Lorri Dudley

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

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brain and artificial intelligence

Avoiding Mind Tricks

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing,” said Greek philosopher Socrates. We can think we are so smart, but our brains are easily fooled. The boys and I binge-watched some old episodes of Brain Games. While a dance crew preformed their routine, the audience had to count how many times the dancers stepped into a circle. Because of their focus on the ring, over fifty percent of the crowd missed a large penguin strolling casually across the stage. The next segment showed how our brains make assumptions about shading. The host showed a Rubik’s cube where the center color on the shadowed side appeared orange, but on the unshadowed top, the center square looked brown. When the squares were moved next to each other, they turned out to be both brown, but the shadow tricks us.

In psychology labs, I was warned against many different types of bias that could alter results. Here are a few I remember:

Selection bias – over or underrepresenting certain people groups in the sample.

Observation bias – where participants in the sample group are aware of being watched and alter their answers or how they act (consciously or unconsciously).

Confirmation bias – researchers (consciously or unconsciously) look for results or patterns to agree with their opinions or conjecture.

Between biases and mind tricks, it seems our logic often can be flawed. We’re disillusioned into relying on reasoning skills to guide us, but truth is, humans are easily deceived, which makes the devil’s job a lot easier.

If the brain isn’t reliable, then what about our feelings? Perhaps we should let our hearts be our guide. Yet, anyone who’s thought they’d met Mr. Right only to get dumped knows the heart can be capricious at best.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that appears right, but in the end, it leads to death.” When we live by logic or emotions, we can easily be led astray. If we don’t know God’s wisdom and plan for our lives, then we’ll wind up settling for a secular counterfeit. Feelings and rational thought can become the idols we sacrifice ourselves on.  However, the bible says, fear of the Lord leads to wisdom (Proverbs 15:33), and if we ask God for wisdom, it will be given to us (James 1:5).

If we seek Godly wisdom, we can walk in our purpose with confidence. But how do we know when wisdom comes from God? James 3:13 says it will show with deeds done in humility and a good life, and in verse 17, James states, “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

God has a plan for us, but so does the world. God’s plan is to give us life to the full, but the world’s plan will leave us empty. We can choose life and to be life-giving.

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defeated knight

Help is Here

I love a good rescue. In most romance novels, after the darkest moment, when all looks lost, some heroism allows for a happily-ever-after. Sometimes it’s the hero swooping in and sacrificing something to save the heroine, sometimes it’s the heroine relinquishing her goal in order to protect the hero, or it could be both. Often it takes this black moment for them to realize they aren’t strong enough, smart enough, or brave enough to endure on their own, and that’s when readers should want to scream at the pages, help is coming.

In those real-life moments when our strength is spent, every solution exhausted, and our courage is defeated, it’s good to remember the servant of the prophet Elisha. Elisha had thwarted the King of Aram’s plans to attack the Israelites, so the King of Aram sent a strong force of troops, horses, and chariots to surround Elisha during the night. Elisha’s servant is the first one to discover they’re hedged in and about to be attacked.

medievil soliders

I imagine him shuffling outside still in his robe with an earthen mug of coffee clutched between both hands, eyelids heavy with sleep. He stretches in the early morning sun with a resounding yawn. A glint of light reflects off something metal, and he’s instantly awake, staring at an army of men ready to kill him and his master. He backs up a step, his shaking hands sloshing his morning coffee when he hears Elisha step outside. The wide-eyed servant frantically whispers, “Oh no, my lord, what shall we do?”

Elisha probably issued his servant a confident, we-got-this sort of look and said, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” The servant must have glanced around, doing another quick count, and still came up with just two versus an entire army. Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, that he may see.” God revealed to the servant hills full of horses and chariots blazing with fire that surrounded Elisha, ready to battle against their enemies (2 Kings 6: 2-23). In a single moment, the servant moved from hopeless despair to an attitude of bring-it-on King Aram.

The chances initially looked bleak, but help had been there the whole time. God had those blazing chariots lined up before the servant even realized he needed help, and God has already prepared for our battle too. We must focus on the invisible, not the visible.

I pray that God will open your eyes to see the warriors He has ready and waiting. I pray your faith will remain strong even in the blackest moment, and may you always have an Elisha to confidently stand beside you and remind you, don’t be afraid. Help isn’t just on the way—it’s already here.

