There’s a great kids’ poem by Ogden Nash that always tickles my creative imagination.  It says something like , “What do you do if you get called by a panther?”  The delightful response is, “Don’t anther.”

Sometimes I look back at choices I’ve made and think maybe I needed to be more wary of the panthers who called me or even showed up at my door. I wonder at my powers of discernment that somehow I didn’t see them for what they were, didn’t recognize the smoothness of their lines or the power behind their words.  Somehow I missed all that and simply opened the door and let them in.

Fortunately, the One who created me walked in at the same time as the panther did and so the destruction wasn’t what it might have been.  It became another life lesson and so I got to pick myself up and brush myself off and start all over again as the old song lyric goes.  But there are days when I reflect on that aspect of myself and I pray a bit more for God to protect me.  How do we become more discerning, more protective of ourselves when the world seems full of panthers?  Jesus told the disciples to, “be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

I wonder why it is that the slippery serpents come across with so much wisdom.  Genesis 3 even states that the “serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field.”   Perhaps we can use that as a caution about the ones who would smooth talk us into things we know aren’t especially healthy for us, who plant seeds of discontent, or keep us from being what we were meant to be.

The good news is we can outrun the panthers and stop the serpents in their slimy paths. You know why?  Because we have a mighty warrior on our side.  We have a fortress all around us.  Psalm 91 reminds us, “He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.”

So give a name to the subtle influences that creep into your life when you least expect them, those temptations you open the door to without really thinking.  If you do that you’ll recognize them as they slide right up to you as a little voice saying it’s okay if you don’t exercise.  Or they might run ahead of you at the mall and beckon you to buy a beautiful trinket or a new backpack even if you don’t need it or have cash for it.  Sometimes that same slippery voice tries to  say  it’s too late to find love or to be successful in a career.  It slips over your memories and reminds you of your mistakes and fears and those things that bring a sadness to your spirit.

Those are the panthers and the serpents in our lives.  They are not thieves who rob our homes, but thieves who rob our spirits.  They attempt to deceive us and even more so when we’re on the right track, when we’ve answered the call to do all that God would have us do. They are voices that zap our strength and cause us to question even the truth we’ve worked hard to know within ourselves.

Take this advice then.  If you get a call from a panther, don’t anther!  You’re already on the path to a higher calling, the one where you’ve had a lead role most of your life, the one that beckons you to be free to be all you are meant to be, to stand firm and know you’re totally protected by Your Creator.  You’ve got power, speed, strength, wisdom, and beyond that you’ve got precious gifts that only you can bring to the world.

Trust and belief and joy and love are already yours…part of the benefit package of the call you answered a long time ago.  You’re a force to be reckoned with today!  There’s not a panther anywhere that can get passed you.

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