Several years ago I spent the night at a friend’s house after a writer’s retreat. She had moved to the eastern part of Washington state after getting married, so, wasn’t a native to wine culture in that part of the country. I thought of her husband when I read Part 4 (The Vine) for today in Scouting the Divine.
Katherine and I were expounding on deep thought related to grafting and vines. Since neither of us were raised around a vineyard, the profoundness was . . . well, profound. Her husband, a man of depth and understatement, looked at us like we were kindergarteners who had just discovered simple math. Not in a condescending way, just in a “doesn’t everyone know this?”kind of way. Raised in wine country, the lessons from vines, though important, were a given for him.
Which is to say, like the sheep section (because I’m not a shepherd) and the honey section (because I am not a beekeeper), I learned much about the process of growing grapes and the wine making process I did not know. Information that helps bring parts of scripture and even God’s nature to life.
Once again I loved Margaret’s approach: meet an actual vintner who loves the wine making process and learn from him. As you read this section, did you find yourself making multiple parallels with being in ministry and living cross-culturally? In section 4.2 I could relate to small vineyards making vintners “vertically integrated.” Ideally in our organizations we have people who know what they are doing in each positions, but sometimes I have had to become “vertically integrated” and been pushed to be more of a jack-of-all trades.
Just a few times later Kristof mentioned that he looks at every cluster of grapes multiple times because it takes “a lot of tender care” to be a good vintner. In the next section, 4.3 he mentioned how his work is tied to the weather and seasons. There is seasonal aspects to our work as well and as “beloved outsiders” we are also tied to political weather and seasons. I know that spring can be a tighter time in some areas of the world.
I was struck by the element of time involved in wine making. Shepherding showed the relational aspect of God and his sheep. Honey helped me see how local and unique God is with his children. This chapter? I see how much time, both for the long haul and the daily needs in the process.
“When it comes to making great wine, time is your friend.”
“A good vineyard always begins with preparing the land—removing the rocks and trees, along with their underlying root systems.”
At the end of year one, the plant is pruned back. Year two brings the pruning that will establish a “healthy base for decades to come.” Year three produces a modest amount of fruit that “drops to the ground. Year four’s small harvest leads to the first fermenting that isn’t bottled for two years. “Between the first planting and the first bottle is about eight years.” So, the first dollar is not made until year eight and “you’re probably not making a profit until year fifteen or twenty.”
A couple of years, okay, I get it. I am willing to wait that long to see results in ministry. But fifteen to eighteen? Though I have been in ministry that long, the truth is I wonder if I would have stuck it out if I had to wait so long to see any return. I don’t know, I would like to hope I would.
In section 4.6 I was fascinated by “girdling” the vines and the difference between why vineyards in Fresno gird and those in Napa do not. “I thought about different pastors and congregations I know and saw a parallel. Some churches gather thousands and they’re highly productive in the number of people they reach. Both other churches are more like Napa Valley vineyards. They may be small, but the character, the depth, the unique flavor of Christ within the community is unmistakable. While some might be tempted to disparage one growing style over another, both have their place.” I love the insights for us!
My favorite line came in section 4.8 where Isaiah uses the image of God as vintner: “The description of God as a vintner is one that implies a great investment of time, energy, and care. It also implies the expectation and promise of a fruitful and abundant harvest.”
Later in the same section, Margaret teases out the paradox of wine in the Bible. It is both the source of foolishness and horrible choices with very real consequences when abused AND a source of provision and blessing. I had not realized so many drunk people were included in the Bible!
The idea of tending the fields because if you don’t, struck a chord. You are registered for the retreat this weekend, yes? If not, “when you don’t tend, it can take years to get balance back.” God truly longs to sustain you. I was also taken with “it’s the little cuts that are the most important. . . Which highlights how intimately God is involved in our lives.”
Since we have the retreat this week and our reading and emotional energy will go to meeting with God, next week we will unveil our summer reading and a Get to know. We’ll pick up with Chapter 9 in Humble Roots the following week.
See you in the comments, friends.
Reading plan for Humble Roots and Scouting the Divine:
March 6—The intros to the two books (Wonderment in SD, Sowing Seeds in HR)
March 13—Part 1 (The Good Shepherd) in SD
March 20— Chapters 1 and 2 in HR
March 27—Chapters 3 and 4 in HR
April 3—Part 3 (Land of Milk and Honey) in SD
April 10—Chapters 5 and 6 in HR
April 17—Part 4 (The Vine) in SD (Retreat this weekend!)
April 24—Last week was retreat so to have time to focus on the retreat, no extra reading his week. We will have a Get to Know and get back to reading this week. Also, I will announce the summer reading!
May 1—Chapter 7 in HR
May 8—Chapters 8 and 9 in HR
May 15—Part 2 (The Harvest) in SD
May 22—Chapters 10 and 11 in HR
May 29—We made it! Two books read in tandem we will review and have a Get to Know