A Little In Between

In almost every Protestant church music will be an element of the service. For years church members have been arguing about what is considered “worship music.”

The typical argument is the young members want contemporary Christian music and the older ones want traditional. Of course, I see this topic different because I’m Messianic but I have still been affected by this argument and am a part of Christian circles.

My mom grew up in a conservative home going to a Bible church. My dad grew up in a home not nearly as conservative going to a Methodist church. The first time I remember hearing about this argument I was in elementary school and my mom broke down and bought my sister a Christian rock CD. Yes, we listened to the Christian radio stations in the car but those songs were mellow compared to Christian rock. My parents were almost embarrassed about having this CD. I remember thinking that I was a rebel for listening to this type of music. It was a huge matter to my mom because this type of music was not the biblical tradition that she grew up in. Eventually we had two CD’s, then three, within five years we had a stack of CD’S and went to their concerts.

Growing up I was ALWAYS asked,

“How can you worship to this?”

“How can you hear the lyrics?”

“Is this even a Christian song?”

Nine and a half out of ten times when I’ve been asked this, the other person had not wholeheartedly listened to the song; if they had, they most likely wouldn’t have been asking those questions.

Fast forward to high school. I had a friend who introduced me to Christian hip hop. I did not know that this existed in the first place. I believed that Toby Mac was the closest artist to Christian hip hop. It did not take long to realize that the lyrics had very sound doctrine and almost had a healing affect to it because the artists address the things that are hard to talk about and are never mentioned in the songs that are played on the Christian radio.

Here’s two small pieces of “Take Me As I Am” by Lecrae

“Will you take me as I am.
I know the way I’m living is wrong
But I can’t change on my own, trying to make it alone.
I wonder how could you love me when my life so ugly
But you came down and died for me
Will you take me as I am?

‘My whole life I’ve been working for Satan, while He fed lies to me
And now I’m hearing too much, trying to get a true touch
Of a love that can change me. I’m all screwed up.
Figure hell is what I deserve
But your word says we all fall short so I guess we all outta burn.
Teach me I wanna learn.
How you could save a wretch like me, before death says it’s my turn?
I think I finally understand,
No matter my past, you’ll still take me as I am”

I have been told by individuals that contemporary Christian music has too much of a beat. I personally don’t understand this. Unless I have missed something in the Bible, know where does the Bible have specific parameters of how music is to be. In music terms, God did not say music has to be: four four time and allegro. I’m willing to listen to these arguments, but please present God breathed scripture with it.

The next argument is that contemporary Christian music is worldly and is too close to rock and roll music. I must agree that some contemporary Christian music is hard to distinguish between being a Christian song or not, but not every song has that problem. Here’s a small part of a popular contemporary song by Hillsong United:

“Your will above all else.
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise.
Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades.
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame.

My heart and my soul
I give you control
Consume me from the inside out, Lord.
Let justice and praise
Become my embrace
To love you from the inside out.”

There is ultimately no right way to worship God. Some do it by singing hymns, Christian rock music, dancing, sign language, playimg instruments and other ways, as well. To those who believe that only singing hymns in church is the only right way, I ask you to try to be open to new styles of worship. Ultimately not everyone will be happy. There needs to be compromise on both sides.

Remember, that there are more important topics to be upset about. I truly believe that the enemy is trying to use this controversial topic to distract us from wholeheartedly worshipping God whether your congregation sings contemporary Christian, hymns or something in between.  Psalms 150:1-6 ūüíó

The Four Uses For A Dollar: A Lesson About Forgiveness

There are four ways to use a dollar. You can spend it, save, invest, or give it away; each have its advantages.

A standard gift for high school graduation is money. Several short days ago I graduated from high school. When I was going through the gifts I received I had an awakening about personal forgivness.

I needed to go to the bank and put the money that I was given for graduation in my savings account. Before I could do that I needed to gather all of the cash. I was opening the cards and collecting the cash. I opened one card and was going to put that money in the bank until I read who it was from. I am bitter towards this person because of their personal choices that have hurt me. Out of stubbornness I decided to keep the money in the card until I figure out how to use it.

