Defining Terms

I have been thinking a lot recently about the term ‘Messianic’, and how offensive it is to Jewish people.

I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with using the term, especially as somebody who has only dubious, tenuous links with Jewish ethnicity.

I am, to all intents and purposes, a gentile who has adopted some Jewish customs and beliefs into my essentially Christian faith.

Are the terms ‘Hebrew Christian’, or ‘Hebraic’ any better?

What do you think?

If you have followed this, or any of my blogs for a while, you will know that I came to Messianic Judaism while I was still very much entrenched in a fundamentalist, evangelical worldview, which I have now left very firmly behind.

In simplistic terms, when I was first Messianic, I viewed the evangelical, fundamentalist type of Messianic Judaism as the true, original version of Christianity, and saw myself as becoming essentially Jewish instead of Christian (and that all later versions of Christianity were essentially heretical apostasy).

I don’t see things that way any more. I made peace with the wider Church. Without going into the specifics of Christian history, Christianity has had a long and complex, multifaceted, evolving development. Some directions have been good and helpful, some have been toxic and unhealthy. Some of it I can accept, some of it I can’t. But I can’t dismiss the whole of Christianity in the way that I once did.

I have spent a long time on the ‘fence’ between Christianity and Judaism, and in a sense I suppose I always will. But I have finally realised recently that, even if we (as Messianic Jews and Gentiles) insist on seeing ourselves as Jewish rather than Christian, we may be doing more harm than good both to the Church and to the Jewish people by making that claim.

I think I hoped that Messianic Judaism would eventually build bridges between the Church and Judaism. But I feel now that, at least as long as the fundamentalist evangelical voices within Messianic Judaism shout the loudest, it may actually be doing the opposite – burning bridges on both sides, and destroying any possible potential relations between Church and Synagogue, because it is based not on Interfaith respect and mutual learning, but on the conviction that only we have the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth – just as fundamentalisms always do.

I wonder whether part of that means that I need to drop the term ‘Messianic’ – it is, after all viewed by Jewish people as a thinly veiled attempt at covert missionary deception, and even though I have never sought to convert anybody, least of all Jewish people, I am concerned that using that term will inevitably carry that connotation and encourage that perception.

So right now, I am thinking that I need to own that my personal faith, although very influenced by Judaism, is Christianity. It isn’t Judaism. It’s not even, as I previously thought, a stream of Judaism that is not accepted by mainstream Judaism. It simply cannot be called Judaism, since the two streams of Judaism that survived the destruction of the Temple were defined in opposition with regard to the identity of Jesus from the outset.

Is it possible to move closer towards a Christianity which looks more like the original sect of Judaism that it was? I’m sure it is.

But I wonder if we need to stop calling it Judaism.

And I’m also very sure that it wouldn’t look very much like the fundamentalist evangelical flavour of Messianic Judaism that imagines itself to be the original Christian faith.

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The Seasonal Clash of Cultures

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Although Christmas is fairly low key in my family (husband is agnostic but likes the familiar traditions he grew up with), I feel so much pressure to make it wonderful, and somehow seem to fail every time. Probably, I suspect, because my heart is not fully in it. I’ve made peace with the fact that I have to do it, but I can’t quite muster up any enthusiasm.

Equally, we celebrated Hanukkah, but not properly, and more to preserve our Jewish identity than with any real religious content and with less enthusiasm than I would have liked. In a way, we ought to be enjoying double benefits of both cultures but in fact I feel as though we’re doing half measures of both so not doing either very well.

I would prefer to have retained the religious elements and kicked out the fluff, but in fact we have ended up with the opposite – the tree, the food, the decorations. That seems to me to completely miss the point. But on the years I tried to reverse it, I made my family miserable. The path of least resistance makes for peace of a kind.

The reality of marriage between religious and non-religious, or Christian with Jewish, or Messianic with any of the above, is the choice between strife or compromise. I tried strife, and have to say that I prefer the peace of compromise, even if it leaves me feeling uneasy.

I have long since made peace with the pagan elements of Christmas, I’m not scared of it the way I once was, and in fact I rather like the ‘magic’, but I don’t know whether to feel pleased that we have divorced the pagan from the religious at Christmas in our family (but somehow retained the pagan) or to mourn the loss of the ‘deeper magic’, as C S Lewis would have described it.

