God is my Director

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

Archive for July, 2007

Notes from America – Pt 5: Wrigleyville

Posted by Martin on July 25, 2007

For the thousands of people who’ve been wondering what happened at the conclusion of my recent trip, here you go. You’re about to find out the ending. Get ready for the big finale. Block out your weekend to read it. Does Harry die? Does Jim? You’re about to find out..

UghWe’d stayed up a little late on Friday night. Perhaps we were afraid of the nightmares we’d have about the big scary mutant bugs, I don’t know. Anyway, we’d run into two people with very sad stories – sad for very different reasons. The first was a middle-aged lady youth worker from a different part of the country, who’d flown in to Chicago for the Willow Creek Arts Conference. She wanted to sit and talk to us in the bar, and she showed no signs of ever wanting to stop. Midway through the conversation, she spat out a fairly significant revelation about her activities the previous night which to her obviously didn’t seem that strange. Even more sadly, later in the evening we saw her getting ready to make exactly the same mistake again. Anyway, I’m aware that I’m not sinless enough to throw stones at her – Jim and I were simply saddened that this lady clearly did not receive enough love, support and attention in her life, and therefore had bought into a lie about the places we can otherwise get those things.

The second sad story belonged to a guy who had flown halfway across the country to compete in a World of Warcraft battle card tournament at the hotel. And sorry, but I’m allowed to throw stones at THAT. Jim and I wandered down to the ‘battle arena’ (a ballroom with lots of tables in it) later that weekend, and found around 100 grown men caught in some sort of teen-angst timewarp, wearing Megadeth t-shirts and making jokes about goblins. There were two women in there. One was dressed as a pixie and was almost certainly being paid to be there; the other looked like she was ready to throw her suddenly-much-less-attractive boyfriend into Lake Michigan.

That long, long story is my way of explaining that despite having SWEET tickets to the baseball game, Jim and I overslept. That’s not to say we missed the game – it just ensured that the morning was a little more madcap than we’d intended.

We travelled to central Chicago – which, it turns out, was not anywhere near the supposed ‘Chicago’ hotel we’d booked – by train, and bus. The train was very different to British trains – firstly of course it was on time, and secondly, it was shaped like a great big tin can. Inside, I felt exactly how I imagine a sardine might feel, although thankfully American trains are not filled with brine. On the train we coincidentally met a family who attend Willow Creek, although thinking about it, that was only like a 1 in 3 shot, considering how many people they get on a Sunday. Then we hit the bus – which was unremarkable except for the fact that the driver could not have been more of a sitcom stereotype if she’d changed her name to Chandler and asked ‘could this bus be any fuller?’ She was an extraordinarily shouty African Caribbean lady, with all the patience of a gnat with attention deficit disorder.

‘I’m sorry, do you have change of ten dollars?’ I asked in my autopilot Hugh Grant voice.

‘WHAT? CAN’T YOU READ THE SIGN? NO CHANGE! I CAN’T MAKE CHANGE! GET OFF MY BUS’ she replied, very moderately I thought.

‘Okay… does anyone else have change?’ I asked my fellow passengers. Someone did – but it was taking far too long for bus lady’s liking.

‘GET OFF MY BUS! IF YOU AIN’T GOT CHANGE, GET OFF MY BUS!’

Wrigley FieldSo she was lovely. Anyhow, a couple of kind-hearted Irish bloked sorted us out with change just before she went Vesuvial on us, and we were allowed to ride. We got to the stadium – the world famous Wrigley Field – literally five minutes before the start, and it was then that we realised how God was surely smiling on us. Chicago Cubs vs San Diego Padres – even that fixture seemed ordained. And with seats like these – right behind home plate – surely we were about to be treated to a festival of sport…

Baseball. Not a lot happens, does it? For three hours, pretty much nothing happens, truth be told. A guy throws a ball at another guy. The other guy swings and misses, swings and hits it backwards – which means pretty much nothing, or swings and hits, and then generally gets caught by some other guy. That’s it. Add to the fact that the game we saw ended 1-0 to the visiting team (pretty much the worst possible result in terms of sporting value), and on paper, it sounds like the worst day out since Legoland ran a ‘don’t touch the bricks’ day.

