Sunday, June 19, 2005

Picture Pages

Last night I was about to make a long post with many interesting facts and many pics, but the computer shut down just before I published... AARGH! So here's a condensed version:

Fri. 6-17 - Lunch with principal of BCC, Richard Massey, and his wife, Christine...treated us to traditional English food - Branston pickle, pork pie, sausage rolls, Scotch eggs, and treacle. Richard also gave me a book, The Gift of Prophecy in the NT and Today by Wayne Grudem.

Fri 6-17 afternoon - Worked my last time with John Hull... gave me a copy of his book which details his descent into blindness -- On Sight and Insight. It was the first time that I can recall that I've told someone whom I know well 'goodbye' knowing I will most likely never see them again. Sad.

Fri 6-17 - Supper with Gurmakh, one of my students, and his wife (whose name was hard to catch). They are both from Punjab, India but have spent most of their lives in the UK. He converted from Sikhism to Christ 15 years ago at the age of 32. Now he's 47, married to a Christian, and they have 3 Christian kids. He gave me books on how to share Christ with a Sikhs and Hindus.

Sat 6-18 - Lunch with Jon and Su at a great chicken place downtown... said goodbye knowing we'll meet up again.

Sun 6-19 - Church - I was actually allowed to preach one more time and had a novel topic - Fathers - on Father's Day (UK and US). After church went to the preacher's house for a cultural meal... Had many delicious Nigerian dishes wish I can't name and 2 traditional Scottish dishes - Haggis (eaten with mashed potates and yellow turnips, aka rutabagas) and white pudding. I was amazed that I loved it all... don't let your English friends disparage Haggis anymore... its just their way of asserting their superiority... like the BBC.

Sun 6-19 7pm - Turned in the keys to the landlord and tried to finish packing. Depart Monday at 12:30 pm and are slotted to arrive in Nashville at 8:30pm Monday night. See below the pictures for a poem I came across a couple of months ago which seems appropriate at this point... I hope none of my British friends will take it as a jab... the UK is an awesome place in many ways... but home for me is America.

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Where the Pahl family will be living - Asbury Overseas Guest House

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Our little abode at 13 Clifford Rd - on the right

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My path to and from the Uni everyday always involved the blue door and the yellow gate

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When I came home on the afternoons I'd often look through the front window and see Helen eating her dinner.

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A road I biked/walked/bused almost every day - Lordswood Rd between Bearwood and Harborne

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Speaking of Harborne, this mathematically challenged and outdated sign is outside the Harborne Baptist Church.
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Also on my daily route... but it does have plenty of cars

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Yesterday morning Helen summoned us and we discovered her pacy (pacifier called a 'dummy' in the UK, similar to the older term 'fooler') in backward... something I often do to get her to laugh. I turned it rightways and she promptly flipped it back

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The bike given to me by a brother here which now goes to a Nigerian brother here studying medicine.
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The back of the Metro newspaper given free everyday on buses and trains. Notice the rage over the purchase of the Manchester United soccer team (the Yankess of the UK) by American Dan Glazer who owns the Tampa Bay Bucs. Isn't it ironic, what with the McDonald's ad at the bottom?

Now, the poem:

Henry Van Dyke - 1909

'TIS fine to see the Old World, and travel up and down
Among the famous palaces and cities of renown,
To admire the crumbly castles and the statues of the kings,—
But now I think I've had enough of antiquated things.

So it's home again, and home again, America for me!
My heart is turning home again, and there I long to be,
In the land of youth and freedom beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars!

Oh, London is a man's town, there's power in the air;
And Paris is a woman's town, with flowers in her hair;
And it's sweet to dream in Venice, and it's great to study Rome;
But when it comes to living there is no place like home.

I like the German fir-woods, in green battalions drilled;
I like the gardens of Versailles with flashing fountains filled;
But, oh, to take your hand, my dear, and ramble for a day
In the friendly western woodland where Nature has her way!

I know that Europe's wonderful, yet something seems to lack:
The Past is too much with her, and the people looking back.
But the glory of the Present is to make the Future free,—
We love our land for what she is and what she is to be.

Oh, it's home again, and home again, America for me!
I want a ship that's westward bound to plough the rolling sea,
To the bléssed Land of Room Enough beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars!

See y'all in the funny paper.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

More Stuff I Like About This Place

In no particular order

2. History - It's hard for non-Europeans to fathom how much of the history we grew up reading is within 'spitting' distance in the UK. Not to mention the fact that this tiny island nation was for quite some time the mightiest power in the world. In fact, if they didn't have such a determination to tax every item known to man the Queen might at this time have almost 300 million more subjects!