Fortunately, because I have been Messianic for so long, my kids never got into the habit of expecting much in terms of presents, but I have been feeling for years that I would like to shift my efforts and attentions to the Jewish festivals and make them bigger in our lives than the others.

I miss the focus on holidays infused with meaning and joy. Joy without meaning seems somehow empty and lacking.

If you have been following this or any of my other blogs you will know that I have been deconstructing my former fundamentalist faith over the last couple of years or more, and I have realised that deconstruction is long and hard. My pendulum has swung towards atheism, and I feel that my faith is virtually non-existent at this point.

But there is an interesting difference between Christianity (or at least evangelical Christianity) and Judaism.

Evangelical Christianity is all about believing the right thing, whereas Judaism and Torah-observant Messianic Judaism places a much higher emphasis on action. I don’t know at this stage whether my faith will return or what shape it will take at the end of the process (if there is an end to it), but I do know that I don’t want to lose my Messianic/ Jewish identity.

For that reason I have recently been working to revive the Facebook page that links to this blog, and have created a Messianic Women’s group to go along with it. It’s low-key on the theology and doctrine side, as this blog is, and is meant to focus on the practical, homemaking side of living as a Messianic woman.

Additionally, I have created another group, Messianic Baal Teshuvah, for anybody who like me who was once observant but has fallen out of the observant lifestyle and would like to get back to it. Again, it is low-key on the faith side of things, so it definitely wouldn’t suit anybody who has a fundamentalist mindset, but might be ideal for anybody who like me is processing and re-evaluating their faith.

I’m without any Jewish or Messianic community where we live now, so I’m not sure how much I can achieve, but I think I want that to be my new year’s resolution – to infuse the holidays with more meaning, and to embrace the Jewish festivals, and Messianic Jewishness, more fully.

Messianic Keepers at Home

I discovered today that the vast network I had created on Ning about 10 years ago and which I handed over to another administrator when we got into financial difficulties, has been deleted.

I can’t tell you how disappointed this news makes me feel. But more than that, it feels a little like a betrayal, since I was not asked permission, or even informed. It would have been a courtesy to let me know of the decision or to ask me if I wanted to take back control of the network, but I received no such communication.

I created Messianic Keepers at Home at a time when I was deeply ensconced in fundamentalist thinking, and as you will know if you have read any of my blogs, or the About Page here, that this is no longer the case. Of course I do still believe that mothers staying at home for the sake of ensuring their children have a firm foundation is a high calling, and that home crafts in danger of being lost should be preserved. (To that end, I run another website on the topic of Home Economics for Home Educators, it’s not very active, but it’s a useful resource, so I encourage you to take a look there).

Perhaps it is time for Messianic Keepers at Home to be put to rest, the network ran its course and served its purpose at the time, and perhaps in the form in which it existed, it is no longer needed.

There is certainly more to a woman’s life than housework.

I don’t post here often, for the simple reason that, although I am still at home, still a housewife, being at home is no longer my highest priority. My life has changed. My children have grown and moved on to college and so on.

I would, however, like to continue supporting and encouraging women, especially in our tiny minority community of Jews and Gentiles who are connected with Yeshua, whether you consider yourself Messianic or not and whether at home or at work or wherever you are.

My beliefs are very much in flux, but I never felt more at home that when I was part of a Messianic congregation. I do not have that anymore having moved out of the city to rural Cornwall, and online community that isn’t fundamentalist or wacky in some way has been very hard to come by. I have by and large needed to create my own spaces.

So perhaps this all means that this space is more needed than ever before.

 

Etz Chayim – reaching for the Tree of Life

It has been almost a full year since I last posted on this blog. Much has happened. After almost 7 years of ‘wilderness wandering’, we finally have our own home again and are settled, albeit out in the rural wilds of north Cornwall, far away from any kind of Messianic fellowship or congregation. I am so thankful, so surprised with joy to receive such good fortune when we thought all was lost. But still I am terribly isolated and lonely and effectively alone in terms of religious fellowship.