But in reality, it was fantastic! Not least because we witnessed a real rarity – a great big fat fight on the pitch! Now I’m as much of a pacifist as the next Republican, but this was too much fun to worry about morals. I’ve posted this video clip before, but to save you rooting around…

Wrigley field is as amazing a sporting stadium as you’ll find. Set literally in the heart of a residential area – a little like Arsenal’s old Highbury stadium in London – the low sides allow you to glimpse the bustling (and slightly 1930s-feel) Wrigleyville outside, and of course allows people in high enough buildings to peep in. After the game, we headed for those very buildings, to sample a little more of the local culture.

In the end, our social experience was saved not by our nationalities, but by our national game. We went for a drink in a very busy bar, which we were attracted to by the sight of plasma screens showing a (real) football match – the first we’d seen in America. To our amazement, even though the US national team was playing, there was barely anyone paying attention (to be fair, we’d wandered into a slightly wild place – there were a few crazy bachelorette parties around). But then, we noticed two guys transfixed by the screen. Next thing I know, Jim’s talking to one of them (he’s always chatting to guys in bars, that one), and the moment after that, we’re sitting with them. Bradley and Jimmy – for that was what they were named – were die-hard English football fans living in a country of ignorance. I mean they’re ignorant about football, obviously.

Bradley and Jimmy not only took us under their collective American-eagle wings – they also took it upon themselves to show us the very best of Chicago’s night life. Quite by accident, we’d found ourselves a tour guide. And we had a great night, which saw us weave through some of the coolest spots in the city – including a quite amazing 80s bar at which I befriended and then practically replaced the DJ. Dexy’s Midnight Runners, we salute you (guess you had to be there).

We’ll almost certainly never see those guys again. But one thing was interesting – the hospitality and friendship which they extended to us that evening was equal to anything I’ve ever received in my life. Good guys.

Ah. I’ve run out of time. I apologise – you still don’t get to find out if Jim survives. I shall attempt to rectify this as soon as possible. Bye for now.

Posted in Spiritual is everything | 1 Comment »

The Harry Potter finale secret

Posted by Martin on July 19, 2007

WARNING – IF YOU’RE TRYING TO AVOID POTTER PLOT SPECULATION, MAYBE DON’T READ ON… 

There’s been a lot of talk about plot leaks of the seventh and final Harry Potter novel, and particularly Internet spoilers about the ending, but I wonder if JK Rowling offered a big clue to anyone who’s read a gospel, in an interview with Canadian journalist Max Wyman.

Asked if she was a Christian, Rowling answered:

‘Yes, I am, which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.’

Is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows heading for an Aslan-style finale?

Posted in Spiritual is everything | 1 Comment »

This is what my DNA looks like

Posted by Martin on July 17, 2007

Got this from a site called Personal DNA – you can also stick it on your facebook. It’s supposed to be an accurate breakdown of my character, with each colour representing a different part of me. Would be so much better if I could tell you which part is represented by which colour…

Apparently I’m a Benevolent Creator, which makes me sound ever so slightly like the Liberal view of God. What fun.

Posted in Wasting time for Jesus | Leave a Comment »

Summit in view

Posted by Martin on July 17, 2007

Sorry for the lull in posting – I’ve been working desperately to finish my second screenplay, which has been cryptically titled ‘Project CS’ since I started this blog (not for pretentious reasons – but because it’s SO DUMB that you’d get the plot from the title).

Anyway, looks like I’ve got about 15 pages left to write, after which there shall be loud whooping in these parts. Listen out for it.

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Warning: porn

Posted by Martin on July 11, 2007

Free Online Dating

This blog has been classified PG, apparently, according to this site. It’s been determined as so because of two mentions of ‘porn’ and one of the word ‘stab’. Just click the link above to find out the rating for your blog.

Ht to Marko. Now please, someone tell me what ‘Ht’ stands for.

Posted in General | 3 Comments »

Robbie bootleg video strangeness

Posted by Martin on July 5, 2007

Ok – so this is a bit weird – a video clip has appeared on youtube, which features British pop megastar Robbie Williams – just out of rehab, showcasing a new song which appears to be pretty much in-your-face Jesus-advocating in places. He says at the end of the clip – which also includes the f-word, so you have been warned – that this is a new song called ‘Bodies’ which he’s written with his friend Brandon. Have a listen to the lyrics – which include the repeated line ‘Jesus really died for me’ – and judge for yourself: is it genuine or a wind-up?

LANGUAGE WARNING! THIS CLIP CONTAINS SOME SWEARING!

