Lorri Dudley

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

Thanksgiving dinner

How to Host a Thanksgiving Uprising

Thanksgiving dinner

I’m not afraid of heights or rollercoasters, at least, I wasn’t until I rode The Scream at Six Flags with my oldest son. The operators strapped us into seats facing outward with our backs to a tall cylinder tower, and the countdown began. I looked over at my son, smiled, and asked if he was okay, and he nodded. Two seconds later, we shot upward at a force that could have broken the sound barrier.

The Scream Six Flags Agawam, MA

My flight response kicked in at the very top of the ride, and I grabbed the security bar and tried to lift it off. Thank the Lord, the logical part of my brain revved back into gear and realized that trying to get off a ride at over 100 feet in the air wasn’t a great idea. I held on for dear life as we plummeted back down to the earth, but the ride wasn’t over. We shot up and plunged two more times.


In the second round, I focused on calming my racing heartbeat. By the third round, I would look around and enjoy the spectacular view of the park, the surrounding forested hills, and I think Boston way off in the distance. When the ride was over, I asked my son, whose face was pale, if he liked it. The macho man in him said, “It was awesome.”  I asked him if he wanted to ride it again, but he stammered something to the effect of, we have other rides to try, and I thanked heaven he didn’t call my bluff.

How often do we get ourselves in over our heads? Life, especially around the holidays, can quickly become overwhelming. We can take on too much and become combative, frozen in fear, or try to flee and wind up in deeper trouble. As Christians, there’s a way to rise above the chaos. Colossians 3:1-2 states, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

This past Sunday, I was a grumpy pants. I served both services at church because someone called in sick. I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to handle issues and questions people brought to me. And to top it off, the elevator was on the fritz again. I left with neither my head nor heart focused on heaven and already talked myself out of not going to the baptism service that evening, because I wanted to be an introvert and hide.

My husband didn’t take my “no” for an answer. We arrived late, due to me, and sat in the back row, but as I watched almost fifty people publicly proclaim that they wanted to follow Christ, the day’s irritation melted away. My whining and complaining fell away, and I was grateful to be there. Joy and peace pushed out the chaos and clutter in my heart and my perspective changed.

If we focus on God and heaven, we can rise above the fear and turmoil of this life. We can experience peace and joy even when politics or other controversial topics come up at the Thanksgiving table. When we understand that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, we can sit back and enjoy the view. With our gaze on heaven, it’s easier to extend grace and not only appreciate the people gathered around us but thank God for them.

 “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body, you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

Happy Thanksgiving

Blessings to you and your family this Thanksgiving!

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boxer

Ready to Rumble

woman boxer


I realize the title being Ready to Rumble sounds contradictory to my tagline: Love Because You Are Loved. Sometimes, however, loving people means fighting for them or for ourselves. More than ever, we need to be “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10), praying for God to give us a tender heart and thick skin.

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus says, “I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.” This scripture always startles me because snakes are usually something I avoid, not mimic, but we’re supposed to emulate their shrewdness. Ephesians 6 reminds us that our battle isn’t against people (flesh and blood) but against spiritual forces of evil. For us to stand firm against the devil’s schemes, we need to be mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually prepared for battle.

Mentally – We must set our minds on the things of God, whatever is pure, noble, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8), but we must also be alert and ready for battle. Our feet are to be fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15). Peace comes with knowing the battle plan and the weapons we have at our disposal and having faith in our spiritual leaders and God who is ultimately in command.

knight

Physically – We have to put on the full armor of God, the buckle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, and the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:14-17). Sometimes we can feel like David trying on King Saul’s armor. At first, we may feel clumsy when we put on and adjust our breastplate of righteousness and choose not to join in gossip or cuss at the car that cut us off. It may seem awkward to pick up the shield of faith and pray out loud in front of others, raise our hands during worship, or bring a pie to the grumpy neighbor who yells at the kids to get off his lawn.

So far, these armor pieces are for defense against attack, but to go on the offensive, we have to take up the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God. We can hold our ground and stand firm, but if we want to take back territory and gain victories, it means picking up our Bibles and not just reading but knowing the scriptures.

