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Courtney Ellis is a pastor, speaker, host of The Thing With Feathers Podcast, and author of four books: Present: the Gift of Being All In, Right Where You Are, Happy Now: Let Playfulness Lift Your Load and Renew Your Spirit, Uncluttered: Free Your Space, Free Your Schedule, Free Your Soul, and Almost Holy Mama: Life-Giving Spiritual Practices for Weary Parents. A graduate of Wheaton College and Princeton Seminary, she lives in California with her husband, Daryl, and their three children.
Her bylines include Christianity Today, National Catholic Reporter, MOPS International, Fathom Mag, The Mighty, and (in)courage. She is a columnist at Fathom Mag, has been featured on Two Peas in a Podcast, Food and Faith, More Than This, Woven, and The Ride Home with John and Kathy, and is sought-after on radio coast to coast as well as internationally.
A regular speaker for leadership retreats, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), book events, and college/teen/young adult gatherings, Courtney is an engaging, hilarious, winsome, and thoughtful presence, whether on the stage, in the pulpit, or around the table.
Courtney grew up in Wisconsin where she and her two younger sisters figure skated in sequined leotards until they discovered ice hockey. She reads too much, can’t make herself enjoy yoga, and has seen more sunrises than she’d like (parenting has yet to turn her into a willing early riser!).
The proud owner of a $.29 goldfish she kept alive for over a year (a big accomplishment for someone who once killed a cactus by under-watering it), she has never met a sour gummy treat she doesn’t like.
Suggested Questions for Present
“Home is where God is, a place of safety and presence, feast and blessing and rest.”
1. You write that our world is marked by transience, envy, and rootlessness. How does this
dull our awareness of God?
2. What are some of the practical ways we can choose stability and what are the benefits?
3. Why is stability not always our choice to make? What interferes with it?
4. What story did you tell your son when he asked what would happen if he didn’t believe
all the right things about Jesus?
5. How does stability teach us to cultivate beauty and hospitality where we are?
6. Talk to us about decision fatigue and how this spills over into our daily lives?
7. You refer to limits as a God given grace. What do you mean?
8. Why do you call yourself an “achievement addict” and what does this have to do with
learning to take a Sabbath rest?
9. What do you mean by learning to accept the grace of limits?
10. You talk about how uprooting can leave a path of devastation. What do you mean?
11. You write, “Remembering to pay attention can be the trickiest spiritual practice of all.”
12. What do you say about the importance, and challenges, of fostering community?
13. How can we learn to find God’s presence even amid our pain?
14. You write that being present requires work. It involves sacrifice too, doesn’t it?
15. What do you hope readers will do differently after reading your book?
Suggested Questions for Happy Now
“Following Jesus is an inherently creative act.”
- Is happiness the goal of the Christian life?
- You say that playfulness helps faith stick. What do you mean by that?
- Tell us about the three steps of playfulness and what they can teach us about finding happiness.
- You describe 10 practices of playfulness. How might we adapt these to our unique lives?
- How is failure an essential part of creativity?
- How can play be both “so easy a child can do it” and “so deep it takes a lifetime to learn”?
- Why is it so challenging to recognize that God is playful?
- What is the danger in being too serious? Doesn’t God call us to take things seriously?
- What does improvisation have to teach us about the kingdom of God?
- How can we discover our own personal styles of play?
- What does science have to say about the importance of play?
- Why do you say that playfulness takes permission?
- What are “lessons in smallness” and how can these help us enter into play again?
- You talk about engaging with children as being a “school for play.” How so?
- What is your hope for the book?
- At the end you talk about learning to play jazz. What lessons does this metaphor have for our Christian lives?
Suggested Questions for Almost Holy
“The mess of a family is a place where the Holy Spirit is alive and moving.”
- Most moms don’t feel holy most of the time. What does holiness have to do with parenting?
- You say that many churches emphasize trying harder, doing more or being better. Why is this message unhelpful for parents?
- Tell us about spiritual disciplines and how we adapt these to our current life situation.
- You write that technology is often an enemy of discipleship. How do you manage it so that it doesn’t manage you?
- How is failure part of developing our faith?
- You say, “Turns out I’ve been tending my kids but neglecting my soul.” Can we do both?
- Why is it so challenging to recognize that God is present in our lowest moments?
- What is the Examen and why is it an important practice?
- You write that seeking Jesus and falling short is normal. What is the balance between accepting our humanity and seeking to overcome obstacles?
- What do you mean, “Much of practicing spiritual things is setting the stage beforehand, making it easier to do them than not?”
- How does the digital world train us for impatience, impermanence, and instant gratification?
- How did your social media fast go?
- You say that stillness is hard for you, and for many of us. Why?
- Why do you say that gratitude takes time and focus?
- What are “lessons in slowness” and how can these help us find rest?
- You talk about marriage as being a “school for holiness and humility.” How so?
- What is your hope for the book?
- At the end you talk about measuring spiritual growth. What does this look like?
Suggested Questions for Uncluttered
“I felt like I was drowning even though on the surface our life was nothing but great. I had no complaints at all, yet I couldn’t breathe, struggled to sleep, and felt panicky nearly every second of every day. It didn’t make sense.”
- You start out by saying you felt overwhelmed all the time. Why?
- Why is giving up things often so hard?
- As you started to let go of unnecessary things, what changed for you?
- How did less stuff mean more freedom for you?
- What is decision fatigue and how do retailers use this to their advantage?
- Most of us feel some pleasure in the act of purchasing. How do we change this?
- You write, “I needed to get to the bottom of why I shopped for nonessential things.” What did you discover?
- When it comes to technology, how do we know what is helping and what is hurting us?
- You say the digital age has become an age of anxiety. How so?
- How do we use technology without allowing ourselves to be used by it in return?
- Explain what you mean by “yessing ourselves to death?”
- What did your professor at Oxford tell you to do that surprised you?
- You say, “No must flow from a larger, central yes.” What do you mean?
- You write, “We need a rescue from the swirling waters of busyness and stress and work.” What does Sabbath-keeping have to do with this?
- What does hospitality have to do with uncluttering our lives? How is it more of a heart issue than a house issue?
- What are some practical ways you have taught your kids to embrace godly simplicity?
- Why do you think that giving is most difficult when it’s personal?
- Is your journey to a clutter-free life ever completely over?
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This document was last updated on May 26, 2018