Crafts and Topics for 2016

I have been thinking about what to do with this blog over the next year, and I think that, in addition to specifically Messianic/ Jewish topics, I will try to post on subjects covered in the TODKAH home economics curriculum, in no particular order:

todkah

– sewing
– knitting
– crochet
– embroidery
– gardening
– cooking
– baking
– flower arranging
– basketry
– budgeting
– child development
– child training
– home management
– making a house a home
– quilting
– cross stitch
– hospitality
– caring
(caring for the elderly, sick and injured, comforting the mourning)
– rug braiding
– women’s health
– pregnancy
– infant care and breastfeeding
– child bearing
– candlemaking
– soapmaking
– raising small animals
– home business

If you’re looking for a home economics curriculum, it really is unequalled – it is a 7 year programme for home educated teens (not to mention useful for their mothers!), and as you can see it covers far more than what is usually covered in school. (Certainly today, but even 30 or 40 years ago.)

I know that the uber-traditional title of the curriculum puts more moderate Christians off using the curriculum, but I think that is a pity. It’s not necessary to agree with Mrs Ann Ward’s very conservative views to make use of her expertise and knowledge in the areas of crafts and home management.

If you are interested in exploring the curriculum, take a look at the website, and join the yahoo group and/ or the facebook group/ page to discuss any of the crafts or topics covered.

Pesach Cleaning

I learn something new every Pesach – about myself, about housework, about the nature of sin and cleanliness, and this year has been no different.

I am sure I have mentioned before that I felt that one of the lessons of Passover is that, no matter how hard we try, we can’t get rid of all the dirt (sin, for which yeast, leaven, chametz is a metaphor) on our own, because it is never finished, the dirt just keeps on coming.

This year, we are in the middle of moving house, so clearing and cleaning two houses. The new house is exactly that – a brand new build where nobody has lived before. I thought that this side of things would be easy, but I have been amazed at how quickly the dust and dirt has mounted up. We may not have much in the way of actual chametz here, but we certainly have dust and dirt!

At the old house, the revelations have been even more startling. Moving things that never usually get moved, like the cooker, has made me realise how the dirt collects in places we’re not looking, not paying attention to, and how once a year ‘spring cleaning’ may not be enough – much more thorough, regular cleaning is going to have to be a feature of life at our new place.

And the spiritual application, of course, is that we need to be making regular self-evaluations, regular repentance, and regular washing (by the Water of the Word).

I am reminded of the classic story of the rabbi who told his students, “Make Teshuvah (repent) one day before you die.” His students would respond with the question, “But how do you know when it is one day before you will die?” The answer of course is that you don’t know, so you must make Teshuvah every day!

Am I Jewish?

I was asked recently if I am Jewish. (When I told somebody I was Messianic, she said “Wow, I didn’t realise you were Jewish”) It was a rhetorical statement rather than a question so I didn’t need to respond to it directly. But the answer is yes… but no… but it’s complicated.

I came very, very close to converting to Reform Judaism (I looked at Orthodox Judaism too) some years ago but, in the end, I decided that it wasn’t the right path for me simply because Jesus was too central to my life and thinking to give up. But in the process of studying and being in Judaism I discovered that being Jewish is much more than religion – it is a people and culture (and country!) that I love, and so I consider myself Jew-ish.

The name I took (Shoshana) is now an integral part of my identity. As the convert Ruth said, your people will be my people, your God will be my God. So in the simplest Ruth-ite sense, I consider myself one with the Jewish people even if I am not recognised as such.

But more than that I realised that, through Messiah, I am grafted in to the Olive Tree of Israel, as are all believers, whether or not they recognise either themselves or natural Israel as in any way connected.

I have taken a lot of Judaism (sabbath, the festivals, food and music etc) back into my Christianity, because I love it and I believe it is good and true. A lot of people don’t like it but I’m not about to conform to please people. And for a long time, I agonised over having one foot in both camps, but now I’m comfortable in that position.

I consider myself to be standing in the gap, a repairer of the breach. The nation of Israel and the Jewish people need the support and friendship of Christians, now more than ever. Those of us who are in the mainstream church can and should be a voice for Israel and the Jewish people for as long as they are able to be. The church, meanwhile, needs to rediscover the roots of its own faith in Biblical Judaism and it needs to be restored to the truth of Torah.

As I explained to a new believer recently, the antinomianism of the modern church is a very new phenomenon. The Roman Catholic church believed in law, but it believed that having the ‘keys of the kingdom’ meant that it could discard God’s Law and replace it with its own. The protestant church rejected that claim, but traditionally divided God’s Law into moral, ceremonial and civil / judicial, and kept only that which it considered to fall under the category of moral law. Messianic believers on the other hand see no basis for such a division.

