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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 was....one of God's creations covered with loving memories…

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 ma…

Today

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 …

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.

HOW PRECIOUS ARE YOUR THOUGHTS

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 o…

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.

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 …

To Know He Hears

I can remember as a kid, I’d often try to get Mama’s attention, which wasn’t an easy task; she was always focused on whatever she was doing at the time.  Mama had a strong work ethic, and when she was in the middle of a project, she didn’t have much time for anything else.  I’d say, “Mama” and a lot of times hear nothing back.  So I’d say it again, “Mama!” The second time I always added a little more gusto.  She may not turn towards me, but she’d always say “What do you want?”  She just knew that I “wanted” something if I called out to her.  To tell the truth, just the fact that she acknowledged me was enough, really.  But of course, if she felt it was something she needed to do or listen to, she’d tune me in.

A lot of times we think He doesn’t hear us the first time, so we ramp it up a little and call out again.  Of course we believe it when He says in His Word that His ear is always open to us.  Sometimes we need to hear, “What do you want?” and it’s enough just to know that He’s lis…

It's Simple: The Lord Provides

Guest blogger this week:  Karissa

​I'm not going to get into anything majorly complicated... no deep theological truths except to say that the Lord provides.  Now that everyone has collectively said, "well, duh."  Moving right along.

June was a ridiculous month here at Downing Ministries.  The van was in the shop twice totaling almost $2,000 in repairs, my GPS went out, my cell phone croaked, my computer had to be replaced because of a $3 part, and we would typically have 12 or more concerts / events scheduled in a given month... no, not June 2016.  How many did we have?  3.  T-H-R-E-E.  Tres.  Trois.  As in 4-1.  I'll say it again; June was ridiculous.

To be honest with you, there is no way we should have pulled through the slump.  On paper, it absolutely doesn't add up.  Been there?  We had some wonderful friends of this ministry who stepped up in a big way.  You know who you are, and I thank you ever so sincerely.  Even so, things still didn't add up.  So wha…

Seeing the Unseen

I’ve always been grateful that God planned for me to be a singer all of my days.  Well, as long as I have a voice that can be tolerated :).  When considering careers, I’ve never really wanted to do anything else. I believe that’s because singing is my calling.  May I add that I don’t think I’ve ever taken that lightly.

Coming with that career/calling is quite a bit of uncertainty.  During the month of June, Karissa and I worked 3 scheduled dates.  Typically, there would have been at least 10 – 12.  Of course, that didn’t mean that the ministry was on hold.  There are always dozens of things to be done here at home in order for the ministry to continue; however, you know that income for the ministry comes from being “out there.” 

Needless to say, these are the times of trusting in HIS provision and not trusting what’s in the bank account.  Have you been there?  You may have been quicker to remember and trust His promises than I usually am.  If you’re in that place right now, the time of …

LIFE... The Perfect Birthday Gift

I’ve just had another birthday…and I say “Yeaaaaaaaaa…I’m still here!”

Seriously, God help me please to always be grateful for yet another day.  On those worst days, they are a big deal…life is precious.  As long as God is alive, so am I…..HE SAID THAT! 

I have a good friend, AnnieB, who each year, in referring to my birthday, says she wants me to have a birthday present from her in honor of my Mama for giving me birth.  Now, that’s a special “gift” indeed!

I want to purpose this next year to give my life as a gift to Jesus…He gave me my second birth.  I am alive physically because of Mama….am alive spiritually because of Jesus.  Now….THAT’S LIFE!!

Life Happens. God Prevails.

We’ve all heard and used (I'm sure!) the phrase, “When it rains it pours.”  We're usually referring to the onslaught of challenges, frustrations, and aggravations we've come to term as "attacks on our daily lives"... and they are!

Remember the little girl on the box of salt who is standing under her umbrella?   She reminds  me of what we must look like when the world rains heavily on our parade.   We’re trying to protect ourselves from all the things that force us to our knees seeking God’s mercy to help us get through the day. 

To be honest, today has been one of those "seeking" days for ADM.  I'm thankful our Father reminded me of a verse I memorized from the King James Version a long time ago, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him”.  Isaiah 59:19b

I’m thinking that the “flood” of challenges that have entered our lives today can’t hold a candle to HIS standard against them.  As I type …

Life Lessons from a Lawn Mower

Yesterday, as I sat quietly inside working away at the daily business of Downing Ministries, I heard the buzz of lawn mowers off in the distance, a typical sound for Wednesday, and continued on with the task at hand.  Suddenly, I was jolted from concentration by a very hard something that bounced off some part of the house; thankfully, not a window!  The mowing never stopped, and I'm still not 100% sure what got flung or where or what it hit.  I only know that it most definitely did!

