Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Overwhelming Victory (&Football)~ April 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:04 am
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boystackle

My 2 boys going for a tackle!

I am a football fan.  It would probably be fairly accurate to say that I am a full fledged fanatic.  I love the game at every level.  I’m the wild woman in the stands at my sons little league games; the intent listener during the radio broadcast of Friday Night Football; the screaming lunatic who unleashes all sorts of fury at the ref on television when my team is down in the 4th.

So when our small town high school team traveled to the state championship game last fall, this chic was over the moon!  They were the least likely to win, (at least according to their opponents).  It was a nail-biter of a game, but our guys came out on top.  Despite the obstacles they faced: fighting off the nay-sayers, pushing past physical pain, sacrificing of their time & talent; overwhelming victory was theirs for the taking.

Not unlike my hometown football team, we are often the underdogs in this life.  We face trial after excruciating trial that leads us to doubt that a victory will ever be within our reach, especially one of overwhelming proportions.  We are pressed on every side by our burdens.  We in-turn allow ourselves to believe that these low-points in our lives are evidence that God has removed His hand from us.  We ask ourselves, how can a god who loves me permit these hardships?

Think of the people in your life whom you love.  Are those relationships free from difficulty and pain?  I highly doubt that they are.  Are the problems that you encounter with your loved ones caused by an absence of care and affection?  While it may sometimes be the case, most of the time it isn’t a lack of love that brings about trouble but life in general.  This also is true of our Lord and Savior.  He loves us with an everlasting love.  He keeps a watchful eye on His children and never allows us more than we are able to handle.  He isn’t sitting on his throne in heaven strategically placing hurdles in our path at an attempt to trip us up.  That is the work of our enemy, the evil one who works relentlessly at setting traps for us, hoping to steal our peace.    But as the above verse states, we have the promise of an overwhelming victory.  Another way of saying the same thing would be: a crushing defeat over our adversaries.  It is not a battle that can be won within our own abilities.  However, with Christ, who loved us enough to die for us, no feat is too great.

The next time you are faced with a challenge that seems impossible to move past, call upon the Lord and He will answer you.  Take heart in the words of 2 Corinthians 4, verses 8-10, from The Message

We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us.”

 

~Freedom in Worship~ April 29, 2013

worship“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

(Hebrews 13:15 NIV)

Yesterday was a life-changing day for our church.  I struggle to even put into words how God moved among His people.  I will attempt to tell it as a story from my point of view, only to give you a visual of just how powerful and awesome our God is.

As part of the worship team, we began with prayer just before the start of service.  Our leader prayed that God, not us, would lead the service.  That it would be His will that was done to achieve what He desired.  As soon as we sang the first note, I knew this was not going to be an ordinary service.  We don’t live by feelings, but I’m telling you, you could feel the presence of God in that place.  Hands began to go up throughout the room.  As we moved through the set, more and more people began to worship.  And I mean really worship.  No one seemed to care who was around them, who was watching or what they might think.  The Lord was breaking down some barriers for our church.  Song three, “Forever Reign,” and I was lost in my own worship to God.  We moved right into our last song before the message, “You Are Holy,” and the worship being lifted to God was without question, the most beautiful sound I have ever heard.  I was weeping, as were others in the congregation, some had come to the altar while others dropped to their knees with their faces to the ground in the presence of the Lord.

Our Pastor came up and said he felt we needed to remain in an attitude of worship and prayer for the remainder of our time together.  He chose to put aside the message he had prepared in order to allow God to have His way.  He gave an exhortation to the church to get rid of anything that was separating them from God, to dedicate their all to Him.  People began to flood the altar for prayer as the worship team continued to play and the elders and their wives moved throughout the crowd to pray in agreement with those who had came forward.

There truly are no words to describe what God did in those altars yesterday.  It was freeing, humbling and awe-inspiring all at once.  Lives were forever changed in an instant.  Walls that had taken years to build came crumbling down before the Lord.  Hearts that had become closed because of past hurts and heartaches were opened to the love of God.  Souls that had gone astray found their way back onto the path that leads to victory.

It was a glorious day that I feel privileged to have been a part of.  It’s moments like that when you know that the God you serve is real, that He loves you with an everlasting love and that He is near to those who call on Him.

I have attached the song that we sang as performed by CFNI. I pray that you would listen to the words, realize that God can cleanse you of whatever it is that keeps you from fully surrendering to Him, and that your life would be forever changed by the power of His Spirit at work in you.

“And so, dear brothers and sisters,I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”

(Romans 12:1 NLT)

 

~Quit Blaming Your Upbringin’~ April 26, 2013

If I hear one more person say, “I can’t help it; it’s just the way I was raised” my next post will be from the confines of my holding cell at the county courthouse seeking bail money for “involuntary face smacking”!

I am well aware that your up-bringin’ plays a major role in what kind of adult you will become.  At some point though you have to stop riding on the coattails of mom and dad and be responsible for your own behavior.

