Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Graduate~ May 31, 2013

graduationThese last couple weeks have been full of major milestones in the lives of our children.  First we had Emma’s preschool graduation, time for big girl school!  Then my beautiful step-daughter, known around here as Kiki, graduated from high school.  Next up were the two 5th graders, Peyton & Autumn, who celebrated their final year of elementary school with a promotion ceremony.  We small town Southerners like to celebrate every step!

Each program was different but they each held the same theme.  It’s time to move forward.  The kids were encouraged to leave the things of their previous years behind, to use them as a learning experience and to embrace what their futures held for them at the next stage of life.  It was funny to me how the same message could apply to a 5 year old, 11 year olds and a 17 year old!

Then I got to thinking how we go through many “graduations” in our lives; again, the message often being the same.  When we move through the various stages of our lives, we have to leave behind the former things and focus on what’s to come.  However, we become so consumed by things of our past, that our present is neglected and our future seems nonexistent.

While we are young, we can make the mistake of living a care-free life, using the excuse that we are young and just want to have a good time before the responsibilities of adulthood kick in.  Scripture warns us:

“Don’t let the excitement of your youth cause you to forget your Creator.  Honor Him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.”

(Ecclesiastes 12:1 NLT)

As we get older and make the common mistakes that teens and early twenty-somethings often do, we can allow the shame and embarrassment of those mistakes to haunt us.  We can become gripped by fear that someone from our past will pop-up in our present and cause those in our lives now to look down on us with disdain.  Don’t worry, there is a Word for that too:

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth…”

(Isaiah 54:4 NIV)

Now you’re an adult and you’ve blown it big time.  You had a child out of wedlock, you’re divorced, you filed bankruptcy, you had an affair…this list could rattle on forever.  You are so wrapped up in the mistake that you made that the future looks dim at best and insignificant at worst.  Try this approach:

“…I focus on this one thing:  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.  I press on…”

(Philippians 3:13 NLT)

No matter what season of life you currently find yourself in, there is no sense in living in your past.  You must graduate on to the next thing God has in store for you.  Even if your past holds no regrets or mistakes; (first of all, you’re fooling yourself, we ALL have something lingering from our past where we’d like a redo); you can’t live off your past victories either.  This may very well be one of if not the best “life” Scriptures:

“But forget all that-it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.  For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun!  Do you not see it?”

(Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT)

The point being, if you are so busy looking back, you’re going to miss what’s coming right at you!  Who wants to realize they’ve missed God because their past was at the forefront of their heart and mind instead of the present?  There is a reason why our eyes are in the front of our heads and not the back!

 

~Broken-Down~ May 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 6:53 am
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Thankfully we, nor the truck, have reached this point of dispepair!

Thankfully we, nor the truck, have reached this point of dispepair!

“Even hauling the trash is an uphill battle.”  My husband shook his head in frustration.

Once again, my mans only means of transportation is on the fritz and has been for several weeks now.  We have put more time and money into his truck than I’d care to admit over the last few months and it’s dead, again.  As aggravating as it is for me, it is astronomically more so for him.  We are incredibly blessed to have friends who allow us the use of their vehicles for things such as hauling the trash, but as is the case with most men, my man feels trapped without his wheels.  I would gladly surrender my ride to him but as you know, 5 kids, lots of too and fro, this momma can’t go without a vehicle.

In this particular moment of “argghh” we stood in the kitchen questioning if we had missed God somewhere.  Why else would we continually face the same struggle over and over and over again?  I looked my man straight in the eyes and said to him, “I don’t know.”  Surprisingly this was not the profound wisdom he was seeking.  But it was the truth.

I don’t know why we seem to constantly run uphill against the wind.  It seems that eventually we would hit a downhill that would allow us time to catch our breath.  And I believe that one day we will, in God’s timing, not ours.

As difficult as our struggles sometimes get, we have never hit a wall of hopelessness.

