God is my Director

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

Archive for February, 2007

Tim Hughes gives it the kitchen sink

Posted by Martin on February 26, 2007

Or rather, is Holding Nothing Back according to the title of his new album. Britain’s joint-biggest worship leader and Christian song-writer returns with a third CD next month, and I’ve managed to steal a rough cut from the studio using my cat-burglar skills. Alright, the nice lady from his record company sent me a preview copy, but it doesn’t sound as cool.

Tim is one of the world’s most gifted congregational song writers, and so many people will have very high hopes for the album. The great news is that, having listened to it about thirty times now (which I suppose is a good sign), I can confirm that the album is fantastic. In fact, I’d go as far as to stick my neck out and say that this is going to be the best British worship album since Delirious released Glo – and that was practically back in the sixties.

The standout track – and the one I’m predicting will win a Dove award (American music award; nothing to do with the British soap products) – is ‘Everything’. If you’ve been at a festival in the last twelve months, you may well have heard it, but you certainly haven’t heard it like this… Based on a celtic prayer, it is one of the most rousing, moving, get-under-your-skin pieces of music I’ve ever, ever heard.

There’s also God of Justice – an unusually-focussed track about social action; Happy Day, which is a suitably upbeat intro to the album and the most instantly sing-able offering on there; and a fantastic duet with New Zealand chart star Brooke Fraser, ‘Clinging to the Cross.’

Albums from major worship leaders can go two ways: a) pedestrian, going-through-the-motions and cynically average, or b) innovative and exciting. Very pleased to report that in this case, it’s the latter all the way.

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

Britney’s head

Posted by Martin on February 20, 2007

Britney's head, in hairier timesSo Britney Spears has shaved her head, added some new tattoos and just stopped short of lopping off one of her own arms in what is clearly one of the biggest cries for attention this celeb-obsessed age has seen.

Reactions have ranged from shock to amusement, but I really hope that the majority of Christians are reacting in neither of these ways. Britney has clearly lost her way – no-one is going to argue with that – but she is a child of God and He loves her so much – no matter what she does. I hope that the Christian community reflects that love in the ways in which we talk (particularly to young people) about the ubiquitous Ms Spears in the coming days and weeks.

I’d also dare to suggest that we should be praying for Britney right now. Not only just she have a Christian heritage which might really help her to find direction right now, but I’d dare to speculate that a downward emotional spiral like the one she appears to be on can often end in a grave place. Hope things get better soon for you, Britney…

Posted in General, Spiritual is everything, Youth Ministry | Leave a Comment »

Wedding poem

Posted by Martin on February 17, 2007

My sister got married today, to a fabulous guy who I will now call my brother.  They asked me to write and perform a poem for them, which is actually much more difficult than you might think.

I wrote a poem for my own wedding, but that was easy – I just had to write my own feelings for the woman I loved, and put them into verse. Here I had to imagine myself simultaneously as both and neither of them! I’ll post it here just in case anyone’s interested – don’t worry though – I have no illusions about my ability!!!

[The form, if you’re interested, is an adapted sonnet (but with too many beats – it’s not real iambic pentameter). The trick is to read the first two words on one beat – the rest of it should work naturally.]

A Cord of Three Strands

All that was before you has faded to grey
Brilliant colours light everything since you
All of my life has led up to this day –
This cord of three strands, we’re now woven into.
Face to face, with hand touching hand,
Our worlds now collide in spectacular fashion
In this holy moment together we stand,
Choosing each other in friendship and passion.
Love of my life, we unite and begin
Magnificent vision, resplendent and glorious;
God-ordained match, outside and within
My quest for a soul mate now ends here victorious.
Tied by His hands through the words we have spoken,
A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Posted in Family, Spiritual is everything | 2 Comments »

Welcome to Collingwood

Posted by Martin on February 12, 2007

There he is, bless 'imIf you’re not yet a cricket fan (and I do hope that readers of this blog are at least drifting in that direction), then allow me to introduce you to the David Beckham of cricket. Arise Sir Paul Collingwood – the batsman/bowler/fielder/lovable Geordie/acrobat who has resurrected the flatlining English cricket team.

