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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Billboard/Poster/Sign (any or all) (12/02/10)

TITLE: Both Take Faith
By Kellie Henningsen


Three children ran through the living room laughing hysterically. Hank didn’t even notice. Today was Sunday and he was set to bask in the luxury of pure relaxation. All he needed was a couch, a cold soda, and some old magazines. And currently he had all three.

Though his wife often pestered him to purge his magazine stash, he smooth-talked his way around the task by telling her how reading helped broaden his exposure to the world and aided him with his writing. Maybe one day she would actually believe him.

Thumbing through a Newsweek magazine from 2004, Hank’s attention fixated on a billboard photo. Hurricane Charley had slammed into the Florida coast just days before causing mass destruction in the Orlando area. Residents were scrambling to locate loved ones, asses building damage, and take stock of their lives. Street signs were not immune to the storm’s rage nor were billboards but through it all, one managed to become newsworthy. The story told how the featured advertisement peeled back during the storm revealing the former ad campaign beneath. A message proclaimed, “We need to talk. – God” in large letters.

Thanks to his previous Sunday magazine readings, Hank knew about the God ad campaign that had swept the south in the 1990’s. An anonymous donor had paid an ad agency to develop the signs in an effort to encourage people to think more about God. Hank chuckled as he recalled some of his favorite quotes from the signs. “You think it’s hot here?” or “Need directions?” Simple statements with deep meanings.

Figuring the fact this story made it into the magazine revealed a deeper issue, Hank threw himself into writer mode. What was the root of this story? Did people think God sent the storm to get their attention? Maybe this was kind of like God’s “Can you hear me now?” statement.

After scanning the article, Hank’s curiosity further deepened. Hardly ever more than an arm’s length from his trusty companion, he pulled his laptop towards him. Not sure what to search, he punched in random thoughts on God, billboards, and storms.

To his amazement, he found several stories worth pursuing. Seems the God billboards spurned a group of atheists to develop their own signs. “Don’t Believe in God? You’re Not Alone” blared signs in the Midwest as recently as March of 2010.

While this seemed interesting to Hank, he didn’t see a song potential there so kept looking for more on the Florida sign story. Another link revealed an ad campaign that began in December of this year. A billboard hanging over the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel on the New Jersey side shows the Magi travelling to a nativity scene and states, “You know it’s a myth. This season celebrate reason.”

Wow! Such a daring statement shocked Hank particularly given the time of year. Thankfully he kept reading and a Catholic church had already fired back with a billboard of their own on the other side of the tunnel stating, “You know it’s real” over pictures of Mary and Joseph.

Now inspired by the bold beliefs from both sides of the God issue, Hank’s fingers flew across the keyboard. With mind focused, he pounded out a rough draft of what he hoped would be another hit, entitled, “You Better be Right.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Rachel Phelps12/10/10
I liked the concept. It felt a bit cut and dried - he read this, then this, then this. I would have liked more reaction from Hank, what was he thinking/feeling in response? SOmething to make me care about him as a character. The sign wars was a great idea for this topic.
Anita van der Elst12/12/10
Appreciate the concept. I can relate to being motivated by random news items to do on-line research. Amazing sometimes the rabbit trails one can follow, even taking one away from the intentioned restful afternoon. LOL! A reference to "song potential" kind of sidetracked me. Re-reading informed me Hank is a writer--I must've skimmed over that the first time. But it still didn't clue me in that he was into music until near the end when he hoped it would be "a hit".