Saturday, January 20, 2018

Footprints in the Snow

An unsullied expanse of snow is a beautiful sight. To preserve the recent pristine white as long as possible, I tried to walk along the edges of the sidewalk. The stretch of snow in front of my house made it, intact, nearly to the end of the cold. 

The last morning, I walked out the front door, headed to the barn. I took my usual edge-of-the-sidewalk route but, after a few steps, noticed something unexpected. Large footsteps marched in a row, right through the center of the snow. They were a male's prints, and considerably larger than mine. 

What in the world? I thought. After another moment, I realized the source of the snow disturbance. The UPS man had boldly walked straight up the path to the door. Every step had left a clear impression in the snow.

As I stared at the evidence he'd left behind, as well as my own footprints in the snow, I realized an important truth. Where we walk, and how, are more important than we realize. Every step we make leaves an imprint, though not often visible to us.

Jesus' instructions to the disciples rang in my heart. "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." (Mark 1:17 nasb) If we choose to follow Him, we, too, must walk in His steps, both where and how He walked. How? It was because of God's great love for us that Jesus came, and it that same love for which He persevered all the way to the cross. If we are to walk as He walked, then, we must walk in love - for God and for others.

In eternity, we'll see the impact our steps have made. Unfortunately, not all of mine will have left a positive impact. I can't change my wrong steps, but I can make better choices for the future. 

Today, let's ask God to give us a glimpse of our own footprint. Do my steps draw me closer to Him? Does every step lead someone else closer to Christ, as well? If not, pray that God will direct our paths in such a way that He will be glorified and honored by our life's journey, all the way until He leads us home.

"Your ears will hear a word behind you, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right or to the left." Isaiah 30:21 nasb
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The Growing Your Faith Retreat and How You Can Be a Part

Friday, January 19, 2018

The "Growing Your Faith" Retreat and How You Can Be a Part

For months, women have been meeting to plan and prepare for an upcoming retreat. We've prayed for God's perfect plan, and we hope we have it. Three churches have joined together to sponsor a women's renewal retreat at FCR at Crow's Neck in late February. (Bethlehem United Methodist Church, Ingomar Methodist Church, and Amaziah Baptist Church) The theme is Growing Your Faith, and I'm excited about speaking. 

After Sam moved to my house, we met via phone/FaceTime. A couple of weeks ago, we were finally able to meet in person. The sweetness and unity of spirit was amazing. These ladies are kind and loving, and the choices they've made for the meeting reflect their gentle hearts. I think those who attend will be so blessed.

Sherra Owen will share some of her knowledge of Mississippi plants, and Emily Manning will share an art performance. 

I'll be leading in the study/learning sessions. We'll have small group sessions and large group worship time.

How do I prepare for such a big conference? The same way I prepare for every day of my life. I pray for God's direction. Read Scripture on the topic. Memorize passages that are pertinent. I ponder. 

It takes a lot of time to prepare because my life needs to be the first one that's actively growing, actively repenting, actively changing. I can't teach what I don't live, so I have to have my act together in order to prepare.

I don't use a speaking script. Instead, the words must be planted deep in me in order to come out at just the right time. Sometimes, I'll use an index card with a few Scripture passages to remember written on it, but not always.

I tell you this because I need your prayers. We expect God to move in the lives of the women who attend. We expect we'll all leave changed. For that to happen, those in leadership need humble, servant hearts. I need an humble, servant heart most of all. 

Please pray I'll be ready and have exactly the right words and teaching tools. 

Ladies, you, too, can be a part of this precious weekend, but space is limited so sign up soon. Here are the details:

Grow Your Faith Retreat
FCR Camp at Crow's Neck
February 24-25, 2018
Cost: Full conference $70
Saturday only $35
Check or cash only

Mail check to Laura Pannell, 1549 CR 478, New Albany MS 38652

There's a Growing Your Faith facebook page where you can ask questions and learn more. Be sure to connect with us.

