Wednesday, January 30, 2008

no country for old men

So yesterday, having had to rearrange my day off as I worked on Monday, I went to watch 'No Country For Old Men'. I'd heard that it was meant to be pretty good (Oscar nominations are a bit of a giveaway) and I wasn't disappointed.

The bleakness of the landscapes, and bleakness of the situations in which the characters found themselves was wonderfully portrayed.

Part of me was a little frustrated that the audience doesn't get to learn a whole lot about the history of the characters, but I guess that just adds to the bleakness of it all.

I came away from the film not entirely sure how to feel. I'd enjoyed the film, but I wasn't quite sure why. I guess the ending was a bit sudden, it certainly wasn't a 'happy ending', though with the Coen brothers directing it was never likely to end in a conventional fashion. In some ways it was almost rather haunting, possibly depressing, that people could act in such a way. The fact that we don't know much about the background of the characters, for me, merely adds to this sentiment.

But don't get me wrong, it is worth seeing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Been doing quite a bit of reading of late. Which has been really good. I ended up doing quite a bit of reading while I was on retreat a week or so ago. (Actually its ten days ago now, the time has flown by, but in some ways it seems ages ago.) The first book I've been reading is 'Thomas Merton's American Prophecy'. Essentially this is a biography of Thomas Merton, but throughout the book there are quotes and bits of his writings, many of which I've found helpful, have resonated with me, maybe even inspired me, at the very least I've wanted to make note of them. Here's just one of them for you...."Life does not have to be regarded as a game in which scores are kept and somebody wins. If you are too intent on winning, you'll never enjoy playing. If you are too obsessed with success, you will forget how to live. If you have learned only how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted." (Thomas Merton: Love and Living: 10-11)

The next book I've been reading is 'Growing Souls' by Mark Yaconelli. Now I've read another book by Mark Yaconelli - Contemplative Youth Ministry - but I don't think I ever got round to blogging about it. But it was brilliant. In fact it was in CYM that I first was exposed to little snippets of Thomas Merton. (CYM being the book Contemplative Youth Ministry, not the Centre for Youth Ministry, where I did my first degree.) Anyway. Growing Souls is also a very good book, though a very different book to CYM. Growing Souls essentially tells the story of the 'Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project', the results/findings of which are the basis for CYM. I found Growing Souls to be a refreshing reminder of many of the things I was inspired by in CYM, and an encouragement as I reflect on the work and ministry I engage in at the moment here in Sheffield. Reading over the last few days, as I've been thinking about my future, and some of the things that are important to me, it has served as a prompt not to forget, or to let go of, or maybe to sacrifice, some of the things that I have really grown to appreciate in my life over the last few years. I'm talking about space to reflect, a sense of not needing to rush about from one thing to the next, of silence, of reflecting inwardly, of retreats, a growing contentment with who I am, a growing contentment with life and the things it throws at me.

Another book, which in its own way has also reminded me of some of the things which I've grown to cherish and place value on is a collection of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls comments and columns, cunningly entitled Hugh Fearlessly Eats it All (if you say it quick it sounds similar - apparently it used to be a nick name of his). Again, anyway. I dipped into this book (ok I read it all) while I was on retreat. It was so easy to read - as I said its all newspaper columns and magazine articles, all just a couple of pages long. It provided much needed light relief whilst I was on retreat, pondering life and not talking to anyone. I guess its Hugh F-W that has in part inspired me to think a bit more about what I eat, where my food comes from and all that sort of stuff. In taking time to cook, to consider where food comes from, to go out an pick/find it myself, I've found another way to connect with nature, with creation, and with God. It also fits in well with the whole 'slowing down' thing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

yesterday, all my troubles did not fade away

But this should not have come as any great surprise as the 21st of January was officially the most depressing day of 2008. I can concur, that it was indeed that.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

the hub

The Hub (Sheffield) Ltd. is a new-ish organisation, based, as the name may suggest, in Sheffield. You can check out the brand new website, which went live yesterday, here. And yes, it does so happen that I am involved in this new venture.

The Hub works through and with the churches of Sheffield to share the good news of Jesus Christ among young people. It is an inter-church organisation committed to supporting Christian youth work, mission and ministry in the Sheffield area.

Its focus is on supporting local churches across the city in their work amongst and alongside young people, and in the sharing of the Christian good news. In essence it is a gathering together of Christian youth workers committed to mission and ministry amongst young people.

Do go check out the new website, which will grow and improve with time as churches and organisations from the Sheffield area upload information about whats going on.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

on retreat

I know that no one will probably notice the lack of blogging action which this blog will witness in the next couple of days, but the reason for this will be that I shall be on retreat.

From Wednesday to Sunday I shall not be speaking to people. Which will be rather nice. The retreat is part of this course that I'm doing (that church pay for, as part of my ongoing professional development), which is rather grandly titled 'The Art of Spiritual Accompaniment'. The course is run by Sheffield Diocese, and its really good. I love the regular time out that it provides, a couple of days a month, time to be still, to pray, to just be, time for input, time to be challenged. I really value it, despite the fact that I'm one of two male participants in a group of nearly twenty, and possibly the only participant under forty, more likely under fifty. And I'm twenty-six, just for the record. I hope this means I'm not getting old before my time.

Friday, January 04, 2008

so i've managed to find time... go to the cinema a couple of times in the last fortnight. Last week I went to see I Am Legend. Now I don't normall go in for things that can be vaguely linked to zombies, horror etc, but I'm really glad I went to see this film.

The whole undead bit is done very well, and fits with the story. It's not overdone, it doesn't feel too over the top.

I guess one thing I liked about the film was the kind of questions it raised, questions to do with purpose, destiny, suffering. All good stuff. Although the 15 certificate might limit its use in a youth group context it is well worth seeing. And might I add that it is well worth seeing at the cinema, rather than renting on dvd. I won't go into too much detail as to why, just trust me. (Assuming that cinemas across the country do what the Sheffield Odeon did right at the end of the film)

This afternoon I went to watch Into The Wild. I decided that work could wait, and that I'd go to the cinema instead. And I'm really pleased I did. Coming away from this film I remembered what it id I enjoy so much about going to watch films - the challenges, the emotions, the story-telling, the escapism. It has been a while since I've experienced sucha range of emotions while I watched a film, but this afternoon I've been angry, upset, sympathetic, envious, inspired.

You can go elsewhere to read reviews of this film, and you can go watch this film at the cinema or get it out on dvd. The photography/cinematography (whatever the correct term is) is absolutely stunning, and is done by the same guy that did The Motorcycle Diaries, another beautiful film. Much of the soundtrack is written and performed by Eddie Vedder, of Pearl Jam. Therefore, in my opinion, is also rather good.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Ok, so I didn't quite get round to blogging in December, after all those optimistic thoughts in November about getting back to blogging more regularly. And I'm not going to do anything daft like making New Years Resolutions about blogging all the time, because if the last year is anything to go by, then that would indeed by a naively optimistic ambition.

However, having had some time off over Christmas, time to reflect on the past year, to think about life and what is important to me, I know that I do want to spend more time throughout the year thinking, and reflecting and writing. Some of you reading this who know me well will probably laugh at this point, as I do quite a lot of thinking as it is. But to be honest some of this thinking time is wasting time, dwelling on things which do not need dwelling on, worrying about things which do not need worrying about. Instead of doing this, I want to think constructively, to reflect critically, and to engage with others as we journey.