Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~When Saying Nothing isn’t an Option~ July 8, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 12:13 pm
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 It’s been quite some time since I sat down to write. I thought it was because I had nothing to say but with a little more reflection, I think it’s because I’ve been struggling with having something encouraging to say and I don’t like to add to the constant negativity that surrounds us. Then I wake up this morning and see yet another string of horrific events.

Honestly, I have yet to recover from the mass shooting in Florida and much has happened since then. I rarely watch the news. That’s probably irresponsible of me but it truly depresses me to the point that it affects my ability to function. I feel helpless and frustrated and terrified to walk out the door with my children. I did tune in once this week to see that over 60 shootings occurred in Chicago over the holiday weekend. Granted there were only 4 fatalities but among the injured were a 5 & 8 year old shot while playing with sparklers! This morning social media informs me of not one, but two officer involved shootings followed up by a sniper attack?! I have a limited knowledge of all of the above because I can’t watch the video footage circulating and of course if we aren’t present, all we know is what the media presents. But it appears to me that every single instance was driven by hate. When did it become the norm to turn to rage & murder simply because you don’t “agree” with someone? Instead of people mourning the sensless loss of human life, arguments flare up over gun control, immigration and politics. I have never claimed to be the most educated but one thing I do know for certain is hate solves nothing.

I’ve been silent since the Orlando shooting because I have no desire to engage in these sorts of arguments. The moment I read an article about a momma texting her son who was later killed in that nightclub, my whole world changed. At any moment, that could be any one of us, staring down the barrel of a gun, begging for mercy where there is none. Possibly even more sobering, it could be any one of us on the other end of the line, where someone we love is the one in peril. People, can you even imagine? One minute you’re enjoying a night out, singing in your place of worship or just going about your daily business and the next, your world is flipped on it’s side.

So I won’t be engaging in a battle over whose lives matter, because to me, they all do. Vengeance is not mine to seek, instead I choose to pray for peace & justice for all victims.   

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~How Do They Live With Themselves?~ September 15, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 2:27 pm
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people-sin-differently-do-not-judgeIf we are completely honest with ourselves, we all have at least one person that we have at some point felt this way about. When we see them, we snarl our nose in disgust or shake our heads full of judgmental thoughts or roll our disapproving eyes. I mean really, how can they live with themselves knowing the horrible mistakes they’ve made?

I’ll tell you what we don’t know about “them”. We will never know the battle that’s raged within them over every bad decision they’ve  ever made. We will never know the nights they have lain awake and wept over the lives they’ve  damaged and hearts left broken in their wake. When we look at them, all we see are their sins. Our unforgiving eyes bury them in even more shame and regret than they already carry.

At one point, they saw themselves just as we do. Their reflection brought on anguish that cannot be explained as their transgressions swept over them and gripped them at the core. Then one day, they accepted the grace and forgiveness they had always heard of but never fully grasped was available to someone like them.

So now when you see them and they no longer drop their eyes in shame when they meet yours, perhaps you’ll think of your own demons that you’ve battled that gives you such boldness to walk around making others feel unworthy. That’s right, I went there. Not one of us has lived a sinless, spotless life & I’m sure we all have something from our past we’d rather not relive.

“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.” (Matt 7:1-5 Message)

Your choosing to not shame someone over their past doesn’t excuse whatever they did to make you feel that way towards them. It takes a deep level of maturity to no longer seek vengeance. I have found when those feelings rise up in me, if I’ll take pause to think of all from which I have been forgiven, it knocks me down a peg or two and allows me to see them in a different light.

 

~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

 

 

~Let’s Laugh It Out~ February 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:13 am
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A little disclaimer before you read: This post is meant specifically for people in my little hometown. However, you may find that it also applies to where you live as well.

...and every other day too!

…and every other day too!

You might be surprised to learn that a parent pick-up line at an elementary school could have a town divided. It’s sad how something as simple as picking up your child can bring on the road rage but you better believe it does.

There are a few types of moms, (and some dads), that you can expect to encounter in the pick-up line. Each one has been met with attacks because their quirks are bugging the bejeezus out of the locals.

The mom who arrives an hour (or more) before pick-up time to wait for little Johnny. Before you judge this momma, let me tell you a little story. The year that 2 of my kiddos started Kindergarten, I was pregnant with another. My son LOST HIS MIND on the first day and for a highly emotional preggo momma, this caused my anxiety levels to sky rocket. So that afternoon, and the ones that followed for the first few weeks, I would get to the school as early as I could manage to make sure that my son was one of the first picked up. Why? Because in my warped, guilt ridden mind, he would somehow know that I loved him more if he got to skip out the door 30 seconds before his classmates. Fast forward to after the birth of one Miss Emma. The child who single handedly tried to destroy my ability to cope by refusing to sleep, like ever, unless you rode around for a bit to “rock” her. So I would leave my home with enough time to cruise her into sleepy time land, then park my mom wagon by the school and read about Jesus…because sleep deprived mommas need Jesus way more than you well rested mommas out there. I’ve heard similar stories from countless moms. Sure they could go inside and volunteer with “all that free time”, but what if that is literally the only me time they have? Yes, they could cut the apron strings and make little Johnny learn to deal with his anxieties if he’s not picked up in the first round of released kiddos. But if they’re not breaking any laws, let them be. We know not what makes these mommas tick, (unless we’ve been one), so rather than put them down, try to understand that they have their reasons, whether we get it or not.

