Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey

Margaret Feinberg's latest book, Scouting the Divine (my serarch for God in wine, wool, and wild honey), describes her effort to look "for those ordinary and extraordinary moments when God intersects our world" with visits to a shepherd, a beekeeper, a farmer, and a vintner to uncover deeper and more sensory meanings to the Bible's frequent references to these vocations. She says, in the book's early pages, that these were "an intentional search for ways to move from reading the Bible to entering stories that can be touched, tasted, heard, seen, smelled, and savored."

She delivers on that promise, describing her search in a series of conversations that offer interesting insights and sometimes impactful applications of an agrarian way of life with which we have mostly lost contact. Her eye (and ear and nose) for detail often enlivens the experiences she describes, if at times the descriptions do go on a bit too long for this reader's taste.

Among my favorite portions was her exchange with farmers Aaron and Joe, speaking of John the Baptist's allusion to the coming Messiah who would gather the wheat into the barn but burn up the tares:
Joe piped in, "you can't tell wheat from tares just by looking at it. You have to grab, squeeze, and crush it to find out whether it's real or not. I think that's true of the spiritual life. Some people can look really good on the outside--they can seem more mature or look like they really know their Bible--but when it comes to the pressures of life and getting crushes, that's when the fruit really shows."
And again, when discussing with a Napa Valley vintner Jesus' reference in John 15 to the Father as a vinedresser who prunes the branches:

"It's the little cuts that are the most important," he explained. "You can't come in with a pair of shears and clip like crazy. You don't just look at what appears to be a dead branch and cut it off, and then look at a branch full of fruit and think it's fine. Over the course of pruning, you make a series of very precise, strategic cuts that will produce the healthiest, most robust vines."

"Which highlights just how intimately God is involved in our lives," I interjected.

"And also how God handles each of us differently," Kristof explained.

He explained that if a vinedresser chooses the wrong cuts, the vine won't produce fruit. That's why a vinedresser looks at each vine carefully. Every vine is unique. Even two vines planted next to each other may require significantly different pruning in order to produce fruit.

"One vine may have great soil and be strong enough to handle a significant pruning, but the next vine may be weaker, and the same pruning would leave it fruitless," he explained.

"Which may be one of the reasons Jesus chose to describe his father as vinedresser [and not owner of the vineyard]," I offered. "He's the only one who can make those judgments."
Scouting the Divine earns a place among such fine books as Phillip Keller's A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 and A Gardener Looks at the Fruits of the Spirit and Bishop K. C. Pillai's Light Through an Eastern Window in providing enlightening context to some of the Bible's most important figures.

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