Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Reflections

Reflecting a bit today.  I have to admit that each year I do that a lot about this time in December. Growing up on the cotton farm meant we worked hard (I mean HARD) from March through November - in the field around the barn - all of the place. (Of course Daddy's work in feeding the cows and mules, and on and on and on, never stopped).
About the second week in December things started to move towards playing and fun. Since we had gas heaters, we couldn't get that cedar tree tooooooo early or by Christmas Eve it would be brown and drooping!  But when it was time, Daddy or Mama and I would head out for "tree searching".  Usually, Daddy had already eyed 3 or 4 prospects along the pasture fence rows. The "right" tree would be cut down and anchored in a big pot filled with mud (anybody know about that?). Getting those ornaments out, many of them very old, was such a fun search.
The tree was just what it of God's creations covered with loving memories and filled with delicious aroma for the next couple of weeks.  It certainly made a beautiful spot for hand-wrapped presents. 

Most of all, this was all about family and happily celebrating joy that only the Baby Boy Jesus could produce.​

Thursday, December 1, 2016

December: A Great Month for Birthdays!

So, today is my birthday.  As I was growing up, I remember hearing my grandparents, parents, and other adults talk about how quickly the years passed the longer they lived. That was a foreign concept to my young mind.  Since I have a December birthday, it seemed like it took FOREVER for my birthday and Christmas to roll around year after year.  Now, some ?? years later :)... what seemed so foreign as a 9 year old child is now strangely familiar.  A year still has twelve months, the months still have the same number of days, but as my Grandma said this morning as she wished me Happy Birthday; "It seems a year rolls by in six months!"  I agree.  Didn't we just pack away the Christmas decorations and find a place for all the unique little treasures we received?

As we enter the Christmas season, I'm reminded of the beauty of the greatest gift ever given.  I don't know if Jesus was actually born in December, but we celebrate His birth just the same.  His parties are magnificent with trees and lights and gifts galore.  He is celebrated all month long!  Why wouldn't we be excited that the months between December 25th and December 1st seem to race like sand in an hour glass?  December is the month when most Christians remember that we're really part of a great big family celebrating one perpetual birthday party.  Having a December birthday, for me, has always been a great honor.  I have the joy and privilege of celebrating the fact that Jesus was born and chose to die so that I may have life eternal... the ultimate birthday.  I hope you'll join me in celebrating our collective birthday all month long!


Tuesday, October 18, 2016


I’m a dreamer, but I’ve been known to look back a lot, too.
What does that mean?  It means I don’t always live TODAY to the fullest. 
We don’t have the promise of tomorrow, do we?  We can’t go back and redo yesterday, can we?  What can we do?
We can live today, experiencing every second!!!  I love how Bill and Gloria Gaither have always written songs like “We Have This Moment Today” taking those very ordinary things such as a cup of coffee, ketchup on their kid’s nose, playing baseball with a grandmother encouraging us to look at it all….the ordinary events that can whiz by, if we aren’t careful, causing us to miss something that could be life changing. 
I don’t know why we look for the big stuff, especially when God uses more ordinary daily things like playing with children, fishing, plowing in the field, etc. to get His point across in scripture.  Sure, He’s parted seas, delivered men from lions’ dens, fed thousands with hardly any supplies, and these are all works of God from which to learn, but He does seem to delight in talking with us about minute by minute events. 
To be honest, I’m just now, these past 10 years or so, learning the importance of not waiting for “that huge moment” to take place but to grab hold of this very second and LIVE IT.
After all, we only have “this moment today” promised to us.  Let’s LIVE IT, LOVE IT and THANK GOD FOR IT!!!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

How Precious Are Your Thoughts

Several years ago John Darin Rowsey and I wrote “How Precious Are Your Thoughts”, getting inspiration from the 139th Psalm.

I’ve always loved Psalm 139 – the entire chapter!!!   I encourage us all to read it every day.  My husband, Paul, said he memorized most of it just to remind himself that he was not a mistake… that he was planned in the heart of God ON PURPOSE!

My Mama was a “counter”….she was constantly keeping track of how many white houses we’d pass on the right, how many tiles were in the ceiling of a waiting room, etc.  She was always engaged!

Is it any wonder that I wanted to write a song around that wonderful Scripture which reminds us that if we could count His thoughts towards us, they would outnumber the grains of sand?  I know we can’t count them… except I’m sure Mama could go a long way J…but we can be lifted up today in remembering He loves us far more than we can even dream and thinks of us more than we can imagine.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Raise the Sails of Change

Happy Autumnal Equinox, everyone!  It doesn't much feel like Autumn in this part of the world, but based on the weather report, I think we'll be feeling the difference fairly soon.

