Setbacks or Cutbacks?

August 7, 2018

“… every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  (John 15:2)

My mentor Ray Stedman loved to tell the story about the famous violinist Paganini. As a brilliant violinist and superb showman, he liked to attach a sharp razor to his wrist. At the right moment he would cut one of the strings on his violin. As the string popped the audience would gasp, but the most famous violinist in the world would keep playing. Paganini did this dramatically until he only had one string left on his violin. He would then play the entire concerto on that one string as a violin virtuoso.

Ray’s application was that God sometimes likes to cut back our strings and play the concertos of our lives on one string. This brings great glory to God because people can’t believe that as we experience cutbacks our concertos continue to play with even more beautiful sounds.

My precious wife has lost the use of her left arm and years ago I lost the use of all four limbs. But the concerto of our lives and ministry continues to be more fruitful than it has ever been which brings great glory to God who is the One orchestrating the concerto of our lives.

The explanation of Jesus is that He is a Vine and we are branches related to Him. When we are fruitful because of that alignment He cuts us back to make us more fruitful.

Is it possible events in your life that you consider setbacks are actually cutbacks of your loving Lord and Savior who wants your life to be fruitful in the heavenly dimension?

Dick Woodward, 14 August 2012


What is God Doing in Your Life?

July 5, 2017

“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do£?” (Psalm 11:3)

Greek is a very precise language; Hebrew is not. That’s why we frequently find footnotes suggesting alternate readings in the margins of our Bibles when we read Old Testament Scripture passages. The NIV translation of Psalm 11:3 has such a footnote. The alternate reading suggested for this verse is: When the foundations of your life are breaking up, “What is the righteous One doing?”

Over the years I experienced several periods when it seemed that the foundations of my life were breaking up. I have found the alternate reading of this verse to be a reliable response that turned many of those crises into significant spiritual datelines in my journey of faith.

My faith walk began in 1949. Along the way I dropped two words out of my vocabulary: fortunately and coincidentally. Because I believe in Divine Providence, I no longer believe in luck. I fully agree with the spiritual heavyweight who stated, “when a devout believer thinks they have experienced a coincidence, that just means God prefers to remain anonymous.”

The Chinese characters for “crisis” are the characters for ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity.’  I believe we should factor into all our crises this knee jerk response: “What is the righteous One doing in my life now?” I find that God is always up to something and ultimately it is always something very good. It is not primarily for our good but it is what accomplishes God’s good for God’s glory.

Dick Woodward, 02 July 2010


Asking ‘Why?’ vs. Saying ‘Oh!’

March 18, 2016

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

A word we use often in this life is, “Why?” And the word I think we will use most in the next is, “Oh!”  The Providence of God is like a Hebrew word: we have to read it backwards.  By the Providence of God I mean that God is in charge and the events of our lives have meaning.  Sometimes it is as if we are on the inside of a woven basket.  All the threads that come up on the inside of the basket represent the way we see the things that happen to us, which seem to have no meaning and pattern at all.  If we could just get out of that basket, on the outside we would see beautifully woven patterns.

Job is the biblical example of a man who tried to sort out, by looking inside the basket, what appeared to be the tragic meaninglessness of his life.  It was not until he looked up and saw all his tragic circumstances from God’s perspective that he was moved from asking, “Why?” to exclaiming, “Oh!” (Job 35: 1-7; 40-42)

In Psalm 11:3 the Psalmist asked a question: “If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do?” The NIV version of the Bible has a footnote that suggests this alternate reading: “When the foundations of your life are breaking up, what is the Righteous One doing?”

My wife and I have made that question a knee jerk reaction to the events of our lives as they happen.  As a result, although we’re not on the other side yet we are already saying, “Oh!”

Will you confront the challenges you encounter daily with that same question?

Dick Woodward, 25 August 2012


Beside Still Waters

July 22, 2014

The Lord is my Shepherd … He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters.”  (Psalm 23:1-2)

David tells us when we have thrown our hands up and offered an unconditional surrender, the Good Shepherd will then lead us “beside still waters.”  Most people think of peace when they read of still waters; however, the realities of sheep management tell us this relates to the fact that sheep can only drink from waters that are still as glass…

When we confess that the Lord is our Shepherd and we are His sheep, He leads us to a cluster of blessings that are tailor made just for us.

In 1979, after serving as the pastor of a large congregation in a big city for over two decades, I accepted a call of a church with 22 members in a small college town.  I have never been more certain of divine guidance than when I made that decision. At the time I was experiencing weird physical symptoms that my doctors thought were caused by the stress of a large church.

After my first year in the small church in the small town, I went to Mayo clinic for a complete work-up.  The doctors there diagnosed multiple sclerosis.  Because the doctor misread my record, he thought I was still the pastor of a big church in a big city.  He counseled me to move to a small church in a small town and learn to find my fulfillment in writing.  I was able to say to him, “Doctor, I’ve already been there for a year!”