I may have mentioned that I had been in search of some fellowship – any kind, really, but it was a very mixed bag of good and bad experiences.

I really liked the Anglican for its freedom of conscience, although there seemed to be no understanding or interest in the Jewish side of the faith and I had the particular bad fortune of being under a priest who had a real bee in his bonnet about evangelicals. The fact that I was verging on being an ‘ex-evangelical’ seemed not to temper his ire. As far as he seemed to be concerned, I was an idiot for ever countenancing such ideas. If anything, his attitude pushed me back into the fundamentalism I was trying to leave. (Freedom of conscience didn’t extend to evangelicals, as far as he was concerned.)

We also tried an independent Pentecostal group who said they were pro-Israel, but they turned out to be extremely negative, narrow-minded and fundamentalist in every way, and the Pentecostal displays of worship put some of my children off church entirely. After everything we have been through, I can hardly blame them.

In the end, I started going to a Salvation Army while my mother was living with us (only for 6 months as it turned out) and I have continued there although it’s far from ideal. Again, there seems to be no understanding or interest in the Jewish roots of Christianity, and the occasional anti-semitic sermon is never a surprise. It takes a lot of energy to keep looking, so for now I am staying put. I can’t say that I am entirely happy, but they do at least put Christianity in action and reach out to the poorest of the poor.

I had wondered recently in what way I can still claim to be ‘Messianic’ – without fellowship or a believing husband to encourage me, the feasts and fasts and even a proper observation of Shabbat has fallen by the wayside. I wonder if I can ever get it back again.

I have made a very good friend online with a woman who had a very different experience of the Messianic movement, having first converted to Orthodox Judaism and come into Messianic Judaism from there rather than as I did, through evangelicalism. We disagree on many things, but her lack of Christian fundamentalism has been an eye-opener for me.

I also have a very good real-life friend who is not a believer, but who was raised in Orthodox Judaism. We have a surprising amount of experiences in common, and her friendship has been a real balm to my soul.

I have started thinking though in terms of abandoning the trappings of religious tradition entirely and instead reaching out for and trying to find the ‘Etz Chayim’, that is the Jesus/ Yeshua who embodies the Tree of Life, and ‘Ha Derek’, the Way itself, Himself.

Coming out of fundamentalism is a very emotional and difficult thing, and in a way I am having to start again and weigh everything up to see what is good and what is bad. That’s probably not a bad thing in itself.

I am trying to get to know the ‘real’ Yeshua from a different perspective now.

I am still at home, muddling through being a wife and homemaker/ housewife, still home educating my youngest.

So what is the future of this blog?

Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t want to lose my Messianic identity, and I would love to be able to start again from scratch and incorporate more of the Jewish feasts and traditions into my life.

What I don’t want to do, however, is to fall back into the trap of legalism or fundamentalism. It wasn’t life-giving, it was a bottomless pit of darkness that I slipped into gradually without even realising I was doing it, and it nearly ate me up whole before I realised. What I need now is to find the good path, and the Tree of Life.

Becoming the Ultimate Housewife: 1950s Housewife

Shavua tov ladies! 🙂 This is just a little bit of fun really, but I wonder – how much of this do you aspire to? 

How much of this is cultural, dated and irrelevant now, and how much the Biblical ideal/ pattern for wives?

http://www.ultimatehousewife.com/2013/02/1950s-housewife.html?m=1

Peanut Butter and Jelly Challah

A quick share! I won’t be making this today but I will definitely be adding this to my list of recipes to try! 🙂

http://www.kveller.com/recipe-peanut-butter-jelly-challah/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=nosherfacebook

Shiva: Death, mourning and hope in Jewish Tradition

ברוך אתה ה’ א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, דיין האמת
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam, dayan ha-emet.
“Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, the Just Judge.”
After 4 years of trying, hoping and praying since my last loss, and 13 years in total, and finally after giving up completely, I was unexpectedly blessed with pregnancy again.

Sadly this pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 10 weeks, my 6th loss in total.

There are no funerals for miscarriages, no burials. No family get-together, no ‘sitting Shiva’ together. It is a special kind of grief, more lonely and perhaps harder to navigate than any other type of grief, because in our culture pregnancy loss is still taboo, something we still can’t quite face or discuss openly, and thus the sufferer is largely without comfort or understanding.

