what would happen if we let our lives preach louder than our lips?
These long walks in the countryside, with a paper in my hand, always catch me with my guard down.
I’m far enough away from the the house, the iPhone, the laundry, the messy calendar. It’s just me, this paper, a long empty road … and Jesus.
My heart thumps a little harder inside my chest, and maybe it’s because I’m moving faster than usual, but maybe it’s because something’s moving inside of me. It feels like conviction.
You see, for the last year, this is how I’ve begun to prepare for keynote addresses and workshops that I deliver at conferences. I used to be a full manuscripter, but two speaking mentors convinced me that I didn’t need to read from a manuscript anymore. The talk wasn’t in the manuscript, they told me, it was in me. So they dared me to internalize the message and try preaching from a short outline. They basically dared me to trust that the Holy Spirit would show up.
In order for this to happen, I’ve had to put a fair amount of distance between me and the home where my manuscript sits. So in the week before I deliver a talk, I take a short outline and walk out the door every day. My route generally takes me between cornfields, along gravel roads dominated by cap-wearing farmers in pickup trucks.
I call it “walking my talk” because when I take my talk for a long walk, it settles itself down into my heart.
It’s been a powerful experience, but not primarily because “walking my talk” has given me the God-fidence I need to step boldly onto a stage.
It’s been a powerful experience, mostly because of the heart-thumping conviction I feel every time I walk between the cornfields.
Here’s why: As much as I want to deliver a talk that moves people closer to Jesus, I want my walk to match my talk. I want to be what I say I believe.
I want to truly walk the talk.
I have a lot of non-Christian friends, and while they find the teachings of Jesus to be thought-provoking and inspiring, they say they are put off by His followers. They say they see hypocrisy. They say they see walks that aren’t harmonious with talks.
I am happy to say that I know countless Christians whose walks match their talks. I could point my non-Christian friends to brothers and sisters in Christ who are living out their faith as missionaries, foster parents, faithful prayer warriors, Bible study leaders, generous givers, and more.
But I also want them to see Jesus in me. God forbid that I should walk in a way that doesn’t match the words I preach from a platform.
I want my life to preach louder than my lips. Because it’s not the talk — but the walk — that matters most.
Christians — our walk is what matters most. Nothing we say will matter if people can’t see His love alive in us. Nothing we say will matter if people primarily see us as ones who demand our own way, grant entry only to the “insiders,” turn our backs on the underprivileged, put ourselves first, and point out sin in others but refuse to see it in ourselves.
As I walked through the cornfields the other day, one verse rang like a bell through my soul because it was the theme verse of the conference where I spoke.
“Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6).
We want to walk the way Jesus walked, don’t we? We want to model our lives after His. We want to love how He loved, serve how He served, pray how He prayed … and walk where He leads.
This means that we will have to do hard things: love our enemies, carry a cross, forgive when it’s hard, stand up for the underdog, follow His commandments, stop all this proving, sacrifice until it hurts, rest when we want to run, worship when we’re prone to worry, take our sin seriously, and love our neighbors the way we love ourselves.
Imagine a world where our beliefs weren’t just something that happened in our heads and hearts — but became something powerful we did with our hands and feet.
Let’s start walking.
Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there!
Our featured writer this week is Katie Reid. I had the pleasure of spending a little bit of time with Katie at the She Speaks conference in July. Her reflections on the conference are sure to inspire you (even if you weren’t able to attend!). Find Katie here.
To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. xo Jennifer
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Yesterday, I spoke at a funeral. I pulled up in the parking lot and realized I had forgotten my notes. I called my bestie and she retrieved them for me. I skimmed them one last time as “Bridge over Troubled Water” played through the speakers, but after reading this post, it makes me wonder what I would have said if they hadn’t made it in time? And your words are also making me consider how I need to internalize more of what I write. I need to make sure my words on the page walk out into the world in my life. How beautiful to have had the privilege of reading the story of God in your life as you write and walk it out before us. Thank you, my friend. Truly, you inspire.
I’m so new to giving a talk without a manuscript in front of me, and it’s causing me to rely on Jesus more than ever before. And this method — walking my talk out on these country roads — has caused me to more thoroughly consider how my walk must harmonize with my talk. Thanks for sharing, friend. I am certain that God spoke powerfully through you.
