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August 23, 2011

Surprised by OxfordWhen Carolyn Weber arrived at Oxford University to begin her post-graduate studies, she felt no need for God and had no interest in him. An intelligent young woman who had grown up in a nominal Roman Catholic family, she was glad to rely on her intellect for the answers to life’s greatest questions. As a blooming academic, she had few mentors or models who could show that faith is not only compatible with intellectual pursuits, but that it actually enhances them.

But the Lord had plans for Weber. Soon after arriving on campus she met a young man who shared the gospel message with her and, as she came to learn, once you have heard that message you cannot unhear it. The message resounded in her heart and mind. She spent 2 terms pondering that message, learning more about it, fighting against it, reading the Bible and engaging in conversation with anyone who would speak to her. She knew that the Lord was pursuing her and she eventually began to pursue him in return.

This tale is described in Surprised by Oxford, Weber’s newly-published memoir. The quirky setting for this pursuit, this love story, is the ancient campus of Oxford University. The structure follows Oxford’s academic year and its 3 terms, Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity. There are 3 dimensions to this love story—love for Oxford, love for a young man, and love for a Savior. The three are interwoven and inseparable; each one is fascinating.

November 12, 2010

A few weeks ago I blogged a short series that told of how I came to know the Lord and, from there, how I became Reformed. Part of my background is being raised by Christian parents. A little while ago my mother wrote out her testimony and shared it with the family and it struck me that her testimony is an important part of my own. Just a few days ago my sister posted it to her blog and, well, that struck me as a great idea. So I will do the same. Here is the story of how my mother came to know the Lord. It is written in the present tense, but begins a few decades ago…


I am sitting on the Voyageur bus on the way to Lennoxville, Quebec.  I have decided to take a few days and figure out whether or not I can find a reason to continue to live.  If not, I will kill myself.  This is not a hasty or emotional decision.  I simply hate life, the tiresome process of getting through another long and meaningless day.   I feel like Sisyphus of the Greek legends, condemned every day to attempting to roll a huge rock uphill, only to have it roll back again and again.  I can not bear it any longer. 

I arrive at the bus station in Lennoxville, and begin the walk along College St. to the university.  I really don’t know why I am there.  I just hope I can think clearly away from home.  I arrive on campus and go along to the hub of the building, the vestibule in front of the theatre.  I am sitting there waiting for Godot, for who knows what.  Along comes someone I know.  It is John Challies.  We were not really friends while I attended Bishop’s.  But we had had some interesting conversations along the way.  We had even gone out on one date. He was always part of the artsy, Bohemian crowd, with a reputation as the campus cynic.  I was more conservative.  He comes right over to me and obviously wants to talk.  And talk he does.  About things I had never heard of before, at least as part of real life – about God and the Bible, about sin and Christ.  What in the world is this?  I listen but I am not happy.  I wish he would stop talking and go away.  I have absolutely no sense that this is the answer to my heart’s cry.  None whatsoever.  Stop it!  The only comment I remember later is one he made toward the end of our time together.  I have shared with him my despair.  He says, Barbara, I think God has great things in store for you…What?…And he extracts a promise from me to go and have dinner with him two nights later…I don’t want to, but I am polite and say I will.