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Showing posts from 2015

Thanksgiving

I love this special time of remembering to be thankful.

I realize that it's easy to say "thank you," but is it as easy to be truly thankful... to have a heart that is overflowing with gratitude?  I like to refer to it as a "spirit of Thanksgiving."  I want that spirit to consume me.  Do you want it to consume you, too?

If I'm walking in the "spirit of Thanksgiving," even the smallest gesture can warm my heart.  Just a day or so ago, Karissa and I were walking into business establishments (within a couple hours of each other) and each time there was a different young man who made a point, not of running to get inside before we did, but instead, each with a smile, held the door open for us.  When we both said, "Thank you.", each of them seemed almost embarrassed to say "You're welcome."  I took it that they just wanted to be kind and didn't expect anything from us in return.

I want to be in the spirit of Thanksgiving... join…

Exploding Heads... Not Attractive

When you're pushed into a corner, how do you respond?  Do you keep your head on straight to determine the next step in the right direction?

Confession time... I am horrible at this.  I tend to overreact and often say more than I should.  Many times, it seems my brain simply stands still.  Perhaps it should.  Then, maybe I won't say more than needs to be said at the moment.

I know I need to work on this.  I need to ask God to help me find ways to relax more, listen more, and be more careful with what comes out of my mouth when I'm feeling vulnerable, a little scared, and unsure of the situation's final outcome.

Please hear me say again, it is HIS help that will make the difference.  I believe He wants to help us think more clearly and respond to these tight places in such a way as to bring results which glorify Him and His people.

Him Over Them

People periodically ask me why I keep doing what I do.  I usually say something like, "I just do what I do because I am convinced that I am to do it... it's His will and plan for me."

I guess it is a bit unusual that a 70 year old widow would still be "beating the roads," as they say.  I don't give much thought to that.  Remember...  it's just what I do.

Now to you.  Are you doing what you just know you're to do?  If so, then be pleased and at peace.  It's always a good thing to look for greater heights, push forward with new ideas, etc., but don't let your peace of mind and heart be disturbed by what somebody else might think you need to be doing... or don't need to be doing.

Sure it's always right to seek Him, make sure you are staying on course with His plan and asking Him often to check you if you're not.  Trust what He says.  HE KNOWS THE WAY, whether anybody else agrees or not!

The "Between Now and Then" Moments

In the fall for the past 25 years, I have started planning (along with a great committee) for MIDDLE TENNESSEE WOMEN'S RETREAT...held in the spring.  It's what I look forward to when I see the first signs of autumn because the memories of past retreats start to rise up in my heart and I get excited!

But, you know what?  I don't want to miss what goes on during the "everydayness" that has nothing to do with a retreat.  What about celebrating and planning and being excited about the phone call that came in at just the right time?  What about that little guy dancing with great enthusiasm to my music
in church this Sunday (didn't bother him a bit that he was the only one showing that much enthusiasm).  What about meeting a man just released from being on death row for something like 30 years... DNA proving he's been innocent all this time...me having the privilege to witness his love for God and refusal to be bitter in any way?  He's so in love with Jesus u…

Solo Mio Place or Holy Omniscient Highway... Which Path will You Choose?

Do you think we really want to be disciplined by the Lord?

We say we want to be closer to Him, but just let Him pin-point those unattractive areas that aren't like Him.  We kick.  We scream.  We demand our own way, which is usually absent of any commitments. We shrink from making tough choices that could mean getting rid of some of the "toys" we lean on when times get "not so easy."  Why do we do this?  Don't we know by now that His ways are better than ours?  In reality, those things we think we just HAVE to have can't hold a candle to what He has in store for us...even here on earth.

Why don't we try this the next time we stand at the intersection of Solo Mio Place and Holy Omniscient Highway... let's strive to honestly trust in Him and His ways, not just talk about how badly we need to, but sincerely commit and live up those commitments... as He surely has!?

Calm Like a Squirrel

Sitting out in my courtyard during my devotion time this morning, I was reminded of God's big world, and also His small world.

The sky was beyond blue.  The leaves of the poplar tree were completely still.  Most folks were already at work, so there was little traffic noise.  It was so quiet and peaceful that a squirrel sauntered across the roof of my neighbor's garage (my place is attached to that garage) oblivious to my sitting right below him.  He wasn't in a hurry.  He wasn't frantic or scared... at least not that I could tell (I guess I could have whispered something to him :) ).  He just continued in his own little world, probably making a decision as to where he'd search for that next acron to store away for winter.

Why do I get frantic and sooooo scared of "what could be?"  Likely, if I'd look up to the sky more often, whisper a prayer for God's protection more often, listen for His response more often, I'd have more peace of mind and h…

Outgrowing Self-Centered Christianity

There is something about having the privilege to be an influence in someone else's life...something very special.

