By Nikki Blair
If my mother knew I was writing a blog post titled “Cleaning House,” she would laugh. She knows—and I freely admit—that I’m not the consummate housekeeper. If we know someone is coming to visit, we tidy all the usual clutter, and scrub all the surfaces… otherwise, our house is more often than not in a state of moderate-to-severe dishevelment. Laundry, Legos, yarn, multiple remote controls, single socks, kiddie pajama pants, military boots, cartoon-character flip-flops. This is our life. Most of the time.
But in transitional times, we become immersed in weeks–months, even–of cleaning house. Too often we have moved from state to state, taking with us boxes of “just stuff,” sometimes still taped up from the previous move. We have carefully unpacked items that never saw the light of day until it was time to carefully repack them again. It only takes a few times through that cycle before you realize that it would be infinitely preferable to let the “stuff” go.
Though moving is hard and sad and in some ways I dread it, I do love the “cleaning house” phase. With a few months left in San Antonio, we are in it now: looking ahead to how our family is growing up, reevaluating all our “stuff” and considering what to let go, deciding which pieces of furniture need revamping to suit our needs, encouraging the kids to donate toys they no longer play with, sorting through all the boxes and consolidating the “keep-worthy” items. I know in a few months, when we arrive in South Carolina and our household goods meet us there, it will feel like a combination of Christmas and New Years. We’ll open boxes and be as excited as children to discover what’s inside, and we’ll begin to put items in place to shape a whole new version of our life together. A familiar comfort and a fresh start, all at once.
Of course, there’s a spiritual parallel to this. (Isn’t there always!?) I feel it myself, often, as I change and our family changes and our location changes. We feel it when a job situation changes, or retirement happens, or an expected joy or tragedy shakes things up, or when we are in transition between one choice and another. On the other hand, we may feel the pull to renewal when life seems not to be changing at all but is instead quite still, even perhaps stagnant. These are times when we all feel that “cleaning house” phase coming on, and we begin to evaluate. Revamp. Discard. Consolidate. We think about how we spend our time and energy, whether the “stuff” we’re doing is keep-worthy, or whether we need to let it go. We think about where we are comfortable, and how we are ready for something new.
One of the last things on my “to do” list while our family is at Woodland is to work with Lance to lead a small-group study that–I hope–will help all of us “clean house” a bit. I need it, and maybe you do too? It’s less about getting rid of things, though, and more about taking stock: reflecting on the gifts God has given, the experiences we’ve had, our hard-wiring, the things we are most passionate about at this moment in our lives. All those things that are keep-worthy. It’s a sort of Christmas plus New Years: looking inside ourselves for things that surprise us (or that we just haven’t seen in a long time) and moving toward new and renewed callings in our lives and in God’s church.
If you’re ready to clean house too (in the spiritual sense, at least! we won’t be judging anyone’s scattered toys or orphaned socks!), I hope you’ll watch for more information coming soon, and join us on Sunday mornings in April. I would love to share this part of the journey with you, exploring God’s work in our lives and supporting each other as we follow God’s call.
By Bob Flynn
I don’t recommend reading the Bible from the beginning to the end, especially for children. I don’t remember how long it took me to read the Bible my parents gave me when I was nine. I do know that much of what I was reading was just words because I didn’t understand the text, the historical and cultural context or the intent of the writer.
The audience to whom you are writing deserves some consideration. You want the reader to stretch a little bit to understand but not so much the audience gives up in frustration. Have you recently read 1st Chronicles, Chapters 1-4, with all its begats? Some of the Bible is record-keeping and important to Biblical or cultural historians and many Jews, but unlikely to entertain or educate most Christians. That’s also true of the dimensions of the temple. The dimensions of Noah’s ark have provided believers with centuries of arguments with much entertainment but little insight.
That’s also true of the language of Revelation, another biblical book that you may not have read recently. You can make the symbols mean many things especially if you pretend the book was not written to be meaningful to its first audience but to you and your time in history. When I read my astrological predictions it isn’t often and it’s always when the prediction is out of date. That’s so I can watch myself shape yesterday’s, last month’s or last year’s prediction to fit the time period, fully aware that 12% of the world’s population received the same forecast that I did.
I can read Revelation and parts of Ezekiel and some other books the same way. But I don’t. Parts of those scriptures are applicable to me and to my time on earth, but only in the huge context of God’s relationship to his creation. More on symbols later, but keep in mind that symbols grow out of the theme of the book and sometimes the audience sees symbols that the writer does not. Read Freudian interpretations of common fairy tales and see what you missed.
That means we will have to differentiate between the factual and the truth, between literal language and figurative language, between writing styles such as historical, political, imaginative, symbolic, poetic, irony and sarcasm, etc. The most important thing is not to lose the intent of the writer in arguments over individual words.
By Diana Bridges
The world has come to San Antonio and now it’s coming to our church. After months of dreaming and planning, ESL at Woodland is a reality. On Monday of week one, fourteen students from seven countries came in for the placement test. They’ve been divided into three classes and the learning (for all of us) has begun. The group includes an Italian chef and a Polish country and western singer, so we expect to have excellent food and entertainment at our first potluck. (It’s on March 27th at noon and you’re all invited!)
If you’re interested in being involved, we could use three or four more teachers, floaters to welcome and register new students, as well as to interact with students when they’re not in class, and conversation partners to give students a little extra English practice during the week. We’re also accepting snack donations.
I’m so thankful for everyone who came to training, to the four teachers who have already begun, and the two who are willing to teach evening classes when the time comes. None of this would be happening without you. Thanks also to a very supportive and encouraging church staff.