Next, the crazed momma flying in on two wheels because she’s about to be so late that the cones are taken up and the nice lady with the walkie talkie is moving rapidly for the door. Again, been there…oh wait, currently doing that. Now that I have kids in 2 schools, there is no casual driving into the lot to get my elementary girl. First I must wait for my middle school brood to mosey on down to the car. Seriously, they are slower than molasses. By the time I maneuver through the mess of parked cars, slow moving cars & darting pre-teens who clearly never listened when Mom & Dad said to look both ways before crossing, I am down to mere minutes to make the cut off to get Em. So across town I dash with the handful of other parents facing the same struggle to beat the clock. Yes, our driving may be slightly erratic, we may have a crazed look in our eyes but do you know what a pain it is to park & go get your child from the office because you got there at 3:31?! ONE MINUTE LATE, PEOPLE!!! Cut this mom some slack. Chances are she’s got more kids than she has nerves left and she’s doing the best she can to get them all picked up and carpooled to whatever afterschool activity that comes next. She doesn’t mean to cut you off, perhaps with the noise from the back seat or worse, the smells…dear Lord the smells…she has lost her focus if only for a moment and didn’t realize that you got to that four way stop first. She’s not rude, she is tired! She’s overworked, underpaid and needs another cup of coffee.

Then there are the straight up law breakers. They double park, block driveways, pull up on sidewalks & run stop signs. These mommas are a bit harder to defend because they are acting illegally. They kinda scare me a bit because I am pretty sure they will mow you down if you even so much as think about cutting line. But what’s made these mommas act so irrationally? How many times have they been cut off or nearly sideswiped all in the name of holding their place in line? Maybe they have a brief window of time to pick-up and transport their child elsewhere before returning to a job where boss man makes their life incredibly difficult if they are so much as a nanosecond late. I don’t know, and neither do you, so maybe we can extend a little grace even when they wave at us with one fifth of their hand as they nearly run us off the road. Yes, they are behaving badly and need a serious timeout but one day, you or I might be that momma who has just had enough and we’ll be grateful for that innocent bystander who smiled and waved us ahead after we practically ran them down in our blind rage.

So I realize that I have made light of what can be a dangerous situation. Let’s face it, people have been known to snap in high stress situations behind the wheel. I only wanted to poke a little fun, lighten up a tense situation and maybe make you laugh a little. We’re all in this life thing together. We are going to mess up, daily, and likely offend people as we go. My suggestion is we pray each day that God would help us see others as He does…including the guy blocking your drive, the lady who nearly t-boned you and the lady who’s been parked along the street for two hours already. Frustrating-yes, a nuisance-possibly, a matter of life-and-death-unlikely. For my fellow carpool driving mommas & daddys out there, we really need to be more respectful of the non-parent drivers in our vicinity. They have the same right as us to be on the roads that just so happen to go by our babies schools without the fear of being plowed down by a parade of mini-vans and SUVs.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt 5:7 ESV)

“Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” (Prov 14:29 NIV)

 

~Hey, You With The Stone in Your Hand!~ January 30, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:34 am
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Some days I am seriously amazed at how downright mean people can be to one another. I don’t understand how we, who have been forgiven of much, can be so incredibly unforgiving of others.

I’ve watched on social media as people on opposite sides of an issue have attacked with such viciousness I’m left dumbstruck. The arguments rarely stay on point but rather become personal attacks that accomplish nothing other than “unfriending”.

I’ve sat at functions for my kids and heard the moms at the next table bashing “that mom”.  You know, because they know everything about that woman’s life so clearly they have the authority to discuss her transgressions publicly and decide her fate.

I’ve seen a husband and wife tell anyone and everyone who will listen about the problems they are having with their spouse….without ever having discussed it with their spouse first. Instead of seeking resolution with their partner in life, they are busy building their case to prove their rightness and their loved ones wrongness.

And it’s sad. Why can’t we see the hurt that we are causing in these situations?

Why can’t we disagree without spewing hate in each others faces?

Why can’t we put ourselves in that momma’s place that we are so quick to judge and ask ourselves how it might feel to know that those whispers two tables over are about you?

Why can’t we go to our spouse FIRST in times of trouble and tell THEM what we are feeling and give them a chance to make it right instead of looking for justification from our friends to hold onto that bitterness?

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Eph 4:31-32 NLT)

Be kind.

Be tenderhearted.

Forgive one another.

Maybe before we engage in some form of stone throwing, we should say these three little things to ourselves. If what we’re about to say or do doesn’t lineup with these basic acts of human decency, how about we forgo our participation and drop the stone?oscar

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Col 3:12-13 NIV)

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV)

Approach every situation from a place of love and watch how differently you react to even the worst possible scenarios.

 

~Immorality~ February 17, 2014

We have reached day 7 of our 31 day study of the Book of Proverbs.