Colly (as I – and I hope you will now – call him) single-handedly masterminded three straight victories in the Australian One Day series – two of them in the finals against the Australians themselves. And somehow, after being utterly slaughtered by that same team in the recent five-day test series, England today return from ‘down under’ clutching some silverware.

My faith is restored, and all is well again. The World Cup starts next month, and England have hit form at just the right time. There has never been a better time to get into cricket, to get behind England, or to be called Paul. Hurrah.

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Hysterical Epic (or not)

Posted by Martin on February 12, 2007

Writing the previous post reminded me that this is in no way the first time that I’ve developed an idea and then seen it show up at the local multiplex a few months later (perhaps soon, I’ll actually be doing that for a living…). Ten years ago – I promise you – I came up with a movie outline that was so similar to Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels that I almost cried when that movie came out. But at least that was good…

About a year ago I started kicking around an idea for a spoof movie. It’s hardly my natural genre, but I was always a massive fan of Airplane, and felt that there was a lot of fun to be had with that kind of movie. I think Airplane’s strength came in the fact that it new exactly what its target was, and while ripping into that target for all its worth, it also tried to tell a funny story.

Not so in the case of the Scary Movie people – the spoof franchise that this generation is sadly growing up with. While the first movie at least focussed on the Scream trilogy for its main joke fodder, the later movies just seem to be trying to squeeze in as many movie references into 90 godless minutes as they possibly can.

And unfortunately, they’ve branched out. First, Date Movie took a wild stab at every movie released in the previous two years, and now, there’s recent US no.1 smash (shame on you) Epic Movie. Very loosely poking fun at, er… historical epic movies, this nevertheless takes in such non-epics as The Da Vinci Code, and Borat. Are the writers seriously saying that there’s no mileage in a movie which just spoofs the historical epic?

Well either way, they’ve blown my chance of ever doing so. I had a great idea too. Beaten to the punch by the Scary movie guys. Oh well, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all…

Posted in Movies | Leave a Comment »

The screenwriter’s secret agony

Posted by Martin on February 12, 2007

I am of course kidding. This was not my idea.This is something which only writers can truly understand – the despair felt when you realise that someone else has got there first. Sure, when a movie/book/play/TV show comes out on very similar lines to the one you were developing, it is strangely reassuring that your ideas are good. That small comfort is hugely outweighed however by the biting reality that it may severly hinder your own chances of getting your movie/circus act/TV show greenlit.

Unfortunately for me, it’s not even as if my celluloid nemesis is small-scale. It seems to be featured on every bus, TV show and website I stumble across. I know I’ve blogged about it (Project CS is the codename) before – I was aware of the script a few months ago, and made changes accordingly – but now that I’ve seen clips, it does appear that we’re just working on too similar lines.

And what’s even worse – everyone loves it! So not only is my movie like another one, it’s also far too much like a movie which everyone loves. I should just write a rip-off of It’s a Wonderful Life and be done with it.

My agent is fairly sure that there’s room in the world for both movies -but having seen the trailers for this one, I’m not so sure. Will keep you posted.

Posted in Movies | Leave a Comment »

Notes on Notes on a Scandal

Posted by Martin on February 12, 2007

Spent an enjoyable evening watching the Oscar-nominated Dame Judi Dench (the real Queen of British cinema, sorry Helen) chewing up the scenery to marvellous effect in Richard Eyre’s Notes on a Scandal. Judi plays stone-faced lesbian battleaxe Barbara opposite Cate Blanchett’s wispy hippy Sheba, and without question steals the show.

Having spent many years bitter and alone teaching in a particularly nasty London comprehensive school, Barbara latches on Sheba and becomes a mentor and friend to her. Things turn nasty though, when Barbara catches her protégée in a sexual affair with a 15-year-old pupil. As the levels of deceit burrow deeper, the tension escalates, and more and more lives become sucked into the maelstrom that Sheba has created.

