Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

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

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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.

 

~Muscle Memory~ June 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 10:02 am
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“Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget.” (Prov19:11 The Message)

I am not always a smart people. Sometimes it would be easier for me to give a cat bath than it would be for me to tame my tongue. Like every other person on the face of the planet, I have my hot button issues. I can turn the other cheek all day long, that is until someone strikes my no zone.

I’ll give an example. As I am certain most moms will find relatable, I can show you five sides of crazy if you mess with my kids. If one of their peers causes an offense, I can calmly and rationally help them deal. However, if an adult hurts one of my babes, anger management is the last thing on my mind. I’ve come to realize in those moments that applying my voice of reason, aka hubs, is best for all involved. He sees things from a different perspective and gives me a safe place to talk it out so that I don’t let it build and fester into something nasty.

It is worth mentioning as a sidebar that anger is not a sin, it’s an emotion. It’s what you DO with that anger that can result in sin.

So, with that in mind,  what do we do when those feelings of rage come surging up from the recesses of our normally mild-mannered minds? How do we let God speak to us when truthfully we’d rather tune Him out for just a minute while we unleash the fury and repent later?

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV)

We have to saturate ourselves with God’s Word on the good days so that when the hard days come, we will be prepared. We won’t have to flip through the Scriptures, frantically looking for a Word to bring us off the ledge in the heat of the moment. It will already be there, pushing its way through the hurt and the anger to bring peace to our troubled hearts.

It’s what our worship pastor refers to as muscle memory. If you do anything repetitiously, eventually it becomes second nature. You won’t have to think about it, it will simply be what happens instinctively. Be proactive, don’t wait for trouble to come. You know where you struggle. I have found an excellent resource in Open Bible. Here you will find “What does the Bible say about….” and you fill in the blank. Typically you will get multiple references from God’s Word, not man’s, to help you refocus.stress

Fill your heart and mind with truth, it will crowd out the chatter and replace it with a peace beyond understanding.

 

~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

 

 

~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)

 

~Weakened By Grace~ July 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:19 am
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Over the last few weeks, our praise team has been sitting down in between services and sharing bits of our testimonies with the group. It’s been incredible to hear the diversity in our backgrounds and yet God has placed us together to serve Him in one accord.

During this process, I’ve been reminded once again of the importance of sharing your story with others.

aa656b0df16cf04f58ca212c0ba41bcdFor just a moment, think of your church from the perspective of a newcomer. When they come through the door, they’re met with smiling greeters & a hospitality team 
serving up a delicious cup of coffee. From there, they enter the sanctuary where the worship team leads the congregation in songs about God’s grace & redemptive power followed by the Pastor bringing a word that is simultaneously corrective & uplifting. Service draws to a close and the altars open for prayer. They watch from their seat as people kneel to pray and the prayer team moves in to intercede on the behalf of others.  As they leave the building, their mind fills with insecurities. “I can’t fit in here, everyone has it all together & I am a mess.”

But when you share your testimony, people are allowed to see where you came from to reach where you are right now. It shows the hand of God in your life & gives a new hope for theirs. 

I will say this, sharing your testimony can be exhausting.

This last Sunday was my turn to speak to the table and after 10 minutes, I was spent. Not because I am still bound by my past, quite the contrary. When I share what God has brought me through, the realization of His restoration in my life makes me weak, every single time. I am overwhelmed at the number of times He protected me, before I knew Him or had any desire to seek Him.

“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”- and I am the worst of them all. BUT GOD had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16 NLT)

 

~Chin Down, Eyes Forward, Arms Moving~ April 15, 2014

Last night I attended a track meet in which two of my children were participants.  Track meets can be fun to watch.  If you have 5 hours to spare, I highly recommend you attend one.  This particular meet was kinda rough as the skies had opened up just at the start and completely saturated the track, sand pits, runways….and bleachers.  Boo.

The kids were troopers though and went to work.  The majority of the runners participate in multiple events.  My two are distance runners meaning their events included the 1600,800 and 4 x 400 relay.  A total of 1.75 competitive miles.  As you might imagine, while the night drags on…and on….and on, they get a little run down.

Exhaustion sets in and it’s as if the weight of their heads is too much for their necks to hold up.  They give in to the pull and let their heads drop back, mouths wide open, sucking in air.

The sound of competitors feet, hard and fast behind them, tempts them to look over their shoulders to see just how much they are closing the gap.

Event after event, their bodies start to wear down and their once perfect form starts to deteriorate.  Their arms swing wildly as they approach the finish line one more time.

