Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Shame Never Won Anyone Over~ March 19, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:00 am
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Many years ago when I first decided I was going to start attending church with my young son, my first few encounters were rather unpleasant. I can remember being a nervous wreck walking through the ominous doors wondering if my son and I would be met with stares or welcoming arms. I was rather naïve at 22 years of age and believed what I’d always heard: church is for all people, a place of refuge for the broken. It didn’t occur to me that not all churches felt this way. Time after time, I left feeling worse than I did going on. I was met with disapproving eyes when ladies would ask where my husband was as I hung my head, suddenly ashamed that I was a single mother. I would try smaller churches only to feel that I had invaded someone’s family gathering rather than a church service. So then I tried larger churches only to feel like the shy girl who never got asked to dance. For the longest time I didn’t have that warm and fuzzy feeling that I had heard about church. Instead I felt alone, embarrassed, awkward and completely unwelcome.

Thankfully I found a church that was the polar opposite of every previous experience. Complete strangers welcomed me with warm smiles and open arms. My son was ushered into a class with kids his age and a teacher who respected his reluctance to join in for the first few weeks. Not once did someone ask me where my husband was. I was accepted for who I was with no hesitation, no third degree, no shaming glances….no judgment.

Some people are so quick to throw stones and cast judgment that they are driving people away from the church. How is it that one would think their church attendance affords them the right to scrutinize people’s lives? It’s a very poor representation of Christ, which is what we, the body, are supposed to be.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (Matt7:1-5 The Message)

Some would say never judge another without knowing the whole story. I would say, don’t judge them even when you do have the facts! “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12 ESV) Thankfully, “judge” is not in our job description. We have sinned just as much as the next guy and our only job as a followers of Christ is to love others like Jesus. He cared for the sick, gave to the poor, provided for a widow and spoke with gentleness to a prostitute. As long as you or I busy ourselves with judging others, we will never be effective in bringing lost souls to Christ. If you are using the Word of God to humiliate or degrade another human being, you’re doing it wrong.mercy over judgment

 

 

~What is Your Heart Full Of?~ February 10, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:47 am
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Have you ever wondered why it is so easy to talk about anything and everything except the Gospel?

I seriously loooove to talk. When I was a kid, that was the number one complaint my teachers had from Kindergarten all the way through high school. What can I say, I was blessed with the gift of gab! As an adult, I sometimes catch myself dominating conversations. I blame my lack of intelligent discussions through the day when talks consist of what Peppa will do next or fighting over why naps are a vital part of a toddlers day. But even so, talk I must. If I don’t have an audience, I talk to myself. I realize that makes me sound slap nuts and I’m cool with that.

So how is it feasible that someone who is never at a loss for words struggles to talk about God?

I can literally talk all day about parenting, health & fitness, music, books…you name it. Then someone asks me about my Jesus and even if only for a moment, I freeze! I’ve given it some thought & believe I’ve pinpointed a couple of reasons why this is the case.

1. Knowledge/Life Experience. I like to think that I am fairly knowledgeable on certain topics. I have 5 kids which equates lots of hands on parenting experience. I’ve been a runner for some time now and I coach so again, pretty confident in this area. I’ve dealt with a whole mess of heartache in my 33 years and I’ve made it through to the other side which helps me talk others through similar situations.

2. Time Invested. I didn’t become the mom, wife, coach, friend that I am today overnight. There have been many sleepless nights finding out what works to soothe a teething infant. Countless articles have been read and methods tested to find the best way to avoid shin splints and how to surge up a hill when your competitors are losing steam. We’ve had our share of counseling in our years of parenting & marriage that has given us the tools not only to strengthen our family, but help others strengthen theirs as well.

These things together give me confidence to talk openly to anyone at any time. Perhaps if we wish to talk with ease and boldness when it comes the Lord, we should apply this same formula.

“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45 NIV)

Get into His Word. Get to know who God is and what He has to say about all of life’s idiosyncrasies. Look back on your life at the times He has moved on your behalf and use that to show others if He did it then, He can do it now.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20 NLT)prov 4

In order to fulfill the Great Commission, we need to be so familiar with the Word of God that telling others about it is a natural as breathing. We do that by sharing often. The more time you spend talking to God and about Him, the easier it will become. It won’t feel like you are “preaching” at people when you talk about Him as the loving father He is as opposed to an ethereal being no one can relate to.