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

Facebook: Johnny arrives eventually

Posted by Martin on July 5, 2007

Soaring ahead of the trends as usual, I have finally got around to registering on the social networking website Facebook (I explain what it is in the vain hope that there’s at least one person out there who’s even further behind the times than me). I’ve been pestered by work colleagues for months, and could resist no longer. Having been thoroughly unimpressed by MySpace, my expectations were not high. However, having amassed 200 friends in five days (all my own work, I’m sad to say), I’m now searching for the Facebook equivalent word to ‘Crackberry’. ‘Crackface’ doesn’t really work for me.

I see a huge danger already emerging however. Half of my friends (including various young people and ex-young people, if you know what I mean) are Christians, and live happily in Christian-ville; the other half are from my pre-Christ-following era, during which I was fond of the grain, the grape, and a couple of other things. There are two ways this could go. One involves a series of very bony men emerging noisily from a cupboard. The other involves a wonderful series of new connections between those who know Christ and those who don’t yet – resulting in hundreds of Damascus road conversions. Personally, I’m plumping for the skeletal option, but maybe I have trust issues.

Posted in Wasting time for Jesus | Leave a Comment »

This is why I love THE MAN Lee Mead

Posted by Martin on July 4, 2007

And Andrew Lloyd Webber… and Jesus Christ Superstar. But not really the Scottish fella who sings first. Not so much.

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

Notes from America – Pt 4: Chicago

Posted by Martin on July 4, 2007

And the legend continues…

Our hotel in Chicago – well, Schaumburg if you’re going to be picky – was the Renaissance – a massive, spanking new hotel / conference centre with about a billion rooms and some impressive architecture and interior design. When we got there, Jim immediately started running around with his camera, as if he’d had to win a golden ticket to get in there. Our hotel room was fantastic, and I say that for one reason:

A television, in the bathroom.

Better than that – a TV which was built into the bathroom mirror, and which only stopped being a mirror when you turned it on. Idea being: if you’ve got a desperate call of nature, and you’re enjoying the latest episode of Desperate Housewives, you don’t have to miss a minute. Although quite why that’s an issue in a country with five commercial breaks an hour, I wasn’t quite clear.

Early Friday morning we followed our new Sat-Nav, in our new, (total rip-off) hire car, to Willow Creek Community Church. The Sat Nav sent us to Canada, meaning we almost didn’t make it to the church for the final day of their Arts Conference. Fortunately, we realised that it was going snowier, turned around, and got there – quite in spite of the directions we were being given – just in time for the start.<

I can’t really put into words what the first session did to me. I was privileged to hear the story of a couple who are worship leaders at Willow. They’d had a truly traumatic few years, which involved the very premature birth of twins. Although one of the babies was entirely healthy, her sister faced many, many problems, and almost didn’t overcome them. She lived, but she had many serious medical problems, including profound deafness. The couple were devastated – and for a year or so, life for them was just about existing; getting through the next day. And because they were being real, and honest, they admitted how angry they had been at God. They had thought at times about giving the whole thing up. But they stuck in there – and in retrospect they can see how God carried them in the toughest times. They were amazing people.

As this couple told their story, both through words and then through music, it was very hard not to put myself in their place. And as I did, I don’t mind admitting that I started sobbing involuntarily- something I don’t do often. All around me, people were crying too. And then something hit me about this church – something wonderful. I was hearing this story for the first time, but many others were not. This church had walked with these two people, in their pain, in their struggle, in their doubts. It struck me that whatever people say about this ‘mega’ church, it’s truly expressive of what I think church should be about – people who journey together, whatever that really needs to mean.

After that, we were treated to the wonder that is Donald Miller. I heard him a few months ago at a Youth Specialties convention, and thought he was a pretty average communicator. Well, now I repent. Don’s theology of Romeo and Juliet (my title) was just wonderful – probably one of the best three Christian talks I’ve heard in my life. I know a lot of people have already noticed, but this guy is important.

Finally, we were treated to ‘scribble’; a session led by Erwin McManus and a creative arts team from his Mosaic church in Los Angeles. What a precociously talented group of individuals. If I was feeling critical, I’d say that Erwin’s talk – which was woven into the mix of drama, dance, comedy and music – was just as rehearsed as the rest of it, and for that reason it lost a little resonance and impact. Still good though.

We left the extraordinary Willow Campus (it’s like a University, except bigger), but not before checking in with Youth Ministry legend Bo Boshers. Great guy – and what a servant to youth ministry he has been – so that was a bit of a privilege. From there, we raced to a couple of too-boring-to-tell-you-about meetings, but then came the weirdest part of the trip (and one of the top 10 weird moments of my life. That’s right, it’s time to tell you about the big scary mutant bugs from the planet Splurg.

