I had my first lectures this morning. After Greek. Lectures are larger classes that go along with the smaller classes (tutorials) I mentioned I had earlier this week. For example, if you have a tutorial on God & The OT, you might take a lecture on the history of Israel. You aren’t required to go to the lectures, per se, but your final exams will include information from the lectures. So it’s in your best interest to go.

I had two lectures this morning. Back to back. After Greek. My first lecture was on the book of John. The guy spoke super quickly. Changed slides in a hurry. And he didn’t engage with the class at all. Which is too bad, because I think the material could be really interesting. Just tough to keep up. It’s English, but it’s not.

The second lecture was on the history of Isreal. I wasn’t as interested in this material as my first lecture, but the professor was great. Very personable. Very soft spoken. And you could tell he was interested in what he was telling you. And that he cared you were getting it. He wasn’t just speaking for the sake of speaking. I actually met this professor at a meeting last week. Dr. Joyce. Really nice guy. Apparently he stayed over in Seattle on a trip he took to the West Coast a while back. He said it was beautiful. I told him he was right, it is beautiful.

Dr. Joyce was an undergrad in the Theology department here at Oxford long ago, he told us. And he had a really tough time with Greek, apparently. I knew I liked this guy. But then he took Hebrew the following year, and I thought he was crazy for that.

Dinner with the Americans

I had a dinner engagement tonight, so I decided to get some studying in at Harris Manchester after my lectures. And after stopping into the Alternative Turk for another amazing. Panini.

After studying or several hours, I caught a bus to West Oxford. I was heading to Ken and Lynn’s home for dinner. Ken and Lynne are from America. Like me.

It’s kind of a long story, but basically I told a guy in Bellingham what I was planning on doing last spring. About going to Oxford to study Theology. He thought it was pretty cool what we were doing.

He was a financial advisor in Bellingham at the time, and he was interviewing with a firm in Seattle. This firm was a niche firm, in that they worked with high net worth Christians. A lot of business owners and the like. I’m not sure how it came up, but apparently he shared my story with the firm during his interview, and they told him they had a client who just left his surgery practice to follow his longtime dream of studying Theology at Oxford. At the same college I was at. Just a year before I’d be leaving. Small world.

So, anyway, fast forward to now. Their client, Ken (and his wife Lynne), is now living here in Oxford. We had been in touch via e-mail since this summer. And he called me this past weekend to invite me over for dinner. I was not going to pass that up. I had been looking forward to meeting the both of them. They seemed incredible over e-mail. Very nice. Very helpful.

I got off the bus at the stop Ken told me. He said he’d meet me there. Sure enough, a few minutes after I got up, a man on a bike came riding up.

“Hey, Ryan?” he called from across the street.

I looked up from my Greek flash cards. “Hey, yeah, it’s me. You must be Ken,” I said.

He is about what I expected from what I’d heard. Late 50’s, or so. Fit. About my height. Short, clean cut hair. And an American accent. You really notice that when you’re surrounded by the British accent.

We talked a bit about how class was going as he led me towards their home. They bought a place in a quiet neighborhood about 10 minutes outside of the Oxford city center.

We pulled up to a smallish, two-story home with a long Mercedes parked in the drive way.

“This is us,” Ken said, setting his bike against the side of the house.

They have a beautiful home. It looks British in that everything is quite tight, but it’s decorated with lots of furnishings and pictures from back home, which makes it feel American. It’s a bit of a funny combination, but it was nice. I felt comfortable as soon as I walked through the front door.

Lynn came downstairs shortly after we arrived.

“Hello Ryan,” she said as she entered the living room. With a warm, it’s-so-good-to-see-you kind of smile.

She gave me a hug, even though it was the first time we actually met in-person. I told her that was the first hug I’ve had since arriving.

Ken and I talked for a while in the living room while Lynn finished preparing dinner. About school. About what he was doing before this. About their family.