 

~But Did You Ask?~ November 18, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:40 am
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My little Bella has been going through a phase lately, (Lord, please let it just be a phase), where she cries over every little thing.

Her jacket sleeve is inside out. Cry.

She can’t open her yogurt. Meltdown.

The baby doll won’t stay in the stroller. Fit.

Bubble Guppies goes to commercial break. The neighbors assume I beat my kid based on the level of screaming coming from this house.

When she is in the midst of one of these crying spells, it’s really hard to get through to her. She completely tunes me out and can only manage to focus on whatever it is that is earth shattering to her in that moment.

Yesterday, right as I was pulling out of the parking lot, she dropped her treat she had just been given at preschool. She was starting to wind it up, because let’s face it, the big meltdowns take some deep breaths to get the vocal chords all warmed up. Somehow I managed to lock eyes with her in the rearview mirror and very calmly said, “Isabella, did you drop your treat?” “YES…(complete with quivering lip and watery eyes.)” “Can I help you find it when we get home?” “OK.”

And that was it. At the moment when the intensity of her problem was at it’s peak, I got her to focus on me and the solution I could offer her rather than the problem itself.

So many times throughout our day together, I pose the question, “Did you ask for help?” The answer is always no at which point I encourage her to seek help when she can’t do something on her own as opposed to throwing herself in the floor over a stubborn foil lid or uncooperative baby doll.

What about you? What impossible situation are you facing today that has you pitching a fit as you desperately try to “do it yourself”?

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
(Psalm 121:1-2 ESV)

God has promised in His Word that He answers those who call on Him for help. He knows our needs and just like me with my Bella, He sees our struggle, but He’s waiting for us to invite Him into the situation.

” And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14 NIV)

ASK God for His help. Before you struggle to figure it out on your own, before the meltdown, before you throw in the towel, simply ask Him. Get your eyes off the problem and set them on the solution, Jesus!

Just in case you doubt that God is willing or able to intervene in your situation, how about a few more promises from Psalm 1:21:

He will not let your foot slip (v.3) – He is your firm foundation!

The Lord watches over you (v.5) – You have constant supervision, you’re never alone!

The Lord will keep you from all harm (v.7) – What more do you need to be reassured of God’s love for you?!morning prayer

 

~Get Your Twinkle On~ November 4, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:24 am
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This time change thing has been wreaking havoc on our little household. Last night I fell asleep on the couch at 8:30, but don’t judge, so did runner boy! This morning, my littles sprang out of bed at 6:30 which would have been fine, I was up, but they were GRUMPY! Here I was trying to make my way to coffee without making eye contact when all they wanted to do was squall in my face:

“Emma touched me!”

“Bella is on my blankie!”

“I don’t want that for breakfast!”

And so on, and so on.

Mind you we hadn’t even gone up the stairs at this point, you know, where the coffee pot resides. As I’m trying to navigate my way through the madness, one thing was on repeat in my muddled mind:

“in any and every circumstance I have learned…. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  (Phil 4:12-13 NASB)

Yes Lord, even this, I can handle with you on my side.

Eventually we made it upstairs and when I rounded the corner into the dining room, this is what I saw.IMG_3164I leave Christmas lights over the doors to the back deck year round. I guess hubs forgot to unplug them before bed last night because normally they’re not on in the mornings. But man am I glad they were. Why, do you ask? Something about these twinkling lights brought me peace and a feeling of happiness I can’t really explain. I love, love, love Christmas lights and I suppose their presence brought about an instant calm. All which got me thinking, shouldn’t we as followers of Christ be like the sparkly lights, bringing happiness, peace and a sense of calm to the world around us?

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:14-16 NASB)

Everywhere we turn, we are faced with opportunities to share the love of God, through our speech and more importantly, through our actions. Each interaction we have with others brings a choice. We can choose to hear quickly, speak slowly and aim for peace. The alternative would be to react with haste, not taking pause to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, resulting in strife. One option shows Christ in us while the other may leave people questioning this faith we claim to possess.

So today, I challenge us all to shine bright for Jesus, causing the darkness to turn and flee. Choose to be as a lovely strand of twinkling lights, bringing beauty into a world full of ugliness.

 

 

~Itty-Bitty Blood-Sucker~ October 29, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:10 am
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Monday night, during my husband’s birthday celebration dinner, my daughter, Emma, lifted up her shirt and said, “Daddy, I’ve got this little bug on me and I can’t get it off.”

