about-bg about-bg


Stick and String

• Greg Boyd

God’s will is foremost about who we are and not what we do. God’s original design for us was to express his beauty to this world, but that requires us to receive who we are from him. In this sermon, Greg talks about his experiences as a little boy and how his interaction with God has shaped his understanding of who he is today.

Show Extended Summary Hide Extended Summary

Proverbs tells us that the spirit of man is the Lamp of the LORD, searching all of the innermost parts of his being. It seems that the Lord takes our spirit, our innermost essence, and he illuminates it to see the hidden corridors and reveals our darkest parts of ourselves. He does this to help align our lives with how he wants us to understand ourselves in this broken world.

God’s original design for our lives was that we would live top-down and inside-out. For God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in heaven, we have to receive a picture of what God’s will is from above—not only about this world, but how we should view ourselves. As our creator, he knows our identity. When we accept our identity from God, then we can live inside-out, showing the world God’s love through our lives. This showing of his love is a direct result of knowing his will for our identity and lives.

However, humanity has rebelled against God. Everything became reversed and we started living from the bottom-up and outside-in. We shut God out, and we want to define ourselves from a very young age. Satan became lord over the physical environment, and we began to let that affect our image of ourselves. Whether it’s a parent that abused us or the kids in school that treated us badly, we let these experiences affect our view of ourselves.

When we come into the Kingdom through salvation by Jesus, our spirit once again is submitted to God. We gain back our identity that God wants us to have. Through Jesus, we have a new identity, a new spiritual DNA, and we become a new creature. However, our psyche isn’t automatically restored. We still live with all of our experiences from childhood, and we still believe some of the false information that was fed to us. This requires God’s illumination to restore this aspect of our lives, and it is a lifelong process.

This is why the first and most important aspect of discipleship is to regain authority over our minds, the way we think and experience this world. The word of God is a two-edged sword that can separate who we think we are and who we actually are. The word of God tells us who we truly are, and with this knowledge we distinguish what is true and untrue in our minds. So, as our mind submits to this new spirit in us, we start to behave in more kingdom ways that reflect God’s love for this world.

God uses this new spirit to shed light on the innermost parts of our being. He walks in the parts of us that are healed, and he uses the healed portions to shine light on the darker portions that need healing. Unveiling our secrets and wounds, our communion with Jesus’ spirit provides refreshment and rejuvenation to our mind, soul, and body. The goal of all of this healing is that we would grow in the knowledge of God’s will in our lives. When we accept the identity that Jesus gives us, we grow in knowing God’s will.

God wants to know every single nook and cranny of our lives. He wants the good things, and he wants to shine light on the darker side of our soul. No matter what your history is, no matter what environment you grew up in or what the kids said about you in school, your identity in Jesus is foundational to life. It’s foundational for knowledge, and it’s foundational for seeking God’s will. When we accept and live in the identity that Jesus gives us in our spirit, we can see the world the way God wants us to and be able to move in spirit with Him.

Hide Extended Summary

Topics: Communion, God's Will, Imagination

Downloads & Resources

Audio File
Study guide

Focus Scripture:

  • Colossians 1:9

    For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives

Subscribe to Podcast

25 thoughts on “Stick and String

  1. Michael C says:

    Thanks Greg. Appreciate your candid and thoughtful message. Was very moving and life changing.

  2. Annie C. says:

    I brought my daughter to church this Sunday. It was a first for her and and a second for me. I came from an alcoholic home riddled with abandoment, sadness, and pain. My husband, daughter and I finished an intensive out patient program to help my daughter stop cutting. Even though my husband and I have done so much better at parenting, we did not pick up on how invalidating we were and our home enviornment was. 2010 was the most painful year of my life. I call it our humpty dump year…God broke us all in pieces and put us back together again. We are better, more genuine, more humble, and now realize our dependence on Him. My daughter came out of your message saying “no pastor I know has ever been that transparent…it is gonna take a while to recover from that”. Your light meets the dark, the reversal of world to God…intertwined with relevent little boy pain changed us. This morning, my daughter and I had the best talk about our feelings of not being good enough, not liking ourselves and we both agreed that is the world describing us. Since we were made with a purpose, we know that it is Satan and we will now proclaim him a liar, liar pants on fire! We are loved and made to impact our planet.
    Praise God for your message and transparency. I hope your tears were tears of healing as were ours.

