Lorri Dudley

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

Hero embarking on a journey

Into the Unknown

Hero embarking on a journey

The Hero’s Journey

What do Froto Baggin’s from Lord of the Rings, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Marlin from Finding Nemo, and Luke Skywalker from Star Wars all have in common, besides being movie characters? They’ve all experienced the Hero’s journey. I’m in the plotting process of book six of the Leeward Island series (The Marquis’s Pursuit is off to the editor), so my brain is focused on character arcs or what’s also called the Hero’s journey. It got me thinking about how God plots a similar path for us.

The Hero’s journey is a cycle where the Hero starts in the known world, journeys into the unknown, and returns changed into a new known. It’s comprised of three acts: 1. the separation or call to adventure, 2. initiation or death/rebirth, and 3. the return or resolution. For example, in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s separation is physically done by the tornado that drops her house into Oz, where her adventure begins. Her initiation follows as she follows the yellow brick road, and she meets the scarecrow, lion, and tin man. Through trials and triumphs, she discovers a way to defeat The Wicked Witch of the West and return to Kansas. However, Dorothy goes back a changed woman. As part of the resolution or new normal, she holds a new appreciation for her family and friends.

We relate to the Hero’s journey so well because God propels us on our own journey to better walk in His purpose. He coaxes us out of our comfort zone to step into the unknown, where He uses trials and triumphs to mold us more and more into his image. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul says, “We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings more and more glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” To become more like Christ and reflect Him more and more, we must allow ourselves to be refined. Sometimes it’s a quick journey, but other times it takes multiple trips around the mountain, painful backtracking, and even psychological death to old ways of thinking to come home as a new person. Romans 8:18 states, “We have sufferings now, but these are nothing compared to the great glory that will be given to us.”

Helper up a ramp

We aren’t journeying alone. If suffering, trials, and the thought of psychological death, have us crawling back to the couch to hide under a blanket, do not fear. We must remember a vital aspect of the Hero’s journey. A helper comes alongside the Hero to guide him along his path. For Dorothy, it was Glenda the good witch, for Froto – Sam Wise, Nemo – Dora, Luke Skywalker – Obi-Wan, but for us, we get someone even better—the Holy Spirit. We are not alone in our journey. The Great Comforter walks beside us, guiding us towards our purpose, urging us to stay on the path, picking us up when we stumble, and redirecting us when we lose our way.  

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Young woman with megaphone

Find Your Voice

Young woman with mega phone

Finding one’s voice in writing means discovering your unique writing style. It’s a blend between the types of vocabulary used and how you play with sentence structure. Some authors mince words with short, straight-to-the-point sentences, while others may elaborate on a verbose soliloquy of description. Some may use a blend depending on the tension level. A writer’s voice is what makes them unique. Many authors have written under different pen names only to be linked to their other works by their writing voice. For example, J.K. Rowling wrote as Robert Galbraith, Steven King wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, and C.S. Lewis wrote poems under Clive Hamilton.

Discovering our distinct voice can be not only challenging but also scary. What makes us unique makes us dissimilar. To stand out can also mean to be exposed. There are a variety of different reasons why authors chose to write under a pen name. Dean Koontz used more than ten pen names because publishers in the 1970s warned about writing in different genres out of a fear he’d lose readership. Mystery writer Agatha Christie wrote romances as Mary Westmacott because she viewed writing mysteries as work but playtime was writing romance. Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov hid his identity by writing as Paul French because he was embarrassed to be known as the author of a young adult sci-fi book that was to be made into a TV show.

boy singing into microphone

Finding our voice reminds me of Blind Bartimaeus, who sat by the side of the road as a large crowd was leaving to follow Jesus. When Bartimaeus overheard Jesus was near, he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The crowd immediately tried to silence him and told him to stop, but Bartimaeus was determined. He knew he needed Jesus, so he shouted louder.

Jesus heard and called him over. While the crowd tried to coax him, telling him not to be afraid and it’s going to be okay. Bartimaeus jumped up, threw off his coat, and ran to follow the voice of Jesus. Jesus told him, “Your eyes are healed because of your faith,” and immediately Bartimaeus could see.

Focusing on and following God’s voice will help us to find our own. When the crowd public opinion tries to muzzle us to stop speaking, we need to find our voice. When the crowd tells us to quiet down as they did Bartimaeus, we need to shout louder. When society tells us to be afraid of retribution or public shame, we need to stand firm on the solid rock of Christ Jesus and speak of the grace and love of the one whose opinion that truly matters—the Lord God Almighty.

