Lorri Dudley

Be moved. Be changed. Love because you are loved.

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Architect, designer, and builder meeting over blueprints

The Rebuild Starts Today

Architect, designer, and builder meeting over blueprints

“The rebuild starts today” is the attitude my husband has taken for his businesses. It may be a bit early, but it changes the mindset to start planning for how we’re going to come out of this pandemic. For two weeks, it feels like we’ve been ostriches sticking our heads in the sand. Perhaps it’s time to raise our heads. It’s never too early to strategize about available options and develop a foundation to rebuild, maybe with a new perspective.

Ostrich

How often before March 15th, when asked, “How are you?” did we respond, “busy”?  The world was running, running, running, and then abruptly stopped. In An Echo in the Darkness part of the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers (one of my favorite series), the mother of the hero has a stroke and can no longer talk. Her life changes overnight. No longer a prominent matriarch of Roman society, God reaches her through this suffering and uses it as an opportunity to redirect her focus to pray for the spiritual salvation of her misguided daughter.

It’s time for us to raise our heads and see the opportunities God is creating for us. Maybe we should acknowledge the new shift in priorities. How are we using the extra family time we didn’t have before the pandemic? Or if living alone and can’t see friends, maybe God is giving us a chance to pray more or read our Bible.

Many of us have been glued to the news channels, following what’s going to happen next, which only tends to be bad news, followed by more bad news. In Philippians 4:8, the Bible tells us to dwell on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Easter changes the direction of focus from death to new life. The stone was rolled away. The tomb lay empty. Jesus rose from the dead. This is our opportunity to also rise from the monotony of our deadened mindsets. We hold a chance to be renewed with life.

three crosses at sunset

Let me back up a bit to Philippians 4:1. Paul reminds us to stand firm in the Lord. Not relax, sit, or lie, but to stand firm. In Philippians 4:2, he begs for unity—to be of the same mind in the Lord—not turning on each other, bickering, or nitpicking, but let your gentleness be evident to all (Philippians 4:5).

In 4:4, Paul tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” But then he makes it a point to repeat himself to drive it home, “I will say it again, rejoice.” At Easter, we have so much for which to be joyful. The world may shake with fright, but we know Jesus has risen from the dead, and the grave no longer has a hold over us.

We have hope because we have a good God. We don’t need to fear because we have a great God.

In Philippians 4:6, it says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” We don’t need to worry. Because God commands it, we can toss anxiety away like that moldy leftover smelling up the fridge. Instead, through prayer and praise, we can tell God what has been on our minds, and in Philippians 4:7 God promises that His peace, “which transcends all understanding,” will guard our hearts and minds.

So, rise and rejoice, Easter is here!

Happy Easter and flowers

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Struggle vs. surrender

The Struggle is Real

Struggle vs. surrender words

With my second book, The Merchant’s Yield, launching, I feel like a mother sending my young son to his first sleepover or off to his first year of college (which will happen sooner than I realize). My nerves are twisted in knots, and all I can do is pray it will be received well. You never feel so helpless than when you have to surrender up something you love.

But I couldn’t imagine a better place for it to be than in God’s hands.

Fanny Jane Crosby, the composer of the well-known hymn “Blessed assurance,” was born blind. Not only did she write over 9,000 hymns, but her life was also an example of trusting God and walking by faith. Despite the hardships of being blind, she considered her blindness a blessing:  

Hymnals in church pews

“It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.” (Franny Crosby: America’s Hymn Queen, Christianity.com, April 2010)

Franny Crosby never started writing a hymn without praying first.

I was recently asked why God wasn’t stopping the coronavirus. Tough question. I mentioned about the earth being cursed. When sin entered the world, so did death, but then an awareness hit me. I questioned if they’d prayed to God to stop it?

At that moment, I had to check myself. Sure, I’d prayed for protection over my family and friends, but had I asked God to put an end to the virus?

