Saturday, April 6, 2013

"You Wrote about My Son"

In my historical novels, I sometimes give a well-known person a "cameo" role. I wouldn't do that with private individuals because they have a right to maintain their privacy. But a politician or other newsmaker? Of course.

Even so, that person's notoriety doesn't give me license to cast them in a bad light. I'm accountable for authenticity, especially since newsmakers or their families may see what I write about them. This point came home to me last month in connection with a nonfiction article.

"Focus 40" is an annual emphasis on prayer and fasting during the 40 days leading up to Easter, sponsored by our denomination. The "Focus 40" resources include a daily devotional, and I wrote a couple of meditations for this year's booklet. "Extreme Love" was the theme, so I began one article by referring to last year's theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. I noted that three young men in the theater--Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves--covered their girlfriends with their own bodies and died as a result. It was a striking illustration of Jesus' words, "Greater love has no man than this..."

Imagine my surprise when this post appeared on my Facebook timeline a few days later:

My name is Jerri Jackson and I am the mother of Matt McQuinn. I was honored as I read day 23 of Focus 40. I attend ______ Church in Springfield, OH...
Jerri went on to share her experience of flying to Colorado on the night of the shooting. Although the medical team tried valiantly to save Matt's life, he died of his wounds 18 hours later. Jerri told about the peace God gave her that day--and since then. She closed her post with the words, "Thank you for honoring our loved ones."

I would not have guessed that the mother of one of those young men would see my devotional article. But we never know when someone related to a real-life character in our stories will see that name, recognize the connection, and be touched (or offended) by the way we portray them.

Joe Allison and his wife, Judy, live in Anderson IN, where Joe serves as Coordinator of Publishing for Church of God Ministries, Inc. Joe has several nonfiction books in print, including Swords and Whetstones: A Guide to Christian Bible Study Resources. He's currently writing a trilogy of Christian historical novels set in the Great Depression.

Visit Joe's blog at


  1. WOW! Wonderful and touching, Joe. . . AND encouraging! We just never know. . . and most of our "knows" may not be until heaven. . . :-)

  2. I loved this post. Thanks for encouraging us, Joe. I think often about what I'm writing, but sometimes I think, "why am I writing?" Which I don't know why I think that way about writing because when I prayed for people, I don't have that attitude!

    Thank you for getting us to think about this.

  3. Very good post, Joe. Thanks for sharing it. At the beginning, I thought of the comparison of including a real coffee house (other than a generic chain like McDonald's, Starbucks, etc.) and mentioning a menu item and a certain table in the place, but nothing matches what you shared. Thanks for passing it along.

    Have a blessed day.


  4. What a tremendous blessing, to be able to touch a life through your words. It's a good reminder that we never know who will read what we write. May God guide our pens so that they may be an implement of healing and consolation when such is needed.Thank you for sharing this.
    Write on, Joe!
    Because of Christ

  5. This is my hope to impact, encourage, and edify for Christ's glory. Well done.