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?

The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*My photo

Midweek Morsel: Attracting Others to the Lord

“‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’” Zechariah 8:23b

Seekers—people who don’t yet have a relationship with God but do indeed want to know him—have been relying on believers since Old Testament times to help lead them to the one true God.

In the verse above, God declared through his prophet Zechariah that Gentiles (unbelievers) would come seeking him to entreat him and would flock to Jews (believers) to help them find him. Since they had heard that God was with the Jews, they naturally wanted to connect with Jewish people.

Today do seekers want to be with us because they’ve seen Christ in us or have heard that we walk with God? Have they heard that we are great men and women of faith or that we are prayer warriors? Are others attracted to us because of our godly lives and loving spirits? Do seekers want to connect with us?

Let’s be the aroma of Christ in this world that will draw others to the Lord!

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

*What are some ways we can be the aroma of Christ to others?

*Flickr photo by Un ragazzo chiamato Bi, Creative Commons License

Midweek Morsel: Remember to Ask for Workers

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“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” Matthew 9:37-38

I admit it—I tend to forget Jesus’ call to prayer for workers for the harvest field. I don’t know why. I’ve long been familiar with the above words of our Savior. Yes, when I’m reminded of this call to prayer, right away I ask God to send out workers into the harvest. But for some reason, asking on a regular basis escapes my memory.

Maybe I need to memorize this particular instruction from the Lord or list it specifically in my prayer plan. But the time has come to quit being hit and miss with this vital call to prayer. If this was important enough for Jesus to give specific instruction, then I need to pay attention and be obedient.

Friends, as Jesus said, the harvest—the masses of people who need to come to know him—is plentiful, but the workers are few. Will you join me in asking God to send out workers into his harvest field? And then let’s be willing to go out into the field ourselves when he calls us to a task. Let’s be faithful to do what God asks of us.

**Do you know of some harvest fields (local, regional, national, or international) in need of workers right now? Feel free to share so that we can all ask God to send workers there.

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out in early May. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Christian R. Hamacher (Je suis Charlie), Creative Commons License

Guest Blogger: Author Laura Popp

I’m happy to share an inspiring post today from author Laura Popp. Laura is a fellow member of my writers group, Fellowship of Christian Writers. May Laura’s story encourage you to answer God’s call on your life—whatever that may be today!

Earthshaking Opportunities

In the summer of 2009, God called me to be a missionary in Japan. I thought He was nuts, but knowing better than to argue, I packed my bags, and with nothing but a few contacts and a job teaching English, hopped on a plane.

Nearly two years later on March 11th, 2011, my whole world shook.Literally. But the tremors felt in Nabari, Japan were nothing compared to those 350 miles north as the largest earthquake in the recorded history of Asia struck the Tohoku area. Though I thanked God for my life, I bit my nails worrying about my friends suffering in Tokyo and Sendai. I wept as I watched events unfold on the news. The aftershocks continued, walls of water over thirty feet high sweeping away entire cities, fires raging, infants and elderly freezing without electricity, nuclear reactors overheating, and the death toll rising to 16,000.

“What can I do?” I prayed. “You sent me to these people. Teach me how to serve them!”

The next day I got a mass email from a Filipina Christian friend in Fukushima. “We have to get out. The nuclear reactor near my house is in melt down. I’m going back to the Philippines, but can anyone take in two Japanese sisters?”

“Yes!” I wrote back immediately. “Send them to me!”

Two days later, I met the sisters in Osaka. Their eyes told of unknown horrors, and fear and exhaustion weighed them down.

“What would you like to do?” I asked on Saturday, after they’d had a chance to rest.

“Take us somewhere beautiful,” the older sister Junko, an English teacher, replied.

I brought them to a plum blossom garden in a nearby town, the pink and white blossoms draping over the trees and terraces like delicate curtains.

At the entrance to the garden stood a small shrine, and the two sisters paused to pray.

“What did you pray for?” I asked when they finished.

“The safety of our families,” Junko replied.

Feeling moved by the Holy Spirit, I asked, “Do you believe there is a god in that shrine who hears you?”

Looking confused, as if she’d never thought about it before, Junko turned to her sister. They discussed it in Japanese for a few minutes, then Junko turned back to me.

“No, we just do it out of habit.”

“Well,” I offered with a smile, “would you like to meet a God who will hear your prayers?”

The two sisters discussed again, until Junko finally said, “We would.”

The next day I took them to church. There the sisters heard about God’s love for them and Japan, how God grieved for the death and destruction, and how He would rebuild Japan. They heard about the church’s plan to help and about the hope they could have in Jesus.

Tears filled my eyes as both sisters raised their hands, receiving that hope and love. Now I understand. Thank you, God, for bringing me to Japan.

Junko and her sister spent the next month in my apartment until they got government housing in Kyoto. I visited them there and we enjoyed a popular Kyoto pastime: dressing as maiko (apprentice geisha). I will never forget the day, my birthday, when Junko was baptized.

I challenge you that wherever you are and whatever you do, answer God’s call to love, to speak, and to serve. That is the greatest testimony you can give.

*In what ways have others showed God’s love to you through acts of service?

Laura Popp is the author of Treasure Traitor, a young adult fantasy novel. To learn more about her travels and book, check out her website: www.ljpopp.wordpress.com.

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out in early February. Sign-up is free and to the right!

Sowing in Tears

13153221935_58034d137e_z“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5-6

What does it mean to sow in tears? I’m sure there’s more than one way to interpret these verses, but one thing I think of as I read them is prayer.

We sow seed as we pray for those who have never come to faith in Christ. We sow as we pray for those who have drifted away from God and as we pray for the needs of our churches. But how earnestly do we intercede for these deep needs?

When was the last time our tears flowed or we experienced internal anguish as we prayed for a family member, a friend, or someone else’s loved one to give his or her heart to the Lord? When was the last time we wept over a people group deluded by a false religion? When was the last time we sowed in tears?

If we’re not careful, our prayers can be half-hearted or superficial. To sow in tears we must take time to care. We must open our hearts and love people. If we do this, their separation from God for eternity will surely drive us to our knees — and to tears.

So yes, we will feel sorrow, but the Word tells us we will also “reap with songs of joy.” And when it comes to the salvation of a soul, one song of joy will be worth a thousand tears.

“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers . . .” Romans 9:2-3

*Have you had the blessing of reaping with songs of joy after sowing in tears for someone?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out next week. Sign-up is free and to the right. Also have added the option to receive my blog posts by email as well as RSS feed now. See right sidebar.

*Update: Due to an unexpected family situation, I didn’t get to go on the Beautiful Feet Mission Trip I told you about in my last post.

*Flickr photo by MarLeah Joy, Creative Commons License