The entire table froze as we all came to the same realization at once, sweet Emma-bug had a tick.

Daddy sprung into action to remove the tiny blood-sucker. I sat glued to my chair with my mind racing over all the diseases and complications that were sure to fall upon my baby girl. Once I got over my irrational thought process, I cleaned the bite with alcohol as hubs assured me the bug from Hell was not engorged and he was able to get it out rather easily.

How is it possible that something so small can cause so much damage if left untreated?

Kind of reminds me of “little sins” left unchecked.

It amazes how often we convince ourselves that if it’s not one of the BIG sins, like murder, than it’s not really that big of a deal. Say for example you flirt with the barista at the coffee shop you frequent, harmless enough. But don’t most affairs start with seemingly insignificant encounters that build and grow into relationships that cause the parties to fall into one of the BIG sins, adultery? Most people who cheat didn’t intend to do so, it “just happened” because they left the door open by allowing that tiny sin, (the tick), to go unchecked to the point that it became poisonous to the body.

We all need to guard our hearts and minds from even the smallest of transgressions. It would be foolish for us to think that our lives can’t be ruined by such small wrongdoings. The next time you start to brush off that little slip without repentance, remember the blood-sucking tick and the damage it has the potential to cause if left in the body.safe road to hell

” If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.” (1 John 1:8-10 NLT)

 

~Momma’s Gonna Need a Minute~ October 24, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:49 am
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“Do you ever have one of those days where you just want to be left the heck alone?! Like no talky, no touchy, no looky, ‘get the heck out of my personal space’ kind of days?! That’s how I feel today!”

This would be the text message I sent my husband yesterday.  I wasn’t mad at anyone. No one had really done anything to upset me or make me feel ill, but I’m pretty sure it was within the spectrum of possibilities for me to physically assault someone. Grumpy doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling. throat punchI’m a little embarrassed to admit that I have days where I feel downright hateful to the point that I’m concerned for the safety of those who get too close. Days like that I think I need to be forced to wear a warning sign around my neck, “Danger!!  Contents may explode upon contact!!”

Anyone else ever suffer through days like that?

Take heart, I may have pinpointed the cause. Every day, all day, I have someone “all up on me,” as I like to put it. The littles tug at my clothes, using me as a human paper towel and the occasional snot rag. My boys find humor in poking and throwing stuff or hiding around corners to scare the beegeezus out of me. My man just needs a little affection at the end of the day but sometimes, THIS is not huggable!

Physical touch is a beautiful thing but if you never have a moment to yourself, you may start to feel a bit like a foreigner in your own land, so to speak. This tends to happen most often when our calendars are so full that there is no way to pencil in some “me, minus all of you” time. I’m here to help you out, friends. The next time someone asks you to do something you have zero desire to do, don’t ignore that tightening in your chest that accompanies the realization that you’re never going to have a moments rest. Smile & say “No, but thanks for thinking of me.”

Now, take a seat in your favorite chair and forget about the to-do list that is invisible to the rest of your fam. Enjoy the entire cup of coffee before it has the chance to get cold because whatever the world needs from you, can wait a dang minute.

If you feel guilty, let’s all just take a minute to remember that even Jesus had to get away from the crowds and sit in silence in order to be refreshed to fulfill his life’s purpose.

 

~If~ December 12, 2013

Have you ever thought about the word “if’?  It’s a tiny little word that isn’t normally thought provoking.  However, we have been told numerous times by our Pastor that every word in Scripture matters.  Therefor, where Bible study is concerned, even the word “if” bears importance.

When you read a statement that includes the word, it implies that one statement is contingent upon another.  For example, you will be a successful athlete if you put in the time that it takes to develop your skills and proper technique.

In other words, by using “if” you are establishing one or more conditions to achieve a desired result.

I was doing a little research this morning about a specific prayer need and suddenly became acutely aware that “if” is mentioned numerous times in the Word.

“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.”

