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

Gardeners, Grow Your Own Wedding Flowers!

3370451864_6fff8307b4_zMother of the Bride, do you or your daughter love to garden? If so you might like to grow your own flowers for her wedding. Not only would it add a unique personal touch to your celebration, but it could save money and create a great memory as well.

I know it might sound a bit far-fetched at first, but why not enjoy your passion while accomplishing a task for the wedding? Some moms and brides love to sew and fashion their own dresses for the big day. Others love to cook and provide much of their own food for the reception. If you love to garden, why not plant and nurture your own flowers and then take joy in displaying them on Wedding Day?

I admit I’m not a gardener and don’t have first-hand experience with this. But I do know that people craft wedding flowers and table décor from silk flowers as well as from paper. So if they can do that, why not put your gardening skills to work for you and have some fun, too?

Maybe you feel confident in your gardening abilities but not so much when it comes to designing the arrangements or bouquets. If so, you could do the growing and find a floral designer to finish the job. You’d still be giving the wedding your personal touch.

If you’re interested in giving it a shot, here are a few resources to help get you started:

Better Homes and Gardens—Grow Your Own Wedding Flowers 

Gardenista—DIY: Secrets of Growing Your Own Wedding Flowers

Bridal Guide–How to Grow Your Own Wedding Flowers

*You might also like to read Wedding Decor: Craft It with Paper, Wedding Idea that Sparkles: A Brooch Bouquet, and Knitted Bridal Bouquet and More.

*Since the readership of the Mother of the Bride Blog is ever-changing, I hope this encore post has been helpful to those of you who weren’t MOBs when I originally posted it in September 2013.

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

*Flickr photo by Robert S. Donovan, Creative Commons License

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

Midweek Morsel: Winner Plus a “Poopy Life” Quote

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Now that’s a blog post title you probably never expected to see here, right? Before we tackle the second half of that title, let’s address the first.

We have a “Back At It Giveaway” winner! The lucky recipient of the Barnes & Noble gift card is Debbie! Congratulations, Debbie! I’ll get your gift card in the mail today. Enjoy whatever you choose at good ole B&N. Remember, along with all their books, they usually have chocolate near the check-out :)

Now on to the second half of the post title—I have a quote for us to ponder about the poopy parts of life. That’s right, a “poopy life” quote to consider. Don’t worry, you’ll be relieved (excuse the pun, really wasn’t intentional!) to find out that it is indeed a quote worthy of thought and really quite uplifting. Here we go:

“Like an organic farmer, [God] is able to use the poopy parts of life as rich soil for growing the fruit of the Spirit in us.” Margaret Feinberg in The Organic God

When we get upset or discouraged about bad or tough things happening in our lives, let’s remember that God will use those “poopy” things to help us become more like him. What say we make it our goal to allow the Lord to shine through us even in the bad times. You in?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23a

*How have you seen God use something bad in your life to help you grow in the fruit of the Spirit?

*Flickr photo by Daniele Nicolucci photography, Creative Commons License