Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Dream Fulfilled

We've been refurnishing the lounge of late. It was in quite a disastrous state, and upon pointing this out to our landlord, he magnanimously sprung the money for an entire new paint job and fixing several other aesthetic issues with the room.

So, with fresh paint, things were looking pretty good. But the walls were looking lonely and forlorn. So I started out on a quest. Just yesterday I was telling a friend "Ideally, I want a tall ship under full sail, dashing it's way through green waves." It was my dream...

Only to walk into the first charity shop I tried to see a beautiful, proud ship marching across green seas under full sail! It was the right size, for a bargain price! And I love it!!! It's almost like it found me. Like it wanted to be brought home and exalted into the place of honour in our home. (My roommates may never forgive me for unilaterally eternally installing this in our living room, but that is for another time.) Now I need a name. That it ought to be an "HMS" ship goes without saying. But what should be the second part? HMS Dauntless? HMS Pride? HMS Whimsy? (That last in honour of The Bloggess who brings whimsy to most of what she encounters) Yes. I think the HMS Whimsy it will be. Also because then people might think of Lord Peter Whimsey, who is the creation of Dorothy Sayers, who was basically an Inkling. So that's awesome too.

It has been raining like crazy off and on today, and since I had my bike downtown, I had to walk it home with the picture precariously balanced on the handlebars, and I managed to make it all the way without getting rained on at all.

The universe got angry at my luck (not only of finding the picture, but getting home without getting wet) and it sent a hail storm in reply. But I'm safe at home now! (At least, until I head out for evensong in a little bit!)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Two Easter Sermons

I heard two Easter sermons yesterday. One was chaotic: it involved a spontaneous play with people drawn from the audience playing different "witnesses" on Easter morning. Because the actors had no idea what was going on or where the play was going (or even which Gospel account was being drawn from) it was awkward and drawn out, and the point was weakly made and ill-defined. Sometimes it was even hard to hear what was being said over the crying babies and fighting toddlers who were kept in the service, and made it sound more like the middle of a food court, than a church service.

The other sermon could not have been more different. It was eloquent and logical. It used beautiful images and funny stories and was, overall, tightly argued. The points were strongly made and were fairly convincing. The church, moreover, was silent and attentive, and the preacher made the most of his polished craft to draw everyone along.

Yet, for all their dissimilarities, the two sermons shared more than they differed. Both were trying to do something entirely foreign to the purpose and meaning of Easter: they were both trying to prove scientifically that the most logical explanation for the empty tomb accounts in the Gospels is that Jesus rose from the dead.

Let me explain why this is a problem: Dead people don't come back to life. It is impossible. And as Sherlock Holmes said "How often have I said to you [Watson] that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?" Sermons or apologetic arguments that try to prove that the resurrection happened end up supporting the skeptic's case, since it is never more logical to think that the impossible has happened rather than the very implausible. A fainted, beaten man, without water or food moving an incredibly heavy stone and then overcoming a crowd of guards? Still more probable than the dead being raised. The disciples stealing the body and then refusing to deny the story under torture and execution? Still more probable than the dead being raised. Actually, any story at all, no matter how improbable, is more probable than the impossible story that we have: that the dead are brought to life, and that the crucified Jesus is the risen Lord, conqueror of death, and the locus of the hope of the world.

So let's not try to prove it! Proclaim the impossibility! (Madeleine L'Engle called it "the Glorious Impossible") Revel in the fact that the wisdom of God looks like foolishness to men, and let the people work out for themselves how to deal with their scientific concepts and logical dissonances once they realize they have just met someone who they thought died two thousand years ago! For Easter, at least, let us put aside the weak excuses we tell the world to try and make us look clever and logical, and simply celebrate that the impossible has happened. If I look like a fool for doing so, then I look like a fool. Like David, I will gladly say "I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes."

Christ is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed!

...Let's party!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Work piles up...

So, in the last month or so I've been up to Oxford and Cambridge and will be heading out to Fareham soon too! Oh, I also moved houses, painted a room, and so on. The move has been great: it is a much easier bike into the university, and now I am not nearly so physically exhausted all the time. Also, my roommates make good food! :)
Life is settling into a rhythm, and I am enjoying myself.
I am still, of course, making all sorts of cultural mistakes, but you do learn. My biggest (common) mistake is that I still refer to my pants as, well, pants. But here, "pants" means underpants and "trousers" is used for the outer-leg-garment. So, you can imagine the awkwardness when I say something like "Let me show you the new pants I just got" or "Hang on, let me just change out of this skirt and into some pants, and I'll be right with you for the walk...". Really, I have to work on that one!
Other than that, I'm mostly just working away.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The After Christmas

I wrote this about two weeks ago, but never got around to posting it...


