Lorri Dudley

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

Tag: Jesus

The Duke's Refuge book cover

It’s the Final Countdown

The Duke's Refuge book cover
Less than a month until The Duke’s Refuge will be available. Preordering for paperback copies will be available in the next few days.
Christmas Mall Shopping

The count down begins. Two weeks until Christmas. Thirteen shopping days left. Seven or less if you’re ordering online with delivery. We have our who-to-buy-for lists, a pile of Christmas Cards that we still have to run to the post office and buy stamps to mail, and presents to wrap (but the good scissors keep disappearing, and so we get desperate and start using kiddie scissors much too small for our fingers).  Then there’s always that one person for whom you forgot to purchase a gift. The one that springs up at the last minute. With a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, you dash down to the nearest store, whether it’s CVS, the grocery store, or the gas station and grab anything that looks like it might be somewhat thoughtful. You try to play it off, “Oh, well I remembered that one time when you had a hankering for Slim Jim’s, so I just wanted to make sure you never again went without.”

Christmas can be crazy and unnerving, but things haven’t changed in a couple thousand years. It was much the same the night Jesus was born.

Bethlehem bustled with people pouring into town. The census drew men, women, and children from far and wide. Relatives laid out blankets on the floors and rooftops to accommodate all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who were forced to visit by a decree of the King. Vendors worked overtime to sell their wares, not wanting to miss out on the opportunities provided by the influx of customers. Innkeepers made up beds in every alcove and crevice to accommodate guests. They were much too busy seeing to the demands of their current patrons to make room for a poor couple. Overwhelmed and understaffed, they didn’t have time to care for the needs of a teenage girl about to go into labor or notice when a messiah was born in a nearby barn.

They didn’t miss it because of their evil acts or because they were bad people.

They missed it because they were too busy.

Stained Glass Manager Scene

Life doesn’t slow down or stop around Christmas, it only gets busier, but I don’t want to miss the miracle and blessing of Christmas. I can get caught up in the demands and the hustle and bustle as much as the next person, so I have to make an extra effort to pause and remember why we celebrate. I have to set aside moments to seek God and soak in the true reason for Christmas.

A savior was born.

God took on human form with all its frailties, infirmities, and weakness, so that we could understand the depths of His love, the extreme measures He would take, and how much he would sacrifice not to be separated from His beloved children.

God stepped down from His royal throne and curled up in a dirty and dank manger, so we may call ourselves His children and know His peace and joy for all eternity

Come, Lord Jesus.
Our Immanuel
God with us.

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My fearless middle son on the jungle gym

How to Lose Control and Like It.

My daring middle son on the jungle gym.

Danger doesn’t find my kids. They seem to seek it out.

A knock sounded on the door. My kids were watching a movie upstairs (back when they were ages 7, 6, & 4) while I cooked dinner. I sighed and turned the stove down. It had to be a salesman, peddling insect yard treatments, or a person soliciting votes to run for local office. I planned to shoo them swiftly away, so I didn’t burn supper.

I swung the door open with a tight expression to find a middle-aged man nicely dressed, standing back from the door by a good distance.

“May I help you?” I said in a clipped tone.

He glanced up, then back at me and shifted his weight. “I—ah—just wanted to let you know your son and his two friends are on the roof.”

I blinked while his words registered. I felt my eyes widen, and my stomach rose into my chest. Footsteps and small voices sounded on the landing behind me. I spun around and stared up at two curious little faces peeking through the railing. My voice pitched a couple of octaves higher. “You were on the roof?”

Their smiles evaporated.

The man at the door cleared his throat, bid me farewell, and hustled back to his car. I called out my thanks, my voice, this time, sweet as pie. I should have invited him in for dinner. I should have kissed his feet for taking the time out of his busy commute to stop and tell me my children were in danger. How many other cars had seen the kids and just kept driving?

I mounted the stairs two at a time and entered my room to see the open window and screen that led to the farmer’s porch roof. I popped my head out. The concrete sidewalk below the porch loomed like a gravestone. I searched for my oldest son, but he wasn’t outside. The youngest two pointed to the bathroom.

I yelled through the door. “Were you on the roof?”

“I was in here the whole time.”

My jaw clenched as my initial panic switched over to anger, knowing my oldest was the only one who had the height and dexterity to remove the child locks from the windows. 

My boys climbing the wrong side of the stairs
My older boys climbing the wrong side of the stairs

There is only so much control we have over a situation.

