Book Review: Chasing Vines

If you are an American Christian, it is likely that you have encountered Beth Moore. Maybe I have, but this book, Chasing Vines, is the first time I can say for sure I have read her. Now it seems that everywhere I look I see Beth Moore and everywhere I turn I hear a reference to Chasing Vines, which I believe is her most recent of many, many books. I am one of the ones who have been referencing her, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

There seems to be a pattern with book clubs (or women) and Beth Moore: a majority of women gush over her use of language and how she awakens the Bible for them and makes them feel all the feels. A smaller minority, if the group is amicable enough, will venture a little speech in which they admit that Beth Moore is not their “style.” I am in this minority, and I waited until the end of the book group to admit it because I was happy that other people were so happy and I didn’t want to be the Debbie Downer. Plus, there are good things to say about Chasing Vines, and I guess I’ll get to that right after I tell you the very little I know about the force, Beth Moore.

Sure, she’s an avid writer of inspirational literature—which is how I have encountered her—but she’s also the founder and head of Living Proof Ministries (which is Bible-based and for women). She primarily writes books and Bible studies. She is a globe-trotting speaker and appears in many videos. Wikipedia calls her an “evangelist, author, and Bible teacher.” She also appears to be a Texas firebrand with her enormous popularity on the ascent, a woman who is devoted whole-heartedly to her God, her family, and living in harmony with the outdoors.

Here are her books. Some of these might be journals and a some of them, I think, are guided prayer, but there is so much and I couldn’t really find it well-organized anywhere:

  • When Godly People Do Ungodly Things
  • Believing God
  • Who Will You Trust?
  • Get Out of That Pit
  • Songs of Deliverance
  • Fully Alive
  • So Long, Insecurity
  • The Undoing of Saint Silvanus
  • Living Free: Learning to Pray God’s Word
  • The Quest
  • Delivered
  • Living Beyond Yourself
  • Breaking Free
  • Feathers from my Nest
  • 90 Days of Faith series
  • Whispers of Hope
  • A Woman’s Heart
  • A Heart Like His
  • Audacious

Bible Studies:

  • To Live Is Christ: Paul
  • Jesus, the One and Only
  • The Beloved Disciple: John
  • The Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
  • Lives of Integrity, Words of Prophecy: Daniel
  • Stepping Up: Psalms
  • It’s Tough Being a Woman: Esther
  • Here and Now—There and Then: Revelation
  • Seeking a Heart Like His: David
  • Mercy Triumphs: James
  • Children of the Day: Thessalonians
  • Entrusted: 2 Timothy
  • Voices of the Faithful series

Chasing Vines begins with a trip that Moore took with her daughters to Italy, where she became suddenly and unexpectedly obsessed with viticulture. She spent the next, I don’t know, few years researching the vine from a worldly and a Biblical perspective, forming ideas that would eventually become a series of observations bound together in one book. The subtitle is Finding Your Way to an Immensely Fruitful Life and the idea is essentially that you are meant to bear fruit and that good fruit comes in season, from the care of the vinedresser and also from the rocks, the manure, the tough stuff of life.

So, this book was not on my TBR. I looked it up, and Beth Moore is not on my TBR anywhere, in any category, which gives me a little hint as to what would happen next. But I have a bestie who wanted to use quarantine time to read this book with a few friends and Zoom a book discussion once a week. I couldn’t turn her down and so forked over the money for the hard cover on eBay. (I don’t love straying from my TBR and I don’t love Zoom, but I do love my friends and spiritual growth.) Before I knew it, I was holding this book and I was, well, underwhelmed already. I never judge a book by the cover, but I do judge covers as part of a book. This cover would be alright—a blonde woman strolling down a long, verdant path between the grape vines—but what were the stylists thinking with their choice of Moore’s pose? It couldn’t be more awkward, and Moore is a beautiful, photogenic woman. Instead of something engaging, we have her looking down at the ground, her legs crossed, and her arms awkwardly extended. Where’s her face? It is a small thing, but it made me think that there was a lack of talent in the production of the book, and you don’t really want to start that way.