Emotionally – Being strong in the Lord also means shoring up ourselves emotionally. David and his band of men had returned from battle to find the Amalekites had burned their village and taken all the women and children. 1 Samuel 30:4 says, “So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.” The men turned bitter and threatened to stone David to death. Verse 6 states, “But David found strength in the Lord his God.” He rallied his men and went after the Amalekites. When we are emotionally drained, and the well of our tears has run dry, we can crawl into God’s lap, collapse into His open arms, and He will renew our strength.

Spiritually – “Pray in the spirit on all occasions and with all kinds of prayers and requests,” Paul says in Ephesians 6:18. More than ever, we need to be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit tells us. Jesus said, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13). God isn’t going to leave us in the dark. He communicates with us through His field commander, the Holy Spirit, and if we’re listening and ready, He’ll direct our steps, telling us when to move out, hold, take cover, or fire.

God gives us the armor, and the power comes from Him, but it’s up to us to put it on and be ready.

men in line

Resisting the Bandwagon

Men in line

To develop a character, I’ll jot down pages of notes on a character’s past, even if it doesn’t end up in the story. Backstory shapes the lens through which people see the world. It makes them relatable. Some of the questions I ask my characters are:

  • What parental teachings helped you be a better person, and what parental fumbling do you want not to repeat?
  • What is your deepest fear, and what brought it about?
  • What emotional wound hasn’t healed? What caused it?
  • What was the worst day of your life?
  • What’s your fondest memory?

These are just a few, but the answers determine how my heroine acts and reacts. Understanding their hurts, fears, and shame stirs readers’ empathy.

Crowds draw attention, but the individual’s story plucks heartstrings.  

Crowded street

I lived in downtown Boston for a year and learned city life wasn’t for me. There’s nothing like crowded streets to turn people into objects instead of individuals. Add cold weather and rushing to get indoors, and passersby become obstacles hindering you from getting on the bus, into a cab, or in a building. I’d never felt as alone or invisible as I did while living in a city.

While there is strength in numbers, that power comes with great responsibility. Mob mentality can overlook the individual. The collective weighs the benefit of the group and often supersedes individual needs. Social contagion is why the religious leaders dragged the woman caught in the act of adultery and tossed her at Jesus’s feet.

The religious leaders’ groupthink was more determined to catch Jesus in a trap than to seek justice. If they had genuinely sought justice, they would have brought both the man and the woman before Jesus because adultery isn’t a solitary act. The Jewish leaders used a catch-22 and demanded Jesus decide her punishment. Jewish law called for the woman to be stoned, and if Jesus had released her, he’d have been breaking the Law of Moses. However, if he’d had the woman stoned, he would have been breaking Roman law, and then the Jewish leaders could go after Jesus on that account.

Jesus said, “Let any of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her (John 8:7).” One by one, the accusers dropped their rocks and walked away. Romans 3:23 states, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Jesus had the religious leaders examine their own backstory, and they no longer found the will to throw the first stone. The herd mentality turned inward and became personal.

There is a tendency to get swept up by the crowd. There’s an allure to safety in numbers, especially when there’s so much fear in the world, but we must be extra careful of the dangers of groupthink. Numerous instances in the Bible cite how the crowds went after Jesus and his disciples, and it was a crowd that shouted, “Crucify Him!” (Matthew 27:23).

But Jesus modeled how best to handle a crowd—by looking at the individual. We must be intentional about not seeing people as objects or obstacles and need to realize that they each have their own backstory with hurts and fears. They, too, are in need of a savior and forgiveness, same as us. 

“Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.” – Exodus 23:2

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lion in den

Courage is a Habit

decorated hero

The 1980s knew how to create a feel-good movie. The actors and actresses might have had cheesy hair and strange clothing styles and makeup, but iconic films, like Back to the FutureGoonies, and The Karate Kid, left viewers cheering and feeling on top of the world as they left the theatres. This summer, the movie, Maverick, brought back the same feeling and topped the movie charts because of it.

We love to cheer for the underdog as Daniel-son balanced on his injured leg to take out his opponent with a jumping front snap kick. Our fists pumped when the housekeeper poured out Mouth’s marble bag filled with precious gems and exclaimed in Spanish, no sell, and the contract to redevelop their neighborhood was torn in two. We loved watching our heroes who dug deep and found the courage to overcome their fear and defeat the villain.

