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|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
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Eight years ago, in a fit of urban angst, Keith and I pulled up stakes and moved to the country. I'd said I'd never leave that city house. I'd sworn he'd have to bury my cold, stiff body in the backyard, where the bones of our family pets rested in as much peace as our new puppies would allow them. I'd raised two little girls there. They'd driven their Big Wheels up and down that driveway, then their bikes. They'd pulled out of that same driveway, cars bulging with suitcases, towels, and brand-new bedspreads when they'd driven off to college.
But inch by inch, the city had tried to smother us. Every field where we'd walked our dogs, held hands again after quarrels, and cleared our clogged-up lungs of odorous air had been strategically buried under concrete. By the time the fourth storage unit went up within a four-block radius, we were howling at the moon.
We took Keith's parents with us. They lived within a minute of our front door and had moved to our subdivision so we could share life with them and care for them. We couldn't move without them, and we had no idea if they had the energy — emotional or physical, either one — to pick up and put down all over again. We decided to pop the question over taco salads at their house later that week. "Here's what we're thinking. Would you help us find a sliver of woods and go with ...?" They were in the car before we were.
That move changed a lot of things for us. Our pace of life slowed, we exchanged the sound of traffic for a nightly chorus of frogs and crickets, and my commute to work went from freeways to two-lane roads, only some of them paved. But perhaps the most surreal change of all stemmed from the plot of land we dug up to make our own vegetable garden.
Once you spend time digging around in your own little patch of dirt and tasting the fruit of your labors, it's hard to eat a tomato the same way again.
And since God is the ultimate Gardener, I have to believe He feels the same way.
* * *
"In the beginning."
Creation brought out the earthy side of heaven. On the third day, God created dirt and liked it. In light of His all-knowingness, perhaps we should be more Presbyterian about the matter and say that He liked dirt, so He created it. It is a poor soul who confuses dirt with filth or soil with soiled.
Dirt drapes this spinning rock we call earth with a fine epidermis — pocked, porous, and thirsty. Dirt accommodates ants with both heap and hole. It memorializes every creature afoot, lizard and leopard alike, with at least a fleeting footprint. The dirt under an elephant's toenails may end up as sunscreen for his delicate hide when he tosses it by trunk onto his back.
The fact is, in the hands of the consummate Potter, dirt is raw material for His wheel.
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up — for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground ...
The writer appears to make a point of the sequence of events. There was land but no bush or plant of any kind. No holly, jasmine, or juniper. No hyssop for painting doorposts red. No hydrangea for vases on tables full of bread. And there were no humans to miss them. There was only mist — rain in strange reverse. It came from the underside of the earth, wet enough to dampen the dust if someone wanted to make a mud pie.
The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.
After bringing the universe into being by nothing but His voice, God thrust His hands downward into the soil (adamah in Hebrew) and fashioned a human (adam). Both man and the patch of ground that God ordained to busy and sustain him were the stuff of divine touch. Direct contact.
The English word human literally means "a creature of earth," from the word humus, or ground. The humble word humble comes from the same origin and means "lowly, near the ground." God appointed gravity to keep us there.
The idea of God at arm's length is a comfortable thought, particularly since the Almighty Himself claimed His arms were not short. We could imagine the Creator with arms long enough to keep His face from getting dusty through the whole creative ordeal, but blowing breath into the human's nostrils sketches a different posture.
Here we have a Maker leaning low, near to the ground. Here we have God who is high and lifted up but is now bending over, animating dust. God, mouth-to-nose with man.
* * *
Right about now you might be wondering why, in a book about vines and vineyards, I've gone all the way back — literally, to the beginning. My grandmother Minnie Ola Rountree used to say I was one of those people who would recount the invention of the sundial if you asked me what time it was.
I admit it. I am obsessed with origins. I'm also convinced to my bones, and cheerfully so, that most people find origins fascinating, once they see the connections. Before we can mine the riches of vines and grapes, we need some context. We need to set the scene for the vineyard — we need to get down on our knees and dig around in the soil a bit to find out why the process of growing things is important to God, and therefore why it's important to us.
The Lord God planted a garden in Eden.
The reason planting is so crucial to appreciating the process is because it is spectacularly deliberate. In life, so many unexplainable things happen that can make a person feel like everything is one enormous accident. Some dots never do seem to connect. Your present job may appear to have nothing to do with your last job. You may feel like what you were trained to do has no link to what you're actually doing.
We long for continuity, for some semblance of purpose — anything that might suggest we're on the right track. Instead, we feel like ashes, leftovers from a bygone fire, blown aimlessly by the wind. We feel like we're not even important enough to be forgotten, because we were never known in the first place.
Our perceptions can be very convincing, but God tells us the truth. Nothing about our existence is accidental. We were known before we knew we were alive. We were planned and, as a matter of fact, planted on this earth for this moment in time (Acts 17:26). When Jesus told His disciples, "My Father is the gardener" (John 15:1, NLT), He wasn't using random imagery to sketch His point. Jesus' Father had waited no longer than Genesis 2:8 to go on record that He is a home gardener. Goodness knows, He could have afforded to contract it out, but we get no glimpse of angelic landscapers.
