Hymns, songs and immature amusement

It’s taken me nearly a week to get round to this – partly because it needed some thought and partly because I’ve had other pressing blogging concerns (well, Black Swan and Friday Fun). Last week Rach tagged me in a post relating to a meme that’s been doing the (Christian) rounds on the subject of ‘Contemporary Christian Music’ praise songs.

The meme is as follows:

Please try to name ONE (I know, there are so many to choose from) CCM praise song that you find unbearable and at least 2-3 reasons why, pointing to specific lyrics if you must.

Ahhh, Christian worship songs – a topic on which I could pontificate forever, probably owing to my Methodist roots. People should know that Methodists are more obsessed by the words and tunes of hymns/songs than any other denomination or group – they know the names of tunes for hymns as well as at least 3 possible alternatives, not to mention enjoying a cappella hymn singing at their annual conference. [Most talked about Methodist news item of the last 5 years? The new hymn collection. Most responded to national Methodist consultation ever? The new hymn collection.] I’m not going to directly answer the meme because I don’t like to be restricted in my ramblings and it made me think of a few other related tangents…

My first reaction was that there are plenty of recent songs that I dislike intensely, but often this is more due to the music than the lyrics. Take Tim Hughes & Nick Herbert’s Jesus Saves, a rock anthem of a worship song that is beloved by the electric guitar toting members of my church’s worship band (possibly because Nick’s our worship leader). It’s impossible to sing as a woman (we’ve devised a happy compromise with an acceptable harmony on the chorus that’s basically an ‘ahhhh’) and has been described on more than one occasion as a song in which wannabe rock stars can go to town. The lyrics are ok, there’s nothing to get wound up about – it’s really just the music that infuriates me.

Actually, over the last few days I’ve made a list of songs I don’t like and now I come to look at the lyrics I’ve realised that they’re not so bad. Take I Stand Amazed, for example, whose words were actually written in 1905 and then brought back by Chris Tomlin. I’ve loathed this song for ages, but reading the words they actually tell quite a story and bring some old skool hymn style into the 21st century (though I do have issues with a song including the word ‘marvellous’). What I can’t stand is the dirge of a tune that accompanies it – harsh I know, but true.

Thing is, the way people react to music – any kind of music – is deeply personal and you’re never going to please everybody. I just wish modern day worship song writers weren’t so male dominated, then we’d have more songs that women could actually sing comfortably, rather than moving across 3 octaves during the duration of one song. Oh, and one other thing, could worship leaders think a little more carefully about the words they use and the order in which they use them?

Christian teenagers can be strange beings and often have a rather odd sense of humour, finding mirth in things that to a casual observer wouldn’t be amusing in the slightest (or simply an indication of a warped/dirty mind). To be honest, if you’re a child of the manse or vicarage, you’ve got to be able to derive some humour from the world of church – and so we have the tradition of ‘amusing’ moments in worship songs…

When I was a teen, our youth fellowship had a worship slot each week where we could shout out requests – usually in the form of the relevant number from Songs of Fellowship (volume 1, that’s how old I am). Without fail you could expect the following to crop up:
SOF 27 – As the Deer [To be sung: “As the deer PANTS for the water…”]
SOF 73 – Come on and Celebrate [“…sellotape, sellotape, sellotape and string…”]
SOF 370 – Lord, you put a tongue into my mouth [We never actually sang this – in fact I’ve never heard it – but our minister’s son requested it, without fail, every single week and every single week his Dad would turn to the relevant page before he realised what it was.]

By the time we got to more modern songs (i.e. when the worship group discovered Matt Redman) we were then blessed with the chortle-fest that is Heart of Worship. In fact, talking about this with my student small group last week, I simply had to mention ‘inappropriate worship songs’ and the first verse of this song was immediately recited. For the non-Christians, or non-Matt Redman fans amongst you, the song opens with:

“When the music fades, All is stripped away, And I simply come”
Honestly, don’t people realise how teenagers’ minds work??! Or perhaps they truly believe that once in church and engaged in worship, peoples’ minds are on a higher plain and thus such things are no longer amusing. 
But to be honest, I’m grateful for all the hymn/song writers out there. I can’t compose for toffee so am happy that others churn out songs I enjoy singing on a regular basis. Also, just in case this post find its way to Nick (respected worship leader and leader of my cluster), please don’t be offended that I dislike Jesus Saves so much – to balance it out, Keep the Faith is one of my favourites… 

Friday Fun to keep you calm amidst the Christmas chaos

It’s been a rare week of discovering multiple items for today, which means it’s a slighty eclectic assortment and my links between them may be more tenuous than usual, but still, I’m sure there’ll be at least one that will tickle your fancy.