Oh, yes! We CAN trust that the Holy Spirit will show up! (Remind me of that, Lord, when I’m faced with challenge.) We can access God-fidence (LOVE this new word you invented, Jennifer!) because greater is He within us than he who is in the world (the one who stirs up nerves, feelings of inadequacy, fear). And we can walk the talk, especially arm-in-arm with each other. Thank you for your encouragement today to allow our God to do powerful things through our hands and feet, as we choose the hard things.
Jennifer, such an encouraging post, and it reminds me of a version of what you are saying told to me by my speaking mentor, Florence Littauer (also a prolific author). She said, “Lynn, how you approach people on the platform should match how you connect with people offstage.” In other words, we should be integritous. Florence never used a note, but she trained us (who were not gifted at extemporaneous speaking as she), to use a bullet-point outline. If you have talking points, especially true stories, all you really need to do is share them from the heart as you would to a friend; but the outline reminds you to include them. Also, if you’re not married to a script, if the Holy Spirit should redirect your talk, you will have the freedom to follow His lead without your head buried in your notes. Another thing Florence asked us is “What do you have to say? Does anyone need to hear it?” Those are excellent questions for both the writer and the speaker to ask herself. We may have tons to say, but if it is not of interest or use to others, it may not be the best thing to share publicly. Before the days of the computer (yes, I’m dating myself!), I had to write notes on index cards (and way too many notes because I wrote complete sentences). My secretary told me that I read them like braille, because she rarely saw me look down, but I definitely needed those cards. I will never forget an important speech I gave to a large veterans organization, and the first thing I did when I stepped onto the stage in front of 300 + people was to drop all those cards. Talk about 52-card pick up! What a mess! I had no recourse but to unceremoniously pick them up and forget the reshuffling. It was baptism by pick-up, and after apologizing, I simply gushed from the heart about all the wonderful work that the USO was doing. I let go all those statistics and history that were peppered throughout the talk, and instead focused on how our agency was really changing lives. The difference was amazing. The audience loved that speech. That’s not to say that I still don’t have some kind of computerized bullet-points or direct quotations printed in front of me, but I practice and practice (like you w/ your walking), so that I rarely look at them. But bottom-line, Jennifer, and this is what you are emphasizing most, is the importance of a speaker who walks her talk, who puts her actions where her words are. If we don’t practice what we preach, it won’t matter how much we practice, and certainly women will close their ears to what we preach. All the best on how God is using you to reach women for Him (which is considerable)!
I’m taking your words as a healthy challenge today….to go the next step and to trust the Holy Spirit. i’m sure it’s so much more effective to be able to connect with the eyes and hearts you’re speaking to rather than be tied to notes and a podium. Love this, Jennifer. Thank you for encouragement to push out of the comfort zone.
Such great insight and truth! I’m a manuscripter if I’m speaking to a group – but I do like this exercise of walking and talking and allowing Holy Spirit to have the louder voice! I’ll be linking up tomorrow.
I will say this, Susan — some of the most POWERFUL speakers I know use manuscripts! I used them for three years, but felt God calling me to step out in faith in a new way.
I love this for so many reasons. I want people to know I’m a Christian by the way I walk–my actions, my kindness, my inclusivity, my reaching out to DO for others.
I just have to say this…and I mean it sincerely. Your “talk” that I heard at She Speaks was not a “talk”, it was me seeing Jennifer Lee walk her distinct walk with Jesus and you let me listen in on the way. You spoke beautifully from the heart and your sincerity and passion for the Lord and helping others shone through brilliantly. I have to say it was my favorite break out session and you could have easily stepped onto a keynote speaker stage. You definitely walk the walk and your words were right in step!! Well done and beautifully presented. As a little blogger, I was so encouraged and inspired!
Blessings and so good to hug you in person 🙂
I am a manuscript preacher. Something about having my manuscript is a security blanket for me. I might have to try and not preach so much word for word.
Jennifer, again, your talk was so very inspiring and encouraging and pointed us all right back to Jesus. Nothing could be better than that. I so enjoyed walking along with you that hour at She Speaks. It felt like you took my hand and said, “Yes, you can!!!” Thank you!