“I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.”

(Psalm 37:25 NIV)

While we may not live in the lap of luxury, we have an abundance for which to be thankful.  God has not left us to our own devices.  Because of our financial struggles, we have seen His hand move in our lives countless times through the love and generosity of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  But if we’re not careful, we’ll become like my husband’s truck: broken-down.  We’ll start to think that obviously we are not worthy of God’s blessings, that we’re not good enough to receive His love or that He is punishing us for something.  Instead of focusing on Him (ahem) we focus on the problem…bad idea.

Just think, if we never had a great need, would we fully appreciate God’s provision?

On the days when the frustration seems overbearing, it helps to remember that this is only a season.  When you look at your life and the needs don’t match up with the funds, don’t fret, it will only make the matter at hand worse.  Trust that God knows what He’s doing even if you feel like He’s left you in the dark.

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”

(Isaiah 55:9 NLT)

 

~Stupid Devil~ May 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:38 am
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This is not the blog that I had originally started to post today.  However, my extreme frustration has inspired me to take a different route.  Apparently, I have seriously ticked-off the devil and he is coming at me with everything he has so this is my rebuttal.

Dear Satan,

You have no authority over my life.  No matter what stumbling block you throw onto my path, I have already been given the victory.  I refuse to believe the lies that you are currently filling my mind with.  I will continue to serve the Lord in every area of my life no matter how many times you try to trip me up.  You don’t scare me.  You are nothing more than a bully with self-esteem issues.  So you can take your attack elsewhere, it will prove ineffective with this girl.  Consider yourself “nanny-nanny-boo-booed”!

Signed-Me

Now that I have that off my chest, maybe I can function properly for the rest of the day.  Please excuse my non-traditional post.  I thought just maybe someone else might need to tell the devil off this morning too. 

“The wicked plot against the godly; they snarl at them in defiance.  But the Lord just laughs….”

(Psalm 37:12-13 NLT)

 

~Do You Believe In Miracles?~ May 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:16 am
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Before you answer the title question, stop and really think about what you believe.  Do you truly think that God still performs miracles like He did in biblical times?  If you asked God for a miracle in your life, right now at this moment, do you believe that 1) He is able & 2) that He is willing?

Most God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians would say yes…but do they mean it?  What purpose would it serve to ask God for a miracle if you didn’t have the faith it takes to believe that He can bring it to pass?  This has been heavy on my mind since our Sunday morning worship service.  During the service, a precious saint in our church came to the altar needing a miracle.  I don’t know anyone on this earth who loves the Lord more than she & I know she was earnestly seeking God’s hand in her life.  As we continued to sing praises, our pastor gave the exhortation that if anyone in the congregation was in need of a miracle, the “I can’t get through this without you, God” kind of miracle, that they too should come forward.  I joined the group with a request of my own for me and my family as well as one very special need for some of my extended family.

As a symbol of the needs that we all had, we held out our hands and formed fists, as if we were physically gripping that need with our own two hands.  We voiced our prayers to God, naming our specific miracles, and as we did, lifted our hands, opening them heavenward as a sign of surrendering them to Him.

Let me tell you, if you have a desperate need that you have done everything in your power to meet within your own abilities, maybe it’s time you surrender it to God and see what He can do with it!  How do you know that God doesn’t have a blessing stored up for you and He’s just waiting for you to ASK HIM FOR IT?!

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks the door will be opened.”

(Matthew 7:7 & 8 NIV)

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?

(Matthew 7:7-11 from The Message)Miracles1

 

~A Day To Remember~ May 27, 2013

thewallMemorial day is a time to honor the service men & women of our country.  I hate to admit it, but as a teenager, it was just another holiday that got me out of school.  Now I understand just what it cost in order for us to have the freedom that we oftentimes take for granted.

I think of countries where there is no freedom of religion and I’m thankful for those who gave their lives that we might have ours.  We aren’t told what we can believe in this great nation.  We have the right to choose our faith and live it out openly with no reprimand.

