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The Wisdom of the Old Woodchopper © – Prov. 3:5-6

P.E.A.R.s  Periodic Encouragement And Reminders
The Wisdom of the Old Woodchopper ©
– Proverbs 3:5-6 –
Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

Having the patience to wait for God’s timing and the benefits He intends for my life is not one of my strong points – even though I can remember situation after situation in which positive results rose from what I initially thought were disasters.

Thus, I constantly have to remind myself: Be cool, Bob. God’s in charge and He knows what He’s doing.

My favorite Bible verses in which proper perspective, correct practice and final providence are laid out in simple to understand one-two-three-four order are Proverbs 3:5-6.  The best teaching of this truth, however, is shared by Max Lucado in a story about an old woodchopper and a wild stallion I found in one of his books many years ago.

This is that story:

*** Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village.  Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse.  Even the king coveted his treasure.  A horse like this had never been seen before – such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.

People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused.  “This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them.  “It is a person.  How could you sell a person?  He is a friend, not a possession.  How could you sell a friend?”  The man was poor and the temptation was great.  But he never sold the horse.

One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable.  All the village came to see him.  “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we told you that someone would steal your horse.  We warned you that you would be robbed.  You are so poor.  How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal?  It would have been better to have sold him.  You could have gotten whatever price you wanted.  No amount would have been too high.  Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”

The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly.  Say only that the horse is not in the stable.  That is all we know; the rest is judgment.  If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know?  How can you judge?

The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools!  We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed.  The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse.

The old man spoke again.  “All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone.  The rest I don’t know.  Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say.  All we can see is a fragment.  Who can say what will come next?

The people of the village laughed.  They thought that the man was crazy.  They had always thought he was a fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money.  But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it.  He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty.  No, he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.

After fifteen days, the horse returned.  He hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest.  Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him.  Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke.  “Old man, you were right and we were wrong.  What we thought was a curse was a blessing.  Please forgive us.”

The man responded, “Once again, you go too far.  Say only that the horse is back.  State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge.  How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment.  Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge?  You read only one page of a book.  Can you judge the whole book?  You read only one word of a phrase.  Can you understand the entire phrase?”

Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word.  All you have is a fragment!  Don’t say that this is a blessing.  No one knows.  I am content with what I know.  I am not perturbed by what I don’t.”

“Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another.  So they said little.  But down deep, they knew he was wrong.  They knew it was a blessing.  Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse.  With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.

The old man had a son, an only son.  The young man began to break the wild horses.  After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs.  Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.

You were right,” they said.  “You proved you were right.  The dozen horses were not a blessing.  They were a curse.  Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you.  Now you are poorer than ever.”

The old man spoke again.  “You people are obsessed with judging.  Don’t go so far.  Say only that my son broke his legs.  Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse?  No one knows.  We only have a fragment.  Life comes in fragments.

It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country.  All the young men of the village were required to join the army.  Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured.  Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken.  There was little chance that they would return.  The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle.  They would never see their sons again.

You were right, old man,” they wept.  “God knows you were right.  This proves it.  Your son’s accident was a blessing.  His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you.  Our sons are gone forever.

The old man spoke again.  “It is impossible to talk with you.  You always draw conclusions.  No one knows.  Say only this:  Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not.  No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse.  No one is wise enough to know.  Only God knows.

* * * * *
The old man was right.  We only have a fragment.  Life’s mishaps and challenges are only a page out of a grand book.  We must be slow about drawing conclusions.  We must reserve judgment on life’s storms until we know the whole story.

I don’t know where the woodcutter learned his patience.  Perhaps from another woodcutter in Galilee.  For it was the Carpenter who said it best:

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (See all of Matt 6:25-34)

He should know.  He is the Author of our story.  He has already written the final chapter. And, therein lies our hope and the reason we can and should live the way of the Old Chopper’s wisdom of Proverbs 3:5-6.

Have a great week!

Bob Alderman – (and to my family, Love Dad)

Original publication 4/19/2004 – modified 1/17/2017

PERMISSIONS:  You are permitted to reproduce and distribute electronic or hardcopies of this article in its entirety provided you do not alter it in any way, do not charge a fee to others to receive it beyond your cost of reproduction, and do not make more than fifty physical copies without prior written permission from Robert E. Alderman, Jr..  All republications of the article in full or in part, whether in a hardcopy or electronic format, must include this statement:  Reproduced with permission from Robert E. Alderman, Jr., 661.904.7751, thegreatestlaw@gmail.com,  www.BobsPEARS.com

The Magic of Stories ©

P.E.A.R.s™ – Periodic Encouragement And Reminders

The Magic of Stories ©
Robert E. Alderman, Jr.

Do you remember when you were a kid how great it was to hear the words: Once upon a time…?

If you were like me, every experience that began with those words (or their equivalent)  immediately increased your adrenaline flow and brought your attention to a focus ten levels higher than it had been before you heard or read that wondrous, shorthand  pronouncement of “get-ready-something-great-is-going-to-be-shared”.

Why is it that for adults and children alike stories have such magic?

Some of the answer lies in the entertainment “packaging” which almost by definition is part of every story that’s ever been told.  (It’s somewhat like a present; meaning, the story form provides the same excitement created by bows and colorful wrapping paper covering a box with a gift inside.)

