Saturday, October 21, 2006

Jet Lag Is As Bad As They Say It Is

Well, I don't know what time it is, or day it is, or anything else. I woke up at 5am both yesterday and today, and did my best to try to get back to sleep, but ended up reading the Book of Genesis in two days. At this rate, I'll be done with entire Bible by the end of December.

So, yes, I am suffering from jet lag, and yes, it's turned me into some kind of zombie. But, as I break from another book for Dr. Galloway's leadership class ("Doing Church As a Team" by Wayne Cordero, a pastor of a megachurch he planted in Hawaii.... yeah, that's right, I said Hawaii) I thought I'd give you a few last thoughts on my London experience before I move on. Here they are...

- I have never, ever, in over 120 posts, have received the kind of reaction via email that I have to the two posts on "speaking in tongues". Some people shared their experiences, good and bad, while others admonished or praised me for not taking part in the exercise. Well, out of that correspondence, here a few more thoughts...

First, as its practiced at HTB, it did not appear, to me, that there was any practicing of "interpreting of tongues". The sole purpose of the "speaking" was to praise God beyond one's ability to speak in their native tongue, and that was pretty much it. If there was more, I missed it.

Second, lots of people want to know if in the end, I was convinced, one way or the other, if "speaking in tongues" was real, or not. Well, I have mixed emotions on the whole issue, I can't dismiss it outright. As a form of praise, I can see how it could lead to an intimate experience with God, as to say otherwise would be to say that those kinds of experiences are not possible. But the danger in such things is that in any setting they can become the highest form of spiritual expression. In a world filled with brokenness, it seems to me God would desire more out of us. So, its a good starting place.... but can't be an end unto itself.

And that's all I have to say about that.

- On a trip up to Oxford, we ate in the "Eagle and Child", which is the pub where C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and G.K. Chesterton hung out with five other writers, talking trash, trading ideas, and generally becoming the greatest of friends over 20+ years. Hard to believe that one guy could say to Tolkien, "Ah... I just don't believe Frodo would say that." or to Lewis "Was that the best you could do with Aslan?", but that's the way it went down. Makes one wonder if all of us don't need others to push us toward greatness.

- While in Oxford, I discovered that Oxford is actually made up of a lot of individual colleges that train people in various disciplines. Thus, while they are all affiliated, they also stand separately. So, unlike a university in the US, if you get into Christ College, you take all of your classes, in pre-determined curriculum, in that college, and no other. Then, at the end of three years, you take nine exams, which you must pass in order to graduate. During that three year period, the profs assign no papers, quizzes or tests. The only writing you do is for your tutor, who you meet with once a week. None of the papers are graded, but rather corrected so that you can get an idea of what will be required when you have to take your exams. This obviously leaves much more time for profs to do research and writing, and puts more pressure on the student the closer to they get to their final (and only) exams. It's a system that makes a lot of sense.

- Two places you have to hit if you are in London and are a history buff.... The Churchill Museum and The Tower of London. The Churchill Museum is only a year old, and is just, well, fantastic. Thought you knew everything there was to know about Churchill.... well, what hand did Churchill have in building England's welfare state? What did he accomplish as a soldier in the Crimean War? How was he directly involved in the powderkegs that are now Iraq and Israel? What was his role in almost leading Britain to defeat during WW I? Why did his distaste for the Russian Revolution, and particularly communism, extend back to the before the Russian Revolution of 1917 and end up costing him his PM position in 1945? Yeah... the guy was involved in virtually every corner of the world during the first half of the 20th Century, and the museum doesn't miss a second of it. What's more it's located in the place where Churchill lived with his war-time Cabinet and their support staff, all expertly re-created for your perusal. Could have spent twice as much time as I did there.

And, if you want to experience the history of Western Civilization - English Style, then you'd be crazy to miss the Tower of London. Built on Roman ruins dating back to the time before Constantine, The Tower was the center of the English monarchy and army for more than 500 years. It was the place where the "Knights of the Roundtable" gathered round. It was the place Henry VIII used to enforce the division of the Anglican Church from the Roman Catholic Church. It's the scene of a good many deaths, daring escapes, and the head of Anne Boleyn speaking even after it was dismembered from her body. Throw in the display of the "Crown Jewels" and architecture that is now a modern marvel, and you've got one heck of a day. Once again, three hours didn't do justice to the place.

- Want a see a great postmodern parable in how sometimes good can seem evil, evil good, and not know the difference in the moment, then see "Wicked". A re-telling of the "Wizard of Oz", which embraces the idea that history is written by the winners, "Wicked" plays with characters who we all know well, and help us understand how sometimes what we think we know to be true, really wasn't. In culture like Britain's, where it seems everyone is re-assessing the long-term effects of the British Empire and colonialism, you can't imagine the second-guessing and sense of unease the English are engaged in right now. "Wicked" is setting the table for that discussion, and it does it well. And Idina Menzel, who plays the lead character, Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West), earned that Tony award she won in 2004 for her portrayal of this character. A great, great show.

- There are rumors that this is the last Beeson Pastor class that will go to London, and that's a shame. I have a sense that this culture, which is multi-cultural, post-Christian (we're now into about the third generation in England that has never attended or experienced the Christian church), secular, and materialistic has much more to teach us about where our country and culture are heading than just about any other place in the world right now. While an experience in an underdeveloped would be good for BP's, I can't envision how a trip anywhere else would inspire more creative thought about what the church should look like than what was for us, essentially a voyage into the future. Kudos to Tory Baucam, our prof and trip organizer, for putting together an experience that was life-altering. I will never forget it.

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