My first thought was to simply keep it in the card and try to just forget about it. My second thought was to do something to try to numb the pain that I have because of this person and finance it with this money. And my last idea was to donate it to an organization that helps individuals just like this person.

As I was trying to to figure this out I realized something about forgiveness. If I just let the money sit in the card it would do absolutely nothing. I would be holding on to the past; it would do absolutely nothing to help the relationship but instead tear me down. If I forgave and carefully invested in the relationship, it would make make a tremendous improvement in a relationship that barely exists in the first place. If I just spent the money on something it would just numb the pain snd do nothing to try to heal the broken relationship in the first place. Obviously, the other person was trying if they came to my party and gave me a cash gift. I personally tend to pull away from people quickly because I have been hurt too many times by many types of relationships.

I am praying for this person. I hope that they build a relationship with God before it is too late. I have forgiven them now, but I do not in any way condone their actions. I hurt for the individuals that they have hurt. Holding a grudge was not going to do anything. It was not going to change the past and it won’t really affect the future either.

Mathew 6:15 states
“But if you don’t forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”

I don’t know if it is for you, but for me that is extremely convicting. If Jesus can and will forgive me for all of my horrible, wretched, abominable sins, why couldn’t I forgive this person until now? Honestly, I am not any more righteous than anyone else out there.

If you have someone that you need to forgive, I am asking you to start praying for them and forgive them before it is too late. Tomorrow is never secure. Don’t let broken relationships just sit in a card going no where — invest in it.

“Forgiveness is as sweet as walking into a candy shop.”

I Am Christian But I’m Not Homophobic

I am a Christian but I am not homophobic. This seems to be twisted movement in Christianity. Homophobia is by definition: the unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals or homosexuality. I see this especially in conservative movements. I see parents trying to completely shelter their kids from the LBGTQ community and I honestly don’t know why. I see “Christians” openly discriminating against homosexuals and transgenders. It saddens me. I have witnessed so much homophobia openly “in the name of Christ.”

I have always been exposed by the LBGTQ community and I don’t see those who have different world views, religion, sexuality, race, or anything else as people. I’m color blind persay. Those who are different than me don’t scare me. I have a  very wide variety of friends and I am proud of that. I have several friends who are LBGTQ. I have friends who are agnostic, atheist, naturalist, humanist, etc. Personally, the only time I’m going to not tolerate someone is when they disrespect my faith, my family, or my friends. I enjoy having open and honest discussions about life and religion with anyone. I mean, how am I going to have these conversations if I don‚Äôt make friends who are different from me? I am extremely grateful to have parents who did not shelter me and taught me not to discriminate or be afraid of those who are different from myself. But so many children who are growing up in the Christian culture are not as blessed as I am.

I have had countless conversations with “Christians” reasoning why I should be homophobic, but what makes them stop talking every time is when I ask them, “Do you actually know anyone in the LBGTQ community?” So far every person has said that they don’t personally know anyone in this community. This is worrisome about Christian culture. Would you be homophobic if we were talking about your sister? Would you shelter your kids then? Would you advocate homophobia if your child came out of the closet themselves? Would you think differently if it was a situation previously mentioned?

The truth is, you don’t have to agree with someone’s morals or ethics to treat them like a human being. Christians are remembered more for the negative attributes than the postive ones. I hardly hear Christianity as a whole being remembered for something positive, do you? If you want to convert someone out of the LBGTQ community, then get involved. Befriend someone, be kind, take them to dinner, form a friendship, pray for them, then present Jesus to them. Being a homophobic and completely staying away from the LBGTQ community will do nothing. Jesus himself did not hang out with the church. He ministered to prostitutes, fishermen, and tax collecters. He ministered to those who were looked down upon in society. Did He treat those crowds differently than He treated those who were socially higher? Nope. Did Jesus discriminate the way “Christians” do in Christ’s name? When Target announced their new bathroom policy I witnessed a Christian “joke” about going into the store and vandalizing the bathrooms. In acts of hate, what are you really doing? The most influential leaders have protested non-violently and were the most successful. It’s great to know what you believe but please don’t do hateful acts in the name of Christ. Anyone who does that hasn’t truly sought God’s face. Not one of the fruits of the spirit is discrimination.

