July 29
July 29 E-mail

First Full Day

The weather has cooled off a bit or maybe it is my new thin cotton blouse.  The verse God gave me this morning was Psalm 107:43b, "... and consider the great love of the Lord."  

For the morning lectures at St Aldate's Church, I chose a seat where there was a breeze from an open door. Another Mary, this time from Andover, MA sat next to me.  She was having trouble getting the SIM card to work in her cell phone, so I lent her mine.  Her husband did not yet know of her safe arrival.  I'm a firm believer in peace of mind - my own and other's.  

Richard Mouw gave the keynote address titled "Restless Hearts in a Search for Meaning."  I liked him; he was easy to listen to.  He talked about fragmentation in postmodern society.  With deconstructionism, there is no loom for weaving things together.  By contrast, in Christ all things hold together (Col. 1:17).  Today's culture feels aimless and detached.  They are looking for satisfaction.  According to Mouw, those in rebellion to God and those who deny his existence still hear God's still small voice.  We can be confident that God is doing the prep work for evangelism.  Mouw even had a few words that tied into my personal theme for the trip (i.e. learning to enjoy God's gifts), quoting Lewis in Letters to Malcolm, "pleasures are shafts of the glory as it strikes our sensibility."  He also said that humans are secret icons imaging something transcendent.  Immediately, I thought of Lewis in "The Weight of Glory": "There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal."  

For lunch, I walked around the shopping district and found an enclosed mall with a Sainsbury.  I ate another chicken wrap and of course my applesauce and pills.  Then I spent 45 minutes in the (free!) Oxford Museum.  Somehow I managed to enter at the exit, i.e. the present era, instead of at the beginning, i.e. the Roman era.  Oh well, I'm backwards.  In any event, the recent history was more interesting to me.  There were exhibits about William Morris and his car factory.  About marmalaide.  About the colleges.  I liked the exhibits set up to reflect a living room during WWII and a Victorian period fabric store.

In the afternoon, conference attendees have a choice of workshops or academic papers.  I registered for Diana Pavlac Glyer's workshop on "Doing What the Inklings Did: How God Uses Small Groups to Encourage and Transform Us."  I wanted to learn more about the Inklings and, at the same time, gather ideas for my book club back home.  I could tell from the outset that I was in for a treat.  Even the fire alarm going off (no fire, just a mistake) and our evacuating the building and standing in the drizzle in a back alley did not diminish this workshop.  Diana is a captivating teacher, but she also has a special spark that I believe comes from regularly sitting in the presence of God.  

I enjoyed hearing about the lesser known Inkling members, such as Hugo Dyson, R. E. Havard, and Warren Lewis..  According to Glyer, Warnie was a better writer than his brother, Jack; however, because his subject matter was narrow (he published seven books on French history), he did not have as many readers.  Presently, I find Charles Williams most intriguing.  I've not read any of his works, but I want to.  It was said of Williams that he charged the atmosphere with love.  Lewis called Williams, "my friend of friends, the comforter of all our little set, the most angelic.  The odd thing is that his death has made my faith ten times stronger than it was a week ago."  I know so little about Charles Williams, and yet, I find myself drawn to him.  A project for when I get home!

eagle & child

Eagle & Child Pub -- a favorite meeting place of the Inklings

At dinner I sat next to a business professor at a Christian college.  We had a good talk about the economy and her marriage.  Years ago, God gave her the impression that C. S. Lewis had something to do with her future spouse.  So she attended Lewis conferences thinking that was where she would meet Mr. Right.  But no, it turned out that her similarity with Lewis was that she would marry later in life.  I wished her a longer and healthier marriage than Joy's and Jack's and one just as fulfilling.

After dinner, we walked back to St. Aldates's Church to see a reader's theatre dramatization of C. S. Lewis's famous 1931 Addison Walk conversation with J. R. R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson.  The script was written by Reno Lauro, Philip Tallon and Jerry L. Walls.  British actor Andrew Harrison played Lewis.  American actor Tony Lawton played Tolkien.  Anglican priest and Lewis scholar Michael Ward played Dyson.  Sometimes the three sat together as if in Lewis's rooms at Magdalen College.  Then they strolled around the sanctuary as if on Addison's Walk.  The drama captured many of the things Diana Glyer had told us about Tolkien and Dyson, especially Dyson's distain for The Lord of the Rings.  Pivotal ideas in Lewis's conversion came through: the idea of a myth being true; of reason and imagination seemingly at odds when in Christ they can be reconciled.  I hope I can see this again sometime, or get a hold of the script.  So much content was packed into the hour, and I want to spend more time processing it.