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Miss Dodd Meme from The Captain's Quest

Shocking the System

The Captain's Quest, Miss Dodd Meme "If you ever consider drugging me, it better be with poison."

All authors today, whether traditionally or independently published, are expected to do some of their own marketing. The creativity it takes to capture readers’ attention spills over somewhat into the marketing realm, but we only get one or two lines to grab the reader. I used the above quote, “If you’re going to drug me, make sure it’s with poison,” from Miss Dodd’s character in my recent release, The Captain’s Quest.  As part of my marketing strategy, I created it into a meme to shock the reticular activating system of people’s brains in an attempt to gain their attention.

The brain’s reticular activating system is a bundle of neurons only about two inches long at the base of the brain that acts like a nightclub bouncer or gatekeeper for the brain deciding what stimuli pass through into our conscious. For example, as I’m sitting in my quiet office, I can hear the muffled song of my son’s video game, the shower running, a tiny house wren chirping outside the window, the cars passing by my street, and the clacking of the keys as I type out this sentence. In order to concentrate on what I’m writing, my reticular activating system will filter out most of these sounds, keeping them corralled in my subconscious. However, if my son turns off the shower and the sound of water dripping continues. My reticular activating system will release that stimulus into my conscious, alerting me that a pipe is leaking.

 It’s also why in restaurants, we can drown out the other conversations going on around us until someone’s conversation gets heated or the waiter says our name. Suddenly our attention locks on those things and starts to block the person to whom we had been speaking. The same goes visually for what is out of place. We can see rows of pink bunnies, but our eyes will be drawn to the purple one. Or, with a row of pencils, our eyes will hone in on the one that is out of alignment.

God made our brains amazing in this aspect. Think of the onslaught of stimuli that we feel, taste, touch, hear, and see within even a few minutes. Despite the bombardment, we can focus on attention or be alerted to danger. As God’s children, we are called to be salt and light. We are challenged to stand out and live differently to be a beacon for the rest of the world.

shocked man

Today society has made it easier than ever to shock people’s reticular activating system. One of the ways my husband does it in his industry is by not swearing. In construction, it’s so rare for a company not to use foul language that his business stands out by comparison. He doesn’t have a formal rule about not swearing. He merely leads by example, and others follow suit. For the past three years, his company has won Best Places to Work in the Boston area.

It’s sad to say but speaking the truth stands out nowadays enough to shock someone’s system. This might not have been the same in years past, but now telling the truth and showing love instead of hate are reticular activating catchers. An act of love, especially when it isn’t deserved or anticipated, not only makes us stand out, it makes others take notice. People will see the light of Jesus in you. Love can stir dead hearts back to life. Speaking truth creates a craving, awaking a hunger for more.

People not only desire salt and light, but they also need it. So go ahead and show them some love–shock their system.

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Stranger than Fiction

Kids reading books - funny fiction

Inspiration for my books typically comes from real-life experiences: my own, from history, or friends’ stories. Reality, however, can be stranger than fiction. Just because something happens doesn’t mean an author can write about it. Some events, situations, or occurrences wouldn’t be considered believable to readers. The challenge is that there isn’t a defined list of what is deemed realistic and what isn’t. For example, in 2020, here are a few real happenings that authors (other than Science-fiction) probably couldn’t get away with writing:

boy hiding in box

The first thing we try to do when dealing with bizarre events is to rationalize them. We take something extraordinary and break it into ordinary pieces so that our brain can make sense of it, but we can lose grasp of the astonishing happening in the process. Often, we do the same thing for God, but God refuses to be neatly categorized in a box or classified into specific acceptable social norms. In the Bible, it seems as if God went out of His way just to show us His power has no limits. Take a look at some Biblical examples:

  • God tells Noah to build a boat because it’s going to rain for forty days. This doesn’t sound unbelievable until you think about the fact it had never rained. Before the flood, water came up from the ground. Noah probably had to ask God, “What’s a boat?” and then “What’s rain?”
  • Jesus spits in the mud and rubs it over the blind man’s eyes, who then regains his sight. I know the blind man couldn’t see what Jesus was doing, but I’m sure he heard Jesus spit on the mud and then felt it smeared over his eyes.
  • A young boy with only a slingshot went up against a nine-foot, armor-wearing, sword and shield-wielding giant. (This is a mother’s worst nightmare. David’s mother is only referenced briefly in Psalm 86, but thank God she wasn’t present at what can only be called a miraculous underdog showdown.)
  • Jonah was swallowed by a whale and then spit out on the shore. Supposedly, this just recently happened to lobster diver here in Massachusetts, too. However, it was only for a few seconds, and he had on scuba gear and a buddy nearby to rescue him. Jonah stayed in the whale’s belly for three whole days.

