During the fall of 2013, my book A Million Little Ways was chosen as the Bloom Book Club fall study. Many readers followed along as we posted these videos each week at (in)courage, but for those who were unable to do so, we wanted to make it easy for you to access them as you read at your own pace, alone or with a group.
Here is where you can do that.
Meet the Author/Introduction (5:13)
Part 1: Who is the Artist? & Chapter 1: Awake (8:57)
“[Artists] pull back the covering on our inner life, allow us to see things beneath the surface, things that, without their compassion, creativity, and generosity, we may have missed…. Art coming from honest hands shows us beauty, stirs up longing, and touches us deeply.” (p. 15)
Q.1~ As Emily shared her example about awakening, did you think of your own Sarah Masen stories about artists who stirred something in you?
“I can’t imagine anything more dangerous to the enemy of our hearts than people who know who they are.” (p. 15)
Q.2~ Why are “people who know who they are” dangerous to Satan?
“Have we exalted the will of God and the plans of God above God himself? (p. 17)
Q.3~ How does this manifest itself in our lives?
At the end of the video, Emily sums it up this way: “I’m not just born to make art, I am art; not for my own benefit, but recognizing who I am in Christ, for the benefit of others to the glory of God.”
What other thoughts did you have while listening in on Jessica’s, Angie’s and Emily’s conversation and after reading this section?
Chapter 2: Reflect (12:24)
“So this is our job, to carry out the inner desire of Christ. And the inner desire of Christ is to bring glory to the Father….
At the most basic level of our identity, your job and my job is to be a poem, the image bearers of God, made to reflect his glory.” (pp. 26-27)
Q.1~ As Emily explained, the word “masterpiece” or “workmanship” in Ephesians 2:10 is a translation of the Greek word poiema, where we get the English word poem. How is this changing your perspective or understanding of your identity?
“As long as there are people on earth, the world will have glimpses of God. He chooses us to move through. He chooses your personality, your spunk, your passion, your strengths, and your weaknesses to work in and through and with.”
Q.2~ Jessica and Angie spoke to the universal fears we have regarding our desires; the fears about what comes from us versus God, or perhaps that we’ll mess things up…or maybe that we won’t find our art at all! Can you think of examples (like a football player or groundskeeper from the video, or Emily’s example from the book of a train maker) that express art in season? How does the quote above extend freedom to you?
This chapter was so full of challenge and inspiration. What else got your attention?
Part 2: Uncover the Art You Were Born to Make and Chapter 3: Desire (16:43)
Jessica and Angie suggested some wonderful conversation starters–
- From Jessica, What are your desires? What did this chapter bring to life for you?
- From Angie, a practical exercise Emily wrote about: To answer the questions posed at the top of page 45: When is a time in your life when you felt most fully alive? And, When you feel most fully alive, what words or phrases come to mind that describe the experience for you?
- A third that everyone seems to enjoy is for you to share your favorite quote within the section covered today.
Chapter 4: Rescue & Chapter 5: Sink (12:38)
“Our passions aren’t the goal, but they are signposts, like arrows pointing to our center.” (p. 60)
Q.1~ What have you recognized about your passions since beginning this study – what you might not have noticed before – that are evidence of your creative giftings and callings?
“Having a dream is a reflection of the image of God.” (p. 67)
Q.2~ Are you brave enough to share your childhood dreams, and to let us know how they’re presently manifesting themselves in your life? Did you pursue them? Did your family and friends encourage you or discourage you? How did that affect your pursuit of them. And, if the answers are difficult…is this perhaps a time of redemption?
“As we begin to uncover the art God had in mind when he made us, as we begin to wake up to our deepest desires and expose them in the presence of Jesus… We are in danger of sinking into either regret and anxiety or self-expression.” (p. 78)
Q.3~ How does Emily’s challenge to sink into God (knowing he is God) help you steer clear of these potential pitfalls?
“But there is a difference between embracing your smallness in the presence of Christ and feeling like a nobody in the presence of others.” (p. 83)
Q.4~ Discuss how this speaks to why “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Don’t try to answer all these questions--consider them along with those Jessica and Angie posed on the video, and then pick one to sit with, contemplate, pray through.
Chapter 6: See & Chapter 7: Listen (12:07)
“How we handle our critics could be the difference between creating art that matters and allowing the art to die.” (p. 89)
Q.1~ Can you think of instances where you let negative voices kill your art? Are you willing to share?
“What if [you] began to believe that the critique isn’t just an unwelcome part of the art-making process but might actually make the art better?” (p. 93)
Q.2~ Think about someone who loves you but who has “rained on your parade.” Because you knew they were FOR you, did it stifle your art or were you able to process their opinion, apply it to your circumstance, and create something better than you would have otherwise? Take this time to stop and celebrate the people who love you enough to tell you the truth as they see it; and to try to filter their words as loving and not as simply a naysayer. Examples, friends?
“You get to frame things in a way only you can, with a voice only you have….
“Just because he is saying something you want to say doesn’t mean you should’t say it too.” (p. 103)
Q.3~ It’s been said “Comparison is the thief of joy,” but in light of this chapter do you think “Comparison is the thief of ART” is possible? Discuss.
Q.4~ In Chapter 7, Emily asks us to listen to our
- tears (p. 109)
- questions (p. 111)
- heartbreak (p. 112)
- Tuesdays (p. 117)
- crazy ideas (p. 119)
Which of these most resonated with you? Why do you suppose that is?
