Lorri Dudley

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

Tag: Hope

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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child's surprised face

God Never Gasps

Surprised face

While we panic and run out to stock up on toilet paper because we didn’t see this pandemic coming, we can be reassured God did. God is all-knowing. There are no surprises for Him.

 In October of 2001, I remember sitting at my desk and the phones not ringing for months. The world was still in shock after the 9-11 terrorist attack, and commerce had shut down. My husband and I had just purchased our first home, and his business was still in the toddler stages. No phone calls meant no customers, which meant no income to pay the new mortgage or other incoming bills.

To quote Dickenson, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

I say this because it was the 9-11 realization that evil existed in the world and it was trying to kill us that drove my husband and myself to find God. We warily stepped into church seeking answers, hope, and connection, and God met us at the door like an old friend with open arms.

God didn’t create the terrorist attack, nor did he create the coronavirus, but He will use it for His good. As I look back, I can see how his hand has been preparing things within my sphere of influence behind the scenes.

  • Within the last year, my church felt compelled to launch an online campus. With Massachusetts not allowing gatherings over 25 people, we were able to hold church at home.
  • A year ago, I started writing The Merchant’s Yield, which has a main character who struggles to release the fear of sickness and death to God after moving to an island where disease is prevalent. Little did I know how relevant it would be today, and I’m praying it will get into the hands of people who need encouragement and the message that we can’t live in fear.
  • In the past six months, my husband took on the financial costs of hiring a Chaplin service for our employees who needed prayer, and it has been utilized significantly, especially recently.  

Could these be coincidences? Perhaps. But, then I remember how Jesus stood whipped and beaten to the point of death. He’d been nailed to a cross, experiencing a pain I can’t even imagine, but He called out to the disciple John, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27). While His lifeblood was being poured out for us, He was arranging for the care of his mother, Mary.

God is working. He knows every detail, every need. He doesn’t drop the ball. Evil may work to create chaos, but God turns all things around for His good (Romans 8:28).

We need to seize the opportunity. Now is the time to text, call, or use social media to reach out to those who are scared. We have a chance to be the hands and feet of Christ. God has prepared us for this moment. Fear may rule them, but we know God is in control. The world craves the peace we have, and God has given us an opening to talk freely about our eternal perspective. Now’s our chance to checkmate evil.

“For we are to God, the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” – 2 Corinthians 2:15

Hands holding earth

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There’s More to Life Than This.

After the age of twenty-one, our bodies begin to die.

I first heard this morbid declaration from one of my college professors. I remember it clearly because I had just turned twenty-one. My friend, who was nineteen leaned in and said, “Stinks to be you.”

Elderly Man who looks strangly similar to my college professor

My professor wasn’t crazy. Research shows starting at around age twenty our cells don’t sequence the way they used to in the past (How we age, The Scientist, March 2015). Think of our cell reproduction in terms of a photocopy. If you keep photocopying the original, you end up with decent copies, but if you photocopy a photocopy and then photocopy that photocopy, the quality goes down significantly. The nice term for this process is called aging.

So, what do we do when most of us still have another three-quarter of our lives to go? Do we fall into a funk? Do we long for the good old days back when our skin was still tone, and our bodies didn’t ache? Do we invest oodles of money in products and programs promising to reverse the aging process?

Can’t we get more out of life?

Absolutely! In Philippians 3: 20-21 (AMP) Paul says, “But [we are different, because] our citizenship is in heaven. And from there we eagerly await [the coming of] the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who, by exerting that power which enables Him even to subject everything to Himself, will [not only] transform [but completely refashion] our earthly bodies so that they will be like His glorious resurrected body.”

Don’t focus on the shell. Instead, nourish the seed. 

growing plant held in hand

In Genesis, Adam and Eve were formed in God’s perfect image, but then the fall of man happened (when Adam and Eve ate the apple), compound that with time, and you now have bodies that are corrupted, sinful, and weakened. Our bodies all have an expiration date. However, like the seed from a tree, new life lies within the old shell. Thanks to Jesus, we can believe that someday we will shed this dying shell and be clothed in a new glorious body.

Less of me and more of Jesus

While the world (especially commercials) concentrates on the exterior, God is growing and developing us spiritually. He is making us into His likeness. Romans 12:2 states, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Since the day my professor made that statement, another 20 years have passed. I now have a few smile lines and some gray hairs poking through, but I wouldn’t change my appearance if it meant losing the work God has done in my heart during that time. I’m still a work in progress, but God is making me into a new person, one with more grace, patience, and love than the old me.

