Lorri Dudley

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

Tag: Courage

woods

Beware the Woods

Woods

In golf, when a ball is hit into the woods, it usually spells trouble. Either the player takes a penalty, or they try to drive it out of the briars, leaves, trees, and other obstacles.

Stay out of the woods

I say it to my kids all the time: one because I don’t want them getting lost, two because of deer ticks, and three poison ivy.

In fairy tales, a forest is usually a place of false security. It provides shelter, but unknowns lurk in the shadows. Hansel and Gretel were left in the woods because their parents had no food but discovered a gingerbread house owned by a witch who wanted to eat them. A huntsman hid Snow White in the woods to save her from her wicked stepmother, but it wasn’t long before the witch fed her a poison apple. Little Red Riding Hood strolls through the woods taking a basket of goodies to her grandmother and happens upon a wolf who deceives her and eats Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother for lunch.

Dark eerie path in the woods

Beware the woods.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the beauty of the woods. I take my boys out there for hikes. However, I have a healthy respect for the forest. I stick to the safe areas and to stay on the right path. I know to coat with bug spray and what leaves to avoid.

“The forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.” 2 Samuel 18:8

In 2 Samuel chapters 16 through 18, Absalom had just absconded with the throne. His good looks and politicking at the gate had given him the power he desired, and he used it to send his father, King David, scurrying for the hills. Still riding the high of the win, Absalom sent his men into the woods after David to finish the battle.

Beware the false sense of security.

The woods may seem harmless. It may even offer some protection. The forest was probably the last on Absalom’s list of concerns. That is until his hair got caught on a limb, and he hung there unable to free himself like a lamb waiting for the slaughter. Joab heard of his defenselessness and ran him through with a javelin, despite King David’s instructions not to hurt his son.

What may seem insignificant might lead you down the wrong path.

The acronym is SID, small insignificant decision, and represents something that seems mundane or harmless but over time leads to substantial problems or death. For instance:

Saying, “just this once,” or “no one will know.”

Buying that outfit or electronic device before you have the funds.

Your friends saying, “it’s okay,” but your gut doesn’t.

A little innocent flirting.

One of my favorite sermons on love, sex, and dating by Andy Stanley of Northpoint church discusses the Right Person Myth. Here’s a quick synopsis: A man or woman believes they’ve found Mr. or Mrs. Right and get married. After the honeymoon phase has passed, they wake up to the sound of their crying baby, roll over with morning breath, argue whose turn it is to get up, and start to second guess whether they truly married the right person. Then one day they’re at the gym or work, and the actual Mr. and Mrs. Right shows up. A little innocent flirting leads to them leaving their spouse and marrying the true Mr. or Mrs. Right only to wake up one morning, roll over to their 2nd spouse who also has morning breath, and argue. Rinse and repeat.

If you can’t stay on the path, then stay out of the woods.

We all have weaknesses. It’s good to evaluate them and in those areas give yourself a wide margin. I realize this is easier said than done, but if you struggle with drinking, don’t meet your friends at a bar. If your marriage is having issues, don’t go hanging out with a group of divorcees. If you’re in financial straits, don’t go for a walk in the mall. Keep the margin wide enough that if you slip-up you’re still so far from crossing the line that it’s easy to ask forgiveness and begin again.

Pray for wisdom to see the warning signs way up the road, and the courage to follow the right path.

And, if you have strayed deep into the woods, remember that God is a great redeemer. You can never wander so far that he cannot reach you and draw you back under the shelter of his wings.

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Annunciation stained glass window at St. Mary's Holdingford, MN

Courage in the Unknown

“I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” 

Those Valiant words came from the lips of a young virgin during a time when there were so many consequences for an unmarried pregnant womanAnnunciation-Stained glass window at St. Mary's in Holdingford, MN. I wonder if Mary considered whether Joseph might divorce her for being with child? Did she have any inkling that she would travel a great distance while nine months pregnant on a donkey without a place to sleep? God told her she would give birth to not only a son but to a savior but did she even conceive of the idea that her son would not be accepted by this world. That he would be beaten and crucified, and she would watch him die?

I’m a gasp-out-loud sort of person, especially during a movie when a truck comes out of nowhere and slams into a person. I jump and suck in a loud gasp. Sometimes I’ll grab the hand or knee of the person next to me in a tight grip. It’s my natural shock reaction to the unexpected moment. It might be because uncertainty puts the fear of God into me, even for good things like vacations, surprise parties, and heaven.

Yes, even heaven. I’m excited to go there someday, and I know heaven is an amazing place with no more pain, or tears, or death. It has singing, laughter, and streets of gold. However, a part of me wisHeaven's opening sky imagehes to see travel brochures showing the houses with many rooms Jesus has prepared for us. Or, a panoramic spread displaying God’s light glinting off the streets of gold. Or, maybe images of the river of life’s crystal waters flowing from God’s throne down by the fruit-laden limbs and strong roots of the tree of life (Revelation 22: 1-2).

With these Biblical descriptions, the unknown can still be scary even if it’s a good unknown.

Yet, here was Mary whom the angel Gabriel approached and said that she, a virgin, would be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceive a child. Mary heard all this and said, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:26-38)

I’d hate to think of my response. Assuming I didn’t run screaming from the room at the surprise of seeing an angel, I probably would have either said, “You want me to what now?” or “I think you have the wrong address. Check with Natalie next door.”

Are we ready for God’s opportunities? Are our hearts prepared to say, I am the Lord’s servant, may your word be fulfilled?

The Christmas season is a primer to ready us with anticipation. Our eyes, ears, and hearts should have their antenna up for opportunities to show God’s love and spread joy. It’s easy to follow the known family Christmas traditions, but what is God stirring up in your heart this Christmas?

Is shopping, decorating, sending cards, and other busyness overshadowing the prompting to do something nice for that Scrooge - 1984 Actor George C. ScottScrooge in your life? You know, the one person you want to avoid, but God keeps bringing him or her to the forefront of your mind. Are you valiant enough to say, yes Lord, the way Mary did?

It can be scary to reach out to someone who may not be receptive or whose reaction could range anywhere from mild disinterest to an explosive diatribe. But, if God is tugging upon your heart to do something nice for that person, don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you.

Through Mary, God blessed the world. We might not be ready for that pressure, but we can start with one.

In the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone.”

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