Endorsements for Angel Mountain

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“In Angel Mountain, Christine Sunderland has created a gripping and theologically rich novel, in which four remarkable people make their way through a shifting cultural landscape ringed with apocalyptic fire, revolutionary politics, and end-times expectancy.”

–Wilfred M. McClay, University of Oklahoma, author of Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story

“Angel Mountain, which the world calls Devil Mountain, is beyond the reach of the secular city of Berkeley. There is a man living on the mountain who speaks of heaven and hell and good and evil. Just raising these topics is enough to spark concern and violence in his audience. Meanwhile, the world of 2018 is on fire, both literally in the countryside and spiritually in the minds and hearts of the characters of this quietly apocalyptic novel. Perhaps when the world does end, it will end both physically and spiritually at the same time. If so, Christine Sunderland’s Angel Mountain shows how to live in the midst of disaster and how lives can be remade if we have bold enough hearts. Read if you dare!”

–Paul Russell, author of Looking Through the World to See What’s Really There

“I have a certain shelf of books that I intend to read more than once. Christine Sunderland’s latest novel, Angel Mountain, is one of those books that will go on that shelf, for I will read it again. It is not a paint-by-number book. It is a Van Gogh, with poetic hues, chroma, colors, and shades brilliantly flowing in and out from one another creating a literary painting one will not soon forget.”

–Fr. Seraphim, Elder, Nazareth House Apostolate, Taylorsville, Kentucky

Purchase from:      Amazon          Wipf and Stock Publishers

Angel Mountain Published

I am happy to announce that Angel Mountain, my seventh novel, has been published by Wipf and Stock Publishers and is now available on the website as well as Amazon. Many thanks to all who have encouraged this effort over the last two years! The setting is our own Mount Diablo, east of San Francisco, with scenes also in Berkeley and St. Joseph’s Chapel near the university.

Description:

A holy hermit, a Holocaust survivor, a literary librarian, and a Christian geneticist search for peace and happiness in a culture of chaos. Hermit Abram, eighty, and his sister Elizabeth, eighty-four, escaped the Holocaust in Greece and made it to America as children. Elizabeth retired from teaching high school Western Civilization, and Abram, who retired from teaching classics at U.C. Berkeley, converted to Christianity and retreated to Angel Mountain to pray with his icons for the world and preach from the mountainside. Elizabeth hires Catherine, thirty-three, to sort her home library. When Gregory, thirty-seven, a geneticist supporting intelligent design, falls from the mountainside and is rescued by Abram, these four lives are changed forever. The earth quakes, fires rage, and lightning strikes, as antifa protestors threaten the hermit and his friends. Angels bridge Heaven and Earth, and eternity intersects time. Is this the end of the world? Is the kingdom coming?

Endorsements:

“In Angel Mountain, Christine Sunderland has created a gripping and theologically rich novel, in which four remarkable people make their way through a shifting cultural landscape ringed with apocalyptic fire, revolutionary politics, and end-times expectancy.”

–Wilfred M. McClay, University of Oklahoma, author of Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story

“Angel Mountain, which the world calls Devil Mountain, is beyond the reach of the secular city of Berkeley. There is a man living on the mountain who speaks of heaven and hell and good and evil. Just raising these topics is enough to spark concern and violence in his audience. Meanwhile, the world of 2018 is on fire, both literally in the countryside and spiritually in the minds and hearts of the characters of this quietly apocalyptic novel. Perhaps when the world does end, it will end both physically and spiritually at the same time. If so, Christine Sunderland’s Angel Mountain shows how to live in the midst of disaster and how lives can be remade if we have bold enough hearts. Read if you dare!”

–Paul Russell, author of Looking Through the World to See What’s Really There

“I have a certain shelf of books that I intend to read more than once. Christine Sunderland’s latest novel, Angel Mountain, is one of those books that will go on that shelf, for I will read it again. It is not a paint-by-number book. It is a Van Gogh, with poetic hues, chroma, colors, and shades brilliantly flowing in and out from one another creating a literary painting one will not soon forget.”

–Fr. Seraphim, Elder, Nazareth House Apostolate, Taylorsville, Kentucky

 

New Post Published by ACFW

April 15, 2020: American Christian Fiction Writers has published my post today, “Sheltered by the Resurrection,” considering how Christian fiction writers move from Lent into Easter in the telling of their stories. Thank you ACFW!