James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you have not asked God.”

You better believe I’ve started asking. Can God stop the coronavirus tomorrow? Yes, He could. God’s arm is never too short. Will He stop it tomorrow? That, I don’t know, but I do know the prayers of the righteous avail much, and if we’re praying, God will be merciful.

This, too, will pass, but in the meantime, God will use it to draw His children to Him. The virus is a reminder that this is not our home. We are temporary residents—missionaries on a strange planet. Our home is in heaven, where there is no sickness, death, or disease.

I saw written on a T-shirt, “The struggle is real, but so is God,” and I couldn’t help thinking, how true. I have blessed assurance because I know God is real. He never wastes a hurt, and He certainly isn’t about to overlook this one.  

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Love and hate heart

The Opposite of Love isn’t Hate

Love and hate heart

My middle son had to pick something up from his locker at school, so I drove him during this time of social distancing. As he got out of the car, another boy was entering the school who recognized him. The boy’s face lit up, and he waved with and exuberant, “Hi Jim—” but then he stopped. It was as if he realized he wasn’t supposed to be near people or even speak to them. He dropped his hand, lowered his gaze, and continued into the school as somber as if attending a funeral.

The next day, I made a grocery store run. It was pretty chaotic. People eyed me as if I was holding a knife on them. When I reached to grab an item, a woman who’d been standing nearby jumped out of the way as if I’d suddenly caught fire.

As a business owner, my husband feels like he’s going into battle every day. He’s making tough decisions and doing what he believes is best for the long-term to keep as many people employed as possible. However, not everyone thinks it’s the right decision. He says his days recently have turned into 70% managing people’s emotions and 30% working on the company activities.

We are living in a strange time.

It’s as if other people pose a threat to our existence. However, people are not our enemies. As it says in Ephesians 6:12, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

man sitting alone on bench

Isolation may be the best way to save as many lives as possible, and I’m not saying go against the current protocols, but I think it’s wise to bring to light some things we should be conscious of so that we can protect ourselves from sneak attacks.

It has always been the devil’s best tactic to separate individuals from their herd so they can be easily picked off. Being alone allows doubts to creep in. It’s where a person can be attacked, maybe not by a virus, but by fears, insecurities, and vulnerabilities. In the confinement of our man-made safe haven, it can feel as if nothing can touch us.

Sometimes, not even God.

But this is a lie.

There is no place we can go where God can’t reach us.

God’s arm is never too short (Isaiah 59:1).

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

Mark Batterson, in his book, Chase the Lion, says, “The opposite of love isn’t hate. The opposite of love is fear.”  Even hate can join people together, but fear isolates. Evil does its best to use fear to try to drive out love.

However, 1 John 4:8 reminds us, “God is love,” and God will not be moved. The devil may think he’s winning, but this is when God’s love shines through us, and we see it in greater online church attendance, in Christians who are grocery shopping for those who can’t leave their houses, financial support to those in need, and by texts and phone calls to check in on the lonely.

What opportunities do you have to reach out to those who might be feeling alone and frightened?

If you are feeling alone, please email me. I’d be more than happy to encourage you or connect you to others. https://lorridudley.com/contact/

child's surprised face

God Never Gasps

Surprised face

While we panic and run out to stock up on toilet paper because we didn’t see this pandemic coming, we can be reassured God did. God is all-knowing. There are no surprises for Him.

 In October of 2001, I remember sitting at my desk and the phones not ringing for months. The world was still in shock after the 9-11 terrorist attack, and commerce had shut down. My husband and I had just purchased our first home, and his business was still in the toddler stages. No phone calls meant no customers, which meant no income to pay the new mortgage or other incoming bills.

To quote Dickenson, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

I say this because it was the 9-11 realization that evil existed in the world and it was trying to kill us that drove my husband and myself to find God. We warily stepped into church seeking answers, hope, and connection, and God met us at the door like an old friend with open arms.

