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

Guest Blogger Jane M. Tucker: A Part of God’s Mosaic

Bowl Plaza mosaic*Today’s post is written by my friend Jane M. Tucker. She is the author of Lottie’s Gift.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1)

Hebrews chapter eleven describes many people who accomplished great things by faith in God. I have sometimes heard this chapter called the “Hall of Heroes,” or the “Faith Hall of Fame.” These titles conjure images of a museum where the portraits of Bible heroes like Abraham, Moses and Rahab hang on the walls. Gold name plates nailed to the picture frames tell who they were, and what they did.

The idea feeds my pride. Someday, I’ll be as great as they were. Someday, I’ll deserve to hang in that hall, too. It isn’t a healthy way to approach my faith walk.

Because the Hall of Fame idea is a trap for me, long ago God gave me a different visual: A mosaic, made of millions of different stones, each one reflecting His light with infinite beauty. In the Master’s hands I am a stone, tumbled to a high polish by time and trial, until I am fit to take my place among all the other precious and unique stones in His timeless design. The idea of a mosaic is reflected in Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (emphasis mine).

The mosaic image holds three advantages for me:

  • I measure myself rightly. I’m not so much a portrait, grandly set apart in a gallery for all to see. I’m a stone, precious to my maker, but not more so than His other precious stones.
  • I see myself in relationship with other believers. Our triune God is all about relationship. One lovely stone is admirable, but it gains even more beauty when placed with all the others to form a greater whole.
  • I remember that God wants everyone to join his family. A missing mosaic tile is instantly noticeable. God needs all his precious stones if his artwork is to be complete.

Now, let me be clear: The portrait painter and the mosaic artist are only metaphors for a God we cannot fully describe. Metaphors clothe the intangible with concrete images, but they are limited. Martin Luther called God a mighty fortress, and David called Him a rock, and those metaphors also have their limitations.

What metaphor for God speaks to you today?

When she’s not gallivanting around New York, Jane M. Tucker works and plays in Overland Park, Kansas, with her husband and three nearly grown kids. She writes about the people and places of the Midwest on her blog, Postcards from the Heartland. Jane’s novel, Lottie’s Gift, about an Iowa farm girl with a big gift for music and the sister she loves with all her heart, is available on and at CrossRiverMedia.

*Photo by Jane M. Tucker

Midweek Morsel by Jeneal Rogers: The Cost

427067502_a342d220f6_zIn Monday’s blog post we considered the principle of pain before pleasure, and my dear friend Jeneal Rogers’ poem “The Cost” provides the perfect follow-up post today.

May Jeneal’s message offer you special encouragement in any difficulties you may be facing and also be a timely reminder that Easter comes at a great cost. Be blessed this Easter season!

The Cost

by Jeneal Rogers

There is no courage without fear
There can’t be love without a tear
You can’t grow strong without some pain
No flowers bloom without some rain

You must look up to see the sky…
You have to walk before you fly
Before the spring there comes the snow
And hardship causes faith to grow

There is no dawn without the night
No victory won without the fight
Peace is always bought with strife
It took a death to purchase life

“‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’” John 3:16

*Have you believed in Jesus and received God’s free gift of eternal life?

My painting, "The Eyes Have It"Writer and visual artist Jeneal Rogers of Northwest Arkansas enjoys writing essays, short stories, and poetry along with creating visual arts of all kinds. She is currently working on creating an illustrated book, New Wings For An Old Bird, which will combine her love of written and visual media. Jeneal invites you to keep your eye out for the book as well as the launch of her new and improved website

*Flickr photo by arbyreed, Creative Commons License

Guest Blogger Rachel Skatvold: The Hands of the Potter

Bill Longshaw

*Fyi, today while Rachel guest posts for me, I’m guest posting for her. Come find me on her Learning to Shine blog!

“Yet you, LORD, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
We are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 NIV

Using a pottery wheel takes dedication. Any skilled potter will tell you that creating a work of art requires time, patience, and a steady but gentle hand.

I remember the first time I tried my hand at throwing a pot on the wheel in high school. Centering the clay was the hardest part. If even a tiny air bubble remained hidden in the ball of clay, it wobbled all over the place. My first attempt at making something turned into useless glob of mush. However, with some practice and guidance, I learned how to form the clay into something recognizable. Eventually I sculpted a small pencil holder that still adorns my mom’s book shelf to this day.

I am a novice potter, but God is the expert. I love the illustration of the clay and the potter used in Isaiah 64:8. It shows that when God looks at me, he doesn’t just see a hunk of clay, he sees potential. Every day of my life, God teaches me something new. He molds me and shapes me into what I should be. If I keep my heart centered on him, he can form my life into something beautiful.

“He’s Still Working On Me.” The words of the old children’s hymn still ring true. Learning to trust and follow God is a daily process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s worth it. I might make mistakes, but the loving hands of the Father bring me right back to the center of his heart, where I should be. I’m so thankful that he’s still working on me.

*Photo Credit: (Bill Longshaw)

About the Author: Rachel Skatvold Author Bio Pic

Rachel Skatvold is a Christian author and stay at home mom from the Midwest. She enjoys writing Christian romance, devotions, and encouraging blogs. Rachel’s debut novella, Beauty Within, was released in early October 2014 and she’s currently editing her first full length novel, Enduring the Flames. Other than writing, some of her hobbies include singing, reading, and camping in the great outdoors with her husband and two young sons.

Places to follow Rachel: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Pinterest

Guest Blogger: Duane Hoy — My Dad!

My parents, Duane and Charlene, on their 60th wedding anniversary in January.

You may have already guessed this, but my dad is not really a blogger :) In fact, he doesn’t even own a computer. But he did send me a handwritten copy of the story below, and as soon as I read it, I knew I wanted to share it with you.

Dad recently told me he enjoys writing and feels he can sometimes express himself best through the written word. As I heard this and read his story, my writing rootscame more clearly into focus. An aptitude for writing seems to be in the blood. Hope you are blessed by his story!

The Christmas Cactus

This morning I walked into our front bedroom to view the Christmas cactus we’ve had for I don’t know how many years—several. It has faithfully produced profuse blooms each Christmas season.

This season it had gone through severe adversity, having undergone the pruner’s shears in preparation for our Oklahoma move from Nixa, Missouri in late August.

Even though the long trailing limbs were cut back severely, it seemed determined to bloom in spite of it, poking out its little bloom buds in various unexpected places.

We have enjoyed the colorful display well up into February, and still some small buds are making an appearance along with the present blooms.

I thought as I looked at the Christmas cactus, couldn’t we take a lesson from it? Regardless of setbacks, severe or otherwise, are we as determined to bloom where God put us?

“‘He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.’” John 15:2

*What fruit or new growth have you seen in your life after a setback?