Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Great Exchange, Part 1

With this week being the week before Easter, we are being even more intentional in talking about the "Easter" story. Yesterday, I had a discussion with the children (after reading to them about the life and death and life of Jesus) about some of the primary accusers of our Savior....the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were one of the most "upstanding" (in their own eyes) citizens, weren't they? They were the keepers of the law! They followed the book to a tee. Yet Jesus reserved His most harsh words for this group of "religious leaders". The problem was, they didn't just keep the law. They added to the law. They worshipped the law. They glorified themselves in the name of following the Holy God.

I am tempted to quote the entirety of Matthew 23 here, but, for obvious reasons, I will not. But I ask you to read it, and as you do, think about the church today.

What have we, in the name of Christianity, added to the commandments of Jesus to love the Lord with our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves?

Consider these man-made traditions: dressing up for church, singing only certain kinds of songs, using only a certain translation of the Bible, going to church several times a week. I'm not saying that those things are wrong in and of themselves, but they become wrong when they are seen as rules instead of personal preferences.

They become wrong when they are kept and then used to promote ourselves as more holy than others.

They are wrong when they become more important than following Christ--which has nothing to do with following a set of rules, but has everything to do with freedom from sin and the law (Galatians 5:1).

The Bible is clear that as Christians, we are simply to be like Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2). On the cross, He exchanged death for life, and freed us from the law of sin and death. Does that give us a license to sin? Of course not!!!! Galatians 5:13-14 says, "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'."

Freedom from the law means that we are free to fulfill the law of Christ, which is love (Galatians 6:2). It means that we are no longer bound by sin. It means that we should not be like the Pharisees, who believed that keeping man-made traditions would somehow make them greater in the eyes of God (Matthew 15).

Yes, Jesus had hard words for those people. He called them hypocrites, white-washed tombs and a brood of vipers--and this was the "religious" group.

Jesus' death and resurrection was so much more than we sometimes understand. He set us free, and He wants us to walk daily with Him--not so that we will be glorified and simply look holy, but so that He will be glorified and we can be holy.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Non-Distractors

After last week, I decided that something had to change. Maybe you know what I'm talking about, or maybe I'm the only homeschooler who wonders what it would be like to get through a lesson without "distractions". What are these distractions of which I speak?

My younger children.

I know. I'm terrible.

It seems that sometimes I have a mindset which causes me to sometimes view my younger kids as hinderances to the older ones' learning, because they sometimes "interrupt" our studies. Granted, there are times when Ashlyn needs to work alone to keep from being distracted, but this week a light bulb came on in my head. This is nothing new to many homeschoolers, but I finally realized (after much prayer) that the beauty of home education is that my children can (and should) learn together!

We have started doing some studies together--even including Jacob, who has trouble sitting still, but is picking up on all kinds of stuff. It's been really fun doing this, and we are actually looking at a new curriculum for next year that is aimed at teaching all children together!

This week I sort of rearranged things in the schedule and made a greater effort to make sure that everyone truly participated in the morning Bible reading/study.

It paid off Thursday, when we had been reading about Lazarus being raised from the dead (about which, by the way, after I said that Lazarus might have even already started to stink, Emily proclaimed, "God made him smell good!") Jacob decided he wanted to "read" from his Bible. He opened up his little New Testament and very emphatically stated, "God made stuff! He made airplanes, rockets and helicopters!" I laughed, because that's where he is right now! Every time we have discussions concerning Jesus, he says something about the things that God made. I know that he really is gleaning information not only from Jason and me, but from his sisters as well.

This has made me feel so refreshed with our school days. I feel like I can relax a bit and instead of say "It's time for school!", I can say "It's time to learn!" and my precious little "distractions" become welcome contributors.

