The roots of Conversations in the Vineyard

A few years ago, when our circumstances changed, my husband and I moved out of our lovely flat in San Francisco, overlooking the Bay, to our little wine-country weekend home in Healdsburg.  On the surface it doesn't sound like a difficult move, but it proved to be one of the most challenging moves we've ever made.   As busy, professional people, we were pulled out of the colorful, active center ring of the circus and plopped into the much slower pace and stark landscape of a fallow garden.  All of a sudden, we were filled with emptiness and faced with a "crisis of quiet" and we weren't anywhere near retirement!

Fallowness implies emptiness--intentional or not--for the sake of replenishment, and in that there is hope.  ~Susan Phillips

Conversations in the Vineyard was born out of the long obedience of letting God cultivate in me what had been there all along, learning to listen and be attentive to God's voice and leaning in to the rhythms of the vineyard during this quiet season of our life.  Three areas of my life converged at the same time:  I finished a leadership degree at Fuller Seminary, I began to spend time with a Spiritual Director, and I began to visit more wineries.

I remember feeling empowered by the first class I took at Fuller.  I had never really thought of myself as a leader before then but, as I constructed my Life Work Resume, it became clear that I had been a leader since I was a kid.  When I was doing High School by correspondence (from the University of Nebraska!) with a small group of friends in Guatemala, I was the one that started the yearbook for our host school, The Mayan School.  I had never been an editor, but it turned out great!  At the time I was attending Fuller I was board chair for Synergy Women's Network; I was president of International Impact, a small, crowd-funding non-profit; and I was an elder at City Church San Francisco.  Yes!  I was a leader.  At Fuller, I studied leadership in the context of theology and missiology.  I learned the importance of leading out of my "being" and I wanted to experience this in my leadership.  Little did I know that pruning and isolation would be the path God would use to cultivate the "being" part of me that was buried under the effusive effort I was putting into leading.

The most important thing in your life is not what you do, it's who you become.  ~Dallas Willard

When we moved to Healdsburg, life became so ambiguous and disorienting, I decided to meet with a Spiritual Director.  Every time we met, she turned my attention back to seeing God at work in the roots of my life and hearing God's quiet voice of love and leading.  I began the work of paying attention, of listening.  My prayers became less about talking and more about listening.  I read Scripture with more holistic attentiveness and less dissection.  I sat in wonder and awe at the mystery of God.  I had the luxury of time and the dirt of a garden to turn my heart towards God.  As I continue to experience intimacy with Christ through attending to our relationship, I am compelled to create a space for others to begin their own journey towards intimacy.  We live in an incredibly fragmented, disconnected culture and I long to see leaders and influencers (re)discover their intimacy with Christ--to be so deeply connected to Christ that they truly ARE Christ to the world.

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet. ~Frederick Buechner

Slowly, quietly the metaphor of the garden and the vineyard began to speak to me.  I planted a garden and watched the seasons come and go.  I began to understand that both life and death are held together in the garden.  I watched the vineyards change with the seasons...the tiny buds of spring; the riotous growth of summer; the joy of harvest; and the pruning and fallowness of winter.  I put the top down on my car and drove slowly through the vineyards, drinking in the beauty of my context.  I let my senses be filled with the joys of wine.  Vineyards and wine bring together the spiritual and the physical in a unique way and I want to share the beautiful gift with everyone I know!  And, why not?

If wine is indeed a special gift from God, then it should be enjoyed prayerfully.  Drinking wine at its best is like prayer.  We respond to God by enjoying his gifts and allowing wine to instill within us a sense of wonder, not just for the wine but even more for the generous giver of such a lavish gift.  Wine calls us to worship.  ~Gisela Kreglinger