30 September 2010

Thinking thoughts... while kneading bread...

...which is, I guess, better than not thinking. Seriously though, I'm finding these early Friday morning bread baking times quite delightful as I pray, meditate and work. As I mentioned the other day, I had great hopes that I would be using my Kitchen Aid to knead all the whole wheat bread that this family likes to eat. It didn't take long to discover however, that my machine just wasn't big enough for our favorite bread recipe... and that rather than trying to divide the recipe into smaller batches, it would be more efficient to go ahead and knead it by hand. And as I've done so, God has encouraged my heart as we've spent time together...

There is something uniquely wonderful when you knead bread by hand!  It starts as a gooey, sticky, lumpy mess that mushes between your fingers, under your fingernails and if you forget to remove it, every knook and cranny of your wedding ring. But as you continue to work with the dough, it transforms from that beginning glob of gooeyness. It starts to smooth out, stick more to itself than your hands as you fold::push::turn::fold::push::turn... sometimes you need to add a bit more flour because it is too sticky, but there is this magical moment where the dough that had been hard, sticky and difficult to work suddenly feels satiny smooth and soft, elastic and pliable, gently bouncing back each time you push it down, for the yeast has started to do its job.

Now, it doesn't always work out this way - I've got to get the right proportions of all of the ingredients into the dough. Too much flour makes the dough stiff and hard and the resulting bread is dry and heavy. Too much water makes the dough sticky and difficult to work. Water too hot kills the yeast and the bread never rises. Too much yeast and the bread starts to smell like one of those breweries where the yeast was fermenting (our swim coach used to take the team to tour breweries when we were on our annual Trip Team) ...and so on.

While I was considering all of these things, the Holy Spirit brought to mind these words from Philippians 1: "I thank my God in all remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."

I'm glad Paul is confident... because I don't always feel that way. I look at the mess of things that seems dumped into my life - and it is nothing but a sticky, gooey, goopy mess that no one would want to plunge their hands into. Yet God does... and in fact, He is the master baker who rolled up His sleeves, precisely measured exactly which ingredients He wanted into that bowl of my life and then begins folding::pushing::turning::folding::pushing::turning ...kneading and working until someday, some blessed moment I will become what He wants... elastic and pliable in His hands, smooth and gentle to touch, ready to rise. And we have the promise in His Word that the work He has begun He will continue to perfect.

It was also a fabulous reminder - it is easy to look at brothers and sisters in the Lord around me (or my children) and forget that the same Sovereign who is working and kneading my life is also working and kneading in their lives. I shouldn't be deeming their lives or situations as sticky, gooey, goopy messes or lumps of dough that should be tossed out since they could never rise... because the Heavenly Father has just as precisely measured out the ingredients of their circumstances and will continue to work and knead until they, too, are exactly where He wants them... because He cannot not be true to His promise.

Now that I've written all that out, I'm not sure if it will make sense to anyone else who reads this... but I've been so thankful to meditate on... and return to ruminate some more on... these thoughts, particularly as I spend time with the Lord and a rather large pile of leavened dough early Friday mornings.

Photo by ceaserastudillo, on Flickr

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