Monday, December 22, 2008

Old Confessions

I was looking for a friend's address in my Facebook inbox and ran across this message. I wrote it one night almost two years ago now. I read it tonight expecting to criticize some of the word choices and logic or structure after a year and a half at Wheaton, but instead was surprised at its rightness. Not only that, but it is something for me to recover. This is an Ebenezer for me as I look back over my faith. And this is how I want to live everyday-- with this mindset, a profound sense of gratitude for my salvation. I don't want to get wrapped up in myself and "my own" things. I wish that I could make my conversations this simple with people who don't know, because this is what the gospel is. 

my confession: i believe in the living God.

tonight i went to an on-campus ministry called crosspoint. when i came back, i was so excited about being free that i sent a facebook message to someone i didn’t know to tell them about God’s love and forgiveness. and then i realized that i felt comfortable telling a complete stranger about my faith, but i couldn’t tell the people i live with. i realized that i was afraid. i’m not sure how to describe the fear, maybe afraid of being judged or labeled unfairly, afraid to go all out, afraid to cross the line and risk ridicule. maybe i never felt this passionately about it before, but i’ve got to tell you about this love, or i’m going to explode. as i sit here with shaking wrists, i’m coming out. i’m telling the world, starting with Gunn Hall and West Georgia, that i’ve sold out for Christ. i can’t hold back anymore and i am not afraid.

i have to tell you that God sent his son Jesus to rescue you and set you free. he created the whole universe and he has a plan for your life. he loves you, whether you are walking with him or not. above all, he desires to be close to you. he's turned my life upside down and given me opportunities that i never dreamed i would have. he's provided for me and saved me from depression and fear and shame. i stand in awe of the mercy and power of God, of the love that casts out all fear. i hope that you know this same freedom and joy of being forgiven and redeemed, the excitement of a fresh start and the promise of life with the one who made you and knows you.

what i have just told you means everything to me, this is what my life is built on, what i was made to proclaim. when i remember this i am filled with joy and peace, the hard things don’t seem so hard because i rely on God. he already has victory, so i don’t have to be afraid. Paul said, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

i want to apologize for the times when i haven’t acted out this faith, when i have been mean or critical. i’m sorry for not helping when i should have and for not being available. i’m sorry for giving an impression of indifference, that is not how i feel…

i just wanted to tell you about this love…

sarah mathias

Sunday, September 14, 2008


It's been raining for about three days. There have been discussions today about how Americans don't like rain, how we should be thankful for it because it means that there is food, how we are only sad because of the flooding. 

The almost inevitable Sunday afternoon/evening homework is upon me. I'm sitting with Still Life with Oysters and Lemon, Mark Doty, a book for my poetry class-- Ekphrasis writing, poetry in response to art and music. I was already thinking on page two, hmmm a book about one paining, I bet Mom would like this. I'm on page 7 now, and I've gotta put this up here because it's such a cool thought. He says, on the question of whether intimacy is the highest value:

"But then why resist intimacy, why seem to flee it? A powerful countercurrent pulls against our drive toward connection; we also desire individuation, separateness, freedom. On one side of the balance is the need for home, for the deep solid roots of place and belonging; on the other is the desire for travel and motion, for the single separate spark of the self freely moving forward, out into time, into the great absorbing stream of the world. 

A fierce internal debate, between staying moored and drifting away, between holding on and letting go. Perhaps wisdom lies in our ability to negotiate between these two poles. Necessary to us, both of them-- but how to live in connection without feeling suffocated, compromised, erased? We long to connect; we fear that if we do, our freedom and individuality will disappear." 

I love to write in my books. I am an underlined as opposed to a highlighter and I like to write my own comments out to the side. To the right of this section I wrote "BINGO." If he ever solves it, I'll put up some more on here, as well as any other insights gained from the book. I've got to read it before class on Tuesday, but I don't think that will be a problem ; )  

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Now coming to you live from the land of Dylan Thomas and nearly perpetual rain, Wales. I write from the Bible College library. Dave and Shannon have gone to the train station to somewhere, and they will be on a BBC radio program tonight, called "The Professionals" I think. They get to critique music. How cool. The Millers are some napping and some prepping for tonight's leadership class at the church.

I got to go to Lifelink Community Church Swansea today and I loved it. Mary asked me to sing; they're short of musicians since the college is not in session. It was cool. It was what worship is supposed to be, and not at all because of anything we did. Everyone participated; they were so eager. They all sang and spoke and read the Bible aloud and we had those wonderful moments of resting in the presence of the Lord and singing our own songs and waiting. There was such a unity in the congregation and a sincerity and reverence. It was a sweet time in the presence of God. They were completely comfortable to be open with each other in that setting and it felt relaxed, but not slow or sloppy. There was action. I imagine this is how the churches in the Global South are. They know who God is and they want to meet with him and worship him and they know his power. There was nothing in the service that was about us, and I feel like that's a trend in some of the Western churches. Things are focused on us. Today it wasn't about us at all, it was about him. There was no self-consciousness in the congregation and it was a beautiful thing, like we had stepped into a secret place.