I want to protect my children from harm. I do what I can to keep them safe, give them rules and boundaries, put child-locks on the windows, turn on a movie, so they’re not underfoot while I cook dinner, risking serious burns, but there was and will always be something I don’t think of, something I can’t control.

It’s this lack of control that causes me anxiety. It wakes me up in the middle of the night with my heart racing, wondering what if… why didn’t I… I should have…

The helpless feeling sucks me into a dark place. I want to hold tight to my illusion of control and think of more ways to protect my family and our wellbeing, but the problem is just that—its an illusion. There have been so many days when I’ve kneeled on the bathroom floor crying out to God. I’ve failed them. I’ve messed them up for life. I’m not qualified. I don’t know enough.

It’s those times when God speaks into my heart. My love never fails. I’m in control. I will cover your faults. I will stand in the gaps. Cast your cares on me.

God doesn’t expect me to be perfect. It’s a ridiculous pressure I’ve placed on myself. God says, Trust in me and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

I don’t know what happened to the nice man that stopped. I pray for God to bless him every time I remember this story, and I thank God that he sent him to protect my kids. Now, when I wake up in the middle of the night worried, I say a prayer for God’s protection and whisper to myself.

“God’s got this.”

My youngest stuck under the table
My youngest stuck under the kitchen table

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Crown of Bavaria

Kings Aren’t for Everyone

Crown of Bavaria

My family rented Aquaman over the weekend. One line in the movie stuck with me and instilled a new perspective on kings. Here’s the dialogue:

Mera: Atlantis has always had a king, now it needs something more.
Aquaman: What could be greater than a king?
Atlanna: A hero. A king fights only for its nation, but you fight for everyone.

Okay, so maybe a king isn’t for everyone?

Atlanna was right. Throughout history, kings have fought mostly to defend or expand their nations. European Kings rose to power due to their ability to conquer and maintain their holdings. After William the Conquer seized power in 1066 A.D., he established a feudal system in England where land was granted to Barons, who in return, offered their fidelity and service to protect the king and his country. After that, it became rare for a king to ride into battle himself. Kings sent their best warriors to fight on their behalf.

Should we hold out for a hero, instead? 

Boy dressed as superhero

We are fascinated with superheroes. Marvel Studios, the maker of the Avengers films and others, has proven our obsession regarding people with superpowers by grossing nearly 11 billion dollars in sales. Little boys dress up in capes and pretend to save the day. They dream about catching the bad guys and fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. 

What if saving the day isn’t enough?

In college, I took a world religions class. I was fascinated by all the similarities and differences between the religions. As the professor taught from a non-biased perspective, part of me wanted to stand up and yell, Don’t you see? In all these other religions, humans desperately work to sacrifice to their god or gods. They seek to earn favor, but Christianity is different. Jesus not only freely offers his love to anyone who’ll believe, but He sacrificed Himself for us, not the other way around.

A hero may save the day, but a Savior saves us for all eternity.

God didn’t send his best warriors out to fight the battle. He came himself. He assumed our fallible human form and laid down his life as a sacrifice. Out of His unfathomable love for us, he allowed himself to be beaten, mocked, and crucified during a time when the most brutal means of torture possible was used to extend the torment. He did this for us knowing our past sins, the filth of our present sins, and willful acts of sin we’d commit in the future. He bore them all and chose to die because He loves us.

Jesus stepped down from his throne, took off his superhero cape, and allowed nails to be driven into his hands.

All hail our Savior! 

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The Simple Way to Reach Forgiveness.

Far from land in off the coast of St. Thomas in the Carribean Sea, my parents were scuba diving in beautiful coral reefs with their friends. Every detail had been planned out. They’d rented a boat and hired a knowledgable captain and crew who would man the boat while they drift dived. Their friends were certified scuba diving instructors. 

What could go wrong?

My mom and dad scuba diving
My mom and dad scuba diving in St. Thomas

My parent’s first thought as they emerged after a long dive and bobbed in the waves, was where is the boat? They discovered it off in the distance and waved their arms to get the captain’s attention, but the boat never turned. It turns out, the captain and crew abandoned their posts to go lobster trapping, and in the strong current, the anchor didn’t hold.

A helpless panic settled in their stomachs. They were adrift in the ocean.

My mom says it’s the closest she’s ever come to drowning.

My dad pushed himself to the limit and eventually made it to the boat. Exhausted and completely spent, he turned the boat around and picked up my mom and the others. I’m certain the captain got an earful when my father lowered the ladder for him and his crew. The captain had messed up. He’d risked all of their lives. My life and the life of my younger brother could have been dramatically altered all because a captain wanted to eat lobster for dinner?