Leading the Dance

It has been a long week! At Shabbat on Friday, I did something that I don’t do every week. I actually left my seat and danced the horah If you are not familiar with this, the horah is a line dance that the Jewish community does during Shabbat and other times of the week. This time that I did the dance there was few at synagogue who were participating in this. I was second to the end of the line standing next to a toddler. The toddler refused to hold my hand. Now, typically this dance is done in a circle. However, this time there were not enough participating to make a full circle that went around the large room we were in. As I was dancing, I felt isolated. It was kind of weird just two people dancing the horah when there was a whole line of people already doing it. As the song progressed, the toddler who wouldn’t hold my hand became the back of the line and somehow I became the leader

As all of this was happening, I was mentally blogging.

Earlier that day I had a conversation with a friend about attending a new church. Then we started talking about youth groups. To be honest, we came to the conclusion that we do not like youth groups. It is kind of like high school but the teenagers put on a Christian face for it. Honestly, I had one experience with youth group and it turned me off from wanting to go again to any youth group ever. During a brief period of middle school¬†(note how¬† I said BRIEF) my parents forced me to go to youth group. My heart was not in the right place. I didn’t want anything to do with God. I would start screaming matches with my parents before going. Part of the reason I didn’t want to attend is that I didn’t feel/was accepted. I grew up in a Messianic household. I didn’t want anything to do with God, but I was still protective of the faith of my parents. Many who claim Christ don’t claim Judaism. From experience, at protestant church events if you tell them that you are Messianic, people will treat you differently and rarely it is in a good way. So here I am, an awkward and quiet girl who had dyslexia so bad that it affected my confidence and my ability to get through the basic things in life and grew up in culture claiming Judaism but going to a church that didn’t. I felt alone and I kind of was. I didn’t have friends. I didn’t like to share about my culture but some of the things that were being taught were not the truth that I knew but didn’t claim. It was a lonely time.

Little did I know that God was preparing me for something greater. The next year my parents put me into a private Christian Academy. I thought that youth group was hard. This was even harder. Suddenly I had to learn how to defend the principals that grew up in. Though there were many things, the most important was to stand up for the nation of Israel. I avoided telling my classmates my denomination for weeks. It didn’t take long for me to be tested and stand up for the Jewish people. Most Christians that I had come in contact with have a sense of pride over the Jewish community. Although none would admit that.

Now I have just graduated from this school. God has worked on my heart in tremendous ways. I have rededicated my life to Him. Through my bravery to speak up I have influenced the way the school sees the Jewish people. It was not easy. At times I just wanted to scream, I’ve had to be obnoxious, and it was not a task that just anyone could do. How is it that I had to stand up for God in a Christian school?

Most any time that a paper was assigned and I was allowed to choose the topic, it had to do with something Judaism. This year I decorated the outside of locker for Chanukah. I kept The Complete Jewish Bible at school. I did a part of my big senior assignment in Hebrew. My written devotions that were turned in were not always completed in English. Almost any chance I had to share with teachers or students I would.

I received backlash for sure. I have had damaged relationships but I have also built stronger ones. I am a quiet young lady who prefers to stay invisible to the world. Often times I’ve wondered, why me? But what I really should be asking, why not me? This semester I have been blessed to have had many conversations about my faith with more staff members than I have had in my previous five years in the school.

If I hadn’t had to go to youth group, I wouldn’t have had to learn what it feels like to be alone for Judaism and truly feel different for being Messianic. I wouldn’t have learned how to keep going in spite of that. He was preparing me for my task at this school. It has been lonely. I cannot relate to the Christian traditions that my peers have. I didn’t understand some things that were being taught in bible class. I had to learn hymns when I was leading worship. I had to adapt to the schools culture, even though I didn’t understand it.

