God is my Director

Youth ministry, movies, no drugs and a variable amount of Rock ‘n Roll

Archive for December, 2006

All hail the new girl

Posted by Martin on December 8, 2006

I help out at a small laid-back youth club, which meets once or twice a week. We’ve been around the ten-member mark for a long time now, and although no-one seems intent on leaving, we rarely have any new joiners either.

I was fairly surpised then, when last night, a new girl strode confidently towards me and introduced herself. She’d been invited by one of the group’s stalwarts (who hadn’t actually expected her to come), and she was coming from somewhere completely off my radar. I don’t know if she buys in to the same ideas about God and faith that I and some of the group do, but that wasn’t what last night was about. What was really exciting was the way in which, almost effortlessly, she blended into the group as if she’d been coming all year. By the end of the evening, she was genuinely part of us – and so something had taken place which I didn’t know was possible – instant belonging. If you came along next week, I guarantee you wouldn’t be able to pick new girl out of the crowd.

There’s two sides to that. She’s a real extrovert, very friendly, and prepared to take social risks – which means she was happy to dive head first into a group and see what happened. But the group accepted her – that’s the other side of the coin, and the far more exciting one for me. We’ve been slogging away with ten kids or less for a year now, despite pressures from all sides to somehow manufacture growth, and we’ve never had more than ten. But when kid number 11 turned up, the group was absolutely ready for her. It offered genuine community, and absorbed her wholeheartedly. I’m so proud of them.

So many of us in youth work have to cope with unrealistic expectations of growth as a matter of course. But what good is numerical growth if your young people don’t know, like or gel with one another? You just end up with a roomful of people who’ve turned up to see a show, and then go home. Surely we should be aiming to create a group which interacts on more than just a superficial level; where all the members care for one another, and the group, and feel like they genuinely belong? Jesus worked with 12 young men, for three years, and at the end of it had a group so strong that it persuaded half the world to join. Perhaps we should pay more attention to His model.

New girl is great, by the way. She made a great impression, which lifted the group. And incidentally, she has the kind of sticky personality that could act as a quick catalyst for further growth. Which is great – so long as we don’t lose that precious sense of community. Until last night, I had no idea just how genuine it was.

Posted in Youth Ministry | 3 Comments »

Good news on Project CS

Posted by Martin on December 8, 2006

Ok – very excited – have finally got clearance from the people who pull the strings to start work on my next movie script (for non-regular visitors: I’m a screenwriter, but not a wildly successful one as yet), after I’d been led to believe that it was dead work. Someone else announced a movie with a very similar plot, and it looked like I was going to have to abandon work on my script. Which, considering that I’d invested a couple of months of work in it already, was not good news.

However, have submitted a vastly revised version of the same idea, with the same characters (meaning a lot of my work still has some kind of value), and both the producer and my manager have given it the thumbs up. Now begins the long journey of actually making the script appear out of thin air… I’ll keep this blog posted as to how I get on.

Oh, and about the title of the post – sorry to be cryptic, but as it’s a high-concept movie, if I post the title, I’m going to be pretty much giving away the plot. Which says quite a lot about the state of Hollywood right now. So it’s ‘Project CS’ for now.

Posted in Movies | Leave a Comment »

I need a Wii!

Posted by Martin on December 8, 2006

It’s a sad day – the first time in recent memory that Nintendo have launched a new games console, and I have nowhere near enough disposable income to buy one. This is what happens when you have children, people: it’s much harder to justify acting like a kid when you have one of your own.

The Nintendo Wii (which is unfortunate because in England, it means pee-pee) looks like the most innovative games console release since the days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. There’s a semi-traditional controller, but there’s also the motion-sensitive ‘nunchuk’, which you’ve probably seen, which adds a whole new dimension. You can swish a virtual tennis racket, or even use the two-sided controller as a pair of boxing gloves. There are plenty of videos on youtube illustrating it better than I can explain.

Anyway, even if I had the money, you can’t actually get hold of a console in the UK right now. My good friend Baz queued up from early in the morning at his local superstore, and he was one of only 17 people who got lucky – everyone else went home disappointed. It’s not even like I can ask Santa – this is an anonymous blog after all.