Maybelline can’t do miracles, but God can. 

Be excited for our future, because we will be made new. When the day comes, and these earthly bodies have hit their expiration, we’ll slip out of these old rags and get down in our new garbs.

“And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,[a]including the new bodies he has promised us.” –  Romans 8:23 (NLT)

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Water drops splashing

Clean Behind Your Ears

“Did you wash behind your ears and neck?” my grandmother always Earasked before she squeezed me and kissed me there. I’d have a moment of panic knowing I’d probably forgotten. Sometimes, it was because I was in a hurry or too tired or lazy. On occasion, it was a willful act of defiance because I didn’t want to come in from playing when all my friends were still outside enjoying themselves.

It never seemed like a big deal until we’d visit my grandmother. I knew she was going to brush back my hair and perhaps find dirt. If she did, she never mentioned it. She kissed every square inch until I was squirming from the ticklish sensation.

Her kisses filled me with the hope that there is a love greater than my hidden dirt.

God’s love is like that. He sees our rebelliousness, our hidden sins. Yet, He loves us anyway. Enough to leave heaven and become human so that we might understand the extent of His love.

Back around the time of Jesus’s birth, the Israelites were waiting and praying for someone to save them from the tyrannical Roman rulers. God offered something even better—hope. It came in the unexpected form of a baby with a supernatural love to save us from our sins.

Hope is knowing that this isn’t all there is.

There is more to life than this moment.

Hope is a savior born who didn’t just come to save the day but to save us for all time.

water splashingHe washes us clean even the hidden dirt behind our ears and on the backs of our necks. He sets our eyes not on this world but on the one that is to come — one where we will have new bodies free of pain, where there are no tears, and where death has been vanquished.

That is our hope, born on Christmas day – not save from temporary troubles but to save us from our sins for all time and to give us eternity with Him. Hope is in the one who was, and is, and is to come because God is love (1 John 4:8).

“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12

 

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Woman indoor rock climbing

How Are You Anchored?

I was suspended in air. Literally not figuratively. My feet floated about a foot above the ground. I clutched the rope in a death grip as I dangled, knowing if I let go my husband would plummet to the ground.

When we first got married, I wanted to take ballroom dancing lessons. My husbandWoman indoor rock climbing is a good negotiator, so he agreed but on the condition that I’d take indoor rock climbing classes. It was a fair deal, and even though rock climbing was intimidating, I found it to be a lot like the game Twister but hanging off the side of a wall. We had a couple of lessons, and everything was going great. The instructor even decided it was time we climbed on our own.

By the time I noticed my mistake, it’s was too late.

My husband reached the top of the thirty-foot wall and signaled he was ready to repel down. I tightened my grip on the ropes and yelled back to go ahead. He released his hold and leaned back in a trust fall.

I jerked into the air like a rag doll only to come to a jarring stop as the anchor caught. My feet pedaled air, and I quickly realized what I’d done wrong. There are three slots one can hook into on the anchor rope. This important rope secures you to the ground so that when a smaller person, like myself, partners up with a big  6’3” male, we don’t go flying to the ceiling while our partner crashes to the ground. The three slots are for basically, tall, medium, and small. I should have hooked into the small, but unknowingly, I inserted my carabiner into the tall loop.

My husband instantly knew something was wrong, probably because he expected a nice easy descent but instead he dropped two feet before slamming to a halt. “Everything okay, babes?” he asked.

“Everything’s fine,” I said in a tight voice and smiled, hoping he wouldn’t notice I was suspended in air.

I eased the rope between my gloved fingers. Once his feet touched the ground, mine did also.

We laugh about it now, or at least I do. He may still my shake his head at me. But it goes to show how important it is to have a proper anchor.

Anchor“This hope [Jesus] is a safe anchor for our souls. It will never move.” – Hebrews 6:19 (NLV)

Without a proper anchor we all are like rag dolls being jerked around by our emotions, trends, and what the world tells us will make us happy. When we anchor into the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, life is no longer happening to us. It’s happening for us. We gain peace, clarity, and purpose.

When we aren’t anchored to a firm foundation, it’s easy to drift and be tossed about. When my boys leave for school, I often say, “Remember whose child you are.” If they don’t know to whom they belong or what they stand for and against, then they can be easily persuaded by whims, their friends, and charismatic adults. I want them grounded in the Rock of Ages, not grasping for earthly things that moths and rust can destroy (Matthew 6:19-20).