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man throwing nets into water

Because You Said So

Backseat driver

I won’t drive with my husband in the car and haven’t done so the entire time we’ve been married. He’s a great man, but he backseat-drives from the passenger side. I’m a year older than my hubby, and since I learned to drive in Pennsylvania where the driving age is sixteen, and he lived in Massachusetts where the driving age is sixteen-and-a-half, I have a full year-and-a-half longer of driving experience. I did not take well to his corrections. (Admittedly, I still don’t when it comes driving. God is still doing a work in me.) So, I intentionally pulled over and moved into the passenger seat and wouldn’t budge.

Thankfully, Simon-Peter wasn’t as stubborn as I am.

Jesus was preaching on the shore one day, but the crowd grew too big, so he climbed into a boat owned by a man named Simon (later to be called Peter) and finished preaching from there. Afterward, Jesus tells Simon to let out his fishing nets. Simon was a fisherman, and he most likely grew up in a family of fishermen. He had already been working all night. They didn’t even reel in a couple of minnows, and here is this carpenter telling him where and when to fish. Now Simon is a better man than me because instead of arching a brow and staying, “That’s it. You drive from now on (or in his case, fish),” Peter politely says, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)

Man casting out fishing nets

Simon went ahead, and the nets filled with so many fish the ropes began to break. He called over some friends to help, and they jam-packed both boats almost to the point of sinking. What would have happened if Simon had let his stubborn pride get in the way? Would he have become one of Jesus’s disciples? Would the sons of Zebedee, who where Simon-Peter’s partners? What if he stuck to his guns about knowing what was best?

What are we missing out on by clinging to our know-it-all ways? How often do we take offense when God asks us to do something, and we don’t want to, or we think we know a better solution. The old way of doing church may have seemed to have been working just fine, but God is doing a new thing and reaching new people. Having kids attend school five days a week has been how we’ve always done it, but God is opening new possibilities. Sports were played every weekend, but now maybe we’re called to do something else as a family. It’s a lot easier to type this up than it is to actually let go of my stubborn pride and tell God, “because you say so, I will do it,” but I don’t watch to miss out on the big catch of fish and men.

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Man looking in broken mirror

In the Mirror Moment

Sometimes I wonder if fiction mirrors life or if life mirrors fiction. Currently, I’m in the process of plotting book number five, tentatively titled, The Marquis’ Pursuit, which is the story of Max, the son of the Duke from The Duke’s Refuge. Novels typically have a similar structure. The story opens with a character going about their normal life. Then, an incident happens to change their course, which sets them on a journey either physically, spiritually, mentally, or all three.

James Scott Bell noticed a common factor in most books and movies. Around the midpoint, the hero or heroine is confronted with a disturbing decision to change or die. He calls this the mirror moment. In most cases, the death doesn’t mean physical death, but a psychological death to an old self, a dream, goal, or status. The main character realizes he or she has to fight because there is no running from themselves. Essentially the characters have no choice but to Cowboy Up.

We see this in Star Wars, A New Hope, when Han Solo, whose plan was to leave to pay his debt to the bounty hunter Jabba the Hut, decides he’ll stay and fight with the rebels. In The Proposal, the mirror moment is when Sandra Bullock’s character realizes she is starting to adore Andrew, her assistant and fake fiancee, and his quirky Alaskan family. She second-guesses the farce because it will hurt the family, yet not getting married would end in her deportation.

We are all on this hero’s journey. Before Covid-19, we went about our normal lives, but then the pandemic hit, interrupting our normal and forcing us into a new journey—physically, spiritually, and mentally. Now we’ve reached our mirror moment where we have to decide if we are going to grow stronger, become wiser, strengthen our beliefs, or are we going to suffer a psychological death. It’s okay to take a moment to mourn for the future that would-have-been, the missed graduations, large weddings, school proms, the canceled high school football season. (My boys are upset over that last one.) However, we can’t stay in the mourning phase. We need to look in the mirror and be strengthened, knowing that God fights with us and for us. We aren’t alone and we aren’t the underdog when we are on the side of the One who created the universe.

To quote Kyle Idleman from Southeast Christian Church“We aren’t going to act like we don’t have hope when we have The Hope of the World. We aren’t going to act like we don’t know the way when we know The Way. We aren’t going to act like we don’t have light in the darkness when we know The Light. Jesus is whom we put our confidence in.”

Fire extracts the impurities out of gold. Just as how trials refine our faith pulling out our selfishness, doubts, and fears where they’re exposed to the light. The pressure, heat, and stirring things up can be agonizing, but in the end, when we look in the mirror, we’ll see the reflection of Jesus.