For now on, I shall have to look on at Baz and others, and try not to get too jealous. Curse you Nintendo, for being so brilliant.

Posted in Gaming | Leave a Comment »

Reducing your world to a word

Posted by Martin on December 8, 2006

I thought I’d find the little blogging game below easy. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t exactly Ultimate Su Doku – but when you’ve only got one word to sum up some pretty big concepts, something quite interesting happens. Your brain is forced to cut to the chase. What is the one word which sums up my mother, for instance? I said ‘tea’ because she drinks enough of it to keep Tetley in business single-handed. And since a teacup is a fairly ever-present fixture in her hand, I guess you could say that it’s key to her character. Without playing the game however, I never would have defined her in that way (Mum, if you’re reading this, you’re more than a tea drinker by the way). But if an actor was going to play her in a movie, the teacup would be their first and most important prop.

There were far more searching questions in there – which I didn’t think I’d find an answer for. How would I describe my life? Give me ten sentences, and I couldn’t begin to sum it up. Give me a single word however, and somehow I was able to arrive at something which did. Same goes for where I want to be in 10 years, or indeed, the answer to the very open question, ‘yourself?’ Forced to arrive at one, key word which cuts right to the heart of who I am, I find I’m able to grasp on to something that feels true.

What an interesting exercise that has proved to be. So even if you haven’t been tagged, I suggest you copy the questions for yourself, and work through your own answers. If you want to – why not post them as comments on this blog post? I look forward to learning more about you – but I guarantee that just as I have, you’ll actually learn far more about yourself.

Posted in Spiritual is everything | Leave a Comment »

Tagged

Posted by Martin on December 8, 2006

I’ve been tagged by new mum Amanda – I have to answer all of the following questions about myself in one word. I thought, as a writer, this would be easy… as it turns out, not so…

(incidentally, there is no number 11, and no number 28. I do not know why, but it may be deeply significant)

1. Yourself: Ebullient
2. Your girlfriend/boyfriend: AnonyMrs
3. Your hair?: Tintin
4. Your mother?: Tea
5. Your Father?: Beer
6. Your Favorite Item: iPod
7. Your dream last night: Lateness
8. Your Favorite drink: Mochaccino
9. Your Dream Car: TT
10. The Room You Are In: Train
12. Your fear: Wasps
13. What you want to be in 10 years: Humble
14. Who you hung out with last night?: Teenagers
15. What You’re Not?: Sensible
16. Muffins: Chubbymakers
17: One of Your Wish List Items: Subwoofer
18: Time: Late
19: The Last Thing You Did: Burp
20. What You Are Wearing: Leather…
21. Your Favorite Weather: Snow
22. Your Favorite Book: Gruffalo
23. The Last Thing You Ate: Bacon
24. Your Life: Hurtling
25. Your Mood: Hyper
26. Your body: Muffinated
27. Who are you thinking about right now? Britney
29. What are you doing at the moment?: Dreaming
30. Your summer: Forgotten
31. Best part of your life: Family

Phew – got there in the end. Next up for the ordeal: I tag my blogging pals Chris Curtis and Pip Wilson. Enjoy it chaps!

Posted in Blogroll, General | 3 Comments »

Tornado hits London

Posted by Martin on December 7, 2006

So my city – London – has just been hit by a small tornado, which I don’t think has happened in my lifetime. Sad to hear that six people have been hurt – some quite badly – my thoughts and prayers are with them for a speedy recovery.

Just been looking at some photos – houses have had their roofs ripped off, trees have been upended – not the sort of thing we’re used to here. One shred of encouragement, at least as far as I was concerned, was to see the rapid response from the Salvation Army (see pic) – an organisation which consistently offers a shining example of faith in action. They’re just so good at meeting people’s needs, caring for them and showing love. I wish that image was what first came into the average person’s head when they heard the word ‘Christian.’

I realise that if you live somewhere where natural disasters often strike, then perhaps you don’t get shocked by a small tornado that hurts a single-figure number of people. But here in London, it just isn’t the norm – and I think those people will be shaking their heads in disbelief. There’s a strange feeling here right now.

