Lorri Dudley

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

Tag: fear

Architect, designer, and builder meeting over blueprints

The Rebuild Starts Today

Architect, designer, and builder meeting over blueprints

“The rebuild starts today” is the attitude my husband has taken for his businesses. It may be a bit early, but it changes the mindset to start planning for how we’re going to come out of this pandemic. For two weeks, it feels like we’ve been ostriches sticking our heads in the sand. Perhaps it’s time to raise our heads. It’s never too early to strategize about available options and develop a foundation to rebuild, maybe with a new perspective.

Ostrich

How often before March 15th, when asked, “How are you?” did we respond, “busy”?  The world was running, running, running, and then abruptly stopped. In An Echo in the Darkness part of the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers (one of my favorite series), the mother of the hero has a stroke and can no longer talk. Her life changes overnight. No longer a prominent matriarch of Roman society, God reaches her through this suffering and uses it as an opportunity to redirect her focus to pray for the spiritual salvation of her misguided daughter.

It’s time for us to raise our heads and see the opportunities God is creating for us. Maybe we should acknowledge the new shift in priorities. How are we using the extra family time we didn’t have before the pandemic? Or if living alone and can’t see friends, maybe God is giving us a chance to pray more or read our Bible.

Many of us have been glued to the news channels, following what’s going to happen next, which only tends to be bad news, followed by more bad news. In Philippians 4:8, the Bible tells us to dwell on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Easter changes the direction of focus from death to new life. The stone was rolled away. The tomb lay empty. Jesus rose from the dead. This is our opportunity to also rise from the monotony of our deadened mindsets. We hold a chance to be renewed with life.

three crosses at sunset

Let me back up a bit to Philippians 4:1. Paul reminds us to stand firm in the Lord. Not relax, sit, or lie, but to stand firm. In Philippians 4:2, he begs for unity—to be of the same mind in the Lord—not turning on each other, bickering, or nitpicking, but let your gentleness be evident to all (Philippians 4:5).

In 4:4, Paul tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” But then he makes it a point to repeat himself to drive it home, “I will say it again, rejoice.” At Easter, we have so much for which to be joyful. The world may shake with fright, but we know Jesus has risen from the dead, and the grave no longer has a hold over us.

We have hope because we have a good God. We don’t need to fear because we have a great God.

In Philippians 4:6, it says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” We don’t need to worry. Because God commands it, we can toss anxiety away like that moldy leftover smelling up the fridge. Instead, through prayer and praise, we can tell God what has been on our minds, and in Philippians 4:7 God promises that His peace, “which transcends all understanding,” will guard our hearts and minds.

So, rise and rejoice, Easter is here!

Happy Easter and flowers

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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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Man cringing

Fear – Keeping Your Wits When Your Brain’s not Being Rational

Comic drawing of a man cringing in fear

I have an irrational fear of spiders. Before my brain can rationalize that I’m ten times bigger than the hideous, eight-legged, creepy-crawly, I’m screaming as if I’d seen the boogieman. I can’t run because if I take my eyes off the spider, it could disappear. So I track its jiggly movements, yelling for my husband to get over here and kill it.

Tarantula

Someone thought a great gift would be a remote-control tarantula for my boys. My oldest child camouflaged the spider on my black office chair. I pulled out my seat, and the motion swayed the tarantula’s legs in the eerie pattern spiders move. I belted out a scream that could shatter window panes, and in my haste to run, I tripped over my husband’s office chair. I swear there were claw marks in the carpet as I scrambled to evade the hideous monster about to jump on me and suck my blood. The boys got a good laugh.

Fear wipes out common sense.

It sends us into a panic where we’ll do unreasonable things. It also tricks us into trying to create a safe environment, shutting out people, potential, and opportunities. Our world becomes smaller, and we soon become an inmate in a prison of our making.

Fear consumes a person, keeping us from seeing the truth.

“Fear not” or “do not be afraid” is mentioned in the Bible roughly 365 times. That’s one for every day of the year. Why would God need to tell us not to be afraid so many times? I believe it’s because when we let fear rule us, we lose our ability to reason. It takes a lot more rational to get through to us, but God will go to great lengths, even repeating it 365 times if that’s what it takes.

Fear shouldn’t rule us.

2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a good mind.” Fear isn’t a part of us. We’re not stuck with it. We have the ability to live free from its chains.

Hand fear an eviction notice.  

1 John 4:4 says, “the One Who lives in you is stronger than the one who is in the world.” God is greater than any evil in this world. We must renounce fear and hand it over to God. This sounds easy, except for the control element. We’ll often hold onto our distress because we don’t want to relinquish control. We start the litany of what-ifs. What if we hit a recession? What if my son or daughter needs me? What if I make a fool of myself? What if the spider pounces…? We choose to hold tight what little control we have over the situation, instead of giving our fear to God.

