Shaken, Not Stirred

Some people, are born to be Bond.

img_2542

I give you, Mr Hiddleston and Mr Cumberbatch.

Some people are not…

img_6361

…such as the Galvally Gals.

Normally this character is played by a silent, moody and yet charming actor, who can make the most pansy martini sound like the Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnston’s, tipple of choice. However, heroes nowadays no longer conform to the stereotypical ‘type’ of Bond. Heroes are now flawed, with wounds exposing them and histories that would make Ian Flemming reach for the pansy martini.

That is because Hollywood has tapped into a growing realisation that, and get this, all humans have flaws, choices and self-responsibility. Shocking!

screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-18-43-00
This went through my mind as soon as I wrote that sentence. I apologise if the book-nerd factor has offended you. Please send your requests to Pemberly, Derbyshire, circa 1798.

This is what we in the west like to call ‘free-choice’.

Flemming’s villains always seem as if they are the worst people on the planet. Now we like to say that they were making their own free-will choices, and blow the rest of humanity. But I would say that the villains in Bond stories are the worst because they know there is evil in the world, take advantage and watch the cities burn and the people die, because let’s face it, we will all die at some point.

This is realism.

This is not an essay, promise.

But as there is no vlog for today, I thought that I would give you a post on something that happened to me this afternoon.

img_1707
A nice aesthetic picture to keep interest flowing.

Today isn’t a people day for me.

These days happen now and again. It’s sort of like scarring from an operation, or the ache of a bad sports injury; the pain has stopped but there will sometimes be a little twinge reminding you of what your body has been through. I am a melancholic, introspective person naturally, so depression and anxiety are my injury. The lack of people skills in general, coupled with the ability to hide from all social groups at short notice, is my scar [woe is me tirade over].

As a Christian, it sucks a bit whenever these days come over me. I love having fellowship with all my b’s and s’s in Christ, worshipping the only God I want to worship (having ruled out options such as myself, knowledge, celebrity, my boyfriend and the world in general) and generally having a bit of fun with people who love God and love others.

Normally on days like these, I would stick on a bit of Louie Giglio while doing something that completely relaxes me but Daddy recommended Tim Keller today. Usually, I would say ‘Ok Daddy’, then go on trying to find a Louie talk which I haven’t listened to before. Today, for some ‘strange reason’ I thought that I’d listen to my Dad.

I typed “Tim Keller sermons” into my search engine.

Oh.

My.

Days.

Who said that God doesn’t put things together in His perfect timing?

The first sermon came on. I didn’t even look at the title. Tim Keller is, well, Tim Keller. All of what he says is pretty good.

I needed to hear this talk, especially today.

The title of the sermon was ‘Does God Control Everything?’ and I will not lie to y’all, the inner Presbyterian whom I have been trying to suppress, really did leap out at this point – #predestinationdoctorinerighthererightnow.

Keller said that Western ideology is divided between these two states: free (unlimited) choice that will make your future, or realism.

But as Westerners we find it really hard to grasp the fact that we have both free-choice and a pre-determined future. How mind melting is that to think about, while making a gluten-free and dairy free sticky toffee pudding on a Sunday afternoon?

Romans 8 vs 28 says that ‘We know that for all those who love God [he makes] all things work together for those who are called according to His purpose.’

I will not give you his sermon (plagiarism and all that craic yeno) but I will try and give a summary of what he said:

1 – That we can be assured…

2 – Why we can be assured…

3 – How we can be assured…

by the message that God has given us both free-will/choice and pre-determined our steps because He loves us all. And I mean, all.

Please, bear with. I am getting my head around it too.

Culture says that it is one or the other, but God says that life is both. He has created us to have our own independent thought and already set us along paths that He has complete control over.

As to our own Western thought, we need no more example of our own free-choice than our world today. Our environment is not very healthy, our governments are not thriving, our culture says ‘Hey you! Yes you! You need to be thinner/curvier/healthier/cleverer/wittier/better/stronger/faster…’ All of this comes down to our own personal choice. Do we act on these messages that the world sends us, do we shut them down, do we even ‘revolt against’ them? Do we care about this or this? Shall we play x, y or z? Shall I blow my student finance in one week, or buy the occasional book from Waterstones [A very middle class problem in itself there]?

This is all exists because when we were designed, we were not made as robots, but as people. Humanity is complex and part of that is because we all make choices internally and externally that effect every single aspect of our lives.

If I am the only one to ever think, with my free-mind, that we all have an allocated ‘lot’ that will fall on you no matter what choices you make, then this is just a thought put onto the void: If, like God says, we do have a path that is fixed, then I can just sit back, drink my soya-milk cortado and watch everyone else panic from the sidelines. Right?

If however, the two ideas here, free-choice and realism, are symbiotic what does this look like?

Keller turns here to Acts 27 where Paul & co. were on their way to Rome, to stand before Caesar, charged with preaching the gospel, when a big storm came along and put the ship in great danger of being sunk. In vs21 Paul told the crew God had sent him a message, no one would die or even become harmed on this ship. Now, in the Old Testament, there was a law that if a prophet’s prophecy was inaccurate or unfulfilled, then said prophet was to be killed – sound familiar? Paul would have been 400% assured in God’s word/plan/love in order to prophesy like that in a life and death situation.

