The Art of Small Art

"Small art" by Willem van der Werf via flickr

Recently, a ministry contacted me about writing a couple of devotional pieces. An opportunity to study Scripture and share what fascinates me? Um, yes. Plus, these particular pieces should be about 425-475 words. How hard could that be? I’d written 6,000-word exegeticals.


Turns out I’m verbose. I like to take my time unraveling a story. (Chris has been telling me this for years, but he’s a business guy. What do you expect?) Trimming a story and its meaning down to 475 words max while retaining theological soundness and personal impact is harder than trimming Keegan’s toenails.

Have I told you that Keegan is not a fan of having his nails cut? You’d think I was yanking them from their nail beds. (I’m not, for the record.)

Even my blog posts tend to run twice the devotional limit. I empathize with Gerald’s panic as the end of the book approaches in We Are in a Book!: “I have more to give! More words! More jokes! More ‘bananas!’”

After studying one particular story–looking at the Hebrew, reading commentaries, you know, the usual–and wondering how on earth I could cram all of this richness and beauty and complexity into 475 words, I turned to one of the best resources I know of to guide my way.

The Jesus Storybook by Sally Lloyd-Jones.

I read the same story in this book and noticed she didn’t remove the richness and beauty and complexity. She tricked us. Lloyd-Jones weaved it through the stories without telling us. The theological truths and artistic word-plays and cultural nuances were all there.

The teacher in me loves to share how we see discover truth and beauty, and that’s good. It shows others how to look for themselves.

But in art, we show rather than tell. And that’s what these devotional pieces are. Works of art. They are tapestries for displaying God’s creativity and truth in new ways.

Thinking about the pieces in this way frees me to knit without worrying about the reader seeing the inside of the sweater. And maybe I can do so in 475 words or less.


  1. You CAN do it, Heather! I’m going to share this with others. Thanks!

  2. The Jesus Storybook Bible is one of the best Bibles ever. I read it even when the kids aren’t around.

  3. I file my grandchildrens nails… I can’t clip a straight line anymore. ha ha…
    (I’m sort of shaky, and they are wiggly)

    I will be interested in seeing your efforts when finished writing!

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