I hope you'll join us for this fun retreat. I can't wait to see what God does.

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15 esv 
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The Importance of Head Protection

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Importance of Head Protection

I can still hear my Mama say, "You need to put your toboggan on, or you'll catch your death of cold." The connection between wearing a knit cap and preventing viral infections seemed iffy, at best. If I ever put that cap on, I don't remember it.

I've rarely worn hats, baseball-style caps, or knit caps. When temperatures recently dipped into the single digits, however, headwear became considerably more attractive. I dug in my glove-and-cap basket until I found a knit cap that must've been twenty years old. It was gray, had a hole in one side, and fit about like draping a piece of fabric over my head. It slipped off at least twice every time I wore it to the barn and required constant readjustments to keep it in place.

Yesterday, my gray cap fell off when I leaned over to scoop some manure from one of the stalls. That was the final straw. I threw the cap in the garbage. When I went to the feed store, I bought a new, bright red knit cap with a pompom on top. The style was most suitable for a child, but it fit my head and stayed in place. I wore it home.

I know the importance of covering your head to prevent heat loss, but I've never bothered with it before. This week, I've reconsidered my decision. Today, I'll wear my new cap to the barn and, likely, to the office, as well. I'm tired of being cold, so I've decided to protect my head. My Mama would be so proud.

There's another kind of head-protection that's even more important than wearing a cap in cold weather. We're constantly bombarded by worldly words, opinions, and images from social media, news outlets, books, television, movies, and music. When we allow these influences into our mind, they have a significant impact on our thoughts and our actions. 

The responsibility to guard our minds and hearts is ours alone. We're not accountable for what's available, but we are accountable for what we choose to do with it, and how we allow it to change us. Does it make us more like Christ or not? If not, why do we choose to fill our minds with it? 

Today, let's take a serious look at the influences we allow into our minds. Would Jesus choose them? If not, should we? Let's be sure to protect our heads and our minds.

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." Philippians 4:8 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Resolution Check: How I'm Doing on Getting Things Done

You might also enjoy: 
Making a Choice and Choosing a Path
Pigpen Parables: The Place of the Piggy Heart
Intentionality: Changing Wanna Be Into Got'er Done

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Resolution Check: How I'm Doing On Getting Things Done

The temperature is 4 degrees outside. Instead of face the sub-zero wind chill, I decided to check my planner to see how I'm doing with New Year's resolutions. 

I'm not as far behind as I thought.

I resolved to memorize Scripture this year, a chapter a month. The first chapter of John has been quite a challenge, with 51 verses. By this point in the month, I should have 25 verses memorized. I'm not there yet, but I do have 16 verses memorized and am working on the 17th. 

How have I managed it? I spend a few minutes memorizing every morning, but I also ponder the verses and find applications in my life throughout the day. I try to live the Scripture I'm learning by soaking in its truth.

Two weeks into the month, Scripture memorization is already becoming a habit. 

My mentoring partner and I are holding each other accountable, as well. We agreed to quote the verses we'd learned in our Sunday morning time together. As you might imagine, I practice hard to be sure I'm ready. Accountability is key. 

"Take a blogging course" was on my list for January. I signed up for a four-part online course. I'm through the prequel course and 1/3 of the way through the main course. It's harder than I expected and taking more time than I wanted, but I'm learning critical skills. I'm stopping to practice what I've learned, which nails the knowledge down and assures I understand the material.

Get at least 10,500 steps every day was also one of my goals. Yesterday was the first time I fell short, with just under 9,000 steps. I should've finished out my goal on the elliptical, but I worked on a writing project until late. 

If you want lots of steps, put horses in the barn at night and walk back and forth. Add cleaning out the stalls and you'll have more steps than you can imagine. 

One simple lifestyle change has made all the difference.

