Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Thanksgiving~ November 28, 2013

Gratitude

This past month, several friends have been taking part in the month of gratitude by posting each day what they are most thankful for on social media.  I have participated and listed things ranging from the people that I am most grateful for all the way to something as simple as a hot cup of coffee.

Today, I want to give thanks for what I often take for granted, my Lord.

He is Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord who provides.  When I look back over my life, there are many times when I should have hit bottom.  There have been countless times where finances weren’t just low, they were nonexistent, and God would send us a blessing by way of a brother or sister in Christ, a break from one of our debtors or an unexpected job opportunity.  As I sit here today, we may not have all we want, but God has provided us with all we need and for that I give him thanks.

He is Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord who heals.  Immediately my thoughts take me back to this time last year when Peyton was in excruciating, unexplainable pain.  I have never cried out to God like I did during those weeks, and He came through.  Just last night, both my little girls were restless because of irritating coughs that kept them from laying down peacefully.  I started to jump up and grab the cough medicine and changed my mind.  Instead I prayed and asked God to touch my girls, to take away the cough and bring them comfort that only the Great Physician can bring…and off to sleep they went without another sound.  His healing may not come in the ways we would like or in the timing we would prefer, but it is available to those who call on his name.

He is Abba, Father.  As a parent, I know the lengths that I would go to for my children.  As a Christian, I know that it still pales in comparison to what God has done and will do for me.   He is not some distant, uncaring God.  He is near to us and loves us with an unfailing love that is difficult to comprehend.  In a world where love is often hinged on meeting expectations of another, God’s love is unconditional.  When I am at my most unlovable, He still opens his arms wide and invites me to run into them.

So today, I give thanks to the one who is at times overlooked for all his goodness.  I will praise the name of the Lord, for He alone is worthy of my praise.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.

(Psalm 100:4 NLT)

 

~Irony With a Side of Coffee~ October 30, 2013

progressIt was 6:45 on Tuesday morning and I was attempting to get a little Jesus time.  Problem was, I have two little girls who were dead set on interrupting my quiet time.  Just when I thought I’d found my happy place, one of the intruders burst into a string of demands.

So, with my Unglued book in hand, how do you suppose I handled this invasion of mommy time?

“Will you ever stop?!”  I snipped at my chubby cheek girl.  Her response…she giggled.

And so did I.

You see, I had just that very moment sat reading about raw emotions and not allowing uncontrollable circumstances to dictate my reactions and I failed, epic fail as my children would say.  So I had a choice to make, I could let this slip up ruin the remainder of the day or I could show myself a little grace and move on with my life.

On this particular day, I chose grace.  I pushed aside my study materials, scooped Bella up and went to the kitchen to fix her a snack, a cup of juice and fired up her favorite movie.  I didn’t get to finish all that I wanted to accomplish in my bible study guide but I did get the opportunity to apply what we are studying about.  I like to think of it as life application.

I am so incredibly guilty of allowing unexpected interruptions to define how my day will go.  I am aware that this bit of information shows just how much of an OCD control freak I can be, and I am ok with that BECAUSE admitting that is a step in the right direction.  Learning to adjust my reactions when things don’t go just as I imagined is a process.

Thankfully I am not going through it alone.

“So be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.  For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you.

He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

(Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)

I’m not about to say that I won’t ever have a meltdown again over some random, uncontrollable glitch in my day.  I am human.  I will make mistakes.  But by God’s grace I will move forward, not backwards.  I will press on towards my goal of being a calmer, more easy-going version of myself.  I will learn to accept that I am not master of the universe and the fate of the world does not rest squarely on my shoulders.

 

~Silent Judgment~ October 10, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:31 am
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This week has been a particularly taxing week.  Aside from the entire family being bone tired from all of our running, my husband and I had to take part in a rather uncomfortable meeting.  This isn’t the time or the place to elaborate but I will share one thing. This meeting involved several people and was called to deal with a difficult situation regarding one individual specifically.  After some discussion, this individual was given some news that she wasn’t exactly fond of.  She went from crying in hopes of receiving sympathy to feigning ignorance.  Next came the defensiveness which was followed by pointing the blame elsewhere.  All the while, my husband and I sat silently.  Out of nowhere she says, “I don’t know why ya’ll are sitting here judging me like you think you better than me!”

We hadn’t said one word.  There was nothing that could have been perceived as judgmental by us simply sitting across a table from her.