God didn’t create the terrorist attack, nor did he create the coronavirus, but He will use it for His good. As I look back, I can see how his hand has been preparing things within my sphere of influence behind the scenes.

  • Within the last year, my church felt compelled to launch an online campus. With Massachusetts not allowing gatherings over 25 people, we were able to hold church at home.
  • A year ago, I started writing The Merchant’s Yield, which has a main character who struggles to release the fear of sickness and death to God after moving to an island where disease is prevalent. Little did I know how relevant it would be today, and I’m praying it will get into the hands of people who need encouragement and the message that we can’t live in fear.
  • In the past six months, my husband took on the financial costs of hiring a Chaplin service for our employees who needed prayer, and it has been utilized significantly, especially recently.  

Could these be coincidences? Perhaps. But, then I remember how Jesus stood whipped and beaten to the point of death. He’d been nailed to a cross, experiencing a pain I can’t even imagine, but He called out to the disciple John, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27). While His lifeblood was being poured out for us, He was arranging for the care of his mother, Mary.

God is working. He knows every detail, every need. He doesn’t drop the ball. Evil may work to create chaos, but God turns all things around for His good (Romans 8:28).

We need to seize the opportunity. Now is the time to text, call, or use social media to reach out to those who are scared. We have a chance to be the hands and feet of Christ. God has prepared us for this moment. Fear may rule them, but we know God is in control. The world craves the peace we have, and God has given us an opening to talk freely about our eternal perspective. Now’s our chance to checkmate evil.

“For we are to God, the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” – 2 Corinthians 2:15

Hands holding earth

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Black and white drawing of the boogieman

God is Bigger than the Boogieman

Black and white drawing of the Boogieman

If you were a Veggie Tales watcher, I’ve just gotten this song stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Two of my kids have had issues with nightmares when they were little. They’d scream, “Mommy!” or come running into my room and wake me up. There was no rhyme or reason to their nightmares. They hadn’t watched a scary movie or read a mystery book before bed, but they’d be scared to the point of visibly shaking. While I didn’t love my children having nightmares or waking up in the middle of the night, it allowed me an opportunity to sit down and tell them about how God’s love for them shines brighter in darkness, and He’s more powerful than any boogieman.

In The Merchant’s Yield, the hero, Nathan, struggles with his view of God. Nathan had a curse spoken over him when he was a young man, and it continues to plague him as he gets older. He wages an inner faith battle to determine what/who he believes is stronger, a curse, or God.

Girl in woods with oversized wild beast

It might be easy to say God is bigger than a silly curse, but we must take a deeper look at ourselves. Do we believe God is bigger than a doctor’s diagnosis? How about poor test scores that make you seem unqualified? Is God bigger than harsh words spoken by someone you admired, a friend, or a spouse? Is God bigger than your worries, fears, the Coronavirus?

In Matthew 9:14-29, A father brought his son to receive healing from Jesus. His son had seizures, lost his speech, and at times the episodes threw him into fire or water. I can imagine his father had already taken him to every possible doctor and had tried every available medicine. The boy’s father heard about this carpenter, Jesus, who could heal, and so he held onto the hope that this might be a chance to save his son. The father tells Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

Jesus, being God, would have known all the past letdowns the father had already faced. He would have seen the war between desperation and doubts in the man’s heart, and Jesus called him out on it. I can imagine Jesus eyeing the man with a kind smile, maybe even arching a brow, and repeating, “If you can?” Jesus could have paused to let His next words sink in, “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

The boy’s father immediately repents and says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

When doubts creep in, which they will, and we allow our fears and worries to grow big in our own minds, sometimes we need to cry out like the boy’s father, fall on our knees and exclaim, “Lord, help me overcome my unbelief.”

