eh?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A mixing up desk

As I was driving home after spending an inspirational morning with one of our Chaplains I was listening to some music and realised for the first time that I had misheard some of the lyrics, and had kept that misheard interpretation in my mind for many years.

Coincidentally I also saw a post on Facebook about misheard lyrics today.

Here are some of the best:

The Police had a song when I was a teenager: “So Lonely” but it sounded like they were singing about a newsreader of the day: “Sue Lawley”

Johnny Nash’s iconic song lyric: “I can see clearly now the rain has gone” sounds like “I can see clearly now Lorraine has gone”.

Instead of “diggin'” the dancing Queen it sounds like Abba had a more violent lyric: “See that girl, watch her scream, kicking the dancing queen”. And in the same song, “Dancing Queen, feel the beat from the tangerine.” (“tambourine”)

“It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not” was not what Bon Jovi sang in ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’: “It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.”

I honestly can’t remember what my epiphany was today, but if I do remember I will add it to the list above.

But it also reminded me how a wrong idea, a wrong perception of someone, an erroneous misunderstanding, and even a prejudicial assumption about someone can remain with us for such a long time. We can remain oblivious to the truth and unaware of the error because we have become comfortable with the mistake.

When I was in year 7 at school (we called it ‘First Year’ in those days) a friend invited me to go with him to the cinema. He said it was to see a musical called ‘Greece’. At that time nobody else in our class had seen the film but because I had in mind some sort of opera about Greek myths I decided I didn’t want to go. It was only later, when everyone else was saying how great it was and had all seen it, when ‘Summer Lovin’ and ‘You’re the One that I want’ were all over the charts that I realised that it was ‘Grease’.*

What assumptions have you made about life, about people, even about Jesus? Are they based on fact, on reality, or on what you have heard someone say that someone else told them that their friend’s cousin had read on someone’s blog?

It’s worth checking for the truth. Don’t just take my word for it! After all it probably does make a difference if we’re naked or not!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*(In case regular bloggists are having a sense of ‘deja vue’, yes I did use this story in a bloggage in August 2014)

 

the one where I assumed I had put a title in and forgot

I recently came across this image on t’internet which has significantly changed the way I look at things:

bathroom-sign-gender-equality-it-was-never-a-dress-tania-katan-1

Isn’t it interesting how many of us assumed that the picture on the left was a dress, when all along it was a silhouette of a female superhero?! (Yes, I know, but bear with me). We can only really make judgments and decisions based on our understanding, perception and experience. The fact that this symbol adorns doors to ladies’ toilets would lead us to make the assumption that it’s a dress, especially when you add in the male symbol that neither has a dress nor a cape (depending on what you think of the picture above). It’s a fair assumption.

But that’s the point. Sometimes we make assumptions and turn them into hard facts. We assume that the tattoo’d skinhead is scary, whereas she (see, you assumed it was a man) is actually really kind and thoughtful. We assume that Jesus’ stories are about contemporary European culture whereas actually they are set in ancient near-Eastern culture (so, for example, in the parable of the talents we miss the fact that the Master who was angry at the servant who hid the money told him that at least he could have put the money in the bank and earned interest – when it was against Jewish law to charge interest, we expect it (0.1% anyone?)). We assume that being a Christian is about following a set of religious rules (summarised as ‘don’t enjoy yourself’!) whereas Jesus told us it was ‘life in all its fullness’ and came to set us free from religiosity.

Assuming is not wrong. But make sure you fill in the gaps in your assumption before you turn them into facts!

I was reminded of this story (which is in the ‘fun and funny stuff’ section of the blog):

A well-respected Baptist preacher was visiting churches in Africa. He was invited to preach on many occasions, and in order to be courteous his custom was to ask how one might greet people in the local dialect. In one church he asked his interpreter how to say, “Good evening,” and his interpreter told him what to say.

As our hero walked into the main church building he observed some notices onto doors which were obviously the toilets. He noted down what it said on the doors because he thought he would give even more polite greeting.