  3. Teresa says:

    so good! !! ..amen!

  4. Joan says:

    I’ve been visiting Woodland Hills recently and knew that the minute I stepped into services that God had ordained this place for my healing. I started visiting (again) on the 1st week of the Colossians series & knew that THIS time I was ready to ask for, and receive, help. I’ve been so broken & desperate. Nobody knew how bad things had gotten and deep depression and hopelessness had set in. But every Sunday for the past several weeks I’ve left WH (honestly) changed! I told a friend of mine that I could feel my “center” moving over & shifting into a RIGHT place! Your message last week was, by far, the most powerful message I’ve ever witnessed in over 28 years of being in “incredible” ministries as a Believer! Beautiful!

    For years I didn’t understand that my childhood of being verbally abused, ignored, alone & emotionally abandoned had done SO much damage. Like you, I thought that “We’d” delt with that already in my spirit-filled walk as a Believer. But, alone doesn’t begin to describe the how fragile and depleted my soul had gotten. Life itself had been sucked out of me. And the worst part, was that I could see it myself, see it slipping out of my hands, knew it to be so, and felt I had no power to deal with the agonizing reality. Despair and hopelessness were barely being covered-up anymore and I was so afraid! But, new depths of the Truth of God’s Love for me and His plan for my life were revealed Sunday and The Comforter has come in to rescue and retrieve the “real” me! My life will never be the same…EVER! He is washing me deply with a revelation of His faithful/complete LOVE for me!

    NOBODY wants to get that personal about themselves in a public setting! But the fact is that NOBODY gets delivered when people are ashamed to tell the TRUTH!! The raw POWER of the TRUTH is what sets us FREE! “We overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the WORD OF OUR TESTIMONY” So I personally PRAISE GOD for your INCREDIBLE testimony & sacrifice! Great courage is necessary for this type of journey and I want to thank you for YOURS! “Follow me, as I follow Christ”….THIS is THAT! Your courage is bringing me courage!!

    May God restore, renew & make BRIGHT every beautiful facet of the man He created you to be! I will be praying for your strength & courage and your family in this journey. I believe GREAT things are just beginning for us ALL!!

  5. Michelle says:

    Thank you so much Greg. The lost souls of the world might now see that they aren’t alone after all.

  6. Stephanie (twitter: ordinarygirlmn) says:

    Wow, well THAT made me cry, and brought back to mind a lot of pain that I keep holding on to and using to validate my assumption that I am wholly unloveable . . . I appreciate this message and will need to listen to it again and again and again to pull out the healing aspects of it and let God ‘Communionicate’ with me.

    Thank you for opening up these wounds sharing with us the pain and the lessons! God bless

  7. John says:


    Thank you for putting into words thoughts that I have been trying to understand for most of my adult life. Loving people told me to “forgive and forget” and all would be well. I believe I forgave, but I could never quite push the pain of my childhood away. As I am pushing them to the innermost corridors, I learned form you that God is trying to reveal truth in those corridors. I took away from your sermon that the truth that will set me free is bigger then the realization that Jesus is my savior, as big as that is, and don’t get me wrong, it is HUGE, but the truth that he is a God of love, and that he loves me, is one that I am struggling with due to those same corridors. Thank you for letting me see that.

    I am so thankful for Woodland Hills and your teaching. God Bless you and I am thankful that you are transparent!!

  8. Lilly says:

    I appreciate the wonderful message and the vulnerability. I guess I really need to listen again to get it all because as I got misty my mind would go places where the pain is.

