Spiritual Journeys

Tools for Godly Living/Alyce-Kay are considering offering some courses in Christian topics and we would like to know what subjects would most interest people.  Here are some of the details (and see Q&A/update after the survey at the end):

  • You would not go anywhere for these.
  • The classes would meet as a teleconference call every two weeks.  If you can’t make the call, it would be recorded for you to listen to later (you’d just miss out on participating in the discussion).
  • There would be daily or weekly Bible study assignments and application projects which you would print from online (you would choose your level of difficulty by how much time you want to put into it).
  • There would be a dedicated Facebook page for further discussion, questions, and sharing.
  • Each class would be 90 days long.
  • They would be appropriate for high school through adults, as well as some junior highers.
  • These could also be used by groups; for example, church groups, Sunday School classes, home Bible study groups, families, and homeschoolers.  (If you’re a group, we can talk about how this can best be used by your specific group.  If you homeschool, we can help you determine which  school subjects these could apply to.)
  • If you’ve ever taken any of Alyce-Kay’s SoD (School of Discipleship) classes, these would be something like those.

Note that Tools for Godly Living courses are always biblically based, strong on helping you discover for yourself what God’s Word says.  They are meant for study, not for just sitting back and listening.  My personal commitment is always to bring you to a closer relationship with God and a stronger commitment to Him.

My background is a BA from Westmont College in Religious Studies (emphasis in theology and Greek).  I’ve taught Bible classes for all ages most of my life and have written my own curriculum for almost all of them, as well as curriculum for individual home Bible study and homeschoolers.  My doctrine & apologetics course for children was approved by pastors from 17 denominations, and I generally try to stick to what is appropriate for all denominations in most of my teaching.  (In other words, I try to stay focused on essentials.)

I want these courses to be accessible to anyone,  so there would not be a set charge.  You are completely welcome to take them free of charge.  If the Lord puts it on your heart to pay any amount for them, it would definitely help and would make it more possible for me to continue offering these courses in the future.

If you think you might be interested (no obligation), I’d like to know what kinds of topics interest people the most.  Please note that there are actually 2 surveys below.  You may vote for as many of the following as you find interesting.   You may also add other choices.  If you don’t find enough room in the survey,  feel free to add your suggestions in the comments area (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page).

Please  share this with your friends, church, Bible study group, homeschool group, on Facebook, etc.  Thanks so much for your help!

You are not required to fill out the contact info in order to vote, but please do fill it out, if you’d like us to let you know when we offer these classes.

Since posting this, I’ve received a few really good questions, so I thought I would share them here.

Q:  Would people outside the USA be able to join these classes?

A:  Yes!  The only thing is that it would be an international call to be on the teleseminars (including listening to the recording of the calls).  I’m sure there must be a way, since we would be recording them, to put them on mP3 or some other format that could be listened to online or downloaded, so that you wouldn’t have to make an international call.  If someone overseas is interested, then I will check around and find out how to do this.  I’ve been on teleconferences (seminars held on a conference call) with people from all over, and it is incredibly effective.  You can just sit in your own home and participate — or get together with a group of friends so you can participate together.  I really love this format!

Q:  Will you (Alyce-Kay) be teaching the classes?

A:  Yes! You know I LOVE to teach.  🙂

Q:  Will there be a charge for the classes?

A:  It will be up to each person whether or not they pay or how much. I want people to be able to do it, even if they can’t afford it, so I don’t want to charge a set amount. As a single mom barely getting by, I know how that is. Also, there are some people who wouldn’t pay, but would benefit from it, so I don’t want to hinder them either. If God puts it on anyone’s heart to pay, it would help me, obviously, to pay bills, etc, and I will be putting a lot of work into it.  It would also make it easier for me to offer more classes, as those who pay would help free me up from having to put overtime in at work to pay the bills.  Bottom line, I don’t want anyone to not do it because they can’t pay or don’t want to pay. It will be between each person and God. If you benefit from the classes and don’t pay anything, that’s perfectly okay!