As he stood up to speak he said what he thought was, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.”

There was a stunned silence, followed by giggles and then laughter. The preacher turned to his interpreter and asked what he had said. With a broad grin the interpreter said, “Good evening water closets and urinals!”

Be blessed, be a blessing

keystone

Time for me to confess. I have a problem. It is something that clearly does not bother lots of people, but causes me some angst.

Green DoorThe problem is keystone. Not the cops from the black and white movies. But the adjusting of video projectors so that the image on the screen has vertical sides instead of resembling a trapezoid. It’s called keystone because the shape is that of a keystone that you find at the top of an arch (or apparently above a door if you look at this picture). It happens when a projector is projecting at an angle rather than straight ahead.

Most video projectors have an adjustment that enables you to change the image so that what appears on the screen is an image with vertical sides. I find it frustrating when I see one where clearly that has not been done. Recently I have been in several different places where the keystone adjustment has not been done and have had to restrain myself from toddling over to the projector and making the adjustment myself. (I didn’t, but I did consider it – how sad is that?)

Of course adjusting the keystone setting on a projector means that the image that is projected is distorted. The projector is projecting a skewed image that appears rectangular on the screen.

I have been struggling to think of a spiritual application for this confession of mine. I wonder what is at the heart of my problem? I think it might come from my time working with the Baptist Union of Great Britain when we had people who know about these things telling us about good and bad presentation techniques. It has become important to me that what we present looks as good as it can and adjusting something as simple as keystone can help. And therein lies the application. We all want to project and present an image that is as good as possible.

We keystone ourselves. What we present to other people is a distorted image of the real us. We hide some of our pain, problems, concerns and so on behind an image that presents itself as ‘normal’, ‘correct’, ‘true’. We distort reality and project a neat rectangular image to others when they ask us how we are and respond, “Fine, thanks.” Or we adjust the image that we project so that it looks to others that everything is well with us and that we don’t have any problems.

And in doing so we are not fooling ourselves and we are not fooling God. What we are doing is keeping help at arm’s length rather than receiving what’s on offer. God’s Spirit ministers to us in our deepest places, but he also ministers to us through other people. If we project a perfect image they will never know and we may be preventing God from helping us. Showing others the real ‘us’ may make us vulnerable, it’s a risk. But is the keystone-adjusted image we project better than being helped?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

firefighting

photo (c) Paul Mata, used by permission from http://www.sxc.hu/
photo (c) Paul Mata, used by permission from http://www.sxc.hu/

When I was growing up there was a man who was famous for fighting oil rig fires. His name was Red Adair. On one occasion an oil well in Kuwait burst into flame and the alert went out: “Get Red Adair!”

But Red Adair was fighting a fire in Texas and couldn’t help. The oil company chairman was frantic. Without the famous Red Adair they were in real trouble.

“Why not try Orange Adair?” Suggested the oilfield manager. The oil company chairman had never heard of him but as the flames grew higher and higher he thought, “Why not?”

Orange Adair was contacted and offered £1 million to do the job. Within a few hours the oil engineers were amazed and delighted to see a large air transport land in the desert. They gasped as the nose of the aircraft lifted up and a truck, with Orange Adair and his crew on board, hurtled out of the aircraft towards the fire. They watched in astonishment as the truck approached the wall of flames and disappeared into the heart of the blaze.

As they watched they could see Orange Adair and his men leaping about, jumping and stamping out the fire with their feet. Finally, coughing, singed and blackened they emerged from the smoke to the cheers of the incredulous admirers.

There was a large media presence at the scene and as Orange Adair staggered away from the charred embers a reporter asked him, “What will you do with the million pounds?”

“The first thing I’ll do,” coughed Orange Adair, “will be to get the brakes fixed in the truck.”