Thanks for sharing this, Jennifer. Since our 20 yr pastor retired, I find myself before several hundred on occasional Sundays to share the message. I’ve taught classes for years. I’ve got lots of material and some good truths I’ve learned and conquered. But I’m finding God says no to all those messages. Instead, He wants me to speak from exactly where I am in this hard season, even if that makes me vulnerable. And oftentimes, that means He doesn’t offer His word to me so that I have plenty of time to smooth and polish. He doesn’t want my smooth polish; He wants my heart and there’s no way to script that. So I stand up on those Sundays, weak-kneed and often broken inside to speak hope to people from all walks of life with a few short notes. And you know what? God always seems to still my shaking knees and calm my heart and I’m usually in shock what comes out because God….only God.
This post has my heart pumping faster, too, Jennifer, and I’m sitting quietly in a chair. I want to make that connection between faith and life so that the reality of God’s offering of grace looks valuable and meaningful. Right now, I’m trusting for connections with the unsaved and a way to earn the right to share life with them.
Yes and I am guilty of this too. Daily taking my mess ups to Him, praying for mercy when I fall short and trusting him to help fill in the gaps when this does happen, is hard for me. I battled with, and still do at times, with guilt. If I had my way, I’d hide indoors so as not to mess up anyone out there but then I know he doesn’t want that. I have to remind myself God used imperfect disciples and they learned side by side how to love. It is in the trenches I think it is worked out of us and into others, and yes – more so the action than the words. I love the idea of walking out the talk (message) he has put within you. It has been great to see how God is using you. It inspires me (us I am sure) to realize we don’t have to settle for mediocre (not that I am judging), but that we can push on to do his kingdom work, beyond what we may think we are qualified for. This post reminds me what I experienced this summer being the director of VBS for the first time. I had a note card outline but it was definitely God leading the way because I am not a naturally gifted speaker – yet it came out clear and the kids were engaged. I will end with this: I now know if God calls you to it he will see you through it. And I know there’s a verse that says not worry about what to say; that he will give one the words when needed. Keep up the good work, Jennifer and thank you for your humble heart of reminding us along with yourself, that we need to look inward at changing rather than assuming it is everyone else who needs to clean up their act. (ouch!)
I loved reading this. Oh yes to letting our walk preach louder than our talk. I needed to hear this because I’m in a hard place of needing to love someone with a bit of tough love this week. 🙂
About once everyone month, I speak at our tiny MiddleEast church, but I try to prepare the same as if it were for 3,000 rather than for 30. I’ve also been trying to get away from my manuscript by making a one page, handwritten graphic organizer type outline with very few words. It’s given me so much more freedom. Great idea to take that talk for a walk! (Although I don’t know what the people in the park would think.)
What a beautiful conviction for all of us. I love the challenge you were given to allow the Holy Spirit to show up. It’s so easy to try to wrangle control away from the Holy Spirit, but oh, how much we miss when we do!
You challenge to walk the talk is important for all of us, but I so greatly admire the courage you have and the example you’ve set in your own walk!
Hi Jennifer! Thanks for so inspiring and truly valuable message. It’s so important that the message we share reflects our life. I loved reading your post. Thanks for the link up too. Many blessings to you!
Really appreciate your points! Sometimes we go to one extreme or the other – not speaking and only trying to live it or speaking it and not trying to live it. I appreciate your reminder to live out what we say!! Also reminded me of James 1 – Be doers of the Word and not hearers only!!
Jennifer, a friend and I were talking at lunch today about the “Jesus People” in our lives. You have always been one of those Jesus people for me since I began blogging over 5 years ago. It has been an inspiration and encouragement to see the way you make Him look good every time, lifting up His name above your own. This post is just an ‘amen!’ to that life walk. Thank you.
Wow, I missed your post this week. I was taking a technology break. Believe it or not I was walking with God too. It was amazing. I love your post.
Just letting you know I nominated you todayfor the Blogger Recognition Award over at http://www.embracingtheunexpected.com/blogger-recognition-award/
Please do not feel obligated to do a thing. You are one of my favorite writers, and I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to let others know about your website.