Sometimes, we don't realize we're an influence, but more times than not, I think we know when God has anointed us to affect someone else's walk, appointed us the opportunity to support someone else in their daily walk with Him.

I'm sure you'll agree; it is devastating to learn that God has brought someone into our life, someone to help along the way, and we fail to see it.  Oh my, I know I've blown it!  I have wished many times that I could pick up the phone and call a dear soul who I later realize was led to my pathway by the Lord.  I missed an opportunity to be His tool of ministry and guidance because I was too self-centered, or too busy, or too wrapped up in my own "stuff" to be a "listener," "helper," "lover of their soul."

Jeff Steele and I wrote song that Karissa just recorded.  It fits these though…

Always My Best Friend

My best friend is suffering from that dreaded disease called Alzheimers.

Unless God performs a miracle, Dolly will not be here on earth a lot longer, and without a miracle, during her final days, weeks, months (or however long the Lord chooses to let her remain here) she won't be the Dolly I've always known.

I have memories of such beautiful moments with Dolly.  A lot of them, actually, took place during the most painful times of my life.  When my Paul was dying in a Kentucky hospital (for 56 days and nights), Dolly stayed with me in the critical care waiting room every night.  This was after teaching 3rd grade kiddos all day.

I also have fun memories.  We traveled through Europe together two summers in a row.  One time an airline didn't get my product box on the flight with us.  When we landed in Florida and discovered it had gone on its own adventure, Dolly referred to it as "exciting" while I was huffin' and puffin' about what I was gonna do!  She had a k…

Spiritual Hearing Aid?

When talking to people, do you ever say something and the other person has to ask more than once what you've said?  As far as you know, they aren't hard of hearing, and you speak rather clearly.  What's up with that?

Could it be that we simply aren't very good at listening?  Maybe we mumble too much and people start to tune us out?  I honestly think we try to hear too many things; we are afraid to focus on any one voice at the risk of not being "in the know" about EVERY VOICE around us.

Sadly, I'm afraid I try to "stay tuned" to every sound around me, even when praying.  I know I can't hear ALL He tries to say to me, but not because He's speaking too softly.  My ears just aren't always in tune with the right voice... His voice.

He is the only one able to hear it all... all at once.  So, what should we do?  I believe I'm going to work harder on blocking out the mumbled clutter and ask Him for a spiritual hearing aid.  What will you d…

Plan then pray? OR Pray then plan?

One of my favorite authors is Patrick Morley.  I really do like his book, "Waiting with Christ in the Details of Life."

I recently read this prayer of surrender from that great book:  "Lord, I must confess that my way has been "plan, then pray."  I have wanted to do good things for You; my movies have been to please You.  But I realize that I have built shelters You didn't need and never used.  I have wasted so much valuable time on matters that don't matter.  I surrender all my plans to You, Lord.  I will forget them.  I will pray, then plan.  I will pray and wait for You to come and touch me and say, 'Get up.  Don't be afraid.'  I am listening now, Lord.  Instruct me with Your plan.  Amen."

I have to confess; I've been guilty.  Far too many times I plan, and then pray for God to bless my plan when I should be praying and then planning as I sense God beginning to work...listening for His "go" and His "stop."

Maybe…

Attentive Listening

I'm so appreciative of all the things others have shared in books, in messages, on Facebook, and a myriad of other means of communication.  If I'm really paying attention, I can learn something from most anything I read or hear, and I do still want to learn.  I want to be like my Mama who never gave up on learning... right up until she went to Heaven at age 94.

Are we good at listening these days?  I'm not sure we are.  I mean, there are scads of voices vying for our attention.  I'm not sure I know how to help us make decisions as to what we listen to, but I do know this; we have to slow down and weed out some of those voices.  Maybe it's not always an accident when computers lock up, phones go down, or a power outage interrupts our day.  Maybe we're to do something as "old-fashioned" as picking up a book with a title such as "How to Hear the Voice of God," or some similar theme.

I am certain that if we begin to choose more carefully who and w…

God's Unchanging Nature

Back in the day, I had the great pleasure of working with Bob Benson, especially in retreats and conferences.  In my opinion, he was just about the BEST speaker for those settings.

I still remember so many of the things he had to say, not just on the platform, but also around the lunch table, in his office at the Benson Company, and many other places.  Today, when times are rapidly changing, I'm glad I knew Bob and have his "sayings" to encourage me.

One of the best Bob quotes I remember is one that brings me to a better understanding of God's nature.  "I've had good days, and I've had bad days.  To tell you truth, the older I get, the hard it is to tell the difference."