What about the freedom of speech & press?  Had it not been for the brave men & women who stood up for what was right, I would not be able to sit at my tiny, makeshift desk in the corner of my dining room and write about the God I love then share it with the world without fearing for my life.

These freedoms may not have cost you or I anything, yet we are reaping the reward.  Thank the veterans that you know for the high price they paid knowing that one day someone else was going to receive the benefit.  Those who died on the battlefield, willingly gave their lives knowing there would be no personal gain.  Selfless.  In a word, that is how I would describe every member of our armed forces in the United States of America.

I would like to share with you a bit of a young man’s story who I first heard of yesterday during our Memorial Day video at church in Ronald Reagan’s inaugural address in 1981:

“Each one of those markers (At Arlington National Cemetery) is a monument to the kinds of hero I spoke of earlier. Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, The Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam.

Under one such marker lies a young man—Martin Treptow—who left his job in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire.

We are told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, “My Pledge,” he had written these words: “America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”

The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort, and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds; to believe that together, with God’s help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us.

And, after all, why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans. God bless you, and thank you.”

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

(John 15:13 NIV)

Thank you to all the men and women who are currrently protecting me by choosing to sacrifice each and every day.  Thank you to the veterans who lead the way and left us a shining example on what it means to serve others needs above your own.  To those who laid down their lives on the battlefield, who we cannot thank, we honor you in the lives that we now live because of you.  You are loved.  You are needed.  You are appreciated.  God bless you today, tomorrow and forever.  Amen

 

 

~Pray…Not Wish~ May 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:13 am
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“Huneeee, do you think that since we are approaching our 7 year anniversary all the debt we’ve accumulated over the years will be forgiven?”  “I don’t know.  Have you asked God for that?”  “Not exactly, I’ve been a little vague.”  “Well dear, the Bible says we have not because we ask not.”

I’ve got to hand it to my man, when he makes a point, he sure does drive it home like an iron spike straight through the heart of the matter.  As painful as it is to admit, he was right (somebody better write that down).fingers_crossed

We go through this life filling our days with wishes:

I wish we had some freedom in our finances.

I wish my friends marriage would be restored,

I wish the cancer would stop wreaking havoc on my mother’s body.

I wish my lost family member would come to know Jesus.

Do you know that wish means to “express a strong desire or hope for something that is not easily attainable; to want something that cannot or probably will not happen.”  Still want to go around wishing for things?  I sure don’t!  The very meaning of the word implies defeat and hopelessness.

But what if we simply replace the word “wish” with “pray”?  Prayer infuses these statements with power; power that comes from the Almighty who promises in His Word that He is close to those who call on Him.

“Whatever your situation may be, the power of God is our hope & relentless intercessory prayer grants us access to that power.”

Many of us are facing desperate situations in our lives or the life of someone we love.  We need to pray without ceasing!  Have the attitude of “I won’t let go until you bless me!”  Call on God until He answers you and ask other believers to call on Him on your behalf.  Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.  It can move mountains, loose chains that bind & set the captives free.  Too many times we turn to prayer as a last resort option.  It’s where we turn when we’ve tried every avenue we can think of to fix things on our own.  Or we waste our energy “wishing” so that we never bother to pray in the first place.  We need to adjust our first line of defense to prayer.  Ask God first for His guidance and listen for His instruction.  Don’t wish your life away, instead pray your way through it and watch how drastically your outlook changes.

“The earnest prayer of a righteous man person has great power and produces wonderful results.”prayer_cuppedhands

(James 5:16 NLT)

 

~The Truth & Nothing But The Truth~ May 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 6:43 am
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blurredtruthEver know anyone who said the Bible is open to interpretation?  I know parts of the Bible can be confusing but I don’t see any “gray” areas.  Granted, some secret things belong to the Lord and only the Lord “but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of his law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Knowing that, how can anyone say that they believe in God and then go through His Word, picking and choosing what is truth and what is subject to opinion?  The Bible in it’s entirety is what we are to live by in order for our Christian lives to be whole & complete.