Wales has been wonderful. It's great to be with the Millers and it's been a nice transition from living with 25 college students to living at home again and having tons to do to having nothing required of me. It's not going to be like that when I get home though. So I guess it's a nice vacation. That's the way I felt when I first got off the train here. "Vacation!" The first night we were here, Rick took us (me, Mary, Dave, and Shannon) to the beach, Langland I think, because it had stopped raining. The clouds were very intense when we got there and I got a couple of cool pictures, but then it started to rain. So we went inside and Rick got us all coffees and two cake/scone type things with clotted cream and jam and strawberries. Yum. The next day it was good weather, so we went to the Gower, by Worm's Head. It's kind of like Tintagel, cliffs, sea, rock formations. There were sheep, so that was a nice addition and more like the Lake District than Tintagel I guess. The sheep would just sit on top of the cliffs sticking out over the water. Just chilling. It was kind of funny. Lots of pictures of sheep for later ; ) It's called Worm's Head because it looks like the body of a dragon, I think. It's connected to the land by a tidal causeway, but we were there when the tide was coming in, so we couldn't go onto it. Jon has before though.

I finished reading Narnia, and I picked up this Francis Schaeffer book in the library here a few days ago called, The Great Evangelical Disaster. I've only finished the first two sections, but it's very good and I highly recommend it. I've been trying to find his books all over this country since we toured at Cambridge with the Christian Heritage organization. Schaeffer's son-in-law, Ranald Macaulay, is the head of the organization and gave us the tour and it was fascinating. I might have written a little bit about it, I don't remember. Macaulay wrote the preface for the book, so that was cool, and it's Schaeffer's final book. I took notes for part of it, and I will put them up here later, I don't have them with me. But it's very convicting and hard to read because he's right and our society is messed up and it makes me scared for future generations. He paints a very stark picture of the American situation in post modernism and it's kind of terrifying if you sit and think about it for a while. He wrote it in 1984, and what he's described has only become more true with time and I can see the things he's describing in the way that I think about the world. Scary stuff, but necessary.

That's all for now, going home tomorrow. School starts in a little over three weeks, and I'm not ready to be back there yet. I've gotta find a way to stay in this mode when I get to school, laid back, etc. Jon and I are going to Joe's for famous Swansea icecream. Next time, from the US.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Getting Close to Home

Today is the last official day of the program. Tomorrow I go to Wales. It's kind of weird that this is the end. I've been with this same group of people since the beginning of June and it will be strange not to see them. I'm kind of ready for the end though. It's nice that there's no more school work, but kind of weird at the same time, because it's like, well, what are we doing here? I'm not used to sitting around.

I've done everything I wanted to do while we were in London. I got the last few gift items I wanted to buy, and I went to the science museum with a few people earlier today. I love the "Who am I?" exhibit. I remembered it from a few years ago and really wanted to go back, so that was nice. I also found a cool part of the museum with the history of diving. The one thing I would like to do is to have one last cream tea, but they probably have them in Wales. We're going to a play this evening. "The Pinter Play" everyone calls it. I think it's called A Slight Ache, actually. A play is a good way to end the program.

I'm thinking a lot about what I'm going to do when I get home, in the three weeks or so before school starts. There's a lot I want to do. Six more days. Wales will be a nice transition. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ode to a Motorway Rest Stop

Dr. Ryken asked someone to write this poem to read at our closing ceremonies tonight. I thought it would be a fun undertaking. Here is my attmept for you to enjoy- it's a glimpse of life on our road trips.

Ode to a Motorway Rest Stop

Dr. Ryken crackles through the speaker,
“Be back at the coach at 1:30.”
We disembark like the Peabody ducks,
down the red carpet to the fountain
crowned with so many flowers—
the motorway rest stop, temporary oasis
from the freezing coach with sometimes
whistling window and sudden stop.
Some wander from the coach
bleary eyed, stretching their arms and yawning.
Others stride with Ryken-like purpose;
the last motivational song from their iPod
pulsing through their heads
leads them on the quest for food.

First, though, the toilets, rows and rows,
more around a corner, a field of toilets,
a pleasant reminder of American efficiency,
like O’Hare or Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta Airport.
A digital countdown reads “40 minutes till next cleaning”
and informs us of the sex of the attendant.

We trickle out into the food court,
moving among the different sections like locusts
or birds of prey, hunting the cheapest, fastest,
and best tasting. WH Smith, £3.99 for a sandwich,
eight American dollars for a prawn sandwich
that slides down the throat like a raw egg.
We circle Wimpy, Burger King, KFC, Road Chef,
Eat In, Costa Coffee and land at various small,
wooden tables displaying our purchases,
sandwiches, bags of sweets, cokes,
coffee, prepackaged cold pasta dishes,
some with only cheese. This is the beauty
of the motorway rest stop: its ability to morph
time so that no matter how long we have circled,
it feels like no time at all, and no matter how long
we have sat talking, we would like to sit more
among the Hawiian printed lawn chairs and
unnecessary waterproof rain cloaks.
We have entered the world of rest stop.

We drag our feet on the way to the coach,
look back, wondering if we should have bought
the coke in spite of its price, feel sorry for the stragglers
who do not get to participate in the count off,
or perhaps forget the departure time altogether
and become a straggler to be escorted away by Dr. Ryken.
Sometimes we cannot help being late because
we cannot find the trashcan. Has anyone seen a trashcan?
Is there a trashcan? No. There is no trashcan.

Oh, rest from the road, from the whistling,
from the freezing a/c or glaring sun,
and the late program silence in the coach.
You force us together in our search
for cheap sweets and meal time conversation.
We leave you refreshed and ready for the next
leg of journey. We board the coach, leftover
conquests in hand, offering purple gummy
worms all around, seven pounds lighter.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lake Windermere

We just got back from the Lake District. We stayed at the YHA in Ambleside, on Lake Windermere, literally, the hostel was right on the lake. We spent the nights playing cards at the picnic tables on the lawn.

The first day some of us went exploring around the area, we saw some ruins of a Roman fort and walked through a meadow of tall grass and wildflowers by a river feeding into the lake. It was beautiful.

