By Christine Sunderland
Christian writers shelter their stories, then baptize them with resurrection life.
We have been sheltering-in-place in the San Francisco Bay Area this 2020 Lenten season, hoping to slow the flu virus Covid-19, and staying home has provided an appropriate time to reflect, to pray, in effect, to observe a better, greater Lent. In going through some old albums I came across a sign I made for my bedroom door when I was ten. I was taught to set aside a quiet time for God, so I made a sign that would shelter me.
I grew up in the Bay Area in the 1950’s, a time of fewer choices than today. My world did not include restaurants, fast food, Internet, and social media. There were no smart phones, only ones with cords and a circular dial that whirred back in place with each number. Movies were rare; TV was limited to the Mickey Mouse Club and Gunsmoke. My sister and I played Scrabble and Clue, Old Maid, Go Fish, checkers, chess, and dominoes. We sang and danced to musical soundtracks on LP’s in our living room. We practiced piano. We played tennis in the local parks, jumped rope, hopscotched. We swung on swings and dangled from bars. We made sleds from boxes and slid down the grassy hill behind our house. We biked and roller-skated and kicked a ball up and down the driveway. We read Nancy Drew and Oliver Twist and Little Women. The highlight of the week was a trip to our local library where we chose ten titles to carry home and devour, with sad goodbyes to the books we had borrowed and returned. On Sundays we dressed our best and worshiped God in church: Sunday School, Youth Group, Choir. Our father was the pastor, gregarious and charismatic. Our mother taught Bible Study and hosted New Member Potlucks.
I grew up sheltered, sheltering in the safe harbor of home and family and church. And so when the recent shelter-in-place rule was decreed by our local county, followed by the State of California, I sheltered-in-place without complaint, hunkering into my world of words.
Today, as I find myself in the late autumn—perhaps winter—of my days, I follow the Church seasons that color and define the Christian’s year, telling our glorious story of salvation. Penitential Lent prepares for Easter’s resurrection with prayer and fasting. Just so, sheltering our spirit and flesh for a few weeks, in our home hermitages, encourages quiet reflection.
Easter comes and we burst from our cocoons, butterflies fluttering. We rise from Lenten ashes like the phoenix, new creatures. We are resurrected, baptized by this tide of Easter in this Anno Domini 2020. We fly from darkness into light, feeding our souls for that late and last season of our days, our rise to Heaven to share the light with those who have gone before us, to sing glory, glory, glory with our many voices.
This movement from sheltering to sharing is the movement of all writers, all tellers of tales. The Christian writer holds her tale close to the heart, hidden. The story ages, seasoned by seasons, like a fine wine. These truths harbor in our hearts like a hermit in a cave, waiting for the moment of fullness, of speech, of touching other hearts in the bright light of morning.
My novel Angel Mountain (Wipf and Stock Publishers, to be released this year) is about resurrection, dying and rising to new life. Our bodies grow in the dark womb, are born into brightness, gasping first breaths. Our spirits grow too, within the womb of Christ’s sacred heart, the womb of eternity manifested in time. In my story, the hermit Abram lives in a sandstone cavern, praying through his golden icons and singing psalms of glory to God. The cave is dark except for the shimmering light coming through the doorway. With dawn Abram rises to the light, continuing his song outside on the ledge, singing to the valleys and villages spread before him. The words in his soul are seasoned and aged and living. He is ready to touch others, to allow his words to baptize and resurrect.
Christian writers are people of baptism and resurrection. We are people of light, people of the day. We long to see, knowing we are blind, welcoming truth. And yet that blindness, that darkness, that sheltering in place, prepares us for the light of resurrection. Our words create and give flesh to the bones of our characters who enter a rainbow arcing Earth to Heaven. Our characters experience a resurrection of mind (opening to truth), of soul (opening to goodness), and of body (opening to healing). They are baptized with the holy, reborn.
Christian writers are called to heal our world, to share and proclaim the cure to the pandemic of Adam’s Fall from Grace. Our words, conceived in the womb of story, grow in the dark to burst forth in the light. We show our readers the path to Heaven, through the Woods of the Cross, and finally to the river running by the throne of God.
As I await Angel Mountain’s birth, I sit in a sheltering shadow—a womb—of time, praying that the words on its pages will bring light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, baptizing them with resurrection.How Christian writers shelter their stories, then baptize them with resurrection life. @Chrisunderland #ACFWBlogs #writing #writetips Click To Tweet
Christine Sunderland has authored six award-winning novels: Pilgrimage, set in Italy, Offerings, set in France, Inheritance, set in England, Hana-lani, set in Hawaii, The Magdalene Mystery, set in Rome and Provence (all Oaktara), and The Fire Trail (eLectio), set at UC Berkeley. She serves as Managing Editor for the American Church Union (www.AmericanChurchUnion.com). Visit Christine at www.ChristineSunderland.com (website and blog).
There will be no shelter here,
no more, not now, and not for me,
but I have said goodbye to fear,
for cancer is my Calvary.
Pain will close my voice and throat;
all right, OK, that all you’ve got?
You see, my heart still gets a vote,
and its ballot just will not
be counted with the huddled mass,
crying bitter tears of dread;
though the end is coming fast
I’m looking to bright skies ahead
for my branch to Vine is grafted,
and thus eternal life is crafted.
Thank you, Christine, and you too, Andrew. Beautifully written, full of deep truths and blessings.
Thank you, Andrew. I’m glad your mind and fingers are working… and yes, we are branches grafted onto the Vine. I too am looking to bright skies ahead. Blessings and thank you for your poetry. Amazing!
Thanks, Al, for your words of encouragement over the years! Check out Andrew’s www. He posts full sonnets twice a week or more about his walk with God in the scary jungle of cancer. He’s a great gift to all of us.