It’s a very British film – although the drama is significant, it never spills over the edge of realism – and so when the tension all gets too much, no-one pulls a gun or reaches for an ice pick. Yet my real only criticism of the film is that the stakes never really feel high enough; and so I left the cinema wondering if I’d accidentally missed the third act.

That said, the movie provides both a masterclass in acting from Dame Judi, and a powerful illustration of the destructive powers of lies. Well worth seeing, but probably on DVD.

Posted in Movies | Leave a Comment »

Hot Fuzz

Posted by Martin on February 10, 2007

Great article from the bizarre-sounding Fuzz Kitto (just check out that picture) in the new issue of Youthwork magazine on Youth Culture. Fuzz is an experienced youth ministry consultant (now we have consultants in our industry – we must be going places!) from Australia but who travels the world, and his theory is that there are only really a handful of dominant youth cultures, which are then reinterpreted locally in cultural contexts all over the world. An example would be the way in which Urban young people in South London have reinterpreted the clothing, music and style of black youth culture in LA. Some thought-provoking stuff in there – and most importantly – some thinking that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

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The most ridiculous day of my life

Posted by Martin on February 6, 2007

Stick with this one; I hope it’s worth it.

I have had quite the most remarkable day. It started with an incredible email, was punctuated by a long and terrifying meeting, and ended with an even more incredible email. Let me tell you about it.

I don’t know if you believe in prophecy (look at this blog going all charismatic recently), or even more crazily, the idea that there can be a personal prophet for an individual – like a kind of Guardian Angel of prophecy I guess – but I do. At least, I do now. I first got an email from this person, whom I know only superficially, in the middle of last year. It had a few words which she believed God had given her for me, and being a cynical-before-my-time spoilsport, I took it with a pinch of salt. The email was an encouragement about God’s plans for me, and it was fairly specific.

That evening, I got a phone call from LA from a guy who wanted to sign me to his agency as a screenwriter.

I started to take my prophet friend a bit more seriously at this point. The next email came, towards the end of the year, full of similar promises, and this time I was less surprised when, come the evening, I received an invitation from the same Agent to visit a bunch of movie executives in Hollywood.

I went out there, as readers of this blog will know, and had some great meetings. But since then, thanks to a combination of factors (not least the fact that LA shuts down over December and January), nothing really happened.

Time passed, and the only thing that became clear to me from above was the fact that I am called to Youth Ministry for the long haul. God has spoken fairly clearly now to tell me that Youth Ministry and Movies are two sides of the same calling, not the big Sophie’s Choice that my life is hurtling towards.

This morning, I received another email from my prophet friend (she doesn’t go around calling herself that, by the way). Again, the message was that God’s hand was on me, that he had plans, and that he was going to provide for my family and I. Nice and reassuring, but since time had passed, I’d forgotten to expect movement later on.

That’s the first email dealt with. The rest will be shorter, I promise.

Regular readers (if there are such people) may have noticed a distinct drop in activity on this blog in the last month. There’s a clear reason for this – I’ve been putting together a business proposal to the parachurch youth ministry organisation which employs me, which, if implemented, could have a huge impact. Can’t really say any more than that, but when I say huge, I don’t mean it in the usual Christian superlative sense. I mean elephantine.

I met with the board of the organisation in the middle of the day, I pretty much fluffed it. For the first minute of my presentation, my nerves got the better of me. I said ‘er’ so many times, I started to sound like a refrigerator. I got grilled, roasted and sliced open by the panel of board members. I’m not exaggerating – I was a four out of ten at best.

And then something mad happened – they passed my proposal. I done so badly, that I didn’t really process it when they told me. But they said yes. Elephantine youth ministry development, here we come.

I went back to my desk, and re-read the email from Prophet Girl (that’s her superhero name). Ah! Of course, I should have expected it. God’s plan in action. Got it.

