Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Finding God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

How can we truly understand the Bible that features shepherds who watch their flock by night when we live in a world of cell phones, supermarkets, and tabloid media?

Popular author and speaker Margaret Feinberg was feeling a bit removed from the agrarian world of wild honey, tilling the soil, and bringing in the harvest, that is so vividly detailed in the Bible.  So, she set out on a journey to connect this distant, ancient world to her contemporary, modern day life.  What she discovered was life changing.

Equal parts travelogue and inspirational memoir, Feinberg’s latest book, “Scouting the Divine: My Search for Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey” (Zondervan), retraces the steps she took to make the Bible come alive for her.  Along the way, she visited with a modern day shepherdess, a farmer, and even a beekeeper.

CBN.com Program Director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with Feinberg to discuss what she learned about herself on this adventure, why it is important to connect ancient truths with modern life, and what it truly means to know Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

It sounds like you have been on some fascinating adventures over the last couple of years in researching and writing “Scouting the Divine”.  What was your inspiration for writing this?
When I open up the Bible, I often sense a disconnect. The Scripture was written thousands of years ago in a distant culture. As much as I want to relate, I don’t. Part of that is because the Bible was primarily written in an agrarian context, and yet I live in a modern suburban-urban world. Instead of growing grapes in my backyard, I buy them at the local supermarket. Some Scripture references don’t come alive in my heart simply because I don’t understand the world in which they were written. Scouting the Divine is an intentional effort to dive into the agrarian world of the Scripture so that I can better understand God and all the wonder He reveals in His Word.  
The subtitle of your book is “My Search for God in Wine, Wool and Wild Honey.” What are some things you learned in that quest, on that adventure?
For Scouting the Divine, I spent time with a shepherdess in Oregon, a farmer in Nebraska, a beekeeper in southern Colorado and a vintner in Napa Valley, California. With each of these individuals, I opening up the Bible and asked, “How do you read these passages, not as theologians, but in light of what you do every day?” Their answers changed the way that I read the Bible. I had read John 10 many times before and seen throughout Scripture where God is compared to a shepherd and we are like His sheep, but it was a completely different thing to walk onto a muddy field with the shepherdess, listen to her say three words, “Sheep, sheep, sheep,” and have the entire flock bolt toward her.

John 10 came alive in a whole new way! Sheep are wired and created to know their shepherd’s voice, just as you and I are wired and created to know God’s voice. Sure, there are things that all of us can do i to make it more difficult to hear from God. We can run to the far side of the field. We can poke our head through the fence. We can try to bury our head in the sand or do a hundred other things. But if you and I are actively engaged in listening for God’s voice, like a good shepherd, He is faithful to make sure that we don’t miss a word.
What is the most profound thing you learned on your adventure?
One of the biggest things I learned is that my understanding of God is fractured. The picture I have in my mind’s eye is of a huge sheet of glass, and somebody drops a heavy ball and it shatters. In my own life, I think, “God is good. God is just. God is fair.” Yet God wipes out the wicked. God is to be feared, yet God is love. Some things just don’t fit together. I can sort of grasp each truth in separate pieces, but it wasn’t until I went and spent time with a shepherdess, a farmer, a vintner and a beekeeper that these separate pieces began coming together for me. I began to see in the eyes of a shepherd that, at times, real love—really, really loving—means disciplining. I began to see in the eyes of a farmer what it means to truly wait for a harvest, whether it’s from our perspective as the children of God, or maybe from God’s perspective, which is so much different. I began to learn from a beekeeper just how intricate God is involved in all of our lives and all of creation. For me, the profound walk-away was that my faith in God became more holistic and cohesive than it had ever been.
One of the key people or points that you focus on in your book is the role of the shepherd. Most people are familiar with the 23rd Psalm that delves into the comparison of God being our shepherd. Did you learn anything new about God through your exploration of the shepherd’s role?
One of the things that caught me off guard was that shepherds were not the strongest members of a family. If you look throughout the Bible, you will find that it is often the women, the children and sometimes the elderly who are taking care of the flock. You think back in the Scripture and you think about Cain and Abel, and it was the older brother who took care of the field and the younger who took care of the flock. Rebecca is the first shepherdess mentioned in the Bible. David, being the youngest son, was out taking care of the flock when the prophet came to anoint him king. In Luke 2, we read the shepherds were invited to the birth of Christ. Most of our modern nativity sets feature strong, older men as shepherds. Yet  more than likely, those invited to the birth of Christ were the women, the children and the elderly. God was inviting those on the margins of society to herald the news of the birth of God’s Son. I find that encouraging anda reminder to each of us, as we approach the holiday season, to ask the question, who are the shepherds in our lives and in our communities who we can include? Who are the women, the children, the elderly, the marginalized, and the overlooked, who we can go out of our way to make sure that they are welcomed into celebrating the birth of Jesus?
You have said that you felt “disconnected from a world where the produce of the land was not only a source of food, but a foundational element of religious life.” Why do you feel that way?
When Jesus taught agrarian themes were a natural part of the stories that He told. I often read these stories as if it’s a good teaching, but there’s more. Remember when Jesus told the story about the shepherd who loses the one and leaves the 99 to search for the lost one? It’s possible that when Jesus told that story a flock of sheep were nearby. These were the animals that le smelled and cared for and touched and took care of. This wasn't a nice story. This was part of their livelihood and sustenance. This journey helped illuminate and remind me that the Bible is not just black and white; it is flesh and blood. It’s something that people taste and see and smell and experience.
After people read Scouting the Divine, what’s the one thing that you want your readers to take away with them to apply in their lives?
The greatest compliments I ever get when somebody reads one of my books are simply, “I finished reading but I didn’t want it to end,” and “Your book made me want to read the Bible more.” If I accomplish that, I know that I have succeeded. My hope is that after people read Scouting the Divine their eyes and hearts  will be open to scouting the divine in their own lives, to recognize that as fabulous as it is to travel to Israel or to travel halfway around the world to experience something spiritually, that often we can see those things in our own backyards, by pulling over to the side of the road and talking to a farmer who might live nearby, or asking some questions to a beekeeper who may be in our small group or possibly in our church, to spending time with a vintner or a shepherd, whoever it may be. My hope is that readers will  begin diving in to not just the familiar, but the unfamiliar passages and themes in Scripture and getting to know them like never before.

Loading Webform
Get more than a Sunday sermon. Get to know others seeking God’s guidance and wisdom for life.
We are here to help and encourage you! Send a prayer request now, or call 1‑800‑700‑7000
Can God change your life? God made it possible for you to know. Discover God's peace now.
Download the free myCBN app. Share your prayer requests, receive prayer and pray for others!
Living the Christian life is a journey. Discover steps to bring you closer to Christ.
Get Email Updates
Give Now