However, the real magic of the story process (like a beautifully wrapped present) comes from the value found inside.

Whatever the scientific explanation might be (and I’m sure there is one if we were interested in knowing it), just about every man, woman and child enjoys, learns more from and responds better to stories than they do to propositional instruction.

People will remember the model of your life in how you lived it, much longer than they will the glitter of your financial “successes” and accomplishments. Or, returning momentarily to the gift analogy, it’s the thought that matters.

I personally, however, like the way John Eldredge explains the reason for the effectiveness of the story process in his book, “Waking the Dead”: Propositions [straight statements of fact] speak to the mind, but when you tell a story, you speak to the heart.

A proposition is helpful for certain things.  Sacramento is the capitol of California; water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, your shoes are in the front room, under the sofa. But propositions fail when it comes to the weightier things in life.

While it is a fact that the Civil War was fought between the years 1861 and 1865 and that hundreds of thousands of men died, you don’t even begin to grasp the reality of the Civil War until you hear the stories.

This is even much more so the case when it comes to the truth of the Bible.  God loves you; you matter to Him.  That is a fact, stated as a proposition.  Why then, aren’t Christians the happiest people on earth?  It hasn’t reached all their hearts.  Facts stay lodged in the mind only – they don’t speak at the level we need to hear, which is the heart.

When you hear or read the greatest story ever told, the Bible, the message is shared in some instances as propositions.  However, in far greater frequency, its truths are presented as stories and parables.  I don’t think anyone would ever doubt that God knew what He was doing when He presented His instructions for living an abundant life in story book form more so than as a text book.

True stories, of course, as used by God in the Bible are always of greater impact and value in the long run than are fictional tales.  Also, the greatest stories of all time in the sense of how they capture our attention and move our hearts, share virtually the same plot.

Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, boy fights for girl, boy wins girl back – is perhaps the most moving story line of all.  The second most compelling to us (founded not really on a different plot, but only a variation of the first), involves covert battles in which an inconspicuous hero begins a rebellion and then fights a war to overcome injustice, transform a wrongful condition and restore his people to their rightful glory.  Sometimes the story line is about an individual person and his or her struggles, yet the elements and steps are the same.

Think for a moment about some of your favorite stories.  For children they might include Beauty and Beast, Cinderella or The Chronicles of Narnia.  Teens and young adults may gravitate to Star Wars, The Matrix, or The Lord of the Rings.  Perhaps for the older generation it would be Titanic, Braveheart, Gladiator, Cutting Edge, Hoosiers, etc.

Using the titles you might put on your own list of favorite stories, see if you can identify the theme, the message, the moral, the hope and the triumph running through them that grabs your heart and moves your inner most feelings of rightness.

You know why that is and where it comes from?  God.

In our very being, spirit, soul and heart, God has planted in us the inherent knowledge that we once enjoyed a closeness with Him; have fallen away from that rightful position; are in a war to recover our glory as children of His family and image, and that a covert battle occurring on our behalf and to which we are invited to join, is being lead by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Transformation, rescue and restoration with hard fought victories when the focus is consistent with God and His holiness are found in the theme of virtually every story in the Bible – and more importantly, in the overall message and offer of the Bible from beginning to end.

* * * * *
Why are we enchanted by tales of transformation?, asks John Eldredge in his book.  Why is it the essential part of any great story?  Because it is the secret of Christianity, and Christianity is the secret to the universe.

He then shares several lines from Cinderella where the prince, after searching all through the kingdom for the maiden whose foot would fit the glass slipper, finds her and  overcomes the resistance of the evil stepsisters (representing the devil) who had tried to keep them apart:

And Cinderella had to be called and then went and bowed before the King’s son, who gave her the glass slipper.  Then she seated on a stool, drew her foot out of the heavy wooden shoe, and put it into the slipper, which fit like a glove.  And when she looked up and the King’s son looked at her face, he recognized the beautiful maiden who had danced with him and he cried, “This is my true bride!” He then took Cinderella on his horse and rode away with her.

As in Titanic – when all the glory of that wondrous ship was gradually restored at the end of the movie in the majestic ballroom within its steel hull at the bottom of the ocean and the young maiden all in white walks down the stairway to resume the joy of life in spirit that had been lost with the iceberg sinking – God’s story and offer in the Bible is even greater.

May you read His Book with all its chapters, adventures, propositions and teachings – not just for the magic of its stories, but as the Greatest Story Ever Told and receive into your heart His offer to restore your glory in Christ forever.

Have a great week!  (And to my family, love Dad)

Bob Alderman

Orig. publication 5/13/05 – Updated 1/3/17

PERMISSIONS:  You are permitted to reproduce and distribute electronic or hardcopies of this article in its entirety provided you do not alter it in any way, do not charge a fee to others to receive it beyond your cost of reproduction, and do not make more than fifty physical copies without prior written permission from Robert E. Alderman, Jr..  All republications of the article in full or in part, whether in a hardcopy or electronic format, must include this statement:  Reproduced with permission from Robert E. Alderman, Jr., 661.904.7751, thegreatestlaw@gmail.com,  www.BobsPEARS.com