If you are going through motions, feeling lost, or floundering adrift, seek Jesus. But, don’t just haphazardly clip into Him like I hooked my carabiner into that anchor. Seek Him with a ready and open heart. In Jeremiah 29:13, God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Stop wandering aimlessly through life. God has a purpose and a plan for your life. His foundation is secure, and He’s waiting for your knock upon His door.

Let Him be your anchor.

Meme with anchor. 2nd verse of "My Hope is Built on Nothing Less."

Woman's praying hands

The Perfect Way of Unanswered Prayers

“Did you ever wish you had a girl?”Woman's praying hands

I froze, ornament in hand suspended midway to the tree. My middle son peered at me, his eyes seeking an answer. His question drew the attention of my youngest, and they both stared at me with unblinking eyes.

Was this one of those questions that could impact them for the rest of their lives? I could picture them lying on a couch addressing a future psychologist, “The reason I can’t hold a job or have a family is that my mother really wanted a girl.”

I am a girl, and it’s natural to want what’s familiar to you, but thankfully, we don’t always get what we want.

I hung the ornament on a limb and turned to face them with an honest answer. “At one point, yes. I thought having a girl like myself might be fun, but God had a better plan. God knew what I wanted before I realized it myself. He knew that as soon as I met you, you would be the ones I wanted, and so I’m very thankful that God went with His plan and not mine.”

Later that same night, as we were setting the table, my youngest poured the milk and asked me, “Did you have a boyfriend before Dad?”

I set a plate down and wondered what was it about today that had them asking all these questions. “Yes, I dated some boys in school.”

His eyes grew big and solemn. “Did dad know?” He whispered the words as if I’d been cheating.

Holy moly, I needed to be very clear. “No, no, no. I hadn’t met your dad yet.”

“Did you break up with them?” he asked.

“Well, some I did, but some broke up with me.”

“If you didn’t want to break up, did you want to marry them?”

Dinner could have been burning on the stove, but I wouldn’t have cared. It was one of those rare, amazing moments when you hold your child’s complete attention. I inhaled a deep breath. “At the time, I had wanted things to work out, but I’m very, very, grateful that God didn’t answer those prayers. He knew there was a better man for me—your dad.” I smiled. “God’s ways are higher than our ways. If I had married one of those men, then I wouldn’t have had you.”

I searched my son’s eyes for an indication that my elderly wisdom might have registered.

“How did the other boyfriends break up with you?” He smiled a mischevious grin. ​

Maybe it would sink in later.

All those questions reminded me to be grateful that God hadn’t answered my prayers. Back then, I had wondered where God was, why he hadn’t responded. I My boys sitting togethermourned the loss of what my mind had conceived, but God was patient with me and forgiving. All the while he was maneuvering the pieces of his puzzle into place to form a bigger picture. Looking back, I see his fingerprints everywhere. And, if I had one prayer now, it would be that my own children wouldn’t try to force the pieces of the puzzle together. That they would trust in God’s plan and relinquish their own. Psalm 18:30 says it best, “As for God, His way is perfect.”

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

Hand holding a young plant

If a Seed can Bloom 30,000 Years Later, Hope Remains.

Biologists found a fossilized seed of the narrow-leafed campion plant dating back Narrow-leaf campion bloomed 30,000 years laterfrom the Ice Age. It lay frozen in a squirrel burrow in the Siberian permafrost. Using growth hormones, scientists were able to revitalize the plant, and it bloomed over 30,000 years later in the future of today.

We have a small garden in our backyard. My family loves to plant corn, not only because they enjoy the fruit (or vegetable), but because the green shoots appear soon after planting them. Initially, the kids are all excited to plant the garden. They get out the trowel and the seed packets and start digging. The soil is patted down and watered with great care for the next few days. Then, the wait gets to them, and they lose interest. That’s usually when the corn shoots begin to pop up, and their excitement is renewed. Unfortunately, not all seeds are like corn. Some take longer than others, and it’s harder to keep up the enthusiasm when it appears like nothing is happening.

In this day and age, everything is instant. Did you know that there are microwave directions for Pop Tarts? As if the two minutes in the toaster takes much too long. When my children were younger, I had the realization of how on-demand our society had become when my kids would yell from the other room, “Mama, commercials,” so I could fast forward to their cartoon.

