Monday, November 8, 2021

PBT Guest Author: Rebecca Lile

A while back, a friend gave me a picture book. He is a United Methodist pastor who I greatly respect. Then came the bonus: The author was a mutual friend of ours from college, Rebecca Lile! What I found in those beautiful pages is what I believe to be the heart of Jesus’ message: All are welcome because all are loved unconditionally. On the 1st 2 pages: 

God's Diner is open; please come one and all.

All creatures are welcome, the great and the small.

Rebecca is a resident of Waynesville, NC. She was ordained as a diaconal minister in The United Methodist Church where she is a life-long member who witnessed her father serve as a pastor. I was interested in her creative process and the logistics of getting a book published when not a professional writer. She said it took about 2 years, 1 full year for the illustrator’s images to be completed. Rebecca was able to make some suggestions and requests, but mostly, Patrick Brooks worked independently from her.

Before writing, Rebecca was told editors would prefer prose, but that didn’t seem to work for this story, instead her writing came in verse: 

No longer is color or status or size

a way to divide us when seen through God's eyes.

What a welcome and welcoming message! Besides the theme of inclusion, another important theme for Rebecca is creation care. She has several books floating around in her head & journals, but God's Diner is the book she most wanted to write.

When I asked Rebecca about her purposes for writing this book, she explained that she wanted to leave a legacy to her 2 sons, the church, and our world. This book will make the church (and therefore the world) better!

Transforming our faith communities 1 person at a time, is what Rebecca has in mind in God’s Diner. Many people come into churches, questioning whether they will be truly welcome, perhaps even questioning if they truly deserve to be there. She hopes church people (all ages!) see themselves in both the hosts' & seekers' roles. Discovering compassion for self & others and how these roles are integrated will bring transformation to the church. I asked Rebecca...

What are a few of your favorite picture books?                        (2 embedded links for PBT books already here)

The hardest question for book lovers! I'll list just a very few:

The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau

    The prequel to this great book is also at PBT, posted the                 previous day! 

The Empty Pot by Demi

    A fabulous book about honesty & giftedness!

Purple, Green and Yellow by Robert Munsch

Cherries and Cherry Pits by Vera B Williams

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears by Rylant & Howard

How have you used picture books in ministry?

I use children's books in ministry in both children & adult education (in Sunday School, children's sermons, preschool storytime, summer camps/community centers, & retirement homes). I simply read the book and create questions & activities to complement. 

For example, if I'm looking at our call to be good stewards of Mother Earth, I might use The Little Hummingbird by Yahgulanaas. I'll create questions around what each one of us might do to be a part of the solution.

What various ways do you envision God’s Diner being used in ministry?

I would absolutely love to see God's Diner in the hands of every one of God's children, because I truly believe no child should ever have to wonder if God loves them. But since that may be a bit of a stretch, I would love to see it read in every church/faith community to both children and adults alike. I believe that the message of God's Diner is one of hope and kindness, compassion and inclusion and is at the very heart of what it means to live out of our faith.  

I've read it in churches on World Communion Day which is a wonderful use of the book as well.

What is feeding your soul these days?

Being around other women who are also always learning and coming to the table to enjoy rich conversation and connection

Creation Care is a passion for Rebecca so she hopes to write a book about that, but her next book may be a sequel to God's Diner. Perhaps its setting will be a food truck! 

Keep up with Rebecca's work here:

Picture Book: God’s Diner

Author: Rebecca Lile

Illustrator: Patrick Brooks

Summary: All sorts of animals come into God's Diner. Many are not so sure they will be welcomed, but all are, even the skeptical. Animal characters differ in dress, income, color, language, & temperament. Symbols among the animals offer more content for conversation. Encourage your audience to look for them and consider their meanings. 

Hanna’s Comments: Rebecca said that the important image of an open table (emphasized in some church’s communion rituals) was a strong inspiration for her writing in God’s DinerTake special note of the character Pug, who comes into the diner growling and scowling. His very skeptical "Grouch Face" might be a face your audience recognizes in or outside of your churches! Have them consider some reasons why Pug might be so different from the other characters who are laughing and smiling. Why is he is certain he won't be served? Pug is greeted this way:

I see through your meanness and somewhere deep down

I know there is goodness, instead of a frown. 

In response, Pug's face changes, he is hugged by many and invited to pull up a chair. The last words in the story declare the heart of the gospel! 

If you are hungry, remember God's place.

The food is outstanding, there's always a space.

Original Publisher: Warren Publishing, 2018 

Age Appropriateness: 3 and up

Formats other than Book: None at present

Scripture Connections: Matthew 25: 35 was her scripture inspiration. It’s found on the last page.

I was hungry and you gave me food.

I was thirsty and you gave me drink.

I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 

Additionally, any scripture about hospitality such as the stories of Jesus welcoming strangers (Zacchaeus), children, and challenging women (the Syrophoenician woman & the woman at the well). AND any scripture about being beloved children of God such as 1 John 3:1.

PBT Applications:  You’ll find many resources designed for further exploration of the ideas in God’s Diner here at the shop on her website, including complete downloadable lessons, games, and coloring pages. 

1 comment:

  1. This is such a beautiful tribute to Rebecca's book, Rebecca herself, and both her parents, as well. I have the great honor to be her mama Martha Pillow Lile's friend. She is an inspiration and a role model. Like God's diner, there's always good food and love to all in her home.