I had a wonderful experience this week at a “Chautauqua” Event in Homer, NY.
A Chautauqua event is based on the model of the Summer institute programs at Chautauqua, NY ( It includes classes, speakers, ecumenical worship, and music/arts. The Cortland (NY) Council of Churches has been holding this one-week event for many years. This year one of the class offerings each evening was a talk by a local author. I was privileged to be one of the presenters. The attendees were interested in hearing about how the book came into being, how it was published, and how fiction can be a powerful tool for theological reflection. I even sold a few books that I was happy to autograph.

From a personal perspective, I find that talking about “Community of Promise” and its process of coming into being helps me remember how exciting this whole experience really is for me. The story took on a life of its own a long time ago, but it keeps teaching me in deeper and deeper ways. In addition, it is touching to hear people describe their experiences of reading the book. One person told me how reading then novel creates a holy space for her. That echoes my own sentiment. While it is a playful exercise that looks at an old story from a somewhat eccentric perspective, it also illuminates some of the ways that people can relate to the divine. In some traditions, people try to restrict that relationship to very narrow terms, but I find that stories like this create a healthy expanded awareness of the rich diversity of relationships that people have with the “God of their understanding.”

If you haven’t read it yet, I invite you into the experience. If you have read it and enjoyed it, please pass the word along to others. Posts to Facebook and other social media about your experiences help immensely. Finally, if you wish to share your experience of the story, please comment here on this blog.
(Click below if you want to share it on one or more of your networks.)

Thanks for joining me on this journey.

Wayne Gustafson
“The Promised Land is within and among us.”

Here is a copy of the post I just submitted to LinkedIn, Books and Writers Group.

In a previous LinkedIn discussion (Book Distribution in a Changing Industry) I asked a question about alternate distribution models that might work with my novel (see

Among the comments in that discussion, Blaine Loomer suggested that I check out Because I am particularly interested in supporting independent bookstores rather than the “big boxes,” I asked for some information about bookstores that had already signed on to wubbit. I understand perfectly well why he didn’t reveal store names at that time (good boundaries, Blaine.)

I have just signed up with wubbit and I want to tell you why. (I am sharing this completely on my own – I receive no benefit from publishing these comments beyond potential book sales.)

I have a strong interest in seeing the development of some new distribution models – like wubbit. Of course, I wanted to see that wubbit was already wildly successful before I invested my hard-earned $36. But then in my research, I discovered a dilemma that is facing wubbit, and perhaps any other start-up. You see, I wanted to know that there were lots of bookstores just waiting to hear about MY book.

Then I realized that bookstores might want to see that there were already thousands of books available at wubbit before they jumped in. Of course, now you see the dilemma. So I decided that I could only take responsibility for my part of the picture. If I am truly committed to the development of more flexible distribution models, then I must be willing to support companies that are trying to do just that.

I decided to finish my sign-up at wubbit before writing to all of you. I want you to know that I have used my $36 not only to make “Community of Promise” more available but to support the transformation of the industry as well.

If you also desire to see the publishing/distribution industry’s transformation, I hope you authors and small publishers will make your books available on wubbit, too. Just think how impressed all those independent bookstores will be when they see all our titles there. By the way, I also told my local indy about wubbit. I see this as a way to help one another be successful in this challenging market.

Let’s all find even more ways to sell lots of books!

Wayne Gustafson

Just in the last couple of centuries, certain vocal elements in the world of religion have promoted the idea that in order for religious texts to be authentic, they must be literally true. This relatively new idea causes people to look at these writings in a narrow way. For example, in the Hebrew scriptures such readers must accept or reject the reality of the serpent in the garden, the parting of the sea, or the collapse of the walls of Jericho. Or, to give a few more examples, in the Christian Scriptures they struggle with virgin births, healing miracles, or resurrections.

The inevitable upshot of this literalistic approach is to create a split between one-dimensional believers and reactionary atheists, largely because it leaves no room for complex or paradoxical (luke-warm?) understandings. So, the only remaining choices are to believe it all or reject it all. I know many people who practice a deep spirituality but consider themselves atheists, having rejected the full acceptance of the predominant religious view. Fortunately not all religion operates that way. Many religious traditions value the paradoxical in their search for deeper understandings of the truth.

For the sake of this post, I want to look at a similar potential dichotomy regarding fiction writing. Seen in a superficial way, fiction might simply be the product of the author’s imagination with no relationship at all to truth. Some people caught in the literalistic perspective have also relegated “myth” to the ash heap of “perhaps interesting, but made-up stories.”

Though I have studied theology for almost four decades, my recent experience of writing a novel based on the biblical Moses gave me some new perspectives on the “truth” of mystical revelation and on the qualities of relationship with divine spirit. I have come to believe that “Community of Promise” illuminates the truth, even though there is not one shred of historical evidence for most of the story.

I have been so impressed by the process, that I want to encourage everyone at least to read good fiction, or better yet, to write it. For the record, it is clear to me that fiction does not have to be overtly religious to shine the light of deeper understanding on human reality. We can be of great help to one another by using our fiction to illuminate hidden corners of truth that other approaches overlook.

Wayne Gustafson
“The Promised Land is within and among us.”

I suppose there are lots of reasons why people write and perhaps those and a few other reasons why people publish their writings. When I started writing “Community of Promise,” I didn’t think much about publishing. I had not set out even to be a novelist! I have been a minister and pastoral counselor/ psychotherapist for almost four decades, so naturally I have written countless newsletters and sermons. But a novelist? It never occurred to me that I might write fiction someday.