 

Update:  The first class offered will be on Building Your Faith.  It will be taught at 3 levels (you will choose, depending on how much work you want to do/have time to do).    I’m working on writing the course and the workbook materials at this time, and will announce it here and on facebook when I’m ready to take registrations.  If you want to be notified by email, please let me know at Alyce-Kay@LifeCoachAlyceKay.com  I’ve had a number of requests for an actual bound workbook, so the workbook materials will be available for purchase as a bound workbook, or to download and print yourself for free.

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Celebrating Purim as a Christian Family

By Alyce-Kay Hanush

Purim is Saturday evening, March 15, through Sunday evening, March 16 this year.  So what is Purim, you ask?  Purim is the celebration begun at the end of the story of Esther in the Bible — the time that God preserved His people through a brave, young Jewish queen.  There are some wonderful lines in the book of Esther, such as “for such a time as this” and “if I perish, I perish.”

In Jewish families, this is a fun celebration.   You get to dress up as the various characters in the story.  You get to put on plays.  (And you get drunk, but I’m not advocating that.)  To learn more about the story of Esther, the traditional celebration of Purim, and  enjoy some fun Purim songs, you can go to the playlist I’ve put together for my grandkids.

How can we as Christian families (and I’m thinking mainly of families with elementary and younger children) make good use of this celebration?  Well, most obvious is the fact that we can use it to get to know an important story in the Bible.  But i think we can go much deeper than that.  Here are some of my ideas to get you started.  I would love it if you’d add your own ideas in the comment box — and feel free to include links to coloring pages or other goodies you find online.

TIP:  You can use this list for pretty much any story in the Bible.

1. OF COURSE, read the book of Esther as a family. You should definitely read it from the Bible, and you can probably find some books at the library, online, etc.  If you own a set of flannel graphs, I think this is a great way to learn Bible stories.  You can do the story each day, then have the kids move the pieces while you tell the story again, then have the kids tell the story and move the pieces.  We modern day families tend to look askance at flannel graph, but I’ve never found a child who doesn’t love it.  (I have a set of Betty Lukens flannel graphs — everything you need for the entire Bible, along with a book that has all the stories and tells you which pieces to use.  And the flannels are lovely and vivid.  You do have to cut out the pieces, though — I hired someone to do it for me.)  http://www.amazon.com/Large-Deluxe-Bible-English-Flannelboard/dp/B000TMKE6E/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1393199685&sr=8-3&keywords=betty+lukens

2. One of the things that I love about internet is that you can print your own coloring pages.  There are lots of sources for these.  You can keep these loose, or take them to your local FedEx shop or other print shop to have them bound into a coloring book for your kids.   My daughter, Sam, who has 4 young children, especially likes this site for Jewish story coloring pages:  http://www.chabad.org/kids/article_cdo/aid/361573/jewish/Coloring-Crafts.htm

3. Look for the character qualities in the story of Esther — both good and bad. (Examples of good qualities:  Faith, courage.  Examples of bad qualities:  Envy, lying.)  You could take one each day and talk about them. Here is a process you could use to talk to children about these qualities, starting with the good ones.  (Parents:  You don’t have to do all of these!)

a.  Explain the quality to them.

b.  Show how it’s illustrated in the book of Esther.

c.  Give some examples from your own life or someone the kids know to illustrate the quality.

d.  Look for other stories in the bible that demonstrate the quality.

e.  Ask your librarian to help you find story books that demonstrate the quality.

f.  Ask your kids what they think the benefits were to the story’s characters of having these qualities.

g.  What would the benefits be to them (your children), if they developed these (good) qualities in their own lives? How could they do that? Be sure to reinforce that we need God’s help with these things. We can pray and ask Him to help us have the kind of faith Esther had, for instance.

h.  As you see your kids exhibiting these qualities — even just a little — be sure to praise them for it. Ask them what motivated them to do that? How did it make them feel? How would they feel if they could keep doing that? What do they think God thinks about them doing that?  Questions like these will help to reinforce those qualities and the desire to grow.