On Presidents, Promises, and Penitence

Klavan.The Art of Making SenseI am reading Andrew Klavan’s The Art of Making Sense, Writings and Speeches 2019. This is not a book about writing to make sense (which I thought at first and probably need), but a book about personal coherency found in a consistency of character, speech, and action. He is speaking of lives that make sense and heroes that make sense, ways of living that make sense. When they don’t make sense, when one part acts in contradiction to another, there is a brokenness, a fissure or fracture of personality. We might call this hypocrisy, for we sense deeply that there is a grand logic to living, to life.

We are driven to create, mirroring our Creator, and this drive is part of the coherency we struggle to achieve. It is this drive, this love of life—human life and all creation—that has been implanted in each of us, that is an integral part of our DNA, that calls us to make sense of our lives and give order to our days.

I believe this desire to make sense, to live moral lives of meaning, is innate in our very humanity. It is part of who we are as thinking, sentient beings. We are creatures of conscience. And yet none of us make sense entirely. We know we are broken. Still, we long to be mended, to be made whole. We believe we should keep our promises, because we want to be whole, honest, trustworthy.

Christianity recognizes this brokenness and provides an antidote. Scriptures, from the fall of Adam and Eve to Judas’ betrayal of Christ, tell the story of mankind’s falling apart and coming back together. They tell of healing the sick, mending the brokenhearted. Christians, of course, believe Christ alone can truly heal us, can make us whole again, once we confess our failings, practice penitence, admitting we do not make sense. We call those failings sins, those betrayals of our true and better natures, betrayals of our Creator. They are times of not making sense, times when we do not live cogent, coherent lives. With belief in Christ and his promises, our souls are mapped with his commandments, and we are placed on a path to wholeness, to making sense.

AMERICAN FLAGAnd so today, Presidents Day, we celebrate America’s presidents, especially President Washington and President Lincoln, leaders that promised to govern fairly and create a more perfect union. They promised to make sense of our country, to offer a refuge to those from countries betraying that promise.

But being human and fallen, even these heroes of our great nation are not always consistent in their morality, and our nation is not always great. Those who study history understand that our heroes will not live up to our expectations. The only way we can explain this in-coherency of character is to admit mankind’s brokenness.

As a voter and a Christian, this admission is a given. And yet, I do make demands on my public servants, hold them accountable, for they represent me in Sacramento, in Washington, and in the world. The first of these demands is that they be honestly trying to make our world, our nation, and our communities make sense, by having a sense of the moral law.

And so when I look at the lives of our American Presidents, I see broken lives, not fully realized. Yet I also see a true and passionate effort do the best, to be valiant and self-sacrificing, given the times in which they lived.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn witnessed to the barbarities of the Communist Soviet Union. He wrote that to do evil man must believe he is doing good. Man covers his conscience with a veil, smothering the accusing doubts. Man wants to believe he is doing good so he ignores the still small voice.

Andrew Klavan writes how bad ideologies act in this way:

A bad ideology is the vehicle by which the fine idea of corruption can spread over an entire society like a fog. In the impenetrable murk of a bad ideology the corruption becomes all-but-invisible until even the best and the brightest can engage in the most appalling behavior completely unawares. (The Art, 21)

And so entire cultures bury the voice of conscience as they rationalize evil by making it appear good. Hitler saw his cleansing of the “unfit” as creating a utopia. America does the same today. Today’s veil is pulled over the holocaust of abortion (over one million babies lost yearly since 1973), under the veil of the mother’s “right” to kill her child because she owns it (a kind of slavery) and a cleansing of the “unfit” who are defined as the unwanted.

Let us learn from our history, that promises aren’t always kept, penitence not always practiced, but that to make sense of our lives and sense of our nation we must promise to try to practice penitence and to seek truth, living lives of meaning and morality, celebrating all life, born and unborn.

A Reading from Angel Mountain, to be Published in 2020

Christine Sunderland will be reading from her novel, Angel Mountain, at the

 

LAFAYETTE LIBRARY

3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, California 94549

 SUNDAY, JANUARY 19, 2020, 2-4 p.m.