In books and movies, there’s a moment when the hero comes to grips with the realization that he is the one who must save the day. He then pulls out the courage to win, and the movie resolves. Courage, however, isn’t a switch that turns on and off, and it isn’t something that strikes us in a moment. Courage is a habit.

lion in den

Like how working out creates muscle, so too must we build our courage. It can start small and build over time. David began with a slingshot in a field against wild animals, like bears and lions, before he versed a giant. Daniel asked his superior if he and his friends could go against regulation and only eat vegetables before progressing to the lion’s den. Peter decided to obey a stranger standing on the shore and toss his fishing net over the side of the boat after a fruitless night of fishing. He later boldly proclaimed Jesus as God’s Son, and religious officials crucified him.

Another crucial component is determining in advance what our reactions will be. Courage is a mindset. We need to decide to stand up and do what is right before we even come across a person in need, see a burning building, or are asked to do something or go somewhere that would be unwise. If we wait until we’re in the heat of the moment when the boyfriend’s hands are moving up the shirt, friends are saying just try it, or a boss asks us to manipulate the numbers, temptation will be whispering, it’s okay, and pressure will draw us down a dark path. If we decide our responses in advance, we’ll be less likely to be led in a direction we don’t want to go.

Start a habit of courage.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

knight

Name Your Champion

When entering a tourney or jousting contest, a knight would often approach a fair maiden sitting in the crowd and ask to fight in her honor. The maiden would tie a token of her favor onto the knight’s lance, typically a ribbon, scarf, or one of her false sleeves (sometimes a brasserie or undergarment). The lady would use her family colors or embroider her own special wording or symbol of her devotion. The knight would tuck the token someplace safe, usually under his breastplate near his heart, before lowering his lance and barreling forward on his steed to unseat his opponent and win the maiden’s approval.

A knight who fights for his lady’s honor becomes her champion. Many historical romances have used the trope of a knight in shining armor, and for me, it never gets old. However, during the Middle Ages, Anglo-Norman law stated that a fight of arms would establish guilt or innocence of a crime, and those who couldn’t fight for themselves, the lame, weak, infirmed, or the elderly, could name a champion to fight in their stead.

We, too, have a champion, and His record is undefeated. He walked into the arena and picked us out of the crowd. He chose us, even though we are sinful, weak, and broken, and He asked to carry our honor. Deuteronomy 20:4 states, “For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

Jesus fought our battle and conquered death. He continues to wage a spiritual war against our enemies and will soon return in His glory to finish them off. All we must do is ask Him to be our champion—allow Him into our hearts to fight for us.

David and Goliath

We show Him a token of our favor, not by ribbons, scarves, or offerings, but by our faith. We may be the underdog, but because God champions us, we can stand tall and face our giants, knowing victory is the Lord’s.

“They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 1:19.

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My son flexing

Go Ahead and Flex

My son flexing at age 4

Three pull-ups. Some would see that as a challenge. While others would say, that’s not even a warmup. What’s next? My son’s New Years’ resolution was to do three pull-ups when he was ten years old. It took him two years to accomplish his goal, but now he’ll do fifteen to twenty rapid-fire as if they were nothing. 

Flexing doesn’t come easy. The body must first break down to build muscle. As the muscle fibers repair themselves, they heal back stronger. Faith can be the same way. When life throws a challenging crisis our way, our faith can flounder, doubts creep in, or in some way we break down, but then God lets us know He’s been by our side all along. Sometimes it’s easier to see how He sustained us after we’re through the worst. With experience, we can see His fingerprints on our lives, guiding us through difficulties. Our spiritual muscles grow, and we come out stronger in the end.

My son flexing at 16

“What if the circumstances you are asking God to change are the very circumstances God is using to change you?” – Mark Batterson

Like physical exercise, we, too, become stronger with each spiritual workout. As we develop the faith to climb over each hurdle, our recovery time will shorten. Problems that at one point seemed insurmountable will begin to appear smaller.

It doesn’t always mean the difficulty level will lessen. Significant challenges will still come. But when we look back on the struggles God has already pulled us through, we’ll know we can stand firm on the solid rock of Jesus and face fear, knowing that nothing in this universe or the next can separate us from God’s loving arms.