i.  Look at some of the bad qualities.  Talk about those, too.  Help them to recognize those qualities in Bible characters and in other stories.

j.  Talk through what would motivate someone to have those negative qualities.  What should your children’s response be to someone with those qualities?

k.  Ask what the signs would be that they might recognize in themselves so they can guard against developing the bad qualities.

l.  Come up with your own stories about each of the qualities.  I used to have my children dictate their stories to me — try to type them exactly as they say them.  Don’t worry about story telling skills (unless you’ve been specifically working on that).  Make sure that you include the author after each story.  You can type them up and then print them out and take them to your local print shop to bind into a family book of Purim stories. (It generally costs a buck or two to bind pages into a book form.)  You might include a smattering of their coloring pages, too.  You might want to print out a copy for your family to enjoy now, a copy for each of your children which you’ll hide away and give to them when they start having kids, a copy for grandparents.  Each book would be uniquely adorned with different coloring pages the kids have done.  Talk about precious memories!

4. After you’ve told your kids the story of Esther a few times, they’ll probably be ready to act it out. Here’s where your costumes come in.  (See instructions below for super easy Bible character costumes.)  You can let them choose parts or take turns doing various parts. Try to come up with someone they can put on a play for … this will motivate them to practice a few times … reinforcing the story and its values in their lives.

5. Learn about Persia, where the story of Esther takes place. What country is this now? Find it on a map.  Look for pictures online.  What’s the weather like?  Talk about what it would be like to live there. Can you find any information about King Xerxes? What kinds of foods do they eat there? Maybe you could include those in your Purim celebration.

6. Have 3 nights of banquets (maybe with Persian food? but any nice food is fine). Is there some big news that you can promise to share, but keep putting off, to build the anticipation in your children, like Esther did with the King?

7. The movie, One Night with the King, is absolutely excellent.  You’ll find it in my playlist, but I’ve included the trailer below.  This is the perfect time of year to watch it!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1f1Pi1DHP4

8. I would love it if you’d share your Purim ideas and resources below, in the comment box, or on my facebook page at:  https://www.facebook.com/ToolsForGodlyLiving?ref=hl   If you share on facebook, I’d love to see pictures of your activities and celebration!  🙂

Super easy Bible character costume:  Use my fancy-pancy drawing below as a guide.

  1. Measure your child from shoulders to the floor.
  2. Get double that amount of fabric.  (For example, if they’re 36 inches from shoulders to floor, you’ll need 2 yards.)
  3. It’s a good idea to wash the fabric before sewing, just in case it will shrink.
  4. Fold the fabric in half, crosswise.  In other words, both cut ends of the fabric will be at the bottom, the fold at the top, and the factory finished edges on the sides.
  5. On each side, measure about 14 inches from the top fold, then cut inward about 10 inches.  Do this on each side.
  6. Cut straight down from there to the bottom.  This will create kind of a sleeve.  Pin these together and sew about 1/2 inch from the edge.
  7. At the top, cut out a neck hole.  Be careful not to make this too big.  It’s always best to start small, try it on, and make the hole bigger if need be.
  8. If you’re not much for sewing, this is all you need to do.  Turn it right side out and voila!  You have your Bible character costume.  If you like to sew, you can do the following steps (9-13) to make your costumes a little nicer and last longer.
  9. Finish the neckline with bias tape, or hem it, or use a fancy edging.
  10. Hem the sleeve holes.  Add fancy edging, if you want.
  11. Hem the bottom.  You can add fancy edging here, too.
  12. Clip the underarm curves so they’ll lay flatter.
  13. Seam finish the inner seams.
  14. Accessorize with rope belts, head gear, etc., as appropriate.