Angel Mountain, to be published in 2020 by Wipf and Stock Publishers, set on Mount Diablo, is about a holy hermit, a Holocaust survivor, a literary librarian, and a faithful geneticist who meet in a world of earthquake, firestorm, and mob violence.

Free Event—go to Lamorindaarts.org for more info. Six writers will read from their work and visual artists will exhibit their paintings, all from the local area.

From Time to Time

candleFrom time to time I think about time, but especially on New Year’s Day, when regrets are washed with resolutions.

In my novel, Angel Mountain, to be released this year by Wipf and Stock Publishers, a hermit preaches repentance and the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. A Holocaust survivor reminds her students to remember the past, to never forget. A geneticist sees God in a genome and all creation, and his life is changed forever. A librarian searches for truth in word and story, searching for herself. All of these characters wrestle with time and memory, with past, present, and future, asking, who are we? Where are we going? What are we meant to be?

Christians following the Church calendar of festivals and seasons are reminded that we are in time, bound by time, heading to a place outside of time. We organize our years around time—the festivals of Christmas and Easter anchoring winter and spring—and we populate the rest of the calendar with saints, penitence, sacraments and scripture, telling and retelling the story of redemption: the unloosing of the chains of time, so that we are free to enter eternity, life everlasting.

When I was young I peered down the long road of my life, my future. I knew that death was at the end of that road, that time would stop, but what did that mean? It seemed far off. I didn’t need to think about death for many years to come. Perhaps middle age would be the time to consider the end of my time. Perhaps old age.

Today, at seventy-two, I see the road I have taken in my time on earth differently. Most of the road has become my past; less will be my future. My time will come to an end in a decade or two, or today or tomorrow. As my time slips away, even as I write this, and my present becomes that future my younger self briefly pondered, the value of time remaining looms large and immensely present.

Every day is a gift of time, of life. Every hour, every minute. Tomorrow, surely, the years will run out, the sand in the hourglass will be gone, forming a soft pile of white in the lower chamber.

New Year’s resolutions mark time as it careens into the future. Our secular culture halts for a brief moment on New Year’s Eve or Day to recognize that a year has passed. Many resolutions are material: better diet, more exercise. A few resolutions are spiritual. I will say my prayers. I will listen more. I will love more. The late Archbishop Robert Morse said that he often confessed, “I have not loved enough.”

We can never love enough, for in this time of our lives, we do not know what love is. We guess it is more than a feeling. We intuit that love means the giving of self, the sacrifice of time for another. For that is the greatest gift, the greatest sacrifice, the giving of one’s own time for another. For the gift cannot be retrieved. The time is gone, is past, and lives only in memory.

We divide the time of our lives into units. In times past, the bell-tower tolled morning, noon, and night. Eventually clocks ticked, seconds disappeared, minutes were marked and gone. In time, watch faces bound our wrists to give witness to the time in our lives. Today, bright digits blink on blackened screens. Numbers absorb time, time we cannot save.

Except in memory.

Many have said that dementia is hard to bear. Senility means forgetting, and forgetting buries the self in the past. Our identities have been informed by our past, the good and the bad. So we confess, repent, and are forgiven, so that our slate of time is wiped clean of wrongs done, our bad choices no longer chosen.

As a culture, as a nation, we must remember our story, redeem the bad and celebrate the good of our past to understand our present, and to choose our future.

The Judaic-Christian world is schooled in painful penitence. We are taught to feel guilt and shame. We are taught to look back and assess, to cherish the good and to punish the bad. We are given a measure—the ten commandments, the golden rule—by which we measure our world, ourselves.

And so New Years reminds us to remember, to think back on the year. What was good, what was bad? What should be abandoned, and what should be nurtured? Do I feel shame, embarrassment, or guilt? I try to re-member those memories created in those fifty-two weeks, those 365 days, those 8,760 hours.

We stumble into the bright new season of Epiphany, following the magi following the star, bearing the gifts of time’s terror and history’s memory. Evening darkens our world, and we confess wrongfulness, praying for righteousness. We search for the messiah-king and find him a child in a manger in Bethlehem beneath a bright star.

As evening falls, and earth turns away from the light, we vow to repent daily, not yearly. We resolve to renounce the bad and embrace the good.

