Monthly Archives: June 2007

Down Addison’s Walk

 

It was a sort of pilgrimage. The dappled, windy day was bright around us as we ambled down the famous Addison’s Walk where C.S. Lewis and Tolkien had the midnight talk that pulled Lewis into the realm of Christian belief. We were a delighted pair to be walking in his steps and we had an inspired talk in honor of it. Now, if we can just get a bit of his creative inspiration to get the soul soaring process going…

 

Finally, we have some pictures! More are coming I do promise, but for now, here are a couple from our day long jaunt to Oxford. We are almost to an end at L’Abri but managed to hop a ride with one of the workers to make a short C.S. Lewisian pilgramage; we hit Magdalene College and saw his rooms and chapels and took our unforgettable walk. Had a short sit in The Eagle and Child pub (more affectionately known as the Bird and Baby), the famed meeting place of the Inklings. And of course, simply wandered as Lewis himself might have done. Down cobbles and under shadowed branches, through college meadows bright with English garden borders and into shops and markets for the occasional spot of tea.

 

 

This is the outside of the chapel at Magdelene college; where C.S. Lewis worshiped daily. A funny bit of story; it was said that later in his life he became a slight bit impatient. Though faithful to his morning prayers, he would always put his kettle on to boil before he left and despite where the vicar was in the service, when he heard his kettle whistling would up and away. The vicar learned quickly to shorten his morning service to keep Lewis around to the end!

 

 

And this is the world famous Bodleian Library. An endless palace of books. The halls wound ever on into more and more gigantic rooms crammed from floor to cieling with books. Like something out of a fairy tale. Ahh. Heaven is coming- and I’m quite sure it will have a library to occupy us a millenium or two…

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Check Out Seanachie

For those of you who follow my story blog, I’m posting there again. (Yes, lounging in an English garden does have its creative benefits.) I’d be interested in any comments on the story, as it is in a very rough draft form and will probably morph into a quite different thing in the end, but is intended to eventually grow into a full-length novel. So if you have an opinion, state it! (Or praise, or question, or criticism (cringe)…)

Go here to read.

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Work

Hey everyone! Here’s a random, rather rambling essay containing some of my recent contemplations on the goodness of work. Especially when it is back among the old ways of garden and kitchen… Joel and I head out tomorrow for lunch and a tour of a nearby manor house with a gracious older gentleman from the nearby village. I met him during a lecture and ensuing debate on art and standards of beauty and he very graciously invited us for Sunday dinner. So I’m sure I’ll have a lovely tale to tell soon. Until then, happy summer day to you and may God “confirm to you the work of your hands” as he has of late to me…

There is an innate human resistance to the idea of work; especially to the demand of physical labor. It is all too present in my heart. Contemplation is so much easier a task than the forcing of my fleshly hands to the tilling of ground, the making of food, the cleaning of a house. Of course I do work hard; few people have much of a choice, and I do it with an admirable sense of duty, telling myself that this is part of the ebb and flow of life in a fallen world. Something is always falling apart and always needing to be put back together again.
But my days here in the quiet of this rambling house have shown me work in a new light. Perhaps I have simply seen it as it was meant to be. I have been advised in romantic matters to be sure and see a man in his own environment before making any hasty judgments and oddly enough, I feel that way about work. Initially, it repulses me with its demand on my time and personal thought, but here I am reconnected with work as it was in the beginning. I am seeing labor in its native environment and am strangely attracted. Living as I am amidst an earthy, rhythmic reality of daily labor, I have found a goodness in work that I had long forgotten.
Because this is an old house that runs quite counter to much modern thought and technology, I feel that I have travelled back in time and been set down again in the middle of God’s own reality: in the presence of wood and stone and water, of fresh vegetables from the garden and crisp sheets dried by the wind. Removed from the usual electric whir of machines and convenience, work here takes time, and it is the accomplishment of a morning to peel buckets of vegetables, to pick lettuce from the garden and hand wash the old dishes. I am connected in a present, consequential way to the fruit of my labor and it is strangely delightful.
But I am also beginning to think that it is necessary; that physical labor is needful to the right living of a holy life. And the discovery is strangely exciting.
I first realized this as I was cooking one dappled morning in the solitude of a small kitchen. A quiet came to me, a rest in the round of my mundane tasks that astonished me with its refreshment. The constant whir of my introspection and frenzied thought finally slowed.  I think that our culture has a societal ADD because of the ceaseless march of activity, technology and constant distraction. I have found more and more in the past years that my brain is in a near constant state of rush. But physical labor, apart from ever-present technology, stops me in my tracks, slows the whir of my busy thoughts. This earthy labor of hand, head and muscle forces me to step aside from the flood of my activity and sit for awhile in the quiet. The rhythmic labor of my hands is restful and the absence of entertainment or distraction eases my brain into a much needed quiet. Work, I have decided is a necessary stop to my modern craze.
But it has also humbled me. And that realization struck deep. It would be easy, especially in this environment of study, to be caught in an endless round of introspection that convinced me of my own importance. There is, in our postmodern culture, a real tendency towards narcissism in our quest for truth and meaning. It is easy to become increasingly self-centered as a result of uninterrupted hours of introspection.
But work reminds me that I am one of many and that true understanding requires me to serve. Work sets me back in the center of community, drawing me out of the tunnel of my own thought into the incarnational reality of my family and the people with whom I share my life. I am simply one more thinker, one more worker, no more or less important than any of the other eternal souls perched around the house. We are all required to love, to work, to consider, but we are also required to serve. The Christian life isn’t just about the thinking up of grand thoughts or the culling of insightful Truth. It is centered on a kingdom made real through the love and thought and work of all those who love God.
After all, life in God is really just all about Love incarnate; in Christ, and in us, His people. We make Him real through the effort of our minds and muscles, head and hands and heart. His grace becomes tangible through the lives we live. It is all too easy to drop the tangible half and claim the autonomy of deep thought alone. Work, daily, rhythmic work, forbids it, reminding me once again that I am one more soul in a kingdom that will one day embrace the world.
So it’s good. Work, I mean. And I am determined to live a little more in the grace of its reality, to actually give thanks now and then for the grace of labor. I even intend to remember this when I am home. Now, if I can only remember that next time I wash the dishes (by hand)…