1 Peter 6-7“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

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invisible man

Seeing the Invisible

invisible man

I was Zoom caller 219 out of 428, not even a blip on the screen. This was one of those meetings where I was muted, and there were no video images other than the presenter. The only way to interact was to type unanimously into the chat, and if your question was deemed one they wanted to answer, then it was discussed.

I felt overlooked.

The world can feel distant like we’re not on the same page or the same screen. We’re a census number, a paycheck, a tax dollar, or an object to drive around. Masks add to the feeling of invisibility. I passed a good friend of mine at the store because I didn’t recognize her with half her face hidden.

God doesn’t overlook people.

There was a woman with a bleeding issue. She’d spent all her money on doctors only for her problem to worsen. Back in those days, when a woman bled, she was considered unclean. They even had special tents where a woman stayed during her menstruation to keep them separate. Twelve years she dealt with this incurable disease, and its isolation. Hope seemed like a luxury until she heard of a man named Jesus who had healing powers. She thought if she could just touch his robe, she’d be healed.

Reaching hand

She stood in the crowded street, jam-packed with people who’d come to see Jesus. The disciples rushed Jesus through because a prominent Synagogue leader’s daughter had become deathly ill. The woman nudged through the crowd, jostled by the throng, waiting for a glimpse of Jesus. As he passed, she squeezed her arm out and touched the hem of his cloak. Jesus froze and turned to the disciples asking, “Who touched me?”

I can imagine the jolt of panic that coursed through the woman. How did he know? Was the healer going to scold her for her overreach? The shame of being unclean burned her cheeks as she confessed, but Jesus looked her in the eye. The rest of the crowd watched with curiosity—who is this woman? The disciples tugged on his arm with a we-need-to-go look, but Jesus stilled them with a hand. He didn’t admonish her. He called her daughter and praised her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering (Mark 5:34).”

God sees us.

The busyness of the world doesn’t force God to de-prioritize our importance. Most would think the dying little girl would have taken precedence, but at that moment Jesus knew the desperation of the bleeding woman. To Him, every need is great. Her being unclean didn’t stop him from speaking to her, nor from saving the dying child. God sees us. A mask won’t hide our faces from him. He sees our hearts and calls us daughter or son. He knows our hopes, our desires, and the insecurities we try to hide. He understands the areas in our lives where we’re hemorrhaging physically or emotionally. Nothing remains hidden from the God of the universe. He welcomes us with open arms and instructs us to lay our troubles at His feet.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

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Man yelling

Dead People Don’t Get Angry

Man yelling

We have a neighbor who spits at us. (He’s a neighbor at our commercial property. We have lovely neighbors at home. Hi neighbors.) This man has many times hurled foul language at our crews while they loaded their vans. He’s threatened our workers, spit on them, and tried to incite them into fights. You’d think we’d done something horrendous to get this man so fired up.

We purchased a large mostly-vacant warehouse across the street, renovated the dilapidated building, and now have provided fourteen small businesses with an office location close to home. However, for several decades the building had sat dormant on this commercial street. Our neighbor had become accustomed to the sleepy, dead-end road where he works and lives. The new activity coming down “his” public street infuriates him.

My husband (God bless him) listened to the neighbor’s complaints, installed fencing, and lowered the angle of lights. He even hired a paving company to create a road on our property so that our vehicles no longer drive down the public street. However, the neighbor can’t be appeased. He still calls the town accusing us of things we haven’t done. The town sends over an official (at the cost of taxpayer dollars) who finds nothing wrong and leaves.

I have a hidden fiery side that erupts especially when its to protect my family and friends. When somebody spits at my husband and workers, I see red. I want to lash out, call the police on him, send him the bill for the changes he demanded. I want him to know he’s gone too far, and as the Hulk says, he’s not going to like me when I’m angry.

The Hulk action figure

But I have no right.

Dead people cannot be angry, and that’s what God has asked us to do—to die daily.

But God, you saw what he did. You know what he’s done. It’s not right.

Jesus never said it was going to be easy. “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” There’s more than one reason why we’re asked to take up our cross and to die daily to ourselves and our sin. It’s not just to show the grace and love of Jesus toward those who persecute us. It’s also to save our hearts.