I think I know what Bob meant. There are days when I scratch my head and say, "God, are you sure?" Then, I get on down the road where I can look back and realize those harder days were days that became some of the best days because I learned a lot more about a the faithfulnes…

Fairy GodBoss Celebration Day

This week, Karissa, who most of you know works with me, and Hannah, a great young friend, decided I was to have a day of "birthday celebration"... a WHOLE DAY!

I knew I was to be picked up at my house and taken "somewhere" for the day.  What I didn't know was that I would wake up, walk out of my bedroom door to a sea of all colors of balloons all the way from my bedroom door to the kitchen where there was a red carpet with additional mylar balloons identifying my 70th.  Those balloons were weighted down with little glass (acrylic) slippers... some even having little stones on the toe.  AND, my desk chair was stationed at the end of the red carpet with a "queen's crown" balloon attached.

We left the house with Karissa driving.  I only knew we were picking up Hannah and driving somewhere!  We collected Hannah; she had created a movie for me on her laptop...hilarious and sweet!!!!  Then, off to Opryland Hotel for what I was to learn would be my "h…

Friendship: Pray Together. Stay Together.

I have a chatroom on my website.  Each evening, those who wish to come for about 45 minutes of visiting and praying show up as they can.  I'm grateful that I can be there most evenings.

There's nothing magical about a chatroom full of people who pray together, but then, maybe there is. I'd like to think of it as "memorable" rather than "magical," memorable because, once again, it proves that those who pray together stay together.  Lifetime friendships have formed in that chatroom...some while praying, some while sharing a silly story of the day's happenings, some asking for info, some just "small talking" about the weather, our favorite football team, etc., or perhaps admitting to something ridiculous that we, in our humanity, did that day.

Praying is always good, but I'm of the persuasion that praying with those you know, have shared a load of "life stuff" with, and listened to as they shared a special testimony of answered pr…

Friendship: Reality or Virtual Reality?

I have all kinds of friends on all kinds of levels.  I see them as serving different purposes... believing that God put them in my life for different reasons and different seasons.  Likewise, I am in theirs for a reason, and, perhaps, for only a season.

I believe God did some of His best creative work when He created friendship.  Not just so we can have somebody to refer to as "my friend"... and if we want to "gain some points," so to speak, we refer to them as my "long-time friend"... and of course all of that is relative.  I may have known someone for a year and feel like I've known them all my life.  I'm thinking right now of someone I've only known, really known, for a few months, and yet, I honestly consider them a "dear friend."

Of course, there are folks with whom I've been acquainted most of my life... am tickled to see them, hope to see them again, but I can honestly say that life's circumstances haven't called for…

Perk Your Ears and Heart... Defeat Panic

I admit, I'm probably considered a "panicker."  Paul used to warn everybody, "if you have bad news for Ann, don't spill it all at once, just ease into it a little at a time."

That sounds quite funny to me now, in a way, because as the years have passed, I have learned a little more about God's way of handling "not so good news."  But, here I am confessing that I can go into full-blown panic within the first 30 seconds or so after hearing what my brain processes as "the end of the world."

Now, I know (or hope) you aren't taking me literally, but I also pretty well know that not many of us handle that "wham bam" news as we should.  We allow it to knock us off our feet before we even begin to start processing the situatuion or remembering which Scripture speaks to the circumstances.  Does that mean we have no faith in God?  I really don't think so.  If He is ineed a loving Abba Father, He sounds like He is someone who kn…

Reminder: I Know You

May I remind myself, and you can hear it, too, it's more or less a mockery to the "keeping power" of God to say over and over and over again, "I just don't know what I'm gonna do!!!"

Of course, when we're scared and in crisis mode, much of what we say is actually the fear and uncertainty speaking; we're not really living in those things we say.  The choice is always there, will I believe what I'm feeling right now, or will I remember and live in my faith that HE has a plan... that HE knows where all of this is going, that HE has prepared a way of escape, a pathway to peace and an eternal life with HIM.  When we don't know what to do, it is always the right thing to trust, by faith, that keeping power of God.

"I don't know what this day holds, but I know YOU."
(I Know You written by Dianne Wilkinson and Ann Downing)

Learning to Trust

One of my first songs to co-write was "Learning to Trust a Trustworthy God."  The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 happened shortly after Marty Funderburk and I finished the song... in fact, I'd just started staging it.

One Sunday morning, as I was introducing the song, the thought hit me that maybe one of the reasons Marty and I wrote the song was to remind us all how important it is to continually be longing and learning to trust a God Who is indeed trustworthy.