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woman at bottom of ladder

Reach Out

Hand reaching

Ever nod your head in agreement but have no idea what the other person is talking about? Early in my career, I was out of my league as a recently graduated psychology major trying to “fake it ‘til you make it” as a bookkeeper/controller. I didn’t want to look like a complete idiot, so I’d nod and tell the accountants, “I’ll send that report to you shortly.” Then, I’d quickly research what an accounts receivable summary was or a trial balance and hold my breath hoping I didn’t send them the wrong one.

Because I didn’t want to look stupid, I couldn’t ask my coworkers or bosses for help, which only increased my isolation. Even after reading tedious accounting books for dummies and working overtime to make up for my inefficiencies, I was always stressed someone might figure out I didn’t have a clue. I hung on to the corporate ladder with a one-fingered tenuous grip, straining to get another hand on the bottom rung, hoping no one would step on my fingers.

Woman at bottom of ladder

Sometimes we see God as far away. We think we can never be good enough or knowledgeable enough. Like my tenuous hold on the ladder rung, we feel we can never truly take hold of Him. We believe we have to pray more, read the Bible more, or serve more in order to draw close to God, but God is closer than we think.

Acts 17:27 says, “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” [emphasis mine]. God is close at hand. He’s there waiting for us to reach out for Him. He’s ready to pull us up into His arms. He accepts us as we are. We don’t need to memorize scripture, pray every day, or go to church on Sundays for God to love us. Those things are for our benefit to grow in wisdom and strength, but they’re not a prerequisite. (I can say from experience, that once you feel God’s love you desire to learn more and want to be around others who share in that same love for God.)

child holding father's hand

God loves us for who we are. When Jesus was baptized, God said, “this is my son in whom I’m well pleased.” Jesus hadn’t even begun his ministry, and yet, God told Jesus how proud He was of Him. God stands at the door and knocks waiting for you to open up and let him into your heart. There is no stress in receiving His love. There are no insecurities about a love that would enter the depths of hell so as to not be separated from you.

God is right beside you, waiting for you to reach out.

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Samurai welding sword

How Do You Weld Your Words?

Samurai welding sword

Writers understand the power of words. Our goal is to carefully craft sentences to stir up emotion within our readers, so hearts synchronize in tempo with that of the heroine and lungs breathe the same air as the hero. The thesaurus is our right hand as we pursue the perfect phrasing to construct an image or engrave an impression.

Often, the power of words is underestimated. We forget how, in Genesis 1, God spoke the world into being. Nine paragraphs begin with “God said,” and then something was created, for instance, “Let there be light (Gen 1:3)” and “Let us make mankind in our image (Gen 1:26).” Jacob, in the Bible, understood the power of a blessing. He pretended to be his brother Esau by tying goat skins to his arms so that his almost blind father Isaac would bless him instead. A father’s blessing was so powerful that when Esau found out what had happened, he begged his father to bless him too, but Isaac could only tell Esau he would live by the sword and serve his brother (Genesis 27).

Words can be life-giving, or words can be a loaded weapon.

Our careers, passions, and lifepaths are frequently formed by words of encouragement that speak life to our dreams, but a negative comment can be a dream crusher. My fifth-grade teacher saw my creative writing potential and instilled the seed of becoming a writer within my heart, but my seventh-grade teacher criticized my grammar and set my dream back twenty years. Now, I kick myself for listening to that seventh-grade teacher (and praise God for grammar correcting software).

Man and woman arguing

Recently, my husband and I have been working with married couples of all ages and hear a lot of “If only he would…” and “She needs to…” We hear a lot of I and me and very few us and we. They don’t recognize the criticism and judgment in their words. Dr. Gottman and Robert Levenson performed a longitudinal study to identify happy and unhappy couples. They discovered a ratio that could depict whether a married couple would stay together versus become divorced with 90% accuracy. That ratio was five positive interactions to every negative one (Benson, The Magic Relationship Ratio, The Gottman Institute, Oct 2017). It takes five compliments to overshadow one criticism.