Yearly, daily, hourly, we resolve—remember—to love enough, to redeem our past with our memory, to tell the story, our history, to our children, the  amazing story of grace. Like the hermit on Angel Mountain, we tell the story of who we are meant to be, who we are meant to be as a culture and a nation, calling on heaven to re-member us with the light of time and eternity.

An American Thanksgiving

It is a truth once universally acknowledged that feasting on gratitude and fasting from grievance leads to happiness. Gratitude begets grace, and grace births joy, even better than happiness.           

LAND OF HOPEWe count our blessings.

We hope and do not despair.

We give thanks, and in the giving we forget ourselves, a great grace.

And yet, it often seems that our very nature cries out to list our grievances, our hurts, our wrongs done us, without thinking about those we have hurt or wronged.

We are told to forgive those who trespass against us. But first we must confess our own failings, our own trespasses. We must repent and turn in a new direction. For when we examine our hearts with a mind to a good cleaning, we are able to see clearly. We remove the motes. And what do we see once we have confessed and repented? Once we have cleared the timber that obscured our vision?           

We see that others aren’t so bad after all. We see that we all sin and fall short of God’s glory. In fact those others whom we accused earlier, in our aggrieved state of anger and betrayal, we now love. We are brothers and sisters.

And so penitence leads to forgiveness. Forgiveness without penitence leads to pride, the root of all sin and we are back where we started, having removed one demon and allowed a legion of demons to come in.

I recently finished Wilfred M. McClay’s excellent history of America, Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story (New York: Encounter Books, 2019). He says in the Introduction, that “Historical consciousness is to civilized society what memory is to individual identity.” As a nation we must know our failures and successes, have a historical consciousness (and conscience.) We must know ourselves. Just as an individual confesses and repents, so a nation confesses and repents.  The individual hopes to see his pathway clearly, and the nation hopes for the same.

To repent, to learn from our mistakes, means to study our history, personal and public, citizen and nation. As Dr. McClay writes, “When a day passes it is no longer there. What remains of it? Nothing more than a story. If stories weren’t told or books weren’t written, man would live like the beasts, only for the day. The whole world, all human life, is one long story.” (xii)

We must tell the story of America. We must learn it and pass it on to our children, or we will be nothing more than beasts, living in the present. Many of our youth have not studied history, at least those attending public schools, and the little they have learned has been thinly veiled propaganda. How will they know what America truly is, the ideals that ground her?

This Thanksgiving we recall our founders. The colonists were idealists, thinking to form a more perfect union. Having come from persecution in a faltering and fragmenting Europe, they wanted to create a better, more hopeful union of peoples in this new land. Their history told them that man was and is deeply flawed, and so in their new land they built new structures based on this knowledge. They wanted to secure freedom and dignity for each person, endowed by their creator, to protect and perfect with the rule of law, to check tyranny with balanced powers, and to ordain governors with the consent of the governed. These were carefully considered ideas formed from their own histories, their own stories.

The colonists were people of hope. But they knew too well that with man’s flawed nature, hope could turn to hopelessness, and disappointment if not despair could take root. They were realists.

I love the hope that grounds us as Americans. I love that we are idealists and we are willing to speak up for what we see as a more perfect union. I love that we are brave, that we inherently risk disappointment and failure, in order to engage in this great work of bettering our nation—not battering—of preserving the good and jettisoning the bad. We are risk-takers, for love risks. Love gives beyond hurting, until it can give no more. Love is happy to do so, for love is sacrificial. We love one another; we want what is best for one another. We love our country and want what is best for America.

When I consider the current divisions and angry discourse that many lament today, I also recognize the passionate idealism these divisions represent. We care enough to speak out. When such speech is threatened, we should worry. When such speech is bullied into silence, we should worry. When we no longer respect one another’s right to speak, we should be deeply concerned.

And when our history—America’s story—is rewritten to become propaganda for one viewpoint and then taught to our children in public institutions of learning, we should be greatly troubled.

My most recent novel, Angel Mountain, is about giving thanks. It is also about choice, freedom, respect, and human dignity. It’s about finding that path to heaven on earth. Those who have emigrated from tyrannical regimes understand the precious gifts that America offers her people. Such immigrants come yearning to breathe free, and they remind us how fortunate we are to live here. We are blessed to have a steady stream of immigrants crossing our borders, for they bring us the hope we may have forgotten. They remind us to remember who we are.