So Mom was an alcoholic and was never there for you because she was face down in the pillow 18 hours a day.  Are you going to dive head first in the nearest bottle and drown your sorrows, setting the same,  shining example in front of your kids or are you going to learn from her mistakes?

Dad was a violent man who beat anything and everything that moved, his preferred punching bag was mom and sometimes you.  Is that going to be your excuse for wailing on your wife and kids every time you are disappointed in yourself or will you refuse to follow in dear ol’ dad’s footsteps?

What about the workaholic parents whose main purpose in life was to be the best at everything?  Everything except parenting that is.

I am not trying to make light of some very serious issues, I am simply trying to show that your past does not have to dictate your future.  As children we have no control over what we are exposed to but when we become adults we can choose how those events will shape us.  You can use the pain and emotion from your traumatic childhood experiences to push you to be a better human being or you can use them as your crutch to behave irresponsibly.

If you were not raised in a godly home and were subjected to these circumstances, you may not know how to be anything different than what was lived out in front of you.  The good news is that there is a self-help book for that.  It is known as the Holy Bible.  It is full of insight and wisdom on how you can be a better version of you.  Perhaps the best place to start would be approximately mid-way through the Bible at the book of Proverbs.  In the opening chapter, it tells us that “Fear of the Lord is our foundation of true knowledge.” (1:7)  Within it’s 31 chapters you will find practical instruction on real life issues such as day-to-day life, money matters, raising children and dealing with social matters.  Don’t stop there.  All throughout the Bible, answers that we all desperately need can be found in order to ensure that we do not simply squeak by in this life.  Promises of an abundant life over-flowing with the blessings and goodness that come by way of a relationship with the Creator can be found throughout the pages.

You see, no matter where you came from, you can always choose to change your final destination.

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!”

(Deuteronomy 30:19 NLT)

OR

“If you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve…But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.

(Joshua 24:15 NLT)blamegame

 

~Expectations~ April 25, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:11 am
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Expectations-v-RealityThis may come as a shock to you, but your loved ones expectations of you look nothing like you think they do!  I am still in what I would consider the early stages of both my marriage & motherhood.  In my mind, my family expects me to keep the house spotless; all the laundry washed, pressed & put away; home-cooked meals on the table every night; chauffer to the many activities; be the perfect entertainer to all our friends; and do all of this while looking magnificent!  Now, thanks be to God, that is not what they really expect of me but are in fact pressures I put on myself!  If you asked my man what mattered most, he’d tell you that he doesn’t even notice if the house is clean, he simply wants my time & attention.  My children haven’t the faintest idea if their clothes have been pressed or not, all they care about is having a mother who stops what she is doing to focus on them.  And lets be honest….the entire family would be more than happy to feast on pizza every night of the week!  So why put all these unnecessary stressors into my life?!  I enjoy doing most of these things even if it isn’t what my family requires of me.  But I have slowly begun to learn that getting myself all bent out of shape when something isn’t done “just-so” is a waste of time and energy because no one even notices but me!

However, this has been a particularly difficult struggle for me this week.  I am on the board at my children’s school and I am in charge of coordinating two big events this weekend.  We have a Spring Carnival Friday and we are hosting our first ever fundraiser run on Saturday.  In theory, it seemed like a great idea to do them back to back, now I question my level of sanity.  This entire week I have run myself ragged, making last minute preparations, sending out reminders to my volunteers, and checking the weather every five minutes.  I have been guilty of spending my devotion time totally stressed out because I haven’t been able to shut my mind off from my to-do list.  I have worried myself sick that things won’t go smoothly and I will let someone down.

That is when I recalled the story of the sisters, Mary & Martha in Luke chapter 10.  When Jesus came into their home, one sat quietly at His feet listening as He taught.  The other ran around like a mad woman making preparations for a feast & no doubt worked herself into a frenzy.  Martha finally came to Jesus with her complaint of her “lazy” sister, Mary who sat doing nothing while she did all the work.  Jesus replied

“My dear Martha, you are worried & upset over all these details!  There is only one thing worth being concerned about.  Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

(Vs. 41-42 NLT)

There you have it, straight from the mouth of Jesus.  There is a time for the daily tasks, mundane chores and filling commitments that must be done.  However, do not miss out on life because of them.  Make it a point to ask Jesus to clear your mind when you spend time with Him so that your devotion time isn’t squandered.  Don’t allow yourself to become consumed with responsibilities to the point that you forget about your most important one, your family!  When the house starts to look a mess, the sink is overflowing with dirty dishes and you have a dozen emails to send; your daughter comes to you and asks so sweetly, “You read this?” remember that all those worries are just details.  They are not worth getting upset over.

After all, the dishes will still be there tomorrow or there is always paper plates!

 

~God’s Love~ April 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:11 am
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NYX

My husband loves me in spite of my flaws.

-God loves me because of them.

My mother loves me when no one else can.

-God’s love is still infinitely greater.

My children love me because of all I do for them.

-God’s love is not based on what I do for Him today.

My friends love me because I’m always outgoing and up for a good time.

-God loves me when I am at my lowest and couldn’t smile if I had to.

