California bound, Hubster and I found ourselves soaring above the clouds at thirty-three thousand feet, bright sun shining amidst brilliant blue skies. With the long flight, most passengers were watching movies.
I was reading. (Know you’re shocked…) Suddenly, I realized tears were streaming down my face. I was only fifty pages into a book. It grabbed me from the first page and wouldn’t let go.
The book? Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey by Margaret Feinberg. Fascinating, fun and educational, this book will not disappoint.
The gals at Branches Book Club will be discussing this beautiful book Monday night, January 25th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Middletown United Methodist Church. I can tell from the contents of the book, there’ll be delightful-don’t-miss-this-discussion! Please join us and bring a friend!
Margaret thoroughly investigates four occupations: a shepherd in “the good shepherd” chapter, a farmer in “the harvest” chapter, a beekeeper in “the land of milk and honey” chapter, and a vintner in “the vine” chapter. I’ll just be sharing tidbits about the sheep and the shepherd. However, you do not want to miss her other discoveries.
Margaret’s scouting is highly detailed, hilarious at times, and blissfully confirming of our faith and the inerrancy of God’s Word.
She defines scouting the divine where “each of us are looking for those ordinary and extraordinary moments when God intersects our world.”
She views the pages of the Bible as “portals to adventure.”
Margaret prepares her readers for that adventure when she shares, “I long for the sense of wonderment that comes with knowing God, for those occasions when I wake to find the drawbridge down and the King beckoning me into a castle overflowing with life.”
Some of her interviewees become just as surprised as we readers do! Your jaw will drop over the minute details that only our Creator could’ve created. Margaret says, “When Scripture comes alive in our hearts, it doesn’t inform us as much as transform us.”
Margaret goes to visit a real-live shepherdess named Lynne. How Lynne came about raising sheep is astonishing. Lynne loves to knit. She’d knitted for years when her husband, Tom, “challenged her to go one step further and raise an animal that could provide the raw fiber for her knitting…” (Do not share this idea with Hubster or he’ll have us raising pigs for the enormous amount of bacon we consume.)
Lynne reports this matter-of-factly, after adding she mail-ordered the sheep! She tells Margaret that upon the sheeps’ arrival, all three were pregnant. Talk about being baptized by fire!
Lynne said the sheep gave birth successfully. She then decided she wanted her flock to grow, so she ordered two rams! Wonder Woman comes to mind.
Thanks to the help of an excellent, supportive veterinarian, fast forward several more years of experience, and we learn from Lynne she’s now become a “shepherd to the shepherds”, as young shepherds call her frequently for advice.
Lynne took Margaret to the barn and out into the fields to meet the sheep. You do not want to miss their adventure, nor the whereabouts of one of Margaret’s boots. Seems one boot got stuck in, well, use your imagination.
Back in the house, Margaret called out several Scriptures. She and Lynne looked wide-eyed at each other because Lynne would say, “Yes, that’s exactly how it happens.”
Lynne talks about the importance of certain gates being closed. They function as boundaries not only for the sheep, but to keep predators out. Margaret points us to John 10:1-21 where Jesus calls himself “the gate”, and the “good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.”
Lynne whispered to Margaret when they were out in the field, “As soon as they hear my voice, they’ll come running.” Sure enough, after calling them, the sheep came running toward both of them.
Margaret reminds us of Jesus saying, “…the sheep listen to my voice. I call the sheep by name and lead them out.” (Hubster reports our little Gracie comes to the sound of his voice. I report she has selective hearing.)
Margaret noticed Lynne was always counting the sheep. Lynne’s continual checking reminded Margaret of Luke 15, the Parable of the Lost Sheep, where “Jesus tells of the shepherd who discovers one of his sheep is missing. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to scout for the lost one.”
We readers learn of the many uses of sheep such as they’re a source of food and clothing. They garner goodwill, reconciling both human and Godly relationships. Sheep and shepherds are throughout the Bible (over seven hundred mentions!) and we, as believers, are told to shepherd our flocks. Who are you shepherding these days?
The part that caused tears to flow centered around the idea of sacrifice. Lynne reported that within the shepherding community, they all get excited about their lambs. She said, “When the first one comes, it’s extra special. It means spring is here. It’s a symbol of new life, hope, and joy for us…
I think that in the action of giving over the first, you’re saying to God that He is FIRST in your life.”
If you think of the Passover, you recognize “the spotless sheep is representative of the flawless sacrifice—the Son of God. When God asked for the sheep without blemish, spot or defect, He was asking the people …to sacrifice something they’d worked years to develop.”
We learn from Deuteronomy 18:4 that God “instructs shepherds to give the first shearing.” Lynne taught us “the first shearing is the finest fleece, used for the best clothes. Each sheep’s best wool comes from their first-ever haircut. The first virgin wool, is a shearing that can never be recovered.” (Read that last sentence again.)
Lynne pulled out bags and bags of wool. Some she’d dyed different colors. She’d marked them with the different sheep’s names and the date of their shearings. The first ones were markedly softer than the most recent ones.
Here’s the kicker: Margaret said, “For the first time in a long while, maybe ever, I had felt with my own hands what God desired from sacrifice. It was nothing like what I expected.
All too often when I think about giving my best to God, I think about giving big. But in asking for the first fleece, God isn’t asking for the biggest. He wants the smallest and softest. He doesn’t want more—He wants the best.”
Enough said. Still renders me tearful and speechless and this, my friends, is a mere sampling of just one of four vocations Margaret investigates, pointing you directly to the Bible.
Learn more fascinating details from the beekeeper, the farmer, and the winemaker. Come join us at Book Club and hear a great discussion!
If time allows, please bring a treat to eat with honey in the ingredients to honor the beekeepers of the world. I’m dreaming of warm biscuits, butter and honey, just for example. Baklava has honey, too, doesn’t it???!!!
Hope to see you Monday, January 25th from 6:30-8:00 p.m.!!! (To RSVP, or if you have any questions, please call Nancy Tinnell at Middletown United Methodist Church: (502) 245-8839.)
‘Til next time!