by Liz Snell


A package recently arrived for me from a L’Abri friend in London. Inside, a wooden pin instructed: “Drink tea and read books”. She understands. We drink so much tea around here I had to give up taking sugar in it. We drink tea and we read books, often at the same time. Students have three hours a day to read; they settle on couches by the Tile Room’s French doors or bend their heads over tables in the wood-paneled library or, as the air cools, sit around the wood stoves toasting their backs. I get to my own bulging stack of books when I can.

My lit major parents gifted their children with a love of reading early on. My mom read aloud every afternoon, slurring her words as she dozed off and slipped away from Narnia or Middle Earth. My dad introduced us to To Kill a Mockingbird, assigned us parts in Romeo and Juliet, and read us Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” on a road trip. We ransacked the library, weekly filling three laundry baskets with books. As an adult I followed the paper trail into my own lit and writing classes. But it seemed so rare to find Christians who also liked books with beautiful language and believable characters, poems and novels that don’t slash the obvious across their pages. Then I stepped into L’Abri.

At L’Abri, we read theology and Christian living books – nothing wrong with a clear message per se. But we also love good literature. Sometimes, a novel or a poem arrives at just the right time and does more to draw us to God’s truth than all the well-intentioned theology we could burrow inside. It makes room for mystery and for the “faint whisper” of God, who gives us the ability to communicate and create. When we read literature, we must be willing to walk into a new world with our pockets full of both wonder and wits. Things aren’t so obvious here, but they ring with the unseen.

A parent can tell a child what to do, but this is hollow if they don’t also show a child how to live. Literature shows us how to live, and often, how not to live. It shows, not tells, the beauty of goodness and the ugliness of evil. My mind returns to Atticus Finch or Frodo as I try to act rightly; more than I want of me reflects Bob Ewell’s prejudice and Saruman’s temptation to control. Darkness is real in these books, but so is hope.

So at L’Abri, we pass around our favorite stories, pressing them into each others’ hands, saying, “You’ll love this.” Ben reads aloud from The Magician’s Nephew; we cozy up to laugh at Diggory and Polly’s bickering and gasp at the mysterious ruins of Charn. We’re not too old for this. Never too old. We even write our own stories, poems, raps, and nonfiction: we invite each other into our lives. We warm our hands around mugs of fragrant tea, we drink in warm and fragrant words, and we share what we find at the bottom of the cup that’s beautiful, good, and true.



Martin Luther’s 1534 Bible

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  Now, many evangelicals might assume this would be the perfect time to grab a bottle of champagne and in gratitude toast the legacy of our spiritual forefathers.  Yet before the party has even begun there has been a steady stream of publications by both Protestant and Catholic authors who have in fact lamented the Reformation — asserting that some of the biggest problems we face in the world today (secularism, church schism, pervasive skepticism, etc) are all the “unintended” but nonetheless necessary outworkings of the Reformation.

While the literature on this subject is vast and beyond the scope of being worked out on any blog (especially this one!), we will be considering two soon-to-be released works by two of North America’s leading Reformed theologians — Peter Leithart and Kevin Vanhoozer — both of which have come to us  here in Southborough courtesy of the good people at Brazos Press.

Leithart, who runs the Theopolis Institute, has an astounding range of interests and expertise, having published on 1 & 2 Kings, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Constantine, the Atonement, Terrance Malick’s The Tree of Life, and the intellectual history of Gratitude, just to name a few.  In his new book provocatively titled The End of Protestantism: Pursuing Unity in a Fragmented Church, Leithart directly confronts the reality of Protestant denominationalism in North America by playing on the dual meaning of “end” — both something’s conclusion, but also its original purpose.  Here’s a quote:


Vanhoozer, who teaches systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is a fascinating theologian.  I was recently told a story that in the not too distant past an academic publishing house put out “Theologian” trading cards as a bit of a joke for theology nerds.  In the pack among such giants of church history as Augustine, Irenaeus, John Calvin and Karl Barth was Kevin Vanhoozer — the only living theologian for whom they made a card.  Now, I’m not exactly sure what kind of compliment that is, but it must have been flattering.  Vanhoozer’s new book Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity is a fresh articulation and defense of the Reformation’s five solas (grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone, in Christ alone & for the glory of God alone).  In particular Vanhoozer spends a significant time defending the Reformation principle of scripture alone as it has come under heavy criticism in the last few decades as promoting “interpretive chaos” in the church.  Here’s a video clip of Vanhoozer talking about this book (if you are reading this on email you might have to click to our blog to watch it):

Be on the look out for more extended engagement here on the blog with both of these significant works on the legacy of the protestant reformation in the coming weeks.   

Again, both of these books were given to us for free from Brazos Press in exchange for an honest engagement and review.



Our six year old is a self-proclaimed vegetarian, and has more or less been since birth.  As omnivores who love a good burger we both vividly recall cooking him his first burger when he was around 18 months old.  We were excited to share some more ‘grown up’ food with him – something we could all eat together – and knowing the type of genes he came from we were confident he’d love it.  Well, long story short – he devoured the bun, loved the ketchup and ate the whole pickle but spit out the only bite of meat that made it past his lips.

From that heartbreaking day till now we have been on the hunt for good veggie-burger recipes and we recently came across one that we all liked and also received good reviews from a table of students who were mostly meat-eaters.


Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 Cups cooked quinoa (make sure you rinse the quinoa well before you cook it)
  • 1 cup cannellini beans, mashed
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten (or you can use a flax seed substitute)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Pre-heat your oven to 425 F.  Mash your beans with a fork separately and then combine everything in a bowl.  Mix it all together and then form into patties.  We cook them on an oiled cask-iron skillet but a baking sheet would also work well.  We cook them for about 25 minutes flipping them part way through.