On day 5, I used the term “immoral woman” as an analogy to any number of temptations that could ultimately lead to sin.  Today, I’m going straight at the literal meaning of the term.

While chapter 7 talks only of the immoral woman, I am going to broaden that to include the immoral man.  I have readers of both genders and I am aware that immorality is not exclusive to either sex.

As many of Proverbs begin, pointing us to wisdom & insight, so does chapter 7.  We are instructed to “let them protect (us) from an affair with an immoral woman (man), from listening to the flattery of a promiscuous woman (man).”  This is a verse I know a little something about.  As most of you know, I make my very best attempt at being transparent with you, not so you can throw your stones but so that we can grow and learn together in our relationship with the Lord.

Let me begin by saying I have never been unfaithful in my relationships, past or present.  I can not speak to the pain of a physical affair as I have never been on either side of that obstacle.  I am not, nor have I ever been, a promiscuous woman as that definition applies.  I can, however, relate to what happens when an emotional connection is sought from someone other than your partner.  I have been the guilty party and I have been the victim.  Yesterday our pastor made a statement that sums up the ‘why’ for both circumstances, “If you don’t speak words of affirmation to your spouse (fiance, girlfriend, boyfriend) someone else will.”  For me personally, that is precisely how I ended up on both sides of this stumbling back.  When I was the victim, in retrospect I can easily admit that I was not sewing anything positive into my relationship.  I wasn’t being outwardly destructive either which is why at the time I couldn’t understand where any of the fault lied with me.  As the guilty party, I had been dealing with multiple issues and emotions that I felt were not being validated by my partner.

When we are at our lowest point: beaten down, brokenhearted, lost & questioning-that is precisely when the devil will slip right in and do what he does best.  Confuse the ever-loving fire out of you.  As a Christian, that should have served as a waving red flag because God is not the author of confusion.  I can comfortably speak for both instances and say that the guilty party, (self included), justified their actions by leaning on the fact that there was no physical aspect to the connection made.  Want to know another interesting point Pastor made yesterday, “most affairs start with words.”  Even though I nor the person who abused my trust had ever contemplated a physical affair, by making an emotional connection with someone outside of the relationship we could have easily slipped right on down that slippery slope.

In spite of the devastation & hurt feelings that the misuses of trust caused in my relationship, loving and thriving connections were restored.  There is one practice and one alone that allowed the unforgivable to be forgiven: Confession & Repentance.  When I was hurt, forgiveness was sought first from the Lord and then requested of me.  When I acted a fool, I followed the same procedure.

1st John chapter 1 assures us that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness IF we confess our sins to Him.  We are also given the promise that He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west and blotted out our transgressions for His own sake and remembers them no more.  (Psalm 103:12 & Isaiah 43:25)

If the Lord himself can forgive me and the ones who hurt me, then who I am to withhold forgiveness from those who seek it?  If God removes our sins from us, than who am I to drag them back up and use them to beat others OR myself down?

Back to the point of Proverbs 7, not one of us is exempt from temptation of any kind.  We are all weak and subject to sin.  The good news that Proverbs overflows with is that God does not ask us to go at it alone.  He gives us solid teaching and words that bring about an awareness that we could otherwise not comprehend.  When facing the urge to look outside of the relationship that God has blessed us with to seek solace, let us first bury our faces in His Word for strength to resist then we will be equipped with all that we need to mend broken relationships and avoid falling into immoral ones.

This is my picture of GRACE.

This is my picture of GRACE.

*It’s not too late to join us in our 31 days through the Book of Proverbs.  If you wish to start from the beginning, the first post is “31 Day Challenge” listed in the archive section of this blog for the month of February.*

 

~God Is For You~ June 25, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:27 am
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is-god-for-youWhat do you do when you reach a point where you believe God is able, but you are not so sure that He is willing?  You stand looking at your mountain, knowing that God could hurl it into the sea, but it won’t budge.

In Matthew chapter 9, a father approaches Jesus asking him to heal his son.  He says to Jesus:

“If you can do anything, do it.  Have a heart and help us!”

Jesus said, “If?  There are no ‘ifs’ among believers.  Anything can happen.”

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe.  Help me with my doubts!”

(vs. 22-24 The Message)

This father obviously believed in Jesus or he wouldn’t have asked for his help in the first place.  But something made him question whether Jesus would be willing to help him.  Maybe as we face our troubles today, we have our own set of doubts.  We’ve prayed to God to help us, so it’s not that we doubt Him, we doubt ourselves.  Could it be that we think the reason we are trapped in an endless struggle is because we’ve let Him down; that we’re not worthy of His mercy?

“That is why the Lord says,“Turn to me now, while there is time.

Give me your hearts.  Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.

 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.”

Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate,

slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He is eager to relent and not punish.

Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse.”

(Joel 2:12-14 NLT)

God’s grace and mercy is for everyone.  Not one of us is unworthy to receive it if we will turn our hearts to Him and allow Him to shape and mold us.  Believe with your heart, confess with your mouth and know in your mind that the Lord of all lords is eager to relent today.  Be prepared to receive a blessing instead of a curse.  Walk in victory.  In Jesus name.  Amen.