But she felt convicted.  It wasn’t necessary for us to speak.  She knew the lifestyle that we live didn’t agree with the one that she has chosen and that knowledge alone made her feel judged in our presence.

“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.”

(2 Corinthians 2:15-16 NLT)

In researching the topic of conviction, I came across the website Acts 17:11 Bible Study.  I felt like their words adequately described what I wanted to communicate:

It should not surprise us that as we follow Christ, people who want to remain in sin will start to get uncomfortable around us; that we will be accused of being “judgmental” before we have said a word, and that in general we are disliked and avoided for the sake of His name.  Others will be attracted to us for this same reason.  This is sure proof of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  If this does not happen, can anyone rightly claim to have a measure of the Holy Spirit?  Holiness, by its very nature, illuminates sin in sharp relief.

In light of this knowledge, should we feel guilty when unbelievers make unwarranted accusations of judgment in our company?  No.  Simply put, no.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit and who are we to intervene with His process?

If we never felt convicted of our sin we would never have that overwhelming sensation that something was missing in our lives.  Without conviction, we would have no reason to repent and seek forgiveness from our heavenly Father who is anxiously waiting to give it to us!

Conviction leads to repentance.  Repentance draws us closer to God.

I’m happy to take the insults that will likely be thrown my way again if it leads just one more person to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

forgiveness

 

~Pray From Your Heart~ October 8, 2013

Last night we started back up our life group meetings here in our home.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s basically a small group that gathers to discuss the sermon from the previous week but even more than that, we do life together.  We hold each other accountable, help one another and have committed to be “on call” should anyone in the group need us no matter the time of day.

I love these people.  They are my family and I value them more than they will ever know.

Two things stand out to me from last nights meeting.

The first was an act of service.  We were gifted a fridge from another precious family in our church.  That in and of itself was a God thing!  It was sitting in the dining room and as we were breaking for the evening, one of our members offered to help us swap out the new for the old AND haul off the old one!  Without any hesitation, everyone got to work.  The ladies and I emptied the contents of the fridge and the men got to sweatin’.  Now maybe you are a better housekeeper than me, but for those of you normal folks, I am sure you can imagine how the floor where the fridge once lied looked….fuzz anyone?  My sisters hit their knees, in their nice clothes, and started scrubbing.  That is love.

The other moment that I keep replaying was during our prayer time.  For that part of the night, we bring in all of the children as well.  We had 11 kiddos present & we were outnumbered!  Everyone gets an opportunity to give their prayer requests and as I am sure you can imagine, 5 year old girls will talk as long as given the floor.  So let’s just say we had a lengthy list.  To wrap it up I looked at hubs and said, “pray us out!”  He looked at me and responded with, “uh…”  That is when sweet, blond-headed, middle school child who does not belong to me looked at him and said, “It’s ok, Jamie, just pray from your heart.”

I melted.  Out of the mouths of babes.

Two vital, biblical lessons were displayed here last night.

First, use what God has given you, right where you are at to be of service to others.  You don’t have to be an eloquent speaker to show God’s love.  Take whatever unique gift He has blessed you with and use it to glorify His name.

 “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.”

(1 Peter 4:10-11 NLT)

Lesson number 2, pray from a heart that yearns for God letting the Holy Spirit guide you.  Nowhere in the bible does it say your prayers have to be poetic.  But they must be sincere.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.  Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

(Matthew 6:7-8 NLT)

I thank God for these groupies who are walking in obedience to the Lord.  I pray that each one of you would be blessed with a group of friends to do life with.  Having godly friends to help shoulder your burdens is one of the greatest gifts our Father has given us.  He created us to need one another, don’t shy away from that.GEM

 

~Chaotic Peace~ September 18, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 9:04 am
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invincibleToday, I am sick.  The head in a fog, wrap up in a blankie, where’s my momma with some homemade soup kind of sick.  Because of my current muddle-headed condition, I debated on writing.  Then I remembered my Jesus and all the pain, suffering, humiliation & mockery He faced and yet He still shared the Good News.

Just as I made up my mind to post, my dog decided it was a good time to relieve herself inside.  Naturally she didn’t just hit one spot but felt it was a good idea to walk through the dining room, living room & hallway (which is carpeted) as she made her way towards the front door.  Nice, Kansas.  It was about this time that Bella dumped her entire bowl of cereal in her lap and goes into freak out mode.  Tallest daughter comes around the corner, I squeal at her to stop…too late, she steps in doggie puddle.  Here is where I come to the realization that the devil has declared me public enemy number one.  Seriously people, satan hates me.