The second day we went to Grasmere to see some Wordsworth sites. First, Dove Cottage, where he lived for about eight years writing his best stuff. It was small and dark and contrasted very much with the second house of his that we saw, Rydal Mount. He moved here because his family was getting bigger and people came to stay with them a lot, and also, he could afford it. This house was huge in comparison to the other. There were four acres of gardens, I think. I got to sit in the "summer house" where he would overlook the valley and the lake and write. It was cool, just a little wooden shed like thing at the top of a hill. This was our last day of sites, and what a great way to end it, the houses of Wordsworth, father of Romanticism. I'm not decided on how much I personally love WW, but it was an English major's dream day. We walked back to look at more of the mountains. We also did some shopping in Grasmere that included the sampling of Sara Nelson's famous gingerbread- different from anything I've ever tasted. I finally bought a teacup. It was a very hot day and when we got back to the hostel, I borrowed my friend Julie's swimsuit and jumped in the lake with Becca. The lake was not hot. It was freezing, but we had a great time. The trip would not have been complete without jumping in the lake. We had dinner, and after that Julie needed to go to an ATM so we could carry out our plans for the following day. So we walked to an ATM and went to see Wall-e. It was a treat. On the way back we passed a field with 11 bunnies in it.

The last day was free. Julie and I had made big plans. We rented a wooden row boat for two hours and went out on the lake. It was a little bit windy, but the weather otherwise was perfect. We went across the lake and down one side. We started to go up the river, but decided it was too shallow. After that we rested for an hour and then packed our stuff to hike one of the fells overlooking the lake. We picked up sandwiches and other food in town for lunch and snacks on top of the fell and ate while we walked to the site. We had to be back by 4 for the river cruise and we didn't know how long it would take. We started the climb and were surprised at how steep it was. It was a paved road, but after two minutes we were both out of breath. I made a comment that if it countiued to be this steep, we would be up it in twenty minutes. And we were. I had forgotten that hiking was so much work. We stopped halfway up for a view, and again when we got to a valley near the top. We stood triumphiantly at the top and traced the route of our boat earlier that morning. A couple of planes zoomed past just over us-- they had been having some kind of an exhibition the past two days. When we came down, a sheep bleated at Julie and she answered it and it answered her back. It followed us for a while. Julie has an excellent sheep call. lol We climbed down, around twenty minutes again, but this time trying to go slowly so we didn't fall or our knees didn't bother us from the steep grade. We got popsicles at Spar. The lake cruise was alright. We played cards later and I went to bed at 9:15- a record.

Almost everyone is ready to be home at this point of the trip. It's weird to be here with nothing to do- no classes. We're headed back to London on Monday after some concluding ceremonies here and most of the group returns the 30th. I am in the fourth that's staying. Off to Wales!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

At the Kilns

As a child, my father read me The Chronicles of Narnia. I watched the movies with my younger siblings and even read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for school one year. I am rereading the entire series, and today I had the great privilege of visiting C.S. Lewis’s house and walking the wilderness path around the lake where he used to swim and punt. In the woods, I felt that if I reached the top of the hill, I would look down the other side and see Archenland. This is what he saw when he wrote about Shasta wandering on his horse into Narnia. I could see him dismount and wander around, and see the animals and gathered Narnian troops go to aid the king of Archenland against the invading Calormens. It was the same wood Caspian fled through from his Uncle Miraz, and the wood that awoke from winter and saw Edmund bound to a tree by the White Witch. This was the forest the Pevensie children did not recognize through their different travels; with so much variety, it could not look the same after they had been in Narnia, the trees would have grown wild around the lamppost for sure. So removed was it from the streets of Oxford, but so near to the garden of the Kilns. Here was the marriage of the worlds, out the front door and into Narnia. He could see it from his bedroom.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

For Jessica

You're right, it's been a while.
The time has flown while we've been at Oxford. Our last day of class was on Friday and this weekend was full of paper writing. I finished two, and I have two more that are due tomorrow and a final that will test my knowledge of the depths of Romanticism. I will be so glad to have it all done! We're going to the Lake District on Wednesday and this is our last thing before wrapping up the trip and heading back to London.

The highlights of the past two weeks were:

1) punting. We went on the Isis river, I believe. Punting is like, well, hmmm. There's a boat, with four seats and a person with a long metal pole and another person at the front with an oar (I liked this job) and the person with the pole pushes off the bottom of the river and then uses the pole as a rudder as it's floating back up to the top of the water. Very tricky business.

2) We went to Warwick Castle. This was the most touristy castle we've been to yet. They had a trebuchet launch that we got to see (I videotaped it, so you can watch later), we saw the dungeons, which Dr. Ryken told us would be horribly scary and we shouldn't go, but it was only one room. and not very scary. The state rooms were cool- these were the best state rooms by far and just the right amount of stuff. We saw armor, swords, helmets, and a cool horn that reminded me of Queen Susan's horn in Narnia (I'm reading through those right now). I took lots of pictures while we were there. It was a fun trip. In the afternoon we went to Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare, but by the time we got there, we were so tired that we didn't really care about it, lol, and none of us really know which room he was born in. That day we also went to Anne Hathaway's family's house, his wife, and the house that is now on the plot of land where he lived after he came back to Stratford.

3) We had our Gothic Drama Presentations for Romanticism. And I had a beard. We had to act out a scene and write a thesis and explain how Joanna Baillie used the Gothic in the play. Our play was about a girl who loved ghost stories and got a secret pleasure from fear, so we acted out the scene where the person coming to rescue her startles her so much (because she thinks it's a ghost, and a lot of other circumstances) that she faints and then goes crazy. I was the bad guy- for this outfit, I borrowed a dagger from my friend (lol, she bought it somewhere for her b/f. and it worked out perfectly that she had it. it made the outfit) and had a hitler stache. Then, when I was an outlaw at the end helping to rescue her, i had a different beard. These were hilarious and it was great to see everyone dressed up.

