Like many of you, I am glued to the news coming out of the Middle East. An ocean of virtual ink has been spilled this summer in debate over the Israel-Gaza war, the Israel-West Bank conflict, and the hard shift caliphate-building ISIS has brought as its taken hold across war-ravaged Syria and Iraq. And the reality is that heart-breaking recent events in Somalia, South Sudan and Ukraine are not disconnected from what is happening in the Middle East.

I am writing from a comfortable home in a Chicago suburb. A piece of my soul is not here, but is half a world away in the Middle East at any given moment of the day or night. As I type those words, releasing another bit of virtual ink into the blogosphere, I realize how lame they sound (“Easy for you to feel some emotion from the safety of a six thousand-mile distance, Michelle”) or, perhaps, how simple it would be to marginalize what I might say because of who I am and what I believe. [Read more]

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In researching the theme of regret for my book, I learned that a whole lot of us carry regrets about the choices we make as we launch into adulthood. At that stage, we’rebuilding our lives via both relationships and educational/career choices. Every time we make a decision to take a step in one direction, we close the door on a number of other options. After all, we can’t be in two (or more) places at once.

I remember being paralyzed by this notion when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Perhaps I would have been terrified anyway by the specter of making a wrong choice, but I was haunted by the possibility that I might get wrong the first of the Four Spiritual Laws: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. [Read more]

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It’s complicated.

No, that’s not a Facebook update on my relationship status.* Recently, I wrote a short bit as part of a group post for the Her.meneutics blog about the need to embrace complexity in our understanding of maturing faith. There’s complexity, then there’s the borderlands just beyond complexity. Those lands have names like Chaos, Confusion, and “It’s Complicated”.

Recently, I read two books that captured the complicated nature of being a Jewish person in an Evangelical subculture: My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders The Bible Belt in Search Of His Own Faith (Harper Collins, 2008) by Benyamin Cohen and Jew In The Pew: A Memoir (Kipling House Books, 2013) by Jenny Berg Chandler. Cohen found himself curious about and perhaps coveting some sort of entre into the churchy Atlanta culture surrounding his modern Orthodox lifestyle. Chandler, who grew up in the first wave of the post-1967 contemporary Messianic Jewish world, eventually migrated into the mainstream Evangelical church for a couple of decades before hitting an emotional and spiritual wall. Both books detail the authors’ respective struggle to make sense of their Jewish identity using the prism of the church to do so. [Read more]

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a short post here about the graveyard that abuts the property on which our small townhome/apartment development was built. Every time I visit these strangers, I realize how much I want to visit the graves of my own family members. Some are buried in a swampy Jewish cemetery in south Florida. Some are in New York. And some are buried in Peoria, Illinois.

My grandmother, Leah Cohen Marks, was found dead in her tiny tw0-bedroom home on Independence Avenue in Peoria on July 4, 1978. She’d emigrated from Russia during the pogroms that escorted Jews by bayonet out of the country in which they’d been living for generations. Though that thin network of having someone already in place in this land with its golden streets and promise of security, Leah, then a few other family members, found their way to Central Illinois through that immigrant network of “I have a cousin who can get you work in Peoria”. There were few other Jews in the small city, but she married a Jewish junk merchant named Jacob Markowsky who’d made his way to the town a few years earlier. The pair had one son, my dad.

She was an active part of my life throughout my childhood. [Read more]

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