I now have approximately 5 minutes to pack two lunches, one snack, sign “must return today” papers and tape two bad knees on runner child.  The mad dash to the car commences as I slosh hot coffee all over myself.  Really, at this point, color me surprised.

Driving to school #1, I say our prayer for the day.  I asked God to bring us peace in the midst of our chaos.  We thanked Him that even on our roughest day, He is with us, caring for us and giving us much needed guidance.  We prayed for traveling mercies for the days events & healing for Momma’s yuck and the boy’s knees.  And you know what happened?  We experienced peace.  In spite of the hectic, crazy house we just left behind, we had a moment of “aahhhh.”

This is why prayer is key.  Regardless of what you are facing, how miserable you feel and how many messes you must clean before 8 am, prayer can bring an unexplainable tranquility.  I believe that it’s through conversation with God that He draws near and comforts us in the stillness.  Days like today it would have been easy not to pray with the kids on the way to school.  I was tired, grumpy, feeling gross, covered in spilt coffee and still reeling about having to cleanup the “yellow river.”  And yet the moment I said the name of Jesus, all was right with the world…even if just for a moment.

“May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.”

(Numbers 6:25-26 NLT)

May you all find rest in the Lord today.  And if you, like me, hit a bump in the road that attempts to derail your entire day, whisper the name of Jesus and put the devil back in his place.

 

~I Get To~ September 10, 2013

privlege

I woke up nice and early this morning so that I would have time to post without interruption.  Just as I was firing up the computer, two little cuties came tearing around the corner giggling and dragging their blankies behind them.  I really wanted to be aggravated that once again my “me” time was facing a full scale invasion of little people, but then they crawled up on the couch and wrapped each other in a hug.  Immediately my frustration with them dissolved and I was thankful that I held off on an early morning tongue lashing.

I can’t tell you how many times this same scenario has played out differently.  The kids, the spouse, a friend need my attention but my mind is so consumed with the “I have to’s” that I push them aside or worse, berate them for asking more from me when clearly my plate is already full.

A prime example would be this blog.  I can be sitting at the computer, fingers flying across the keys, and then one of the five will approach me.  In one of my not-so-shining moments, I might say something like, “Can’t you see that I’m right in the middle of something?!  I have to get this done and posted by 7!”

Why?  Why do I have to have my post out by a set time?  Does the internet shut down?  No.  This is one of the many random, unrealistic, unnecessary expectations that I have put on myself and then went on to punish my loved ones as if they somehow made me this way.

Not nice.  Not nice at all.

A lot of my friends are in the throws of what I would call our “busy season” so I know I can’t be the only one feeling the pressure and strain of an overwhelming schedule.  My prayer today is that each one of us would check our “have to’s” at the door and replace them with “get to’s.”

I don’t have to fix my kids breakfast, I get to.

I don’t have to drive an hour to watch my son play 2 minutes of football, I get to.

I don’t have to do 5 loads of laundry today, I get to.

It is an honor and a privilege to take care of others, not an obligation.  Now, if only I can remind myself of that the next time I start to come undone when I am interrupted from the task at hand.

“But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.”

(1 Timothy 5:8 NLT)

**Bonus Material**

As I was attempting to complete this post this morning, let me give you a rundown of how it all played out.

Kid one:  “When are you going to tape my finger?”  (football injury)

Kid two:  “Hey momma, can you fix me that peanut butter toast?”

Kid three:  “When you get a chance today, can you go buy me white cheer shoes?  I’m the only one who doesn’t have them?”

Kid four:  “I thought you were going to pack my lunch today?!”

Kid five:  *non-stop screaming*

This is truly laughable!  Every time I would start to write again, the next kid would roll in!  Could it be that the devil really didn’t want me to blog today?!

 

~I Will Not Be Moved~ September 4, 2013

“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced.  Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do His will.  And I know that I will not be put to shame.”

(Isaiah 50:7 NLT)

We are living in a time where Christians cannot open their mouths without facing criticism.  In some cases, outspoken believers are dealing with malicious words and even violent threats.  Christian businesses are being boycotted because of their religious beliefs.  Our children are mocked for praying over their meal in the public school cafeteria.  We receive hate mail when we say or write something that lines up with the Word but flies in the face of what the world says.

My response…so. what.