This is an example of predetermination of man’s steps by God. Following? Brilliant! Because I am proof reading this and I am having to concentrate, greatly.

But, as Keller points out, in vs30-31 Luke records that there were some of the crew that wanted to let the lifeboat down into the water. Paul told them ‘Unless [you] stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.’

What? But you said…

Tim,

Tim: ‘This doesn’t make sense to us does it? If God has already told Paul the plan, then who cares if they get off the boat or not? Who cares if they get into the lifeboat? They could go snorkelling, right? But because we think that if the moment is fixed, it’s fixed despite choices. Paul here has a biblical understanding here that our do choices matter but they don’t determine our future. He is not passive because he knows what is going to happen, but he is also not paralysed because the choices don’t determine the future.’

Paul is not passive or paralysed. He is dynamic in his faith.

He is dynamic because God has a love so big that we are constantly moving around in it, trying to acquaint ourselves with the surroundings.

God doesn’t love you because you have a,b,c or d. He loves us because he loves us.

Paul is shaken, moved into action by his faith in God while in the world.

He is however not stirred into worrying and fretting about the future.

So many times I find myself thinking about what will be next; job to save for post-grads, get married, do post-grads, get a job, have some money, live a good life, have kids,dogs,cats,animals,kitchen,clothes…

It’s all self-worship anyway, making myself the centre of my world, but why do I worry about the next step, when I know that God has my path laid out?

Is it because I want to do English post-grads that may take me down a secular job route, away from good-little-Christian primary teaching [not being mean or anything because all teachers have my utmost respect — they deserve OBE’s and high salaries because they teach kids to reach for the stars, to hope, to plan and to dream]?

Why have we got a problem with saying to our Father, who gives no bad gifts (James 1vs17), ‘Dad, can I have this? Is that OK with you?’

We just have to ask our Father for anything and He will either give it to us, if the object is good, or say ‘No, sorry that will not do you any good. Trust me on this’ if what we want will harm us in the end.

***

There are some people who are meant to be friends.

Here we have the Galvally Gals to the right and a slightly embarrassing picture to the left of myself and big cuz Antonia in matching pinafores. We have been friends all of our lives and despite the small problem that she lives in Abergavenny, Wales, conversation has always had a good flow and goodbyes are never easy. I will embarrass her here – not that I think she will be reading this or anything – and say that she is the first best friend I ever had and will always be up near the top in my eyes.

Whereas in Galvally, well, the banter never stops and as you may have guessed from the vlogs, we laugh almost every minute of everyday. I will steadfastly say that the reason that we are such good friends is because of the sistership we have in Christ. This is special for a whole heap of reasons, but I will single out one that is relevant now. The Spirit stirs each of us up, to shake each other. Constant reminders of God’s love pour through the flat from it being week 11 and there have been zero arguments (huzzah), to the little encouraging verses that are littered around the coffee table written in v hipster calligraphy, to the graceful treatment we have for each other…

Point is, we have no reason to be nice to each other, apart from the love of God that unites us as sisters in Christ.

vlogmas-day-4

If God is love and sent His Son as atonement for our inherent cancer of evil (sin) to prove His love for us, then what’s the catch? If He is going to look after us and keep us from harm, why do we run away from the idea of God having total control of our lives?

Christmas marks Christ’s arrival as a baby, from a virgin’s womb, to a world being torn apart by this cancer. If God came to the earth in the form of a baby, to live and die, both as equally man and God, then why do Westerners think that the concept of free-will means that the future is unset and completely changeable? Or that the future is set and man’s will means nothing?

Why can’t we do both?

vlogmas-blog-day-4

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’

That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.

He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

– C.S. Lewis

See you tomorrow!

Lots of love,

Nesta

 

Bookish: North and South

As you may be aware, I love a good book. Or at least, a good story.

What better feeling is there than cuddling up on the sofa for an afternoon, knowing that these sheets of paper in your hands will influence your emotions, thoughts and coffee intake?

The short answer; there is no nicer feeling.

On a recent trip to London, I was deprived of these trusty home comforts during an afternoon’s reading. Nevertheless, it was an experience, however modest, that I will always treasure as special.

After a beautiful afternoon spent in the midst of Covent Garden, I decided to call into Waterstones, pick up a book and then find a park or coffee shop to sit in and loose myself for a few hours.

If, for some unfortunate reason, you have never set foot in a bookshop, then you are missing out.

Traditionally there is a higgle-de-piggildy type of organised chaos. Walls are lined with yards and yards of books, with titles ranging from books discussing the fall of the Roman Empire, to the proper way to reorganise bookshelves in your new apartment, to the black backed Penguin Classics.

Stepping amidst this oasis of book-lovers, I immediately started to scan the shelves, looking for a story to spend the afternoon revelling in.

