Scouting the Divine: A Book Review

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I was initially hesitant to join Margaret Feinberg in her quest for Scouting the Divine. Prior to reading the book, I didn’t know anything about the author or her religious beliefs, and in reading the book’s back cover and first few paragraphs, I was unable to get a solid grasp on what divinity was being pursued. In the second paragraph, Feinberg writes,

“While some dismiss the Bible as a dusty old book, I view its pages as portals to adventure. Not only is the book chock-full of clever plots and compelling stories, but it’s laced with historical insights and literary beauty. When I open the Scripture, I imagine myself exploring an ancient kingdom…at every turn I meet kings and queens, scribes, and poets, all sharing their stories of courage and faith.”

All of these sentiments are nice, but I still couldn’t get a firm grasp on whether the author thinks the Bible is more than just an ancient version The Game of Thrones. While everything in her description was true, I was getting a little nervous over the fact that she never mentioned that the Bible is also the inspired word of God. I was fearful that the next 200 pages would either be filled with heretical views on the Scriptures that I hold dear or a self indulging diatribe of the author searching for some emotional revelation. I was nervous this was going to be a fruitless attempt at a “Christian” version of Eat, Pray, Love.

What I found instead was a sister in Christ who realizes that modern day Christians are missing out on a level of beauty and depth of the Scriptures because of our urban culture. While each word in the Bible is true and applicable to every human being, there’s an angle of understanding we miss by spending so much time on streets and sidewalks instead of pastures and vineyards.

Throughout the entire Bible, including Psalm 23, one of the most famous Psalms, we see the analogy of the Lord being our Shepherd. But what does this really mean to us if we’ve never even seen a real sheep outside of the zoo? In the Old Testament, the Promised Land is described as the “land of milk and honey,” but are we missing out on a deeper truth if we’ve never milked a cow and our honey comes in a plastic, bear shaped bottle from the supermarket?

Feinberg approaches these issues as a true journalist. Throughout the book, she spends time with and interviews a shepherdess in Oregon, a farmer in Nebraska, a beekeeper in Colorado, and a vintner in California. It’s obvious through her line of questioning that she prepared for her interviews by meticulously scouring the Scriptures for passages relating to the topics she wanted to study. She delves into the original Greek and Hebrew texts proving that this is not a self indulgent vacation but rather an academic endeavor. Throughout the pages of this book, she weaves deep Biblical truth with a relaxed narrative that allows the reader to feel that he or she is present throughout her journey.

While I was very impressed by Feinberg’s preparation for this book and initiative in pursuing her subjects, I was most moved by her trip to Sonoma and Napa Valley in California to explore the Scriptures relating to grapes, vines, wine, and viniculture. While sharing lunch with her husband and the vintner she was interviewing, he pulled a bottle of Chardonnay out of the cellar at his vineyard and described the complexities of the flavors. When offered a taste of the wine, the author purposefully abstained because she realized that this could have a negative impact on some of those reading her book that held different religious views than her own or those who had been personally affected by alcohol abuse.

While I initially questioned this book, I found myself disappointed that it was over as I finished reading the last paragraph. Feinberg led me on a journey across the U.S. which not only gave me an interesting insight into professions much different than my own, but she also helped the Bible come alive to me in a brand new way. This book is definitely worth reading and sharing with your friends.

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A Digital Christmas Card

2013 has been a pretty eventful year for the West Virginia based Hamptons.  Since actually printing, addressing, stamping, and sending out real Christmas cards takes a significant amount of time and foresight, I opted for a digital Christmas card.  Hopefully between the combination of text and pictures, you can get a good idea of what our year looked like.  Since 2013 was a busy year, I tried to break things down for everyone and provide the top 5 life events for us this year.

1.) I graduated from medical school

Well, this was a pretty big deal.  After a few hundred thousand dollars in loans and eight years in higher education, I took a very short walk across a stage and came down the stairs on the other side a doctor.  I’m glad my brother was there to take a video of it because I really don’t remember very much about the exact moment.  It was all kind of surreal, and it flew by really quickly. 

It was, however, a great weekend to spend with my family and Bethany’s parents.  We sat and laughed and ate and laughed and ate a little bit more.  After all this time, it seemed fitting to share this time with the people who were with me through the years of worrying, praying, crying, stress eating, laughing, and more of the same.  As graduation weekend flew by, I was continually reminded of how far God has brought me.  It is only by his grace and mercy that I can now call myself a doctor.

