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I’m kind of a gunslinger.
Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s definitely a metaphor and not based in reality. In fact, I don’t own a gun nor do I have the hubris to think that, despite my aptitude at various video game versions and almost a Ph.D level of study of the masters from any movie franchise you want to mention, that I in any way would have the potential to do anything other than either shoot myself or the very victim I intended to save in some heroic interlude.
No, I’m a gunslinger in the attitude I need to adequately do my job, which for the most part is summed up as preaching and teaching.
Now, before you put this column down in disgust and confusion at what in the world I’m talking about, perhaps I should explain. When I first started out speaking in front of people professionally, I was taught how to craft a manuscript of what I would say, be it a sermon or lecture, which for many years served me well with the exception of two facets. A set script did not take into account anything that had taken place from the moment I typed “Amen” to the moment of presentation. And, secondly, a set script did not account for unforeseen action or reaction from the crowd being addressed.
As you can imagine, both scenarios presented both humorous and embarrassing moments. There was the Easter morning sermon that started out with a whole illustration of the beauty of the sunrise ironically given as a thunderstorm wailed outside. Or the sermon given the day after the Soviet Union was dissolved, which totally ignored one of the largest news events ever! And there were forever, questions or comments from a crowd that demanded an answer, which, when once dealt with, were followed by at best a “Now where was I?” or as was sometimes the case, a prewritten statement that totally contradicted what I had just stated off the cuff!
So at some point, I took the advice of a gunslinger in how to present. And I went to one of my first and favorites: Sundance of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
In the movie (still in my top five of all time) Sundance is asked to show his shooting ability. A coin is thrown on the ground. As he starts to put his gun in his holster, the old man talking to him just pulls his arm up and tells him not to do anything fancy and just aim.
Sundance misses. The old man, unimpressed, starts to move away.
Sundance simply says, “Can I move?” Upon which he starts to spin and move like in an actual gunfight and hits the coin multiple times in midair as the coin is battered about. He then holsters his gun and simply states, “I’m better when I move.”
As it turns out: that’s me — I’m better when I move.
Which brings me to this past week. I have been helping lead a conference on creativity down in Florida. I think this is the seventh time I have helped lead and do a workshop. But this time, I decided to augment my presentation with pictures on a screen in a PowerPoint presentation (OK, to be honest, it’s in the Apple version, which seemed a little easier).
For all my bravado about being creative and a fountain of ideas, I was truly intimidated by the fact that not only would I have to have an outline of what I wanted to say, but it would be, in fact, locked in a certain order in a format that I had never tried before. I had pen and paper outlines for weeks, and ideas of what images I wanted to show. But I was stymied by the thought that I would not be able to move from what I decided on way in advance!
But what finally helped me was the advice from a little green sage who really is a foam rubber Muppet almost 40 years old.
Yoda’s voice called out: “Do or do not, there is no try.”
Or as another sage put it: “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” (Ironically, that one is from Walt Disney and part of our conference was at Walt Disney World!)
For as long as I have had a computer, I have had both PowerPoint and Keynote (the Mac version) available on it. The week before my conference, I opened them up for the first time. As I built what will be my presentation, I got a little better at figuring out how to manipulate the program itself. Under its constraints, I began to learn how to move!
Now, how my presentation goes, or how relevant this column is, are beyond my knowledge, because I am writing this before I even leave for Florida. As I do, there are many things on my mind and in the news. But what I wonder is this.
How many are just as stymied as me because they refuse to even try? They have the power right there in front of them (maybe for years) but think it will constrain them.
But if they just take the advice of the oracle from Dagobah, they just may find out not only that using the power will let them move, but it can let others move also. And isn’t that really the definition of being free?
Pastor Zach Harris has been an ordained minister for 27 years and currently serves Ascension Lutheran Church in Wilson. His column, “Through a Lutheran Lens: A Pastor’s Perspective,” appears weekly in The Wilson Times. Previous columns are available at WilsonTimes.com.