We had to travel to a different part of the Chicago suburbs to meet Steve Wright – brother of my good friend Dave – who had hooked us up with super tickets for the baseball the following day. Steve lives in a nice little street, normal in every way imaginable… except that it had been INVADED BY GIANT MUTANT MONSTER INSECTOIDS FROM BEYOND THE STARS! Sorry, I’ll stop doing that.

What actually happened is that Jim and I pulled up outside his house, and could hear the horrific screaming of hundreds of tiny voices. In that respect, it was like standing outside a screening of Norbit. In addition, there were giant bug-eyed insects flying past, landing on and generally being far too close to our car.

‘Go on then’, said Jim. ‘Go get the tickets.’

‘You go and get them!’ I whimpered in reply.

Jim pushed me out of the car. I can only imagine that the Lord himself protected me in the moments that followed. For while both Jim and Steve were attacked by bugs (which, incidentally, are harmless), I escaped unscathed. Had one of them landed on me, I should surely have required new undergarments. I mean, these muthas were mean!

Steve explained why he’s prepared to live in a street with a monster bug infestation, and things made a little more sense. Turns out these were Cicadas – insects which appear only once every 17 years(!) before breeding and then dying off again a few weeks later. Apparently it was an utter privilege for us to even see them! That’s nice, but it sure didn’t feel that way.

Anyway, the previously ‘big man’ Jim screamed like a girl when one landed on his shoulder. Steve handed over the absolutely ace seats, and we were on our way again. The evening was wasted in the time-I’ll-never-get-back quest for Jim’s wife’s shoes, and to make matters worse, we ended up eating at Rockin’ Roger’s diner, or something like that… which turned out to be America’s worst restaurant. Robbie’s Rod maybe?

Couldn’t take the shine off a great day (Reggie the Robber?) full of exciting new people and horizon broadening. And to make things much more exciting, we had a baseball game to look forward to in the morning…

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

The big Doctor Jesus Finale

Posted by Martin on July 2, 2007

Alright, now I’ve come out of the closet as a Whovian (ouch – up that boy’s Nerd Test score now!), I might as well blog about my first love. The final episode of Doctor Who Series 3 seems to have split fans down the middle. Some think it was a messy piece of trash TV filled with cop outs; others, like me, think it was wonderful, and a reminder of how lucky we are to have Russell T Davies writing for television.

I’ll try not to spoil it for those who’ve yet to enjoy – but if you really don’t want to know anything before you get around to watching it, you should probably read no more of this post.

As had been widely publicised long before the big onscreen reveal in episode 11, the finale saw the return of The Master – the thinking man’s supervillain. Played rather theatrically by current golden boy of British TV John Simm, his plan was to destroy the earth, and then the universe, and this wasn’t played out in comic book style – quite the opposite – as Davies’ made several visual nods to the Third Reich. In fact, the episode began in a kind of ‘what if the nazi’s had won the war?’ scenario, with a people enslaved, armed police patrolling the streets and giant weapons under construction everywhere.

However, the biggest cultural reference seemed to be 30BC. A people desperate for a saviour whose name had become legend. Check. Said saviour turning up and saying – ‘don’t look at me, there’s someone else coming along whose sandals I’m not worthy of untying…’ Check. And the conclusion – which I’ll not spell out here – is so very Christ-like that you’d be forgiven for thinking that well-known humanist Mr Davies has violently switched his religious allegiances. With a little explanation, this episode has perhaps unintentionally become the best evangelistic tract since Journey into Life. And that never had any monsters in it.

What’s that all about then? Could it be that Jesus’ story is so important, and so true, that it’s woven into the fabric of creativity itself? Did Russell T Davies have any idea Who’s story he was really telling? I’d love to know the answer to that.

Anyway – great television, and another successful season for the show they claimed was dead. Bring on the Christmas Special – allegedly starring Kylie Minogue!

Posted in Spiritual is everything, Television | 2 Comments »

Closing on 10,000 hits…

Posted by Martin on July 2, 2007

I am excited – honest – today could well be the day (if, as I write, 70 more people visit GimD today) that I finally perforate the 10,000 hits barrier. This will place this site in an elite league including Google, the BBC and Microsoft, all of which have had more than 10,000 people visit their sites.

So come back soon – and bring a friend!

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