3. Way of life - The saying 'There is more than one way to skin a cat' is applicable here. They've got a good thing going over here, and in a tiny amount of space. A quick comparison of England vs. Alabama reveals some important things that one must recognize about England. Alabama (135k square kilometers) covers a greater area than England proper (UK minus Scotland and N. Ireland - 130k square kilometers). Consider the fact that Alabama's population is around 4.5 million people, and England's is 50 million. How can you squeeze so many people into such a little space and not have complete gridlock and pandamonium? They're quite good at it here.

The close proximity of the north to the south and the east to the west means that cross-country travel is not a daunting thought and most Englanders I know have been all over their country.

Aside from the smallness of the nation, it is obvious that the UK has a good thing going economically. Their approach is more American than European (aka capitalistic than socialistic), but it is without a doubt a third way. It is now more prosperous than most of its Western European neighbors (an unthinkable statement 25 years ago, especially for me because I was only 6 at the time). Unemployment is a little lower than in the US (as opposed to 10+ % in Germany and France) and they have universal health care -- a bald-faced two tiered one -- nevertheless this leaves the average Brit without many worries should the worst happen, medically speaking. Of course, the trappings of wealth also abound here as they do in the US, making it absolutely necessary that all Christians spend much time in prayer and meditation over their finances to avoid the traps of materialism and debt.

4. Weather - just kidding.

4. American friendliness - I mean more here than what I've said in previous posts about most people over here tending to like America. I also mean that it is easy to get around here, to figure your way out of trouble, etc., all because you speak the language and tend to think like they do.

With that said, a few remarks I've heard about America from other foreigners here have stuck with me. First, a chap from Iran, whom I met back in February at a bus stop, when he discovered I was American, looked at me and said, "I like America. America is good." He is at the University of Birmingham studying international law, a degree which he plans to use in Iran when he returns later this summer.

Another instance also took place at a bus stop when we (Mary and I) struck up a conversation with a Pakistani woman. BTW, its amazing how having a baby causes people to talk to you who normally wouldn't have bothered. When she recognized our American accents she told us how much she loved America and liked to visit whenever she could.

Now, I didn't prompt these people to say such things, and conversely have not heard any anti-American talk aside from academic settings and the BBC :). This doesn't mean that the US is the darling of the world, but that maybe the hatred we've hear so much about is overblown. Sure, they hate our president all over the world, but they still suck up our culture and habits. And I wonder what surveys would reveal if we went around the world asking people if they had a positive or negative opinion of France. Let's just say I can guess that the numbers would be overwhelmingly negative in England, the US, the Arab world, and even Germany. I'm dragging on now... all this to say that it is 'easy' to be a foreigner here. I suggest that people less-white and less-Anglo than I would agree.

5. The British Sense of Humor - Though Mr. Bean is there equivalent of Ernest P. Worrell (and I like them both), it is amazing the amount of continual wit one encounters here. I can think of at least 4 different radio and TV programs along the lines of 'Whose Line is it Anyway' (which began here, too) that are hilarious. Though I blame British TV for the reality TV plague which has beset American Tele over the past few years, I must admit that they are funnier than we. I mean, they still have a royal family! Isn't that a riot? Oops, I mean isn't Monty Python funny?

BTW, the best bloggers never put this much in one post because they know readers will only scan. If I were more astute, I'd have written a shorte

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Winding Down

With less than 5 days left in our tour of duty, I have started to become reflective on our experience. Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of things that have been part of my world here. Tonight I'll list the things I've liked most about England:

1. People - I suppose it is not too surprising, but we've met some great people. I've had opportunity to get to know people through three avenues; 1) church, 2) university, 3) teaching. We've come to appreciate our little congregation of the Summer Lane Church of Christ. Even with the 1 hour bus ride to and from, it was always worth worshiping with them and we'll miss our English, Socttish, Nigerian, Ghanaian, and Malaysian brothers and sisters from the church.

Because I showed up in the winter term, I did not have the opportunity to take lots of classes, and, not having an office, it was difficult to get to know many people in the Theology Department of the University. That said, I have grown more and more appreciative of Mark Goodacre, and I also admire the work of one of the professors I got to enjoy firsthand, that of Prof Sugirtharajah ('Sugi' for us English speakers). I had weekly meetings with Mark, and the only trouble was that we'd normally get wrapped up in talking about everything but my research. I'm an Anglophile and he's an Americophile, so we could talk for hours about the most mundane topics. I'll miss those weekly sessions. But Duke (not to mention the US) will be better off having the Goodacres. And they're moving to my 3rd favorite state!