As we anticipate the change of seasons and all the fun events this change shifts our minds toward, I'm praying that I will be especially aware of the need to be thankful for provision, for life, for freedom, for America (as disjointed as it sometimes seems), for family, for ministry, for God's Word... for His love, His promises, and His steadfast, unchanging character.

Do we have tough days?  Oh boy, do we ever!  Do we have the grit to make it through?  That depends entirely on how prepared we are... how grounded we are in prayer and in God's Holy Scriptures.  I challenge you today, if you've been praying for a fresh breath from the Holy Spirit, as you're reading your Bible, keep in mind that the words are more than just ink printed on the page.  Those words are The Inspired Word of God given by Him to those appointed in their due time to communicate God's interaction with the people of the past so we can be aware of his interaction with us in the present.  If that's not enough to put a new breeze in your sail, you might want to make sure you've got your sail raised!  Let's raise the sails of change.  The start of a new season is a great time to change course, start anew, redirect, refocus... recommit.  If you're not already doing daily Bible study or reading, why not find a One Year Bible or find a one year Bible reading program.  You can start today!


Friday, September 9, 2016

Courteous Listening

The act of being courteous takes very little effort.

I’m one of the worst to get involved in what is going on at that moment in my life, probably trying to figure it out, fix it, find a solution….you know, MOVE ON WITH IT.  All the while, I frequently miss what’s happening right in front of my face.

When we stop and think about it, a lot of us probably come across as disinterested, impatient with, and/or bored by what others are saying.  In politeness we nod, maybe touch an arm as if to say, “I hear you.”  I know a lot of the time we’re sincere, but more often than not, we’re probably thinking about the next thing on our own agenda forgetting what we’ve heard only five minutes later.

If I’m thinking about this, the light bulb may be going off in your head, too.  Maybe all of us can put forth a more concerted effort to be effective listeners and be as truly attentive as we try to make people believe we are.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fear: Terrorism of the Mind

It is no secret.  We live in perilous times.  Twice this year Ann and I have participated in church services where intense personalities and intense moments precipitated the need for  weapons to be pulled and placed in the pew beside their owners.  In neither case, praise the Lord, did the weapons have to be used, but having been in the room observing the circumstances, there was a distinct urgency and likelihood that force could have been needed for the protection of innocent church goers.  It's amazing the difference eight years can make.  That happens to be how long I've been at Downing Ministries.

When I first came to work here, the thought never crossed my mind that on any given Sunday I might be the only person standing between an intruder with deadly force and hundreds of unarmed worshipers.  The reality is, due to the typical placement of sound equipment, I'm usually closest to the entrance or up in a balcony where I can oversee everything happening below.  I'd be lying if I said I don't survey my surroundings for items light enough for me to propel toward a target but heavy enough to inflict an injury that could buy precious seconds.

I'm not sharing this to get into a debate about 2nd amendment rights.  If you go there, you're taking my words out of context and twisting my stated intent.  I'm sharing this to let you know that Christianity isn't just under attack in Asia and the Middle East.  Christianity is under attack on every continent, in every country, in every kingdom and municipality across the globe.  This includes your town... your very home.  Why?   Because Satan is real and is working to kill as many God-followers as possible so the message of the Gospel can't be spread to a world in dire need of its hope.

Th word "kill" implies mortality, the certainty of death, but did you realize that you don't have to be physically dead in order to be a dead Christian?  If Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, He makes it clear in John 15 that pruning is going to take place.  Satan knows this, and not only is he real; he's the original terrorist.  His motto could be "Terrorizing minds since before Christ's birth," and for once, he'd be telling the truth!  Don't believe me?

Have you or someone you've known experienced the fear of being ostracized for not going along with societal norms?  The fear of being targeted as a hypocrite and hate-monger for standing firm in your scriptural beliefs?  Do you shy away from conversations about controversial subjects out of fear for who might hear, read, or have something to say about what you believe?  It's all terrorism of the mind, and I assure you it is inflicted by Satan.  He is, after all, the author of fear.  It is my belief that denying what I know to be true about God's Word is the same as denying Christ himself.  Come what may, I pray that I'm one the Lord can count faithful in standing firm until He comes.  While I'm aware of the seemingly new dangers that come with my work, I refuse to become paralyzed by the fear Satan wants to use to control my mind and behavior.

Compromise has its place, but don't be fooled into dying on the vine.  Satan would love nothing more than to see you pruned away.  And when you think of it, please be praying for churches all across the world, and I ask that you pray especially for people like Ann and me who do not always have the benefit of knowing a lot about the areas where we're called.  We go knowing only that He's said "go" and that with His guidance, protection, and the gift of common sense, we'll be kept safe as we carry the truth about Jesus and His love through song, and though imperfect, through example.

Written by:  Karissa Petty