The very first time my faith was challenged I was terrified because I was physically alone. It was like I was dancing the horah by myself and my classmates were the toddler would not hold my hand. As  time has¬†passed by the end of my journey at the school I was in a way leading the school for messianic judism. Through Him using me, I have a few individuals who are interested in talking about my faith. If I only reached one person, it would make it completely worth the loneliness, but I was never truly alone because God was always with me.

What is cool about being sent to this private school to educate about Messianic Judaism is that through this He was also working on me for His will for me after high school. He is sending me to continue to be a light for Him. I am terrified but if I’ve done it in the past, and I can do it again.

Remember that God is always working, even when it does seem as if He has left. Blessings to you.

Modesty Culture – Blaming the Beautiful Girls

I remember the day. It feels as if it was yesterday. It was the first time a guy was “checking me out.” I was in middle school. I was wearing no makeup, a t-shirt, and sweat pants. I had come out of sports practice that evening. I was making a run to the store late at night for a mother’s day gift and was with my father and big sister. It was late in the night, probably around midnight / oneish, not many were in the store. However, there was a group of college aged boys in the store. I noticed that these boys were REALLY nice. I was nieve about these things as a young girl. When the trip was over and we got into the car my father told me that a couple of the boys were coming on to my sister and me. At first I was flattered then it sunk in what really happened. I was embarrassed and ashamed.

That was the first time and I continue to encounter situations such as this. It didn’t matter what I was wearing it happened. I hated that evening for the incident.

I have been taught about modesty all of my life. But modesty culture leaves out some key ideas that are vital to a young girls well being. Through the years I have heard,

“Dress modestly and don’t cause your brother in Christ to stumble.”

“When you show that bra strap, he’s only thinking about were it is leading to.”

“Boys are pigs! They only think about sex.”

“It is YOUR job to protect a man’s heart.”

I dread the dress code assembly at the beginning of the school year. Every girl walks away feeling embarrassed about having a sexual body. We are taught that the only thing a boy sees in us is a body to have sex with.

I have always been a part of modesty culture my entire life, and  I honestly feel punished for being beautiful. No matter how I dress men still cat call, flirt, wink, smile, and try to get me in their bed. It is hard trying to find male friends. I don’t flirt with them, I try to dress cute, not sexy, and I think that I treat them like any other friend. But as I
look back on my high school years, only a select few of those boys that I once called “friends” haven’t pressured me to have sex with them. It’s disappointing when I think that I actually have a male friend but then after too long they start coming on to me.

Modesty culture teaches that girls are responsible for men’s thoughts, so when I deal with a bad boy, I blame myself. I have to remind myself that it’s okay to be beautiful. When will modesty culture teach men to take responsibility for their thoughts and actions? I am a beautiful young lady who loves God, who has come in contact with many men who don’t respect femalea. I am not ashamed of the body and face He has given me. I won’t change the way I dress. I won’t try to be sexy. I will still strive for modest and cute, but I am no longer going to take responsibility for the actions of others, because in reality it is purity in their heart that needs to change — not my clothes or my make-up.

There’s a a hash tags in social media. This is #thefirsttimeiwascatcalled. I had to learn how to deal with men trying to flirt with me at a young age. Fortunately, I never had a catcalling until I was older. The first time I was cat called was prom night. My girlfriends and I wanted have some fun after our big night. Well, there was nothing godly to do late at night in the town we were in. We decided to go to the twenty-four hour grocery store to buy some junk food before our big sleepover. We had previously changed out of our dresses, but we still had our hair up and make-up done. We looked stunning. When we were paying for our items we were whistled at. As we tried to leave, they yelled some degrading words to us. They started to follow us outside, but we walked swiftly to the car and drove away quickly.

The danger of saying that it’s the girl’s job to protect the men’s heart is the female is the victim of modern day sexism, harassment, and sexual assault and she will likely blame herself. I know I certainly have. I understand that God instructs women to be modest. Modesty is great, but God always says to protect your heart and keep it pure. Modesty isn’t completely about wearing fingertip long shorts. It is a heart issue. You can dress “modestly” and still be sexual permiscuous.