In Deuteronomy 4:2, Moses tells the Israelites:

“Do not add to what I commanded you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.”

As oftentimes is the case, I see comparisons in God’s word to parenting.  My oldest son is the worst about doing “half” of what I ask him to do.  For example, I say “Isaiah, take all your dirty laundry downstairs, put your darks in the wash, your whites in the basket.  Don’t forget to bring up your clean clothes and put them all away.”  While he manages to get the clothes to the laundry room, they end up in a heap on the floor in the vicinity of the washing machine.  Clean stack may or may not reach it’s destination but they certainly do not find their way to the closet.  The end of his bed is about as far as he can manage.  When I call to his attention that he did not quite follow directions, I get the exhausted response of a teenager.  As he huffs and walks away, I explain the importance of listening to every word that is spoken, not just the highlight reel!

See the resemblance?  Some like to think that as long as they obey the main points of the Bible; do not kill, steal, cheat or lie that they can overlook the more intricate details lying just beneath the surface; details that can lead to a more intimate relationship with our Creator.  God is not a waster of words.  If He saw fit to give it as a command, then there was good reason behind it.  His word is for our benefit.  He didn’t throw out a random list of rules in hopes of making our lives miserable.  Just as any good parent would, He set boundaries for us to prevent us from self-destruction.

 

~Life is but a Breath~ May 22, 2013

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.  Remind me that my days are numbered-how fleeting my life is.  You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.  My entire lifetime is just a moment to You; at best, each of us is but a breath.”

(Psalm 39:4-5 NLT)

Every day we are faced with reminders of just how brief our time on earth will be.  Horrific tornados have claimed the lives of many, including little children.  Closer to home, a young girl lost her life in a tragic accident.  The moment I heard the news, this scripture came to mind.  When my momma’s heart was breaking, all I could think about was God’s Word.

What really bothered me, after the news set in, was how I reacted.  Immediately I softened towards my children, thankful that I had every one of them in my presence.  The remainder of the day, I let things slide that normally would provoke my irritation with them.  I could feel a rebuke in my spirit.  Why does it take some horrific event to make me truly cherish each moment with my family?  If I keep these words from Psalms at the forefront of my mind, maybe I would not be so careless in taking my loved ones for granted.  I turned the words on the page into a personal prayer, “Lord, help me remember that my days are few.  Tomorrow, I could be the momma faced with devastating news.  Help me, Lord to be grateful for every moment you give me here on this earth.”

As I was hurting so deeply for this broken family, one of my boys was getting lippy with me.  He was completely unaware that anything was bothering me, he was simply being his typical pre-teen self.  And I couldn’t help but thank God that I had my boy here even if to fight with.

I hope that each one of us would take to heart just how precious our time here together is.  Let us not wait for the next national or local tragedy to open our eyes to how blessed we truly are and be thankful for every day, even the bad ones.

“You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”life-as-but-a-vapour2

(James 4:14 NIV)

 

~Danger of Comparison~ May 21, 2013

apple_orangeWhen I first decided to start a blog, I kind of panicked a little since I am not exactly what you would call “tech-savvy.”  I thought it would be wise to check out a few others who had been blogging for some time to get a feel for how it worked.  You ever heard the expression, “ignorance is bliss”?  After perusing numerous sites, I decided blogging just might not be for me!

To say that I was intimidated would be the understatement of the century.  There was no way I could do what these people were doing.  Their sites looked professional.  Their writings were eloquent and flowed effortlessly across the screen.  My writing is mediocre at best in comparison to the masterpieces that I sat reading, dumb-founded.  Why had I ever thought I could do this?!

