…bread, of course. For most of us bread is both abundant and taken for granted. Except for the annual threat of a snowstorm which rarely manifests, grocery store shelves are filled with bread of numerous (countless?) varieties.
Store bought bread, however, tastes…store bought. That is why I like baking bread. Baking bread can be both fun and frustrating. Like most anything homemade, the ingredients are important, and not just what goes in, but how much, how long, etc. One of the things I like about making and baking bread is that the mixing and kneading is done largely by hand. Observing the dough’s feel and texture is most important.
Once bread is all mixed and kneaded you leave it alone and wait for the yeast to do its work. It may take an hour, or two, but slowly and steady the dough rises and the loaf takes shape. It is then ready for the hot oven and soon the kitchen is full of the yeasty smell of fresh bread! (don’t you wish this blog was scratch and sniff? Go ahead, lean into the monitor – you know you want to!)
The best part of fresh baked bread is not in the making or the baking, but the breaking. Even better, is when you can break bread with people you love. Many Saturday evenings, if we do not have church commitments, Amy and I (and sometimes the boys when on the rare occasion they are home) will sit in our back yard and share fresh bread alongside olive oil for dipping. We also enjoy baking bread to share with friends and neighbors.
Baking and breaking, a beautiful movement of life in God.
There is so much dumped, added and mixed into our lives – good and bad and indifferent – that exceeds our control or understanding. We live our years mixing it all together, kneaded and being kneaded, shaped and formed by the very hand of God. And then come those times when nothing seems to be happening; stillness and quiet, solitude and perhaps a touch of loneliness. Like yeast in dough, however, these can be our most formative moments, when our true shape is being revealed. Then the ovens! The trials, the testing, and the enduring.
Easy analogies in the writing, but we are well aware that living is no waltz across the dance floor. How is God shaping you? How about the church?
Furthermore, how do we see our life being shared? Like bread divided among people you love, so it is with our very lives. Life is best when shared. It cannot, in the end, be hoarded away thinking that we live for ourselves alone. Our sharing is not merely among those we love, but even, perhaps especially, among those we don’t – our enemies, those different from us, the strangers, the poor.
Through the ages the poor and the least of these are disdained and disregarded for not having enough bread; for not working hard enough; and so on.
Imagine living up to the vision of Christ: the city on a hill that cannot be hidden! God has made something wonderful in each of life and our wonder is best and fully realized when we share it with others. No wonder Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to yeast mixed in flour – abundance comes in the sharing.
Thanks be to God that you have allowed me to share my life with you and you with me.
Basic French Bread
- Dissolve 1 packet of yeast in 1 ¼ cup of warm water
- Tablespoon of melted butter
- Tablespoon of salt
- 4 cups of flour
Mix first three ingredients. Begin adding flour one cup at a time until the dough is elastic enough to be kneaded. When kneading the dough it may be necessary to add more flour (humidity and heat affect amount). After kneading for approximate 5-10 minutes place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with towel. Allow to rise for 1 ½ or until it has doubled in size. Punch the dough down and divide into half. Knead each half and shape as a small French loaf (about 12 to 18 inches). Score the top several times and allow the loafs to rise for another hour or so. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With one egg white, gently brush the top of each loaf before placing in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on a cooling rack. Enjoy!