'Ou est le beurre, si'l vous plait?'...... I was impressed with myself, I could tell by their reaction that even my children were impressed and the smile from the french waitress (albeit with a slightly raised eyebrow) told me that she also was duly impressed. I stood there like the cat that got the cream basking in my linguistic glory!
'Car il est sur la table sur le cote extreme gauche' she replied.............suddenly the smile dropped from my face..............just as I could see it increasing on hers. I heard the word 'table' and looked around to find about 25 tables, one of which held the butter. I knew this of course, which I why I asked the question in the first place! At this point, the waitress had landed a big blow and appeared to be enjoying this tete a tete. Undeterred I got off the canvas and said 'je ne comprehends pas' hoping that she would somehow save my dignity in front of my now bemused children but no, she was having none of it. 'Car il est sur la table sur le cote extreme gauche'. It was a knockout punch and she knew it. 'Que' I said, hoping not to sound too much like Manuel from Fawlty Towers but expecting a slap nonetheless! With a polite sigh, she pointed behind me and said in her extremely good english.......'you will find the butter on the far left table sir'
I had been caught out by what I suspect many English are guilty of when abroad - limited vocabulary! It is all very well me asking a question in French but for crying out loud, use your extra sensory powers to work out that I won't have a clue what the answer will be so just tell me in English! I have good friends who can speak the langauge and at this point, my regret at not sitting down with Mr H (who happens to speak about 15 different languages) to work on French answers rather than questions was very evident.
The reason for my brief foray into gallic was our much anticipated holiday to Disneyland Paris. I had some idea of what to expect before going. Mickey Mouse would be there and Donald Duck also and maybe Goofy.We would also go on some rides. Beyond that I waited to be surprised. Sometimes holidays that are long in the planning can have unrealistic expectations and as a result, I've found as I've got older that the most enjoyable part of a holiday is the looking forward to it! However, this holiday proved to be as enjoyable as it was anticipated. The children had a great time and enjoyed almost all the park had to offer. There were a couple of rides where the 'dark, deep and cautious one' having carried out his own risk assessment decided that 'I will not be doing this ride Dad but if you want to go on that's fine!' Any concerns we had about queueing for 2 hours were unfounded and this meant that getting to go on the Buzz Lightyear shooting gallery 15 times over 3 days was great fun. I'm not competitive as you know so it was great to see the boy get 50300 points and Mrs F get 86000 points. Well done to both of them even though I got 129000!!
Suffering as I do from motion sickness - I get car sick playing on the Wii - I was careful to opt for rides that wouldn't cause me that feeling of nausea. In a moment of madness however, I decided to go with Biff on the Runaway Mine Train. Whether it was bravado for the sake of my daughter, I'm not entirely sure but it wasn't so much nausea as sheer terror especially when the driverless train plunged into darkness through a series of twists turns and drops that left me clinging onto a 7 year old !
But perhaps the most poignant part came in a surprising way. The Meet Mickey dinner experience had be booked in advance and I was somewhat ambivalent about it, hoping that in amongst the hype I would get to eat something being, as I was, scranny. Sure enough out came the characters. First Goofy, who appeared to have consumed a few high energy drinks but nevertheless wooed children on every table with his crazy ears and quirky moves. He (is it a he??) was more than happy to have photographs taken with the children and even sign autographs on serviettes (we hadn't got anything else to write on) before moving on to the next table. Next came Mickey and then Pluto and best of all - for me anyway - Eyeore. I was beginning to love this as much as the kids and insisted on Mrs F getting me in shot with the loveable donkey! There were smiles and laughter everywhere but what fascinated me most was the lack of words in these interactions. Mickey, Pluto and Eyeore didn't say anything - they didn't need to. They were recognisable to these children for who they were........ suddenly pictures in a book coming to life in front of them. The actions of these characters speaking so much louder than any words.
Recently I've been thinking about words and actions in my own life and how that impacts other people. The conclusion that I've reached is that the value of what I say is directly proportional to how I act and live out my life. Is the way I live my life as a husband, daddy, friend, neighbour, community worker attractive enough for people to want to have a meaningful conversation with me....or am I seen as being a hypocrite? Ultimately, does my life reflect Jesus? His actions drew people to Him like a magnet. He smashed through convention and reached out to people on the very edges of society which ticked off the religious leaders no end. People saw Him and wanted then to listen to what He had to say.
In 2014, to make christianity attractive is to make Jesus attractive. For me, being a christian is less about religion and more about a journey with Jesus. I'm making plenty mistakes along the way but I'm learning from Him all the time and His language of love, compassion, justice, mercy, healing, forgiveness, hope is not lost in translation. After all, He's been there and done that...... which is a good enough reason for starting the journey.