It is funny, starting up again after the Christmas break...
The closest analogy I can think of to my experience of last semester is getting pegged in the head when fencing.
For those of you who do not know, I did rapier fencing for several years, and because of the heavy construction of a rapier blade, much of the force of a blow gets transmitted down to the end of the blade, rather than simply bending the blade sideways as it would with an Olympic epee or foil.
Getting hit is never much fun, and always hurts, but getting hit hard in the head is absolutely the worst. Your head snaps back, there is a burst of pain, and you end up completely disoriented. You stand there, dazed and confused trying to remember what in the world just happened. You don't know where you are, who you are, or what just happened. And within an instant you have to push all that aside, and throw yourself back into the fight to protect yourself, while most of you is still not quite sure just what is going on.
And, of course, because I'm way shorter than most of my opponents, my head was a fairly easy target, so I spent more than my fair share of time dazed and confused after being cracked in the head before I learned to keep my guard up really high!
I feel like I spent most of last semester getting smacked hard in the head by various things, and I think I went through a lot of it dazed and confused. And right now I'm warily eying this next term (my opponent?) keeping my guard high and really hoping I don't keep getting smacked in the head all this term too!
I guess it might be lucky that I tend to find the challenge of figuring out how to engage in the fight well somewhat energizing? I know I have better strategies, and now that I have the beginnings of a community here for support as well, I think over all, things will be much better. Well, the fight is about to begin, so: Bring. It. On.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas in London

Well, I'm in London now, settled into Muswell Hill for the Christmas season. What a term it has been!
I'm staying with friends Jim and Amber here, along with their adorable two year old son Caleb. This morning we were talking about creation, and said "In the beginning, God created...?" to which Caleb replied "Boogers!"
I think there has to be some way to work this into my dissertation.

We also walked around Highgate woods and learned the difference between holly, ivy and oak leaves. "Ivy climbs trees like...?" "Monkeys!"

Also, I have been having to review my dinosaur names because of a new bucket of toys: dimetrodon and parasaurolophus don't roll off the tongue like they used to!

Merry Christmas all!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Things I heard in Exeter

Things I heard walking home from the University:
-the squeal of brakes and click clack of wheels as a train pulled into St. David's station
-the call of swans as they glide along the river
-church bells in the distance ringing out vespers
-fiddle music emerging from a window and the clomping of feet doing Scottish dancing
-a whistle from the conductor as another train takes off

OK, so what I heard in Exeter is not a real update. The basic story is that I am doing really well, and settling in, and looking forward to Christmas in London.

Many thanks to all who have sent letters, cards, packages, e-mails and prayers. You have sustained me more than you know, and I am so thankful!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Remember, Remember....

To update one's blog! Sorry, I've been absent of late!

Tonight was bonfire night, which normally means fireworks. But in the village of Ottery St. Mary's it means lighting barrels full of tar on fire, hoisting them up onto one's back, and then running around the village through tightly packed crowds. It is hard to believe that much awesome can happen in one place!

Plus, they had the largest bonfire I have ever seen. I don't have a clue how any building in that village is insured against fire. See pictures here.

In other news, settling in is going well. I am really enjoying it in many ways, though I am so far from home.
Yesterday I was at Tesco's buying groceries. I always try to be kind to cashiers and waitresses, and engage them in a little conversation. This particular woman had apparently been waiting all day for someone to ask how she was doing, and she launched into a long and enthusiastic narrative. Unfortunately, I couldn't understand a thing she was saying!! She was going so fast, and using so much slang, and had such a strong accent! So there I was, looking (I'm sure) very earnest, and trying to smile warmly and nod appropriately and sympathetically while the terror of having no idea what I was agreeing to grew behind my eyes. That was the second time that day that I had no idea what the person I was talking to was saying. The other time, it was important that I understood, and I had to ask three times before I caught the meaning!
I mentioned this ongoing issue to someone, and their response was "Yes, it seems so funny and old-fashioned to us the way you speak so slowly." Thanks, guy. That really helps the confidence.

Work is going well, things are picking up, and I'm starting to get to know my way around town. Next weekend I will be in London. Looking forward to it!