When I allow anger to fester, it hardens into bitterness and hatred, forming a callous on my heart. It may at first apply to one situation or one individual but like a contaminate it spreads. I have to daily ask God to soften my heart—to help me see others through His eyes—as His beloved children. It’s become even harder as of late, where it seems as if the media is baiting people to become angry. It’s a battle to keep my heart soft and malleable for God, to love instead of hate, to pick up that heavy cross, and die once again.

…Because dead people don’t get angry. 

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men welding weapons

Bring on the Opposition

I used to cringe when the phone rang. There was a time in my life when I was called down to my son’s school daily to discipline him. One day, weary, defeated, and overwhelmed after leaving, I had cried off all my makeup and still had to return to work, so I stopped at a CVS to buy eyeliner. I stood in the makeup section with an eye-pencil clutched in my hand and caught a glimpse of my puffy eyes and red splotchy face in the mirror. The words of Nehemiah rang in my head. “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.” (Nehemiah 6:3)

God had placed a vision in Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem (which had been torn down and the gates burned). While he and his men repaired the wall, Sanballat, the Governor of Samaria to the north, and his cronies heard about Nehemiah’s work and attempted to thwart him. He taunted, mocked, and scorned the men as they labored and later moved to threats, lies, and plans of harm. Nehemiah told his people, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your friends, your families, and your homes!” (Nehemiah 4:14) He instructed his men to keep their weapons on them at all times. They held a hammer in one hand and a sword in the other while up on ladders. They slept in their clothes, prepared and ready.

What Nehemiah said still applies. That day, at the CVS, eyeliner became my warpaint. I was ready to do battle and fight for my son, my family, and my home, and God has been faithful. Last night, that same son sat in our back yard with a group of 28+ high schoolers praying.

wooden ladder

Listen to Nehemiah’s words. Hear them in your own heart. Don’t be afraid of the enemy. Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your friends, your families, and your homes! When we are doing God’s work, there will be opposition. Sometimes our battle will be a visible foe like Sanballat. Sometimes it won’t be tangible. The Apostle Paul stated, “For 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 (Ephesians 6:12).” Battles aren’t easy. Nehemiah prayed, then, he pressed through, stayed on that ladder, and continued his great work despite the trouble. In the end, it was Sanballat and his men who lost their self-confidence because they realized this work had been done by the hand of God.

Whether your warpaint is eyeliner, lipstick, a slick hairdo, or a knockout pair of shoes, be at the ready. A battle is waging whether we want it to or not, but we are doing a great work, and despite the opposition, we need to stay on those ladders with hammer and swords in hand until God’s work is completed.

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man checking watch

Oh, the Waiting Places You’ll Go

Man checking watch

According to theFactSite.com, the average person will spend five years waiting in line and an additional six months waiting on stoplights. In Dr. Seuss’s book, Oh the Places You Can Go, there are a couple of pages dedicated to The Waiting Place. Reading to the boys, I would switch to a monotone voice and list out all the things for which people wait. By the end, I’d exhale a deep sigh, and the boys would be slumping in the rocking chair, begging to turn to the next page. How do we reclaim our waiting time? How do we turn our stalled moments, especially during a pandemic, into preparing?

Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.

Dog laying

Newton’s first law was created to apply to physics, but it applies to people also. People at rest tend to stay at rest, whereas people in motion tend to stay in motion. I can see this in my boys and their friends. The ones who’ve been kicking back and sleeping in during their “second” summer no longer desire to hang out, leave the house, or pursue activities. Complacency has set in. I’ve had to force my boys to get up at our usual waking time, workout, and stay active, or they default to all-video-games-all-day mode. The challenge is to get them moving. They need to stay in mental and physical shape, or they will fall behind, and life will catch them unprepared.

 “it’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.” – Bear Bryant

The apostle Paul had to do a lot of waiting. He spent two years in jail in Caesarea, and two years under house arrest in Rome. However, Paul didn’t sit idle. He wrote a good chunk of the New Testament during this period. And then there was the time he was shipwrecked on the island of Malta. If Dr. Seuss had a page in his book for Malta, it would have been The Stuck Place. We’ve all been there—stuck between jobs, careers, relationships. Many of us are there now, stuck sheltering in place. But this is not the time to waste.