Image

Newly released!  Next Year In New Jerusalem, a Passover haggadah for Christians.  Complete instructions for a Christian celebration of Passover. Scripted ceremony includes fulfillment of Passover prophecies through Christ, footwashing, and the Lord’s Supper in the Passover context. Over 150 Bible references provide an easy guide for optional in-depth study. Pronunciation and glossary included. The full ceremony takes about 3 hours, including dinner. It’s designed to be enjoyed by all ages. I hope that this will enrich your appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and that you’ll find yourself worshiping Him as you long to celebrate Passover next year with Him … in the New Jerusalem.

hagcover

http://www.thebookpatch.com/BookStoreDetails.aspx?BookID=32176&ID=5a08df7c-dae3-4e70-bc00-97bfdf072ca5

Worry. It’s the New Black

My Dad likes to say that he’s proven that worry works:  99% of the things he worries about never happen!  He’s being facetious, of course, and his point is that most of the things we worry about never would happen.  Which is true.  Worry is pointless.  Beyond that, God tells us not to worry.  But here’s where I stumble:  Many of the things I worry about really do have the potential of happening.

There’s so much to worry about in our world today.  You don’t need me to name the possibilities, and I won’t, just in case there’s something to worry about that you haven’t thought of yet.  🙂   Let me just say, I’m a skillful worrier — Olympic quality.  And public anxiety has become fashionable.  It’s the new black.

I have a friend in India who’s an evangelist.  He shares the gospel with Hindus.  It’s hard.  Sometimes, it’s frightening.  He and his family (wife and 3 adorable little girls) had to leave their home region because of persecution.  Now, he’s suffering in other ways.  Recently, he was threatened with eviction because they couldn’t pay the rent.  (His landlord has since shown him mercy and allowed him more time to get the rent.)  His little girls cried themselves to sleep the other night, because there was no food.

We talk nearly every day, and he has been distressed this week.  I’ve not known what to say.  Oh, I know all the verses and platitudes … but I also know how I feel when someone says things like that to me when I’m distressed.  It doesn’t cure my anxiety.  It just tells me to make a note not to share my fears with that person in the future.  (I know that’s not the “godly” response, but it’s true.) When God brings Scriptures to mind that I’ve memorized, it helps me.  But when other people say, “Don’t worry, blah, blah, blah,” all I feel is condemnation.  I’m not saying that’s a commendable response, just being transparent here.

I prayed for him while we talked, but I didn’t know what to say.  I wanted to offer him some kind of help, but I don’t have money to offer, so I kept my mouth shut.  The thought that kept coming to mind was where Peter said to the lame man, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I Thee.”  (Yes, I sometimes think in King James, lol.)  I kept asking God, “But what do I have that I can give him?  What is the ‘such that I have?’ ”

Then, the dreaded thing happened.  My friend asked me for help.

But do you know what he asked for?  He asked me to tell him stories of how God has provided for me and my family.  Well, that really is a “such as I have” because I have loads of stories to tell!  He listened intently, and his comments after each story were things like, “God is really good.”  “This is strengthening my faith.”  “Now, I know God will provide for us!”  “God will take care of us, even if it’s not the way we expect.”

I learned two really big things from this.

1.  We NEED to share with each other, over and over, the stories of how God has worked in our lives.  It’s necessary for our own faith and that of others.  (More on this another time.)

2.  The magnitude of the stories isn’t what matters.  I have never, ever come close to suffering what my friend has suffered and is suffering.  I would not have thought that my stories of what God has done for me and my family could possibly be an encouragement to him.  But reminding ourselves and each other of what God has done (and therefore, what He CAN do) is like making deposits in our faith bank … it all adds up.

Here are a couple of my stories.  I’ll share more in the future.

Once, when we didn’t have much food, my girls and I prayed together and asked God to provide.  God had shown me early on that I needed to include my kids in my praying and not hide from them what our circumstances were, because they needed to see the answers, in order to build their faith.  So we prayed.  Our doorbell rang.  It was a friend I hadn’t seen in a couple years … with a box of food.  She said that God had told her to bring it over.  I remember there was bread and cheese, and I forget what else.  There was also a pie.  My girls (Jon wasn’t born yet) crowded behind me and when I closed the door, Lois, who was probably about 7 or so, said in wonder, “Mama, God didn’t just provide what we needed!  He provided what we wanted, too!”