I refer to my experience as ‘still waters’ because the small church gave me the time, and my disability gave me the discipline, to write… which led to an international ministry, now in 31 languages all over the world…

There is a stained glass window at the entrance to my home with a dove hovering over blue water and green pastures. Underneath there is a brass plate with two engraved words: Still Waters.  Those two words are not just the name of my home, but the label I write across more than 30 years in this location…

Can you look back over your life and see divine interventions that led to green pastures and still waters?

Dick Woodward,  Psalm 23 Sheep Talk

 Editor’s Note:  When Papa struggled through his last bout of suffering in the hospital on March 8th, his breathing became very agitated. We began reciting Psalm 23.  As we got to, “He leads me beside still waters,”  his face suddenly lit up with peace & his breathing immediately slowed as he passed on to the Still Waters of Heaven.  When we arrived home, I noticed the stain glass – “Still Waters”- and thought, wow.  God made Daddy lie down (literally) in green pastures, providing still waters in his life & even in his death. 


Caution: Divine Providence at Work

July 18, 2014

“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do£?” (Psalm 11: 3)

Greek is a very precise language.  Hebrew is not.  That’s why we frequently find footnotes that suggest alternate readings in the margins of our Bible when we are reading Old Testament Scripture passages.  The NIV translation of Psalm 11:3 has such a footnote.   The alternate reading suggested for this verse is: When the foundations of your life are breaking up, “What is the righteous One doing?”

In a long life I have experienced several periods when it seemed that the foundations of my life were breaking up.  I have found the suggested alternate reading of this verse to be a reliable response that turned many of those crises into very significant spiritual datelines in my journey of faith.

My faith walk began in 1949, and along the way I dropped two words out of my vocabulary: “fortunately” and “coincidentally.”  Because I believe in Divine Providence, I no longer believe in luck.  And I agree with the spiritual “heavyweight” who stated that when a devout believer thinks they have experienced a coincidence that just means God prefers to remain anonymous.

The Chinese characters for “crisis” are the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.”  I believe we should factor into all our crises this knee jerk response: “What is the righteous One doing in my life now?” I find that He is always up to something and ultimately it is always something very good.  It is not primarily for our good but it is what accomplishes His good for His glory.

Dick Woodward, 02 July 2010


Why and Oh

August 25, 2012

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

The word we use most in this life is, “Why?” and the word we will use most in the next world will be, “Oh!”  The Providence of God is like a Hebrew word: we have to read it backwards.  By the Providence of God I mean that God is in charge and the events of our life have meaning.  Sometimes it is as if we are on the inside of a woven basket.  All the threads that come up on the inside of the basket represent the way we see the things that happen to us, which seem to have no meaning or pattern at all.  If we could just get out of that basket, on the outside we would see beautiful woven patterns.

Job is the biblical example of a man who tried to sort out, by looking inside the basket, what appeared to be the tragic meaninglessness of his life.  It was not until he looked up and saw all his tragic circumstances from God’s perspective that he was moved from asking, “Why?” to exclaiming, “Oh!” (Job 35: 1-7; 40-42)

In Psalm Eleven, verse three, the Psalmist asked a question: “If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do?” The NIV version of the Bible has a footnote that suggests this alternate reading: “When the foundations of your life are breaking up, what is the Righteous One doing?”

My wife and I have made that question a knee jerk reaction to the events of our life as they happen.  As a result, although we’re not on the other side yet we are already saying, “Oh!”

Will you confront the challenges you encounter daily with that same question?


Still Waters

April 20, 2012

“He leads me beside the still waters.”  (Psalm 23:2)

Most people associate the still waters of David’s Shepherd Psalm with peace.  However, if you do some research you will find that when a sheep drinks from a stream of water that stream must be as flat and still as a mirror or the water will go up the snout of the sheep.  The authentic application of this metaphor is therefore that the still waters mean our great Shepherd leads us to the places just suited for us.

In 1979 I resigned from a large church and accepted a call to a small church that had just begun.  After being in the small church for a year I went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota because of weird symptoms I was experiencing.  After nearly a month of studies, the doctor who directed my program misread my file.  Thinking I was still in the large church, when he gave me the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis he told me I needed to go to a small church in a small town.    I told him that I had already been in a small church for a year.  I was to learn to be fulfilled with doing less and doing it better.

As my symptoms persisted and I was confined to a wheelchair a group of men helped me build a house that accommodated my physical challenges.  One of them made a stained glass window with two words on it.  Near the entrance for 26 years those two words have been “Still Waters.” Those two words are not just a label for my home but also my ministry – in this location I have accomplished the most fruitful work of my life.

Can you write those two words across what God is doing in your life right now?