Killing Two Birds With One Stone-the New Anti-Semitism and Writer’s Block

This might perhaps be one of the most important blogs that I will ever write. Lately I set out to answer a very pertinent question having to do with the inspiration for my writing. Why do I do what I do? What is the meaning in all of this? Instead of just a conveniently boxed theme or tag line for my novel, I discovered something deeper and more important- something akin to a raw material living on the inside of me- something which drives me, motivates me, even sometimes makes me venomous with anger. I have discovered why I have a passion to write about the things I write about. If a writer can do that, it is nothing short of introspective gold.

Ya see, I found more than just a portion of gumption to write that next scene. I found something that is truly critical in making a story palpable to the reader. I found my voice. Instead of continuing to sit at the computer time after time,  purposely distracting myself with Facebook, Twitter, emails; instead of staring down the frightening blank page of my sophomore novel, I found what really makes me tick. And also what really ticks me off.  Those who know me well can tell you that I can be somewhat of a mama bear when it comes to my kids,  spouse, friends, even those in my faith community. I dislike injustice. I hate manipulation. I abhor  ulterior motives, especially when it is rolled up into a nicely packaged offering, like baklava with a ribbon. Who doesn’t love baklava?! I don’t, not if it contains a toxic adjuvant of my-will-over-yours hidden agenda. I can usually sniff out a prejudical agenda a mile away, especially when it has to do with that against the Jewish people. My Jewish people. You will know in a moment why I say,”My Jewish people”. Narrowly escaping the gripping snare of replacement theology when I left the church I was in, I thought I had already become familiar with the bias against Israel in all its many subtle forms. But now I find myself  grappling with an Anti-Semitism that’s even more insidious and evil than its predecessor: I am now fighting an of Anti-Semitism that’s within my own faith movement: the Hebrew Roots, slash Torah observers, slash the Way faith walk. If you call it something else, please insert your preferred label here. As if that were even possible! But alas…the tares do grow up with the wheat.

This newly packaged anti-Judaic attitude mixes in subtly through a bias known as “anti-Zionism”, and it goes a little something like this:  The Jews who now live in the Land of Israel (or sometimes, they insist, Palestine), are not “TRUE Jews”, but are rather OF THE “SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN”. Some of these people actually assert that the Jews who are in power in Israel are not even Jews at all , but are rather,  some half-breed lot of Khazarians who wormed their way into power, many of whom are the “elite” of the earth who will soon be taking over the world! Yeah, find that in scripture, if you can.  And when Yeshua comes back,  they say, or during the time of judgement, He’s going to kick them out of the Land. I actually heard one person posit that those Jews who live in the Land right now are just “place-holders” until the rest of the twelve tribes get there and claim their inheritance. Really?? Here is why I personally feel offended by such drivel: My husband, the beloved of my life, is Jewish. Physically Jewish. Not half, not 1/8th of a Jew. He is 100% from both sides of his family, as far as anyone can go back to remember. (He is also a follower of Yeshua, and so is circumcised of heart, but that is for another discussion). That means that our children are also Jewish (although I realize not by Orthodox standards, so please no correction emails, thanks).

This faith walk that my husband and I have entered, that is, walking fully in Torah since 2010, has been a safe haven for us for the most part. We went long periods of time wandering in a spiritual desert, looking for like-hearted fellowship with other Torah-walking believers. So when we found those with whom we now fellowship on a regular and a semi-regular basis (for those who live a little further away), it was like water to our souls. And we didn’t want anything to sully this burgeoning little life that Abba had shown us. We also started to fellowship with people online through social media. That is when my mama red flag alerts started ringing with persistent regularity. That’s when the anti-Judaic attitudes and parroted statements started spouting about the  history and failings of the Jews, whether it be how they corrupted the Tanakh and even the language of Hebrew in Babylon, or how they all (not just certain sects or houses of rabbis) added to and took away from the Torah in violation of Deuteronomy 4:2. How they are even currently trying to take over the world! I have shockingly even heard accusations that come straight out of the fraudulent and many-times-over debunked Protocols of the Elders of Zion. When I hear such statements amongst my  brethren, a knife goes through my heart, and I look over at the precious faces of my two children and ask myself, “Will there be room in such a movement as this for my children in the future? Or will they be ousted by these sentiments? Or, even worse than that- will they feel that they must suppress their own Jewish identity?!”

