Reading the title of this essay, “What Would You Have Me Do?” might cause you to imagine me defending myself, saying in effect, “I had no choice.”
But I want you to hear those words in an entirely different tone of voice.
“What would you have me do?” is a quiet question that I often ask God when I am feeling conflicted or uncertain. I cannot not say I always feel him guiding my heart in answer to my question, but I can say that I always feel better for having asked.
I have never “not believed” in God. In my private, inner world, faith is not a matter of logic or evidence. I never try to “prove” the existence of God, but if you will indulge me, I will share a pivotal, personal story of when I felt he answered my question, “What will you have me do?”
My only intention is to encourage you. Like faith, encouragement is not logical. It is simply a warm light that can brighten a private, inner world.
It was 1977. Pennie and I had been married less than a year and we were trying to figure out what to do with our lives. I was working for $3.35 an hour in a steel fabrication shop, cutting, welding, grinding, and pressure-testing gigantic heat exchangers to be fitted on oil wells. With hammers pounding on metal, grinders showering you with sparks, and the acrid smell of welding fumes burning your nose, a steel shop is the perfect place to develop your private, inner world.
One morning I slipped into a bathroom stall at work, but not because I needed to go to the bathroom. I lowered the deck on the toilet, locked the door and sat down to talk to God. “What would you have me do? If you tell me, I’ll do it. And I know you can get a message through to me because you’re God, right? And one more thing. I know you hear me, and I know you’re not going to forget that I asked, so I don’t plan on bugging you about this. I trust you’ll tell me when you’re ready. Amen.”
I stood up and unlocked the door just as the buzzer announced it was break time. Walking out into the 45,000 square foot work floor, I was scanning the tops of all the tool cabinets for my coffee cup. Having said everything that I needed to say to God, my only thought was to grab a cup of coffee.
The thing that happened next is difficult to describe, but I’ll do my best.
All at once, and very unexpectedly, I knew exactly what I was supposed to do, and it startled me. I didn’t see anything or hear anything, but my surprise was exactly as though I had looked across the floor and seen myself pull a message from a letter pouch and hold it out for someone to take.
This knowledge, or awareness, or whatever you want to call it, was altogether different than anything I had ever experienced. Without seeing a sight or hearing a sound, I felt just as certain – and was every bit as surprised – as if I had seen a person and heard a voice.
I walked over to the time clock, grabbed my timecard, clocked out, got in my car and drove to the Federal Building in downtown Tulsa where I presented myself to a weary woman sitting at a desk. “I’m here to become a postman,” I said, and then I told her the story I just told you.
When I left, the woman was no longer looking weary. She was surprised, befuddled, and contemplative. I think she was struggling to decide whether I was delusional, or if it was remotely possible that what I was telling her might be true.
I lived in a continual state of excitement for the next two days, but when I quieted my heart to continue my conversation with God in that private, inner world, I realized that I wasn’t supposed to work for the United States Postal Service, but that I was to deliver messages of a different sort.
On my lunch break that day, I drove back to the Federal Building, found that same woman, and gave her the rest of the story. When I left, she looked even more surprised, befuddled, and contemplative than before.
Next, I rented an announce-only answering machine from the telephone company, had an extra telephone line installed in our apartment, and began writing and recording a new message of encouragement each day, 7 days a week. I placed little classified ads in all the free newspapers that were distributed in little wire stands outside the convenience stores and laundromats.
“Take a break in your day. DAYBREAK. 258-7700”
No one knew who was recording these messages or why, but within a few months the little counter in the machine indicated I was getting more than 200 calls a day. And every time I heard that tape rewind, it would usually be less than a minute before the little red light indicated that another call was coming through. When I did the math and saw that a 3-minute message playing 200 times tied up the phone line for 10 hours each day, I realized a lot of people must be getting a busy signal. So I rented a second announce-only machine and installed a second phone line.
At the end of two years, having written and recorded more than 700 different messages, I needed a part-time job to help pay for it all. So I took a job at a radio station working from 11PM on Friday night to 10AM on Saturday morning. This earned me 27 dollars a week after taxes, which was almost exactly what I needed to pay for the phone lines and the rented equipment. I had no visions of a career as a radio announcer. I just needed some money to pay for DAYBREAK.
One Saturday morning a sales rep asked if I’d be willing to write some ads while I monitored our semi-automated broadcast booth during the middle of the night. He didn’t know that I had been spending two hours a day for more than 700 days writing messages to make people think and feel differently.
Son-of-gun. My ads were working wonders! Now everyone wanted me to write ads for their clients. The general manager, however, decided the smarter play was to offer me a job as an account executive.
The recorded daily messages later became a faxed Memo sent once a week in the early hours of Monday Morning. And then along came the internet.
In 1998 Bard Press took 100 of those Memos and made them into The Wizard of Ads. Another 100 Memos became Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads and a third 100 became Magical Worlds of the Wizard of Ads. And then Pennie decided we should build a campus where people could clear their heads and receive encouragement and instruction.
No goals. No grand plan. Just adapt and improvise, adapt and improvise. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
So now you now.
Roy H. Williams
Today’s Monday Morning Memo was longer than the average, but since this is the Monday that falls between Christmas and New Year’s, the wizard figured you might have a couple more minutes to spare than usual. Also, I put together a pretty sweet rabbit hole for you. Just click the image at the top of this page and you’re in. Then keep clicking images unto you get to the bottom. Aroo, Indy Beagle