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.

No More Grumbling!

rejoice

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?

Wilderness Experience

I have a confession to make. I try not to let this blog get too personal – I prefer to keep it ‘on topic’, just talking mainly about cooking and housework and crafts.

But here is the thing. I am really, really struggling.

I know that we are blessed in many ways. After our landlord evicted us, we were re-housed against all the odds, in the town where we wanted to be. That was pretty miraculous, but it is far from ideal.

The house that we were put in has turned out to be totally unsuitable – there is no garden for the children (they were pretty heartbroken when we had to sell their trampoline), and since it is designed over three floors (meaning that I have to be more active than I can cope with), I have got much sicker since we moved here. In fact, I seem to be in relapse. I’m arguably sicker now than I was when I first got ill. It’s too small, so most of our books and possessions and furniture is still in storage, and our finances are a nightmare. My kids are ill, there just seems no end of massive, insurmountable problems.

I feel as though I am in the ‘pit’.

The result of this is that I am finding the upkeep of the housework impossible, and I’m not well enough to do the cooking. Added to the physical issues, or perhaps as a result of them, I think I can safely say that I have descended into a deep depression.

And I am feeling a failure.

We have had a run of more than five really rough years now, and I feel as though I have been brought into a long-term, painful wilderness experience, or a ‘Job’ experience, and I don’t really understand why.

So many scripture passages talk about blessing following the keeping of Torah, and for those who bless Israel. So I just keep wondering, what have I done wrong, and why am I missing the blessing? And when is it going to end?

I pray, I read the Word, I try to remain faithful. But it feels as though my prayers fall on deaf ears, and I have never felt more distant from Abba.

I never expected the ‘narrow way’ to be quite this rocky.

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