Summer is approaching and as every girl at bible summer camp hears about modesty, I challenge you to look at it in a different way. Remember that most importantly you are not at fault for men’s actions. If you are catcalled when walking home at night, it’s not your fault. Young girls, especially, need to hear this because is not being taught in churches. It is a two-sided issue. Protect your heart — both men and women. Lastly, live and dress as if Jesus was coming over for dinner. What would you want your heart to look like if you were having a conversation with Jesus? In the end, modesty is a heart issue in both genders.

Off The Pew

Summer is quickly approaching! Do you know what that means? That means that gyms are full and individuals are desperate to have a “summer body.” Who doesn’t want to be thin and tan for summer? It is almost a social expectation to have a different body shape for summer versus the other seasons. I have a vivid memory of being in middle school and running on a track and wanting to quit and my only thoughts were, “Summer body.” Looking back now at that point of my life, I see that I must of had really low self-esteem if my motivation to exercise was purely to have a “summer body.”

Two weeks ago I was visiting with a new friend. They told me that they are trying to live a healthier lifestyle by eating better and going to the gym. I expressed how I try to eat healthy but I am HORRIBLE at having the discipline to work out. The person I was speaking with said, “But you’re thin! You don’t need to worry about those things now!” Well, part of what they said is true. I am thin, but I still need to try to strive for a healthy lifestyle. Not just for trying to “have a great body” or whatever but for health reasons. I believe that God wants us to take care of our bodies and He has given us the resources to do so. Physically and emotionally I don’t feel good when I eat junk. When I eat a plant based diet, I feel great! What I put into my body determines how I feel emotionally and physically.

I have dwelled upon this little comment. Almost immediately I thought about this comment in a spiritual realm. I attend a Christian high school. I am part of a Bible study and am in synagogue most Friday’s. My parents never made me go to church and they still don’t. I look forward to going and am disappointed when I cannot make it to service. If you look at my schedule between chapel at school, Bible study, and synagogue, I hear a message four times a week. It would five times a week if I went to Torah study on Saturday’s. I am surrounded by Christianity most of the time. If I’m being honest, sometimes I am tired of hearing the messages, especially at school. I feel as if I hear the same topics every week just by a different speaker.

When I am around this culture of seemingly always being at church, it becomes easy not to personally pursue God. I fall into a trap of thinking, “I’ve listened to four pastors this week. I’m good with God.” People think that just because I go to a Christian high school that I’m automatically a Christian. Similiar to others thinking, “I’m healthy because I am thin.” I am guessing that many other students at my school have fallen into this trap, too.

When I make an effort to peruse a healthy lifestyle, I feel great. Some would say that because of my body shape I don’t need to exercise or eat healthy. Some would think that because I go to church, Bible study, and chapel, that I don‚Äôt necessarily need to do things such as pray, worship in private, read the Bible, and minister to others. But I do need to do those actions. I have more shalom (peace), understanding of His will, and joy when I personally pursue God. I don’t do these things purely for salvation. I see the Christian walk as heaven being a part of the journey but a deeper relationship with Yeshua being the destination. I don’t see working out as being skinny the complete goal, but rather simply being healthy.

As summer is approaching and the pressure starts for having a summer body I challenge you to pursue a deep relationship with God outside of the sanctuary, but in every place in your daily life.

Jesus, Who Is Jewish – A Perspective Of Passover

Passover 2016 has quickly come to an end. I have probably consumed more matzo this year than I have any previous year. The local grocery store was having a sale on Manischewitz products last week and there seemed to be a never ending amount of matzo, matzo meal, and matzo toffee in my kitchen.

My lunches for this ¬†school ¬†week have had more matzo in it than you can imagine. My friends who have never observed Passover think that it’s appetizing or something, but they have never had to constantly eat it for eight days straight. I have to be honest, I don’t mind it. After my friends ask for a piece of Matzo at lunch, they often times usually go back to eating a cookie or a roll. Last week I would bring extra Matzo because I share with my friends. When I left the house the other morning, my mother asked me why I needed to bring so much matzo to school; it wasn’t even lunch and it was almost gone. To be honest, it is mostly my friends who have consumed it. That is perfectly fine, hey, less for me to eat!