Another time, I prayed, “Lord, my kids are growing and I don’t have money to buy them clothes.  I would be happy to sew their clothes, but I can’t even afford fabric.”  Another knock at the door.  A friend of mine who sews a lot said that God had told her to clean out her sewing room.  She brought over bags of fabric and wanted to know if I could use them.  🙂  They were fabrics in my kids’ favorite colors.  There were patterns — also in their sizes.  This is my favorite part:  There were some patterns pinned to fabric that had already been cut out.  (Cutting the fabric is the only part of sewing I really don’t enjoy.)

When I needed to find a home for myself and my two remaining children a year ago, I was looking at run down, little apartments that were barely within my means if I worked a lot of overtime.  It was depressing.  One day, God told me to drive around Lake Como.  Lake Como is one of my favorite areas in the Twin Cities, because I love the conservatory during the winter.  The whole time, I kept saying something that has refreshed my faith over and over.  I think I heard it from Joyce Meyers:  “Lord, You know what I need and You know how to get it to me.”  I didn’t get the sense that God was necessarily going to give us a place in that area, but simply that He wanted me to set my sights beyond the run down apartments.  A week or two later, I was offered a cute Victorian for less than the apartments.  The outside is somewhat run down, but the owners plan to work on it in the future, and to be honest, the outside doesn’t matter to me.  The inside is GORGEOUS.  And spacious.  The perfect combination of new plumbing and appliances with the old, original woodwork, doorknobs and hinges.  It is beyond what I could have imagined.  Beyond what I believed I deserved.  (Sometimes, I forget I’m a princess.)

I would like to ask you to do 2 things:

1.  Could you please pray for my friend and his family?  I don’t want to share his name publicly, as I don’t know if it would cause him trouble, but God will know exactly who you’re praying for.  Pray for God to provide for them and protect them.  But more than that, pray that God will strengthen their faith.  Pray that their landlord will be blessed because of his mercy.

2.  What are some of your stories about how God has taken care of you?  I would love it if you share them below in the comments.  We need to be strengthening each others’ faith.

I have a Dream Catcher.

A year ago, in April, I had a dream ripped away from me by an unexpected source.  It devastated me … not just losing the dream, but the way that it happened, the feelings of betrayal that came with it, and the vaporization of security and self-worth that were already so fragile.  As a result, I had to go away … and where do you go when you’re crushed (besides God)?  To Mom and Dad in California!

So I embarked on a 2500 mile trip in 3 days, driving.  I started out on April 15.  I remember because it’s my daughter’s birthday and also because my Dad is a CPA.  That particular April 15, there was a pretty bad tornado … and I needed to drive in Tornado Alley.  It was a blessing, though, as the winds felt so familiar.  It felt like my dreams had been snatched away in a whirlwind as well, and the sense of fear and danger from the tornado helped me work through the fears and the lack of security I now felt.
Driving south on 32, when I’d stop for gas or a restroom, I could barely get my door open. The wind was so strong, but cleansing, as it blew the tears off my face.  I felt like, fighting the wind as I drove and as I’d step out of my car helped work off some of the pain I was feeling.  I’d step into the station and there was a crowd gathered around the TV, checking to see if the next leg of their trip was predicted to be safe, something I also needed to consider:  Am I safe?  Are the people I trust with my heart really worthy of my confidence?
By that evening, I was in Kansas: Home of Dorothy and Toto’s tornado.  As I left Wichita and headed west, tornado sirens were screaming alongside me and the sky was low and green.  I wondered what I should do, driving out in the country while the sirens yelled at me to get to safety.  Where do you go when you have endless fields on both sides?  What do you do when your dreams are crushed and your heart has been shattered?  Do you ignore the sirens of betrayal?  Do you take cover or keep pushing on?  I drove on.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a choice.
Finally, I got far enough west that I was out of harm’s way.  Just a normal wind that night, as I slept in my car in a WalMart parking lot.  I know some of my friends didn’t feel good about me sleeping in my car and I had never done it before.  But I found I felt very comfortable in a cocoon of blankets, and safe with the security truck going by every 15 minutes.  I started to snuggle into God’s love, too, and in that safety, started being able to look at what I had done over the years that laid the foundation for this snatching of dreams.  The ways I had failed, which were many.
The following day, I had sunny skies as I headed through Oklahoma and Texas into New Mexico.  After the storm, the sun shines more amazingly than ever, doesn’t it?
I love the colors of the desert.  I don’t enjoy heat, but in April, even the desert isn’t too hot, and the still air was a relief after the constant banging of the winds in Iowa and Kansas and Oklahoma.  I relished the time alone with God and listened to sermon CDs to make it into sort of a retreat.
I needed to make at least 900 miles that day, but I had time to dilly-dally somewhat … and I remembered how much I had loved turquoise as a kid.  Driving through the dessert, my dream of having a turquoise ring rose again from the ashes of other deserted and crushed dreams.  Getting a turquoise ring made me feel like I could still hold onto a small, if silly dream.  I saw a tourist trap and decided to check it out.