Put fear into perspective

Psalm 116:8 “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Are we worried about what people will think or about how people will react? Is people-pleasing more important to us than God’s approval? If we are doing God’s will, then our fears don’t stand a chance, but we must remain calm so we can see clearly. Most of the time, the things we worry about don’t even come to fruition.

Please note: I write all this as a work in progress. Here’s an update on my spider progress – My husband will attest to me being able to see a spider and hold in my scream. I’ve even killed a few on my own.

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Heartstopper – How to Defeat Fear

A knock sounded on the front door, and I frantically dialed my husband’s cell phone. My heart stopped when it rang on the stand next to me. I usually don’t call my husband in a panic whenever someone comes to the front door, but the power had gone out ten minutes earlier. The scent of pine from the Yankee Candle we’d lit hadn’t even permeated the air. My husband had left for a meeting, and so we were alone in the dark. I hadn’t been expecting anyone.

The kids ran into open view excited to see who was visiting. I practically tackled them in my attempt to pull them out of the sight of our glass door. “Get back.” I waved them into the kitchen.

The knock sounded again.

My heart pounded in my ears louder than the cars that crank the base as they pass by my house late at night. Three little sets of curious eyes stared at me. “Who is it, Mommy?”

I raised a finger to my lips to hush them. Whoever was outside needed to know they picked the wrong time to come knocking. I would defend my children to my dying breath. I yelled out in my loudest voice. “I’m calling the police!”

Silence.

Several minutes passed without a sound. I started to breathe again. The kids whispered to each other. Their volume increasing with each sentence.

Footsteps sounded on the porch.

My heart collapsed in on itself and dropped to my toes. I reached for a knife out of the butcher block.

Keys jingled in the lock.

The mysterious knocker had keys? 

The door opened. “I forgot my cell phone.” My husband strolled into the foyer.

I melted into a puddle on the kitchen floor. If only I’d known he was the mysterious knocker. If I’d only had the nerve to ask “Who is it?” I would have recognized his voice instantly. Instead, I panicked, and we hid. When I finally did get the nerve to say “I’m calling the police.” My husband had chosen that moment to walk back to his car to get his keys. If it had been daytime, I would have recognized his shape outside the door. But in the dark, our fears can keep us blinded.

When we operate out of fear, we are quick to attack in anger or react in defense. We don’t stop to consider what is the wise thing to do. Fear may seem prophetic when we extrapolate out the worst-case scenarios, but fear is shortsighted and has blind spots.

  • Fear of failure has a blind spot that leads to cheating on tests.
  • Fear of rejection is shortsighted and keep some from trying out for the team.
  • Fear of not being loved strangulates relationships or causes them to go too far too fast.

Like Zack William’s song says, “Fear is a liar.”

We may not be able completely to regulate our initial response. Even Jesus’s disciples struggled. When guards came to take Jesus away, Peter reacted out of fear and cut off the guard’s ear. Jesus, on the other hand, remained calm and collected and put the soldier’s ear back on.  Jesus knew the horrific torture and death he was about to face. If anyone had the right to lash out or panic, it was Jesus, but he didn’t. He trusted God’s plan.

Dr. Katherine Brownlowe neuropsychiatrist at Ohio State Wexner Medical Campus calls Peter’s reaction the “amygdala hijack.” The amygdala overrides our conscious thought to enact the fight or flight response. Even if our amygdala initially gets hijacked, we can contain our second and third reactions. We don’t have to lash out in anger with hurtful words or shut down in self-defense. We don’t have to ice someone with a cold shoulder or make hasty erroneous decisions.

If we take a moment, to check our reaction, think, and listen, we may recognize God’s voice over the lies. We can tune out fear and dial into God’s wisdom. God is in control, and he is bigger than our fears and smarter than our problems.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

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Stone art people passing a Valentine

Love Because You Are Loved

Stone art made to look like people passing a Valentine

If you hang up the phone first, then you’re in control of the relationship. I don’t know why I thought this when I first started dating. My husband and I met over summer break during college and continued to date after I went back to school five hours away. Somehow, irrationally, I got it in my head that I could protect my heart from rejection if I could be the first one to say goodnight and get off the phone. The problem was he beat me to it every time. As soon as I’d pause and say “It was good talking—” he’d jump in with, “Yeah, miss you. Talk to you soon,” and then he’d hang up.