The Bible is filled with passages that warn us of the persecution we will face as followers of Christ and yet it pales in comparison to what Jesus endured so that we may have this life that we are living.  Let the mockers say what they will, I know where my help comes from.  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth!  He has already given us the victory.  We need not lose heart over a battle that is raging around us because it has already been won.

“He who gives me justice is near.  Who will dare to bring charges against me now?  Where are my accusers?  Let them appear!  See, the Sovereign Lord is on MY side!  Who will declare me guilty?”

(Isaiah 50: 8 NLT)

We who are brothers and sisters in Christ need to stand up for our religious rights.  All people are entitled to their beliefs.  ALL people.  That includes us.  I will not allow the government, media or any other organization cause me to cower from standing up for what I believe, which is simply put…the Bible.  I will spread the Word of God in a real, tangible way with loving words, thoughtful actions and a generous spirit.  And in so doing, show all the naysayers that we aren’t just a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites.

Hold fast, saints.  Our faith is what keeps us strong when our faith is questioned.

I gotta get me one of these!

I gotta get me one of these!

“So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you.”

 

~The Word As My Weapon~ July 4, 2013

“He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the LORD supported me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.”

(2Samuel 22:17-20 NLT)

What is your “powerful enemy” that has you drowning in deep waters today? Who is holding you down beneath the darkness attempting to drown you? Which one of life’s struggles have you so bound that you can’t see the light hovering just above the water’s surface? God is there, with His mighty hands, reaching down to lift you to a place of safety. Your enemy may be a strong one, but God is all the more powerful.

Are you facing financial ruin, with a mountain of debt that seems impassable?

“You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen.” (Matthew 21:21 NLT)

Is your marriage falling apart before your eyes, struggling with forgiveness of some past hurt?

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3 NIV)

Have your children rejected God and instead chosen to live dangerously close to the edge?

“Direct your children onto the right path and when they are older, they will not leave it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NLT)

No matter what you are facing, God is standing at the ready saying, “I’ve got a word for that.” His Word is full of promises just waiting for us to take hold of. The enemy is clever and knows just how to manipulate each one of us. If we stay in the Word and commit it to memory, we will be armed and ready for any hurdle that satan throws onto our path. Don’t lie down and admit defeat today, stand up and fight. Hold up your shield of faith as you battle using the Word of truth as your weapon.Two Edged Sword

“In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37 NIV)

 

~What happened to grace?~ June 27, 2013

graceSocial media has once again inspired me.  It seems that everyone has an opinion on a certain well-known Southern lady and something that she did or said many years ago.  Now, before anyone fires off hate mail my way, let me make my point.

What we all are seeing, hearing, and reading about this case is only what the media is allowing, so I believe we’d all agree that our information is limited.  Do any of us really know what this woman said or thought 30 years ago or even yesterday for that matter?  I understand that she made offensive remarks about a certain ethnic group, and I am not defending that fact.  However, how many of us can stand up and say we have not once ever said something derogatory, discriminating or offensive about another human being?

“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and never sins.”

(Ecclesiastes 7:20 NASV)

It is because she is in the limelight that her mistake is being broadcast for all the world to see.  And it is for this same reason that most of America feels they have a right to judge her.  But what if someone flung open the door to our past so that all of our transgressions were laid out for the whole world to see?  How many of us would lose friends over something we or they did many years ago?

My girlfriend and I were talking about this last night at church and it all comes down to one word: grace.  The vast majority of our population has no grace.  There is no forgiveness of wrongs, no room for human error, nor is there any mercy.  Someone blunders and the world cries foul and screams for justice.  The offender attempts to apologize and we collectively turn our backs refusing a 2nd chance.  Why?  We are neither judge nor jury.  It is not our place to sit back and condemn another HUMAN BEING from the comfort of our homes based solely on what we think we know.  The truth of the matter is, no one knows another’s heart condition.  We can’t see into someone’s heart and know if they are sincere or simply tossing out words that they think we want to hear.  But that’s not our problem.  We are supposed to forgive and leave the judgment to Christ.

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  (Ephesians 4:32 NLT)

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  (Matthew 6:14-15 NLT)

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”  (Luke 6:37 NIV)

I could go on with verse after verse but they all carry the same message, forgiveness is far sweeter than judgment.  Think of it this way, how would you want others to respond if it was your fanny in the hot seat?  Just a little something to think about today.

*I feel I should add that this post is not about where I stand on what this particular woman did.  I really just wanted to give people a different perspective on how we respond to our fellow brothers and sisters in the midst of a “scandal.” *

 

~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.