way to shaking off the false religion that has you bound to an impotent god created in your own mind. Repentance in this area will most assuredly include the pain of denying the god you have believed in up to now. The forged miracles, the pretended blessings, the “answered prayers” are all tiny threads weaving one robust rope that binds your life to a counterfeit god of no value...a god of your own making... a god of your own imagination... a god who cannot save you in the end. Only upon honest introspection will the Seeker admit this truth. Do you feel sorry for the poor deluded character with his “homemade” YAH-wood god made of wood? Know this, if you have created a god in your own imagination– no matter how biblical–that god is no better, no more real, no more benevolent, no better a friend to you than YAH-wood was to that poor soul. Why? Because it is likely you created your god as surely as a man who would take a knife to the stock of a tree, carve off what is undesirable, and shape and form what he likes. We’re all guilty. Jesus came to eliminate this problem; but, until all academic approaches are replaced with a relationship, no one can or will find the true God! If what you believe is not true... do you want to know it?