Posted in General | 2 Comments »

Britney Spears’ crotch mania! Part 2!

Posted by Martin on December 6, 2006

So for some reason, visits to this blog have multiplied by a factor of ten. And most people have looked at one post in particular.

So you may have arrived here looking for something else. I’m sorry if this is a disappointment then – but could I ask you a favour. Before you close the window, or click the back button, give me one minute of your time – please.

You may well of come here looking for pictures of Britney Spears getting out of a car. I don’t have them. What I do have, is a bunch of thoughts about the real reason why you’re here. I think you’re here for a reason, and you don’t know it.

I believe that the fact that you clicked on this site, and this link, is not a coincidence. I believe you were led here by someone who is crying out to you to notice them. But it’s not Britney Spears. It’s someone else.

As Morpheus would say in The Matrix, do you want to take the blue pill, or the red pill?

If you don’t want to know why I think you’re here – both on this site now and on the planet period – then navigate away now.

Still with me? That’s exciting.

I believe that you are loved more than you can possibly imagine. All the hurt you’ve ever felt in your life – one person has felt it all with you. All the emptiness you feel in the dark times – one person has been there and wants to help you through. He’s thinking about you right now, and his heart aches for you, and for the people around you, and for Britney Spears. And I can only tell you this because I know him. And He is love – and that means something deep and profound and incredibly real.

There is a God. You can know him personally. And whatever you decide to do with that information, it’s not going to make him love you any less. And he will keep loving you, and keep loving you, and he will not stop because that is what he is.

If you’re still with me, let me ask you something. What would you lose if you sat down tonight, and instead of carrying on your search for pictures of a semi-naked pop star, you said something to this God? What if you were to say ‘God, if you’re out there, I want to know you. If you’re real, I want you to bring meaning to my life?’ If he’s not there, you’ve wasted nothing. But he is, and I promise you that if you respond to his voice – the voice that I believe brought you here right now – he’ll show himself to you. And you’ll never look back.

My minute is up.

Want to talk about it? Drop me an email: godismydirector@gmail.com

Posted in Spiritual is everything | 15 Comments »

Britney Spears’ crotch mania!

Posted by Martin on December 6, 2006

No, it’s not yet another DVD board game (although by next Christmas, who knows?), it’s the celebrity shocker of the fortnight – Britney Spears was photographed getting out of a car last week and ‘accidentally’ exposed her underpants. Unfortunately, she’d ‘accidentally’ forgotten to wear any. And just to compound her mistake, she ‘accidentally’ sat posing in the position long enough for several photos to be taken. So now said photographs have made their way around the world, in the way that’s only possible in a Webbed-up civilisation, and now the former teenage darling’s er… equipment has been viewed by voyeurs from Mumbai to Macclesfield.

Of course, on the one hand, you could say that this is the next natural step for the cult of celebrity. Thanks to an incessant barrage of public appearances, vaccuous book releases, hideous celebrity magazines and more, we’re allowed into almost every aspect of the lives of the rich and famous. And usually, the ‘celebrity’ is totally complicit – they’re trying to turn their name into a brand, and they’ll do anything they can to do it. So perhaps it’s only natural that pictures of their privates should be circulated – what better way to really get to know our favourite celeb intimately? Coming soon – the XXX Hello! magazine, with  free pictures of Tom Cruise’s willy.

Seriously though, what do we learn from the fact that in the last week, ‘Britney’, ‘Spears’ and ‘crotch’ have been the three most searched-for terms on the internet? First, it shows us what we already know – that we have become a voyeuristic society, with fewer and fewer privacy boundaries. The rise and rise of pornography (to which around 50% of us are allegedly addicted) means that society has been numbed to the shocking nature of these pictures.

Second, it shows just how loud you have to shout now to get noticed. It’s like all the PR stunts in the book had been exhausted, and Britney felt she only had one route – to sink to the basest level and guarantee column inches as a result. Last time she needed a PR boost, she involved herself in her infamous 48 hour marriage. Who knows what she’ll do next?

