Last week the university had independent reading week which means I didn’t have class. Taking advantage of this freedom in my schedule, I spent a few days with friends in London. I returned to write an essay, and realized that I needed to change my topic just a few days before the due date. I just turned it in a couple nights ago. I hope I can catch up on sleep in the next few days.
After a six hour train ride across England, I arrived in London. Having spent the last couple months in a small town, I forgot how fast paced life can be. Immediately I became one of millions hopping on the tube from King’s Cross to a little borough in NE London where I stayed with some friends. They even had a piece of OBU for me to enjoy my coffee in…
I randomly, or providentially, attended The Village Church’s two year birthday service! It was great to celebrate a place and a gathering of people which was my home during a formational time in my life. Enjoy the pictures!
After a great Sunday with amazing people, Five Guys for lunch the next day, and a visit to the 30th floor of the Barclays Bank building, I went on the Christian Heritage Tour in London with an Oklahoman friend (who happens to be from London originally).
After a fun, relaxing trip to see friends in London, I made my way back up the countryside to good ole Scotland. After getting some rest, I set about to get an essay written for the following Monday. I had done some reading and research while in London, but I realized Friday that I had to throw it all out. It wasn’t going to work. Providentially, I had received a free book from one of my professors that had some information related to the topic. I opened it hoping to find an essay that would connect. There it was. I read it. I disagreed with it. I wrote an essay about it, and I turned it in a couple nights ago. Now I just need to catch up on some sleep before the next one.
Have you ever seen Chariots of Fire? If you have, then you probably remember the opening scene where they run across the beach with the inspiring music playing in the background. If you haven’t, then go search for “chariots of fire opening scene” and watch a clip of it. I’ve heard more about that one scene sine I’ve lived in St. Andrews than I have about that entire movie in my life. Why? That scene was filmed on the West Sands in St. Andrews. I had been on the West Sands before, but I had not actually walked up to the most northern point of it. This last Saturday I joined my friend Leif to walk the beach, and because it was a beautiful day, I thought I would share some pictures and videos.
It was only a little over a day ago when I saw the video being shared from ABC News of Botham Jean’s brother forgiving his brother’s killer (Amber Guyger). If you’re unfamiliar with the story, I won’t try to retell it. You can look at the news article that I have linked below; as someone not trained in journalism, I would rather not accidentally include or exclude certain details. What I will say is this: it was a terrible incident that led to outrage in various communities.
However, I don’t want to comment on the legal, moral, or racial issues surrounding this story. I want to focus on that video I mentioned before. In that video, a brave young man shared his heart and soul in front of a courtroom of grieving people including his own family and to an international audience. Looking on his brother’s killer, Brandt Jean admitted that he didn’t want Guyger to go to jail. He wants what’s best for, and he forgives her and loves her. He wants the same thing for her that he says his brother Botham would have wanted; he wants her to accept Christ. After repeating this, he leaves the stand to hug Guyger with audible tears being shed throughout the courtroom.
If you watch that video, you will see what I can only describe as radical forgiveness and love. That cannot have been easy for him. I cannot imagine being in his place and being able to say those words. I can hardly watch it without tearing up. Looking at comments on social media, it becomes clear that some people think that she doesn’t deserve it. Many people think that he shouldn’t have done this. But I don’t think for a second they’ll change his mind. When someone does something so astounding, it’s hard for the world to understand. When someone shows love and forgiveness to the least deserving person in their life, the world may call them crazy or misguided, but God calls them blessed. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
This act was a fulfillment of the ministry done for us and given to us by God: the ministry of reconciliation. Paul writes:
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:16-21; emphasis mine).
I honestly cannot get that young man’s act of love out of my head. It convicts me. Could I do the same? It confuses me. Is this really what love is? It calls me. Go and do likewise. I cannot watch that video and not see Jesus. Following in his footsteps, the judge went to Guyger before she was taken away after her sentencing. She went to her and gave her, what was reported to be, her personal Bible. She read her John 3:16, and she told her to start by reading the gospel according to John. She told her that God loves her and has a plan for her. She, like Botham Jean’s brother, embraced her. What another beautiful act of Jesus-love. We cannot forget that radical forgiveness and love are the means by which God’s kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.
One month. Thirty days. 720 hours. 43,200 minutes. I have lived in Scotland for a little over four weeks now. I have just finished my third week of lectures. I will turn in my first essay within the next couple weeks. I have attended four churches. I have drank so much tea. What will one month living in the UK do to you?
A quick aside… This is actually my second time to live in the UK for a month. I spent twenty-eight days in June 2019 staying in various places in the UK. However, the experience is quite different this time around, and it has a different feel when you are staying, mostly, in one place with plans for a longer period of time.
If you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to drink tea a lot. I know, I know. I’ve already mentioned the tea, but I don’t think I have yet communicated the amount of tea that you will consume, or at least be offered, throughout the day. To remind my American readers of a story, there was once a group of rebellious (you might even say “revolutionary”) persons who dumped a shipload of tea in Boston Harbor. I can almost imagine the harbor with a tea bag steeping in it as it slowly turns the water black. Well, if you added some cream to that ocean-tea, it may be about the quantity that will be offered or drank by you when you live in the UK.
If you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to hear a lot about Brexit and Boris. Before I move on, this is obviously not a normative experience, but over this first month I’ve my living here, it’s huge. Without going into political details, no one can stop talking about the unexpected roller coaster that has been the last month of UK politics and governance. I’ve overheard world-leading New Testament scholars and theologians, old ladies in cafes, and groups of blokes in pubs discussing these crazy, unprecedented times. I’ll just say that being here right now makes the US political system look rather tame. Perhaps it’s making me optimistic for my home country.
If you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to never know what to do with trash. Once you get around the confusion of talking about “rubbish” instead of “trash” and “bins” instead of “cans”, you still have to navigate what items to throw away and what items to recycle. Personally I really enjoy the option of recycling, but for someone untrained, it can become too difficult when you just want to get rid of a food container.
If you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to always have coins. The first thing to mention is that they have coins for one pound and two pounds instead of notes (like having dollar and two dollar coins instead of paper money). Plus if there is a place where small coins are basically useless, it’s the UK. When you purchase things here, there are no non-advertised sales taxes, so you often have items rounded to nice neat numbers. However, when you don’t have nice round numbers, you get stuck with one cent, two cent, five cent, and ten cent coins which you will rarely use. They will just sit in your backpack, or “rucksack”, and jingle as you walk everywhere. They also sound like toy coins, and that only makes it worse. Jingle, jingle.
If you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to forget that cars drive on the right side of the street back home. You will probably be riding a bicycle or walking everywhere, so even if you don’t drive a car, you will get use to riding your bike or looking for cars on the left side of the road. Sadly, a part of you will always doubt it. You will constantly be confused and paranoid. Such is the fate of an American (or German, so says my friend).
If you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to constantly not know where to walk on the sidewalk (“pavement”). If there is one thing that annoys me about living here, it’s that no one is consistent on picking a side of the sidewalk to walk on. People from American don’t know where to walk. People from Germany don’t know where to walk. And worse, people from here don’t know where to walk! There is just a constant mass of confusion any time you have to pass someone going the opposite way as you.
This is a joke. This is actually a crowd from an event I attended, not people on a sidewalk…
This post mainly serves as a joke and will, to some extent, misrepresent some things. So I want to end on this note: if you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to love the people, love the place, and be thankful for the opportunity. If you have ever had such an opportunity, you understand the feeling. If you haven’t, do whatever you can to get a similar experience. It can be transforming to engage a diverse world.