I’d stare at the phone gritting my teeth, torn between astonishment and outrage. Anger is often a coverup for a deeper fear—which in my case was rejection. We dated long-distance for two years. In all that time, I never was able to get off the phone before him. But he continued to call and, over time, his love and devotion allayed my fears. Now, I realize just how silly I had been.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18). In my manuscripts, all of my heroines start with a fear:

  • the fear of not being good enough,
  • the fear of not being loved,
  • the fear of rejection,
  • the fear of their past defining their future,
  • the fear of lacking purpose.

We all can relate to these fears in some way because they are real-life struggles. How many of us ever …?

  • Checked our phone wondering if he or she will call you back?
  • Pushed a proposal across the table praying it will be considered?
  • Walked into the class reunion dressed to impress, hoping they won’t remember you as the dorky, shy, or strange kid from third period?

There are a hundred other scenarios. With my stories, somewhere around the midpoint to the last third, the heroine realizes she is loved. It gives her the confidence to drive out fear and leads to the happily-ever-after.

girl dressed as a princess in front of a play castle

Happily-ever-after isn’t just for fairy tales.

My husband says I won’t argue with anyone except for him, and he’s right. I like conflict in my story characters’ lives not in my own. So why would I argue with my husband? Because he loves me. His love has driven out my fear of conflict. I can argue with him knowing he’ll still love me. Most people might not find that romantic, but I do. I love my husband all the more because I have the security to speak my mind.

It is this kind of love that sets us free, not a box of chocolates, nor a bouquet of flowers (even though those are very thoughtful and much appreciated). But love is even bigger than that. We live in freedom without fear because God loves us. His love has removed the sting of death and the guilt of sin. We have confidence in the day of judgment because of Jesus’ sacrifice and his love for us. When we understand the depths of God’s love, fear shrinks back and looses it grip.

His love is so overwhelming, it fills to the brim, overflowing. Not only do we have plenty of love to give away, but we also have the confidence to do so. You’ll see Love Because You Are Loved on my website and in my emails as my tagline. It stems from 1 John 4:18 “Perfect love drives out fear,” and 1 John 4:19 “We love because He first loved us.” Because we know he has our best interest a heart, God’s love helps us relinquish the struggle for control. His love gives us freedom from fear and the courage to love one another.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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So, go ahead and love because you are loved!

Slice of Chocolate Cake

How a Slice of Cake Defeats Fear

My grandmother refused to drive a car. Today it seems virtually impossible to live without driving unless maybe you live in the city, but she lived in the suburbs, long Fear spelled in scrabble blocksbefore Uber. She tried it once. Unfortunately, she hit the gas pedal instead of the break. There was a loud crash. Metal scraped and crumpled. I can imagine my grandfather wincing before he jerked his hand through his hair and muttered under his breath. Ma Ma never got behind the wheel again.

Fear steals from you.

Now my grandmother was a wonderful woman. She had the kind of laugh that you couldn’t help but smile when you heard it. She was fun to be around and always seemed happy. I never would have guessed that she was afraid of anything, especially not driving.

Fear enslaves you.

I struggled with fear for a long time, fear of failure, fear of rejection. It kept me shy and isolated. I wouldn’t initiate talking to people. If I had to get up in front of the class or do something publically. I would practice and practice until I knew I couldn’t mess it up, until I met some level of perfection that couldn’t be mocked, laughed at, or taunted. Then, I met my college roommate. Kim was from Queens, NY, and even though she was 5’4” and barely 100lbs, she talked and acted like she was 6’6” 250lbs of sheer muscle. Kim was not afraid of anything. Somehow we hit it off immediately. She dragged me out of my dorm room and pushed me way out of my comfort zone.

Looking back, I believe God brought Kim into my life to grow me. Whatever you fear you serve, and if she hadn’t challenged me then I might still be enslaved to fear. Fear would have us believe that God’s hands are tied. That we are at the mercy of our circumstances whether it be a bad boy/girlfriend, an angry boss, or an unfavorable doctor’s prognosis. We feel stuck and snatch hold of a short-term solution to keep us afloat. When instead, we should be clinging to the God who is, in fact, able to save us. Fear tries to limit God’s capabilities. God is powerful, but this is cancer. God is powerful, but I need this now. God is powerful but …

But what?

Faith is trusting God explicitly. The human mind is plagued with doubts. Are Slice of Chocolate Cakeearthly brains cannot comprehend the possibilities of God. This is where walking by faith comes into play. I know it’s not easy. I was profoundly influenced by Karen Porter, author of I’ll Bring the Chocolate, who once spoke at a lady’s event held at my church. She said sometimes we might not have enough faith, but it is okay in those terrifying times of doubt to borrow the faith of others. She used the example of slicing off a piece of chocolate cake. Borrowing a slice of friend’s faith may be all that’s needed to keep you going. Sometimes just knowing that someone else is praying for you when you’re all prayed out is enough.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.  

~ Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

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