As I gathered myself and determined that there was no way to know if the flying object hit my house, the neighbors house, or if it even hit a house at all, the thought occurred to me that life is a lot like the act of mowing.  The person doing the mowing pushes or rides the machine all over the place basically oblivious to the consequences of their actions, except for the shorter grass which is their intended goal.  In this example, think of mowing as decision making.  We all know individuals who make …

One Person Therapy Place

I have a special little place that I love…probably no big deal to anybody but me, but that’s because it’s just for me. 

I could share it, but honestly, my little courtyard in the morning is a “one woman therapy place."  Now, my courtyard isn’t decorated with beautiful fountains, awnings, or the latest in patio furniture.  The little plot of grass is fairly well-kept, and the birds sure do like my little sanctuary.  I think they really really really like my trees.  It is a beautiful little world for devotions.

This morning was a spectacular one at my umbrella table.  Reading in the Word about the goodness of the Lord, then looking up into that azure blue sky while being serenaded by cardinals, mockingbirds and whoever else.  His goodness on display…now that’s the way to begin a day! 

I hope you have a “one person therapy place.”  If not, just think about tomorrow morning and create a special place for you and God…and maybe some birds, trees and blue skies.

Live for Hard Work

We are responsible for ourselves, aren’t we?  For anyone who cares to notice, it is no secret that a huge shift toward entitlement mentality has taken place.  When did this begin?

History demonstrates that those before us were diligent pioneers.  From staking homesteads to laying the groundwork for today's infrastructure, they were proud of hard work and created a new way of life for themselves and their families.  They didn’t sit around waiting for someone or something to do it for them, and they certainly weren't waiting for government to step in and provide.  They were simply thankful and did all they knew to do for this new world because they’d sacrificed heavily for the opportunity.  Hard work was normal, not exceptional.  People were grateful for healthy bodies that were able to do SOMETHING.   They were thankful for the help of others, but they didn't expect it, and while I wasn't there, I have a feeling there was far less bitterness and resentment as a result.

Go…

Finding Bread

Today, I want say that I’m really thankful for teachers and mentors along the way. At the time, I just took it for granted that I needed to learn and therefore needed to listen,  admitting now that I wasn’t all that great a pupil in school.  Seems I could find as zillion things to think about, dream about, plan for, look forward to…anything to get me out of the classroom setting, out there where surely it was more fun!

Now, you can bet I’m grateful for all the teaching moments.  In hindsight, I sincerely wish I’d have listened more, daydreamed less, applied myself more diligently (don't we all?), but as always, God brings it all together later on.  I’m amazed how blessed I’ve been (we all are) to have had instruction, as well as some great mentoring. Some of the greatest tools for learning have come from ordinary people caring enough to take a minute or two to listen, give some sort of help, and showing they care about me.

Remembering these things makes me want to be better about re…

Always Together

Sometimes, I'm a little sentimental concerning folks I am not in contact with as much as I’d like to be.  I think I take after my Daddy who used to say, “It’s hard to enjoy you being here for thinking about you having to leave.”

In the past, I didn’t understand that, and still don’t very often let myself “go there.”  I believe we are to live to the Nth degree of enjoying and celebrating our moments together because we draw strength from each other.

But I do find myself holding on a little tighter to those I love, thankful for being loved by them.  Sometimes I just don’t want to leave them.  Perhaps that’s another reason we are so thankful for the promise of Heaven.  We won’t have to spend ANY time thinking about how sad it’s gonna be when we’re no longer together.

Simply Stand

It isn't always easy to stand by the principles by which we stake our lives.  As a committed Christian, seeking God’s mind and heart each day, we just know that we know what’s right and what isn’t.  I truly believe God plants wisdom down deep in our souls to be able to discern His will, if we keep seeking Him.

I remember a well- beloved minister of the gospel saying…”if you aren’t sure of the next step to take, then don’t take one…stand there until you know that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt what’s right”.

I’m going spend more time “standing”, I think…unafraid, of course, but not moving without His assurance in my soul that “this is the way, walk ye in it”.