Next, I dove in with the assignment of the first two chapters, and kept on at a pace of two to three chapters per week until we wrapped it up this past Friday. Now, I knew right away that Moore was not really my “style,” but like I said, I waited until the last meeting to share this. Sometimes keeping your mouth shut is the best policy (okay, often), and it was good that I didn’t just write her off. Because I did get something, multiple somethings, out of the book.

What I got out of the book: It is true what they say, that Beth Moore really knows how to paint a picture. Her writing is very beautiful, sometimes startlingly so, and considering that she is talking about Biblical truths, she has a way of making them rise up around you and then you’re there, wherever that is, from her home in Texas to a vineyard in Tuscany. She’s also one of those people who make very unique and fascinating observations about everything from having a dog to the imprecatory Psalms. She’s a real learner, an overcomer, a humble woman who can surely string some words together to work magic. I underlined at a rate of a sentence a page, where a real truth would jump out and bite me on the nose or tug at my heartstrings. I feel she’s earnest and honest and I was happy to get to know her a bit and to roll around in her prose.

Where Moore and I have different styles: She’s no three-point sermon woman, at least not in Chasing Vines. In other words, I love a well-constructed structure in any kind of book and expect it in non-fiction. Though the skeleton is there in the section headings and chapter titles of Vines, the actual writing lacked clear direction. She kind of dove into something and then moved on to something else, leaving you hanging on an observation that felt incomplete. And, even more importantly, the form lacked rigor. I love logic, it was one of my favorite classes in college, and I appreciate a well-argued position. While there were Bible verses galore, Moore didn’t make vital connections between the verses, her research, and her writing. It left me thinking, Well that sounds nice, but I’ll have to look into that. I think many readers are okay to trust an author and relax, but I don’t swing that way. I would be curious to read one of her Bible studies, especially since she does have a knack for making things come alive, making them palpable, but I wanted more structure on two levels.

Christian women will keep picking up Beth Moore books and having study groups and going to her speeches and conferences and what not, and I’m sure many, many women will be touched by her and the things that she has to offer, including beautiful writing, honesty, and observation. I won’t be running back to her books because while I enjoyed the words, I was distracted by a lack of structure, like I was feeling instead of thinking my way through Moore’s obsession with grapes. It’s just me, but it’s not only me.

_______________

QUOTES:

“He gifted worshipers with the language to recount His commitment to them and to call upon His fruitfulness to act on that commitment” (p25).

“Have guts enough to choose the things that matter now” (p74).

“We still argue when we feel like the other goes too far, but we mostly dwell somewhere in the in-between, where saints still know they’re sinners but don’t forget they’re saints” (p79).

“The favor is dependency” (p113).

“He keeps shaping and reshaping us from glory to glory, and when living becomes nearly the death of us, He leans over our clay bodies and breathes fresh life into our lungs” (p114).

“It’s easy to get it in our heads that we’re tolerated more than enjoyed” (p120).

“But for most of us, the not-doing is infinitely more difficult than the doing. Give us a to-do list or a deadline or an assignment, but for the love, please don’t ask us to let go and be still” (p131).

“God reserves the right to reveal His specific leadership to His servants as we go, rather than all at once, from the start. He intends for us to stay attentive to Him…” (p137).

“I can send you somewhere and not go with you, but how can I show you something without being present?” (p141).

“If we dig down far enough, many of us who serve God would discover we’re more deeply convinced of our love for Him than of His love for us. When life beats the love right out of us, what happens then?” (p203).

“On the playground of privilege, intimacy with the divine slips down the aluminum-smooth slide of self-reliance” (p214).

“Will you delegate to someone else the fight for the ground God entrusted to you?” (p234).

“We forget that we were meant to work together, feast together, mourn together, and celebrate together. These are birthrights…” (p247).

“The credit for a great harvest goes to the Vinedresser, but the glee abounds to all” (p249).

“To be half hearted is to get the worst of both worlds” (p249).

“He called His people to a reversal of natural tendency—both as a service to others and as a way to set them apart from the world” (p254).

“In Christ’s meticulous census, the community exempt from the love of Christians has a population of exactly zero” (p260).

“On the phone one day, wearied by our self-imposed boundaries, I said, ‘I want to learn about what you believe. What books would you recommend to me?’” (p264).

“I think laughter is audible hope” (p274).

“And peering down lengthy tables protracted like branches, alive and abiding, He will behold the fruit of the Vine” (p282).

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