Myself and the fellow momma bears, (and 1 nana), scream frantically from the stands “Come on!!  You can do it! One more lap!!  You’re almost there!!”

But one coach on the infield caught my attention.  He was standing about 50 meters from the finish line and every time one of his kids would come by, this is what he would say, “Chin down, eyes forward and keep those arms moving front to back.”

Words of wisdom.  And I’m not talking about strictly for running.

Life gets tough and the burden of it all weighs you down.  You drop your head in defeat.  You start looking backwards, thinking the past was so much better than the present.  You decide you just don’t care anymore about doing things the “right way” and you start flailing.

Chin down, eyes forward, arms moving.

When you’re tired of trying and feel like giving up, that’s when you need to buckle down.

When the enemy is nipping at your heels, attacking you in every aspect of your life, keep your focus.

When it seems you’ve given your very best and it’s all for nothing, don’t lose your form.  Keep doing what you know to be right and true all the way through to the finish.

Chin down, eyes forward, arms moving.

That is how we will win the most important race we’ll ever run.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” (Hebrews 12:1-4 NLT)

champion

One more time:  CHIN DOWN, EYES FORWARD, ARMS MOVING.

 

~Temptation at Your Door~ February 15, 2014

“For the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil.  But in the end she is as bitter as poison, as dangerous as a double-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.  For she cares nothing about the path to life.  She staggers down a crooked trail and doesn’t realize it.”  (Proverbs 5:3-6 NLT)

opportunity knocks

While it would appear that Proverbs 5 deals solely with promiscuous women & adultery, I believe the ‘immoral woman’ in these verses can stand for other forms of temptation as well.

We all have our own demons to battle, that one thing that tempts us to abandon the path to righteousness and hop in the boat to Hell.  Maybe it is sexual sin that is your stumbling block and you can be quite literal with these words:

 “Do you know the saying, “Drink from your own rain barrel, draw water from your own spring-fed well”?  It’s true. Otherwise, you may one day come home and find your barrel empty and your well polluted.”  (Proverbs 5:16-17 The Message)

If your impulses have nothing to do with the opposite sex, you may skim right over chapter 5 thinking it has no bearing on your life.

But what if you look at what the word immoral means?  Other words that are interchangeable with immoral could be: unethical, evil, vile, corrupt and dishonest.  Any act that could be described using those words may be your ‘immoral woman.’

  • Dishonest gain at work.
  • Taking that which doesn’t belong to you.
  • Getting sloppy drunk at the bar.
  • Plotting revenge towards those who “deserve it.”

This is by no means a comprehensive list.  I may not know your area of contention, that which causes your spirit to be at war with your flesh, but you do.  So what are you going to do about it?

Do you want to be like the “evil man held captive by his own sins who will die from his lack of self-control” or are you going to nail that sin to the cross and rely fully on Jesus to help you overcome it daily?

The choice is yours.  Temptation is an ugly mistress who’s only desire is to see you lay in ruin….are you going to invite her in to your home or barricade the door?  If she’s already taken up residence, it’s never too late to sign the eviction notice and REPENT!

 

~I See You~ June 21, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 8:33 am
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“Hey Mommy, when God turns around, can He still see me?”

This was the question proposed by my little Emma.  She is going through a lying phase.   Her daddy and I both have said things along the lines of, “God saw you Emma, even if we did not,” or “you can lie to me, but you can’t lie to God.”  So I am guessing that is what triggered her question.

“Yes, Emma, He can, because He never turns His back to us.  He watches everything we do.  He never sleeps, or rests but is always aware of what His children are up to.”

“Oh.”

I had to giggle at the way she deflated as she said the word.  I believe she was hoping that there was a chance she could pull one over on God while He wasn’t watching, like she does with mommy and daddy.  Now don’t get me wrong, she isn’t malicious with her actions, it’s little things that she’s been dishonest about.

Some grown-ups can act this same way.  Maybe they aren’t committing big sins, just little insignificant sins.   They think God won’t see or He’ll overlook their minor offense because His back is turned so that He can focus on the big sinners.  Well, they’re wrong.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.”