I first heard that joke years ago and only recently rediscovered it. The point I want to make is that we can never be sure that assumptions we make about somebody’s motivation are correct. Appearances can indeed be deceptive. Assumptions can be wrong. I have discovered through experience that it is usually better to ask than assume, even if the asking can sometimes seem awkward or clumsy. Jesus had the ability to know what people are thinking. Since I lack that ability (my mind-reading is an illusion) it is better for me to ask. That way if there is something I need to address I can do so and if there isn’t I can relax.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

check your sump

We all experience misunderstandings. We assume that someone has heard or understood us when they haven’t. We expect them to think on the same wavelength as us and they don’t. We expect that people will respond in the same way to an event as we would. We presume that someone acted in a particular way when they had a different motive.

These misunderstandings can lead to resentment, fallings out and anger if we allow them to fester. If we decide that our assumptions or presumptions are correct we can build up an incorrect story around the events that unfold and start to feel hard done by or hurt as the story builds in our mind and memory.

‘Sumps’ are dangerous! How to avoid this? Clear communication beforehand obviously helps. Check out our assumptions or presumptions. Talk. Listen. Hear.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

I like these slogans for American businesses (allegedly):

– Plumber “We repair what your husband Fixed.”
– On the trucks of a local plumbing company in NE Pennsylvania “Don’t sleep with a drip, call your plumber.”
– Door of a plastic surgeon’s office: “Hello, can we pick your nose?”
– At a Towing Company: “We don’t charge an arm and a leg. We want tows.”
– On an Electricians truck “Let us remove your shorts.”
– In a Nonsmoking Area ” If we see smoking we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action.”
– On Maternity Room Door “Push, Push, Push.”
– At an Optometrists Office “If you don’t see what your looking for you’ve come to the right place.”
– On a Taxidermist’s window “We really know our stuff.”
– In a Podiatrist’s office “Time wounds all heels.”
– On a Butcher’s window “Let me meat your needs.”
– On a fence “Salesman Welcome, Dog food is expensive.”
– Outside a Hotel “Help! We need inn-experienced people.”
– At the Electric Company “We would be de-lighted if you send in your bill. However, if you don’t you will be.”
– On the door of a Computer Store “Out for a quick byte.”

mind your language

I’ve just had an interesting ‘moment’ caused by an inadequately phrased headline on the BBC website. The headline was: “Star Church settles over hacking.” This set all sorts of questions running in my head…

What sort of church is a “Star Church”? Does it have something to do with Star Wars or Star Trek, so that this is some form of niche church for sci-fi enthusiasts? Or is it a church for people who are famous – it would be interesting to know how you define “famous”?

And what is a church doing “settling”? It sounds as if they are accepting less than the best.            I struggle with the idea that we would ever utter the words, “That’ll do” where we accept just about adequate in church. Surely if all that we do is as an act of worship to Christ we should offer our very best – even if that doesn’t turn out to be the best thing ever since sliced bread. Or perhaps it was about that special church getting a new minister (we use the term ‘settling’ to describe the process of calling / choosing / electing / blind dating / selection of Baptist Ministers and churches).

And was this a story about someone with a really bad cough who was disturbing the congregation during a service, about an unfortunate interchurch hockey match, or about a minister who (like me) is learning to play golf?

Actually it is none of these. This is both unsurprising and disappointing. The headline related to Charlotte Church reaching a settlement with the News of the World for the way that they hacked into her phone. While it’s a shame that it was none of my interpretations, once you know the back story you can understand the headline.

So what about I have been washed in the blood of the Lamb; or We are the Bride of Christ; or I give you all the honour and praise that’s due your name?

We, who are regular churchgoers, know the back story. We know what we mean by these phrases. We know (for the most part) what songs and hymns are saying as we sing them. But what about those who are new to church or new to the Christian faith? I have been challenged about this again recently by conversations with a new Christian. She is asking all the right questions about what and when and how and why – questions to which we assume everybody knows the answers. I know she sometimes reads these bloggages so to her I want to say, “Thank you. Keep on asking the questions and challenging my assumptions.”

And to the rest of us: mind your language!