Don’t get me wrong: I realize we all have to give one another a large amount of grace to grow into this new thing. I mean, for MOST people who are now walking in Torah, there is so much to adjust to in such a short amount of time, it can sometimes be overwhelming: new holidays which we didn’t grow up with, a new day for the Sabbath, new ways of worshipping, sometimes family and friends who turn their backs on us, or jobs we’ve lost, and the list goes on and on. Shouldn’t we give people the time and grace to adjust to this new idea that we are not only in our faith related to the Jews, but we are actually now part of the same household as them?! I get it. New paradigm shift. Let’s all turn our brain frequencies to an entire new identity! Hellooooow! Does it feel like we are in Bizzarro World yet?? That takes an enormous adjustment and an austere amount of effort. Been there and done that. And I am the first to admit I need all the grace I can solicit from others. I tend to struggle with the “love your neighbor” side of the tablets, many times.

But isn’t some of the leaven of false teaching and attitudes about the Jewish people indeed just leftovers from a lifetime of hearing this in our old churches, some of us never even having met a real Jewish person in our lives before coming to Torah? When we moved onto the “meat” of the Word, His Torah, wouldn’t you say it was about time to put the rattles and diapers away, put our big boys and girls underoos on, and actually re-new our minds to the realities and the implications that come from knowing we were adopted into an actual family, one which already had children who lived in the household who actually stuck close-by the Father?

Perhaps those of us in the Hebrew Roots Movement (or insert your preferred label here) ought to start making it a common occurrence to cry out to Abba in prayer and intercession for the Jewish people, both those in the Land of Israel, and our neighbors down the block. That would enlarge our hearts a bit more for our brother Judah, don’t you think? After all, that is how He first started moving me into this walk. It wasn’t scripture study that won me over in the beginning. I literally fell in love. With a people-group. I caught a love for Israel and the Jewish people from a pastor who talked about that love from the pulpit. And then I entered into intercessory prayer sessions where I would just literally lay out on the floor, crying, weeping, praying for the Jewish people (No, really, you can ask my former roommate), or crying out during my church’s worship service “I love Your people” while the band played on. Yeah, that was how it all began. One time during prayer, I actually felt what it was like to cry out and ask the Father to take my own life in exchange for that of Elohim’s chosen people, the Jews. Similar to how  it must have been for Moses or Rabbi Shaul (Paul), who both conveyed similar sentiments in the scriptures. You don’t understand what a work of our Abba this was! Ha! I laugh now, but you have to realize that my maternal grandfather was anti-Semitic. From what I can piece together from conversations and memories from other family members  was that he actually admired and praised Hitler! Or at least, he made statements to that effect in front of other people, so much so that it was very difficult for a beloved family member to even walk through and experience Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in person. After the consecutive years of praying for the Jewish people and wandering around, asking Elohim what I was supposed to do with this love, the answer came in the form of a man. My husband. Abba promised me, as He did for Shiprah and Puah, the two Hebrew midwives in Egypt who saved Hebrew babies, to give me a family of my own. A Jewish one! After all, He is an Elohim of good economy, ya know!

Now you know why I stand looking at the wide array of teaching and sometimes the unwitting repeat of offenses that goes on amongst the brethren, and when statements pop up of unfounded suspicion of the Jewish people or their motives, I remember the work in my heart that made this walking in Torah even possible for me. And I think to myself, “There is nothing too difficult for our Elohim. Especially the changing of inaccurate or stinky thinking we have allowed to sneak in along the way that would steal our blessing from being able to love our long lost brother. We can do this!”

One of the reasons I love writing fiction is because as readers, we willingly become part of a process that actually by-passes the critical part of the brain where non-fiction or teachings would be stopped and dissected, and then stored mostly in our short-term memory. That’s right. Most of what we hear or read, if we do not walk it out immediately  in a real-life practical situation, only stays in short term memory. Not so with stories! With stories, whether they be fiction, movies, tv drama, we actively become participants in a process called the willing suspension of disbelief. We become part of the story by proxy. And inasmuch as it is possible, we actually become spiritually like little children where faith is concerned and we can receive the message more readily. Think back to what used to move you most during a church service…wasn’t it those tear-jerking stories of missionaries returning from the field?  And I think Yeshua was really onto something with those parables! Now here is an added bonus: fiction also has been proven to develop the skill of empathy in a person. Readers can more closely identify with the characters in a story than they can with abstract theories or broad statements. When it comes to our faith walk, fiction can lend much in the way of allowing people to put themselves in other people’s shoes, and therefore they can learn to extend much-needed grace to people on an ongoing basis. That is probably why most of my characters have a passion to save the Jewish people from enemies both big and small. I’ll admit it: I want my audience to be able to develop a love for the Jews, even if by proxy of a character or theme in a novel. I am shameless in admitting this. It is in the least planting a seed!

