The Red Couch: Soil and Sacrament (Getting Down ‘n’ Dirty)


BookClub-CaraTo learn more about Soil and Sacrament, read the introductory post and check out what’s on The Nightstand.

I found myself at it again: mindlessly staring at the chocolate-colored dirt on the computer screen before me, I see pictures of succulents and “small space gardens.” I wish for the birth of my own Inner Farm-Girl so I too might dig deep into the earth and actually, literally feel where it all begins. But as happens too often, instead of putting to practice this holy act of returning to my roots, my Pinterest folder is the only perennial that seems to bloom.

Author Fred Bahnson seems to so easily practice what he preaches in Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith. Because for him—and really, as should for all of us, I suppose—“…working with the soil opens us inward where we find a God eager to lavish upon us God’s mercy and compassion and love” (249). Getting our hands dirty with the essence of earth opens us outward, and it reminds us of the joyous, unpredictable messiness of human life.

If I’m honest with myself, and with you, I want and I desire an abundance of the Maker’s mercy and compassion and love—so if becoming one with the soil is part and parcel of how I might get further in touch with these outpourings, then why wouldn’t I join in a bit of this messy, dirty-filled earth, even now? Why wouldn’t I embark on this journey even today, when I don’t seem to have the time, when digging in is just another thing on my never-ending to-do list?

Well then Lovelies, maybe that’s why I need you and you need me—so we can enter into this journey together. Consider doing the following with me…

1. Look at what you do have instead of what you don’t have. Maybe it’s an old Mason jar from the jam your mama sent you last summer, or perhaps it’s a worn planter with enough room for just a few seeds. For me, I looked in our little twelve by fifteen foot backyard, and saw this, just sitting in the corner of the yard, screaming for my attention:

SS32. Make it your own. Have I not noticed the planter, simply because it didn’t speak my language yet? Here I vow to add a bit of “me” to the mix—I brush splashes of creamy, ivory milk paint, delighting my heart in the best and easiest of ways:

SS23. Get some good dirt, and dirt that’s more than likely from your own backyard.  Bahnson himself roots for the dirt-underdog, cheering on the batter whom no one thinks is ever going to make it to first-base, let alone score one whole point for the team. Because he believes that all dirt—with a little bit of help and a whole lot of TLC—is good dirt.  I do the same.

4. Plant the seeds—you know, that $1.89 package of organic sweet peppers you purchased from the gardening section at Target in February with high hopes of your former track record proven wrong. I also know that as I take this risk with earth’s ground, I’ll remind myself that it’s okay if the garden of my dreams doesn’t pan out in the next couple of months. Because it’s the actual gardening journey, not the ultimate veggie destination, that counts.

5. Make yourself a planter’s note. Finally, because I currently seem to have the attention span of a squirrel and will soon forget which vegetables I actually earthed, I’m going to do my stomach and my brain a favor and write it down. Now. Before tomorrow becomes yesterday and yesterday turns into last week, and anonymous green buds vie for my attention.


Then I’m going to practice waiting. I’m going to wait and I’m going to water, as I watch for life to emerge in just seven to ten days, according to the directions on the back of the seed packet. And hopefully, for you and for me, as we join together in this messy, dirty, life-giving practice, we’ll be reminded that we’re cultivating both an active and a contemplative life. As we wait for seeds to burgeon in growth, so we wait for the Great Maker himself, begging and praying and pleading he too makes us truly, fully alive.

And maybe in the midst of it all, we’ll find that getting in touch with our hidden Inner Farm-Girl is just the beginning of the greater journey at large.


Come back next Wednesday June 25  for the discussion post, led by Sarah Caldwell. Join the Facebook group to share quotes and discuss the book throughout the month. On Twitter, the official Red Couch Book Club hashtag is #redcouchbc.

Do you accept this gardening challenge? How do you cultivate an active and contemplative life?

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Cara Meredith
Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from Seattle, Washington. Her first book, The Color of Life: A White Woman’s Journey of Legacy, Love and Racial Justice releases with Zondervan in January 2019. She loves a mean bowl of chips and guac, long walks outside, and makes it her goal to dance in the living room every night.
Cara Meredith
Cara Meredith

Latest posts by Cara Meredith (see all)

Cara Meredith