Energy comes at a high price for me these days. Not gas prices, which are still pretty low, but my own personal energy output. Seems I still don’t know how to pace myself. The way last week wore me out makes me wonder if one of the possible career options I’ve envisioned for myself going forward is practical to pursue. As much as I loved my experience last week, and as meaningful as it was for me and others, I don’t know if it’s something I can really pursue if it takes this much out of me just to do it once.
What I’m talking about is public speaking. I’ve talked in past posts about my propensity, post-diagnosis, (and post-Lupron) to propose toasts and make speeches. I love doing that. I love coming up with something thoughtful, emotional, and beautiful to say for an occasion; rehearsing it, internalizing it, and delivering it. I’ve done it for friends a few times and in church twice. But each of those was just a few minutes long. Those speeches didn’t wear me out.
Being asked to preach a sermon in church is a whole other ballgame. As you may know from my last post, I was asked to speak at my church last week. My pastor messaged me to ask on Monday, the same day I found out I have osteoporosis. Not that the two are related in any way. I was excited to have the opportunity, and said yes right away.
To be honest, I’d been bugging our pastor to let me share my story for a while now. But I was thinking about simply talking, more or less off the cuff, about what God has been doing in my life as a result of my cancer. But our pastor is in the middle of a sermon series, and I wanted to fit what I said into it. What I had to share did go right along with his series, so it seemed like a perfect fit.
So on Tuesday, I sat down to write it all out. It took me about three hours. It came out like a really long blog post. I know, all of my posts are long, but this one is longer than most. When I read through it aloud, it ran about twenty minutes. Perfect. Now all I had to do was memorize it.
I’ve given other talks and lessons where I simply wrote an outline, and practiced from there. But that was before I considered myself a writer. Now, I want to compose something beautiful and deliver it. Much easier when it’s a five minute house blessing than when it’s a twenty minute sermon.
Maybe I approached it wrong. Once I started writing, the Bible teacher in me took over, and I had way too much information up front before I got to the personal stuff. I think my personal story was all my pastor really wanted, as long as I tied it in with his theme a little. But I couldn’t help myself.
The last thing I wanted to do was get up there and read what I’d written. So I had to memorize it, as much as I could. The only way I know to memorize is through practice and repetition. So that’s what I did the rest of the week. Practice.
For the first couple of days, I sat in front of my computer and read it aloud, making little changes as I went. When I thought it was pretty close to its final version, I emailed it to my pastor, and we met on Thursday to discuss the service on Sunday. My sermon was still timing out at about 21 minutes, so we were in good shape. He liked what I’d sent him, which encouraged me.
Thursday and Friday were more intensive practice days. As I began cutting down the text on the page to just notes, I found that I kept adding things to the sermon. Side comments and personal stories. Not to mention more Bible geekery. My sermon was starting to inflate, and I was really starting to fall in love with it.
Thursday and Friday, I thought I should start practicing standing up, the way I’d be speaking on Sunday. I rehearsed standing all day Thursday and Friday, and occasionally sat to practice a song I needed to have prepared for rehearsal with the kids on Saturday. Both nights, I took my sermon to bed and practiced some more before I went to sleep. After two days of that, my energy level wasn’t what it needed to be for Saturday’s rehearsal. But I made it through most of the day pretty well. I practiced in bed again that night, after having rehearsed with the kids all day.
It was while practicing in bed Saturday night that I realized my talk might have grown a little too long. I hadn’t actually timed it out for a couple of days, so I wasn’t sure. So I went through it and timed it on Sunday morning. Thirty minutes. Oops. Gotta cut some stuff out.
I cut a whole bunch out, mostly Bible lesson stuff and keeping the personal story intact. I hoped that would get me back to 25 minutes at the most. But I was out of time for practice. The show must go on.
Once the service started, I was able to just turn the whole thing over to God. During the music time, I worshiped. Didn’t worry about the sermon at all. I had done all I could do to prepare.
The sermon itself went very well. I stumbled in a couple of places, and forgot one key line, but overall, I felt like God helped me do as well as I could do, and the people who were there responded to it. The service ran long, and I’m sure that’s my fault. When the video is posted, I’ll know for sure how long I went. But nobody seemed to mind. They were all with me, from start to finish.
It was a small crowd, being a holiday weekend. One three day weekends, people head up to the mountains here. Small groups make me more nervous than large ones, but I wasn’t nervous.
Afterwards, people were very kind and complimentary. One guy said it was the best sermon he’s ever heard. I was flattered, but I really hope that’s not true. I’ve heard many sermons better than that one in my life.
As meaningful as it was for me, and hopefully for those who heard it, I have to say that I had no idea preaching was this much work. As I said in a Facebook post this week, is this what preachers do? Spend their whole week writing, rewriting, and practicing their sermons? I know there are gifted speakers who speak extemporaneously, without notes. I can do that up to a point, but not for twenty minutes or more. How do they do it, Sunday after Sunday, and have anything else in their lives? And I thought leading worship was tiring! Preaching is much harder.
I have a pastor friend who continued to preach and do the duties of a pastor while undergoing chemo for colon cancer. He must be Superman.
I’ve had visions of being a public speaker; speaking in churches, at men’s events, and for cancer related causes. I know I’m good at it. But do I have the energy to do it? The price may be too high. Maybe I can come up with a standard speech that I do in each location, with a few variations. That would be much easier than what I did last week, trying to write a sermon out of whole cloth for the first time while fitting into a sermon series. If every speech requires a week of preparation and energy output, that may not be in the cards for me.
Today is a recovery day, which was to be expected after last week. We expected to see a friend today, but that got cancelled. It’s probably just as well, but I had a bad hour or two, emotionally, when I found out it wasn’t happening. I miss my friend a lot. But I need the rest.
This will probably be my last blog post for a couple of weeks. We’re getting ready to go on a trip that some wonderful friends have blessed us with. I probably won’t have another chance to write until early in March. I don’t know if I can survive that long without writing. I don’t have a working laptop anymore. I’d try to do it on my phone again, but it’s impossible to write to a Google blog from an iOS device. Apple and Google are still at war, apparently. Could these two tech giants that so many of us depend on please put their big boy pants on and start getting along, please? OK, end of editorial.
The video of the sermon will be up on my YouTube channel soon. I’ll share it here when it is. In the meantime, since I originally wrote it like a blog post, I turned the text into a page on this blog. It’s titled, “The End Of Myself.” If the “Christiany” stuff in this blog puts you off, that page is probably not for you. But it’s the most complete account, all in one place, of the spiritual journey I’ve been on. I hope you’ll take the time to read it, or watch the video, or both. Like all my posts, it’s straight from my heart. But you may prefer to put a face and a voice with the words you’ve been reading. If so, watch the video when it’s available.
I loved doing what I did last week. In spite of everything I just said, if my pastor asks again, I’ll say yes. Or if anybody else does. That’s part of the reason I want the video on my YouTube channel. I hope people will see it and want me to speak for their group. I just hope that if those opportunities come my way, the price of energy isn’t too high. #waroncancer