    WIth the loss on so many levels in my life over the years, I have gotten to a place that looks like “surrender” but feels more like giving up. In being looked up to because of testimony and ministry position, I become good at acting a part and swallowing the alienation–that cosmic lonliness–that seems so much stronger at this time in my life than my faith and relationship. At times, rather than seeing Jesus rubbing my neck after a wound, I see Him as the one with the thwacking Bible, and there is a giving up that smells of discouragement. A line in a recent song I wrote says, “Faith becomes something you can hold.” It’s hard when it’s more like slipping htrough the fingers. Thanks for being transparent.

  9. Ann Thakkar says:

    Though it seems far from sufficient, thank you Greg.

  10. Richard says:

    Greg,God spoke to me through your pain, experience and the scriptures. As a husband,new father and pastor I identify deeply with the word. Thanks man. God bless and I am praying with you. God has indeed called you to the kingdom for such a time as this

  11. Wendy L says:

    Yesterday evening I listened to your message and felt a need to let you know how grateful I was for what you did for us, but the words just can’t be found. It goes too deep for words.

    As a victim of mobbing all through elementary up to jr high and then mere tollerance in high school, I can relate to the pain you shared with us.

    The most agonizing time of the year was September.when my hopes were so high that maybe THIS was the year things would be different, and the crash when it would be made hopelessly clear that I was still the outcast.

    There ARE no words to let you know how I appreciated your obedience to the Lord in opening yourself in a painfully vulnerable way to us.

    Thank you.

  12. Angie M says:

    Thank you for allowing us a glimpse into the beauty of God working in your life. When you shared the image of Jesus dancing around with you, as if inspiring magic, I wept in praise of how wonderfully beautiful our Lord is. He is so beyond words. Thank-you!

  13. Brenda says:

    What a powerful message! I am so thankful that my son and I were able to hear this message! He has been suffering from post-traumatic stress like symptoms due to a lifelong history of abuse (severe bullying and social neglect as a child and ongoing and repetitive exploitive relationships and domestic violence as an adult). He continues to be extremely vulnerable to further victimization due to social deficits associated with his autism spectrum disorder/aspergers syndrome.

    Thanks to the many volunteers from Woodland who have been praying for Bryan, many opportunities have presented themselves which have afforded him more protection, allowing him a safer environment within which to recover from past traumas. We completely identify with the “stick and string” type behaviors which help calm the nervous system of trauma sufferers. This was such an important message for my son and I to hear at this time and I’m so appreciative of Greg for sharing with us.

  14. Danny says:

    Dear Greg:

    Your books and thoughts have played a huge role in helping me stay sane in the midst of doubt and confusion and hints of depression during this past year of college. I understood bits of what you described with your scrambled thoughts, though what I experienced is nowhere near as rough as what you have been dealing with. I wanted to thank you for giving us these insights and sharing about the beauty of Jesus and daring us to believe that he really is that good and really cares about us that much. You are making a huge impact for the kingdom. Don’t doubt that.

  15. Jerrine Regan says:

    Wow! That was powerful. With tears running down my face I realize how difficult that must have been for you. Yet you did it because you know that by being willing to be vulnerable you model the love of God and His will to love, heal, restore and reconcile. Thank you for sharing this. All who listen or watch this message will be deeply touched. Again, I thank you for your real-ness and I pray God’s blessings on you and your family.

  16. Andrew says:


    Thank you so much for your humble, encouraging transparency. I’m not sure if I’ve heard a person be more open and honest about their inner struggles, and I’ve never heard a pastor talk like this.

    I’ve been through my own struggles, and I’m often ashamed to talk about them, particularly in the church context. Your doing this gives us all permission to reveal ourselves, as well. Thank you so, so much, and God bless you.

  17. Sheila says:

    Thank you for sharing so deeply. God bless you.

  18. Diedeke Witte (the Netherlands) says:

    Dear Greg, thank you so much for this sermon. Just as others, I cried not of grief, but of feeling healed of past pain. You touch people all the way to this country. Thank you for that.

