Tag Archives: London

My Work Here is Done

It’s amazing what a week of focus, peace, quiet and no distractions can do for a writer. Being at the Kilns this past week has been that for me, and it’s paid off. I wrote two whole chapters in my book (I am now two chapters away from the end!), plus the preface. Being in C.S. Lewis’ house has been quite an inspiration, and I’m so blessed to have had the chance to come here.

The week here has been something of a blur (probably because I was plunged into writing so wholeheartedly), but it’s been full of great moments of spiritual rejuvenation and sensory delights. I’ll take you briefly through some of them:

-Eating Ben’s cookies in the Oxford covered market. Anyone who’s had these cookies knows what I’m talking about.
-Waking up whenever I wanted to for seven days straight, with my window open and songbirds singing right outside. Truly glorious.
-Spending time with the two people who are also living at the house right now—Donna and Tammy. So great to hear their stories and share mine with them, and to know that our paths crossed in this place at this time for a reason.
-British grocery stores. I forget how fun and clean and interesting they are. And MAN have they mastered the art of self-checkout technology!
-Watching collegiate rowing on the river in downtown Oxford while drinking Pimms and eating strawberries and clotted cream. Apparently this is what they do here in the summer, and it’s fantastically British.
-Meeting Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis’ stepson, who popped in to the house a bit today.
-Having coffee in the morning, tea and crumpets in the afternoon, and some sort of wine at dinner. If this is how retirees live, I want to be old.
-Watching no television for a week. Good thing all my shows are done for the season.
-English cheddar cheese. Amazing. And combined with fresh herbs from the garden and organic eggs, it makes a mean omelet.
-Being part of the tour. As tour groups came through the house (usually 1 or 2 a day), I was often sitting at a desk somewhere writing. “Oh, this is one of our resident writers,” the tour guide would say when they came into my room. Among the tourists in these groups was Dr. Timothy George, renowned theologian and Dean of Beeson Divinity School.
-Hitting the hipster jackpot in the Hackney borough of London on Sunday. The church I visited (Grace Church Hackney) was a great place to worship and will be featured in my book.

All of these things have made this an incredibly memorable, enriching, useful week for me… one of those weeks that feels more productive and full than the average month of “regular life.” I’m so incredibly thankful that I am here, and when I leave tomorrow it will be bittersweet. But it’s off to the next exciting place—London (for 3 days). And then Paris for the final 3 days of my trip, before returning home to California next Tuesday. Until then—Further up and further in!

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Heading Across the Pond

I’m leaving on Saturday on a “research”/“writing” trip to New York City, London, Oxford and Paris. The reason I’m going is threefold:

-I wanted to visit churches in New York City, London and Paris (probably the world’s three hippest cities) as part of my hipster church tour.
-I wanted to have a week in Oxford just to write.
-I needed new scenery and a summer vacation.

The coolest thing about my trip is that when I’m in Oxford, I will be staying at the Kilns—the quaint little English home of C.S. Lewis on the outskirts of the city. The house is owned by the C.S. Lewis Foundation, who I’ve been associated with for the last 4 years. The Foundation opens the home throughout the year to scholars and writers who need an inspiring place to get their work done. They call it the C.S. Lewis Study Centre.

Of course I feel completely lucky and spoiled that I’ll get to spend a week there—sleeping in the room where Lewis slept from 1930-1963. I’m immensely blessed to be able to write in the study where Lewis wrote the majority of his world-impacting texts. I only hope some of his brilliant, humble spirit will waft its way into my own hand as I write in that place. I don’t expect miracles—but Lewis would probably say that I should.

Anyway, I will be hopefully be updating my blog every few days throughout my time in Europe, wherever wifi is available. After my week in Oxford, I’ll be in London for a few days, and then in Paris for four days. So bon voyage, readers! Next time you hear from me will likely be Sunday night, from Brooklyn—where I’ll be writing from the cradle of hipster civilization.

Globalization, Obama, and Trafalgar Square

So I was in London on Saturday, and spent some requisite time wandering around Trafalgar Square in the rain. Like Times Square in NYC, Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, or other such urban centers, Trafalgar square is alive with bustling activity, tourism, and, well, masses of diverse humanity. Moving around the throngs of people on Saturday reminded me of just how much I love being in international cities and particularly these sorts of iconic public spaces.

What struck me on Saturday in Trafalgar square was that it felt less like London than it did some vaguely “world” city. There was a jumbotron set up in the middle of the square that was broadcasting the Olympics from Beijing, while Chinese dancers/acrobats/fireworks were entertaining passersby in other corners of the square. It was a celebration of globalization, world unity, etc, etc…. Was I wrong to wish for a more authentically British experience?

The Trafalgar experience made me think of Barack “I’m a citizen, not a presidential candidate” Obama’s speech in Berlin a few weeks ago. There, in one of Europe’s most politically-charged cities, Obama spoke to the largest crowd of his campaign… 200,000+ Germans. And these Germans just adored Obama; I haven’t seen them this excited about an American since Michael Jackson dangled his baby outside one of their windows (“Germany loves you, Michael!”) back in 2002. Obama’s strangely epic speech in Berlin created a similar mania, leaving the German press in a tizzy, fawning over the senator with headlines like “Berlin’s New Kennedy!”

What on earth is going on here? Is Obama running for president of the world? Last time I checked he was campaigning for the American presidency, not some vaguely apocalyptic “united world” government. Sure, his speech was amazing (they always are), and I’d lie if I said it didn’t give me goosebumps in a good way. But upon reflection the speech and its symbolic position in what is turning into a global presidential race left me rather skeptical and even a bit perturbed.

Yes, the world is globalized; we can’t avoid it and nor should we. It’s neither good nor bad; it just is.

But should nations really be raising up leaders to answer to other nations before their very own? Should our politicians answer to the “world community” and international pressures prior to the mandates of their own electorate? I’m not saying our leaders should be isolationist. Surely the world would be worse off without the outreach of people like Reagan and Churchill to a world community in need.

But Obama is not president yet. He isn’t even a particularly powerful politician. Why are hundreds of thousands of Berliners turning out to cheer him on? Do they know something about him that Americans do not?