I don't know what took me so long to figure this out...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Dad

Last week, my dad had a birthday, so we had a birthday party for him! Naturally, Emily wanted to know what "kind" of birthday party he would be having. She was so sincere when she asked, "I mean, will it be Tinkerbell, or horses, or...just what kind of birthday party will it be?" I knew then that we should come up with something!!

So, fifteen minutes before the family arrived, I dressed Jake in a train engineer costume that my sister-in-law had given me (thanks Aimee!) We decided to have a train party, and that was the best we could do. But that was very appropriate, given that my dad is a retired engineer! I was shocked when my dad walked in with HIS engineer cap on too! That was such a cool coincidence!

In honor of his birthday, I want to share just a few reasons why I think my dad is awesome! Here they are:

1) He is likable. He never meets a stranger, and rarely does a non-stranger go away from Dad without hearing about Christ.

2) When Dad was nineteen, he was in a horrible car accident with some of his friends. He lay in a coma for a full week, his family unsure that he would ever wake up. But he did wake up, and when he did, he was never to be the same. God had spared his life, and for Dad there was no other option but to live his life for HIM.

3) Dad loves God and has a passion for seeing others experience salvation and grow in their faith. He has one of most evangelistic hearts that I know. I have seen him share his testimony with "strangers" and friends alike, and I am aware of many occasions where he cared enough about people to lovingly confront their sin.

4) Dad has always been an example of gentleness and patience.

5) Dad taught me the futility of worry.

6) Dad has kept a diary which contains events from every day for as long as I can remember. He can tell you what happened on any given day since...sometime in the 70's.

7) Dad has a major sweet tooth (which he graciously passed on to me....thanks Dad).

8) Dad loves solitude.

9) My dad has unparalleled devotion to his family. Not only has he always been a faithful husband and father, he is also a devoted son, not hesitating to help take care of his aging parents.

10) My dad is not afraid to show me and tell me how much he loves me. If I have a need, whether it be helping with the kids or helping me get my vehicle (with all the keys lost) to the dealership to have new ones made, Dad will always put himself last and help. He's just that kind of guy.

11) Dad goes the extra mile to make you feel special! This was the sign he made for my birthday "party"!
Well, I could go on and on.

You know, Dad has spent many hours of his life on a train, making sure that freight gets where it needs to be and that it gets there safely.

Sometime in the near future, Dad will be boarding another train, but this time as a passenger. He is taking a trip across the country via Amtrak. I have no doubt that on this trip he will meet many non-strangers, and that within those brief exchanges, many will hear about the One who can change lives, and can get them where they need to be.

I've learned so much from my Dad, and I cannot even express the gratitude I feel to the Lord for allowing me to be raised my a father who loves, cherishes, instructs and honors his family like mine does.

Thanks Dad. :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The End of the Rainbow

We learned about St. Patrick today (go figure). :)

We all wore green (even if the kids didn't think my "khaki" green was green). All day, no matter where we went, my kids were the "green" police. When we pulled into the church parking lot, we saw Harold getting out of his truck, and immediately Ashlyn said, "Uh-oh! Harold's not wearing green!" I don't think she pinched him though (that's not to say that no one got pinched of course).

We also talked about Irish folklore--gold, luck, rainbows and leprechauns. I had come across this recipe on a magazine's website, a
nd I thought it would be fun, especially considering my kids' love of rainbows. Turns out, it was fun!

I guess you could say we found our pot o' gold. :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

And Then There Was Jake

Look at this kid. I mean, really look at this kid.

The expression. The pointing finger. The jeans.

I do a lot of praying about Jacob. Not that I don't pray for my other kids. In fact, I pray specifically for all of them every day. But with Jacob, I find myself whispering a lot of "in the moment" prayers.

As the above photo so accurately exhibits, Jacob is a child who does his own thing. For example, if Jake doesn't feel like talking to you, he doesn't whine, or say he doesn't want to talk, or even look at you. You are just invisible to him.

