The Henry and Henri Habit

The professor handed my paper to me. I scanned his comments on each page, trying not to appear in a hurry to see my grade waiting on the last page.

When I turned to the end of my 24-page paper, I smiled. Apparently, the professor appreciated my hard work.

Then he asked me to present my paper at the university’s Graduate Symposium in the spring. The thought of presenting at the symposium elated me. How fun! I readily assented.

But then my professor asked me to do something painful.

He informed me that each presenter would only have enough time to present a total of six pages. I would need to reduce my paper by three-fourths.

Six pages? Out of twenty-four?


I kicked myself for having agreed to do it.

The next few weeks were agony. I peeled away at my paper, feeling like a piece of me kept falling on the editing floor.

I got my paper down to twenty pages. Then eighteen. Then twelve. I stared at the remaining words, barely half of its original self.

I was spent.

I wanted to give up. I couldn’t imagine shedding another word. Each one seemed crucial. So I put it away for a week, but I continued to stress about the task that still loomed ahead. I had six more pages to go.

After a week-long break, I got back to work. I examined each sentence, searching for a sliver of excess. A word here. A sentence there.

Eventually, I pared the essay to a thin waif of its original portion. It was hardest writing task I experienced in graduate school because it was a severe work of revision, of re-seeing the paper for its elemental truths.

Then, looking at a sparse six pages, I saw it for what it really was. It was right there – in black and white – the core message of the paper. It had been shrouded in superfluous language all along.

I shook my head at my professor’s brilliance. He knew.

This experience was invaluable, for it trained my eye to focus.

Perhaps this is why I find so much value in devotionals. The writer of devotions must write and revise until the core message of each daily reading resounds with elemental truth.

I continue to be amazed at the potent clarity found in devotionals like:

I recommend each one.

Since devotionals typically begin on the first day of the year, I am beginning a new reading plan this week. Not a resolution, just a plan.

In addition to reading the One Year Chronological Bible, I have selected two new-to-me devotionals as daily supplemental reading:

Thus, my new “Henry and Henri Habit.”

Do you have a favorite devotional you recommend?

8 thoughts on “The Henry and Henri Habit

  1. Pingback: Keeping a Slower Pace on a Simpler Path | Denise J. Hughes

  2. wow, what an assignment! I had a professor do that to me once. We could not use common words in our paper, like “because, like, so…” and we had a word cap limit on words like “the, and…” that made us work and rework until our message was sent without the use of words that did not add to the meaning. Great lessons!

  3. It is like taking your testimony from 25 to 10 minutes or less! Sometimes far more powerful! My favorite devotional are two by Chris Tiegreen. I’m on my third year of coming back to them!

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