Increasingly though, and very sadly, even so-called evangelical churches are becoming antinomian, crucially misunderstanding the nature of the Law, the nature of sin and the nature of sanctification. I was told recently by an evangelical group that ‘Christ put an end to the Law’, adding that the Law was only for Jews. That really is a twisting of the truth that Messiah fulfilled the Law, setting us free. It is not Law that we need to be freed from, however, but sin (Why would gentiles need to be freed from Jewish Law?!). But thanks to the so easily misunderstood writings of Paul, taken out of context, these misapprehensions persist.

Messianic Distinctives

I have been thinking recently about what it means to be Messianic. For three years now I have had no Messianic fellowship at all – there is simply nothing available in this part of the world – and so, after being completely isolated for so long (and even without internet fellowship) I have started again to look for Christian fellowship, and have had to determine where I can be in agreement, and where I must draw the line.

So what does Messianic mean?

Messianic Judaism, or the Messianic faith is far from homogenous – there is a broad spectrum ranging from something which to all intents and purposes resembles mainstream Christianity, right through to something which resembles something more like Orthodox Judaism.I wrote this basic list in around 2007 in an attempt to formulate some `distinctives’ (differences from mainstream Christianity) to which all Messianics would be able to agree.
[1] We fully identify ourselves with the Jewish people: For those of us who are of a Jewish background and heritage, we remain Jews. For those of us who are of a gentile background and heritage, we see ourselves as ‘grafted in’ to the Covenant People, Israel. We do not remain `gentiles’ in the sense of ‘pagan’ (although the Hebrew word ‘goyim’ also carries the meaning ‘Nations’). We do not stop being English / French / African / Australian or whatever, and we do not become `Jews’.
To be fair though, even this is not without contention. Most Jewish congregations do not accept non-Jews as part of Israel, denoting this whole idea as ‘replacement theology’ and saying that non-Jews can be part of the ‘commonwealth’ but never properly part of Israel. I don’t personally think that is a fair criticism.  We are supposed to be ‘One New Man’, the Body of Christ. Read Romans 11 and Ephesians 2. What if a Jewish Messianic marries a non-Jewish Messianic? Are their children Jewish? No, I am convinced that these distinctions should not be perpetuated indefinitely. There is to be neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female. But as with other race problems in the Church at large, we’re not there yet.
[2] We seek to recover the lost heritage of the essential `Jewishness’ of the ‘faith’ – that is the ‘Christian’ faith, the original Messianic faith in Yeshua (Jesus), and perhaps emphasising the Jewishness of the early church by including the use of Hebrew names, and a movement away from pagan-derived non-Hebrew religious names and vocabulary. (This is much more prevalent in the Sacred Names movement, which is connected to but perhaps a somewhat separate branch to Messianic Judaism.)
[3] We celebrate the Scriptural and Jewish Feasts, including Sabbath, Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Pesach/ Passover, FirstFruits/ Omer/ Shavuot (`Pentecost’ in Greek) as well as Hanukkah and Purim in preference to `Christian-ised’ pagan-derived feasts such as Christmas and Easter. (The more Christian branch of Messianic spectrum, that formerly called itself Hebrew or Jewish Christians, tends to retain all the Christian festivals, and tends not to view any possible pagan connections as a problem.)
Additionally, some adopt a kosher diet – abstaining from pork and shellfish – understanding that Paul’s vision was a metaphor for welcoming non-Jewish people into the faith and not, as Christians understand it, abandoning the food laws themselves.
[4] We have a reverence for Torah in its entirety, not just the `ten commandments’, as “inspired, profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and for instruction in righteousness”. (Not to earn salvation, as the Messianic movement is often accused of)
There is an unfortunate tendency to get stuck in the minutiae of the Feasts without going on to searching out the ‘Weightier Matters of the Law’. I have been down that path myself, and I have seen good people disappear into an abyss of rules and regulations, losing their love and compassion along the way. It’s not a pretty picture.
The weightier matters of the Law are pretty clear from scripture – they include Justice (justice for the poor, the downtrodden, the disadvantaged, the widow, the orphan, the imprisoned, the victim), Mercy and Love.
For those reasons, the church with which I have involved myself recently – although it  may not seem an obvious choice, given their love of Christmas – is The Salvation Army. Obviously we differ on the significance of the sabbath and the festivals; and I am pretty sure it is a denomination that tends towards replacement theology. I am pretty sure we differ theologically. I’m also pretty sure that it wouldn’t be the most comfortable place for a Messianic believer.
But ultimately, I feel that as a single, isolated believer, I am doing no good, but as part of an extended body, despite theological differences, we can achieve some good. And when you look at Christianity as a whole, what denomination is doing more towards Tikkun Olam? (Healing the World)
The Messianic view of the Law, Torah, is quite different from mainstream Christianity – it is not a burdensome, undesirable curse of a thing that you would want to get rid of. Instead, it is viewed as a gift. A beautiful, restful, peaceful haven of safety. Torah is viewed as freedom, not something we need to be freed from.
The Salvation Army, perhaps alone in having the ‘liberal’ values of wanting to help the poor and disadvantaged, tends to be fairly conservative theologically in terms of valuing ‘holiness’. Although they divide the Law into the classic ‘Moral, Civil and Ceremonial’ categories, rejecting the ‘Civil’ and ‘Ceremonial’, they do at least continue to believe that the Law is a good thing.
I was thinking today that, if I were asked to ‘work’ on Shabbat (in terms of Salvation Army work), for instance, I would struggle, I would certainly wrestle with whether or not I could or should ‘work’. But it occurred to me to wonder what constitutes Biblical ‘work’ – I generally wouldn’t cook or shop on the sabbath, but what about healing the sick? feeding the hungry? rescuing the endangered? At this point, I haven’t been asked to do anything that would make me struggle or question.
But I think that it would be possible to retain integrity as a Messianic believer at the same time as giving up the gift of the sabbath to do good. After all, isn’t that what Yeshua himself did?

