Guest Post: The Pruner’s Knife

I’m thrilled to share a guest post by my dad, Duane Hoy, today. He is eighty-three years young and has known the Lord since age twelve. May his insightful words and message bless you in a special way today!

The Pruner’s Knife

As I sit at my breakfast table and look out the sliding glass doors, I’m able to look a few feet beyond my patio and see my new young Royal Star magnolia.

It is not to be confused with other large varieties of magnolia trees. It is more naturally a bush but can be trained to grow more like a tree by cutting all but the strongest trunk and letting it grow like a small tree. It’s a very early bloomer being covered with snowy pure white blooms, this spring starting in mid-February.

My landscaper planted mine a year ago in the spring after I spotted it at a nursery in west Tulsa on the other side of the Arkansas River.

My heart was immediately set on getting one for my backyard, fulfilling a very long-held desire. I enjoyed three wonderful weeks of glistening snow-white blooms this last spring.

I am so wonderfully reminded of a beautiful individual who had a small to medium size Royal Star magnolia in his backyard.

Bro. John Howard and his wife Grace lived in a small block house on N. Grand in Pittsburg, KS, where our young family had moved in the early 1960s.

After thirty years of missionary service in India, Bro. John and Grace came back home to Pittsburg. He never owned a car but walked his routes in  Pittsburg, still being a missionary for another thirty years.

A very kind and gentle man, he would walk to our house way out on the north end of town to pay a short visit and pray for us and especially our four little girls—that they would develop into the godly women they are today. Then I would drive him back home. Needless to say, he was indelibly printed on my heart in a forever way.

As I observed my magnolia a few weeks after its blooming, I noticed the new growth was coming out in more of a horizontal direction. As it is yet only four to four and one half feet tall, I wanted it to grow in an upward direction, so I took the sharpest blade on my knife and made several studied cuts, removing the end growths on some limbs, hoping for the best. Some weeks later here in mid-June with plenty of rain, quite a bit of new growth is flourishing. Sure enough it is reaching in an upward direction.

This caused me to reflect on my own life and maybe you too have experienced some difficult circumstances, ones that might cause us to wince and cry out in pain.

Could it be that our master gardener is seeking some upward growth in our lives, reaching up to Him?

“‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener . . . every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.’” John 15:1-2 NIV

How has God used his pruner’s knife in your life lately?

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*My photo

Scattering Seeds and Watching God Give Growth

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“He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.’” Mark 4:26-27

As I mentioned in a post earlier this month, Jesus specialized in telling stories from familiar daily life, stories that his listeners could relate to and draw spiritual lessons from. These stories are known as the parables of Jesus.

One of the parables Jesus told was the parable of the growing seed (the first part of it appears above.) He alerted his listeners right away that an important spiritual truth was about to follow when he basically said hey listen up, this is the way the kingdom of God works. I can just see the disciples and others nearby cocking their heads and leaning in to listen carefully, can’t you?

Jesus then reminded the people that once they scatter seeds, the seeds will sprout and grow on their own (compliments of the sun and moisture God provides and his divine design for plant growth, of course.) We are not the ones who cause seeds to grow. God is the one who gives growth.

And since Jesus said that this is how the kingdom of God works, we can see that the power to give spiritual birth and growth does not come from us. That power comes from God alone. The gospel holds power. The Word of God holds power. Our God is all powerful, and he can indeed bring life and change.

So if it’s our responsibility to plant spiritual seeds while trusting God to give them life and growth, how are we doing? Are we fulfilling our role? Are we actively scattering and planting spiritual seeds of the gospel and other spiritual truths from God’s Word? Do we need to be more alert to opportunities or more aware of just exactly how we can do this work of scattering seeds of truth?

Here are a few ways we can scatter spiritual seeds: through family devotions, by sharing scripture verses on our social media sites or in everyday conversations, leaving gospel tracts where they might be found, giving the gift of a Bible or contributing to an organization that distributes free Bibles, teaching Sunday School or VBS, etc., financially supporting missionaries and others in ministry, playing Christian music in our homes or places of business, going on mission outreaches and actively sharing the gospel, and by giving God glory for the blessings of life and answered prayers. And these are just a few ways.