Third, it shows the sad lifespan of celebrity. By flashing her bits, Britney is attempting to stoke a fire which would have naturally gone out a few years ago. She had her musical success, but that time has passed. Her fans have hugely dwindled in number – she’s no longer followed by the obsessive teenager, but by the obsessive man in the dirty raincoat.

Arguably, Britney’s career might have lasted longer if she’d stuck with her original sweetheart image, but instead she chose to go the way of rubber catsuits and almost-invisible microdresses. Perhaps after the sexually-charged video for ‘Toxic’, in which she appears to be completely naked, last week’s breach of public decency laws was simply the only place left to go.

Britney comes from a Christian background, but fame seems to have steered her in a different direction. Perhaps she’ll return to her faith; I only hope she does so before she truly hits rock bottom.

Posted in Spiritual is everything | 4 Comments »

Urban Sense

Posted by Martin on December 5, 2006

I suddenly realised that I hadn’t done any strictly youth ministry blogging for a couple of days, so here’s something – I just ran into Matt Summerfield, a top bloke who for the past few years has had the unenviable task of trying to bring the youth evangelism and discipleship organisation Crusaders up to date. No easy task – they’re a dear bunch of people, but the name alone was enough to tell you that they were in danger of disappearing into the past.

Not everyone will agree with me, but I think that by renaming and rebranding the organisation as Urban Saints, Matt has saved it. It might not at first seem the natural choice – after all, the majority of Crusaders groups are found in rural or suburban settings – but Matt isn’t using the word ‘urban’ in that way. He’s creating a new meaning for the word, or rather, harnessing a meaning for the word which already makes sense in what might be termed British youth culture.

Young people, wherever they may live, view themselves in some way to be citizens of an urban culture. Linked together by developments in technology, they feel connected to the dominant, US-urban led culture, and then interpret it locally in their own way, and in their own tribes. That’s a very rough description of how I believe modern youth culture looks in practice.

So the idea of being an ‘urban saint’ makes much more sense to a rural young person than it does a rural adult. The problem Matt has is that his is an aging organisation, and so he’s had a lot of flak from his constituents. If his new direction reflects the bold sentiment of the new name, and from talking to him today I believe it will, then after time, he may not have that problem any more.

I think it’s a good name. It doesn’t quite suit the organisation at the moment (it feels more suitable to something like the Salvation Army), but as a kind of unavoidable vision statement, it may well lead them to change shape anyway. I think it’s going to both interesting and exciting to watch their future unfold.

Posted in Youth Ministry | 1 Comment »

Utterly cast down

Posted by Martin on December 5, 2006

To quote Anton Chekhov.

England’s cricket team manage to snatch utter humiliation from the jaws of respectability, and I… just… can’t… believe it. No team has ever sunk to the depths that we’ve just reached. The Australians will be hopping around with joy, and quite rightly, but there now need to be some serious changes, starting with a new manager.

And suddenly, English sport looks desperately depressing. Our rugby team are now so poor that if they were a movie, they’d be directed by Uwe Boll. Our football team look like eleven men who’ve never been introduced to each other, and our cricket team just curled up and collectively died Down Under.

I think it’s time to explore my Scottish heritage… 

Posted in Sport | 2 Comments »

‘Passionate, committed agnosticism’

Posted by Martin on December 4, 2006

Interesting article from an ex-Church of England vicar turned atheist who has now become an agnostic, here on the BBC website.

His is a very post-modern worldview, of the kind which is in danger of being drowned out in this country by the atheistic steamroller which Richard Dawkins is currently drunk-driving.

The author’s distaste for both organised religion and atheism seems to stem from the apparent need of both to acquire a sense of certainty about life. I’d say a journey of faith, by its very nature, requires no such thing. Good to see the debate on such a high-profile site though.