(Hebrews 4:13 NIV)

There isn’t one thing that falls unnoticed before God.  He knows all things, sees all things and hears all things.  The fact of the matter is He knows you better than you know yourself so nothing you do surprises Him.  And when you stand before Him one day to give an account for your life, His attention will be solely on you.  It won’t matter that your sin wasn’t as bad as so-and-so’s.  It’s not that God is sitting in Heaven, anxiously waiting for you or me to mess up so He can strike us down.  It is because of His great love for us that He cares about every intricate aspect of our lives.psalm-139-8

 

 

~God Knows My Heart~ May 6, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 6:56 am
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repentIt’s a statement I’m sure most of you have heard and quite possibly something you yourself have said.  While it is true, some have begun to misuse the meaning.  Yes, the Lord does know your heart, your thoughts, your desires, your dislikes…the list could go on and on.  However, the fact that He knows your heart doesn’t excuse you from certain obligations as a Christian.  I’ll give you some scenarios.

You inadvertently insult a friend when they come to you for advice.  You know you shouldn’t have said what you did, or at least not the way you said it.  But you don’t apologize to your friend.  You don’t ask for their forgiveness much less God’s, because “It’s ok, God knows my heart.”

Your day is jam-packed with important activities.  You know, like answering emails, doctors appointments, grocery shopping, not to mention work!  You just don’t have time to read your usual morning devotion.  Evening comes and all is quiet, you could spend some time in the Word.  But you’re exhausted, it was a busy day and you just want to relax and catch up on your shows.  No big deal.  There is always tomorrow.  Besides, “God knows my heart.”

An old friend calls you up and invites you to that place you know you shouldn’t go.  But you’re a changed person now.  You love the Lord.  You can visit one of your old haunts and exercise self-control.  One thing leads to another and you slip-up.  It’s not like it was a big sin, just a little mistake that you never intended to make.  It certainly doesn’t warrant a confession or repentance before the Lord.  No one else even knows what you did so why should you publicly admit fault to your peers or to God?  “Repentance is just a formality when God knows my heart.”

When you look at it from these perspectives you can see why it is dangerous to hide behind what has become nothing more than a cliché; something that believers convince themselves is sufficient when they don’t want to address an uncomfortable issue.  Instead of using God’s omniscience as your scapegoat, take a look at what the Scriptures say.

James 5:16 tells us to “confess our sins to one another” not ignore them and hope the other person forgets that you wronged them.

Matthew 6:33 says we should “seek first the kingdom of God.”  He isn’t satisfied with our leftovers.  Use Jesus’ life as your example, he rose before the sun to make time with God.  Time spent in the Word should be a priority, not a fleeting thought.

And when you sin, no matter how insignificant the sin may seem, a sin is a sin is a sin, period.  Repentance is necessary to receive forgiveness from God.  There are countless Scriptures to back this Biblical principle up.  Perhaps the one that sums it up the best, “unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:3b)

 

~Casting Stones~ April 8, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Valerie Rutledge @ 6:58 am
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Casting-StonesShe was contemplating an affair.  Immediately my mind went to, “How can a woman of God be so foolish?!”

Someone dear to me was experiencing gut-wrenching heartbreak but all I could focus on was the fact that she oughta’ know better!  Instead of listening to her and trying to think of how to guide her through this struggle, I was thinking of all the Scriptures that speak against adultery.  There wasn’t a helpful thought in my head, just judgement, plain and simple.  Then the Lord recalled to my memory,

“let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

(John 8:7 NIV)

Whoa.  How many times have you and I been quick to pass judgment on another for a mistake they have made?  How many times in self-righteous indignation have we scoffed, “I would never do such a thing!”  We’ve never contemplated this particular sin so we can’t wrap our feeble minds around how a fellow Christian can allow themselves to fall into this trap.

No one sin is greater than another and not one of us is without sin, not one.

Think about a time in your life when you slipped.  Had it not been for godly counsel, would you have found your way back onto the right path?  If someone hadn’t loved you enough to come alongside you and help you walk through your valley, where would you be now?  The Bible tells us this,

“If one of you should wander from the truth & someone should bring him back, remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death & cover over a multitude of sins.”

(James 5:19-20)

If you see someone you love beginning to roam aimlessly, offer words of wisdom and truth; not words of condemnation.  I’m sure you have heard the expression, you catch more bees with honey.  The same can be said for our Christian friends.  They will be more receptive to what you have to say if you cover your words with grace & humility.  And if you are like me and question whether or not it’s your place to say anything at all, think about verse 20-you will save him from death.  The truth, spoken in love, can save someone you care about from making a mistake that can lead to their spiritual death.  That’s heavy.  It is a huge responsibility to offer counsel to others, one that should not be taken lightly.  If you make yourself a student of God’s Word and let the Holy Spirit guide you, you will become more confident in your responses when someone comes to you for guidance.  When you do respond, let the words of Proverbs 15 ring in your heart:

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

(vs. 1)