Chapter 8: Listen & Part 3: Release the Art You Were Made to Live (12:24)
“Reject the temptation to believe you need to wait for a new set of life circumstances, a different job, or a new setting.” (p. 126)
Q.1~ Did Emily’s admonishment “to stop waiting on qualification, permission and approval” set off any internal alarms? Can you identify what has held you back from releasing your art into the world?
“Befriend narrow limits. Let them be a reminder to you that your work and your art are impossible without divine resources.” (p. 133)
Q.2~ How are your limits a gift to you and what are they telling you about yourself?
Q.3~ As Emily suggested in A Million Little Ways and the girls re-visited on the sofa, there are things “we say to ourselves that may be keeping us from living and releasing our art“. Which of the eight statements on pages 136-144 have you realized you say to yourself? What practical steps will you take to shift this negative self-talk?
Q.4~ Share your favorite quote and why it’s significant to you.
Chapter 9: Wait (8:33)
“[Waiting] is a kind of work that happens only in the secret place of abiding in the presence of Christ even in the midst of broken dreams and tired circumstance.” (p. 147)
Q.1~ Here, Emily suggests that “waiting can drive us mad” or “it can become a merciless dictator” if we allow it to become that; but she also reminds us that waiting “can also grow us, shape us from the inside out for a sacred work.” Prior to sifting the words of this chapter, explain your perception and response to waiting.
“Sacred shaping happens in the waiting.” (p. 157)
Q.2~ During a season of prolonged waiting, will you share how hindsight allowed you to see a work God was accomplishing in you or through you?
Q.3~ Springboarding from the questions Jessica and Angie asked at the end of the video, what does your season of waiting look like? Or perhaps share what movement looked like within the waiting?
Chapter 10: Offer (15:24)
“As you move to the rhythm of the Spirit of God, what is within you that you can now give to someone else? Not for the glory of yourself, but as a person who bears the image of God in the world.” (p. 164)
Q.1~ When considering the smallness of the offering of the boy in the “fishes and loaves” story told in John 6, has that changed your perspective of what you have to offer? Have you been reluctant to share your art because you didn’t believe it was enough (or worthy) to share? Or do you “play a violin” and have something of great value to share that you’re willing to “give” away like in Emily’s story?
“You are not asked to manage the outcome or ensure the success. Sometimes you are simply invited to show up and say yes.” (p. 170)
Q.2~ Emily repeatedly reminds us it is not our job to manage outcomes. Can you identify? If so, how does this new-found freedom release you to be confident in your artistic offerings, to give them to others without expectation?
“You may have to search for your brave yes, but you will have to fight for your strong no.“ (p. 171)
Q.3~ Has it come to light that your “yeses” have become an addiction? Is “no” one of the hardest words for you to say and mean? Discuss.
Q.4~ Have a favorite quote or passage we haven’t touched on today?
Chapter 11: Wonder (11:05)
One way Emily describes the essence of A Million Little Ways is “learning to live less like a list and more like a lyric”; she also is learning to be delighted by things she typically ignores by welcoming life’s mystery. This chapter’s message aligns well with “child-like faith”.
There are four divisions in Chapter 11:
- The Wonder of Union (beginning on p. 177)
- The Wonder of Life on the Earth (beginning on p. 179)
- The Wonder of Time on Earth (beginning on p. 181)
- The Wonder of Being a Poem (beginning on p. 186)
Q.1~ Which section could you most relate to and why was it personally affecting?
“The smallest and tiniest gifts take us by the hand to reveal the greatest and most holy truths.” p. 180
Q.2~ Can you share an example of a small gift in your life that pointed to God and gave you reason to wonder?
“There is a wonder to the boundaries of time on earth–a terrible, fantastic, mysterious wonder.” (p. 186)
Q.3~ Can you think of a time of beginning or a time of ending that magnified your wonder of God? How so?
“What if we approached the critic, our jobs, the kids at our table with the same wonder and anticipation an artist has when she approaches the canvas? What if we decided to believe our purpose in this world really is to reflect the glory of God?” (p. 188)
Q.4~ Brave enough to speak to these questions “out loud”? What about the simple question Jessica asked at the end of the video, “What does wonder look like in your life?”
Chapter 12: Create (11:40)
Emily finishes strong; her last chapter will leave you embracing who you are in Christ, ready to release your art to a world that’s waiting to receive it. If you haven’t yet read Chapter 12, you won’t want to miss how Emily somehow combines thoughts on The Office, small-town banks, frozen yogurt, fear, Pride & Prejudice, true spiritual community…and so much more. Watch the video as an appetizer to the delicious feast of this chapter’s pages.
Q.1~ Can you choose *just one* favorite quote or passage from this chapter? It’s like Lay’s Potato Chips–how can you choose just one?
“…they did their work in a way that made a difference, in a way that influenced the people around them.” (p. 193)
Q.2~ Remember Emily’s examples of big-company-banker turned small-town banker and a yogurt shop worker and how they worked like artists? Do you have similar examples of people you’ve observed who seem to know they’re “an image bearer with a job to do”? Honor them by sharing their stories!
“The goal isn’t to push fear away forever; it’s to refuse to be pushed around by fear at all.” (p. 194)
Q.3~ Share your victories over fear: what is it you love to do that has often been accompanied by fear?
“We are responsible to pay attention to what moves us and respond in faith. The body of Christ grows when each member gives what they have to give… You are not responsible to convince me to change, you are responsible to be generous in the areas you feel called to.” (p. 204)
Q.4~ Are you finding “The more personal you are with your art, the more generally it applies to those who are there to receive it?” (p. 203) In light of the quote above, have you seen where, in the past, you’ve withheld your art to others? Have you been selfish in a way you’ve never seen it as such? How does this call to generosity expand the way you view the body of Christ?