4) We went to a performance of As You Like It at Trinity College. It was set in the 60s and the music was hilarious.

5) The past two weeks I've been going to this amazing church called St. Aldates. It's a charismatic Anglican church and it's kind of set up like my church at home, contemporary worship and charismatic elements, but they do confession and other interactive Anglican elements. The kids are really involved and come on stage to sing and they're very mission focused as well. It feels like what church should feel like in my mind. The leaders are responsible and know what's going on and it's shared between several different people. I wish you could go to it.

That's it for now, back to the papers, I hope you enjoyed vacation and hanging out with the fam. I miss talking, and can't wait to show you all the pictures ; )
Love you,

Monday, July 7, 2008

thoughts about the church

Yesterday some of the group attended the sung eucharist at a church in Oxford that will remain unnamed. The singing was beautiful, as it was at St. Paul's two weeks before, but the sermon was as bad as the singing was good. It was nearly heretical, in fact.

Afterwards, as we were discussing the sermon, I learned from some of the Anglicans in our group that the more orthadox group within the denomination had split off from the rest, claiming to be the real Anglican communion. One of the girl's brothers was actually able to attend GAFCOM in Jerusalem. The conference of the more liberal Anglicans is going to be held this week or next here in Oxford. Here's a link for an article for those interested:

In light of our discussion, the sermon made much more sense. Clearly, it was directed towards the Anglican separatists. I don't think he realized that he had a large group of them in the congregation that day- our group. Some of them did not say "hear our prayer" at times. They were excited about this- the potential purification of the Anglican church and movement back towards what is biblically sound under new leadership.

Before we left for England, Dr. Ryken talked to us about the decline of the church in Europe, the old churches falling into disrepair or turned into museums, with falling numbers of parishioners. My experience in church attendance here has been more encouraging. I loved St. Paul's, but how could anyone not love it? It's saturated with tradition, the inside is beautifully adorned-- the walls sparkle with gold and silver, deep blues and reds. The raw light coming in from the dome creates pockets of heat and light while other places stay cool- this natural lighting increases the old feeling of the church. You feel totally transported and want to cry as the voices of the choir echo against the marble walls. Here was a beautiful tradidtion and a sound sermon.

Last week also in London, we attended All Souls Church. I have never seen a more multicultural congregation. After one visit, this was the dominant impression I got from this church. The sermon was about 1 Cor. 9 and being multicultural. I enjoyed the music and the sermon and thought their message was right also.

In church yesterday, I was struck that this is a critical time for the church. There has to be more than Sunday morning. Maybe Sunday morning alone was enough once, but it's not now. To impact the world, there needs to be movement beyond Sunday. Sunday morning is for meeting together and worshipping in community and learning from scripture. But that is not all that needs to happen in the Christian life.

The sung eucharist we attended yesterday was sharply contrasted to a small meeting we had last night. We used the Book of Common Prayer, we read the Collect, the passages of scripture for evening prayer, sung the doxology at the end. There was no choir, but there was prayer. And I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit more than in church. Praying together does something in a community- it creates unity and love and recoginition of a shared purpose- the thing that is most important to all of us is the same, and even if we sometimes debate about poetry or semantics or learning or comedic conventions, this we all share.

Mega churches claim this setting in their small groups as the vindication of their large production Sunday services. And there is real value in it. The small group setting most closely mirrors Jesus' interaction with the disciples, and the closeness that would have been present in the early church. Now I feel like things are so spread out. In the early church- the body was their primary community. Acts says that they lived together, sharing everything they had.

How can it be alright to have reduced our conception of church to a Sunday morning experience? There needs to be more, especially if the church will impact the world. I'm not arguing that churches stop meeting together by any means, quite the opposite, they need to meet together more. The church needs to take action- to live service in the local community, to go out like George Herbert and help the man whose wagon had overturned. I guess I would like a refreshing in the church- for all the members to know the power of the Holy Spirit and rediscover that gospel means "good news" that changes people's lives, that the body would have this joy in their lives and it would be evident to the world through action- service, outreach, having an others-centered view of life. There cannot only be maintenance on Sunday, struggling to hang on Christianity. There must be lifeChristianity, action, reality. There is struggle present here as well, but the church needs to try. It cannot sit in the pew any longer.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Southern Excursion & Arrival at Oxford

We made it to Oxford! I already love it here.
Let me recap the last few days for you:

Monday- Everywhere.
We embarked on the Southern Excursion Monday and went to several places-- Jane Austen's house in Chawton (sp?), Stonehenge (just a bunch of rocks hehe), George Herbet's church at Bemerton, and Salisbury. It was such a full day. After dinner we went for a walk to the water meadows, one of the most beautiful places we've seen on the trip. It's difficult to describe, and if I say we followed a small river through a park and as it went beside fields of tall grass, walking South as the sun set, you still cannot imagine the beauty. Contrast this with the busy scene in London, the city grit turning the inside of your nose black, the noise coming into your hotel room at night from the street and the quiet streets and walk beside a field was perfect and just exactly what we all needed. After the walk (I should mention the animals we saw on the walk, first, a white llama, apparently to keep the foxes away, a few sheep, and a water vole. Look it up) we went to Salisbury Cathedral. It was closed, but we walked around it a little and sat on the grass, which is much softer than any grass I've ever sat on before, and thought for a while.