James 3:10 says, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” But, how do we change the pattern of spewing criticism? I’ve taken to praying as David did in Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” It’s a daily struggle to die to the greedy pride of self and bite our tongue before it starts a fire that burns out of control.

What of those hurtful comments that still echo in our ears? Deuteronomy 30:19 God says, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” We can choose blessing and shake off the hurtful words that have hung over us like a dark cloud. We can choose life and life-giving words to live by.

We can weld the weapon of words for good.

Sword

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Sihouette of couple

How Deep is your Love?

Silouette of close couple

The L word gets tossed around so easily: I love ice cream, I love summer, I love football. I’m at fault for using it flippantly, unfortunately doing so devalues its meaning. As a romance writer, I get to ponder about love daily, but even more so, with Valentine’s day right around the corner. It got me thinking about what the definition of love means to me:

  • Love is a connection, an intimate knowledge of one another, mentally, spiritually, and physically.
  • Love is sacrificing your needs over theirs, and the secure feeling of knowing that if the situation were reversed, they would do the same for you.
  • Love is setting aside pride, grudges, and being right because you value the other person above those things.
  • Love is believing in someone and seeing their potential sometimes, even when they don’t.

The Bible doesn’t leave us in the dark. It tells us specifically in 2 Corinthians 13 what love is and what love isn’t.

Love in scrable letters

Let’s start with what love isn’t.”

  • Love doesn’t envy
  • Love doesn’t boast
  • Love isn’t proud
  • Love doesn’t dishonor others
  • Love isn’t self-seeking
  • Love isn’t easily angered
  • Love keeps no record of wrongs
  • Love doesn’t delight in evil

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs writes in his book Love and Respect about a couple who were given a tour of a brand new home with lots of amenities. The wife without thinking says to her husband in a joking manner, “You need to get a second job.” I can imagine the husband, wife, and homeowners chuckling, but the husband’s smile is a little tight. His wife has no idea she just dishonored and wounded her husband.

In the process of looking for a laugh, we can put our self-seeking desires first and say unkind things that break the trust of our loved ones. In the same way that we flippantly use the term love and devalue its meaning, hurtful words are tossed around that devalue the people we should be protecting.
Now, what love is:

Grandparents holding grandkids
  • Love is patient
  • Love is kind
  • Love rejoices in truth
  • Love always protects
  • Love always trusts
  • Love always hopes
  • Love always preservers
  • Love never fails

Love never fails. I believe the reason the U.S. has a 40% to 50% average divorce rate is that people have forgotten the true definition of love. Read up on what the Bible says about love. Love doesn’t try to catch our spouse, child, or family member doing something wrong. Love tries to catch them doing something right. Love gives the benefit of the doubt. However, it’s more than just a behavior change—it’s a heart condition.

The words always and never aren’t casually added to 2 Corinthians, because our God isn’t haphazard. It means love always protects, always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres, and love never fails. You don’t fall in and out of love. It’s more than a whim—even more than a decision. Love is a mandate. God is love, and if we abide in God, then we too should radiate love. We each have an ugly side that rears every now and then, but God has loved us not only despite our ugly sin but also through it. Let that be the example we follow. God pours His unfailing love upon us so that we can do the same.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.             
2 Corinthians 13: 4-8

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You are awesome

You Are Awesome!

You are Awesome sign

At the local high school and middle school where my kids attend, signs have recently been placed at the bus entrance to encourage the kids. They say things like: you are awesomeyou’ve got this, and you are not alone. When I first saw the signs, I smiled with a warm fuzzy feeling inside and thought, what a nice gesture. I asked my kids if they liked the signs, but they just shrugged in their teen and preteen way.

After probing a little more, we started talking about how they don’t know who set up with the signs or why they were there (perhaps for midterms). They thought the signs were nice, but it didn’t stir their emotions as much as a coach, teacher, or parent looking you in the eye and saying you are awesome. Because they don’t know who’s conveying the message, it lacked meaning and to them felt generic.

