Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Upstairs/Downstairs 2010 Review

Upstairs/Downstairs, I thought I was going to have to settle for a tepid like, when you started doing awesome things with history and politics ( LOL at Oswald Mosley's Hitleresque parades) and the characters suddenly became REAL. You made me scream, cry, laugh all in the dizzying space of five minutes. And that mention of MI5? Gold. Of course there were some operatic moments that had me rolling my eyes, but I admit that I was weeping like a baby towards the end. I hate you BBC, just when I'd climbed safely out of the quicksand of my Downton Abbey addiction, gasping but breathing, you plunged me back in.
USDS is far more racier than Downton Abbey (tsk, tsk), but apart from some uncomfortable similarities, they both have their own merits and demerits. All I say is, all the MOAR for me!

What with Downton ending just as war is declared and USDS ending at pretty much the same period ( Edward's abdication), I'm rubbing my hands in anticipation for the imminent fireworks. I'm very much interested in seeing how each series deals with WWII, and with different writers at the helm, I'm expecting great things.

To be honest, I was ready to swear undying allegiance to Downton, when Episode 2 of USDS burst in on me, and I began to awaken from my lethargy. The first episode was practically a snorefest, but when they got down to the political and historical aspects, things began to get addicting- er- I meant interesting. While Downton had its theme and tone all figured out from the get-go, I felt that USDS didn't: it had a little trouble segueing from the cozy circle of domesticity to the savagery of the outside world. The episodes gradually improved however, as if the show was finally finding its legs. I don't know if I love the Holland family with the same devotion as the Granthams, but they are growing on me. I adore Hallam, even though I feel he's a little weak, worry constantly over excitable Lady Persie, and am ready to hire Pritchard as my own butler if only he were real and I had oodles of greenbacks.

That doesn't mean that both USDS and Downton Abbey are perfect because they're not. They're riddled with improbable happenings, sometimes meandering plots, and rumours of historical inaccuracies have dogged both shows ( no one's going to forget the damning televsion aerials in Downton in a hurry).

But they are still period dramas, and high quality period dramas, I might add. In an age where reality garbage is sadly reigning supreme, it's nice to know that there is something I can still watch, some shows that have real stories and real characters with real comedy.

And what the HECK, BBC, three episodes? Three episodes? Stop being such a stick-in-the-mud and give us MOAR!!

Ahem. I shall be calm; I shall be composed.

VIVA period dramas!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Witnessing is Natural: Tips on Reaching Out

No, really it is. And if you're a Christian, it's essential. I know this is an uncomfortable topic. Most people do not want to witness about God's love and grace to others. Do ask me, I know why. Heck I'm one of those people. Though my family is Christian, I accepted Jesus into my life only four years ago. Frankly it's the best decision I have ever made and will ever make. I don't care if the world and everything around me dissolves into a lake of molten lava, as long as my hand is safely locked in my Saviour's;I have not a care in the world.

So why did I ( and sometimes still do) find it hard to open up about my faith. The truth is sadly simple.

I was afraid of what others would think.

Awful, isn't it? Thankfully God is teaching me how to get over myself and get more into Him. And the truth is, the more time I spend basking in the glow of His presence, the more I want to grab the first person I see and squeal about how awesome God is.

The fact is, the more  your relationship with God develops, the more He becomes a part of your life, a part so vital that you cannot contemplate life without it any less than you can contemplate breathing without air.

So here are a few tips that I've learned so far regarding the discomforting, downright dangerous, wonderful profession of witnessing.

1. Be natural. And by be natural, I mean let whoever you're with know you're a Christian as soon as possible. And by ASAP I don't mean immediately, like " Hello! My name is X and I'm a Christian!" That will probably scare anyone all the way to the Himalayas.  If you are tightly linked with God though, the fact of your relationship to Him will be made known soon. Either you talk of your weekly Bible study or you mention how God hates it when children are mistreated while discussing the slave trade today ( yes, it DOES still exist sadly), and people will be able to put two and two together.

2. DON'T judge. I find this very, very hard to do. It's very natural and right to experience horror and anger at the horrendous crimes committed these days, but try not to be too judgmental over the behaviour of others. I personally made a vow to stay a virgin till marriage, but I know for a fact that many of my peers don't make such vows anymore. In fact such vows are now seen as either quaint or ridiculous or so nineteenth-century. I attend a state university so I know. However, I try not to judge those of my non-believing friends who do not think with me on this. I know that they are not operating on the same viewpoint that I am, so I have no right to judge them. Besides, remember what Jesus said about the plank in our own eyes.

3. Ask questions. Jesus does this a lot. In fact, he asks more questions than he gives answers. Too often we jump in with pages long sermons ( guilty as charged!), and too often we pay very little attention to what our friends think. Asking good questions like what they think of fair trade, or what would they do if they switched places with a person living in the slums of Bombay is a good way to get their brains working over moral and spiritual issues. Don't be afraid to discuss spirituality. I recently had a great discussion with a Chinese guy over Taoism, where he explained how it worked ( I had only a dim perception of it before), and how many Chinese people believed in nature if they believed in anything at all. During the course of the discussion, I asked him how Taoism is able to explain morality, and got him to think about issues of right and wrong. Not only was I able to understand the workings of Taoism because I listened to his discussion, but by asking him questions, I was able to get him to think about morality, which was a grey area in Taoism.

4. Act. Merely talking isn't going to impress anyone. Let's do what we're supposed to do as Christians: feed the poor, clothe the needy, visit the sick.  I am making it a New Year's Resolution to be  as much of a servant as I can, and to help out wherever God needs me. Living out what Jesus commands is a powerful way of witnessing in itself, and even more effective than words.

5. Love. Even if our friends seem completely unresponsive, we are to love them just as Christ loves them. We are no better than them. In fact, in learning to love my friends, I learn much more of what love is and how wonderful and delightful it is. And remember, God is love ;)

6. PRAY. I cannot stress how important this is. Prayer is a way of communicating with God, and it is only through prayer that we can listen to Him, grow in Him, and lay our burdens on Him. Some of my sweetest hours with God have been hours I've spent in prayer.

These short guidelines can be summed up in one Golden Rule: Do as Jesus Did. That's all. It's so beautifully simple, but so hard to practise in reality. But let's never give up. Remember: Perseverance produces character, and character, hope. And without hope,we have nothing.

In the final analysis it's not whether we succeed or whether we fail; it's whether we strive daily to uplift God and to glorify His splendid Name.