Thinking about it makes me angry. Fortunately, my parents lived to tell me the tale, but not everyone can say the same. How does one move past the anger, the hurt, and the pain to forgive a wrong?

REACH – is an acronym for emotional forgiveness developed by Everett Worthington of Virginia Commonwealth University.
R is for Recall – objectively remembering the hurt
E is for Empathy – understanding the person who wronged you
A is for Altruism – Remembering a time you were forgiven and offering forgiveness
C is for Committing – publically forgiving
H is for Holding on – reminding yourself that you’ve chosen to forgive despite the hurt

The A is the key to this formula—remembering what’s been done for us so we can forgive also. Jesus took our past, future, and present sins and nailed them to the cross. He forgave us so that we no longer have to bear the weight of our shame. Because of what he did for us our guilt is removed as far as the east is from the west.

Some will say, But you don’t understand the hurt… you don’t understand the pain…

Stained glass of Jesus on the cross

Jesus does. He bore the worst hurt, rejection, and pain a person can withstand, and he did it for us.

At one point or another, we’ve all been the captain, putting our desires first, not considering the consequences, making wrong decisions that affect other’s lives. We’ve messed up. But, we have a forgiving God who sees our faults and loves us anyway.

He forgives us.

The act of forgiveness is never easy, but it becomes manageable when your viewing it from the perspective of the cross.

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Magi following Star of Bethlem

Wishing You a Messy Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas stories is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robertson. I choke up every time I read about the Herdman children, a ragtag group of troublemaking siblings, who discover the true meaning of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, book cover by Barbara RobinsonChristmas while performing in a church pageant. As I read, my kids will hear my voice crack, look up, and shake their heads, “Mom, are you crying?” I’m touched by how Imogene Herdman’s veil is smudged and crooked, and Leroy Herdman, dressed as one of the Wise Men, carries in the ham given them by social services instead of the customary bowl of incense. They made the church’s lovely, traditional pageant into a messy, discombobulated event.

Which, truth be told, was much more how the real event happened.

The delivery of all of my children took place in a hospital with nurses and doctors caring for me. They all suited up for the delivery and scrubbed with sanitizer before they entered the delivery room. Mary, a teenager, gave birth in a lowly dirt floor manger among animals and straw. There were no nurses to hold her hand and tell her when to push. There was no doctor to gently guide baby Jesus into this world. He was born in a barn and slept in an animal’s water trough with sheep bleating and donkey’s neighing.

And then God’s guests appeared. Back in Jesus’s day, there was no indoor plumbing. There was no deodorant. People stank especially those that tended Shepherd and sheepafter animals like shepherds. Shepherds spent days under the hot sun and slept on the cold ground at night. After the Israelites settled in agricultural based Egypt, shepherding lost its prominent position as a trade. Sheep and goats were a threat to crops and therefore a menace to settled farmers. Shepherds were relegated to pastoring their animals only in desert areas and were shunned like tax collectors (Shepherd’s Status, Alcorn 2008). Yet, God sent an angel to invite them to be the first to meet the savior.

There is not much known about the wise men, except that they were called magi and came from the East. Historical records depict the magi as dreamers and stargazers. They sat in the presence of kings who asked their advice for Magi following Starinterpreting astrological signs, dreams, and omens. But, they didn’t know everything as seen in the story of Daniel and in Joseph. When the magi were asked to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar and the Egyptian Pharaoh’s dreams, these wise men didn’t have the answers. They were still searching. So when a bright star appeared in the night these pagan magicians felt compelled to follow it through the desert and bow down to exalt a Hebrew baby as king (Magi, Wise Men or Kings? It’s complicated. by Chad Ashby).

When I think of Jesus’s birth, it’s as if God went out of his way to make a point: Jesus came for everyone. God chose for His one and only son to be born to a teenage girl in a dirty manger. The first visitors were stinky shepherds and pagan astrologers.

If anyone ever wonders if they are good enough to be loved by God, please remember the Christmas story. God didn’t send His son just to save the righteous. Jesus is the gift of amazing grace available to anyone willing to accept the offering. God gave His son to become the light and hope for the blue-collar shepherds, the spiritually lost intellectuals, and the Herdmans of this world.

And most of all, He came for you.

Wishing you a merry and messy, Christmas, because we all need a savior.

