Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book Review: Surprised by Oxford

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber
Surprised by OxfordMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though truth and falsehood be
Near twins, yet truth a little elder is;
Be busy to seek her; believe me this,
He's not of none, nor worst, that seeks the best.
To adore, or scorn an image, or protest,
May all be bad; doubt wisely; in strange way
To stand inquiring right, is not to stray;
To sleep, or run wrong, is.
(John Donne)

This book was, for me, a return trip to England, and to my own college life, to those times when I studied literature and theology and poetry, when I learned to love and be loved by God. Through her words, I revisited the Bodleian library, the words of the great writers, and the pubs. With the author, I doubted afresh, and learned to love anew.

This book has been a wonderful glimpse into the mind and life of another child of God. The precious glimpses of His work in her and his beauty in the world will stick with me for years to come.

Though this book is over 400 pages long, it was with great sadness that I closed the last page. I console myself with the following thoughts:
- England still exists and perhaps my path will lead back there someday
- Her God is my God, and truth is true even when this book closes. We go forth in joy!

A quick sampling of my favorite quotes:

“Dr. Deveaux stopped and looked at me hard. He leaned in and whispered, 'The rest is all bullshit, Miss Drake. It's as simple as that. Your purpose here in life is to discern the real thing from the bullshit, and then to choose the non-bullshit. Think of the opportunity that God has given you to study as the means by which to attain your own personal bullshit detector. Sometimes that will be particularly difficult, because those who proclaim to know the truth, well intentioned or not, are spewing the most bullshit. But you will know when you have been properly ravished. And then you'll see, how the entire world is eyeball deep in it and that we choose it, and that we choose it every day. But the good news is that, although we struggle with it, there is a way out. Yes, there is a very worthy antidote and option to all the bullshit."

“Pray for her? Doesn’t that sound condescending?” I cringed.
“Condescension is your genre,” Sylvia replied as she passed the snack plate. “Incarnation is His.” (204)

Grace means you get to light your candle on the top rung. So that is what I did for the first time ever, that night. And that is where I have lit it ever since, even when I am tempted not to. (374)

Pride is faith in the idea that God has when he made us. A proud man is conscious of the idea, and aspires to realize it. He does not strive towards a happiness, or comfort which may be irrelevant to God’s idea of him. his success is the idea of God, successfully carried through, and he is in love with his destiny. (Dinesen, as quoted onp. 417)

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I can't help but share two of my favorite pictures from our 2001 trip to Oxford! We shared one month of romance and (theological) wrestling here: it was a little piece of heaven!

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