For those who have a whiff of imagination, the scene here is God Himself with hoe and spade. It's God who's afoot with herbs and bulbs. It's God with the knack and no Farmers' Almanac. In our corner of the world, where most flowerpots are screenshots, it's grounding to remember that humankind's first culture was horticulture. Every time we use the word culture, we're talking gardening. In Latin, cultura means a cultivated land.
The Bible uses gardening terms for the acts of God time and again. In 2 Samuel 7:10, God is described as appointing a people and not placing them, but rather planting them where He wanted them. Psalm 94:9 says God planted the ear on man, and according to Luke 22:51, Jesus could also clearly replant one, should that be necessary. Words like rooted and uprooted and grounded all speak the language of horticulture.
Out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.
God made to spring up. It's a wonder that God would choose to slowly grow what He could have simply created grown. Why on earth would He go to the trouble to plant a garden forced to sprout rather than commanding it into existence, full bloom? Why leave His desk and get His pant legs soiled?
Because God likes watching things grow.
* * *
Several years passed from the time we hatched our dream of moving to the country until the moving vans pulled up to our curb. We spent countless evenings driving the outskirts of Houston in search of a small chorus of trees whispering "Welcome home" to four city-weary warriors. We finally found them down a long dirt road that was only one car's width.
To preoccupy ourselves through the drawling, hair-pulling, haggling months of home building, we had a rectangle of land ploughed up for a vegetable garden. All spring long, we made the drive out to those woods on dirt roads so rock pocked it sounded like our tires were driving over Bubble Wrap.
Once we reached our destination, our only amenities were four rusty lawn chairs we'd leave leaned up against a pine tree. We'd unfold them, their stiff joints screeching, and brush pine needles and spiderwebs off the seats. As long as the bird droppings were dry, we'd just go ahead and sit on them. Country living demanded a certain heartiness, after all.
We watered those mounds, walked the rows, steadied the stakes, and pulled up the weeds. But most of the time we just sat in those four lawn chairs and stared that garden down, willing our little plants to grow. And lo and behold, they did. Even a fallen Eden recollects how to delight fallen humans. Our tomato plants were a little on the leggy side, but the stems were spry and sinewy. Every tiny orb was love at first sight.
"We grow our own food," we'd say over and over while we sat in our lawn chairs gnawing our drive-thru Kentucky Fried Chicken down to the bones.
When our melons were no larger than boiled eggs, we swore we'd enter them in a contest and win. We railed about pests gnawing our squash. We used words like blight and nymph and hornworm like we knew what they meant. Keith and his dad turned into ten-year-old boys, cussing and spitting and poorly digesting. His mom and I clawed at mosquito bites and wished for verve enough to squat behind the bushes. It was the best of times.
I was neck deep in commentaries, studying a Bible lesson, when I got the call at work. "We have a ripe tomato."
Before the sun could set on that beginner's paradise, we farming posers were sitting foursquare in our lawn chairs, Big Pops holding up a tomato no bigger than a five-year-old's fist, like Rafiki holding up Simba. He drew his pearl-handle pocketknife from his faded overalls with ceremonial slowness and slid the short, stained blade through the meat twice to quarter it. Juice dripped merrily into his palm. There was no rinsing. No salting. No adding to. No taking away.
Grinning from ear-to-ear, with tomato pulp atop our chins and seeds between our teeth, we waved our firstfruits before God with gleeful hearts and received it the way the earth offered it.
Have you ever wondered why God goes to the trouble of sanctifying us? He could instantly zap us into His image the moment we decide to follow Jesus, or He could transport us into heaven the moment of our conversion. Why would He opt for taking us through the long, drawn-out process of planting, watering, pruning, and harvesting? But sure enough, He rolls up His sleeves, puts palms to the dirt, and begins putting the pieces of our lives together in a way that matters.
I think it's because He's not looking for a store-bought tomato. He wants the real thing, raised by His own hands, hard won as it is.
To a gardener, grown is overrated. It's growing it that makes the fruit sweet.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Chasing Vines"
Copyright © 2020 Beth Moore.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 The Vineyard
Chapter 1 Plant 11
Chapter 2 Place 21
Chapter 3 Grapes 37
Part 2 The Vinedresser
Chapter 4 Song 51
Chapter 5 Inspection 69
Chapter 6 Hills 87
Chapter 7 Rocks 101
Part 3 The Vine
Chapter 8 Vine 117
Chapter 9 Abide 131
Chapter 10 Pruning 147
Chapter 11 Trellis 161
Part 4 The Fruit
Chapter 12 Soil 175
Chapter 13 Roots 193
Chapter 14 Alfresco 207
Chapter 15 Manure 219
Chapter 16 Pestilence 227
Part 5 The Harvest
Chapter 17 Ingathering 239
Chapter 18 Gleanings 251
Chapter 19 Feast 269
About the Author 293