Knowing all this puts wind in my sails. Knowing the enemy’s “MO” by listening to propaganda and knowing where it originally comes from, by studying the history of the blood libels and the origins of the Protocols through a gem-find of a book from a Judaica bookstore that will provide for more spit fire and vinegar in my writing (thanks, Will Eisner!), I set to task.  I have a tall order. When I die, I want my gravestone to say “Lover of Israel”. Because that is what my Savior is. A lover of his people. All of them. I want my King to know that during my life, I did everything within my power to love my brother and that I did everything within my power to pass on that love to others in the most efficient way possible. After all, time is short.

So I look up at my computer screen with a new voice and a new sense of clarity (or maybe even just a breakthrough in my writer’s block) and I say to myself…..I’m ready for battle: bring on the fiction!

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The Age of Elijah earns 5’s in all categories of the Inspirational division of Writer’s Digest E-book Awards

Friends, I just received the commentary for my first novel, the Age of Elijah, from the 3rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self Published e-book awards, Inspirational category. I am delighted to say that the book earned a score of “5” in each scoring category!! Let me explain: this writing contest has different divisions, such as: fiction/mainstream; fiction/genre; non-fiction; etc. The division  I entered the book  was “Inspirational”.  Although Age did not earn the top prize, we did well across all criteria. The judges use a scale  of 1-5. A score of 1 means “needs improvement”.  A score of 5 is “outstanding”. The Age of Elijah earned all 5’s! Thank you to those of you who inspired me, bore with me, and encouraged me. If you have not purchased the book yet, it is never too late to purchase a copy, since the book has been *revised*, prior to its entry into this contest. The Kindle version (e-book) is only $3.99 on Amazon (please see buy link at the end of this post). And remember, a tenth of all proceeds from the book go to support Leket Israel, an organization which feeds the poor in Israel.

Here are the categories used for judging, with their scores and the written commentary, verbatim, sent to me by the judge :

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
Plot and Story Appeal: 5
Character Appeal and Development: 5
Voice and Writing Style: 5

Judge #60 wrote:

A fascinating look into this religious culture. We learn so much about their lifestyle and devotion to their practices, aided by the smartly provided glossary. This is indeed an immersion into a culture we may not know much about, a reminder that we are richer in our own faith by exploring others. The author demonstrates a tremendous ease in explaining the many details of her religion’s lifestyle, with an engaging voice filled with knowledge. We’re seeing and *experiencing* so many of the rituals and rules of her people. Author provides excellent sensory details, and shows a great economy of words in sharing the backgrounds of her faith life. Well done. We are in good hands here. This allows us to connect on a deeper level.

Watch out for very long paragraphs, which occasionally happen in this book. Long paragraphs, especially those filled with a tremendous amount of detail and new lessons, can feel heavy visually, and cloak some of the details within. Breaking up big text blocks lets your material breathe and shine.

A strength of this book is the author’s recounting of Elijah the prophet. There was a different energy there, a greater depth of detail than in the other wonderfully recounted stories, which I interpreted as the author’s feeling particularly connected to this story. Well done. Author shows a life with great dedication to her faith, and we’re very present in her world through excellent creation of settings, beautiful dialogue from well-differentiated characters, and a lovely pace that progresses us through her story. Well done.

http://www.amazon.com/Age-Elijah-Vesteen-L-Blackman/dp/1512374458/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453492412&sr=1-1&keywords=the+Age+of+Elijah

The Age of Elijah and other post-release musings

Shalom!  Yesterday, I published my first novel The Age of Elijah. I pressed the approve button and suddenly, my private thoughts and storylines for the last year and some odd months, is going out into the universe for anyone to read. It’s a strange feeling.  At the end of editing and revising the book, I felt like I was giving birth. PUSH! Ok, not really, as both my children were born via C-section, but it is what I would  imagine the pushing would feel like.  Exhausting.  Daunting.  That was the tail end of writing.  Now it is out of my hands, and while I feel, well, relieved, I also feel a little bit of trepidation. Ya see, some of the main characters in my book belong to the Messianic/Hebrew Roots movement.  And within that movement, there is such a varied spectrum of belief and halachah (the way in which one walks out his or her faith), that I am just hoping my readers will not feel under-represented.  But then my left-brained self which, many times sounds a lot like my husband’s voice interestingly enough, tells me that my story is my own, the goal of which is not to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside, but rather, to tell a story.  And one that is important to me.  Still, the right side of my brain is hoping that in some way, my readers can connect with this baby of a book, whose head is still slightly cone-shaped.

Well…Here’s to variety!