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A Hasty Hello

Well, the days fly by in windy beauty here! I’ve been wishing to post so much more often; it’s been a tricky challenge to get internet during our time here as everyone’s in the area has decided to go out. I’m now perched in a local pub with a cup of tea and have spent a good two hours just trying to catch up.

We are entering much more deeply into our time here. There is a really great rhythm here of three hours work and three hours study which I find to be oddly refreshing to my soul. I’ll be posting some thoughts on the goodness of work soon. My reading plan, engineered by me with the help of a tutor includes quite a bit of study on Christianity and the Arts, as well as some research into the effect of the most popular children’s stories of our time on the morals and hearts of modern kids. I’ll probably be extending this research to my time at Cambridge and will have a finished paper at the end of it.

I’ve discovered some great authors as I’ve researched; Wendell Berry on the recovery of wonder in the modern world, and Hans Rookmaaker on Art and Christianity. We have daily meals at different workers houses and usually have a good, rousing discussion at lunchtime. It’s been fun to try new foods and find new friends in the midst of new ideas. Yesterday was a memorable lunch, we discussed the nature of compassion; God’s toward us, and ours to ourselves, and how it affects our compassion toward other people. It got long and rousing and I think made our curried lentil stew with cocount and vegetables and such just that more delicious.

Thought here is also greatly aided by the almost hourly arrival of tea breaks in the garden and long rambles in the beauty of the English grounds. So, we’re in a lovely little corner of the world here, and I find that it is a rich haven for these two weeks; the gift of so much time for contemplation is almost incredible.

I’ll post some essay sort of things I’ve been working on soon. For now, cheerio my friends! May your day be full of grace.

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We’re here!

And finally almost past jetlag. We arrived on Saturday and have spent  lovely four days thus far. It is breathtaking beauty of an old English manor house here; gardens and summer fields, a rambling, Narnia-like old house and teatimte breaks every few hours. We are beginning our program of research more intensely today in between the rhythm of work and rest and I’m sure I’ll have lots to write about as I begin some serious contemplation.

Pictures will follow soon, (as soon as my computer can access internet on its own) but for now, here are English summer day wishes. Have a spot o’ tea and check back soon!

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And so it begins…

We’re off! Plane tickets, train tickets, passports and clothes, all gotten, stuffed in massive suitcases (which we will drag through the train stations of England) and somewhat ready for our takeoff at 8 tomorrow evening. We have a direct flight into London and then will take the train down to the little village where we will be staying at L’Abri, in the Manor House at Greattham. Oh the adventure.

Look for updates from the road, for adventures had and pictures taken and contemplations snatched from the beauty of our travels. It’s a sort of pilgrimage/adventure/mission trip/gypsy quest all in one. God is so good to have created such fun and dropped it in our laps. So wish us grace as we go.

Farewell until we check in from England…

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Sunny Day Tidbits

The all-encompassing blur of packing has come upon me. Four more days and then…England! I had to share these few tidbits however, as they brought me quite a bit of delight in the last couple of days.

First, for the mind, an interview with Gordon Pennington over at the Boundless site (Focus on the Family’s website for college/twenty-somethings). I am so challenged by the way Mr. Pennington thinks about media and culture, spurs me on to want to do something about it. His thoughts on this are definitely worth some hefty contemplation. And as a side note, I actually met him at a C.S. Lewis a couple of years ago and was so impressed by both his grasp of our culture and vision to change it, as well as just his graciousness in general. So take a look.

For the soul, check out the artist I have just discovered: Daniel Gerhartz. Wow.

And for a random bit of delight for the heart, look who I met on my afternoon walk. The photo does not do justice to his blue-eyed baby cuteness. He wasn’t a bit afraid.

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