We are also blessed by the rule of law, the agreements we have made with one another that we observe as citizens. These common agreements preserve our dignity as individuals, protect our property, and safeguard our communities. These commonly assented rules decide how we are to live together. They are unique to Western democracies and those so influenced.

Our children must learn about these great blessings. They must learn America’s story—her past and her present—in order to safeguard these graces. We have the duty and obligation to the next generations to redeem the present with knowledge of the past. We have the duty to keep America a land of hope, not despair. Our children must be shown America’s trespasses as well as America’s triumphs, her darkness as well as her light. Only then can we shine that light to light up the darkness. Only then can our nation see clearly the path to be taken.

Dr. McClay has given us a great gift, for he holds a mirror up to our nation, so that we can see ourselves as a union of peoples and cultures with a shared history, with our many hopes and dreams. This reality helps us choose a way forward.

And for this I give thanks this Thanksgiving. I give thanks for all those who speak the truth about our great nation, the good and the bad. Only by knowing both, can we know who we are.

There is no room for grievance, for self-entitlements. There is only room for gratitude for the blessings of this life on this earth in this country we call America, founded on ideals formed from the past that must inform future. There is only gratitude for the freedoms we know and strive to protect.

And with such gratitude, all is grace. All is happiness. All is joy.

All is thanksgiving.

Thoughts on Michaelmas

Today is the Festival of St. Michael and All Angels:

“There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12: 7-10, KJV)             

And so now there is war on earth and within each of us. For each of us is a house divided between spirit and flesh, and a civil war battles within us.

The mystery of man is the mystery and miracle of spirit within flesh. Unlike angels, who are pure spirit, our spirits are entrapped, or perhaps enthroned, in flesh. We are em-bodied, and we think of ourselves as separate in some way from the houses we live in, instinctively sensing that we will travel on when our bodies die.

We are made up of two opposing forces and we yearn for peace. And to add to the battle, the great deceiver enters our hearts and minds, telling tales, tempting and tricking since he was kicked out of heaven.

I have long been fascinated by our dual natures and all of my novels have, to some extent, explored the borderlands of mind and body, heart and soul. We live in an unbelieving age, and yet we long for belief. We long for the union of our disparate parts, a wholeness, an understanding as to who and what we are. We are told by materialists that we are only matter, but we don’t believe them, or at least we don’t act as if we believe them. They are deceiving themselves. We are far more than mere matter, we say; we truly do matter.

Words—in speech or on pages—are one way we have been able to unite mind and body. For the words are seen and interpreted by our flesh, our eyes, our ears, our brains. To write down words, as I do now, I must engage fingers, muscles, eyes as well as heart and mind and soul. I hold a pen or tap a keyboard to give physical reality, flesh, to my thoughts, and not only mere reality, but entire universes mapped with reality.

The miracle of language, that graduate degree in consciousness, with its intricate architecture we call grammar and structure, with its melody of image, metaphor, and symbol, with its rhythm of phrases beating to one’s heart, or breezy as one’s breath, links us, one with another, so that once again, flesh is happily linked by spirit. This happens—remarkably without notice—between speakers side-by-side, face-to-face, through words heard. This happens—again without thought—between readers separated by miles and years, by space and time, through words written. Only through this astounding miracle, this breathtaking mystery of the physical (our bodies) linked to the spiritual (our thoughts ) by means of language, can we know those from the past, can we connect to those who wrote on paper and parchment, who introduced themselves to us through language.

These words I write today, on this mysterious and miraculous Feast of Michaelmas, are not new; the dance has been ongoing, a symphony of sounds that plays in my pages. Archangel Michael, who plays a key role in my current novel, Angel Mountain, reminds me today of these mysterious realities, our human nature, our very creation, life itself.

For we are stunningly beautiful creatures, you and I. We were made and destined for glory and the angels help us to remember this. Other dark deceivers hover in the shadows, twisting and denying, tempting us to belittle, to make little, the glorious. We were made in the image of God, and one day we will go to God, to become fully realized in Heaven.

As a Christian, I have visions of that fullness now, in the Church—in its theology and sacraments, its family of God, its living testimony to historical truth, witnessed and scripted in codices. I am blessed beyond measure by such fullness, such treasure, a wedding feast awaiting my daily presence, if I so choose to accept the invitation.

