Monday, September 2, 2013

From the City of Dreaming Spires to the Magic City

“In spite of the roaring of the young lions at the Union, and the screaming of the rabbits in the home of the vivisect, in spite of Keble College, and the tramways, and the sporting prints, Oxford still remains the most beautiful thing in England, and nowhere else are life and art so exquisitely blended, so perfectly made one.” Oscar Wilde

Aerial View of Oxford

It’s hard to believe, but our time here in Oxford has come to an end. I’m spending my last night in one of my favorite places here, in the Bodleian Library. Specifically, I like to sit in the Upper Radcliffe by the window so I can look out the window into the Quad of All Souls College with its magnificent two towers blessing this little city with its glory. I can see why W.B. Yeats was inspired to write about this college at night.
From All Soul’s Night by W.B. Yeats

Midnight has come and the great Christ Church bell 
And many a lesser bell sound through the room;
And it is All Souls' Night.
And two long glasses brimmed with muscatel
Bubble upon the table. A ghost may come;
For it is a ghost's right,
His element is so fine
Being sharpened by his death,
To drink from the wine-breath
While our gross palates drink from the whole wine.
Before Lauren and I came to Oxford we each filmed a video about our expectations and what we were looking forward too. You can see it here and here if you would like. I know most people say that its wise to not have great expectations for something lest it let you down so rather have low or no expectations for something so if it isn’t great then you wont be let down. I guess there are times in life where that is true but it was too hard to not get excited about moving to England and in particular Oxford. It didn’t disappoint.

Lauren's Goodbye at Wolvercote Cemetery (J.R.R. Tolkien's Grave)

Anthony's Goodbye at the Kiln's (C.S. Lewis' House)

What I liked about Oxford?
-The amount of one on one time you get with professors.
-Seminars typically have no more than 12 students in them so you can have a lot more dialogue.
-The Bodleian Library has every book I need plus it is a great place to study.
-I actually know my professors on a first name basis & they treat us as equals.
-I can write from an evangelical perspective and not receive criticism as long as I back up my arguments. Try writing a persuasive essay about complementarianism at Harvard or Yale without receiving points of your grades.  

What I didn’t like about Oxford?
-The weather in winter and the food. I lost 32 pounds and can’t wait to tear up some good old ‘Merican food!

Oxford (by the way it’s not in London!) is a town of only 165,000 people made up of a huge student population. The University’s motto is “The Lord is my Light.” It’s the oldest university in the English-speaking world. It was officially founded in the 13th century but there is evidence of it really starting 200 years before that. Notable alumni and professors (known as Oxonians) are John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Erasmus of Rotterdam, William Penn, George Whitefield, John Wesley, J.I. Packer, N.T. Wright, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Oscar Wilde, Aldous Huxley, Dorothy Sayers, Lewis Carroll, T.S. Elliot, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, and Albert Einstein to name a few. 

There is just so much church history that happened in this little town too. In a sense, the Protestant Reformation started in Oxford with John Wycliffe in the fourteenth century. He was the Master (Principal) of Balliol College at Oxford University. He used Oxford’s library for his research and taught the students there some of the essentials of the Reformation. That’s why Wycliffe is known as “The Morning Star of the Reformation.” The Holy Club was started at Christ Church with the Wesley brothers and George Whitefield, which eventually led to the Great Awakening. And just sixty years ago the famous Inklings would meet primarily at the Eagle and Child (known by the locals as the Bird and the Baby). The Inklings were an informal writing group of mostly Oxford dons that met on a weekly basis to drink good beer, smoke their old fashioned pipes, and read their great writings to one another. The two most famous people in this group were none other than C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Plus, Harry Potter was filmed in different parts of Oxford :)

The Baby and the Bird sign from the 1950's (now at the Kiln's)

God has also blessed us with what Lauren and I call “Friends for Life” regardless of where we all end up on this earth. I’m thinking particularly of the Rounds who have been so kind to us and made us feel like family. We can’t forget the Brian’s who moved to New Orleans but who helped us in our first week here in a tremendous way (plus Will taught me how to smoke a pipe :). Rich and Christine Park are our Cali friends who completely sympathize with us in how much they miss American food. They are hardcore though; they eat turtle soup just like our former president William Taft did. There are many more “FFL” that we have made here but we couldn’t imagine this past year without these relationships.

What I also noticed is after being here a while you feel like the magic rubs off on you. Walking around the beautiful dreaming spires inspires your soul to not want to waste your life. I am convinced that distraction is one of the biggest tools that Satan uses to keep us from living out our callings with vigour and steadfastness. These people who did great things for God here in this little town devoted themselves to the Lord with everything they had no matter the cost. When I am on my deathbed am I really going to wish I watched more Duck Dynasty (although it is a great show), read more blogs, and kept up to date on social media? Nope. Not that these things are necessarily bad but they can cause us to lose focus on things of eternal weight. Oxford has encouraged me to take this saying to heart: “Only one life twill soon be past, only what is done for Christ will last.”

The great thing is that the story isn’t finished, Jesus hasn’t fully redeemed his prize yet, and the Shire lives on in our hearts. Now it’s time for us to bring what we have learned to Miami. But we are different people and it feels good. I believe we love Jesus more intensely, love each other more deeply, and want to serve Miami more fully. We needed to go away to grow and mature. One author has said, "Every person changes like seasons. Everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons." The other day I cut off all my hair that I had grown over my year in Oxford. It symbolized the closing of an era. But now we are on to even greater things! 

I have a longing in my heart to see God move in Miami in a mighty way. I know that I am just a weak, miserable, wrecked sinner. But God is not going to build his church in Miami on me or any other man. He is going to build His church on Christ, who is the Rock of the church. I just pray that He would allow us to be apart of something great in my lifetime. Oh that more people might come to know you whether it is in Oxford or Miami or the 10/40 Window. Please build your church my Lord and keep us in Your grace.

Soli Deo Gloria,


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