I'm supposed to be following the DASH diet this year. Less salt and meat. Lots more vegetables and fruits. A weekly pot of vegetarian vegetable soup helps me meet my vegetable requirement, and a supply of fruit in the crisper has made the difference with the fruit requirement. (I'll do a different blog post later on specifics) 

Weather and limbs on fences have prevented a few outings and meetings I'd planned, but there's still time. Reading 100 books this year is also on my list. I've finished seven already. (I'll do a blog post on how-to's)

The most important part of sticking to my resolutions was in the making. I prayed about every area of my life. What changes were needed? How should they be done? It's not an accident that Scripture memory is the FIRST resolution on which I work every single day. 

I didn't stop after praying about my resolutions. I pray about my to-do list and about how to get it done, too. Specific, goal-directed prayer is a critical part of my daily life. 

I've already begun to tackle some of the most challenging areas in my life and I'm making progress. How? Because I've made a plan, stuck to it, and prayed it through. 

What are your resolutions for the year? What changes did you plan to make? It's not too late to meet your goals. Make a start now, take consistent steps, and you, too, can have an amazing year.

The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Proverbs 16:9 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When Snow Doesn't Fall: 6 Ways to Deal with the Disappointment of Unmet Expectations

You might also like: How to Change 2018 From Just Getting By to Simply Amazing

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

When Snow Doesn't Fall: Six Ways to Deal with the Disappointment of Unmet Expectations

Last night, the local TV station reported a winter weather advisory with a band of  snow approaching Northeast Mississippi. My home is sandwiched between the areas expected to get 1/2 - 2 inches of snow and 1-3 inches. It would start, the forecast said, around 2 am. Snow would hamper our morning travel.

I, along with snow-loving children of all ages, went to bed expecting a scene of fluffy white this morning. I awakened before 5 am and thought, "SNOW!!!" What a disappointment it was to look outside and see the usual brown winterscape and patchy remnants of ice.

My dogs were both miserable during the recent ice storm. They hated walking on the cold, slick layer. Mamie stopped after only a few steps and refused to go even an inch further.

Snow, however, is a different story. Maggie's experienced a big snowfall before. She loved bounding through soft, powdery snow. I think Mamie would love it, too. 

There isn't any snow, though, and I'm surprisingly disappointed. It's moving slower than expected, the morning forecaster said, and it'll be here in a couple of hours. 

Snow's coming, or so they say.

I've been disappointed about snowfall before. I don't know whether to hope or not, so I'm proceeding with my morning routine, doubtful it will be disrupted.

Expectations bring excitement and energy. They're fun, until they're not. Unmet expectations break our heart, fuel anger, and breed bitterness, don't they? We've all had them: 

- the job offer we expected but didn't receive
- the cancer that wasn't cured
- the raise we hoped for that wasn't given
- the child who strayed
- the pregnancy that never happened
- the spouse who wouldn't go the distance
- the death that came too soon
- the health that didn't last

What we expect isn't always what we receive. When the unexpected and unwanted arrives, we can greet it one of two ways. Accept its arrival with anticipation that God will use it in a positive way in our lives or allow anger and disappointment to direct our responses. It's all too easy to become bitter and push away those who would comfort us and help us through.

How, then, can we deal with disappointment in a more productive way?

1. Start by giving thanks for the positive blessings we've already received: A roof over our heads, warmth in cold weather, food on our tables, friends or family who love us, a God who never leaves us nor forsakes us. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

2. Release anger quickly. According to an article cited by, people with unresolved anger issues are 19% more likely to have a heart attack. Seething anger is accompanied by a cascade of consequences that can be worse than the disappointment we've experienced. Choose to let go of anger and replace it with peace. (Ephesians 4:26) 

3. Look for the lesson in the disappointment. Is our health issue due to poor choices? What can we learn? How can we make better choices going forward? Was our raise denied? Is there something different that might make it a possibility later? (James 1:2-5)

4. Embrace change. It's easy for suddenly-widowed women to be overwhelmed by the increase in responsibilities and physical work that must be done. Choose to learn new skills. Missing a promotion may be an opportunity to start a side-business of your own. Try a new health skill. Walk a little further every day. Maybe God's doing a new thing. It'd be a shame to miss it. (Isaiah 43:19) 

