Jewish Holidays Make Me Feel Like I'm Not Jewish Enough

Jewish Holidays Make Me Feel Like I'm Not Jewish Enough

Is it my problem, or everyone else's?
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The High Holidays in Judaism are made up of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the day of atonement). They’re generally in late September or early October, and both are important observances, spent with family or in the synagogue with the wider community. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most observant of Jews. Most of the past Jewish New Years I’ve spent at home with my family, enjoying a meal and affectionately roasting each other. In college, I’ve managed to make it to services two out of four years. This was one of the two years, and as usual, I became uncomfortable as soon as I stepped into a room full of Jews.

I’m used to being the only Jewish person in a group. I’m more comfortable that way. It’s not because I like the novelty of it – it’s not fun to be the person everyone looks at when the conversation gets around to Jesus or the one who has to explain that no, that Holocaust joke your weird friend just told really isn’t funny. It’s more because whenever there are more than two Jewish people in a room, and I’m one of them, it’s almost guaranteed that the other Jewish person is more religious than I am.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a problem. There’s a proud tradition of Jewish secularism, especially in the United States, and the dual nature of Jewishness as a religion and an ethnicity means that your participation in the religious aspects isn’t the final word on your role in the community. But for some people, particularly people who attend services regularly or did so in the past, the fact that I didn’t grow up going to temple, that I didn’t have a bat mitzvah, that I didn’t go to Jewish summer camp, is a problem, and they haven’t been shy about telling me so.

I was in seventh grade the first time someone insinuated that I wasn’t Jewish enough, and that was far from the last time it happened. I’ve had to explain to people who have no business asking why participating in organized religion was a touchy subject for my non-traditional family. I’ve told people that my mother is Jewish – which is true – and had them aggressively push the point, trying to figure out which of my two mothers is the Jewish one. Because apparently, it matters. I’m used to dealing with non-Jewish people who are rude and bigoted, but to be picked on and bullied by one group of people over an attribute that members of my own group are trying to strip from me is a head-trip I could have done without.

This isn’t a plea for Jewish people to stop policing the Jewishness of other Jews, although it would be nice if that happened. Instead, it’s a question. When I step into synagogue for services and feel that instant surge of discomfort, is the problem with me or with everyone else? Should I wander blissfully into services, acting under the impression that no one will challenge my right to be there? Should I go in nervous and defensive, expecting questions to come flying from every angle? Or should I let my past experiences speak for themselves and stay home? These are questions worth considering.

I just wish I didn’t have to consider them every time I try to participate in my own community.

Cover Image Credit: udi Steinwell / PikiWiki

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A Letter From God To Help You Finish The Semester

God sees your struggles and He's here to give you strength and motivation.
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My Child,

The lack of motivation towards the end of the semester is normal. You are mentally and physically tired, but you are almost at the end. Don’t stop walking down the perfect path I have for you. When you’re going along and you come upon a speedbump, I want you to go over it and keep driving. The paper you have to write and the test you have to study for are just small speedbumps I have given you to make you wiser. You can write that paper and you can gain motivation to study for that test. I am here to give you strength, and am here to open up your mind and give you motivation.

You are so loved. You have such a beautiful mind. The light of Jesus shines through your eyes and your smile brings comfort to the world. There’ll be times you feel like you’re carrying a heavy load. There’ll be times you feel like the task I have given you is impossible to perform. But remember this: I would never put anything upon your shoulders that you cannot carry. If I put you in a certain situation, it’s because I know you are strong enough to go through it.

When you feel like crying, cry to me. When you feel like a failure, remember how much I love you. You are not a failure and you are not going to give up. I will hold your hand through every second of your life. I will seek your heart through your darkest moments. I see you, I see your heart, and I see your burdens. And remember that I have your heart which means I also have your burdens. Follow my footsteps and you will be free from the doubt. Remember Mark 4:40-41: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” I have the power to calm any storm and wave. I have the power to calm YOUR storms and waves. Set your doubt, anger, and tiredness in my hands and simply be patient.

Romans 8:14-15 says,“For those who are led by the spirit of God are the children of God. The spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again, rather the spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.” Nothing can separate you from my love. Not even your lack of motivation. You have no motivation because you do not feel good enough. You are more than good enough. You were perfectly made by me and when I look down at you, I think of how proud I am of your heart.

Throughout the last few weeks of this semester, you will stumble upon speedbumps. But hold the hand of my son Jesus and you will be able to go over that speedbump with ease. Go write that paper, go study for that test, and go get an A in that class. I know you can because I have given you power.

Love,

God

Cover Image Credit: Margaret Carnes

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10 Types Of Questions To Ask God For Transformation

What is my abnormal normal?

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I believe one of the best ways to get to know who God is by asking Him questions about what you don't understand. God wants us to come to Him boldly (Hebrews 4:16). He wants all of you. He wants you to come to Him when you're frustrated, angry, depressed, lustful, sick, hateful, prideful, selfish and more. He wants you to bring all that to Him so that He can produce in you what you can't do yourself.

TD Jakes introduced this prayer in a sermon that is completely life-disrupting but indescribably worth it. The prayer is about our "abnormal normal". These are things that we do that we think are completely normal so much so that we wouldn't be able to identify it on our own but these things actually aren't normal.

I believe that the word normal is being used from the lens of 'healthy'. I remember TD Jakes daring his audience to pray this prayer but to be careful because you don't know what will spring up when you ask God to reveal this to you and, of course, help you with it.

Listen... when I prayed this prayer some time ago... I just remember situations springing forth revealing things to me that I was not prepared to deal with. It's almost the ballpark of when you ask God to show you who your real friends are and you get betrayed or people start acting 'funny'. But I believe this prayer is tougher because you're forced to deal with you in a way you may not be ready for.

