Talkin’ Memphis Blues (or Listen, Love, Serve)

Memphis_Tennessee_1850s

Picture from our vacation in Memphis, Tennessee

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger – James 1:19 [ESV]

No one could ever accuse me of being overly romantic.  When Jennie and I went on our honeymoon, we didn’t go to Hawaii.  The Caribbean was not on our radar.  There was never a discussion of a cruise, or even boarding a plane.

We needed a location that fit our financial limitations.

And, trust me, our finances back then were very limited.

Chicago was too expensive.  St. Louis too dangerous.  Indianapolis too close.

We wanted history.  We wanted excitement.

We went to Memphis.

Think about it.  The Lorraine Motel. Sun Records.  Beale Street.  Graceland.

And off to Graceland we went.

Graceland_Memphis_TennesseeBy Joseph Novak – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37834696

What a place!  The Jungle Room.  The basement stairway with the disorienting mirrors on the ceiling.  The famous bank of televisions on the living room wall.  The museum in the back yard filled with Elvis’ sequin-studded stage clothing.

You saw a lot on the Graceland tour.  However, you couldn’t go upstairs in the mansion.  His aunt still lived there.

In that museum of a home.

With dozens of fans and curious folks traipsing through the lower two levels every day.

Later that day, I stopped at a small local record shop.  I struck up a warm, friendly  conversation with the store owner who wondered what on earth brought a couple of Yankees to his little store in Memphis.  He congratulated us on our marriage and asked if we’d seen Graceland.

“Yeah, we were just there this morning,” I responded.

The shop owner laughed.  “That Elvis,” he said, shaking his head.  “He was quite a character.”  He chuckled as we talked about the eccentricities of the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll’s home.

Then, innocently enough, I mentioned, “I think it’s a little odd that his aunt still lives in the house.”

The chuckling stopped.  The store owner’s smile melted and morphed to a disgusted scowl.  Time slowed, seconds passing lie minutes.  Finally, he responded.  “Well,” he growled with a low, slow Southern drawl. “I s’pose that’s just yo’ Suthun waya doin’ things.”

Somehow, I had managed to offend this man simply by stating that it must be strange to live in the upstairs of a busy museum that celebrated your world-famous nephew.  It dawned on me some time later that I wasn’t exactly clear in my words.  All I said was that Elvis’ aunt’s living situation was “odd.”

And, obviously, this Southern gentleman thought I was implying something different from what I intended.  Maybe he thought I was just an obnoxious Yankee oblivious to Southern norms and spouting my views.

Clearly, we had a misunderstanding.  I didn’t communicate my message effectively.  I assumed the listener knew what I was saying.  And he assumed that, being a Yankee, I was making some crack about the South.

I can’t help but wonder how much easier and richer life would be if we would stop and listen – actively listen – to what the other party is saying.  Not be quick to respond but slowly take in what is actually being said.  Communication is much more than words.  It involves body language and context and listening and understanding and hearing.

How many problems would be resolved – indeed, avoided all together – if we had clear, effective communication – listening, observing, understanding, empathizing instead of getting offended or angry or choosing to bicker or fight.

Jesus was an effective communicator but He, too, had people who misunderstood Him and chose to be offended.  They’re known as Pharisees.

My point is simply this: this world needs a whole lot of Love.  We need to learn to love one another.  And we need to learn to listen.

Not react.

Not get offended.

Not be so critical.

Not assume someone with a different point-of-view is always an enemy, or needs to shut up.

If anyone has a right to be offended by the things people say, it’s Jesus.  And, regardless of where we come from or who we’re communicating with, we would all be well served to remember that.

We’re all human.  We’re all flawed.  We all need a Savior.  Let Love lead.  Listen, love and serve.  Regardless of religious affiliation, political view, sexual orientation, biases, culture… we’re all human. 

We’re all flawed. 

We all need a Savior. 

Let Love lead. 

Listen, love and serve. 

Listen.

Love.

Serve.

Selah.

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