Lorri Dudley

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

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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/

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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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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Writing for One

woman writing at computer

Some authors print out a picture of the person they’re directing their book towards and place it next to their computer screen. When they write, they consider that person’s feelings, motivations, likes, and dislikes. It helps to write with intent and define the win. My win is to remind my readers just how much God loves them and the lengths He will go to draw them closer to Him. I don’t use a picture but I have a detailed description of who I’m writing for and why. I’ve even written a letter to this theoretical person stating why they would relate to my main character’s struggles and how they can be encouraged to seek the happily-ever-after found in the joy only God can give.

It’s a big world, but God sees you.

stadium

I’ve been fortunate enough to sit in Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA (not pictured. My photos came out horrible.). It can seat over 65,000 people. To see that many individuals in one place can be dizzying. In a way, you feel connected because you’re all there to watch the same thing, but it can also make you feel insignificant. I’ve looked around and thought, God, how can you tend to all these people? How can you hear all their prayers and still find time to listen to little ol’ me?  

It’s those times when I’m feeling irrelevant and inconsequential that God reminds me of Isaiah 49: 15-16 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” It doesn’t say He’s penciled you tentatively into His schedule or wrote a reminder in pen on his hand so he doesn’t forget (a technique I’ve been known to do). God says I have engraved your name on the palm of my hand—permanently because you mean that much to me.

God writes for one.

He has your picture on his computer. He sent His one and only son to die for you. He’ll send His Holy Spirit to dwell within your heart if you ask Him because He loves you and wants to be part of the details of your life.

God hears you, He sees you, and He never forgets you.

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pile of books

What’s Next?

I just submitted my third manuscript, The Sugar Baron’s Ring, to my editor. The temptation is to sit back and relax for a bit, take a breather, but if I do, I’ll fall behind. It’s time to start researching and plotting for the next series. The ideas are already spinning in my head, calling to be put to paper.

What’s the harm in relaxing for a bit?

Why not sit back and enjoy some rest? After all that work, isn’t it deserved? The Israelites were warned about lagging behind in Deuteronomy 25: 17-18, “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind.”  

It sounds good, but breaks have been to the downfall of many. I’ve run and co-led many church groups over the years, and I’ve learned to cringe when I hear someone say, “Let’s take a break.” It sounds like a great idea—a chance to regroup, reenergize, gain a fresh perspective—and those reasons are not wrong. However, what tends to happen is complacency creeps in, and the group never ends up regrouping. Plans fall to the wayside, while distractions keep us from our purpose.

But what about burnout?

candle burned out

It does happen. Burnout is a thing. I’ve experienced it, but it tends to happen when I take on all the weight and responsibility myself. It’s when I take my eyes off God’s purpose and start to impose my demands and expectations, that I spin myself into a frenzy and grow weary. 2 Corinthians 10:13 says, “We, on the other hand, will not boast beyond our proper limit, but [will keep] within the limits of our commission (territory, authority) which God has granted to us as a measure.” If we let God set the boundaries and our capacity, we won’t experience burnout. Right before Christmas, I had two deadlines, company coming, a book launch, the implantation of brand-new software systems at work, and still more Christmas shopping to do. When I thought about all I had to get done, I would freeze-up and panic instead of accomplishing anything. Yet, when I told myself, God always finds a way to get it all done, I relaxed, put my head down, and focused on finishing my next task. And you know what? God multiplied my time. He got it all done, and I had a great Christmas.

The view from the front is better than in the back.

When we lag behind, we not only risk getting picked off, it becomes harder to see God’s vision. But, if we keep the pace that God has set for us, our view doesn’t get blocked. There’s a lot more ahead of us to see. I’ll even go so far as to say that when we see the big picture, we won’t remember our weariness. We’ll easily keep the pace because we’ll want to get to the destination.

Spectacular view of sunrise in the mountains

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Soccer celebration

It’s Go Time!

Baby feet

My book baby is out in the world.

Let the heart palpations begin. We’ve all been there: leaving an interview, finishing a tryout, turning in an exam, hitting send on a proposal. Our nerves tingle and our stomachs flip over in hopeful trepidation.

But then the doubts creep in.

I’ve woken up at 4 am for the past four nights. I can’t say what woke me up, but as soon as I did, my brain started working overtime listing out all the things I need to do, reviewing all I’d forgotten, and berating myself for the mistakes I couldn’t reverse.

I was under attack.

Maybe it was because of the early hour, but it took me a bit to realize I didn’t need to lie there and listen to my thoughts. So, I fluffed my pillow, prayed, and left things in God’s hands.

There will be resistance to seeing your dreams fulfilled, but a bump in the road isn’t anything to a God who can move mountains. Seeing my dream in print was a long time in coming, but it was the process that challenged me to grow. I am a firm believer in learning vicariously, so here are three key things I’ve realized:

  1. It’s more effective to be the vision than just to cast the vision: It’s easy to tell others, “Don’t give up,” but the most significant impact was for my children to watch mom face adversity and to see me keep trying. They saw the tears, the stress, and the doubts but witnessed me over and over sit back down at my computer and keep typing. “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” – Proverbs 24:16
  2. Trust God despite the outcome: Whether my book flies off the shelves or sits there gathering dust, I’m going to remember what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said to King Nebuchadnezzar as they were about to be thrown into the furnace.  “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).  No matter what, I know God will work all things according to His purpose, and that’s what allows me to sleep at night.
  3. It’s the strength of others lifting you up that gives you a grand perspective: I can’t tell you how many times an encouraging email kept me writing, or my kids praying for me, or other people’s excitement that boosted my own. I will be forever grateful to all the friends, family, church members, and wonderful souls (some of who I haven’t even met face-to-face who’ve carried me on their shoulders). Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Thank you for cheering me for during those times when my legs ached, I grew winded, and the finish line seemed impossible to reach.

My race isn’t over. I may have only gone a few laps, but it’s because of you that one foot continues to move in front of the other.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and may God bless you! 

Football or American Soccer celebration

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