It's easy to trust God when things are running smoothly, isn't it?  In hard times, it's all about building our trust in a God Who can keep us steady, even in a level of peace, when the world around us crashes down.  Should we wait until the hard stuff happens to begin trusting?  No, of course not!  We should purposefully seek His help in building our faith and trust for those future days, believing in His unseen plan and not in the circumstances of today.

Out There

I shudder to think how many times I've stopped short of completing my goal, failed to keep a commitment, let fear of failure cause me to give up.

I don't know why the "out there" can sometimes seem so "doable"... so "possible", and yet, as the journey continues, it isn't as easy to keep marching toward the goal as it was to commit in the beginning. What a shame!

My sweet niece, Scarlett, who has suffered more losses than most anybody I've ever known, once said to me, "I know I'm gonna make it, Aunt Ann, but right now it seems to be an awfully long way from here to there."  I knew what she meant.  We don't lose our faith; sometimes it just helps to be reminded that "out there" is still there no matter what things look like today.  Let's keep reminding each other that we can live in victory today because He is already "out there".

Many Happy Mondays

More and more my favorite day of the week is Monday.

I know, I know, I know.  All my life, I've heard it referred to as "Blue Monday." I guess, if I'm being honest, when I was a kid in school and heard Mama calling me really early for breakfast on a Monday morning after two days of sleeping late, I wasn't so "in love" with that day of the week, either.

Now, I see Mondays as an opportunity to "do it" again and hopefully "do it" better... maybe make a new memory, finish up that nagging detail left over from last week, make new commitments, take a good look at where I'm going.

Are we thankful for the opportunity let Him do a new thing in our lives?  God's Word does say that His mercies are new every morning.  I think I believe his mercies are REALLY new every Monday morning!

Happy Monday to all!  May we always be open to "doing it again and doing it better."

Identity Crisis?

You probably know Ted Giannoulas even if you've never heard his name.  He was the San Diego Chicken for 30 plus years.  He originated the character as a college student, but Ted grew older.  At age 50, being the chicken was his life and whole identity.  Ted was never photographed unless he was in costume.  No one knew the real Ted.  At first, he loved his alter ego, "I discovered an untapped personality in that suit.  It was like I had freedom.  I was no longer Ted."

But... there was a price to pay.  Ted himself said, "I have plenty of Chicken stories.  I'm afraid I don't have any Ted stories."

Many people live a lifetime being someone God didn't intend them to be.  They lose themselves in other things and fail to discover their true identity in Christ.  Can we really experience God's best... the individual He created us to be... if we are unsure of who we are in Him?  Being "in" Christ is the ultimate identity.  Only through Him can we …

Selfless Compassion

I find it so refreshing when someone is encouraging instead of trying to "top" your situation or circumstances.  It happens quite often on Facebook, but it didn't start with Facebook.

For example...  When someone has a death in their family, they don't need to hear how your loved one passed away... or worse still... how God saved your loved one from the same disease, illness, or type of accident.  Oh yes, I witness these kinds of posts on Facebook more times than I care to discuss.  I haven't even mentioned the posts telling these broken-hearted individuals that they shouldn't grieve "because their loved one is in a better place."  Let's not forget, Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, and He already knew that the power of God the Father would call Lazarus back from the dead.

Would it not be better to simply offer a pat on the back or a hug and maybe the words, "I love you and care that you're hurting and sad."?

It is amazing how God s…

Get a Grip

I love snow.  I love it when I can get out and drive around in it so I can see the winter-coated beauty of God's creation.  Admittedly, I'm not all that keen about walking or driving on ice (who is!), but snow is fun.  While it's terribly difficult to drive or walk on ice, the powdery white stuff is gritty enough that tires and boots can grip.  I've got snow this week!

Lord, help me not to forget that it is always better to keep a grip on you.  Remind me that when I find I'm slipping and sliding, I've likely lost sight of You and landed in something other than Your best for me.  Help me stay attached to You, Lord.  Help me get a grip!

Memory Pool

Memories are a funny thing.  How they come and go is an intriguing mystery.  I think of my Mama and Daddy every day, but sometimes a memory is triggered and it's as if they're standing right in the room carrying on conversation.  They've been in Heaven for years now, but I never want those lifelike memories to change.

Daddy was the first of our immediate family to make the journey Home, and I admit, I thought I would die, too.  Just the thought of not seeing him sitting on the front porch waiting for me to drive up the driveway made me so sad!

Do I still miss him?  Of course... but it really is true that God uses time to heal the raw, piercing pain that comes with remembering.  Now, I can think about Mama and Daddy as they really were, ordinary people who loved their baby (I am their youngest) and did so much to make sure their "baby" was taken care of until they passed on to Heaven.  I love to think about them, imperfect people, but people who knew a lot about par…