Hostel Life
A little about the hostels we stayed in over the course of the excursion-- The hostel at Salisbury was huge, multi story. I was surprised by all the hostels and how much I liked them. I had a preconceived notion that they were going to be dark and dirty and unsafe. I pictured a big empty room with a bunch of cots on the ground and everyone's bags lying under their cots completely vulnerable to anyone who shouls pass by. My RA, who went on Wheaton in England last summer, told me that we would have rooms with people in our program when we stayed at the hostels, but I never thought it would be as nice as it was. Arriving at Oxford today, our dorm is pretty similar to the hostel living situation, so it was nice training. For those who, like me, have never been to a hostel, the rooms were 10, 6, or 4 person, depending on the size of the hostel. At Tintagel, the girls took up the entire hostel. You have your shared room, sometimes it has a bathroom attached to it, sometimes the bathrooms are in the hallway, like closets, a room the size of a pantry in the kitchen with a toilet and sink, or with a shower-- the shower rooms usually had some kind of a partition so your clothes didn't get wet, there were hooks to hang them. We slept on bunks. And the food was amazing. The first night at Salisbury, the huge hostel, we had chicken and potatoes and soup and bread and cake and salad. It was so wonderful to get a real, cooked meal instead of going to a grocery store. They also had cafes, so after we arrived the first day, my friend Dayna and I sat on the front porch and she had a mocha and I had tea. And the drinks here were the second cheapest of any caffeinated beverages that I've seen anywhere. They use fair trade products too, including tea-direct, the tea that I thought was my favorite kind before I came back, but I think that will probably change in the course of my trip. I'm going to talk about that in one of my travel essays due later in the month. So, that's a little introduction about hostel life, more about them throughout probably.

The next day, Tuesday, we went to Tintagel. I had been there once before with my mom, sister, brother, and friend of our family a few years ago, so I was really looking forward to seeing it again. It's almost more fun to revisit places you've already been to because you have an advantage over the other people, you know where you want to go and don't have to waste any time. I hoped that we would have good weather, but we didn't at first. It started to rain about halfway through our time at the castle, although before it started, the clouds made it feel very sublime, as the Romantics would say. The wind was blowing so hard and the sea was beautiful. We hiked back up the hill in the rain. I had forgotten about the hills both ways to actually get to the castle. We were given money for dinner and breakfast as the hostel didn't provide it that night, so after some shopping a few of us went to a pub for some hot tea to warm our wet selves. After tea, the girls had to hike about a mile to the hostel carrying all their stuff for the night-- in the rain. This will be something I remember forever. First, when we left London, I was like, "Why did I bring so much stuff for the excursion??" A lot of girls were thinking the same thing. So we already had too much stuff. Add the rain and wind to that, hiking up a hill and across the open countryside-- granted, it was beautiful countryside and the whole thing would have been really enjoyable if we weren't carrying our stuff. Oh, also, we didn't know where we were going. Dr. Ryken and Dr. Colon were leading us, but we saw a sign with YHA and an arrow pointing the way we did not turn. We were headed straight towards the cliffs with houses in the other direction and nothing in sight. It was very dramatic and we were trying to make the best of it. We went down a hill and then the hostel appeared, right on the edge of the cliffs. We scurried in like wet rats and dispersed to our rooms-- this was the hostel that we took up entirely, 20 girls. Afterwards we ate dinner, played cards, watched Yee Sum's picture slideshow of the trip so far-- all this happened in the kitchen which was perfect for our group. It was cozy with four small tables and a couch. Then I went for a walk on the cliffs. The weather had cleared up and the sun came out. I went a little ways around in a few directions and found some empty snail shells and quartz around the path and then went back to get Jana. The woman running the hostel told us about a path where we could go see the castle, so we went that way. Liz came too, and we found Stephanie at the old church on the way, where they were having bell ringing practice for saturdays and sundays. We walked in because we were curious (and hoping that they would let us ring them-- we didn't know it was practice at that point) and saw six older men all pulling a rope. It looked like a lot of fun. I wish we could have done it. I'll add it to my list of future occupations-- bell ringer in old church in England. The walk was great, but I don't have any pictures from that. I didn't fee like taking it with me, just wanted to enjoy it. The night ended talking with my roommates.

Wednesday morning we set off on the mile hike back to the coach park, and this time we made it abour half way before it started to rain. We went to Bath, and this was probably my least favorite day. Everyone was tired from the day before and no one really felt like touring. We saw the Roman baths, went to the assembly rooms, but they were closed. We did get to go to the fashion museum which was a treat and the girls got to try on corsets and the skirt big things that I forgot the name of. It was so fun to see all the dresses women wore, the patterns, and the intricacy in design and how they changed over time. We stayed in another nice hostel that night, in Bath, and it was such a relief to get there and stop going, knowing that we were coming to Oxford the next day. Dinner was so good, penne and meatballs with fruit and real English apple crumble. I played euchre afterwards with Joe, Suzy, and Val, had some great talks with roommates and others and went to bed.