Dragging myself out ten minutes later, I had in my hands one novel and one play; North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and (oh joy of joys!) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne.

I picked up North and South because over the past few months I had become increasingly interested in 18th and 19th century literature in my own university work. Despite the fact that I would love to tell you that the plight of the working class and their everyday struggle was my main motive in purchasing this book, I would be too precocious for words.

In reality it was this story’s central relationship between protagonist Margret Hale and the tall, dark and broody Mr. Thornton, that made this book an absolute need on my wish list.

Not going to lie to you either, I also had my interest peaked by Richard Ermitage’s beautifully detailed portrayal of Mr Thornton in the BBC’s production of this drama.

As for The Cursed Child, does one really need an excuse to delve into the world of Harry Potter?

Wandering around for somewhere to read, I found myself walking past the British Museum, around the back of Bedford Square and eventually found myself on the edge of Camden, in Russell Square Park. It was here then, that I settled down on a park bench to immerse myself in Gaskell’s imagination.

Until it started raining.

Then, Starbucks.

img_3165

The story of North and South follows a young woman, Miss Margret Hale, from her happily situated life, divided between her Father’s parish in picturesque Helstone, to the residence of her Aunt Shaw in Harley Street. Margret, who despite growing up beside her far prettier cousin, Edith, is the heroine who is accessible to all level-headed female readers; clever, practical, striking in her manner and equipped with a keen sense of wit. For this Margret becomes the much easier person to like of the two. Edith gets all she wants, including a marriage based on love, but Margret’s good sense makes her much easier to like.

Over the course of the story, Margret’s circumstances change with Edith’s marriage to a young and attractive Colonel Lennox and her own father’s decision to move his small family of three up from the southern hamlet of Helstone, to the cold, northern industrial town of Milltown.

It is from here that we really see what Margret’s character is full of. She shoulders responsibility of the household whenever her mother’s health deteriorates, meeting every new person and challenge with the same poise and ladylike ability that epitomises the ‘new woman’ heroine.

Unfortunately this ‘new woman’ status was not always well sought by wider society in the Victorian era. Gaskell therefore, had to introduce a plot line to sell her work.

Enter John Thornton.

It could be argued the whole narrative is about Margret and her relationship with Mr. Thornton. However, in saying this, some readers may be encouraged to think that this book is just a repeat of Pride and Prejudice’s love-hate relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.

This is not the case in any shape of form.

While Margret’s friendship with Thornton was rocky at the best of times, the key fact was that they remained friendly towards each other. There was not a massive emotional upheaval at the first proposal, at least on Margret’s side, and neither was there a major excuse for her to reject Thornton’s advances, there rules out the George Wickham of the story.

Her father was even Mr Thornton’s tutor in the Classics, spending evenings talking about Ovid, Homer’s Iliad and Aristotle’s Poetics. This is a far cry from Darcy’s own education at Cambridge.

Thornton’s depth of character and utterly honest nature is so refreshing. This coupled with glimpses into his internal monologue creates a dimension to his character, which I had rarely come across in Victorian literature before. The feelings, which he holds for Margret, the friendship between himself and his friend Mr Hale, the relationship between even his own mother and sister, were shown through small intersections of Thornton’s internal monologue.

By creating Margret and Mr Thornton’s dynamic, Gaskell developed them into such colourful characters, which make this novel a delight to read. Not only do they depict the archetypal educated middle class of the Victorian era, but the relationship between the two allow the surrounding social issues to be given an appropriate platform to discuss these issues on.

If this is one of Gaskell’s novels that has been pushed out of the limelight, in favour of The Cranfield Chronicles, then this in my attempt at bringing it to the centre stage.

Gaskell, who was great friends with Charlotte Brontë, managed to move away from the gothic romanticism that Jane Eyre drips with. Maybe she avoided this style in North and South because she was a happily married woman who saw more in the world than her friend did. Yet despite the social awareness that permeates throughout Gaskell’s work, the relationships are often at the centre of her work. Ultimately, relationships between different people will always provide a relational subject that the novel’s audience can relate to.

This book is a dream to read. It is not always easy to read, this I grant you. The language can trip you up sometimes and yes, now and again you need to go back over certain paragraphs.

But that is just in the beginning five, ten chapters at most.

After that, you’ll just want to read the book over and over again once you finish. The plot lines are thick, the suspense is rife, the descriptions unimportant in the vast scale of character descriptions.

On a scale of one to ten, I would put North and South at a high eight.

 

I hope you enjoyed this new type of post. Yet again I will try and write more frequently, despite being back into uni and all of my reading lists.

Nesta xx

 

 

 

 

Lest Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

Hello friends,

This is pretty self explanatory really. I am setting up a new section to this already eccletric little corner of the internet, just because I can. And because I love talking about books. And reading them. And writing about them…

Basically I love books.

So, over the next while, as uni kicks off and life changes into a faster gear again, I have decided to help myself by doing a weekly post about books.

If you like these posts, I’ll contain my blog to book reviews and all things bookish, sallying away from the random and the politics.

See you soon then,

Love,

Nesta xx