Probably the most rewarding experience I've had here came courtesy of Birmingham Christian College. The opportunity to teach 2 courses was priceless (though they paid me a little!) and the friendships I've made via BCC will remain long after we leave. Only one of my students was my age (I've since passed him) and his wit, insight, and love for the Lord have made me have a natural affection for Jon Taylor. I know that if Mary and I were here longer Jon and Su would continue to be a regular part of our lives. He's considering an academic career teaching New Testament courses... I can only hope that he'll come and teach at a uni in America!

I should also mention that I've had experiences from all over the Christian religious spectrum. Birmingham Christian College is a bona fide evangelical college. Queen's College (where I have worked as an assistant) is as liberal an institution as I ever care to work for. It trains clergy for the Church of England, Methodist Church, and United Reform Church. I could tell stories about the school... but I want to stay positive here.... My experience with John Hull, professor at Queen's, has been one of those which will continue to shape me for some time. John has been blind since the early 1980's but he has continued his scholarly career in the study of religious education in Britain and mainland Europe now into his 70th year. The most remarkable part of our friendship is the fact that I rarely even think about the fact that he is blind anymore. He is such an enjoyable and wise person that even I have learned to get past the superficial and appreciate his heart. I will miss working with him.

And, as you would expect, the Theology Dept. at the Uni covered a broad spectrum of faiths with scholars from each one. In a similar vein, today I returned the last 4 library books to the Uni library. I reckon that I've read significant portions (if not all) of 50 academic books since January... not a world record or anything, but an immensely rewarding endeavor nonetheless. Now if I could just understand Schleiermacher (a cursory reading of a few internet summaries will indicate so much conflicting information that you'll wonder how one person could be understood so differently on so many subjects... until you read Schleiermacher himself!).

I'll list more things I like about the UK over the next 4 days... stay tuned.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Theological Worldview

My 'china plate' JT took this quiz on one's theological worldview. My results were similar to his, though mine were closer to those of Jesus.

My results:

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox




Reformed Evangelical




Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal




Roman Catholic


What's your theological worldview?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Do you ever get that feeling...

Everbody else knows what's going on but you? That was our day yesterday in London.

We boarded our train at Birmingham New Street Station and rode 1 hour 45 minutes to London Euston Station. Having arrived at around 12:30, we knew that we had better get moving. We walked the 2 and a half miles or so over to Westminster Abbey (we being Mary, Helen, and I). Actually, Helen rode while we walked. En route stopped at the Britism Museum to freshen up. By the time we got to Westminster, it was 2pm. We were digusted to discover that the abbey closes at 1:45 on Saturdays. Having seen most everything in that part of town already, we decided to go back to the British Museum and take in some things we failed to see last time and then grab some supper. We enjoyed the amazing pieces in the China section of the museum and spent a few minutes in the Americas.

After that we walked back to the station and treated ourselves to some pasties. Yes, I meant pasties. The singular, pasty, describes a oven-baked pastry usually filled with a meat. The little booth was called the West Cornwall Pasty Co., though I doubt their's are as good as the reknowned pasties of Cornwall. I had a pork and applesauce pasty (delicious!) and Mary had a Chicken Balti pasty (quite good). And by 'quite' I mean something between good and very good. I know some Brits who use quite to mean "only a little". Anyway, after we ate, we decided to go to the British Library, which is close to Euston Station. As misfortune seemed our lot, we arrived at 5:10pm, 10 minutes after the library had closed. So, we spent some time in a neat little bookshop near the station. We loved the books and Helen loved the time to crawl.

Our train departed at 6:30, so we got to the station around six. The platform number for the train was not displayed until 6:20, so we were part of a mad dash to the train to get seats together, which we found and had an uneventful ride home. We arrived back in B'ham at 8:10 and then took the bus home. We walked back into our door a few minutes before nine.

Then I began discover all the things we'd somehow missed in London. BK emailed me to ask if we had been part of the nude bicycle protest through London. No. We forgot our bikes. But we did walk some of the same areas where these people showed their, um, displeasure with oil dependency. I think BK must subscribe to some nude protest newsletter because he's always emailing me about them.

Today I was instant messaging with my niece, Brittany, and she asked me if we saw the Queen. Of course, we didn't, but apparently we somehow missed all the celebrations for Queeny's birthday yesterday(though her birthday was in April).

Then, a few minutes ago, I discovered that the American tennis player Andy Roddick was in London yesterday winning in the Queen's Tournament he has dominated in recent years.

So not only did we miss doing anything we'd planned on yesterday, we also missed chances to be scandalized, aculturated, and to act condescendingly. It figures!

But we did get a few pictures yesterday and today:
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Helen and her new friend Ben.

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Just to prove to Helen that she has been to Westminster when she gets older and tells us that we never go anywhere cool.

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Helen today at play in the church building.

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With her friend Elliot (13 months).

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Tonight at supper looking for her belly button.