They’re originally from Texas. Both of them. Lynn still has a little bit of it on her tongue. They moved to Oregon after Ken finished medical school, though. To take up a position teaching medicine. And to open up his own practice. He is a hand surgeon. And he was doing that on top of all his university responsibilities.

“So this is actually a vacation for you guys, huh?” I joked.

They have four kids. The oldest is wrapping up her Master’s degree at Baylor. She just submitted her thesis. Their youngest is going to Corban College in Oregon.

“That’s where Jen went her freshman year,” I told them. They asked if she knew a few different people. I apologized to them, and  said I really didn’t know.

“I bet she would,” Lynn said from the kitchen.”We’ll have to ask her when she gets here.”

On the back of their house is a glass green house, where the previous owners used to keep plants. And by keep plants, I mean they let a ton of plants grow wild. So much so you could hardly enter it, from what Ken tells me.

They had remodeled it to set up a dining room in its place. Leaving the glass, and a few plants against a wall, with stringed bulb lights along one wall. The table was lit up with candles. And flowers were sitting in a vase in the middle. It was beautiful.

Lynn brought a roast and vegetables she had prepared to the table and called us in.

“Yorkshire pudding,” she told me. “A real, authentic English dinner.”

Ken blessed the meal. Asking for safe travels for Jen. And we enjoyed a great conversation over an amazing meal. I helped my self to a second serving. I was the only one.

“You must be saving room for dessert,” Lynn said, looking at Ken.

“I have homemade apple pie and ice cream, if you have room,” she told me.

“A perfect touch to my dinner with the Americans,” I thought to myself.

We talked for a bit longer in the living room. Laughing about some of the odd idiosyncracies we’ve noticed since arriving.

“Why does everything have to be so difficult?” I asked.

“Mmmmhhhmmm,” Ken smiled and nodded from his chair.

They asked what I wanted to do with my degree when I was done.

I told them I had initially planned on pursuing academics, but now I wasn’t so sure. I told them I had considered the ministry, but that either way, I wanted to write. I told them I felt like that’d be more clear as I made my way through the program. That this was just the start of a big change for me.

Ken could appreciate that.

I noticed myself getting tired. I thought I’d better excuse myself before I start yawning. I told Ken and Lynn I had had an amazing time, and that I was so thankful to them for opening up their home to me like this. They said they loved having me, and that we’d have to do it again after Jennifer has arrived.

Ken told me he’d drive me home, rather than making me wait for the bus.

“You can wait quite a while late at night like this,” he said. “Probably easier this way.”

I thanked Lynn again for the very tasty dinner, and we said goodbye.

Ken opened the car door, which I thought he was doing for me, and then got in. I remembered the driver’s side door is on the opposite side here in England and laughed out loud. Ken laughed loudly as he shut the door.

“This is the first time I’ve ridden in a car since arriving,” I told him.

We had a nice talk on the short drive home.

He told me about applying to Oxford. And how he applied to just four programs, (“Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale”) and how he asked God to make things easy on him by only receiving one acceptance letter. He told me about receiving three refusal letters right away. And then receiving a letter from Oxford offering him a position. And how he knew then this was what he was supposed to be doing.

“Even though we’re older, this was still pretty tough on our parents,” Ken told me. “We look out for them in a lot of ways, and I was taking away their daughter. But once I told them about my prayer, and about being accepted, they knew this was what we were supposed to be doing.”

Ken told me about losing his Father shortly before leaving for Oxford. Just a couple months before. And how hard that was.

I told him I was sorry about that.

“People think I’m crazy for leaving behind a great job, but this means so much more,” he told me.

I told him about how we lost Jennifer’s sister the spring before we left. And how that made this transition even more difficult on the both of us, but that we knew it was where we were supposed to be, as well.

I told him Hayley had been walking a pretty rough road. And I told him about hearing how she’d read my book at night before going to bed, even though she hadn’t been to church in years. And how she’d share it with her roommates.

I told Ken it was then I knew this was what I wanted to do.

“Mmmmhhhhmmm. He brings light out of darkness,” Ken said as we drove through Oxford City Center.