Why are we waiting on the natural when God can do the supernatural? If God works in mysterious ways, then why do we confine Him to the physical? Are our prayers small when they should be audacious? Do we expect God to do things our way when His way is perfect and remarkable? Are we so afraid to appear foolish that we’re blocking God’s miracle?

Perhaps we need to suspend our disbelief and grow in our faith. Dare to pray for the impossible. Go head and ask the outlandish request. Even the impossible is possible with God.

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can Ssay to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

Mountains

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muscled arm

Muscles Not Required

I can write about chiseled features, a shirt stretched across broad, muscular shoulders, a lithe, athletic build, and thick waves of dark hair, curling slightly at the ends, but that isn’t what makes a hero sexy—at least not enough to keep readers flipping pages.

Three thousand people surveyed by a British Health Care Company found a man’s chest to be the most attractive male physical characteristic, followed by hair and arms. While I did notice my husband’s broad shoulders and tall physique, it was his self-confidence and the way others looked to him for leadership that woke something inside me, like the delicious smell of coffee in the morning.

muscled chest

A muscular chest and thick hair may turn heads, but it is a firm sense of integrity and principles that turns women’s hearts. They don’t have to be able to bench 200 lbs. or drop and do 100 pushups. They don’t need muscles bulging on top of muscles. It’s inner courage and strength of conviction that’s sexy.

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Nehemiah. Nehemiah is an attractive character. He was a cupbearer to the king, which was a distinguished career at that time. It would have come with prestige and a nice income, but that wasn’t his allure. Nehemiah was unafraid to show his feelings in his passion for his homeland and anguish that his ancestorial city lay in ruins. His ability to display and understand emotions, while an admirable quality, wasn’t what made Nehemiah so captivating

What’s attractive to readers and heroines is the confidence the hero exudes (albeit not always right away) that he will stand his ground to protect his beliefs and loved ones. Even against opposition, Nehemiah showed leadership in directing his men on how to rebuild the wall and a devoutness toward God, instructing his men, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families (Chp4. v14).” This is the point when I need to turn down the AC because my Bible was getting hot.

Nehemiah continues to impress by standing firm against Sanballat and other enemies. His dedication to his principles showed when he told Sanballat’s messenger that Nehemiah was doing a great work and he wouldn’t come from his ladder. He displayed integrity and wisdom when he saw through the lies of the false prophet sent by Tobiah and Sanballat and rebuked them. “Why would a man like me run for cover? Why would a man like me use The Temple as a hideout? I won’t do it.” Nehemiah drew a line in the sand that he would not cross and communicated that others would pay the price if they crossed it.

This don’t-mess-with-me-or-you’ll-regret-it is what I call a Nehemiah moment—an amazing display of inner courage and fortitude that makes for a swoon-worthy hero.

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Baseball coach instructing young player

Keeping Out of Majoring in the Minors

Baseball coach instructing young player

Criticism can be a painful pill to swallow. I’ve lost sleep over bad reviews. One person called into question the proper use of an English courtesy title used with one of my characters. There’s a good chance that I got it wrong, even though I’ve done extensive research to stay as historically accurate as possible. When to use which English title is confusing. However, the discrepancy caused the person to stop reading halfway through the story. Her inability to see past the minor errors caused her to miss the book’s message of forgiveness, fortitude, and faith, which saddens me more than the bad review.

I know I can’t please everyone. I’m human and make countless mistakes daily. (Some are funny. I tend to type shutter instead of shudder, which I know has something to do with my husband being in the home improvement industry. Or there was a time that I wrote neckless instead of necklace. The poor heroine had no neck—how terrible.) I will re-read a blog after it’s released and kick myself over errors that I know better than to make. There may even be some in this blog, but my hope is that my mistakes don’t overshadow the message.

I’ve seen this happen in churches. Pastors, too, are human. They aren’t infallible, but many of us have unrealistic expectations for them. We are quick to criticize if they do something with which we disagree. We move on to greener pastures only to discover that our new pastor is human also. The church in Pennsylvania, where I gave my life to Christ, divided over trivial things because they lost sight of the grander purpose. When we major in the minors, as my pastor calls it, we make the devil’s job easy. The devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Focusing on mistakes instead of the message steals purpose, kills trust, and destroys unity.