There’s no time to wait. Act now, while the offer still lasts! – practically every infomercial

While stuck in Malta, Paul didn’t sit on his hands. He saw an opportunity to convert the natives. Waiting not only is an opportunity to strengthen and equip ourselves. It’s a chance to relook at how we’ve done things. Scrap the old habits that are bad for us or aren’t working and try something new. Ready our hearts so we can be on our mark, get set, and go to the new thing God is preparing for us.

start of running race

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woman relaxing on couch

Brand New Possibilities

Woman relaxing on couch

It’s never a good time to be inconvenienced, but often it’s worth it. I can’t tell you how many nights I’d be exhausted and looking forward to getting the kids in bed so I could slump down on the couch and veg. I’d be the drill sergeant hurrying them to brush their teeth, put pajamas on, and say their prayers. I’d turn off the light, kiss them on the cheek, tiptoe to the door, and then I’d hear, “Mama?”

I often considered pretending not to hear so I could walk out and join my husband, who’d somehow escaped to our couch oasis, but my convictions always stopped me. I’d pause and say, “Yes?” and that’s when my son would ask one of those stop-the-tape questions: “Does God answer all of our prayers?” “Why do some kids think we shouldn’t step on ants because then we’ll become one in their next life?” Or “Why doesn’t everyone go to heaven?”

Unprepared as I was with my brain mush and my body ready to collapse, an opportunity beckoned. Even though everything in me begged for the couch, I sat down on his bed and was able to have some fantastic conversations. For instance, my oldest asked if he could pray for anything and then proceeded to ask God to make him taller than his younger brother (which led to a talk about God’s answer isn’t always yes). Sometimes my boys gave me revelations I hadn’t considered, like my youngest telling me he couldn’t wait to go to heaven so he could breathe underwater. When I questioned why he thought that, he told me, “Well, there’s no death in heaven, so that means we can breathe underwater.” I told him we’d find out when we got there.

Often, we have to pass on comfort to embrace an opportunity.

Over the last few months, life has gotten significantly harder. We can’t go to certain places without a mask. We can’t interact like we used to. We can’t even walk in specific directions. We might be exhausted and fed up and hoping to get back to the comfy couch of our pre-pandemic lives, but this is when we need to have our ears open for “Mama?” Right now, our neighbors, friends, and family members are having questions. The world has become an uncertain place, but we can be their blessed assurance. We can be peace during the pandemonium. We can be hope in desperation.

deer with ears listening

God is doing a new thing, but we must be listening to perceive it. Even if inconvenienced, our hearts must be ready and willing for new possibilities.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19

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Feet hanging off bed

Essential to a Good Night’s Sleep

feet hanging off bed

Per the sleep industry, the key to great night’s rest lies in the proper mattress: foam mattresses that conform to your body supporting it in all the right places, innerspring mattresses for even firmness, or hybrids that have both spring and foam for the best of both worlds. Yet, a new Consumer Report study shows 68 percent of Americans (an estimated 164 million people) struggle to sleep at least one night each week, if not more.

We can have the best mattress, a pillow that puts us in the proper alignment, and sheets made out of cotton from Giza, but if there’s unrest in our thoughts, then we won’t sleep well. Take King Darius, as King of Babylon. He had the best quality of everything. However, the night Daniel spent in the Lion’s Den, the king tossed and turned, probably yanking the silk sheets along with him, and beating the pillow to fluff it up. However, his thoughts kept turning to the awful vision of Daniel being torn to shreds.

Daniel, on the other hand, stayed the night on the hard floor of a cave with pacing lions, yet he sounded well-rested and chipper the following morning. His first words to the king were, “May the king live forever!” He then explains how an angel of the Lord shut the mouths of the lions (Daniel 6:21-22).

King Darius might have had all the outer workings for a good night’s sleep, but he didn’t have the inner peace. He relied on his wisdom, power, and abilities, whereas Daniel trusted God. After discovering he’d been tricked into sending his friend to certain death, King Darius made every effort until sundown to find a way to save Daniel. At sunset, when no solution presented itself, he had no choice but to execute the punishment of his decree and lost sleep over it.

Lion with open mouth

I’m guilty of mulling over problems, waking up, and stressing over a solution that I, too, cannot find. I think, like King Darius, that it is my responsibility, and in my power, to fix it. I take on the burden, and my sleep suffers. I worry if my boys will get back home okay. I worry about work and if my projects will get done in time. I worry if the world is going to be okay. And there are plenty more fears waiting next in line.
When will I learn I’m not capable of holding the lion’s mouths closed with my bare hands?

It’s the nights, where instead of worrying, I release my grip and give my problems to God that I find rest. When I allow Him to close the lions’ mouths, I sleep well, leaving it in His control.

There is no problem too big for an all-powerful God, nor a worry too small that He doesn’t notice.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” – Matthew 6:26-27

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