For I have the freedom to choose the light or not, to choose life and love or not, to choose Heaven and glory or not. I have the freedom to become what I was created to be, and to see the face of God in glory, a creature united in spirit and flesh.

And to see Archangel Michael and all the Heavenly Host.

Happy Birthday, America!

 

Happy Birthday, America!

AMERICAN FLAGI have been reading Dr. Wilfred McClay’s recent book on the history of America, Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story (Encounter, 2019).

It is so refreshing to read a balanced history, one that shows the founders and other figures in our past as real people, with flaws, just like all of us, but whose passion sought that necessary balance of liberty and law, truth and freedom. And it is the complexity of the historical characters and the civility of the debates (compared to today) that gives me hope as an American. Thank you, Dr. McClay! Our national history is one of flawed men and women rising to greatness, or at least achieving great things in spite of their failings. This is a hopeful record for all of us.

For if one person can indeed make a difference, then each of us must do just that.

As a Christian, I turn to God to help me with this life challenge. Otherwise, the responsibility would be overwhelming. For I know I am flawed, prone to sin, and without confession and absolution, these sins would rule my heart and mind. Without a blazing desire to live my life within the realm of God’s will, I would withdraw into myself. Today, we call that depression and one is medicated.

This July 2019, I realized that I had not posted on these pages for a year—since July 2018. Why so long? I found that when I prayed (again and again like the nagging Psalmist) for God’s will to be done in my life, many challenges suddenly arose, many commitments demanded my time. The first challenge was my current novel-in-progress, Angel Mountain. Determined to finish that first draft, I finished it and sent it off to a few experts (a theologian and a hermit) for feedback. Both have given me enthusiastic and encouraging endorsements for the novel. Angel Mountain is now with my local editor who will help me polish it—add here, explain there, pay off the set-ups, develop the characters, sharpen the plot. We want you, the reader, to keep turning those pages.

Angel Mountain is about the Holocaust, a hermit, happiness, and Heaven. It speaks freely as to definitions of who we are and who we are meant to be as human beings, considering evolutionary theories and genetics. It speaks about the free speech that Americans take for granted—the speech that runs through the sentences and pages of our books that live on the shelves of our libraries, books available to all. It is speech that must freely tell the American story accurately, with balance, with pride, and with love, a story told to unify and not divide. It is speech that is protected by those waving stars and stripes (that some won’t honor), a flag welcoming those silenced by tyranny. Those many words—in my coming novel, on those library shelves, or in devices and on screens—have been given the freedom to be born into our world, to live in readers’ minds or speakers’ speeches. Americans must never take that freedom for granted.

The Bill of Rights—those early amendments to the Constitution—were fought over by the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. The debate was a serious one, for Britain’s monarchy loomed large in the memory of the Founders. The Revolutionary War was not ancient history; the suffering was recent. The Constitution, some claimed, while creating our admirable system of checks on authority and balanced governing, needed to be further checked and balanced by rights listed and claimed for every American.

The first amendment was freedom of speech.

Our preacher this morning spoke of those days, those debates. He pointed out that the language Americans lived in and used to express their thoughts, their fears, hopes, and dreams, was the language of the King James Bible and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The colonists lived within this world of faith, faith in the Judeo-Christian God and his law. Virtue was something admired, considered necessary and to be encouraged in a free people. While a theocracy was abhorred (too much centralized power) it was assumed that all Americans desired to be good citizens, to follow the law. Those who broke the law needed to be judged before a court of their peers, not only to protect society from harm, but to set an example.

Today we have a much less cohesive culture. Generations since World War II have been told that the only good, the only virtue, is pleasing oneself. Our children have been raised within the religion of self-esteem. Goodness is not desired. Many look out for only themselves, not their brothers and sisters. They spew hate, as they seek to silence the “haters,” those who disagree with them, triggering their discomfort.

And those who speak out against this major shift in cultural mores are silenced by the mob. Where is free speech? Civil discourse?

Those early years of our republic were fractious as well and not always civil. But most desired what was best for the newly formed union of colonies, this new nation, not just power for a few elite, or what would benefit oneself alone. If they didn’t desire this then they desired to desire this. Their conscience told them that division would hurt the nation, and union would strengthen it. But how to heal the divide?