If Jacob wants a bouncy ball from the bouncy ball machine at soccer, and you tell him that you're sorry but you don't have a quarter, he doesn't hear you say that. He just keeps asking and you keep having to tell him over and over that you physically cannot get him a bouncy ball even if you wanted to. It doesn't matter to him. He didn't hear that. He just keeps asking.

If Jacob doesn't want to take a nap, and he screams and cries because you are making him, and so you decide to discipline him for his disrespect, he doesn't care. He will take the discipline and continue to scream and cry so much that you finally have to shut the door and hold it shut so he doesn't succeed in trying to get out, and then you have to (with one hand because the other hand is on the doorknob) reach to the nearby bookshelf and find your copy of The Strong-Willed Child by Dr. Dobson and frantically search the pages to see if there is any other advice for this situation, all while saying an "in the moment" prayer that God would help you to stay in control!

Whew. Just remembering that day wears me out.

Jacob is a good kid. He is also a funny kid. He's a darn cute kid too. He is a good, funny, cute kid...with a very strong will.

I have prayed lots of prayers for wisdom concerning this three year old boy. This task of parenting sometimes seems daunting, doesn't it? But God knows our children. He knows my little boy. He knew what He was doing when He gave him to us, and He has equipped us (though sometimes I question!) to help shape this strong will that He has given Jacob. I mean, if the conviction with which Jake lives his life as a three year old carries over into a life that longs to please the Lord, I can't imagine how much he will be used for the Kingdom!

I'm nowhere near a perfect parent. These "battles" with Jake wear me out sometimes! I always pray that I will know where to draw that fine line of Godly discipline and arbitrary punishment. I try to stick to the areas of disrespect and disobedience, and, you know, if he wants to wear his pants backwards or sport his monster truck galoshes when it's ninety degrees outside, I'll let it go. Some battles aren't worth fighting! I want to spend my energy on the ones that are, and trust that God will show me how to do it, since He knows my son better than I do!

But oh, how I love this kid. He's awesome...backwards jeans and all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Real Amy Liddle

If you've been following my blog for any reasonable amount of time, you may notice that lately I've been a little restless with the layout, etc. So, in that spirit, I am also in the process of trying to add a few things and have updated my profile.

As I was doing that, I was thinking about all the different people I've "been" over the years (daughter, sister, wife, mother, etc.), it reminded me of an area in my life in which God has totally transformed me.

I'll start with this example:

When I was younger, growing up in a small town, I was always receiving compliments for the way I sang. (Please understand that this is not a boastful statement; instead it is a truthful one that is necessary to prove my point.)

As I grew up and continued singing, I kept receiving praise. Maybe too much praise, because over those formative years, even though I always had a desire to grow in my faith, I was unknowingly being held captive by something: my identity. You see, by the time I finished high school and entered college, my whole identity was wrapped up in who I was as a musician. In other words, I needed praise from people in regards to my music. I needed it so much that if i didn't have it, I felt completely defeated as a person. That is very unstable ground, my friends. Unfortunately, for people who have spent time in the spotlight, it is an easy trap to fall into.

I cannot say enough about God's patience with me. He never gave up on me. Even though I struggled in those areas, maybe He saw in me a heart that was seeking Him as much as it could. He gently brought me to the realization (though gentle is not always without pain) that I was not merely Amy the singer. He taught me that I was much more, created in His image, and that He wanted me to rest in that fact that I was simply...His.

Fast forward through several years and a lot of growing up....

These days, I still love making music. It is a gift that I choose to give back to God. But what's different about these days is that I don't need the praise of others to confirm that I have done that. I have learned that when I sing, God is "hearing" my heart. He knows when I am doing it for Him and when I am doing it for others. It matters to me what He thinks of me. I can rest in the fact that music is a part of who I am, but it is not who I am.

I could go on and on about other facets of my life that I have had (or am currently trying) to lay aside and then realize that I am simply...Amy: forgiven, loved and blameless because of Christ. And you know what? Because God cares enough for me to bring me around, I am also free.

