When I was in church ministry, I remember those lessons I would deliver that were about as tasty and digestible as a lead biscuit. You know the ones … they are full of ingredients so dry and dense that they land with a thud in the pit of everyone’s stomach!
Where do we, as spiritual leaders, get the ingredients for a truly light-filled angel cake message? Where do we get our inspiration? While I know everything comes from the One Spirit, I also know there have been times when Spirit couldn’t penetrate my over-taxed mind, no matter how badly I wanted insights and inspirations to be directly downloaded.
Over my years as a minister, my approach to Sunday morning speaking changed dramatically. I started out in school fully scripting my talks and memorizing them to the point I could deliver them note-free, and thus I hoped I appeared relaxed and spontaneous. Once I got into real ministry, there was little time for such intense weekly preparation, so I learned to simply create an outline on paper. I rehearsed from the outline and could see it in my mind as I delivered the talk.
But a strange thing evolved in the years that followed. I got to the point I couldn’t do an outline. It was too cumbersome, too confining. My mind was virtually paralyzed with the thought of outlining a talk. It seemed the more I put my thoughts on paper, the more I was tied to the paper itself. The paper, not present moment connection, was my source when I spoke on Sunday morning, and it was holding me back. So what was once my safety net had morphed into my albatross.
One day, as I struggled to prepare my talk in this “bona fide” way, it occurred to me I didn’t have a script when I counseled with someone. I didn’t teach classes from a word-for-word script. I didn’t share meaningful conversations with friends via script. I knew what I wanted to say, and I said it. At least 99.9% of the time, all of us speak without a script.
And so my whole approach to speaking changed. Instead of asking myself “What can I talk about this Sunday?” I began asking, “What do I feel I want to say? And more to the point, what does Spirit want to say through me?”
Suddenly, preparation went from a process of looking for something to one of listening for something … and I always knew when an idea from Spirit landed. It might have been a word, a partial thought, a question, but there was a quality of inspiration for me; a desire on my part to research, meditate and discover what the idea might have within it. That seed of inspiration was a mystery unfolding that helped me grow. And as I grew, others grew. As I became inspired and alive with my message, others were as well. It was a shared experience.
Today, my process starts with setting my intention to receive the core idea, and that intention has never failed to bear fruit. I might overhear a comment in a restaurant, or read a quote in a book, or recall a line from a Leonard Cohen song … inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere when I set my intention to capture it.
And then I ruminate on it, chew on it, use my favorite books as references, and Google search key words. The night before I speak, I sequester myself with an old fashioned ink pen and a yellow legal pad of paper—archaic, I know—and I do what I call a brain dump. I simply write out my stream of consciousness around my topic. I may loosely organize it if it feels right, but I don’t force that. I simply dump my thoughts on paper as they come. And then I get a good night’s sleep.
Around 4:00 a.m., I wake up, light my candles, grab my coffee and begin my meditation. I do not read my notes from the night before, nor do I focus on my talk. I listen and allow my mind to go wherever it needs to go. Eventually, usually about 45 minutes into my process, I begin hearing the true talk in my head. It flows effortlessly, and it may or may not contain elements of the brain dump from the night before. At some point, I turn on the light, jot down key ideas, read over my notes, and determine if there is a relevant thought or quote or story that supports the river I’ve just been experiencing. I zero in on three key points … I sit quietly and commit myself to what has been created … and I’m done.
I’ve heard Rev Pat Williamson say, “The talk is never done. It just comes time to give it.” This is also true, because the talk lives in the speaker. I know if there isn’t a dynamic energy swirling in my solar plexus as I stand to speak, the risk of delivering a lead biscuit looms large. My surrendering affirmation for years in the final seconds before I speak is, “OK, God. Whatever comes out of my mouth from this point on is your business.”
I’ve shared my process with you and I’d like to also share some of my favorite resources for interesting ideas, stories and stimulating facts.
- FUTUREdition, an e-newsletter sponsored by John Peterson, founder of The Arlington Institute which is a think tank in the Washington D.C. area. Rev Marilyn Muehlbach shared this resource with me when she and I served on our Future Trends ministry team many moons ago.
- Daily Reflections – An excerpt from the teachings of the late Dr David Hawkins is sent to my email every day featuring a key idea with expanded context. One must request to be a part of this group and be accepted in order to receive the email.
- Webster’s Dictionary – Do not under estimate this resource! We think we know what we mean when we use a simple, everyday word, but it helps everyone to be on the same page to actually know the true meaning. And, since there may be several interpretations, it helps to give people the meaning you want them to use. I have also found Webster to offer insightful alternative definitions that have inspired an entire talk!
- Daily Word
- Unity Leaders Journal
- Popular music
- Fairy tales
- Current events
- Kids and other amazing people
- Life in general
The bottom line is for me to be alive and interested in my message, to connect with Spirit for the maturing of my message, and then connect with people from my heart to create a shared experience. The rest is a piece of cake.