Thursday-Tintern Abbey & Oxford
Breakfast this morning was great. I love eating real meals. We packed up and drove to Tintern Abbey. Welcome to Wales! We drove past the abbey, and I thought, "This is it?" But, when we got inside, it was beautiful and much more complex in layout and design than I thought at first. Also, it's ruins. So instead of stained glass you had trees and green hills through the windows, pink flowers growing out of the walls, cows in a pasture visible from inside. The whole time we were there the sky was changing. It would go from dark and cold and rain threatening to hot and sunny in a few seconds. I was glad we got to see it. Afterwards we went on the traditional WIE walk and had "Tintern Abbey" read to us by Dr. Colon, in a place that was not a few miles above, but it had almost the same effect. We weren't going to have dampened attitudes at this point. I'm glad I get to go back to Wales at the end.
They told us it would take 2-3 hours to get to Oxford, but it only took 1.7, lol. I've been so looking forward to being here, and so far I love it. While we were standing on the street corner, Johnny and I made plans to investigate the candy shop across the street, so I unpack until 4 and then we set off. The candy shop was disappointing, because it wasn't really a candy shop, but we then proceeded to explore Oxford for about two hours. I felt like my dad. We saw the Eagle and Child, and tons of other places. We looked at restaurants, shops, bookstores, cafes, everything. Got back in time to change for dinner, and oh man, dinner was good. They bring it to you in courses. First, fresh fruit with ginger so it has a little bit of a kick, bread, chicken with orange gravy, green beans (it was so good to have vegetables b/c we haven't in so long), potatoes, salad, and for dessert, cream puffs with chocolate drizzled over them, and the best coffee I've had in this country and better than at least 3/4 of what I've had in the US, served in tiny cups with green patterned rim and matching saucers. It's a lot of detail about the food, but it was so good, and so welcome after sandwiches and chips.
We have our own rooms here too, and it's great to have a home base and not have to live out of a suitcase and have lots of space and no one bother you. sidenote.
Later tonight, Dr. Ryken led us on a tour of Oxford, so I saw the half that Johnny and I did not see. I have so many places I want to go and things I want to do, bookshops, parks, seeing people, taking pictures of certain monuments-- did you know, Latimer and Ridley were martyred here in Oxford? I did not until tonight when we saw the very spot and the plaques. Pretty intense.
It's only the first day, well, half day, but I like it so much here. I could see myself living here, and this is the first place that I've really felt that about so far, that we've visited.
Tomorrow we have class and the work begins again. We get Sunday off, so I think I'll do some fun things around here. I've got to go write a reading journal for class. I think I've said everything. If not, it's already too long.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ok, 28 minutes until time is up at the internet cafe.
We're in our last day in London, the first leg of the journey. Tomorrow we start the southern excursion for a few days, visiting places like Bath, Tintagel, Tintern Abbey, Salisbury, and Stonehenge, probably not in that order. London has been great. I've seen Midsummer Night's Dream, Les Mis, Pygmalion, King Lear, and Twelfth Night, my favorite was Les Mis, followed by MND. We get student discounts, and then discounts from the program for going to see plays, so some of these i saw for £5. It doesn't get much better.
We've taken day trip to Canterbury and Dover. Cantebury Cathedral was beautiful. We stood in the place where Thomas Beckett was murdered. It's strange to be in those places where other people have been. Standing by Elizabeth I's grave was kind of like that. You sort of can't believe it's her. It makes her existence much more real. Anyway, at Dover, we went to Dover Castle, and I stood on the top and looked at the sea for a long time. We went down to the beach and Dr. Ryken read "Dover Beach" to us, the very same one that is posted below. The beach is just like Penzance, so I felt pretty melancholy and missed it. I didn't expect to. I think I will try and visit before I go home.
Westminster Abbey I didn't like very much. It's less of a church than a cemetary. Most of the other students I talked to felt the same way. It's strange. The culture of the time seemed fixated on death, being remembered, etc. There were a lot of people there fighting each other to get the better view of the graves. Throughout this whole trip, I'm wondering what the good of all these museums are. It doesn't really do anything for anyone to see the place where Dickens is burried. I wonder if we all go because everyone else goes. I had similar and worse thoughts about the British Museum, which I will not get into here.
We visited Cambridge and got a fascinating tour of the different colleges led by a Christian theologian of the organization/school Christian Heritage. He talked about the reformation and the roots in Cambridge and effects on the later founded colleges and on the US. He was so warm and kind and wise. I would like to write more about this because he said some really insightful things and now I have a few books I need to read, including Francis Schaffer, who I had never heard of until that day.
I finally got a complete cream tea on Thursday from this little hole in the wall place that also sold hotdogs by the Tower of London. Got some great material for one of my travel essays.
We had another day trip to Rochester and Penshurst. We went in Rochester Castle-- that was cool. Penshurst has been one of my favorite places. The state rooms in the house were alright, but the gardens were beautiful. The best I've ever seen and the best over here. I think I like them more than the rose garden in Regent's Park. It's set up so you can only see one section at a time because of trees and hedges. There's a fountain with pink and white lily pads, so many roses, one garden with flowers arranged like a british flag, hedges you can walk through. My favorite section was closer to the house, with a path down the center lined with white rose trees(?) planted on a bed of some light green fuzzy leafish stuff, then there were pink rose bushes (?) further away on the sides. You could see a church in the distance. And it had just rained about a half hour before, so there were water drops on all the petals. It was absolutely beautiful.
One fun thing, that night, my friend Julie and I went to this place for sushi. We passed by outside and were riveted to see little bowls of sushi passing by on two conveyer belts, one going in each direction. We had to try it. The little dishes had all kinds of things in them, color coded by price. Ginger, wasabi, soy were built into the table as well as a tap for still and sprakling water and glass and small plate dispensers. We paid too much, but it was worth it to be able to sit there and watch the sushi make its rounds with the opportunity to grab anything we wanted right off the line and eat it. So much fun.
Yesterday we saw Twelfth Night in the open air theatre in Regent's Park. They had it 40's themed. I had never read it or seen it, but I enjoyed it. It was a little slow moving at first, but Dayna and I had a great time talking and racing to try and get tea and coffee at intermission with every other person in the theatre. We were cold, so we wanted some. We had a good time and it was fun to walk back to the hotel with everyone afterwards.
All the people are nice and I feel like I'm getting to know some of them pretty well.
I love being back with the food. Every morning we have the option of full English breakfast at the hotel. I've had a couple of coronation chicken sandwiches (chicken salad with curry), my favorite crisps, pastys, yogurt.
I have purchased another hour. I think I'm going to try and upload some pictures. We should arrive at Oxford on July 3, and more internet will follow after that. The phone situation is not good. From the hotel, it's not good and it's not even set up for international calling. The entire program (30 people) have been using one girl's cell phone to make all their calls because she has unlimited international calling.
I think that's all for now.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