Free from having to depend on others for my joy.
Free from having to worry about making a mistake.
Free to live my life according to what God brings my way, not according to others' expectations (although I would be lying if I said that I have perfected this!)

So, who am I?



That's who I am.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Giant in the Faith

Lately, I've been reading a book called 50 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren W. Wiersbe. It's basically 50 mini-biographies of some of the great "spiritual giants" such as Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, A. W. Tozer and Oswald Chambers.

I have been amazed at some of the stories I've been reading, so I had to share at least one.

Have you ever heard of Fanny Crosby? She lived from 1820-1915 and wrote.....get ready for this......8,000 hymns. EIGHT THOUSAND!! Many of them have long been forgotten, but many of them are still being sung today, including "Blessed Assurance," "Jesus, Keep My Near the Cross," and "All the Way My Savior Leads Me".
I was particularly moved by her story, although I had heard part of it before. When she was only six weeks old, she had a minor eye inflammation and as a result of the doctor's careless treatment, she was left blind. Here is what she said of that "unfortunate" circumstance: "It seemed intended by the blessed Providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank Him for the dispensation."

About the doctor, she said, "If I could meet him now, I would say, 'Thank you, thank you'--over and over again, for making me blind."

Here is the reason, as the book goes on to say,

"In fact, she claimed that if she could have her sight restored, she would not attempt it. She felt that her blindness was God's gift to her so that she could write songs for His glory. 'I could not have written thousands of hymns,' she said, 'if I had been hindered by the distractions of seeing all the interesting and beautiful objects that would have been presented to my notice.'

She wrote her first poem when she was eight years old.
Here it is.

Oh, what a happy child I am,
Although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don't!
So weep or sigh because I'm blind,
I cannot, or I won't!"

How convicting that is! Reading about these ordinary people who had extraordinary faith has been such an encouragement to me to keep the faith and seek God all the more.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Funny Kids!

My Favorite Quotes For Today

Jacob, in the car after I turned on the radio...

"I know this...this is K-Love! I like K-Love. But 'specially I like Michael Jackson."

Emily, after being asked what she wants to be when she grows up....

"I want to be a Professional That Knows Jesus Ballet-er."

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Favorite Experience

Whew!! It's been busy around here the past few days. I'm glad to finally get the chance to sit down and share about my favorite experience at the Creation Museum...the Planetarium.
Ashlyn is taking a wonderful science course in Astronomy this year. WE have learned so much this year, as there are whole chapters on each planet, plus the moon, space rocks, stars and Pluto. She has been fascinated and I have been utterly amazed at the perfect design of God's universe. She has admitted several times that it's hard to believe how God could be so big and yet care about us. That has given me many opportunities to share Scripture with her about how God knows the number of hairs on our heads and how he cares more for us than anything. It's been good.

Our visit to the planetarium just exercised our minds even further, as we were "taken" to the outskirts of our galaxy, only to see more and more galaxies.

So many stars.

So many planets.

So many miles.

So many questions.

My mind was blown once again. All I could do was be humbled that out of all of His Creation, we are the most prized. Earth is so small in comparison, but it was here that He chose to place His masterpiece. And then, when we betrayed Him, it was here that He sent His beloved Son to die...

for me....

and for you,

so that we could share in His eternal glory. It's difficult to comprehend that it was planned that way from the beginning.

Ashlyn and I have agreed many times during our study of the universe that we cannot wait to be with God so that we may have answers to all of our questions. It will be a sweet time, for sure. But until then, I live by faith, believing that His Word is truth. In addition, God has used science to give us glimpses of His handiwork and proof that He is truth.

I know that if I feel like falling prostrate in worship merely by what I see from a projector in a planetarium, I cannot imagine what it will be like to see my Father in all His glory, face to face.

Now that will be a great experience.

Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might
And the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.

Isaiah 40:26