But have no fear because you're in God's hands. He'll give you beauty for your ashes (Isaiah 61). You might experience some pain but it's indescribably worth it with God.

Dear God,

Why do I keep falling short even though I'm doing all that I know how to do to follow you?

Why should I follow you?

1. FRIENDS/RELATIONSHIPS

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Who are my real friends? Who really loves me out of my circle/s? Who can I count on for what counts in this life? Why do I keep experiencing the same things in my relationships? God, you haven't given me the authority to control people or their hearts so what am I doing that keeps me ending up at the same place with people? Am I just retaking the same test over and over again?

Do I have any patterns? What are my patterns? Where am I not holding myself accountable? How can I hold myself accountable so I won't go throw bad patterns in relationships?

2. PRIDE

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What is pride? Where am I prideful? Where does pride come from? Why does my pride keep coming back? What triggers my pride?

3. INSECURITY

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Why aren't insecurity and humility the same thing? Who do you say I am? Who do I have around me that could be perpetuating insecurity, doubt or self-consciousness? How does my insecurity affect the people around me? How can I build confidence YOUR way instead of the world's way? What does being confident in who I am in Christ look like? What does this mean?

4. RACE

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How do I love EVERYONE as my neighbor (Mark 12:30-31)? How do I have grace for and love people that hate my race? How do I have grace for and love people that spread hate? Why would you want me to have grace for people that spread hate? How do I have grace for and love people that have bullied me/ mistreated me/ persecuted me/ lied on my name/ cursed my name/ judged me?

How do I have grace for and love people that have hurt the ones that I love? How is my heart supposed to have enough capacity to love like this?

5. LBGTQ

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If you are Love (1 John 4:8), then why do my Christian friends recommend, with their actions, to express hate to our gay friend? Are they not our neighbor anymore because they're gay? Does the greatest commandment of love (Matt 22:36-40) not still stand even for gay people? Does the blood of Jesus Christ not cover them as well? Do we not all need the same grace? But how do you want me to walk in Grace AND in Truth as Jesus did before us as an example?

Because I'm not walking like you Lord completely if I don't also extend the truth of your word to my brothers and sisters in Christ, I'm asking for you to speak through me when I don't know what to say.

6. LUST

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How do I know when I've crossed over into lust? What are the differences between lust and love? What is so harmful about lust? Lust perverts things and I don't want to fall prey to this, what are things that are opening that door for me? Are there people around me that are enabling this in my life?

No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)

7. OPPORTUNTIES

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How do I stay disciplined to your will and being with you? What are the opportunities that are for me and the ones that are not? I've heard Pastor Michael Todd of Transformation Church talk about ambition being evil, why would ambition be an evil thing? What is the most important thing for your children to do? What is our purpose for your kingdom on earth? What have you set us here to do above all of the other favor you've given us?

(Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plan's in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails)

8. IDENTITY

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How do I learn who I am in Christ? What does it mean for me to be apart of the body of Christ? If we're all your children, does that make everyone my brothers and sisters in Christ? How should I treat all my brothers and sisters in Christ? Why is it toxic to others if I don't know who I am in Christ? Why is it harmful to the body of Christ when I don't know who I am?

Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. (Isaiah 43:6-7)

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name. (Psalm 86:9)

I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. (Psalm 86:12)

9. ENVY/JEALOUSY

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Am I supposed to be affected if someone I don't like walks into a room? Why is it hard for me to celebrate the wins of others? Why is it hard for me to celebrate the wins of people that I know don't honor your word? Why am I coveting even the lives, experiences and things of my close friends? Why do I compare myself to people who I'm close to and wouldn't want to compete with? Why do I secretly compete with people even the ones I care about?

10. PURPOSE

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What is the purpose that you've created for my life? What did you put me on this earth to do?

*Championship Playbook Scripture:

This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8)

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentlenesses and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and the one who is wise saves lives. (Proverbs 11:30)

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8)

13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

When I ask God questions I'm able to learn more about who He Is and I begin to experience another dimension of adventure in my relationship with Him! I would recommend always asking Him and trusting Him with what you don't understand!

These questions are for you to ask God in time of prayer and really be still and waiting on His answer. Asking God questions, even ones that I'm not sure I want the answer to, has to lead to God transforming me. I mean literally transforming me in my heart, how I love others, how I treat others, my discipline, my character, and more. It's indescribable.

Asking God questions like these also always leads to me, in addition to transforming, getting my own experiences of seeing deeper levels of His glory. And I get to see Him do it through MY life. I can't explain how awesome that is! As His children, we get the opportunity to experience the same God who used the same power to perform the miracles that we read about in the bible.

Those miracles in the bible are so mind blowing but it really does take faith for me to believe that He did them. So if I'm the child of the same God who literally says in His word that he'll be with us how he was with Moses, why wouldn't I trust Him? Why wouldn't I partake in the abundance that He wants me to experience with Him? Am I going to not experience it just because I don't 'feel' like being obedient?

Where is your kingdom mindset? Because my kingdom mindset tells me that do not experience more of Him because of how I feel is hustling backward. What do I mean by that? I mean that why would you invest in how you feel (Finite; fickle; changes all the time with no loyalty to you) over investing in the King of Kings who created the heavens and earth (infinite; omniscient; omnipresent; impossible to be defeated; impossible for Him to not love you)?

I feel selfish experiencing His glory and not sharing it. I want my brothers and sisters in Christ to know that there's always more of Him for you to learn about and experience. Be Bold! Ask the Questions! Try Him out! See what He can do through you and your family!

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