And thanks for the birthday wishes, everyone who wished them ; )
Our first full day in London has come to a close, and my birthday. I think this is the only birthday that I will be able to say I went to St. Paul's Cathedral for church. It was incredible. I was glad for my Wheaton education while we were sitting in the service, because it's an Anglican church and I was raised non-denom. I was glad that I had been to Church of the Resurrection and Berlioz's Requiem so that I had a context for the liturgy and for Latin singing. It was a sung eucharist, and the woman's voice was so beautiful and British and clear. The choir, the ceiling, the sunlight coming in the windows in the dome-- clear and bright the same as if you were outside. The sunlight was so incredible that the whole dynamic in the cathedral changed when the sun went behind clouds. Communion I drank out of the cup for the first time- I had always resisted it before because of germs or weirdness, but everyone else did. I didn't want to be the one who had to dip their bread and slow the line down, so I did too. I saw so much value in the service, history, beauty, etc.
We went on a few walking tours, one literary one, and one of the main things in London-- Big Ben and Parliament, Westminister Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Trafalger Square, Leicester Square. There was a lot of walking. I think my favorite part after St. Paul's was lying on the grass outside of Westminister Abbey looking at the towers and clouds and thinking that it was my birthday. That was the most sublime, to use a romantic term. Dr. Colon would be proud.
The other best moment was when a bunch of the students came up to my room and gave me hugs and sang. Ellen gave me a "Happy Birthday" balloon and Liz gave me a trifle pudding cup.
I'm very happy to be here. Tomorrow we go to Cantebury and Dover. I'm excited for Dover. There's so much literary attached to Dover. I hope it's sunny. That's all the time I have for now.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I'm feeling so much better. The weekend was just what I needed. The medicine is working and I am probably about 90% right now. It felt good to be in class today, and I'm so glad that we'll be in England on Saturday. We leave Friday night and arrive Saturday morning in London. Then Sunday is my birthday. And it is also Jana's birthday. This is the girl I met in a taxi our first day coming to Wheaton from O'Hare. We are both the oldest daughters in a family with two girls and a boy, in that order. Both sort of from the south-- she's from Kentucky. And we have the same birthday. So we're trying to plan some kind of shenanigans to celebrate even though we have virtually no knowledge about the city of London and what kinds of birthday activities it offers. Someone suggested high tea at the Ritz. We'll see. Hopefully we won't be too jetlagged.
Three more days of class: one research packet due, one presentation, both on wednesday. Lots of reading as usual.
I'm going through the pre last minute phase of packing, wondering if I should have anything mailed from home before it's too late and I'm stuck without my camera cord or iPod cord, or something that I really need. Cookies would be nice hint, hint. Or one of those magic books with the marker that reveals what's underneath. Those were my airplane toys when I was a kid. That, and the guy's face that you could decorate by moving the shavings with the magnet wand. Anyone remember?
We're leaving the 20th, so if you want to call, call now. The first twenty callers will receive, for the low, low price of $19.95... yeah, I don't want to read those articles. Anyway, I'm not sure what kind of internet I'll have over there. Once we get to Oxford, I think there will be pretty consistent access, but before then, I have no idea what it will be like, or if I will use it if it's there. I'm going to be out exploring and going to museums and walking in rose gardens...

Friday, June 13, 2008


It's the end of our first full week of classes and I am whooped. It's been so busy. I just checked my email and facebook for the first time in four days, I think. It's hard to keep track. I think I would be able to juggle it all if I was not sick. I have an ear infection, and now, a sinus infection. This makes school hard because I don't feel like sitting in class or staying up late. This weekend will be good. I can catch up on what I haven't done and hopefully get a little ahead for next week. Everyone's been really great. The girls take care of me with medicine, tea, food, etc. No profound thoughts for today. But I will say that "Christobel" is very interesting to learn about and discuss when you haven't read it. And there was a great thunderstorm in the middle of the night that I woke up for for parts of. It was the good waking up, where you're aware of what's happening but have no problem going right back to sleep. We had an excursion due today for travel writing where we talked about the different images of England from books and literature that informed our expectations, and I talked about Austen and Bronte and then poets like Larkin and Arnold. These authors offer very different images of England. And here is Arnold's poem, tragically beautiful. Compare it to rosy life in a manor house and you might get some shivers.