As I paid the $13 for my new ring (on sale, but yeah, it was cheap to begin with, tiny pieces of turquoise, but that’s all I needed), I spotted a small, aqua “dream catcher.”  Feathers and beads are a weakness for my Boho heart.  I liked the colors and the delicateness of the piece, and that, combined with my ring, didn’t quite come up to what I had told myself I could spend on a bit of turquoise, so I bought it.

I hung it in my car from the passenger visor (a green teddy bear with his own Facebook page was my only traveling companion) … and God began to talk to me about dreams.

He told me that He catches my dreams when they fall.  He hides them safely in His heart.  Not only that, but He puts the really good dreams in my heart Himself, and He puts them there because He wants them to come true.  Those that seem to be shattered, but are retrieved and kept safe by His hand are the ones that are the most valuable.  As God and I conversed about this, I realized again how important it was to turn even (especially!) this part of my life over to Him.  My dreams need to be His dreams.  My hopes and desires need to be the ones that He’s dreamed for me since before He wove me in my mother’s womb.  He knows the beginning and the end of my story, of His story, of the world’s story, of the story of every person I come in contact with in any way.  He knows how those all weave together and He loves me exceedingly, so I can trust Him to have the best dreams for me.  The dreams He puts in my heart are infinitely better than anything I can dream up.

I kept the dream catcher hanging on the passenger visor for months.  Occasionally, after someone else had borrowed my car, I’d find it stuffed away somewhere.  They had found it distracting or it had just annoyed them (which could be a valid concern for safe driving).  The analogy, however, wasn’t lost on me.  My dreams from God, while annoying or distracting to others, or when others simply don’t think they’re worthwhile, or when they think they’re wrong … the ones that are really from God can be put back together.  He holds them in His heart, while we make room for them again in ours.  If they are truly His dreams, nothing and no one can take them away from us.  When they seem to be crushed, they are put together stronger, like a muscle that gets little tears from a good workout becomes stronger than before.

That dream catcher is now hanging in my home.  I change its location occasionally so that I don’t just get used to seeing it.  Right now, it’s hanging from a transom where I can swat at the feathers each time I pass under it.  When I do that, the prayer in my heart is something like this:  “Thanks so much, Lord, for being my Dream Catcher.  Oh, Jesus, I want the only dreams in my heart to be Your dreams, the ones You’ve put there.  Fashion Your dreams to fit in my heart.  Could You please just remove anything in my collection of dreams that wasn’t from Your heart?  Help me to recognize Your dreams in others, too, so I can encourage them.  Thank You for holding my heart with such love and care.  Thank You for sharing Your dreams with me.”

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.  Psalm 37:3-5