It was a bright and beautiful Sunday morning, and I was driving an equally bright and beautiful, shiny new rental car, heading to a church to give a talk and weave a few songs into the mix.
Just the week before a certificate had come in the mail, officially proclaiming me an ordained minister, licensed to preach. Having been a ministerial outlaw for years, going legit felt good. It was exciting to be less than an hour away from delivering my first legal sermon.
During my years of visiting churches solely as the guest soloist it had slowly been dawning on me that I was ripe for being the guest speaker. I would listen to ministers doing their thing, and find myself fantasizing about what I would say if I were in their shoes, eventually figuring out that I should try my hand at it.
But how to break into this new form of expression when everyone knew me as a singer? Would they accept me as a speaker? Did I need permission from authorities, or should I just…somehow… step in and assume the position?
Of course, I chose the latter.
It happened when I was on the phone with the minister of a Unity Church in Syracuse, as were discussing my upcoming musical visit. He casually mentioned that, regrettably, he would not be in town that Sunday to see me. I, trying to appear just as casual, mentioned that if he didn’t have a guest speaker lined up yet I would be happy to give the talk, and weave together message and music.
Crossing my fingers (a manifestation technique popular in the last millennium), I prayed (hoped) he would not ask for a demo tape of my speaking, of which I had none.
“Yes! That would be great, Scott. It saves me a search for a guest speaker. What would you like your talk to be titled?”
Now, being way out of my comfort zone, I called my first talk Leaving Our Comfort Zones… and figured I would be getting some hands-on-the-job experience on the subject.
That was 1993. Seven years later I was excited to be driving a new-car-clean vehicle towards a Science of Mind church with my brand new ministerial license, feeling comfortable, confident, and experienced as an inspirational speaker.
In addition, I was dressed for success, and my sparkling appearance added to my sense of pride – I looked good, felt good, and all was right in my world. I was hot stuff!
At some point I chanced to glance down to my lap, and noticed a small speck of dirt on my white pants. When I went to brush it off, somehow the small speck morphed into a large dark streak of oil.
As is the custom of spiritually advanced souls such as myself trained in mystical Christianity, I immediately called on Jesus. “Christ Almighty! How am I going to stand up in front of the congregation with my pants like this!?”
My vexation then turned quickly from Jesus to myself, and a voice inside me began a smear campaign of its own. “Scott!! How stupid of you not to be more careful! When will you learn to pay attention and stop being such a klutz! What are you going to do now? You can’t go to church looking like this.”
The critic continued this clothes-minded sermonizing a few more moments before I asked for a kinder and wiser voice to take a turn at the pulpit.
“Scott, let’s take a breath and remember what’s really important here. You’re on the way to church to be an instrument of peace. What do you want to dwell on, the stain on your pants or the love in your heart? They both exist, and you have the freedom to choose where you focus. You’ll be there in ten minutes. Do you want to spend it beating yourself up?”
I took a breath, re-established my priorities, and dropped the self-criticism. Just like that. Without therapy, meditation, affirmations, visualizations, colonics, or psychic open-heart surgery. I just dropped it. I enjoyed the remainder of the drive in peace, reflecting on the ease of my attitudinal adjustment.
Many other times, getting down on myself for what I perceived to be mistakes or shortcomings, I have struggled for hours/days/weeks with the inner critic.
This time it was dropped like a hot potato. What could I learn from the ease of this experience that could have transfer value to some of my more challenging lessons in self-love?
I shifted gears so quickly, I realized, because I knew I was on my way to church, and it was part of my job to be clear, loving, and lighthearted with the congregation. I knew self-judgment would be a heavy that would sabotage my ability to shine at full wattage.
Self-criticism was off-purpose, a luxury (?) I could not afford while preparing for church. The instant I recognized its lack of value it was no longer a factor.
Then came an inquiry that stretched and excited me, and truly disturbed my inner critic – which is always a good thing. “Aren’t I always on my way to church/temple/mosque?
Is there ever a moment or place where the opportunity to express love doesn’t exist? In God’s eyes, is speaking to a congregation any more important or holy than speaking with a gas station attendant or smiling at a clerk when she hands me the change?
Is there ever really a time when it’s useful to attack myself?”
That day at the service I started my talk by mentioning what I went through in the car. Everyone was able to relate to my initially making a big deal about the stain, and was inspired by how I let it go.
I realized the sermon was more effective and far more fun because of what happened in the car and where I went with it, and that in the bigger picture, treating our stains with compassion brings much more happiness than stressing about keeping our pants forever white.
And now, here’s a song I wrote with my friend Stephen Soul-Love in 1988 called Oops. It will help you more deeply and easily digest the message in this post, bringing it from concepts in your mind to a feeling of lightness and release in your heart.
Sometimes I feel like a waiter in an expensive gourmet restaurant. The people at my table order a delicious meal, and they ask what bottle of wine would best go with their food.
I do the same thing with my posts. I ask my inner guidance which song of mine will pair the best for the message. The only.difference is that my gourmet messages and songs are free.
Although, if you ever so pleased with your meal that you want to tip your server, you can do so on Zelle or PayPal. My user name is the same for both, email@example.com.
Today’s wine is a vintage blend of white red and humor, from the from Napa, California, and it is meant to be savored slowly.
Warning: The chorus can be quite addictive, especially with repeated listenings. I think it will be a healthy addiction you will adore, but if you can’t get the song out of your head and you really want to, just replace is with another song. You can download over 100 of my joy songs for free (or donation) at www.scottsongs.com.