Posted in Spiritual is everything | Leave a Comment »

Cherry Blackstone

Posted by Martin on December 4, 2006

A heads up about a new band emerging on the London circuit right now – in my humble opinion they have the potential to make it pretty big. If there’s any justice, they’ll get somewhere just through their willingness to be a bit creative. They’re called Cherry Blackstone, and I got sent their promo EP by their promoters. The blurb says they sound a bit like the Black Eyed Peas, but that’s completely inaccurate. They are a pretty innovative funk/rock fusion band, and very radio-friendly songrwriters. Have a listen for yourself on their website: 

www.cherryblackstone.co.uk

Three of the band are Christians, but they’re not a ‘Christian band’. I was really chuffed today to hear this great examples of Christian musicians taking risks (see my previous rant for why). I hope they do really well.

Posted in Music, Spiritual is everything | 1 Comment »

Other GIMD’s: Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas

Posted by Martin on December 4, 2006

Part one of an occasional series…

I greatly enjoyed Dave Gorman’s breakthrough television series, Are You Dave Gorman? where he travelled the country, and occasionally, the globe, looking for people who shared his name. I thought it might be interesting to do the same thing with my cyberspace name, Gim.D, especially as it doesn’t sound that much like a real name, and I need companionship to make me feel better about it.

Anyway, first up is the ‘Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas’, which appears to be some kind of secular Girl Guiding organisation in cowboy country. This is their creed  (reproduced here in pink for reasons of faithfulness):

Girls are we who try to be,
the very best in all life’s aspects.
Our goals are unlimited.
Our failures are few.
We uphold this truth,
to thine own self be true.

I think it gets a lot better when it starts to rhyme. And that line: ‘our goals are unlimited, our failures are few’ really makes me think of the England football team, although with them it’s reversed. Seriously though – it seems like a great initiative, reaching out to underpriviliged young girls in Dallas. They claim to have worked with nearly 32,000 girls in 2005, which I think is impressive, although I find their claim that 99.3% of girls inc girls are ‘pregancy-free’ slightly chilling…

Anyway, sisters, I embrace you for being fellow bearers of the GIMD mantle. Who’s next? 

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

This blog is getting bigger

Posted by Martin on December 1, 2006

I had a record number of visitors yesterday, and that number has been smashed again today. 

So all I can say is, thanks for visiting! I promise to post, if you promise to come back. Deal anyone?

Posted in General | 6 Comments »

Sad beautiful Big Brother girl

Posted by Martin on December 1, 2006

Very strange experience on my train today – I found myself sat opposite one of the contestants from the last series of Big Brother. I didn’t realise that at first – just knew that I recognised this pretty woman opposite me from somewhere.

I won’t reveal who she was, but she’s one of the many contestants who has subsequently adorned the pages of mens magazines in varying states of undress, after her love life was dragged backwards through the pages of Heat. Anyhow, what struck me most about her was not that I knew her, or that she was attractive, but that she was sad. Really, really sad. Of course, it was early, and I could be reading all this into a face which actually reflected a lack of sleep, but I don’t think so. Her eyes said so much… she looked broken. And when she spoke briefly to a friend on the telephone (this was how I knew it was her), her voice was laced with a definite note of melancholy.

So what am I, as a Christian, trying to reflect the kingdom in my everyday life, supposed to do in that situation? Say: ‘Hello, former celebrity lady; you don’t know me, but you look sad?’ I really wanted to – I really wanted to listen to her story and tell her about how Jesus Christ loves her, however cheesy that may have sounded.

But… She’s a) attractive and b) aware that she’s famous. And I c) probably come across slightly like a nutter before I’ve had a proper cup of coffee. So I felt paralysed. I said and did nothing. No kingdom reflection for me today.

She walked away, and I too felt sad. I can’t make too many more assumptions, but I’d suggest that post-reality TV fame may not be all it’s cracked up to be, if her face is to be believed. If I see her on the train again, I promise I’ll say something. But what on earth do I say? Help please…

Posted in Spiritual is everything, Television | Leave a Comment »

‘Christian’ music: I have a dream

Posted by Martin on December 1, 2006

I’m no musician. I’m a music fan, and I’ve written about the subject a little. But I can’t play more than the first few notes of Mull of Kintyre on a piano. So take this all with a pinch of salt. But if I had the chance to address the ‘Christian music’ industry, this is what I would say:

I’ve been consistently impressed, surprised and inspired by some of the albums created by British ‘pop’ musicians over the last couple of years. From Hard-Fi’s Stars of CCTV to Snow Patrol’s Eyes Open and Final Straw, bands have time and again been prepared to innovate, take musical risks, and most significantly, create albums that are more than just a selection of songs. More and more, the great bands and artists are seeing the album as a whole – as a complete piece of art, made up of contributing elements. Just as a play is made up of scenes which work together as a whole, these albums aren’t just a collection of disparate songs, but a plotted course through complimentary elements which make up an artistic experience. Perhaps the pop album started out as the thing you released when you’d written ten good songs, but we’ve moved on from there.

Well, at least in the real world we have. Take Coldplay’s X&Y, widely regarded as a masterpiece, and incidentally packed with as much spiritual content as your average Christian worship album. Here is an album which truly works as a complete piece of art. From the opening question of ‘Square One’: “You’re in control, is there anywhere you want to go?”, the band take the listener on a journey through highs and lows of enjoyment and emotion; pose some huge questions about the nature of life itself, and engage both brain and heart throughout. By the final bars of last track ‘Kingdom Come’, you are exhausted and uplifted – the way you might feel after a particularly cathartic theatre visit.

The songs themselves demonstrate similar innovation and songwriting effort – and consistently so. Many of the tracks go exactly where you don’t expect them to – such as ‘What if’, which ends up by suddenly changing course and musically referencing The Beatles’ psychedelic masterpiece ‘A Day in the Life’. There’s variation, there’s lucid writing; there’s at least five or six truly classic songs. That’s what makes it – in the real sense of the word – great.

So as a Christian, and a music fan, I look at the so-called ‘Christian music’ industry (in quotes because as Rob Bell says, “Christian makes a great noun but a lousy adjective”), and wonder why the same degree of creativity isn’t present. Why is it that I so rarely come across a contemporary Christian album which embraces the new understanding of the format? Why is it so unusual to hear a CCM or worship track which takes musical risks? Surely we represent the guy who created creativity?

That’s not to say that the Christian music scene is devoid of imagination. The recent albums from David Crowder Band (particularly the experimental B Collision), and Mat Kearney (see recent post), buck the trend, but for the most part Christian musicians seem happy to tow the line of their predecessors – being the band that tries to sound like U2, or the band that tries to sound like the band that tries to sound like U2, or… you get the picture.

So what am I saying? I’m honestly not just wanting to be critical for the sake of it. But if as Christians we truly want to be at the forefront of the Arts, we need to be able to say ‘this isn’t good enough,’ and look for answers. So here’s my challenge – before they record or write anything else, I’d like every musician in the Christian recording industry to sit down and take a long listen to some of the truly innovative albums of the last few years. Those I’ve listed above, plus Gnarls Barkley’s St Elsewhere, Arcade Fire’s Funeral, and Demon Days by Gorillaz. Whatever else they find interesting in their genre.

Then I’d like them to look long and hard at how those albums are structured, and at how the songs look to break new ground and innovate. Then, after a long period of listening and reflecting, I’d ask them to try to apply the same degree of creativity (and not just the same ideas!) to their own songwriting and musical arrangement.

And if that happened, I honestly believe we’d start seeing some ‘Christian’ albums that are up there with the stuff in the charts. I have high hopes, for instance, for Tim Hughes new worship album. Some of the songs which he’s already showcased, which will appear on the album, are certainly at the more creative end of the scale. I really hope he doesn’t settle for middle-of-the-road production values on what could be some really amazing tracks. Similarly, I believe Delirious still have it within them to write a truly innovative pop album. Perhaps then they’ll stumble into the kind of mainstream success they chased for so long in the middle stages of their career.

As I say – I’m no musician, so maybe I know nothing. My hope is that there might be a grain of wheat in all this chaff that might help someone.

Posted in Music, Spiritual is everything | 4 Comments »

Prayer works – the proof

Posted by Martin on December 1, 2006

England 266-3 after Day One of the Second Ashes Test.

See previous post, then pray the sinners’ prayer.

Posted in Spiritual is everything | Leave a Comment »