Image2.) We’re staying in Lewisburg for a little bit longer!

When 2013 began, Bethany and I were cherishing our last few months in West Virginia as I finished the process of applying for Ob/Gyn residencies.  Our plans, however, were radically changed when I wasn’t offered a position at any of the residencies where I applied.  Initially, I really struggled with feeling like God had somehow stopped watching over me.  My fears of failure and rejection that I’d been battling for years seemed to be coming to fruition, and I was given the choice of whether or not I was going to trust that God really did know what he was doing.

Initially, I signed on for a one year internship at the hospital in Lewisburg to allow me a transitional time as I prepared to go through the application process for Ob/Gyn again.  However, Bethany and I were still actively praying about what God had for us.  I slowly began to realize that God was no longer leading me toward a career in Ob/Gyn.  I still love delivering babies and scrubbing in on gynecologic surgeries, but I realize now that God is calling me to stay in Lewisburg and finish the family medicine residency here.  The months surrounding this whole ordeal were definitely a struggle, but God took his time with me and showed me that his plan is ALWAYS perfect!

During this time, I clung tightly to Jeremiah 29:11 where God promises that he “knows the plans he has for me.”  I also spent lots of time staring at the pages of Philippians 4 where I’m urged to “be anxious for nothing.”  I’m promised that if I pray to God instead of worrying, I will be filled with “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.”  God never promises that my life will be easy, but he continually promises that he will be with me through the dark times.

 3.) We moved

The House with the Yellow Door was the first home that Bethany and I shared together, and it was the perfect first home; however, this year brought the need for a change.  Originally as I was searching for Ob/Gyn residencies, we were planning on moving out of West Virginia to somewhere exotic like…Michigan or Ohio.  When we realized that we’d be sticking around our wild and wonderful state for a few more years, we decided a move was still in order, so we packed up all of our belongings and moved “to the country.”  Truthfully, our new house is 2.3 miles down the road from our old house, but we traded our little neighborhood and our short walk to downtown for an expansive view of the mountains that we’ve come to love.

ImageOur new home is beautiful and boasts a dishwasher and stainless steel appliances, but our new front porch looks naked without Orange Cat waiting for us to come home every day.  We miss that little guy.  People asked why we didn’t take him with us, but I think it takes a special kind of crazy to steal the little neighbor lady’s cat regardless of how much he might love you.

Image4.) We went to Europe

ImageThis trip came to be after a 6 week medical mission trip to Sierra Leone was unexpectedly cancelled.  Originally, we’d scheduled a 2 day layover in Paris at the end of the trip, so we were not only disappointed that we were missing out on the mission experience, but we were also going to miss out on sharing a day together in the most romantic city in the world.  My genius wife solved this problem by sending me on an intense scavenger hunt through Lewisburg (and I mean a literal scavenger hunt with very well sculpted poems as my clues) which ended in a wild finale back at our house with a multicultural lunch consisting of tapas, French wine and cheese, and tiramisu where I was presented with my graduation present—a trip to Europe!

ImageDuring our two week excursion through Europe, we visited Paris, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome, and Barcelona.  We met wonderful people, ate exquisite food, saw lots of historic sites, and shared memories that I will cherish forever!  I could take up pages writing about this adventure, but I’ll settle for sharing a few pictures.

5.) Bethany submitted a paper for publication

One of the many blessings that is coming to be through us staying in Lewisburg is that Bethany gets to keep working at her job.  This is my chance to brag on her since she’s far too modest regarding how awesome she is! She does research at the medical school where I graduated from and is also responsible for overseeing the students doing research in her labs.  One of her projects involves studying ischemia reperfusion injury on cardiac myocytes after undergoing revascularization post MI.  (In real people talk, she is studying the damage that heart cells have undergone after someone has been treated for a heart attack).  She also works with a professor who is studying the difference in gait patterns between runners wearing traditional running shoes and vibram five finger shoes. 

I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone, but she is GREAT at her job!  Several of her students have won awards for the research she’s directed them in, and she’s been the primary workforce behind several projects in her labs.  I’m so crazy proud of her because after hours upon hours of hard work, her lab has just submitted an article for publication, and the next one is in the works for release early next year.

 

2013 has been a wild year, and Bethany and I are excited and hopeful for what 2014 holds for us.  We pray that God will continue to pull us closer to him as we go through this next year.

We also pray that each one of you will have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed year in 2014.