I was doing a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Carraway Methodist Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama—part of my ordination requirements to become a United Methodist pastor.
Our regimen included chaplain rounds on assigned floors, 24-hour on-call assignments, and a weekly reflection seminar. At the seminar, one participant would share a word-for-word recollection of some pastoral experience in the hospital and we would then discuss it from every angle.
What I didn’t understand at the time was that the experience was not so much about us helping patients as it was about understanding ourselves. It was about getting in touch with our own stories and emotions. If we could do that, we had a snowball’s chance in Helsinki of being helpful.
At our final evaluations, we were required to share and receive constructive observations about one another. One of my peers began by describing me as “bright, witty, and articulate,…” I’m thinking, “right,…right,…right….” Then he continued, “but after a while, Keith’s words can be wearying.”
“Wearying!” Ouch! Talk about a gut-punch insight. Unbeknownst to me, I almost ALWAYS ran long—word-wise or content-wise, if not time-wise. (I’ve been clocked at gusts of up to 450 words a minute!) I was the verbal equivalent of a meteor shower!
Maybe part of the reason people liked it when I sang a song was that—good or bad—it was over in three to four minutes.
Blogging, as I do in “Shortbread,” is a sort of occupational therapy for me. “Short, sweet, and to-the-point”…350 words or less–PERIOD. I have to get in, share a focused, hopeful word, and wind it up.
“Tweeting” is even better—140 characters–PERIOD.
You know, limits are a good thing. They remind us that we’re mortal…that we need to be clear about what we are trying to say, then pick and choose and craft and make every word count.
Some time ago, I had the thought: “Most sermons would be twice as good if they were half as long….”
People would be able to stay with the train of thought… they would retain more…
…and–most importantly–we would beat the Baptists to the restaurants! 🙂