Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Bread of Life


Susie Jensen, who went to be with Jesus, July 31, 1995.


John 6:51
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

My grandmother made the best bread ever.

No, it wasn’t focaccia, or challa, or sourdough, or ciabatta or any kind of fancy “artsy” bread that is fashionable among “foodies” right now. It wasn’t even whole wheat.

Grandma made plain white bread and she made it better than any bread I have ever tasted anywhere at anytime.

When grandma went to be with the Lord, I missed her greatly. My mom had left this earth when I was 13. Grandma promised mom that she would watch out for me and we became very close. I saw grandma making bread more than once and the big yellow milk glass bowl covered with a dish cloth with bread rising inside it was a familiar site on her kitchen table. But, I never had Grandma teach me how she made that bread.

With Grandma gone, something inside me wanted to make bread.

At first, I tried and tried to make a loaf of bread like grandma’s. After the first two or three attempts (and the resulting epic failures), the focus changed to being able to make a loaf of bread that was simply edible.

Then, my aunt announced that she had gathered up a bunch of Grandma’s recipes, copied them, and bound them together in a book—and the bread recipe was among them!

I eagerly looked up the recipe and found this:

1 heaping teaspoon yeast in a little warm water
1 cup water for each loaf
1 tablespoon sugar
1 scant teaspoon salt
¼ cup shortening
3 cups flour (about)
Let raise once, knead it down, & then form into loaves and let raise again.

What?! Grandma, how much is a LITTLE warm water? What is a SCANT teaspoon of salt? What in the world is shortening? And for goodness sakes, what do you mean ABOUT three cups of flour!?!

I wanted precise measurements. I wanted detailed instructions. I wanted the SECRET!

Instead, this so-called “recipe” was just a general idea of what went into a loaf of bread and how to make it.

Nonetheless, I took the recipe, tried it, and failed. All I could produce where hard tasteless lumps or puddles of sticky dough which were incredibly difficult to work with.

I got some books from the library and began an earnest study of bread. I learned that, in grandma’s day, “shortening” meant lard. Yes, lard as in rendered pig fat. I also learned that I could use vegetable shortening or vegetable oil as a replacement. The “scant” teaspoon meant just a little bit less than a full teaspoon and the exact amount of salt wasn’t critical to a good loaf of bread. No salt at all would result in a flat, tasteless loaf. Too much salt and it would impede the yeast and create salty-tasting bread.

Over the course of a year of trying and failing, I learned that the critical part of bread making is the proportion of flour to water. And, the reason grandma’s recipe said “about” three cups of flour was because the exact amount varied with how much moisture the flour absorbed from the air. That varied with the time of year, whether the windows were open, what the humidity was in the kitchen, half a million other unknown factors, and a certain amount of just plain guess-work

I learned the “scientific” method was to weigh, not measure, the flour and water.

Of course, grandma never weighed the flour and water. She did it all by feel. She’d combine the ingredients and keep adding flour to that wet, wet dough until it “just felt right.”

And that’s the point.

You can’t make a really good loaf of bread without failing numerous times. And you can’t make a really good loaf of bread without love.

You have to have failed numerous times to know what doesn’t work. Only by creating mistake after mistake do you eventually get the right “feel” for it. And, you absolutely have to care. You cannot just toss a bunch of ingredients in a bread machine, hit the button, and have it turn out consistently good and wholesome and delightful every time.

Yes, we fall down and we fail time after time. We repent and we sin, we sin and we repent—over and over and over again. We want an instant, quick, microwave-generation, 30-second-attention-span solution to our problems, but it doesn’t work that way.

Thank God we are given 70 years or so of God kneading us and working us gently over and over again to develop in us the texture and flavor of Christ. Thank God that we are deflated when we puff ourselves up with sin and pride. Yes, we get punched down in this life, but the loaf isn’t ready to glorify its creator until after it has risen a second time.

Bread is mentioned over 250 times in the Bible. It is always used to signify and symbolize that which feeds us and sustains us. The “bread” which grandma fed me was her love for me. Even when I had fallen away from the Lord, it was clear she still loved me. She didn’t necessarily approve of what I was doing, but she NEVER stopped loving me. Her example is one of the things that fed me and sustained me as I came back to Christ. Was there someone like that in your life? How did they feed and sustain your life in Christ? You can share their story here. Go ahead.

Today’s Praise
Psalm 78
23 Yet he gave a command to the skies above
and opened the doors of the heavens;
24 he rained down manna for the people to eat,
he gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Human beings ate the bread of angels;
he sent them all the food they could eat.





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