“Community of Promise” began with a single scene: Moses stands before the Jordan River, preparing to cross with the rest of the Israelites to inhabit the Promised Land – the goal of a lifetime. But he’s having second thoughts. His people had learned so much in the wilderness about being a community that derived its identity from a very personal relationship with the God who had rescued them and chosen them, and from their shared experience of surviving out there for 40 years. Would they forget all they had learned when their focus turned to the business of exterminating the residents of Canaan, to property ownership and government? Moses feared exactly that outcome! And he decided he couldn’t bear watching it happen to the people he loved.

From that germ of an idea, I got curious. What would Moses do if he felt the way I have described? Motivating me by that question, the story insisted on being discovered and written.

Now that “Community of Promise” is in print, the focus naturally shifts to the potential reader. Here is a question for you, dear potential reader, that I am now motivated to ask: “What if the Promised Land is more about quality of community than geography or ownership?”

If that question intrigues you, I invite you to read “Community of Promise” – and then, once you have read it, let me know how it has spoken to you. And, if you feel further motivated, invite others to read it, too.


Wayne Gustafson

Greetings friends,

Since setting up this blog site, I have been consumed with ending my Interim Ministry position with The Park Church, Elmira, and beginning to reinvent my life. My last post was in April 2010.

Little by little I am identifying the specific commitments that are required for me to move ahead. (I am expanding my Pastoral Counseling practice, too, but I won’t deal with that here – just the parts of my life that are related to marketing “Community of Promise” and preparing to write another novel.)

I commit myself to writing in this blog once a week. I found with my previous blog ( that if I succumbed to the temptation publish posts more than once a week then I would also be tempted to write less frequently at other times. Once a week seems to be a realistic commitment. I plan to publish on Wednesday mornings and will write that into my schedule.

Some of what I write will be updates on the process, but I will also write about issues raised in “Community of Promise.” So, if you have questions or issues that you would like me to address or that you would like to start a conversation about, use the comments feature below to begin.

For now, suffice it to say that I have sold 206 copies of the book.

Wayne Gustafson
“The Promised Land is within and among us.”

Well, I held my first book reading last night with a small group of people in the community where I live. I like the feeling of reading the story out loud. Perhaps when I write the next book I will try reading the whole thing out loud as an editing technique. Any awkwardness in a sentence stands right out when read aloud.

It seemed to me that hearing pieces of my fictional account about Moses stimulated the listeners’ curiosity around the Biblical Story itself. I think that’s a good thing. I think there is so much richness in the basic story that it invites imaginative fiction.

The story in Community of Promise does not feel like something I manufactured. I think I discovered it instead. I find that each time I read some of it, the story and the characters speak to me anew. I hope others will have that experience, too.

I have a couple of promising events coming up in the next few weeks. It’s time to sell, sell, sell. If you’ve read the novel and you like it, I invite you to tell your friends about it. I am also looking forward to more readings and author appearances. You can help me out there, too. Please inform me of opportunities you hear about.

Thanks for reading (and for reading!).

Wayne Gustafson
“The Promised Land is within and among you.”

Greetings friends and followers,

My order of books was delivered on Friday, March 26. What an experience it is to hold an actual book of mine in my own hands. My neighbor, Megan Pugh has created a beautiful cover. I couldn’t have made a better choice. If you have graphics work to be done, check out her website at

Well, two things are about to change in my life. I will be completing my Interim Ministry at The Park Church, Elmira, NY in June. (By the way, while at The Park Church, I wrote a blog about Healthy Liberal Christianity for about 18 or so months. If you are interested, you can find it at
Also, I will be shifting my energy to offering workshops (where I can sell books) and writing. I have a couple of new ideas for books and I’m ready to get down to it.

Over the next few days, I will send copies to those who have pre-ordered them.
Thanks for your support.

Wayne Gustafson

I am about to enter a totally new phase of life. When I started writing “Community of Promise” several years ago, I never dreamed that I would end up creating my own publishing company to print, distribute and market the novel.

I plan to write in this blog about the process that I am going through. I will include what it is like to receive 1000 copies of the book next week, my upcoming experiences of speaking, selling, and marketing, and perhaps I will include some comments on what it was like to write the novel in the first place.

Right now, I want to welcome you to this blog and invite your comments and suggestions. If you are an author also, please send me your website information so I can include it in my links. I hope you will reciprocate and put this my address on your site, also.

Right at the moment I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole process. In the last month I have pre-sold about 100 copies and I think I have a good marketing plan for the rest (only 900 more to sell!). We’ll see how it goes.

If you click on the link at the right, it will take you to the website for “Community of Promise.” I welcome your comments about that site, too.

But for now, let me tell you how I got the idea for the story. In my dual professional role of minister and pastoral counselor, I have worked for many years with clients who suffered under a variety of addictions. Making use of that experience and my background, I designed a workshop about “Addiction and Spirituality” in which I made use of the Biblical story of the Exodus as a metaphor for the addiction, recovery, relapse prevention process. I learned through that workshop that addicts who are recovering often experience the proverbial “Promised Land” more while they are in treatment than after they have returned to their “regular lives.” I began wondering if the most profound experience of the “Promised Land” might actually belong more to the time in the Wilderness than to the geographic Promised Land.

A few years ago, well after the creation of my workshop, I was serving as the interim minister in a church. A parishioner asked me this question after services one Sunday:
“Why was Moses not allowed to enter the promised land after all he had done for the Israelites?” It seemed unfair to her. I heard myself answer: Well, perhaps rather than being prohibited from entering the Promised Land, Moses was actually allowed not to go. Perhaps he feared that the people were about to lose touch with the important lessons of the Wilderness when they began the conquest and governance of this new land across the Jordan River.

My answer to her in concert with my thoughts on the wilderness experience quickly turned into the beginnings of a story. I call it the “Community of Promise.”

Thanks for reading so far. Please come back again – there is more to tell.