I’m starting a new tradition here at the Anam Cara Blog. Every Friday (except holidays, of course), I’m going to be posting a new “favorite” (or, as I prefer to write it, favourite—it’s better with a YOU in it!) for you. These favorites will be resources I found that I use in my spiritual direction practice, verses that have inspired or moved me, practices that make a difference in my life and the lives of my directees, as well as other great things that have become ‘favorites’ of mine as a spiritual director.
I’m excited to kick off this feature with my thoughts on a recently released book by Margaret Feinberg called Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey. I’m always looking for ways to help people enter more deeply into the experiential aspects of Scripture, and this book has that in spades. Read on…
First Friday Favorite: Scouting the Divine
This past May, my husband and I spent our honeymoon in Ireland, driving about the countryside and generally enjoying the ‘thin places’ that the Irish tout. (A ‘thin place’ is a place, they say, where the veil between the spiritual and the material is very thin.) Along the way, we stopped at a working sheep farm in the high country to learn more about these fuzzy creatures that seemed almost ubiquitous in Ireland. The results were eye-opening. From learning that sheep farmers these days make about 500 Euro per year for the wool from the 1,000 sheep that they keep to the fact that sheep need to be shorn or they will die from infection, we were immersed in the world of sheep-farming that gave us a much deeper appreciation for what it mean to be a shepherd.
In Scouting the Divine, Margaret Feinberg has written a book that takes the reader into the fields of Scripture in the same way that my husband and I were taken into the fields by our Irish shepherd. Through encounters with a gentle shepherdess, a burly farmer, a silver-haired beekeeper, and a meticulous vintner, Feinberg unpacks passage after passage of Scripture with sometimes lyrical and sometimes startling revelations.
What makes this book my first favorite is how deeply it involves you not only in the story of shepherd, farmer, keeper and vintner, but in Margaret’s own story as well. This isn’t a dusty look at how farming practices relate to first century Palestine, but a frank look at what it means when our faith has become dusty and needs invigoration. Early on, Margaret confronts us with the fact that we are very far from the rhythms and ways in which we are designed to live, that we (herself included) don’t have dirt under our fingernails nor an understanding of the agriculture that sustains us. She isn’t necessarily advocating a return-to-nature lifestyle, but a slowing down that allows us to live and appreciate the depth to which God calls us.
Scouting the Divine is a light, lively read which, for someone who is usually neck-deep in the heady and sometimes heavy language of spiritual classics like Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, is a relief. By ‘light’ I don’t mean insubstantial, and neither do I mean shallow by ‘lively.’ Feinberg’s story-telling allowed me to live her journey alongside her in a way that both opened me to transformation and allowed me to relax and enjoy the ride. There were also startling moments for me, when I realized a much beloved or often glossed-over segment of Scripture was seen in a much different light by those familiar with the practices and lifestyle described within them. Not only were these moments deeply touching, they rekindled in me a love for the experience of Scripture, of knowing what it’s like to be walking around with the Word within us and without us, touching us in our day to day moments as well as in our moments of more structured communion with Him.
So, if you’re longing for that kind of touch from the One who knows the sheep, the fields, the hives and the vines, I highly recommend you pick up this fresh-eyed, open-spirited journey into God’s loving Word to us.