Yesterday I mentioned the cute nativity video shown at Happy Birthday Jesus. ‘Tis, of course, the season of nativities – just last Sunday we had our own featuring a pantomime camel and a classic line of “being a shepherd is soooooo boring!”. As our service was beginning, our sister church in Auckland was finishing up their huge carol service (complete with glowsticks rather than candles, what with it being so hot in the southern hemisphere at this time of year) of which a nativity video was a highlight. Its been doing the rounds on Facebook this week, so you may have seen it, but it deserves to be shared again. It’s gorgeous, not just because of the kids and their awesome accents, but the way it’s shot and how the story is told. You’ll be entranced.

How cute is that kid in the sheep costume? Awwwww! 

HBJ also provides the link to this next gem. Its page on the Greenbelt website featured this photo:

On Wednesday, while noting down all the practical info I needed to get there, I noticed the following sentence: ‘Astounding – and potentially highly inappropriate – image above comes from Awkward Family Pet Photosand thought to myself that it was probably worth a quick look. It really was. Truly bizarre and exceptionally awkward, this is a British procrastinator’s dream. A personal favourite was this one:

Yes, that would’ve been my reaction too. 

Of course, what we need most amidst the chaos that is the week before Christmas, is some calm. Which leads me onto a collection of 14 of the best ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ spoofs
The poster’s become fairly omnipresent in recent years, but how many of you know the story behind it? Yes, it’s a Ministry of Information poster from WW2, but it was never actually used during the war – because it was only intended for when Germany invaded. Two other posters were commissioned at the same time, and were used throughout the war, but this one remained unknown until a chance discovery in 2000. The bookseller concerned framed it and hung it next to the till, where it attracted so much attention that they printed copies, sold them like hot cakes and the rest is history. 
The original trio
I have two favourites amongst the spoofs: 

And finally, some truly immature humour that has no link with any of the above. All of us will probably have suffered at the hand of auto-correct in text messaging at some point. Usually, it’s not too mortifyingly embarrassing – I was pretty amused recently when I received a text in which the dictionary had turned ‘kiss’ into ‘lips’, it felt like quite an appropriate mix up. However, some corrections are just plain wrong and on this website, you can see some fairly immature examples. 

Cultural norms and regional differences

I’m loathe to admit it, but in all probability I am most definitely a softy-southerner. (I used to use six months living in Leeds aged 1 as proof that I had a little bit of northern in me, but it really doesn’t wash.)

As I mentioned yesterday, I made some amazing (well, possibly not so amazing) discoveries while in the north-east at the weekend, the final of which was that women didn’t seem to be able to get tights up there – or at least, I presume they can’t, given as no one was wearing any despite the chilly late September temperature. It’s well known that northern women are far hardier than their southern sisters – shunning tights and coats throughout the cold winter nights.

On Saturday night I stuck out like a sore thumb. Not only was I wearing tights, they were of an obvious, black-opaque variety. I left my coat at home but still had a cardi to protect my arms – I must have looked like a total wuss. Plus, I appeared not to have received the ‘when going out in Durham on a Saturday really push the boat out with your outfit’ memo….

I was distinctly over-dressed in my (smart) shorts over tights and a (low cut) shirt combo – an outfit that in London would be quite acceptable in most contexts. Don’t think of me as a snob – it’s not so much a class thing as a regional difference. My host (Morven, of Greenbelt video ‘fame’) has grown used to the expectations of local society and gently suggested I borrow a pair of her heels and some bling to dress my outfit up a bit. It’s not like I don’t enjoy dressing up – I just hadn’t thought that dinner & drinks in Durham would be such a big deal. Besides, even if I had planned ahead, I’m more inclined towards 1950’s tea-dresses than skin-tight creations, so would still have looked a bit wrong.