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heartshaped cloud

You Matter

Cloud-shaped heart

You matter to God.

You’re His child, and you’re on His mind constantly.

He’s concerned about you. His heart breaks for whatever struggles you’re going through. He knows your pain intimately and personally.

He’s witnessed your every deed and hears your every thought, and if we’re truthful, we’ll admit there have been some terrible ones, yet He loves us and cares for us despite our faults, failures, and shortcomings.

Because you matter to God.

Jesus took on our sins. He took on our failings, wicked thoughts, lies, cheating, stealing, jealousy, hatred, lust, adultery, and murder (in our thoughts and actions). He brought them all to the cross, so we could be washed clean by His blood.

Because He loves us.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you,” God promises in Joshua 1:5.

When there was an earthquake and the chains fell off Paul and Silas in prison, the jailer awoke and thought everyone had escaped. He drew his sword and was about to kill himself instead of facing his failure, but Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself. We’re still here.” God cared about the jailer who’d locked up Paul—the man God had orchestrated to write over half of the New Testament. If a miracle like chains falling off presented itself, the first thing most people would do is flee. I would have hightailed it out of there, but Paul and Silas stayed and risked being placed back in chains to offer a jailer a chance at eternal life because he mattered to God (Acts 16:25-30).

Matthew 10:29 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Jesus went out of his way to travel through Samaria. He had an important meeting with a woman at a well, except she didn’t know it yet. She drew water during the heat of the day and after the other women had returned to the village so she could escape their judgmental looks and snide remarks. We don’t know why she’d moved from husband to husband, but Jesus mentions she’s had five. She’d shouldered the shame of being rejected as a wife and loose morals for many years. Jesus traveled out of his way into lands where Jews wouldn’t traverse, because this Samaritan woman mattered to Him. He asked her for a drink of water, but His true mission was to offer her living water (John 4:4-26).

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1

You are God’s child and He rejoices over you. You may have struggles, but they are a reminder to lean on God and not your own understanding.

Because your life matters to God.

I will repeat it one more time to let the truth sink into your soul.

You are His child. His beloved.

You matter to God.

Heart-shaped cherry tree in bloom

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tire ruts

Get Out of That Rut!

Ever felt stuck in a rut? The idiom comes from the early pioneer days when covered wagon wheels would get stuck in the grooves or channels of a dirt road where prior wagons had passed. The wheels would get bogged down by the deeper holes or forced along a specific track.

Ruts can be an emotional state. As much as I look forward to summer relaxation and fun, there’s a part of me that has been on the go, driving kids to sports events, youth groups, and attending end-of-the-year school functions. My life has been what’s next, next, next for so long that when I can’t list off a few things that need to be done immediately, I start to feel edgy. I have to force myself not to create busy work. It takes a couple of weeks before I can relax and be okay without running around at Mach two with my hair on fire (to quote from Top Gun).

In his book, MaxOut, entrepreneur and business personality, Ed Mylett, talks about how we move to what is familiar to us – specifically with emotional states. The question is, what state is our status quo? Is it angered, stressed, fearful, anxious, worried, or depressed? Are we returning to harmful emotions because they’re familiar, like how dogs return to their vomit? How do we move toward the good emotions, like those derived from the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

youn girl thinking

God, in His goodness, gave us the answer in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I know what you’re probably thinking (or at least I was). Easier said than done. True, but when we also look at how God made our brains, the genius of our creator is awe-inspiring.

We have a Reticular Activating System or RAS, where our brains focus on what is deemed essential and filter out most other stimuli. The RAS is why when you get a particular hairstyle or specific fingernail color, it pops up everywhere. Ring tones are a famous example; once you choose one, it sounds like everyone has the same one. This is because we’ve told our brains to look for this information and not let it slide by us.

If we concentrate on what is worrisome or stressful, our brains will filter for anxious stimuli. If we focus on what is excellent or praiseworthy, our brains will reward us with positive and encouraging stimuli. When we ruminate on our dreams and God’s purpose for our lives, opportunities, connections, and learning lessons will pop up on our radar.

Over time, by merely redirecting our thoughts, we can jump the rails of our negative rut and get on a life-giving path.