Just as quickly as those thoughts of comparison took my mind hostage, the Lord came back with:

“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.”

(Galatians 6:4 NLT)

As my husband would say, “well there that is.”  I would not be writing if I didn’t feel a call from God to do so.  Why then would I allow my feelings of inadequacy to throw up a road block on a path that God has set before me?

Because I am human.

We can be our own worst enemies when it comes to criticizing our abilities.  Even when we feel like we are right where God wants us, doing exactly what He has called us to do, there is no guarantee that doubt won’t creep in and rear it’s ugly head.  This is especially true if we compare our talents with those who are doing a similar ministry.  If we can take these negative thoughts captive and replace them with the truth that God will equip us with all that we need in order to do the work that He has called us to do, then we can push past the insecurities that are sure to trip us up.

If that’s not enough to encourage you to press forward in your calling, remember the words of Philippians 1:6:

“I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

 

~Daddy Issues~ May 20, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 6:58 am
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abba_fatherI can remember being a little girl standing by the door of our 1970s trailer complete with multi-colored shag carpeting, my Minnie Mouse suitcase by my side, waiting for my father to come pick me up for our weekend visit.  More times than not, mom would hang up the phone, force a smile and inform me that something had come up and he would not be coming for me, again.  My earliest memories of my father were of disappointment and rejection.  As I got older and the broken promises came, I started to make light of his excuses.  I remember an extended period when any time he missed an event he’d say he was busy building fence so I would joke that by now he must be fencing in most of the surrounding counties!  While I joked and acted indifferent, inside I was beating myself up.  Granted I had a very loving step-dad, (the man I still call dad to this day), who was at my side during every step of my childhood, there was a part of me that always felt damaged because I was unwanted by my own father.

This feeling of being unlovable became a major stumbling block in my late teens & early twenties when I started dating.  I truly believed that no man could ever really love me when my own father obviously did not.  That led to destructive behavior and desperation to please the current beau.  I became whoever I thought the boyfriend wanted me to be.  I made my decisions based on what I thought would win me their approval and make them love me.  I was so desperate for a man’s love that I was blinded to the poor choices that were devastating my life.  I wasn’t true to myself and I definitely wasn’t living for God….because I didn’t know Him.

When I was 23, I started dating a pastor’s kid.  So naturally, I started going to church because I knew that was what he would want me to do.  The first time I heard an old time southern preacher refer to God as Abba Father, I was like, “seriously, no thanks.”  I had a pretty lousy image etched in my brain of what a father looked like so I was not feeling it, if you get what I’m saying.  That relationship turned into a friendship but I kept going to church.  I liked the people, they were sweet and accepting and I just felt good when I was there.

Even after I asked for God’s forgiveness and accepted Him as my personal savior, I would cringe when I heard someone refer to Him as “daddy” or “papa.”  I had so much unforgiveness in my heart for my earthly father that I could not accept the love of my heavenly father. I loved the Lord and I knew that He loved me but I could not get past my worldly views of a father to fully grasp the depth & width of His love for me.  Then one day, it clicked.  I was at a women’s conference and the speaker talked about being bound by the unforgivenss in our lives and how it was hindering our walk with God.  I made a decision to forgive my biological father for his absence in my life.  I chose to no longer let his mistakes dictate my relationship with my Creator.  I took the insecurities of my past, laid them at the cross and I LEFT THEM THERE!

How many of you out there struggle with the same thing?  Maybe your father was an absentee dad too, or worse than that, maybe he was around but was abusive to you in some way.  Let me tell you from my own personal experience, even those of you who were lucky enough to have the most fabulous daddy in all the world, our Father in heaven loves you infinitely more than any man on earth ever could.  Once you realize that simple truth and embrace it with all of your heart, you will experience the same freedom that I am happy to say I walk in each and every day.  Don’t let you perception of God be based on a human.  People will let you down, but God’s love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on you or me.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(Romans 8:38-39)