St. Olaf College | The Lutheran Center

Six Words

Rev. Dr. Char Cox delves into an exploration of the power of six-word stories and a meditation on six particular words: Values, Openness, Call, Attentiveness, Regret, and Experiences. Through her exploration, we understand that small words can make a big impact on the lives of so many people, especially through difficult times such as the global pandemic that has left everyone feeling vulnerable and unsteady.
Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

I have long been fascinated

By the six-word story –

Six words to tell a complete tale,

Six words to capture an experience,

Six words to engender emotion,

Six words to draw the reader in,


To leave the reader changed,

Six words to say everything there is to say,

Six words –


Carefully chosen,


I first discovered the six-word


several years ago

when I was reading memoirs.

My goal was to read

a book a week,

And in the process,

I searched for titles

by reading reviews online.

One day,

when I was scrolling through the results for

“must read memoirs,”

I stumbled upon

The Six Word Memoir ® project.

After finding the website,

I ordered and read,

“Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs, 

by Writers Famous and Obscure,

edited by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith.

By page 20,

I was hooked.

As I read

Entry after entry,

I was amazed

at how just six words

spoke volumes.

Six words

told complete stories.

Six words



and memories.


and crises,


and poignancy.

“Born in the desert, still thirsty.”

Georgene Nunn

“Savior complex makes for many disappointments.”

Alanna Schubach

“Joined Army. Came out. Got booted.”

John Baumeister

 “Followed rules, not dreams. Never again.”

Margaret Hellerstein

“On the playground, alone. 1970, today.”

Charles Warren

 “Everyone who loved me is dead.”

Ellen Fanning

“Time to start over again, again.”

Dan Petronelli

And, still one of my favorite –

“Asked to quiet down; spoke louder.”

Wendy Lee.

It wasn’t long

before six words

became a regular spiritual practice for me.

Review the day

in six words.

Portray the experience

in six words.

Process the feelings

in six words.

Succinctly summarize

both joys and sorrows,

trials and triumphs,

hopes and fears

in six words,

Day after day,

Week after week,

Month after month –

It became a framework

to put things into a healthy perspective,

to both celebrate

and let things go.

Before I knew it,

I found myself

thinking in six words

about things both


and serious.

It even became a part of my

sermon preparation –

Write the sermon in six words –

and then write the whole sermon.

It was –

and is –

Both life-giving

and life-saving.

When the pandemic descended


and engulfed the world

in early 2020,

I found myself

wondering what I could do

that would give people

a space,

a place,

and community

amid lockdown

and isolation

to not feel so alone.

We couldn’t be together,

but we needed each other.

With so much


And suspended,

I – we –

Needed some way to


Put into words –


what we were



and Experiencing

amid so much fear and uncertainty.

Late one night,

In March of 2020,

I formed a Facebook group –

“Six Word Snapshots.”

The timeline photo

said then,

And still says now –

“Staying home

Washing hands

Praying more.”

The invitation is this:

In six words only,

write about what you are doing

amid these changing times.

What brings you joy?

How has your life changed?

What are your challenges?

How are you passing the time?

How are you

“making the best of it?”

What are you thinking about it?

Remember –

six words only –

no more, no less!

I invited a handful of my friends.

They invited more.

And it grew exponentially

In a matter of hours.

People wrote –

People responded

And with one six-word post

after another,

a community was formed.

People wrote of their sorrows:

And suddenly tears, despite the sun.

People wrote of their exhaustion.

I miss my motivation. Too tired.

People wrote of their loved ones who were sick:

Rest eternally, Dad. Kick COVID, Mom.

People wrote of strained relationships:

Painful relationship with mother. Weird day.

People wrote of unemployment:

Husband’s job loss is permanent. Sigh.

People wrote of the unsettled-ness of time:

Really? It’s not Friday? Who knew?

People wrote of the everyday things that were keeping them going:

Warm, delicious homemade cinnamon raison bread.

People wrote

and wrote

and wrote,

and they are still writing.

The posts are more infrequent now

and are often not related to the pandemic –

Prayers, friend’s heart valve surgery tomorrow

Friends’ happiness makes my heart giggle

Yippee, back to work at 80

Making play dough tonight! Kneading …Therapeutic.

But there is something profoundly holy

about this

six-word experience

and the ongoing way that

it meets people’s needs

to speak

and be heard,

to name something –

anything, really –

and have someone respond.

In recent months,

my personal six-word practice

has taken on

yet another

a new form.

Through my work as the

Program Director for Congregational Thriving

at St. Olaf College,

I have the privilege of


The Nourishing Vocation Project,

a project through the

Lutheran Center

for Faith, Values, and Community

with generous support from

Lilly Endowment Inc.

The Nourishing Vocation Project

is a four-phase experience

that invites individual participants

and whole congregations

to deepen their understanding

of God’s call

upon their life and work

so that they can thrive.

Foundational to this project

is a spiritual practice

that I have created, called



from the Latin,

meaning “to call,”

is designed to

help you discern

and embrace

your multiple vocations

so that

you can more intentionally

live life on purpose

for the common good.


invites ongoing reflection upon

six words –







of God’s presence.


invites you to regularly

dwell with these questions –

What do I value,

and how am I living my values?

To what am I being asked to be open?

How do I respond?

What voices are calling to me?

Which ones do I listen to, and why?

Where am I giving my attention?

Does my attention align with my values?

What are my regrets?

What insight do I gain from them?

When, where, and how have I experienced

the presence of the God in my everyday life?







Six words

that can

nourish ongoing discernment,

Six words

that can

nourish the pursuit of purpose,

Six words

that can

nourish the living of

our multiple vocations in daily life,

Six words

that can

lead you to more intentionally

live life on purpose for the common good.

I commend this practice

and its six words

to you.

Incorporate it

into something you are already doing –

Put these six words

in your head

and write them on your heart.

Think on them

when you go for a walk,


Commute to work,


Have your devotions,


Mow your lawn,


Sit down at table with your family,


Take a shower,


Plan your budget,


Lay out your monthly calendar.

Give them space in your thoughts

when you go to bed at night.

Let them greet you

when you wake

In the morning.

Welcome them

as a companion

on your daily journey –

whatever that journey may be

and wherever that journey

may take you.

You just might be surprised at how

these six words

lead you to clarity

when life is confusing –

Point you toward intention

when meaning is allusive,

And deepen your understanding

of God’s call

upon your life and work –

in the everyday moments

of everyday life

so that

you can

more intentionally,

live life on purpose for the common good.

And who knows,

You may even end up with some

Amazing six-word stories along the way!

Used with permission. Originally posted on Church Anew, a ministry of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, MN.