If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, here’s a snippet from the Best Christmas Pageant Ever movie (1983) where the Herdman’s are performing the Christmas Story.
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."

Jesus and Superheroes. Jesus says, "And that's how I saved the world."

Superman Vs. Jesus

Superman was gone. The world was lost without its hero. Crime increased, citizens of the world fumbled around going through their daily routines in a daze, lost, without hope.DC Justice League movie poster

All I could think was: Superman is not the answer.

With three boys, I watch a lot of superhero movies. I’ve always been an action-flick-kind-of-gal, so I enjoy it as much as they do, but as we watched the Justice League, I couldn’t help but think how the band of superheroes may be able to do justice, but the world needs something more. They are desperate for a savior. Superman is supposed to fill this void — give them hope and life – but he doesn’t quite fit the bill.

I know it’s a fictional world, but Superman is like putting a Band-Aid on a knife wound. Superman’s greatest ability is merely strength (and laser vision, oh, and don’t forget mind reading. He gets a couple more points for those). But, he can’t truly save people, not from themselves, not from their sins, and not from death (although he may get another point for temporarily postponing it).

They need a savior. We all do.

At Easter, we get to remember what a true superhuman superhero can do. For fun, and because I like lists, I figured I’d do a compare and contrast:

SUPERMANJESUS CHRIST
Saves the daySaves the world
Lives among humansBecame human
Helps peopleHelped the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the sick heal, and the dead rise again.
Never liedNever sinned
Takes hard hits from the bad guysWas brutally tortured, mocked, and murdered
Puts himself in harm’s wayWillingly sacrificed his life
Fights for truth, justice, and the American way

 

Fights to save us from our sins which lead to death
Saves lives temporarily from deathSaves our souls for all eternity
Is superhumanIs the one and only true God

Jesus was born in a lowly manger part human, part God with a massive weight on his shoulders— to save the world from its sin. The disgusting, ugly sin that kept us apart from our Holy Creator. Religious leaders, disturbed by Jesus’s popularity with the people, did their best to trip him up and catch him sinning. They attacked him with words, and when that didn’t work, they had him arrested, beaten and hung on a cross. Jesus knew exactly the agonizing death he would undergo, but he willingly accepted it because it was the only way he could take our past sins, our present sins, and our future sins upon himself and have them die with him on the cross so that we can be made holy. In the most amazing comeback story ever written, Jesus stole the keys of death from Satan and rose on the third day from the grave. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right-hand of the Father so that all who believe in him shall share in eternal life.

Our lives may seem like we need a superhero, but what we really need is a savior. And, the best part is, he’s already come. All you have to do is pray and ask him into your heart. He will take it from there.

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Jesus and Superheroes. Jesus says, "And that's how I saved the world."

 

The Gift of Touch

Woman holding coffee and man touching her handIt’s not the first kiss scene in a romance book that sparks excitement in my chest or causes the tickling sensation in my stomach as if I’d swallowed a bunch of fuzzy caterpillars. It’s when the heroine’s fingers brush his as they both reach for the check, or when he sits down next to her and his knee rubs against her leg. My heart races when he tucks that stray lock of hair behind her ear or she feels the heat of his fingers as they encircle her waist. It’s the small touches between the hero and the heroine beforehand that warms my insides with anticipation.

What is it about a mere touch that can stir such strong emotion?

Touch is crucial to thriving. Studies have shown that babies born premthree boys laying on floor next to each otheraturely will thrive quicker when they have skin-to-skin contact. Research done at the University of North Carolina found hugs from one’s partner can reduce blood pressure and lower heart rates. Students who receive an encouraging pat from a teacher tend to raise their hand and participate more in class, and there’s even evidence supporting the fact that athletic teams who high-five and touch more win more games. Touch connects people and deepens relationships.

Jesus knew the impact of a loving touch. It’s most evident when Jesus touched the leper.

Back in Jesus’ day, lepers had to go around crying out, “Unclean” so that people could move out of the way. Because of his horrible flesh eating disease, the leper Jesus touched would have lived in complete isolation from the rest of society, never again experiencing what it was like to have actual human contact. That is until Jesus touched him. Jesus could have healed him from afar. He’d done it for the official’s son and for the Centurion who asked for healing for his slave. But, in this instance, Jesus extended his hand and placed it on the leper. He touched the untouchable. Jesus knew what it would mean to the leper to feel his touch, the significance of it, and the amazing love it displayed.

Is there someone you know who needs the gift of touch, today?

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