Cook them until they are as crispy as you like them and serve with regular burger stuff or on top of salad.



Hello again dear blogreaders!  Even though things have been as quiet as a church mouse on this blog for the last few months please don’t think things here in Southborough have been!   In the business of the last few months this blog has sadly fallen by the wayside – though we do hope we can start posting more regularly again.

To start back into things, it seemed only appropriate to post the audio from a recent day of lectures hosted Covenant College called the L’Abri lectures.  The line-up included a current L’Abri worker (our own Mary Frances Giles), a former worker with the British branch (Andrew Fellows) as well as philosophy prof from Covenant (Bill Davis) who is an admirer of L’Abri.

Mary Frances’ lecture is a wonderful weaving together of themes, ideas and practices which characterize much of our work here in Southborough and serves as a great introduction as to what L’Abri is.



Dot Vile is a sculpture/installation artist from Philadelphia who recently spent a few weeks here with us in Southborough and was kind enough to share some photos of her work as well as a short reflection on her time at L’Abri.

I read Edith Schaeffer’s book Hidden Art on whim in art school.  I knew the book was about homemaking but didn’t foresee it to have any impact on my work.  At the time, I had already been thinking about the relation between a human body and a house.  I was looking for physical similarities in their inwardness, outwardness, strengths and weaknesses.  My suspicions were affirmed when I read the last chapter titled Environment.  Edith says, “We are an environment, each one of us … People who come across us or walk into our presence become involved.”  That stopped me in my tracks and pin-pointed what I began to believe about homemaking.  It goes beyond physical walls.  A relationship can become a home.  I had no idea what L’Abri was while I read the book and was pretty stunned when I found out the word meant shelter.

In much of my work, I play with both construction site and homemaking material – like cement, curtains and steel nails.  I set up interactions between the material to show their strengths and weaknesses.  Human interactions are so alike in that way too.  Direct interactions, especially through tension, can quickly show how strong or weak a relationship is.  Many of the pieces I make become physical metaphors for this idea.

While I was at L’Abri for the beginning of the summer term, I learned “hospitality” means loving the stranger.  Upon hearing that, the environment I give off suddenly became more of a responsibility and something to hone.  The more I believe that I am an environment, a temple and a dwelling place, the more empathetic I feel towards both people and run-down houses.  I observe and enter construction and demolition sites wherever I can.  If we really are “glorious ruins” (as Francis Schaeffer says) than that empathy does not seem strange but somehow inborn.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can find more of Dot’s work on her website or Tumblr page.






Jeff Banks, a recent graduate from Columbia Theological Seminary and soon-to-be fellow with the Trinity Fellow Academy is one of our superb helpers at L’Abri this summer and was kind enough to share some thoughts about his time at L’Abri.

If C.S. Lewis was surprised by joy and N.T. Wright was surprised by hope, I was
surprised by play when I came to L’Abri.
When you learn about L’Abri, you are apt to hear about its focus on apologetics and its emphasis on the intellectual life. You might know about the discussion meals, during which we don our theological caps and discuss all topics known to man. If you have taken a look at the list of lectures or even attended one, you will know that there is no theological or cultural stone that is left unturned. The problem of evil, the nature of man, the search for meaning—we cover it all.  The unexamined life is not worth living, so we examine it carefully.
However, even the people who come to L’Abri are not, in Jamie Smith’s felicitous phrase, “giant bobblehead dolls, with humongous heads and itty-bitty unimportant bodies.” We are thinking creatures, but we are also bodily creatures, and one of the ways that we honor our bodies is by playing.
Now, if you’re like me, it’s a lot easier to think about playing than to actually play. After
all, play is such an interesting concept! It’s a key part of our development as children, when we learn how to interact with our peers through the games that we play with them. We learn about justice (“hey, you totally stepped out of bounds there!”), accepting loss, cooperating with others (aka not eating all the orange slices at halftime), and competing healthily. The playground is a kind of school.
Playing is also a sign of the kingdom of God. (You knew this was coming, didn’t you?) In
his book, A Rumor of Angels, sociologist Peter Berger writes about “signals of transcendence”— signs that point us to the reality of God—one of which is play. When we play, Berger writes, we enter into a different sort of world that is marked by a different sort of time. Instead of being 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, it is the third round, the fourth act, the allegro movement, or the second kiss. When we are truly engrossed in our play, full of the joy and rapture of the activity, we step out of time, at least for a few moments. We return to the “deathlessness of childhood” and glimpse the timelessness of eternity. We see what heaven might be like. All at a volleyball match during tea break.
But playing is also a time not to think—one of the times when we can rest from all the
intellectual, personal, and emotional wrestling that we do so often at L’Abri. And for that reason it is an integral part of life in community. After all, coming to L’Abri is not just about learning to think differently, but about learning to live differently. In a world in which we over-work and under-play, L’Abri is a place at which we can learn to do both well, and so become more like the children who will enter the kingdom



No stranger to controversial subject matters, biblical scholar N.T. Wright presents in this brief video some wise thoughts on the importance of locating our understanding of Christian marriage within the larger story which the Bible is telling.  This talk was originally presented a few years ago at an ecumenical conference at the Vatican on the nature of the human sexuality and Christian marriage.  While are certain limitations on what can be covered in a 16 minute video, true to form Wright presents an impressive amount of learning in easy to follow manner that is both creative and faithful.  This video is well worth an attentive listen.