2 Corinthians 8:7 states, “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.”

Luke 6:36 says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

Baseball player sitting on bench

God asks us to excel in grace and mercy. This means giving the benefit of the doubt, forgiving mistakes, and repenting of a critical spirit. I realize this isn’t easy, but it can start with turning off the film in our head that plays different retaliation scenarios and stopping our fingers from sending a snarky retort. Take a second and ask ourselves if this helps or hurts God’s greater purpose. Bitterness, judgment, and a critical spirit can blind us to the great works God is doing, block us from receiving a message we need to hear, and do damage to our witness.

Are you bogged down in the trivial? What’s keeping you from God’s greater message? Let’s not make the devil’s job easy. Ask God to show you what you need to move past and how to move beyond it so that you can get to the happily-ever-after.

I’ll be on my knees doing the same.

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Pushing a hay bay

It’s Time to Move It

Person running

Coasting only got us so far before we rolled to a stop.
There was only so much of a workout we could do in our basement. We started well, getting up and trying to keep a routine, but after the first few weeks, our exercises shortened, energy lessened, and commitment dropped. As soon as the state of Massachusetts allowed gyms to open, my husband signed us up for Crossfit. After being at home, Crossfit was a jump from level 1 to level 20. It requires a different kind of person, and it’s not me. I was sore every day for over four months. I still ache, but oddly, I’m starting to appreciate it because if I’m not pushing my body, my muscles become weak.

Writing can be the same way. The first blog I wrote took me a full three days to write, and it was only a half-page in length. It was a painful process, filled with self-doubt. Thankfully, I’ve become faster and more confident in my writing. Many novelists spend a year or more writing their first manuscripts only to toss them in a drawer or lock them away in their computer. I didn’t understand how they could sacrifice their hard work until I did it. Those first novels weren’t a waste. I think of them as boot camp training where I developed my writing muscles.

To change, we have to move.
It means making sacrifices and pushing through the temptation to give up. Change in the right direction will make us stronger. If we stay still, we atrophy. The same goes for our spiritual muscles. It weakens when we aren’t around other Christians, praying regularly, or attending church. We not only have to fight atrophy, but we also have to fight Newton’s law which states that objects at rest tend to stay at rest. It’s more work to get a flywheel started than it is to keep it moving. It’s easier to stay at home or stay in bed. Evil wants to keep our lives small, but God wants us to live with a grand purpose.

Pushing a hay bale

Change isn’t easy.
As soon as we set things in motion, opposition steps in. It tells us we’re out of shape, we don’t have Juwhat it takes, or to let someone more capable step up. Even Gideon tried to talk God out of changing him. An angel of the Lord found him hiding in a winepress to thresh his wheat and called him out. “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you.” Gideon probably looked over his shoulder to see if someone was standing behind him or if he was being punked by Candid Camera. He probably pointed to his chest and said, “Who me?” Judges 6:15 says Gideon replied, “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

Covid-19 brought the world to a stop.
Many churches are talking about having to rebuild. It’s time to give the world a nudge or a push to take a step in faith. Let’s get some momentum moving in our favor. Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time, we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” It’s time to get up and move.

It won’t be easy, but if we move, God will move. As He demonstrated with Gideon, if we stretch our faith muscle, God will show up, and He’ll show off.

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Stepping on shoulders

Go Ahead and Step on Me

Stepping on shoulders

Mental health emergency room visits and suicide rates are up in young adults during the pandemic, according to the CDC. It grieves my heart to know people feel hopeless, alone, and distanced. They can’t see a future or their purpose when they’re stuck in a holding pattern that feels never-ending. For those of us who’ve been around for a bit, we’ve survived ups and downs before. It’s easier for us to have confidence that the sun will rise and the storm will eventually blow over.

People aren’t born with resilience. It’s learned usually through pressure hardships and adversity.

Only those 30 years old and older will have experienced the ’08-‘09 recession Only those 45 and older will remember the Black Monday stock market crash of ‘87. Only those in their nineties would have been impacted by the Great Depression. High school and college-age kids don’t have the perspective to know they won’t always be stuck in the valley and that the fog will lift.

More than ever, we need to pour into those around us: our neighbors, friends, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc. We need to teach them resilient faith. Let them know that this too will pass. They may argue that the circumstances are different. We’ve never been through a pandemic. That is why faith is the “confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we have not seen (Hebrews 11:1).” Let them lean on our faith because we know God will take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it for good.