You are not alone sign

Okay, I get that, but with all the social pressure and negative messages conveyed, we could use a reminder that we are awesome.

Almost every day, when my kids leave for school, I tell them, “Remember who loves you and whose child you are.” I want them to hear from my voice that not only does mom and dad love them, but more importantly, God loves them. When they have peer pressure or decisions to make, I want them to hear mom’s voice echo in their mind, reminding them whose child they are and whom they represent – not only the Dudley family but Jesus Christ.

That day in the car, I got a chance to tell them how we don’t need a sign to let us know we’re awesome because we have God’s word that tells us we are uniquely and wonderfully made in God’s image (Psalm 139:14). We’ve got this because we can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). And, we know we’re not alone because the Bible says our God will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). Because we read our Bible, we can grasp the depth of love God holds for us and the lengths he’ll go to demonstrate that love. And because we have a personal relationship with the Author who wrote these things, we can stand tall with confidence. We can move with purpose, knowing who we are in Christ.

You've got this sign

Turns out, the signs allowed for a great opportunity to speak to my boys and encourage them to daily read the Bible—because we all need to hear from God’s lips that He made us awesome.

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Boxer throwing a punch

Facing Battles – Are you a Warrior or a Captive?

Tankman - Photo by Jeff Widener
Tankman – Photo by Jeff Widener

He stood in front of a line of tanks of at least fifteen or more—one man—grocery bags still in his hands. This lone man made a stand. He refused to let the artillery vehicles pass. When the tanks moved to drive around him, he moved with them, blocking their path. It was him or them. His identity and what happened to the lone man was never discovered, but the man will go down in history as Tankman. Whether he’d lost a loved one or merely had had enough of the Chinese regime and the killing, on that day in June of 1989, he’d had enough. He faced off with a tank.

“No one avoids battle. You’re either a warrior or a captive.” – Pastor Derrick Frye

David watched the entire Israel army cower in fear in front of the Philistine’s prizefighter, and he’d had enough. David says, who does this guy think he is that he can defy the armies of the Living God? He decides to go all in and challenge a giant. (1 Samuel 17)

Bonfire

Elisha burned his plow. He was all-in. There was no going back to planting fields and farming. He left everything to follow Elijah and become a servant of God. (1 King 19:21)

To me, Jacob was the most daring because he fought God. (Crazy right?) Jacob spent a good chunk of his life running from his brother’s wrath and then his father-in-law Laban. After an ominous note from his brother, Jacob divides his family and sends them on different routes so they all won’t be killed. After aiding his wives, children, and livestock across a river, darkness falls, and he finds himself alone—or so he thought. I can imagine the hair lifting on his neck and him calling out, “Who’s there? Show yourself!” Whether Jacob or God made the first move is unknown. The Bible just says, they wrestled until daybreak. Jacob’s all in. He’s desperate. He clings to God and says, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.” (Genesis 32:22-32)

Jacob walks away with a limp and a new name—Israel, which means struggles with God. It’s not that God couldn’t take Jacob, my husband wrestles with my boys all the time (in fact they’re doing as I type this). I can imagine God pinning Jacob and making him voice what it is he wants. I want your blessing! I want to know I have your favor. I want to know You are with me, and I’m not alone.

Boxer punching

How badly do we want it? We are perpetually fighting the temptation of getting comfortable. It’s easy to stay on the sidelines, but we were meant to join the fight. How is God calling you to be a warrior? What is your fight? Is it to help kids learn to read? Is it to start a Bible study? Witness to the guy or gal next to you at work? Letting someone know you’re praying for them this week?

Our courage must be greater than our complacency. Whatever the tanks are that have kept you on the sidelines, it’s time to stand up and show them God’s firepower.

“Faithfulness isn’t holding the fort; it’s storming the gates of hell.” – Mark Batterson, author of All In.

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