Talking it Out by Writing

What do you wish you could do more every day?

This might sound silly, but I’d like to be able to talk more. Except I hate the phone. And video calls. Just text me when you’re outside.

I feel this way because I’m often left to my own devices as if I live alone, but I don’t. I have five housemates, but I rarely talk to them because “I’m busy.” It’s not that they’re bad people. I’m just that introverted. I’m close enough to them that I could go to them if I needed something and they can come to me, but it’s not girl talk and pillow fights around here. We’re old. Please leave by nine.

But the pendulum has moved too far to the introverted extreme and I’m trying to break out of it. Talking to this audience has helped, because I get to relate to everyone in a different way. I have a lot in common with people like Oprah, because she’s as introverted as they come unless the stage lights are on. That’s me to a T, it’s just that my platform is both bigger and smaller now. As Oprah has told me over and over in my head, “you have a platform. Use it.” What she said was better, but you’ll have to look it up. It’s in the last “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” where it’s just her, the audience, and a camera.

My stage presence is easy because I can talk to one person or a thousand, and have trouble with two or three at the same time. I promise that if you look up “stage presence,” preacher’s kid is in there somewhere. No one saw the real me for years after PK was no longer applicable. It’s not because anyone didn’t want to see me. I didn’t want to be seen. I have gone to great lengths to protect my writing time and my solitude, but “everything in moderation, including moderation.”

I don’t think my introversion is due to lack of confidence in myself, although that’s part of it. I cover up large insecurities with a lot of laughter and outlandish language to throw people off the real story. People are drawn toward me because they *only* know me in show mode, which I call Leslie Lanagan, trademark. I highly doubt that many people like leslie, because so few people have ever met her.

If people take the time to get to know me, then I’ll drop the funny. If you manage to make it past that, I’ll tell you some of my stories that really aren’t hilarious. Not all of them, still have to keep a bit of mystery. I have decided that I do not need to be a fortress, however. That it’s okay to open my heart a little bigger, and okay to walk away when the relationship reaches its natural conclusion. Sometimes, it’s because one or both of us isn’t getting what we need. Sometimes it’s death. Sometimes it’s because people in the inner circle disappear and reappear years later, like The War Daniel. Relationships begin and end with no rhyme or reason if we’re looking at all relationships, not just the one you have with your partner. People come and go, let them.

That being said, it’s also okay to walk away when your needs aren’t being met and your concerns fall on deaf ears. No one is trying to hear there’s a problem, even when it’s necessary to work them through. It’s not comfortable to say “we have a problem.” If it was, relationships wouldn’t end. All I’m saying is that I need my armor to come down so that I can be uncomfortable. Sit in it. Memorize why. Because if the problem is serious enough, you need to work out whether you can survive the storm…. And not wanting to wade in the water is a valid answer. What’s that thing Jesus does? Wipe the dirt of his shoulder?

Oh, wait. I think that’s Jay-Z.

With Jesus, it was the sandals. If someone doesn’t agree with you, don’t spend time arguing. Just let them be them and walk away. It’s not an excuse to be a dick to everyone. It’s that your life has a direction, and only you know it. You ask people to come with you, and keep the ones who do. My direction is always self-reflection, but it’s not because I’m all that and a bag of chips. I just understand more about people in general when I look at what I’m doing, especially since I have experience speaking to and connecting with large groups of people at once. Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten has come from people reflecting on my own writing/preaching, because constructive criticism is always welcome. I did not love it when someone told me my skirt was too short for a woman preacher.

Get bent. Seriously? I spent this monstrous amount of work time on just this one thing alone and all you noticed was my skirt?

But that’s what you say in your head. Outwardly, it’s “thank you for coming.”

And it’s not because I’m less Christ-like. It’s that if you want me to treat you with respect, don’t start the conversation with something irrelevant and mean-spirited. It’s really hard to earn my disrespect, but that’ll do it. Jesus would have shit a brick if people focused on his clothes instead of his message. Why should I be cool with it?

Especially since no one would have noticed Jesus’s clothes because he’s male, so there’s that.

I am a normal human with all the flaws and failures therein. Therefore, I am allowed the same range of emotions as the people who come to hear me. Of course it doesn’t sound Christlike to say “get bent,” but it’s not any better if the preacher is female and you act like a mean girl.

For the record, I was wearing a red suit. My skirt was maybe an inch and a half above my knee. I was also wearing heels, so you know that went well for me, too. Eyeroll.

In Portland, I preached in jeans, a t-shirt, and a sweater or a fleece. When I could move better, I could think faster. Making connections off the cuff became easier because I could think faster than I could talk. So while the words are streaming past, you’re only seeing about a tenth of my flow.

Or is that Jay-Z?

Flow for rappers and flow for preachers is very much the same, especially in a rap battle where you’re trying to come up with spontaneous verse. It’s tying scripture to current events, all kinds of media, etc.

Here’s the two best pieces of speaking advice I’ve ever gotten, one for preaching, one for speaking in general.

  • Every good sermon starts in New York and ends in Jerusalem, or starts in Jerusalem and ends in New York.
  • When you run out of things to say, stop talking.

To clarify, start with current events and end in scripture, or start with scripture and end in current events. Make the text come alive. The Bible is a living document, changing as new forms of criticism emerge. Feminist theology. Liberation theology. Queer theology.

Queer. Theology. I never thought I’d see those two words together in my lifetime. I was just making it up as I went along.

“Stop talking” means “take all the filler out,” or as my grandfather says, “write it tight.” If it cuts your sermon down, fine. People will remember a five minute sermon with two or three great lines far easier than they’ll remember a complete mess of a half hour. Bet. Don’t just preach for a half hour because you think that’s what’s expected of you. If you’re a really bad speaker, it then becomes a hostage situation.

If you’re actually interested in theology, I have a sermons page where you can look at some of the ones for which I have a manuscript. There are several times that I’ve wished that I’d written a manuscript because people asked me for a copy, and it was completely off the cuff. There is one sermon in particular that went over extraordinarily well and now there’s no evidence it ever happened. And, of course, I would rather kick myself that I didn’t think about whether I’d want to save anything for later instead of the joy of someone asking for a copy because it actually meant something to them.

Maybe I should have talked to someone.


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