Nehemiah was grieved after hearing about the circumstances in Jerusalem, and he begged the king of Persia to allow him to return to help his people. As they labored to build a wall and faced opposition from the neighboring counties, Nehemiah called his people together and told them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” Nehemiah 4:14.

girl throwing punch

It is crucial for us to reach out. We must fight for the next generation, their marriages, their minds, and especially for their spirit. We need to offer them hope and loan them our faith. Let them use it as a stepping stone to lift them above the clouds. By stepping on our shoulders, we can help them rise above the fog.

It’s not in our strength alone. Resilience means believing in something bigger than you.

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Imagination Gone Wild

Rendition of Edvard Munch's painting The Scream.
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca the younger.

I’m notorious for jumping to the worst-case scenario. For writing, it’s a great skill. I identify my heroine’s greatest fear and then concoct the worst possible outcome that I can think of that preys upon her anxiety.

This skill is awful when it comes to real life, especially when you have a child getting his driver’s license. There is nothing worse than lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, running through all the possible catastrophes, until you hear the garage door open. It also doesn’t come in handy when flying in an airplane, hearing strange noises at night, or during the onset of a pandemic. My imagination can be my own worst enemy.

In my stories, the heroine learns she must trust God, yet in my own life, how often do I choose to worry first and give it to God afterward? Why do I let my anxiety build until it pours out in complaints or groans? Why do I allow fear a grip when 2 Timothy says, God didn’t give us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and sound mind?

I’m still learning how to turn off the bombardment of negative thoughts like one would a faucet, but through prayer, I’m able to filter them to a trickle or a drip. As soon as I realize the flood of worst-case scenarios is assaulting me, I take my thoughts captive and lay them at the feet of Jesus. My simple prayer sounds like this: God, you know my fears. I can’t control this situation, but You are all-powerful and all-knowing. Protect myself and my loved ones in Your loving care because I know you care for us.

dripping faucet
When we pray, God becomes a problem for our problems.

We need to bow our heads, fold our hands, and introduce our fear of the worst-case scenario to the One who wrote the book and who already knows the ending. Why should we suffer from our what-ifs when God tells us to cast all our worries on Him (1 Peter 5:7)? It’s time to turn off our run-amok imaginations and turn on our prayer warrior side. Unsheathe the sword of the spirit and battle in the spiritual realm instead of in our heads.

It’s time to stop talking about our problems and instead start speaking to our problems. Remind them who is ultimately in charge and who wins in the end. Introduce our mangy fears to our fearless God.

My tall boys and me

Fighting Fair

My tall boys and little me.

At barely 5’3” tall (I convinced the DMV to round up to 3 inches for my license), I’m used to being patted on the head, being pushed to the front row of pictures, and never being able to see in a crowd. However, I refuse to ask strangers to grab things from the top shelf at the grocery store. People probably look at me funny, but I’ll do running leaps, use other items to knock the high stuff down, or climb the lower shelves and pray they don’t collapse. I don’t like feeling helpless. I want to grocery shop without the aid of others. I want things within my own reach and own power.

This stubborn determination to do things my way has gotten me into trouble.

When I was younger, I took a karate class where we practiced sparing. I’d been paired up with a boy about my size and weight, but he didn’t want to fight a girl. He lazily half-preformed all the movements, and I grew angrier with each languid punch. The sensei had just finished reminding the class that there was no contact allowed when I hauled back and slugged the kid as hard as I could in the shoulder. A loud thwack echoed through the dojo. All eyes riveted on me. After that, the boy sparred with me more seriously, but it was wrong for me to punch him. I had to do knuckle pushups as a punishment. 

green boa constrictor

What seems just and right to us isn’t always God’s will. Take Eve, for example. At the time, it probably seemed fitting that she should eat the apple. The serpent used false logic to reason why Eve should disobey God’s command not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. He twisted God’s words saying, you won’t really die. God just doesn’t want you to eat the fruit because it would make her like Him, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3). The snake convinced Eve that God was holding out on her, not allowing her to reach her full potential or experience something she deserved. What might have seemed right or just, at the time, led to a lifetime of pain, suffering, and death for generations to come.

We want to feel smart and in control. We want to believe we’re fighting for fairness, but before we take matters into our own hands and eat an apple or make a fist and throw a punch, maybe we should ask God what he thinks of our situation—pray on it a bit—seek God’s wisdom before we make a move. If we ignorantly choose human intelligence over Godly wisdom, we can wind up with greater consequences than a few knuckle pushups.

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