Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide To Growing An Intentional Life, by Lara Casey
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson.]
In reading this book, I found that I share a great deal in common with its author. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it did allow me to relate to this book particularly well, because it placed one of my more unusual interests in gardening in a larger perspective . Throughout this book, the reader gets a real sense of the author as a person, as someone who is more than a little bit on the perfectionist side, someone who struggles with the multitude of demands placed on her, and someone who ultimately values the process by which new life develops. This is true whether we are talking about the new life of small children, or the new life of garden plants and animals, or the new spiritual life that God wishes to create within us, all of which are the subject of a great deal of reflection and mediation. This is a far more layered book than I expected it to be, and a far more deeply personal one as well.
In terms of its contents, this is a well organized and structured book. The author divides her work into three sections. The first section encourages readers to dig in, the second part to cultivate their lives like gardens, and the third to prepare to gather in the fruit that results from the patient labor of God and man. Each chapter includes a variety of discussion questions for the reader to ponder and reflect on, and a great deal of personal discussion from the author. We hear the author discuss her somewhat hurried Vegas marriage, her struggles in overcoming a miscarriage, and her efforts at being supportive to her husband. The author maintains that tricky balance between showing herself as a real person, warts and all, while also calling for reflection and personal change on the part of her readers to slow down and reject the acquisition-minded culture that is all around us. In so doing the book ends up being a book both about practical Christianity as well as gardening and raising a family, and how all of these intersect with each other.
As is frequently the case with the books I read, this book is aimed at women, and while that can annoy me as a reader sometimes, in this case it was not irksome because what was said was generally applicable as well to male readers. For whatever reason, female authors tend to assume that their readers will also be female, and on occasion this leads writers to miss the opportunity to reach out to a larger audience. Fortunately, in this case the author manages to discuss gardening in such a way that it would be of use to men as well who enjoy cultivation, and who work to build the patience that results from working with the land and accepting the limitations of the environment even while hoping to encourage growth and life. The author makes a compelling case for the way that the twists and turns of our lives can prepare us for noble God-given purposes and that gardening itself has a lot to offer as a spiritual discipline that is accessible to a great many people. One gets the feeling upon reading this book that they know the author as a woman, and truth be told she is a pretty likable woman who one would indeed want to get to know a little better, whether through the pages of this book or in her busy life as a gardener, mother, and editor of a wedding magazine.
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