For some reason, Passover is the one holiday Christians are¬†genuinely¬†willing to talk to me about. I love this! I am thrilled when someone asks me questions about my faith and my background. My friends are willing to try Matzo because they think it is “cool” that Yeshua ate matzo. My congregation hosts a community Seder every year. Up to 400 individuals can attend and my mother is the one who is in charge of placing everyone, answering phone calls about reservations, and other things that apply with this volunteer position. Over the years I have answered dozens of phone calls pertaining¬†to the Passover Seder.

The number one comment that I hear every year from those who are going to attend a Seder or simply know that Passover is coming up is something along the lines of, “I feel it is important to at least learn more about this Jewish¬†holiday because Jesus¬†observed this one.” Without a doubt I will hear this. I truly¬†believe that the reason my peers are more open about this festival is because somehow the Christian community has spread a myth that Passover was the ONLY holiday that Yeshua observed or is relevant for the Christian church to observe.

This puzzles me and concerns me. If you learn about Jewish culture, you will learn that God’s appointed times mean¬†much to the Jews. The idea that Jesus only observed Passover is crazy. Christians seem to¬†forget that…¬†Jesus¬†was Jewish! Every holiday was a big deal in¬†Jesus’nculture. To think that Passover was the only one¬†that He¬†observed is¬†puzzling.

I don’t know about you, but anything that Jesus did I want to do! He is the perfect standard to live by.¬†If¬†He ate¬†oatmeal on Tuesday mornings for breakfast, I want to eat¬†oatmeal on Tuesday mornings.¬†Is knowing that Jesus observed every Jewish holiday not enough for¬†you? It is also written in HIS word to observe God’s appointed festival until the end of time.

The fact of the matter is you can’t know much about someone if you don’t take the time to learn about the culture. This is why it is important to educate yourself about Jewish culture while remembering that Jesus is Jewish. I challenge you to find a Jewish synagogue and learn about this culture as you learn more about Yeshua.

What Every School Teacher Says Almost Everyday

I was sitting in class. The teacher said the same phrase that I have heard him say over a dozen times. For one of the first times I questioned it. I questioned how following his directions will actually help me in life. You may be wonder, what did he say?

“You need to be taking notes because this information will be on the test.”

I questioned it because more and more I am realizing that those in my class, school, other schools, old and young that are in this education system are taught to learn for the test, but forget the information after handing the test in. I may be questioning this, but I am having a hard time grasping the concept of taking notes, reading the material, and “learning” the information just to forget it after the teacher starts a new chapter. In the classroom students are being threatend that if they don’t take notes or pay attention they won’t pass the test, but they most likely won’t remember the information a month after taking it anyway.

In traditional school everything is about earning the straight A’s or getting on honor roll. Last summer I was denied acceptance at a private high school when they saw my transcript and the fact that I don’t get “good grades.” But the school itself isn’t exactly known for academia the way the school that I am attending now is. As a culture we (especially in high school or lower education) judge others by their transcript. It all comes back to “you need to take notes because this information will be on the test.” I truly believe that there are other ways to measure intelligence.

If you put a student in a situation where they are in their “happy place,” as a teacher you would be surprised how knowledgeable they truly are, but most likely as a teacher you will never get to see that side of your students because the modern day school system is not set up in that way.

Last summer I was studying dog information¬†for my quiz bowl team with my mom. I ran into a teacher of mine and there was a bit of surprise on their end because they saw the “dumb kid” with a three inch binder answering difficult questions about Cinnology.

In school all students are taught is to prepare for a test with information that they won’t remember after the test. In my experiance, teachers give little to no emphasis on serving the community or helping people, but more of an emphasis of persuing what you enjoy in life.

I guess this rant is just me being a frustrated teenager, but this idea is certainly something to think about.

Stay positive Lama-Leah readers!