I've taken a week's vacation from the blog, but am back with a new book review for you.
I am the vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.Darlene Marie Wilkinson uses the above passage from John 15 in her book that is the feminine parallel to her husband's book of the same title; and like a good vinedresser, she makes tidy work of her reflections on the text. By the 4th page of chapter one, she outlines what the reader can expect from her time with this book: "You'll discover how He intervenes when sin is holding you back. You'll understand how He responds when your own good intentions are leading you astray. You'll learn, perhaps for the first time, just how much He longs to enjoy intimate fellowship with you, and you'll have a clear idea of what you need to do to make that relationship happen. And finally, you'll know for certain that you can expect more lasting results from your life than you ever thought possible."
She makes good on this prediction by filling her book with illustrative women's stories as she defines productivity levels of spiritual fruit. These levels provide the organization for the remaining chapters of the book.
One of my favorite points in the book is where she highlights the verse, "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away." Her reflections on traditional vineyard care along with a modified translation of the Greek for the text add a full measure of grace to this verse, bringing peace to anyone who wonders if she might be a candidate for the cast-off status this verse seems to imply. "A stronger rendering for airo [Greek word for takes away in the verse] is 'lift up' or 'take up.' (Other NT passages support this reading of airo. The same word is used for example when the disciples took up 12 baskets of food...and for when Simon was forced to carry Christ's cross.) And according to a California vineyard keeper, 'lift up' is exactly what growers do to grape branches that are trailing in the dirt. The branch is too valuable to be cut off and throw away. Instead, the vinedresser carefully lifts the dirty branches, washes them off, and ties them up in the sun so they can begin production again."
Although rich and reassuring analogies run consistently throughout the book, not allof it is analogy-based. She also offers practical suggestions for abiding along with tools like charts for self-evaluation. Topical references for Bible study and thought-provoking discussion/study questions (What might happen if we mistake God's pruning for discipline?) might extend the time this book spends on your "current reading" pile but the encouragement factor here is well worth the extra time. How pleasant it is to go with her into delightful visualizations: "Imagine yourself standing in a cool, clear forest pool. Your arms are opened wide. Your face is up. Your eyes are closed. A pure, cool waterfall is splashing over you and around you...and you are drenched in peace. That's how it feels when you way yes to you Father the Vinedresser..."
Blessings on your reading!
(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)