I’ll admit, patience is not my strong suit. I’m an amazon prime member so I can get two-day delivery. I love to use the drive-thru, I rent on-demand movies, and I don’t know what I’d do without my smartphone with its instant access to the internet, contact lists, email, music, google maps, etc. It’s made me much more efficient. Yet some things in God’s kingdom are not like the corn seed. It takes a lot of love, care, and great perseverance before it will come to pass.

Sowing takes effort, but reaping takes patience. I always think about the father of the prodigal son. How many days did he go out into that field? How long did he stare off into the horizon hoping to see his son’s figure trudging over the hill?

Hand holding a young plantJust because we can’t see anything happening doesn’t mean it won’t. You can’t see the seed taking root once it’s planted. Some people are like corn and germinate quickly. Others take longer (hopefully not as long as the narrow-leafed campion). Sometimes God is still preparing their hearts. Sometimes our prayers, displays of love, or testimonies are needed to cultivate the soil. Sometimes, God hasn’t released His spirit, but when He does, it will do more than we can possibly imagine. It says in Galatians 6:7b “You will always harvest what you plant” and in 6:9, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

Whatever plants, dreams, hopes, and people you are waiting to bloom, do not give up. Do not get discouraged. Keep praying, keep cultivating the soil. Wait patiently for the harvest for it will be bountiful.

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The Rocks that become our Stepping Stones

Sometimes our weakest moments can become our solid foundation. What was one of my darkest days has become the backbone of my faith. My youngest son just received the award for Most Improved Student of the Year. I don’t mention this to brag (well, I am a proud mama) but more to honor my son before I reference his struggles.

I was the art teacher at a Christian Academy where all three of my sons attended. As I cleaned up the watercolor trays and wiped down the desks, the principal (also my dear friend and still is to this day) sat me down and told me that my youngest son needed to leave the academy because he was too much of a distraction to the other kids. Three years prior, I’d had a comparable conversation to remove my oldest child for similar reasons.

I tried to put on a good face, but it stole my equilibrium. I was a leader in the church whose children had been kicked out of school. What did that say about me? What did that say about my parenting skills? Did I not raise them properly? Did I not work with them enough? Discipline them enough? Had I ruined them?

All these questions pierced my heart like arrows. And to make matters worse, my husband happened to be away at a conference, so I didn’t have his strength to draw upon. I needed a good cry, but I didn’t want my kids to see how upset I was and/or think I was disappointed in them, so I took them to the movies. While they watched Wreck it Ralph, I bawled my eyes out silently in the dark next to them. The next day, I went about getting through the day. But occasionally, I locked the door to my room curled up into the fetal position and cried more. Why God? I kept asking, but I was too upset to listen. I was lost in my own pity party.

But God saw my tears. The following morning we had church. I was at the front door when a woman I hadn’t seen in a while stopped and said she’d dreamed about me the previous night, that I’d been crying and was really sad, but that she could help me.

I was dumbfounded.

I immediately teared up. I didn’t want to break down right there at the front door of the church, so I called her later that afternoon and explained my story. She told me her daughter had also been asked to leave school (a different academy) and recommended a place for my son. What filled me with hope was that her daughter had turned out normal—better than normal.

Some people may think this was coincidental. It’s not easy to explain the emotional depths to which God cared to go to pull me out of the pit I felt I’d fallen into. Looking back now having a child kicked out of school isn’t a catastrophic event, no one died, the world didn’t stop turning. But the very same God who put the earth on its axis cared enough to take the time to speak to me. He who holds the stars in place cared about little-old-me to send me hope to get through my tough time.

Now, whenever my faith wanes or doubts creep in I remember what God did for me. It renews my faith and restores my hope. I rehearse my darkest day now as a reminder of how great God’s love is for me.

I am not special. God holds that same love for you. A love that will leave the other ninety-nine sheep to find the one that is lost or struggling.

It is an amazing love.

An awesome love.

And you are at its center.

“Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege.” Psalm 31:21

my boys 2018 sitting together on couchPersonal Note: I am so grateful to God for my three wonderful boys. For those of you who may have wiggly, ants-in-their-pants, think-out-side-the-box, children or grandchildren, I hope this is an encouragement for you. All three of my boys are doing much better in school. They are maturing and discovering ways to keep their focus. I’m also grateful for the Christian academy who went above and beyond to try to work with my kids. They received a strong spiritual foundation that shows in their heart for God.

If you know of anyone who may be encouraged by this, please share it. And, if you’d like to sign up for my e-newsletter with these weekly posts along with funny related videos, writing samples, and updates, please click here: Lorri’s e-newsletter.

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