5. Grieve well. If the unmet expectation is a result of loss or death, take time to grieve. Give yourself extra grace. Tears will come at the most unexpected times. Let them fall. Navigating through grief takes time. Don't get in a hurry. (Lamentations 3:31-33) 

6. Choose hope. As believers, our hope is in Christ alone. We look to a future in heaven when we'll be reunited with all those we love. Healing will come. Joy will return. Hang on to hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) 

We all experience the disappointment of unmet expectations. How we respond to the hard times determines, in large measure, how life will look on the other side of hurt, sorrow, or loss. We can allow our faith to sustain us. We can demonstrate the power of the light of Christ to a dark and lonely world. We can, if we will. 

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19 esv
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: MLK Day: On Making a Difference By Taking a Stand

Monday, January 15, 2018

Martin Luther King Day: On Making a Difference By Taking a Stand and Living What You Say You Believe

This morning, as I pondered what to write on the celebration of Martin Luther King Day, the stark contrast between the Poor People's Campaign and last year's Women's March came to mind. I envisioned the mule-drawn wagons and the women wearing vagina-style attire, and shook my head. 

I have no idea what the women hoped to achieve nor what they protested. Those ridiculous hats are all that stuck in my memory. Did they accomplish what they hoped? I doubt it.

I will never forget Reverend King's march, however, nor the civil rights for which he protested. Did he accomplish what he hoped? Yes. His protests didn't change every heart, every circumstance, but they changed a lot. 

We live in a far different society, in many ways, than the one in which I grew up.  We can all enter by the same door, sit in the same waiting room, eat in the same restaurants now. If we work hard, we can all go to college, get a good job, make a nice living for our families. We can attend the same church and worship together, side by side. 

It was not so when I was a child, for the color of your skin determined your opportunities.

One man saw injustice, prayed it through, then took a stand. He endured threats and persecution, yet he persevered. Photos taken on the day before he was killed show a man who knew what his actions were about to cost him. He knew he would soon be killed, yet he pressed on because he had taken a stand for right and he would not back down. 

It's one thing to talk a good line. It's another thing entirely to live what you say you believe. Where are the people today who take the kind of stand Martin Luther King took? Where are the people today who live what they preach in the public arena? 

I wrote the words you're about to read last January, but they're as pertinent today as they were then. I'm repeating them, because I can't write it any better.

* * * 

I've sat here for an hour, trying to find a topic for today's blog. The visuals echoing through my mind are the photo of one of the women's march participants shrouded in a vagina costume and the ones of the women in various stages of undress, slogans painted across their bare chests.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what do those pictures say? I'll let you draw your own conclusions. 

There are all kinds of protests, but the one that I've never forgotten is the Poor People's Campaign, organized by Martin Luther King. 

I didn't understand what it meant, but I knew it was important. 

Protestors left Marks, Mississippi in mule-drawn wagons, headed toward Washington D.C. It was the spring of 1968, not long after Rev. King was assassinated. 

My mama carried my sister and me to see the protestors. We parked on the side of the road and stood beside the car. Silent. Watching. 

The mules, heads down, pulled the wagons. Protestors sat quietly as the mules walked, the wheels turned. It was slow progress, but it was real.

There was no doubt in my mind that something powerful was happening. I didn't understand it, but I knew, at the core of my being, that life would change. 

And it did.

No one dressed in vulgar costumes. No one shouted obscenities. No one waved blasphemous signs. 

They counted the cost and took a stand.

That one protest will always be the epitome of effective protest for me. Quiet. Peaceful. Intense. Powerful.

Not everything was rosy and beautiful when they reached Washington, but that moment in time, watching at the side of the road, stands out in my mind. It's a sharp contrast to protests like the recent Women's March on Washington. 