What really amused me was how out of place I managed to make myself feel owing to my clothing in two separate contexts, in the space of 12 hours. On Saturday night I clearly appeared to be making a poor effort and was pretty much invisible to local men. On Sunday morning, wearing a similar outfit (well, the shorts & opaque tights combo) to church, I felt distinctly sluttish.

Those that know me will know (surely?!) that I don’t really do sluttish. The odd low-cut top – yes (and purely accidental bra flashing), but outright whore? Not so much. It simply comes down to cultural norms and regional differences:

In the north-east, the cultural norm is to dress up for a night out on the ‘Toon’.
In London, the regional difference is that ‘dressing up’ could (and does) mean a wide variety of things.

At the church I visited on Sunday morning, the cultural norm is to dress in hoodies and jeans and generally not be too bothered with one’s appearance. [Incidentally, that is not intended as a slight on anyone!]
At my church, the regional difference (or cultural norm) is to dress up. There’s a huge amount of pressure to fit in with the creatives and fashionistas.

On Sunday morning I had the most leg showing of any member of the (300 strong) congregation – I kept my coat on. Six hours later and safely ensconced in a pew of my central London church, no one batted an eyelid and I felt slightly overdressed thanks to my jumper.

Why is so important to fit in? To wear the right clothes and in the right contexts? Should it matter as long as we feel comfortable? I felt fine on Saturday night and was reasonably confident on Sunday (getting the legs out – albeit in the safety of black tights – is still a bit of a novelty), but comparing oneself to others, it’s easy to get a complex.

What are the morals of this tale?
1. If you’re up north of a weekend and fancy a couple of drinks, take a very short dress & some heels with you – leaving your tights and jacket at home. [Men, I believe, have different rules – you can wear trousers I hear.]
2. If you’re at church and it’s not your usual trendy evangelical congregation in London, err on the side of demure rather than slut.
3. Most of all, ignore conventions, society and the glances of others and just wear what feels comfortable and makes you happy…

Infantile humour

Yesterday the first person in my circle of school friends got married. Actually, she’s the first in the ‘inner circle’, several in the outer circle are now married (and dropping sprogs) but we’re now only in touch via Facebook. Anyway, it was something of a landmark, especially as this particular friend was always the more unconventional of our quartet. We found her speed at settling down, buying a house and then getting married somewhat ironic!

It was a beautiful day, but got off to a rocky start when Katie and I arrived at the cermony late. We’d been on time, but had got confused by two similar sounding villages in Oxfordshire and pulled into the hotel carpark at 11.57 (it was a midday start). Katie had to do a swift change in the open, to my great amusement as soon as she’d uttered the phrase “it’s quite secluded really” and dropped her trousers, a couple of men walked past looking on with great interest.
We got into the hotel flustered, just in time for the bride to spot us from the stairs and shout “what time do you call this?!” at us. We were still giggling when we reached the room the ceremony was being held in and had to explain ourselves to the friends saving our seats.
The ceremony was lovely, but then we all got a bit childish. [In fact, I think what I’m about to write is the most childish thing I’ve ever blogged about.] As the congregation stood up for the vows, an old lady in the row in front farted.
I probably would have been fine, had I not been aware that Kathryn on my left was about to lose it. I was coping fairly well at keeping my giggles under control, but then saw that Katie was nearly losing it too. The three of us spent the entire solemn moment with massive grins on our faces and heaving shoulders as we tried to control ourselves. We’re hoping that those around us simply put it down to being over-emotional.
It’s all Kathryn’s fault – she can’t take anything seriously! Last week she apparently giggled through a wedding on the discovery that the groom’s middle name was Reginald. As for me, I’m a chronic giggler – even retelling this story during the reception had me in fits. Once I get going I find it very difficult to stop.
Once upon a time, my sister discovered that all she had to do was look me in the eye and say “laugh” and I’d giggle for ages. Some other people seem to be blessed with the talent to set me off in this way, but I do have to be careful not to lose it in completely inappropriate situations…