Let’s give some thought to how we might be able scatter spiritual seeds this week, this month, this year. Let’s be aware and then be alert to opportunities. Let’s do our part—and then watch God give life and growth!

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants or he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

*What are some other ways we can scatter spiritual seeds?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out next week. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by –Tico–, Creative Commons License

A Berry Beautiful Wedding Cake

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Mother of the Bride, if your daughter would like a more natural and healthy component to her wedding cake, has she considered having it adorned with berries? Nothing says fresh and healthy like fresh fruit, right? And not only that, but it will add a yummy tartness to the sweetness of the cake and be colorful, too!

Strawberries and blueberries, as pictured above, would be the perfect fruit choice for a wedding around the 4th of July—or at any time of the year if the bride’s color choices are shades of red and/or blue.

But other kinds of fruit could be used as well. Can you picture other combinations using grapes, kiwi, pineapple, blackberries, melon pieces, or other types of fruit in addition to the strawberries and blueberries? Color will be a factor, of course, so it will work with the overall color scheme of the wedding, and your daughter will also want to consider what flavor of cake will complement her fruit choices—or vice versa. What fun considering all the options!

So check with your darling bride-to-be, MOB, and see if a berry beautiful wedding cake appeals to her. She might just say, “I think that’s a berry good idea!”

*You might also like to read Wedding Cake Idea: Coconut Cloud.

*Flickr photo by Sean Davis, Creative Commons License

Midweek Morsel: We Flourish Because God Blesses

438756167_fcc0efd8ab_z“Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold because the LORD blessed him.” Genesis 26:12

When we flourish, when we experience success and reap a hundredfold the way Isaac did, who gets the credit? If we’re not careful, we can get caught up in the way the world thinks. We’ll either think we just got lucky or we’ll start thinking our success resulted from all the smart decisions we made or all the things we did right.

Yes, the seeds of success are planted because of hard work—we reap because we sow. My own experience is testimony to that. I wouldn’t have a book coming out later this year if I had not done the hard work of writing and revising and polishing that book and if I had not taken years of steps towards securing an agent.

But when the seeds that we plant grow, when we reap in bounty, when we flourish, it’s because God blesses us. God blessed me with doors finally swinging open. He is the one who blessed me with an agent. He is the one who, against extremely high odds, opened a door at BroadStreet for me. And now as I move into a new phase of doing the best I can to help market my book when it releases, I need to remember that he holds this step in his hands as well. Any blessing that results will come from him.

Yes, friends, let’s remember who gets the credit for blessings in our lives.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:6

*How has God blessed your efforts lately?

*Don’t miss out on the One-More-Chance Starbucks Giveaway. Deadline to enter is Feb. 10th!

*The latest issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out this week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Frank Hamm, Creative Commons License

A Cranberry Salad Recipe for the Holidays

305095614_dd169d1ab0_zI don’t feature recipes on my blog very often, but there’s something about autumn, something about the holidays, that makes me want to share yummy food with you. I always try to offer soul and spirit refreshment and nourishment here, and I think a recipe can fit the bill every now and then. I don’t know about you, but something yummy has a way of refreshing my spirit!

Last autumn I shared my mom’s Old-Fashioned Dressing recipe, and this year I’d like to gift you with Mom’s Cranberry Salad recipe. It was a regular on Mom’s holiday turkey dinner menus. Mom has been gone for two years now, and we miss everything about her—including the delicious food she prepared for us all the time. So I’ll share this recipe today in honor of Mom. Hope you enjoy!

Mom’s Cranberry Salad

2 c. fresh cranberries
1 c. water
1 c. sugar

Boil for 10 minutes with lid (not too hard of a boil).

Add:

2 c. mini-marshmallows
1 pkg cherry jello dissolved in 1 c. hot water. (Add to cranberry mix after dissolved.)

Pour in serving bowl and start it to set up in the fridge.

When partially set, add:

1 c. finely chopped raw apple with peeling
1/2 c. chopped pecans.

Stir and then let it finish setting up. Keep refrigerated.

God bless as you prepare for your family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. May your celebrations include not only yummy food, but love, gratitude, and lots of great memories as well. Be refreshed this season, my friends!

“‘Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.’” Genesis 18:5

*What are some favorite items on your holiday menus?

*Flickr photo by Half Chinese, Creative Commons License