I recognize that there are still inequalities. I'd like to see them corrected, and I've tried to accomplish that very thing. I went to college, then medical school, worked hard, made it through. 

There was sexual harassment. I took it for a while, then I counted the cost and took a stand. When I spoke up, it was clear I meant business. I didn't shout, carry a sign, or wear a costume. When I stood up to the bullies, they stopped, because that's what bullies do. They back down when confronted. 

I practiced medicine, worked hard, made it through. No one bullied me. No one treated me differently because of my gender. 

I know inequality still exists. I expect that, as long as there is evil in the world, inequality in some form will always exist. 

I know that most of the protestors probably dressed in regular clothes. The media has, as usual, shown us the most outrageous, because that's what draws views and makes money. 

I'm not opposed to peaceful assembly and I support the right to free speech. I'm not opposed to the recent march. I'm not even opposed to costumes that look outrageous to me. 

My grandmama taught me something, though, that we'd all do well to remember. Especially the people in the vagina costumes. 

Actions speak louder than words. 

"... let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:18 niv.

We demonstrate who we are (and whose we are) by what we do, so we'd do well to choose our actions wisely. 

The most effective protestor of all time was Jesus Christ. He entered a world filled with violence, poverty, oppression, and cruelty, and He chose love. Every single time. He chose sacrifice. Open-handed giving. Equality. Peace.

In a male-dominated culture, women traveled with Jesus, and demonstrated, by their lives, the power of Christ to transform. 

After the resurrection, His followers chose love, as well, and that love was unstoppable. It changed the world and turned it right side up.

I doubt I'll ever protest with signs, slogans, costumes, or marches. I hope to spend the rest of my life protesting the evil in this world by choosing love. Demonstrating love. Giving it freely and without complaint. 

From helping at soup kitchens to collecting supplies for the homeless, to helping rebuild homes after disasters (and everything in between), I want to be a change-agent of love in this struggling world.

Today, look for the evil, inequality, and injustice around you and take a stand. Make a difference. Protest like Jesus did, and let your actions help change the world.  Pursue mercy and justice. Use words if you must, but protest with love. 

"And now remain faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor. 13:13 nasb
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: When the Answer to Our Prayer is a Much Needed Delay

#MLK #MartinLutherKingDay

Sunday, January 14, 2018

When the Answer to Our Prayer Is a Much-Needed Delay

Before I let the horses out Friday morning, I walked the fence to be sure it was still intact after the storm. My frigid journey through the ice wasn't because I want a fine-looking fence, although I do, but because I want the horses safe. If they get out and on the road, an accident, with catastrophic injuries to humans and horses, is far too likely. 

I found a big cedar tree down, but it had fallen away from the fence. A large oak limb had smashed, but not broken, the wire closer to the barn. It was at least eight feet long and about as big around as a whole frozen chicken, admittedly an odd comparison.

The wire was pressed down enough that I could easily step over it, so it would be no problem for the horses. One step and they'd be out of the fence.

The limb had to go. When I went back to the barn for supplies, the horses were seriously unhappy. They were not on their best behavior. Whinnying. Pawing at the door. Stamping their feet. They wanted out of their stalls, and they didn't care why I was delayed.

I ignored them, and did what had to be done.

When the fence was repaired and the pasture was safe, I opened the stall doors. The horses raced out the barn door without so much as a nuzzle of thanks for me. I'd kept them safe, but their only concern was getting what they wanted...out of the barn.  

I wonder how often I've prayed in that same horsey way - demanding what I want with no concern for why God might have waited to answer with a yes. Was there a danger from which I was protected by the delay? Was He preparing something special for me or for those for whom I prayed?

All too often, I presume that I should receive what I want when I want it, but there was a reason Jesus told us to ask for God's will and not our own. His way is best. 

Waiting time isn't wasted time. He has a reason for the delay, every single time. God is at work, even when we don't see His hand.

Today, let's give thanks for His delay and look for the lesson in the waiting. 

"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:10 nasb