(Galatians 6:9)
How many times have you seen believers experience burnout?  You see them serving tirelessly in various ministries.  Everything they do is for the Lord & His people and suddenly they throw in the towel, dive headfirst into sin and embrace the world’s mentality of me, me, me.  In doing so they forfeit their blessing.  They grew tired of doing what was good.  The living for Jesus thing no longer seemed worth it because they had yet to reap their harvest.  This verse reminds us that in order to live a blessed life, we must endure hardships, failures, exhaustion and the like.  And beyond that, we must see ourselves as being blessed even when our circumstances would dictate otherwise.
“He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard”
(Colossians 1:22-23)
So you want to stand before the Lord on judgment day and hear him say, “well done, my good and faithful servant”….isn’t that what every believer longs for?  The question is, are you wavering in your faith?  Do you flit from one set of beliefs to another?  Do you find yourself believing this part of the Bible but saying this part over here is open to interpretation because it messes with the lifestyle you’d like to live?  An antonym for steadfast is disloyal.  Ouch.  If you are doing anything other than holding steadfast to the gospel, you are being disloyal to God.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
(1 John 1:9)
This, I love.  God is ready, willing and overjoyed to remove our sins as far from us as East is from the West.  The only thing we are required to do to receive this free gift is admit we have sinned and fallen short of His glory.  I like to think of it in regards to any relationship.  No healthy partnership is one sided.  Each party does their share to make it work.  Life with God is no different.  He does His part but expects us to do the work too.  Lucky for us, He does the hard part.  All we have to do is fully submit our lives to Him, trusting that His infinite knowledge of our innermost workings makes him qualified to be ruler of our hearts and minds.

You know where there is one place that “if” is not used in the Bible…the part that says He loves us.  Even if we are not living for Him, He loves us.  Even when we fail Him, he loves us still.  Even when we run hard and fast away from him, his love never quits, never runs out and never gives up on us.

 

~No Service…Sad Day~ December 8, 2013

4.1.1I normally do not post on the weekends, especially Sunday, but I am making an exception today.  Our church services have been cancelled due to inclement weather and I am sad.  Not only because I was already up and showered so now fully awake but because I truly believe the words of Hebrews 10, verses 24 & 25:

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

Obviously today it would have been hazardous for us to do so and the decision was made to close the building so meeting together isn’t an option.  Oftentimes though, individuals make the decision to skip out on this vital part of their Christian walk for reasons of their own.

There are four main components to our time together every Sunday that I feel validate the importance of doing so.  I realize that all of these things can be done outside of church or even alone.  But there is something special about coming to the Lord’s house every week that cannot be duplicated anywhere else.

1.  Fellowship:  Face to face interaction with other believers can work wonders for one’s soul.  You can see the compassion in someone’s eyes, feel the warmth from their embrace and find strength through their companionship.  You can’t experience these things during a phone call or email. So in a time where people find it easier to text, even while standing in the same room, this time together is irreplaceable.

2.  Worship:  My favorite.  There are no words for the closeness I feel to the Father when singing praises to his name.  As a member of our praise team, my heart wants to explode when I can look out on our congregation and see my brothers & sisters lifting their voices to God with joy and thanksgiving.  More than that, are the times when you see someone come in looking downcast, their faces hardened by the burdens they carry.  Then the Lord grips their hurts through the words of a song and you can see that barrier fall away as their countenance changes…beautiful.  So let us sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.

3.  Bible Study:  For our church, we are incredibly blessed with a pastor who takes the Word and teaches us how to live it out today.  He doesn’t simply rattle off verse after verse from the KJV of the Bible and say amen, he gives us examples of life application that are down to earth and relatable for all.  Teaching of the Scripture is a crucial part of service for we know that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of Godmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

4.  Prayer:  While this can and should be done at other places and times, the Bible clearly states that where two or three gathered in the name of the Lord, He is there among them.  We have been given a gift in prayer, that we may submit our needs to God with the promise that he hears each and every one.  When gathered together in the altar, with hands laid on those seeking prayer, we are expressing love and solidarity to the one hurting the most.  And in doing so, fulfilling the law of Christ by bearing one another’s burdens.

These are the reasons why I am missing my church family today.  They strengthen me, encourage me and fill me heart with joy.  I consider myself truly blessed to be a part of a community that honors the Lord and offers a place of refuge for his people.

I pray that each one of you are blessed to have the same on this Lord’s day.  Don’t try to convince yourself that you don’t need to attend church…we are made to be together so that one man’s strength can complement another man’s weakness.  Take advantage of the community that God has designed for us while here on this earth.  You will be amazed at the benefits you will reap from a solid church family.

 

~Beware, Unchecked Emotions On the Loose~ October 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 7:08 am
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Yesterday, a small group of women from my church started the bible study, “Unglued” by Lysa TerKeurst.  For those of you who either know me really well or even just through this blog, you are aware of my ability to sometimes spew my emotions onto my family.  My hopes are that through this study, I will learn to stop letting my feelings get the best of me in life’s tricky situations and use God’s word to combat my raw emotions before I allow them to sabotage my most valuable relationships.

