I was using that group setting as a place to make people laugh. I thought they needed that. I certainly did! I was devastated. I needed that group. I told myself that I would never speak in front of a group again. I gave up all hope of becoming a public speaker. But I was on the schedule to give a 5-minute sharing talk in my Sunday school class the following Sunday. I called the class leader a week ahead of time and told him I couldn’t do it. That night I was sharing, with two girls, the story I had been going to tell. They said, “Wes, you have got to tell this story to the class. We need to hear it.” And they kept encouraging me to believe I could do it. But I refused. I told them the only way I would do that is for them to tell the class leader to just call on me and force me to get up there because I would not do it under my own initiative.
That’s basically what happened. He called on me, told the class that I had a story to tell, and forced me to get up there. I had no notes. I didn’t even bring a copy of the story I had written. I didn’t think anyone would force me to get up in front of the class. After I told the story, with feeling and conviction, a class leader told me, “Wes, you’re a natural.” All that was from God. And those two girls worked for Him too.
So began my public speaking life. I was immediately able to give a talk with fervor and feeling and conviction without using notes. God just handed that to me as a gift, not that I deserved one. A few days later a friend invited me to visit his Toastmaster Club. I plunged full force into public speaking and began developing the gift. I have won lots of awards for my speaking and won several speaking contests.
Then God lead me to start memorizing long documents. I had no idea I could do that. I was just feeling bad one day, severely depressed; and I wanted to do something that most people thought was impossible to snap me out of it. So I memorized The Declaration of Independence. It’s a long story, but that too was from God. I hated history. That was my worst subject in high school. Why would I want to memorize a historical document that no one would want to listen to anyway?
In July of 1996 I began giving presentations of the Declaration at Independence Day celebrations. I got standing ovations for that. At Christmas time that year, I put together “The Origin of The Night Before Christmas” and began presenting that along with the poem at Christmas parties; and I got standing ovations. I’m thinking, “Come on guys, this is only The Night Before Christmas.” But I was thrilled that they loved it.
The day after Christmas of 96, I was working and thinking. I do that at times, think while I work. And I was talking to God. I said, “Wow, Father, that was spectacular, getting standing ovations for The Night Before Christmas, and for The Declaration of Independence. If I was ever to memorize anything else, what would it be?” And God said in a matter-of-fact tone, “You’ll memorize The Sermon on the Mount.”
I didn’t even know fully what that was, I mean how long it was, how many chapters, how many words. When I got home that evening I checked it out in my Bible. When I saw all those red letters I said, ”Wow, I’ll do it!” I wanted that challenge. I wanted to see if I could do it. It turned out to be 2438 words while The Declaration was 1400.
Between Christmas and New Years I memorized it. It took three hours. I began practicing it, talking to myself in my apartment, talking to myself at work. A fellow employee asked me, “Hey, when you’re lips are moving over there, who are you talking to?” When I told him, it didn’t even phase him. If he really understood the significance of that, it would have boggled his mind.
Beginning in February of 97 I did presentations of The Sermon on the Mount for groups wherever I could. I did dozens of presentations. I got standing ovations at times for that too. From then on it was more history and more scripture. I feel that God assigned everything I have memorized. I didn’t decide to