  19. Christy Frye says:

    Thank you Greg! I’m amazed and inspired by what you have shared…God really does come around the lonely and frees them from their past…I will be praying for continued healing for your neck and the past that has intensified the pain…

  20. Deb Nelsen says:

    Once again, you have touched my life. When I describe how God uses you, I use the words, “annointed brilliance.” I forgot to add another word, “vulnerable.” What an impact you have had on my life, my husband’s, and friends we’ve told about your podcasts. Deb

  21. Lori Butler says:

    I just finished listening to the titled message Stick and String…on my IPOD during my nightly run. I felt compelled to write again. Your developing ephopohny of how pain has been this catalast to unlock memories of past un-processed stuff…is the very ‘theory’ of sorts I’ve been dancing with in my 9-to-5. I work with refugees and often physical pain (usually car accidents) are the pin that pop the resilient-held-un-processed-sub-conscious beautiful mess. I’m a mental health thearpist (LICSW) and EMDR trained. I think you have mentioned in the past possibly being familiar with this therapy, as it’s very similar to NLP. I just wanted to impart with you that as I listened I had this soft, gentle voice that said ‘wouldn’t it be great if Greg took those visions of him as that little boy through the process of EMDR” to further his healing and to further cement those positive cognition’s you’ve already imagined and possibly further wisdom.

    Just wanted to share.

  22. Joy says:

    I grew up in a “perfect” Christian household. My brother and I went to a private Christian school. My family was involved both in my school and church. I soon realized that nothing is perfect. My world came crashing down when my brother became a drug addict. My parents wanted to help my brother in anyway they could. However fear gripped them as they did not want to be outcasts in the Christian community.

    So I tucked away my pain, fear, and desperation behind my white smile. Our secret of my brothers struggles ripped our hearts a part. My parents worst fear came to be when our secret was leaked and friends abandoned my family.

    We all moved forward to heal from the addiction and abandonment of our friends. I was tired of the facade that I had and realized how many others hid behind a mask. I then prayed to be transparent.

    Recently(many yrs after this) I was embarrassed that I found my wounds re-opening. I thought I hadnt emotionally matured if I still felt that I needed to heal. THIS sermon gave me the insight and guilt-free permission to allow myself to visit the dark corridors of my heart that need to be seen.

  23. Greg,

    Thank you for sharing from the Word. After listening to your story I couldn’t help but tell you that so much of what you have described i.e. ADHD, chronic pain, learning disabilities, etc. is being very successfully addressed through the use of neurofeedback technology, which is a method of teaching the brain to heal itself through self-regulation. It is a completely non-invasive, alternative approach to addressing the function of the brain. If you go to eeginfo.com you could find a provider near you.

    May God bless you.

  24. SMAGISA says:

    Why not be honest to yourself that you are just misleading others to your own belief not to real truth from the Bible you are just using the Bible to promote yourself alone .For I do not have to prove myself righteous ,giving the praise alone to the Almighty God Jehovah ,& His Son Jesus Christ ,coz we are just mere dust to brag our self around ,Logical you must know better see! You said you are full educated bragging that to your followers but see & read carefully okay. Jeremiah 8:9 The wise ones have become ashamed. They have become terrified and will be caught. Look! They have rejected the very word of Jehovah, and what wisdom do they have?

  25. Ted says:

    Greg’s courageous and loving vulnerability and the transformation experiences of others who have commented here on this teaching and story inspire hope in me for my own continued healing through the Holy Spirit in tandem with my enlightened spirit. Jesus said “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” (John 14). “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” (Psalm 27)

    Watching The Stick and String was a deeply moving experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am finding more and more life in Jesus. The teaching resources of Woodland Hills are an important part of my spiritual growth.

    Member of The Meeting House in Canada

    Amazed (song by Jared Anderson)

    You dance over me while I am unaware
    You sing all around but I never hear the sound

    Lord I’m amazed by You
    Lord I’m amazed by You
    Lord I’m amazed by You
    How You love me

    How deep how wide
    How great is Your love for me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





"You have a great thing going and all of you touch our kids’ lives more than you will ever know or words could ever explain."

– Barb, WH parent