My church loves me through the service I do for them.

-God loves me most when I spend quiet time doing nothing more than loving on Him.

Is there anything more beautiful than the simplicity of falling into a loving embrace?  It brings a feeling of saftey and warmth that cannot be compared to any other sensation.

The love that is expressed from those around you may have strings attached.  You may have to do something in order to earn it.  The love that comes from God knows no limits.  It has no boundaries.  It cannot be lessened by your actions any more that it can be increased by your good works.  Love from God is the truest form there is, for we know that God is love.

Now imagine running into the always open arms of a loving Father.  Who wants nothing more than to love you and receive your love in return.  He never grows weary from holding you close.  He is never too tired or worn to comfort you when you’ve reached the lowest low.  He is never too busy to celebrate your life’s greatest moments with a pat on the back.  God’s love will never run out, not for you or for me.  It is never ending, never failing and readily available to all who seek it.  Let the love of your heavenly Father fall on your face today.  Let it warm you like the rays of the sun that he sent to shine just for you.

“Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.”

(Psalm 36:5)

 

~The Narrow Path~ April 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:03 am
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“You are my servant. You have chosen to know me, believe in me, & understand that I alone am God. There is no other God-there never has been, & there never will be. I, yes I, am the Lord, & there is no other Savior.”

(Isaiah 43:10-11)

This is one of those verses in Scripture that I feel inadequate to add any of my limited knowledge to.  It is authoritative and complete, leaving no room for misinterpretation.  The words speak of the magnificence of God and assure us that there is none other than He.  More than that, it reminds us that our life of obedience to Him is a choice.

God, in His infinate mercy, gives us the gift of free-will.  We can just as easily choose to rebuke Him as we can choose to follow Him.  If we are brutally honest with ourselves, following Him is much more difficult than the alternative.

The Lord has set before us two paths:

  1.        The highway to hell is broad, and it’s gates are wide for the many who choose that way. 
  2.        But the gatway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

(Matthew 7:13-14)

Option number one is the most popular.  It is the easy way out.  No real decision has to be made, you simply live your life by your own rules, deciding for yourself what is right and wrong.  The second option sounds far less appealing than the first.  You know right upfront that it will not be easy.  There will be no “wiggle room” on this path.

The hard truth of the matter is, we must choose one.  There is no third option.  If you have not chosen the path that leads to Jesus, then by default, you have chosen the way of the destroyer.  Make your decision wisely, it is a matter of life or death.

If I may insert one final thought, how many things in your life worth having have you gained easily?

heavenvshell

 

~Focus on God~ April 22, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 6:40 am
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London to Brighton Veteran Car RunIf you have turned on the news lately, you have seen countless acts of violence in varying degrees.  A mad ex-boyfriend shoots at his ex and takes down a couple others in the process.  Marathon runners are struck down by explosions moments after celebrating a major accomplishment.  Even schools are no longer safe from acts of terrorism.

When someone attacks our nation, whether on a small scale or as a whole, we have a choice to focus on the evil that they are doing or we can choose to see the good that it brings out in others.  By giving attention only to the evil-doer, you are giving them what they crave which only adds fuel to their fire.  Besides, what difference does it make which terrorist group they belong to?  Or what their childhood was like?  Do we really want to know how their minds work?! However, if you take the talks away from the who, what and why that caused the attack and turn the news feed into stories of victory, then the good trumps the evil.

If you are like me, the constant negativity in the news is just too much to bear.  I would much rather hear the stories of what good is coming out of the horrible situation.

Tell me more about the ordinary spectator who becomes a hero in an instant as they shield another’s body with their own.

Show me images of first responders who are running in while everyone else is running away.

Replay stories of the victims and the history of their lives rather than that of the attackers.

I was reading in Psalms the day after the second Boston bomber was captured.  The non-stop news coverage was exhausting.  All the reporters were going on and on about how now we can find out why they did it, if they were a part of a bigger scheme and so on.  I was growing increasingly frustrated.  Then I read these words:

“The wicked conceive evil;
they are pregnant with trouble
and give birth to lies.
They dig a deep pit to trap others,
then fall into it themselves.
The trouble they make for others backfires on them.
The violence they plan falls on their own heads.”

(Psalm 7:14-16 NLT)

There you have it folks.  Why should we worry and fret over the evil that runs rampant throughout our world when we are already guaranteed the victory.  We will suffer here for a little while, but the Lord will have the final say.  He will crush the enemy and all his evil works will be turned back onto him.  Those who do evil will be repaid the same and those who love righteousness will be rewarded.

So while the majority of media outlets focus on the bad guy, you focus on God and the good that He brings out in people during times of tragedy.  Don’t let the negativity consume you and make you bitter.  God is still at work even amongst the devastation but it’s up to you to look for and be the light amid the darkness.

**EDITED after initial post**

Ok…so I’m reading “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young and I have to share this excerpt as it relates to my post from this morning. This is God or “Papa” speaking:
“Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies.  Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes.  That will only lead you to false notions about me.  Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”
Seriously, just wow.