But that wasn’t it. As I said, there was one more twist in the day left to come. That night, I got an email from my agent in LA. It had been a while, but there it was – always sure to conjure up a mixture of stomach churning fear and excitement.

I opened it, read it, and re-read it. A director had come forward to take up my movie. The one that had been knocking around in Hollywoodland for the best part of a year. The one I’d begun to believe no-one wanted. The one my agent had last week told me to forget for a couple of years. Proper director – wanting to sign up.

The email ran through my head again, and I realised I’d limited God. Not only had he revealed his plan for my movie career once again in perfect time, he’d also timed it perfectly to coincide with the other massive development in my life, in the world of youth ministry. Could that message be much clearer?

So it’s the two things, together definitely. Elephantine youth ministry development AND Hollywood movie, here I somehow come.

Told you it was ridiculous.

Posted in Movies, Spiritual is everything, Youth Ministry | 1 Comment »

Mister e-worshipper

Posted by Martin on February 4, 2007

Love this pic!I had a very strange experience today as a guest at a church which I won’t mention. All I’ll say is that it was slightly more of the charismatic variety than I’m used to – they have a lot more of an emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit than the average church. Which is cool by me – I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for today and all that…

And it was a cool church. The worship was great, and surprisingly understated; the speaker was great (he spoke, shock horror, on the Holy Spirit!), and there was lots more about the place to recommend it. However, there was one thing that happened which I found very difficult.

At the end of the service, the leader announced that they would have a time of prayer ministry – I guess they have this every week. People gathered at the front for prayer, specially appointed/anointed ministry team members joined them to pray, and then ‘the spirit showed up’, which theologically I don’t begin to understand – but the fact is that a lot of people began to manifest a reaction to some kind of supernatural force.

That’s not the bit I struggled with. My wife and I decided not to go forward for prayer. We stood and watched (this was far more entertaining), and since it was our first time at the church, neither of us felt brave enough to do any more. After a few minutes, the leader decided to call the service to a close, and said a final prayer. My wife closed her eyes, I did not.

Seeing my wife with her eyes closed, a floating ministry team member saw her opportunity to pounce on someone who was not being prayed for. Within seconds, my wife had a hand in her back, and this lady was feverishly praying for her. Being a polite English person, my wife didn’t open her eyes, but I know her well enough to know that this was unlikely to be particularly comfortable. Still, since I am also English, I didn’t intervene, and stared into the distance, hoping it would go away.

It, or rather she, didn’t. Instead, she grabbed a friend, and this person also began praying, even more enthusiastically, for my now-clearly disturbed wife. And so despite being a visitor, and not going to the front for prayer, she now had two hands on her. Two unauthorised hands, I might add – no-one had asked my wife’s permission to pray.

Eventually my wife opened her eyes, and after a brief argument with the woman who apparently ‘hadn’t finished yet’ – we managed to get away. She was a little bit fed up at the intrusion, but had tried to go with it in case God was trying to tell her something.

Ultimately, it didn’t bother us all that much. But my concern is that while my wife is a Christian, this same thing could happen to a visitor who perhaps wasn’t, and had simply closed his or her eyes during a closing prayer as a mark of respect.

I’m not going to name the church, because this isn’t meant as an attack on them – in fact, we may even go back on Sunday. I’ve written to the minister personally, and hopefully he’ll address the matter. But it raises an important flag for me about Best Practice. I’ve been involved in the past in prayer ministry – I’m now trying to remember whether I treated the people I prayed for back then in this same way. I honestly don’t know if I always took the time to ask permission to pray, or whether the heat of the spiritual moment sometimes took over.

So to draw something positive from a slightly bad experience, hopefully this post will remind any readers who do this sort of ministry to check themselves on the issue of permission. Appearances can be deceiving – I honestly don’t think it’s ever right to assume that someone wants or needs prayer. Someone might be crying in a heap on the floor, or kneeling with their eyes closed – unless they’ve asked us to pray, it’s probably not our place to invade their physical space – especially when we’re working with young people.

Posted in Spiritual is everything, Youth Ministry | Leave a Comment »