Friday, February 9, 2018

PBT Question #1 to Ask about Any Secular Picture Book

Where is God in the book? (Symbolically in characters/symbols? Influencing characters/events?) This first question has the potential to rock your world when it comes to your image of God.
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, the mother in I Love You Stinky Face, or lightships in Lightship. 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, 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. God’s nature can be found in both parents wise and loving attention. God looks on with compassion as we are disappointed by life’s circumstances (Pete's mom). 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 (Pete’s dad in this case) to lure others into joyful, loving opportunities. God sees us reap the benefits of such opportunities (both parents). Lastly, God rejoices when circumstances change and we are able to have our heart’s desire (Pete’s parents when he is 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. In The Friend, 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
and embraces Belle.
These glorious illustrations can expand your vision to a new way of imagining God’s saving grace.
Here are a few of the many more recent books from the PBT archives in which this first PBT question is easily answered: 
The Amida Tree (similar to The Giving Tree)
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 an upcoming post about PBT question # 2. May your reading bring others closer to God.