I believe as Americans we know, deep within our hearts, that union is better than division, when all voices are heard and respected. We know that love is better than hate, that love creates, and that hate destroys. Truth is better than lies. Order is better than anarchy. We know that liberty must be protected by law, and that laws must be made by the people, through their elected representatives, laws made by citizens who love America and her freedoms, by Americans who see their country as a light beckoning to the world. 

I will continue with Dr. McClay’s excellent text and pray that it finds a home with many students and teachers across the land. It may also be a good gift for Christmas and birthdays.

This morning in church, we prayed from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and listened to lessons from the King James Bible. The stars and stripes stood to the left of the sanctuary, near the pulpit, as though protecting that seat of free speech. As the clergy and acolytes recessed down the aisle, we sang with one voice, the organ booming:

God of our fathers, whose almighty hand/Leads forth in beauty all the starry band/Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,/Our grateful songs before thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,/In this free land by thee our lot is cast;/Be thou our ruler guardian, guide, and stay,/Thy word our law, thy paths our chosen way.                

 (Hymn #143, Daniel Crane Roberts, 1876)

Happy Birthday, America! You still speak to our hearts and minds. Let your citizens cherish one another, respect one another, listen to one another. Let us tell the truth as we see it, with love, without fear of reprisal. Let us be thankful for this great land of liberty and do all we can (within God’s will) to preserve our nation’s freedoms, every day, every week, and every year.

Angel Mountain and the Edges of Heaven

Mount_Diablo_from_Quarry_Hill_in_Shell_Ridge_Open_Space26,000 words and counting.

My novel-in-progress, Angel Mountain (a.k.a Mount Diablo), involving a hermit, a Holocaust survivor, a librarian, and a geneticist, is growing daily. I’m feeding it with prayer, trust, image, and song. But mostly trust.

Each day the boundaries of the manuscript are moved farther out, stretched like an elastic with hopes they remain until further stretching.

The process of growing my novel, adding faithfully to its meadows and mountains, has been one of not knowing what comes next. There are general parameters of course, but the ending is not yet clear, and so the growth could go in many directions. I have several crises in mind, and must decide which one or all of them. In a way I am daily facing an abyss, the edge of a cliff, looking for a bridge across to another land, another chapter or scene.

The novel itself is about borders, boundaries, edges, Heaven and Earth. There are planetary edges too, horizons, curves that outline the earth or perhaps underline the heavens. Where do they merge? When, in the spectrum of colors we call light, does blue become green? These are moments of infinity, eternity.

Our preacher today spoke of grafting our souls onto Christ. We must tap into the root of the Cross in mortal time to enter immortal time, eternity. We rise to eternal life, promised by Christ, because we have already become part of Him. We cross the borders of this life and enter a new land of color, joy, and song, only because we have been already grafted into Christ Himself.

I have found that the more we graft ourselves and our souls onto Christ in this life, here and now, through Eucharist and faithfulness and love, the more we know joy here and now. In this way, eternity is now. God is now. We can have it all right now.

If we choose to.

And so my novel is about choice and about the place where Heaven meets Earth, where Earth meets Heaven. My hermit knows this and his dreams of color and music and beauty scatter through the pages, hoping to graft the reader into his visions. It is about angels and mountains. It is about faith and science and the perceived edges of each, false peripheries rapidly disappearing with each discovery in genome and cosmos. Faith supports science and science supports faith. They need not be separate realms.

It is also about freedom of speech, the use and abuse of language and rhetoric, the boundaries of civility and respect and honor. Where does civilized speech end and hate speech begin? Must language be ruled by laws or outlaws? Must speech become a weapon used by identity groups and powerful interests to maim and destroy?

I fear I have too many ideas to cram into my little story about the goings-on on Angel Mountain.

The geneticist has met the hermit and the Holocaust survivor, and the librarian will soon meet them all. There is a gigantic book collection and baptisms in a pond. There is an earthquake, a shooting, and a book-burning. There are the usual questions, such as “What is the meaning of life?” and “Who am I?” and “Why believe in God?” There is song and dance and the music of the spheres. There is, most of all, pure joy on these edges of Heaven.

So, we shall see what happens next.