Give and Take

My next door neighbors, Joe and Bettye, have sold their house and moved to a nearby city.

I miss them already.  Joe, especially, was a very good friend.  He kept his eye out for what he referred to as the “widow ladies” in our neighborhood.  He was low key about it.   The last thing he ever wanted was praise or attention for what he did. 

As far as I’m concerned, that’s a strong character trait.  I would love to be known as someone who is consistent in what I do for others, but not for doing it in an effort to bring attention to how wonderful I am. 

You wanna join me in becoming more of a giver and less of an “attention seeker”?  I think we’d make better neighbors if we did.

Today

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.  We can’t go back and redo yesterday.  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 kids' noses, or playing baseball with a grandmother to encourage us to look at it all….those ordinary events that can whiz passed.  If we aren’t careful, we’ll miss something that could be life-changing. 

I don’t know why we look for the big stuff…missing the little stuff in the process.  To get His point across, hasn’t God used those ordinary daily things like playing with children, fishing, plowing in the field more than He's used the magnificent things like parting seas, rescuing from lions’ dens, feeding thousands with hardly anything to …

Grinning vs. Groaning

My knees aren’t as healthy as they used to be.  I can go for days with hardly a notice that they are older than they were 5 years ago.  And then WHAM, they start “talking” very loudly to let me know they are indeed a wee bit older than yesterday.

I’ve been sitting for quite a while today at my computer trying to catch up during a very busy time for Ann Downing Ministries (and I love every minute of it).  In fact, I was concentrating so hard ‘til I failed to notice anything different.  That is,  until I started to stand up.  Then, there was that big WHAM.  In fact, if I were to be reaaaaallll honest today, I’d say there have been quite a few “WHAMS” this year already.

I had a choice to make…keep groaning every time I sat down and got up or I could get my trusty little Pain-A-Trate out and do a good rubdown on my painful knees.  I groaned at first, then went for the little tube.  By the time I got back to my ‘puter, that cool, healing balm had begun its work, and as I type this, my knees …

Faith Giving

My parents taught me about being quick to give but to use good judgment and wisdom in who to give to and making sure I give for the right reasons.

I’ve been truly blessed these past few days by true givers.  Typically January is a slow month for traveling ministries like Downing Ministries.  This month has been especially challenging in that one weekend had only one booking and this past weekend just didn’t book at all.  Having seen the major snowstorm that blew through late last week, we wouldn’t likely have been able to fulfill dates if they had scheduled. 

I’ve been hesitant to do a “plea” as such for help, somehow feeling that God had this and could work far better than I could.  I want to report, as I do the happy dance, that “giving folks” have started doing just that…GIVING out of their hearts to Downing Ministries.  To make the happy dance last longer, let me say that most of these gifts are from some folks I KNOW don’t have it to give in the natural, but in the spiritual, it ma…

Planners Unite!

I'm not all that great a planner.  I LOVE when a plan exists, I just sometimes wait too long to begin making one.  I know this will likely cause frustration when I have to cram and cram to get things done in time, but I do it anyway.

My Daddy never had that problem.  As a farmer, you can bet he was a planner!  From sunrise to sunset, rain or shine, my Daddy planned.  He planned cotton planting time and when he would set out the onions, cabbage, radishes, English peas, Irish potatoes, etc.  Even in the winter, many times I've heard him say he set out cabbage in January's icy ground.  He knew that if the cabbage was going to produce effectively, it HAD to be set out very early in order for the "heading out" process to begin while the weather was still cool.  Apparently, cabbage loves cool weather, and his planning gave them exactly what they needed... when they needed it.

I guess I ought to think more about Daddy's philosophy when it comes to planning.  I have …

New Year, New Freedom

Yes, a new year is here!  I'm glad to welcome 2016!

Looking back over 2015, of course I'd like to redo some things, but isn't that the way it is?  Don't we spend a lot of time reliving what we now see more clearly and have a better perspective on?

It seems to me that those moments we'd like to redo are usually the ones that have taught us the most. If I have any advice for you (and me) this year, it's that we pray more that our choices and decisions will be made according to His will.  Regret, after all, only zaps our energy and creativity.  Who needs that?!?

I'm believing for a 2016 that would allow us to be cautious and trusting yet also live in confidence that His grace still looks on us with love and conviction that will always help us... help us live in His freedom.