The traditional period of mourning in Jewish Tradition is 7 days (thus ‘Shiva’, related to the word 7). But the reality is that grief doesn’t follow a neat progression and cannot possibly be restrained within a 7 day period.

The loss of a child isn’t ‘just’ the loss of a baby right at that moment, but the loss of all the hopes and dreams – the loss of that child’s whole life – years and decades and life events that we thought was ahead of them. And even if a mother is graced with another child, this kind of loss changes you, and you always carry that little bit of sadness with you. You never ‘get over’ loss of a child.

I thought I had completely given up and resigned myself to not having any more babies, to ending my family on a loss. Now though of course, I find old wounds re-opened and longings renewed.

But for now, I mourn. 

Mourner’s kaddish
Jewish perspective on miscarriage and stillbirth
Mourning a Jewish miscarriage 
Jewish Prayer after miscarriage or stillbirth

Recipe: Israeli Leek Quiche

leek-quiche

I just thought I would share a very quick link to a great recipe for you:

Israel Leek Quiche recipe from the Israel Forever Foundation:
http://israelforever.org/israel/cooking/leek_quiche/

I often make my quiches crust-free, as a couple of us need to eat gluten-free and lower carb, and which of course would work well for Pesach. More Pesach recipes to come soon, hopefully.

Please share what your Pesach recipe plans are!

I am the Older Woman Now

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This article from Raising Homemakers appeared in my inbox this morning, and I thought I would share it, because the topic has been so much on my heart lately.

As you know, I would have loved to have more children, but after our fourth, my husband felt that it would be irresponsible to have any more, so we had a break of 7 years, and when we finally started trying again we had a run of miscarriages, so four it is.

My husband isn’t a believer, so he has no faith or reason for confidence that there is a good and faithful God whom we can trust to provide for us, and of course the prevailing culture tells us that ‘two is enough’ and any more is over-population. Please. My heart weeps for the church and our culture, because we are cutting off God’s blessings before they reach us, and we don’t know what we are missing.

I would like to encourage anybody who is considering a larger than average family, or even allowing God complete control over your family planning, to stop listening to the faithless counsel of your peers and know that the Word of God is trustworthy: children are without a doubt a blessing, and we do indeed serve a God who is faithful and good and who can be trusted completely.

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But (and this is not meant to be a caution to put you off but rather a heads-up so you can plan your house-building, being fully informed about the cost) taking a leap of faith like this will require you to go deeper into God – to be willing to trust and obey completely in the areas of finance and time management to name but two aspects. It’s not a journey for the easy-believer or the faint of heart.

If God has laid this matter on your heart, take it back to him in prayer, seek his heart and his will, and be open to his leadings. Don’t miss out on one of the sweetest blessings he offers.

In my experience, it is a very rare couple indeed who end up inundated with children, and the hardest part about trusting God with your fertility is the possibility not that he will give you too many children, but rather that you might not end up with as many as you hoped.  ❤

No More Grumbling!

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As I have told you, times are challenging at the moment for us, and I have been feeling very discouraged.

But this week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, features the topic of grumbling quite prominently, and so I am encouraged to put a guard over my mouth and my virtual pen, to only ‘speak life’; in other words, not to grumble and moan but to look for the good in everything, to give thanks in everything and to be grateful for the goodness and mercy that is all around me.

So today I thought I would share some of the things for which I am most grateful.

– My husband, my children, my family
– We have a roof over our head, we are not out on the street, destitute.
– Running, hot water and a shower!
– Plenty of food, and a grocery delivery service!
– My husband has a job where he is happy, and he gets up faithfully early every morning and goes to work, and comes home, and never complains!
– Sunshine and rain in due season
– The books that I have not in storage.

I’m sure there is much more if I would spend some time thinking about it.

Are you making gratefulness and thankfulness a habit, even when it is hard? Even on my darkest days, I can usually find at least 5 things to be thankful for, even if it is just my bed at the end of the day, running water, food to eat, a bit of sunshine and a good conversation.

What are you grateful for today?

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