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man adjusting tie

Designed for Humble Confidence

Oh, Lord, it’s Hard to be Humble When you’re Perfect in Every Way is a song by country singer Mac Davis that my dad used to sing to my brother and me with a smile and a teasing glint in his eye. The lyrics are a satirical look at the life of being a rock star. If you listen to the words about enjoying looking in the mirror or how he’d have a girlfriend, but the women are in awe of him, you’d either shake your head or chuckle at the egotistical self-confidence.

While this song is a little extreme, the Bible tells us to have a humble spirit, but does that mean it’s wrong to hold self-confidence? James 4:10 says to “humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you,” and Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matt 5:5).” (More on meekness from my past blog.) Can we be humble and confident at the same time?

The distinction between being egotistical and confident is that confidence is not about us. It’s about whose we are. Being self-assured isn’t a bad thing. It’s respecting yourself and who God made you to be. We are all uniquely and wonderfully made in God’s image with unique giftings and talents that God arranged for us to do good works. Knowing we were made for a purpose and loved by our creator should allow us to stand tall and walk with a swagger. Hebrews 4:16 (ESV) states, “Let us then with confidence draw near the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need.”

Where self-confidence goes wrong is when we emphasize the word self. “For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. It’s not about our abilities. Confidence is about the work God is doing through us. The realization that we are fallible humans fulfilling God’s purpose gives us the confidence to admit when we’re wrong and adjust accordingly to get back on the right path.

confident woman

Confidence also communicates to those around us how we expect to be treated. Nothing riles up my mama bear instincts more than someone mistreating or disrespecting my boys. God feels the same way about His children. Matthew 18:6 warns evil doers to watch out, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Our God-given confidence and self-respect communicate to a bad boyfriend or girlfriend that we are a child of a mighty, all-powerful God and that they should fear His wrath.

Mac Davis’s song is a hoot, but we can walk tall knowing we’re God’s children, and it’s not as hard to be humble, knowing a perfect God made us.

Formidable Advice for Graduates

Graduates

Gowns have been ironed and pressed. Parties have been planned. Parents have purchased their tickets and reserved their seats. The commencement speakers have practiced their speeches. Four years plus have been working toward this one moment where students will rise and move that tassel from one side to the other. Graduation marks the crucial moment when a person is launched into their future filled with dreams, hopes, and advice.

At the Dudley household, we have a list of priorities, and it hangs on our wall, citing the following:

Dudley list of Priorities
  1. Love and obey God.
  2. Accept responsibility for your choices (or actions)
  3. Have a good self-image
  4. Have a positive mental attitude.
  5. Have a thankful spirit.

If I had to pick which of these priorities to pass along as advice to a recent graduate, it would be number one and two because, inevitably, the two are linked.

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He bore the weight of the responsibility of our sins and nailed them to the cross. Taking on this accountability is one of the reasons why He holds dominion over all the earth. Christ as the head of the church is not just a statement of authority but also a statement of responsibility. Jesus chose the responsibility of loving and protecting us. By sacrificing himself on the cross so that we no longer are crushed by the weight of our sins, He demonstrated His love and, in turn, earned the faith of His followers.

We will be recognized by our fruit. Matthew 7:16 says, “Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Jesus’s actions produced good fruit, and it has been attracting people to His goodness for centuries. Graduates should note and emulate his actions because Leaders will also be known by their fruit. Good leaders take responsibility for their actions and provide and protect those who are under their care. In doing so, they establish the respect and trust of those who follow their lead.

Both King Saul and King David sinned. Some might even believe King David’s sin was worse because he murdered a man to conceal that he’d committed adultery and got another man’s wife pregnant. The difference between the two Kings was that Saul blamed his problems on David and others, whereas David took responsibility for his actions and repented.

Headship works the same way. If the man follows Ephesians 5:25, he is to love his wife as Christ loves the church, and that’s saying something because Jesus died for his bride (the church). God isn’t asking all leaders to sacrifice their lives, but the man is asked to protect his family. A man who hides the fact he didn’t pay the electric bill and the power gets shut off because he spent the money on beer and lotto tickets loses his authority. In contrast, a man who puts his family’s needs before his own proves through accepting responsibility that he’s worthy of their respect and trust.

My advice to all recent grads: Go and get recognized by your good fruit and may God bless your efforts.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.”  – Luke 6:45.

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