Before we’d even left the church yesterday, I knew there was something from the guide that I would be sharing with you all today!  Lysa gave us a list of “animals,” asking which described us best when faced with an unglued kind of situation:

Wounded bear:  I am hurt & unpredictable, so watch out!

Agitated skunk:  I may or may not create a stink, but the threat is always there.

Deceptive peacock:  Who me?  I’m not upset.  Look at all my pretty feathers!

Crouching tiger:  I many not attack now, but I will strike back when you least expect it.

Screech owl:  Prepare for a tirade!

Barricading beaver:  No time to say what I’m really feeling.  I’m too busy building a wall between us.

Or maybe you are another animal altogether.

Here is what I found interesting about this word picture, I am a different animal depending on who I am dealing with.

Outside of my home, especially in church, you are going to get the deceptive peacock.  I will put on a happy face and present a calm, collected exterior while on the inside my emotions are just below the surface begging to come out.  I do the same with my husband.  You know how it goes, “Honey, are you ok, what’s wrong?”  “Nothing.  I’m fine.”  Nobody’s buying all that fakeness so stop trying to sell it!

Now, with my poor kiddos, beware of the screech owl!  Granted I don’t yell at my kids all the time, but definitely more than I should.  Nine times out of ten, the tirade begins after I’ve attempted to make my point calmly a time or five to no avail.  I let my anger get the best of me and just like a rubber-band that’s pulled taut, I snap.  Only to instantly feel ashamed and guilty that I could be so vicious with the most wonderful gifts I’ve ever been given.

There has to be a better way to deal with these out-of-control, reckless emotions…and that is my goal during these next 6 weeks.

I am curious as to which animal you all relate to best, that is if you are willing to share.  Either way, I invite you to examine yourself and be totally honest with how you are handling your relationships.  Are you being controlled by your emotions like I can sometimes be?  If so, whether you are doing this study along with us or not, let’s allow God to show us a better way to deal with the circumstances that trigger our unglued reactions.

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”

(James 1:19-20 NLT)

 

~Warning Signs~ August 2, 2013

grace over sinWednesday night during Bible study, our Pastor made a great analogy that I will attempt to paraphrase & expand on because it really made me think.

I’m sure you all have at some point in your life seen an athlete ruin his or her career because they didn’t take off the necessary time to recover from an injury.  The quarterback who takes a nasty hit to the head sending his brain bouncing around like a pinball in an arcade game but refuses to be benched.  Next thing you know he’s facing early retirement due to extensive brain damage.  What about the track star who feels a constant pain in her calf muscle but is so determined to win that she pushes herself even harder hoping the pain will work itself out.  She tears the muscle and is forced to quit the one thing she truly loves.  Or maybe it’s a pitcher who twisted his knee into an unnatural position but he fears he’ll be replaced by the rookie who’s been drooling over his spot all season long so he lies about just how bad it hurts.  The very next pitch, he totally blows out his knee, never to take the mound again.

The thing about physical pain is that it serves as a flashing red sign that you may need to slow it down, take a rest or have that “thing” checked out!

You may be starting to wonder when the analogy comes into play…well here it is.  Just as physical discomfort serves as a warning sign to an athlete that something could be seriously wrong, guilt is the warning sign that something is wrong in your spiritual life.  Say what now?

If you are in the middle of doing, watching or saying something and you get this awful twinge of guilt, that’s a pretty good indicator that you need to cease and desist immediately!  Sure you could push those guilty feelings down and make excuse upon excuse to yourself as to why you are justified in your actions, but can you afford the long-term damage that will cause?  For just as the athlete who ignores their body’s warning system toys with the possibility of a career ending injury, the person who refuses to listen to the Holy Spirit when it brings conviction takes the chance of blowing their eternal reward.

I know there isn’t a one of us who is free from sin.  We all are susceptible to different weaknesses and the enemy knows each and every one, but so does God.  And He has equipped us with all we need to battle our sinful cravings.  If you find yourself in a situation where you suddenly feel the need to look over your shoulder to make sure no one is watching, don’t ignore that feeling of guilt.  Capture it, repent before God and ask for His help to overcome your fleshly desires.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

(Philippians 4:8 NLT)