“Lord,” I cried, when faced with my first speaking invitation, “help me!”
Being perfect—and displaying His sense of humor—the Lord answered my wail with a gift: He granted me the uncanny ability to break things. Computerized things. Electrical things. All sound equipment things.
The day I faced my first audience—an auditorium full of precious, restless elementary-school students—one of the teachers approached me worriedly. “We don’t know what’s wrong. The mike went down and our technician can’t figure it out. And he’s a genius with these things.”
Unwilling to disappoint the kids by sending them back to their classrooms for real schoolwork, I cleared my throat and yelled out answers to all their questions. The result? Minimal jitters, maximum happy kids, relieved teachers, and a hoarse voice for me.
Weeks later, as I was trembling, awaiting my first phone-radio-station interview, I heard the talk-show host cough, then mutter beneath his breath, “Uh-oh.” Switches clicked, a door slammed, and the host—sounding shaken—apologized, “Um, I’m sorry . . . . We’ve never had this happen before: the studio’s sound system went down. Hang on! I’m running to another studio.”
Compassion for my agitated host overwhelmed my sense of nervousness. I was able to laugh, and speak, finishing the taping with ease.
That same year, while sweating through my first two cable-TV shows, a prop fell, a light flickered, and—you guessed it—the studio’s sound system irretrievably failed. The show’s hosts apologized profusely. “Our sound system has never done this before. It’s a disaster!”
The show aired a month later with carefully chosen clips of me smiling (proving that I had truly been in the studio) interspersed with generous compliments from my hosts as they enthusiastically discussed my books. That 'disaster' has become one of my favorite interview memories, and to this day, I count the show’s hosts as friends.
As my disaster list grew, I felt obligated to warn my publisher’s publicist, “I need a big label plastered to my forehead, warning everyone, ‘Breaks things.’”
“You don’t break things,” she insisted, “that’s just part of life.”
A few months later, my publisher’s publicist arranged for me to attend the International Christian Retailer’s Show for a signing. I arrived at my hotel and dutifully proceeded to the convention center, joining a long line of other authors and attendees, to confirm my registration. The line moved briskly until I stepped up to the counter.
“We have no record of you,” the important-person-in-charge said, eying me coolly over the rim of her reading glasses. Behind Important Person, her subordinates manned the computers and hurriedly tapped every conceivable variation of my name into their keyboards.
One of the subordinates gasped and stepped back from her computer. “System’s down.”
I had to call my publicist to gain official admittance to the show.
Sadly, I haven’t fully learned my lesson. I forgot to warn my new publisher of my propensity for creating publishing chaos, and Exiles was delayed when the final manuscript refused to cooperate with the publisher’s systems.
The publisher emailed me. “You would not believe…”
Yes. Yes, I believe.
My dubious gift for disaster remains.
Thank you, Lord!