Dover Beach Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Day Three

It feels like a summer camp. We have the same routine everyday and there are no furnishings in our rooms. We have kitchens, but not dishes. Today my roommate Liz and I realized too late that we have a five day meal plan, not seven day. We arrived at Saga and the card swiper told us. So we ate her quaker oats cereal on a bench outside and then two girls brought us granola bars. It was kind of a day of mishaps, small in scale. The video wouldn't play for the Shakespeare class. We got to watch about five hilarious minutes of Patrick Stewart alternately gesturing and stroking his chin, talking about Shylock, before it shut off. No A/C in Travel Writing, perhaps because it is Saturday and no one is in the offices, but it was so humid. Downtown for lunch at Quiznos, shameless plug, if you want a $5 meal for two people, go there. This is the second time I've eaten at Quiznos since I've been here, the same meal, too. Jana and I got away with a 6 in sub each, a shared bag of chips and a drink for less than $8 total. Subway is doing the same thing, I think, but I don't like Subway. Then in Romanticism we talked about Blake who I do not like or really understand, and I think should not be taken lightly. He's so confusing to me. One minute praising the creativity of God, the next storming against the church and every other institution, and then spouting "proverbs of hell"-- the good and the bad mixed together so the reader has to spend an exponentially greater amount of time trying to figure out what he's talking about, which ones he supports, which ones are nonsense, and then, if the ones that seem good and make sense are still "proverbs of hell" not to be followed because they are spoken by someone who, in the work, calls Satan "messiah." I hope I never have to read him again. And I probably shouldn't have this attitude. I'd rather not see the big picture of his weirdness and take away the parts I like, like "The Lamb." At least we're only spending a day on him. End of Blake rant. Tonight, we're going over to a girl's house in Wheaton for pizza and movies to rest our brains.
Last night we got to go to "The Winter's Tale" on campus for the Shakespeare conference and it was quite good. They condensed it to under an hour and the actors were older, so it was a more polished performance. Not your typical performance, but very good.
A more detail oriented post today, less raw thought. I'm having a good time. It will be nice to sleep in tomorrow and have a day off.
Love from Wheaton,

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Day One

So, day one of Wheaton in England comes to a close, and I am realizing that I forgot how exhausting sitting in class was. 8:30 to 2:30 is kind of a long time, especially when you are cold or when the chair is just enough off so you fee like you are either slouching or laying on the desk. I am very excited about the material, however. The courses are Shakespeare, Travel Writing, and Romanticism. I've never taken classes with any of these professors before. Shakespeare is with Dr. Ryken, who I have heard so many stories about, and would like to please stop hearing stories about because I want to form my own impression of him. So far, I like him and find his personality perfectly agreeable, to reference the romantic period. Travel Writing I think will be my favorite. This professor is not going with us on the trip though. And she said it would be "a great challenge" for those who need to have someone over their shoulder making sure they're getting started on things. She also commented a little on the writer's life, and how we need to develop the habit of writing when we're not in class, which is something I definitely struggle with. I think this class will be good for that. For today we read an essay on exploration, travel, and tourism, and I noticed some of the themes we discussed in other students doing the program after class. Another girl and I exchanged glances and smiled, both thinking, "you're an anti-tourist!" as she described what she imagined doing when we got to England. We're talking about our expectations and motivations for travel. For me, it's different because I've already been to and lived in the country. I don't think I have any expectations because I know what it's like. I know there will be the initial readjustment. She said that often our expectations will come out in our essays, and I'm wondering how that will affect me. Will I have fewer funny stories because I knew that it was vinegar and not water and didn't drink it? In one of the readings for the course, someone said that the really horrible trips often make for the best writing. We'll see.
Romanticism will be interesting. I'm excited to do the poetry part, not so much the drama. I don't want to act out a scene from a play. We're traveling to Tintern Abbey. Tintern Abbey. "Tintern Abbey" was one of the first poems I ever read. It was Dr. Fraser's Honors British Lit. class at West Georgia. I remember sitting in a circle and him teaching us that it was a descriptive meditative lyric and that meant it started from the outside and then... My thoughts about poetry now are more macro than micro, wondering about the purpose of poetry. Talking with my roommate last night and asking her the difference between poetry and prose, she says poetry is like a punch in the stomach and prose is like a tap on the shoulder (aside from the differences in lineation, etc.). We use poetry when we can't use anything normal. We use it to make a point, to say what we're really trying to say in the language that speaks to the part of us beyond the level where simple understanding is. When we see injustice, simply explaining it to someone doesn't get rid of that feeling in us. In learning the history of the Romantic period today and having done some of the reading for class tomorrow, it becomes a little bit more clear why things like Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" and Barbauld's "Eighteen Hundred and Eleven" have the feeling that they have. The sort of sadness.
And the other thing I wonder is if people read their poetry at that time. Dr. Colon said that people weren't reading Wordsworth and Coleridge, they were going to Baillie's plays. So, then, what is the purpose of poetry? If no one reads it at the time, it doesn't matter how hard of a punch it packs on whatever social issue. It's not for the reader, it's for the author? Or for an imagined reader? Why do we write it if it doesn't do anything? I guess paintings don't really do anything either. I don't want to talk about this. I know why we write. It's for a lot of reasons. It's for getting it out of our heads and onto the page, for figuring out what exactly the feeling is, because we can write, we can create and make art, and there is joy in that. There's a feeling in creating something that you love and no one else has ever made. We can write because of our frustration in injustice-- that is a sort of hopeful writing, that the situation can change, or a complete despair at the suffering of others and the author's or the world's failings to notice or do something about it. These are all just thoughts on the question and I'm sure I will keep understanding more and more...
So, Wheaton in England, eh? Who knew there would be this much thinking the first day of class. And I haven't even started my homework yet ; )
We're here in Wheaton until the 20th, then we're in London for 9 days, and then some other places that I will post later, the library is cold. This will be my primary means of communication with everyone. I don't know how often I'll have internet access while I'm there.
Tune in next time to hear Larry sing about... (Mom, I thought you would like that)

oh, yes, and on a lighter note, the url comes from finals week and my friend Erica, who was studying for a test, and used me in all of her memory devices, which I wrote down to put into some kind of poem, some time. sarah and erica in bright shoes.