Review of the Decade so far!

Shalom!

It has been a very long time since I posted (for those receiving this post on facebook, you can find my previous blog posts on https://messianickah.wordpress.com/ )

In the three or more years since I posted, a great deal has happened to us. Firstly we have lost three babies – identical twins at 14 weeks due to TTTS (twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome) in 2010 and then a singleton in early 2012.

My Dad died after a long illness in February 2011.

The very next weekend we moved from the city to a very remote location in Devon where we had no internet access (even dial-up wouldn’t function due to the very ancient split-line technology!) We have now moved again to a slightly less remote location in Cornwall. The timing of this original move was extremely painful, and a terrible wrench for my mum who was left behind.

In January 2012  our middle son was diagnosed with Type1 auto-immune Diabetes, a week after my last miscarriage. Again, the timing of this was extremely hard. Type1 Diabetes is often called Juvenile Diabetes, since it is often (though not always) diagnosed in childhood. This was a shock but not entirely a surprise – I had suspected diabetes for a very long time indeed, although I did not know the difference between types 1 and 2. More on that later, as it is a BIG subject and has utterly changed our lives as a family.

My eldest son has now turned 18 and left homeschool for Sixth Form college at the school where his dad works, which has made for a much easier and pleasant transition. For those of us left at home though it is a challenge to adjust after having him at home with us for almost 15 years! It is truly a life-change for me as well as for him.

The eldest two joined Scouts and Explorers (the younger two tried cubs and Scouts but couldn’t get on with it). I also started as a helper with Beaver Scouts, but had to give it up when I was without transport. I hope to take it up again this year.

We were sadly forced to sell our house at a loss in 2012 after our tenants did a very good job of destroying the place (and we, being green and naive at the time had not thought to obtain landlord’s insurance, or even a deposit – the tenants were people we knew who were down on their luck and we thought we would do them a favour, which makes what they did all the more heartbreaking).

So we are in rental accommodation again with no hope at this moment of buying a house again, sadly (unless our situation changes). The one good thing about that is that rental prices where we are now are fairly reasonable and we have a much bigger house than we originally left.

We have been in this house now for just over two months, and we are still in a mess! I am slowly going through everything trying to streamline and adjust to our new circumstances (with no garage or shed, and not allowed to use the loft space, which does nullify the extra space somewhat).

In between leaving our own home and coming here, we actually moved in effect five times: to an enormous rental house in a village in Devon, but which we had to leave after flooding. Secondly we lived for almost three years in a much-to0-small bungalow in another very remote village in Devon, but were flooded out after just a month in August 2011 and had to stay in a cottage temporarily. We moved back into the bungalow in October 2011. The bungalow was located in the most spectacularly beautiful countryside, with farmland all around. Sadly the experience was marred by cluster flies that we couldn’t get rid of, and crashing my car which made the whole of 2012 a very difficult year for me, with a 7 mile walk to the bus stop, we didn’t get out much!

Our new location is less remote, being 5 miles outside town instead of 15 miles out. At a pinch, if I were without transport again,’ it would be conceivably possible to walk to the local post office which is a couple of villages away, or even into town if I needed to.

However, after more than 10 years with a non-descript semi-diagnosis of CFS (‘chronic fatigue syndrome’) I finally obtained a more firm diagnosis of ME (‘Myalgic Encephalomyelitis’) again, another huge subject which merits further discussion. It’s not a diagnosis I am pleased to receive, and I still hope that it is wrong and have spent the last few months persuading my new GP to run tests to eliminate every possible other thing it could be, without any helpful results so far.

I have not found a suitable fellowship since we moved, and believe me I have looked very hard indeed. There used to be a Messianic Fellowship in Devon some years ago but it is long gone now. I have tried to make friendly links with Christians in the area though, and visiting several different Salvation Army corps in Devon and Cornwall. Sadly none of them are very close by, but I tend to be most comfortable with The Salvation Army as it is an active, working church. I have tried without success as well to find believers friendly to Israel who would be interested in forming a prayer group, but I’m sure that will come about in the L-RD’s time.

So all in all, this decade has been a very hard one so far, but I am confident that with this move, things are looking up, and I am looking forward to a year full of blessing.

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