Sunday, April 26, 2015

PBT Question #1 to ask about any secular picture book:

Is God, Jesus, or The Holy Spirit in the book? (Symbolically in characters/symbols? Influencing characters/events?)

This question may expand understanding of the nature of God, Jesus, or The Holy Spirit.

First, there are books with obvious allusions to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit such as the character of the tree in The Giving Tree (Day 68 on June 26, 2014), the mother in I Love You Stinky Face (Day 137 on September 3, 2014), or lightships in Lightship (day 246 December 21, 2014). This last example demonstrates that God can be found in non-human aspects of stories and in non-fiction books.

There are books where God is lurking in less obvious places. Try thinking in terms of what God represents for you, and see if those ideals are anywhere in the book.  For instance, in Pete’s a Pizza (Day 316 March 1, 2015), you have a silly book about a boy’s disappointment in not being able to play baseball. Within this story, Pete’s father lures Pete into a wonderfully playful distraction while Pete’s mother looks on. I believe God’s nature can be found in both parents because they represent wise and loving attention. More specifically, God looks on with compassion as we are disappointed by life’s circumstances. God lures us into a joyful, loving opportunity (Pete’s dad does this). We call this prevenient grace in the United Methodist Church. God inspires us (or Pete’s dad in this case) to lure others into joyful, loving opportunities. God sees us reap the benefits of such opportunities (Pete’s mom). Lastly, God rejoices when circumstances change and we are able to have our heart’s desire (Pete’s parents are pleased that he is eventually able to play baseball). This silly, delightful book has God all over it!

What I love about this first PBT question is that it can stretch your audience’s image of God in ways that may be very enlightening and/or comforting. I think of the book The Friend (Day 149 on September 15, 2014). Not only do you have a beautiful story that parallels Jesus’ tenderness, teaching, patience, and attention in the loving care of Bea for little Belle. You also have a dramatic situation in which Bea saves Belle. A glorious benefit here are the illustrations (see 2 below) that can break open your heart to a new way of imagining God’s saving grace.

The other 4 PBT questions offer easier ways to consider a book’s potential for your ministry, teaching, parenting, grandparenting, or bibliotherapy. If question # 1 doesn’t seem right for the book you want to use, check out my next blog post on question # 2 in a few days.

May your reading bring others joy, Hanna

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