Scouting the Divine Offers a Fresh Perspective on Familiar Scriptures
- 2009 7 Nov
You don't have to read the Bible long before you encounter cultures and lifestyles foreign to you. Some of the most beloved scripture passages include stories of shepherds tending sheep (when was the last time you hung out with sheep?), vintners caring for their vineyards (do most of us really know what that entails?), and farmers sowing and reaping (wait, food doesn't come from the grocery store?).
Modern believers often resort to skimming over these references, assuming we know "enough," but in doing so we lose some of the deeper implications of the text. After years of skimming, author Margaret Feinberg was no longer satisfied and set out on a journey to gain an up close and personal understanding of the agrarian world people of biblical times knew so intimately. Feinberg's travels gave her a fresh love for God's word, and with the release of her new book Scouting the Divine (Zondervan, 2009), she welcomes readers to join her on her enlightening (and sometimes humorous!) visits with a modern beekeeper, shepherdess, vintner, and farmer.
Crosswalk: So, tell us a little about Scouting the Divine and what led you to write it?
Margaret Feinberg: Nearly 10 years ago, I was taking care of my aunt's bed and breakfast in Sitka, Alaska. I asked one of the guests what she did in her free time. She said she was a shepherdess. I was instantly intrigued. We ended up talking about her flock all morning. I never forgot that conversation. I remember thinking, one day I'm going to write about this.
That was nearly ten years ago. The spring before last I managed to track this woman down and garnered an invitation to spend time with her and her flock. From there I travelled to Nebraska to spend time with a farmer, Southern Colorado to learn from a beekeeper and Napa Valley to spend time with a vintner. With each individual, I asked, 'How do you read this, not a theologian, but in light of what you do everyday?' Their responses change the way I read the Bible.
There are so many gaps between the Bible and our modern world. There's thousands of years, thousands of miles, and a completely different culture. Scouting the Divine is about intentionally reconnecting with that agrarian aspect of Scripture in order to better understand God and His Word.
CW: This probably is going to be kind of hard to answer, but what experience gave you the biggest "aha!" moment?
MF: One of the most meaningful "aha" moments with the shepherdess was when we first visited her flock. John 10suggests that God is like a shepherd and we're like sheep. Just as a shepherd calls out to his sheep and they hear his voice, so too, God calls out to us and we are to hear His voice and respond. It's one thing to read that passage, but it's another to stand in a field and watch an entire flock bolt toward their shepherd with only three spoken words, 'Sheep, Sheep, Sheep.' Watching that immediate response... she couldn't even say a free word without having the sheep know and respond. That gives me hope in my own life that I am designed to hear God's voice, even when most days I struggle very much with that reality.
CW: How did these experiences change the way you read the Bible?
MF: They reintroduced me to the wonder of God. For those who have been in the church for a long time or studied the Bible for years, we can lose our sense of awe of God. We can start to pick up the Bible and read with that "been there, done that" attitude. Yet, deep down inside, all of us hunger for more. I believe the Bible is the adventure book of a lifetime. It's the only book where you really, really get to know and be transformed by the Author by reading and studying. Scouting the Divine has reawakened the wonder of God's word and the reality that the Scripture is not just words printed in black and white and red, but something to be experienced, tasted, touched, lived in its fullness.
CW: What advice would you give to someone who currently is experiencing spiritual dryness?
MF: Pick up a copy of Scouting the Divine. The book provides a fresh look at familiar passages and stirs up the hunger to know God and Scripture. I recently had a pastor read a section on the book that looks at the wedding at Cana. He said, "Margaret, I have taught on this sermon for years and years. I have taught it from a perspective of Mary as Jesus' mother, from Jesus' perspective, from the perspective of the people who carried the water pots, from those who are getting married that day, but I never looked at it from the perspective of the grape."
When we're reading the Bible and sensing that spiritual dryness, we need to take time to pray, "Holy Spirit, give me eyes to what You are saying. Give me eyes to see the beauty of Your Word." I think that's a prayer God wants to say "yes" to!
CW: Is there anything else we haven't covered yet that you would like to share?
MF: In sharing my journey of Scouting the Divine, I'm hopeful others will begin their own journeys in scouting the divine. For some, that may mean spending time with a farmer who lives down the road. For others, it may mean that as they're gardening prayerfully considering what God is teaching them through the process of cultivating and pruning or weeding. My prayer is that through Scouting the Divine people will recognize that the Scripture is not just a dusty old book, but it's alive, vibrant, and it beckons us into such an incredible adventure with God, that it's worth being intentional and disciplined about doing. For those who want to dig deeper, the Scouting the Divine DVD Bible Study releases the first week of January. Small groups and Bible studies will definitely enjoy it!
Oh, and if anyone is on Facebook, they're invited to be my friend. And for all those on Twitter, you can find me @mafeinberg.
CW: Wonderful. Thank you, Margaret.
If you're interested in getting more information on Scouting the Divine, visit Margaret's website here.