What’s a gardener to do in the winter break from gardening? Bake bread! Mercy, am I a magnet to time-consuming activities?! Where did this begin?
Breaking Through Layers of Bread Stories
I am not the first gardener to gravitate to bread-making, evidenced in the poignant, quick-witted memoirs of William Alexander, The $64 Dollar Tomato and 52 Loaves.
Perhaps Mrs. Rabbit’s celebratory meal of “bread and milk and blackberries” with her good little bunnies got to me during the many times we read The Tale of Peter Rabbit. That garden story created a desire to grow our own fruit and bake our own bread…or did it? Bread is a basic element of God’s Word, the underlying layer and beautiful baseline for all the garden and bread stories written ever since, drawing us to the wonders of God Most High.
A Lenten Look at Bread
The Lenten season beginning this week moves towards the infamous supper of bread and wine (i.e. fruit), an intimate dinner with Jesus and his followers celebrating the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Yet the heritage of honoring the Lord with bread and wine reaches back to a deeper layer.
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.
Genesis 14:18-19 NIV
The king and priest of Salem and Abram brought a loaf and cup before God Most High. From Abram, who had no descendants at the time, eventually came a son, Jesus, succeeding him 42 generations later to again break bread and drink wine in Jerusalem. Wow!
A Personal Bread Story
My bread story began during Advent when I hoped to give neighbors homemade sourdough loaves for Christmas. What I thought would be a simple gesture has turned out to be a revelation of my ineptness and God’s interruption. Who knew the process would prepare me for the Lenten season of humility?
The experience has exposed my short-sightedness and lack of adherence, beginning with the Christmas loaves I never got to, continuing with the recipes and methods I cannot seem to follow. For all the advice and direction offered in a simple Google search of sourdough starter, my mind glazes over with “failure-to-follow-simple-instructions” fervor.
Thus after all the weeks of Advent and Epiphany, I can’t share my recipe: I have no recipe. Sorry, dear gardeners! Nothing I have done can be duplicated, notwithstanding the fact that I have done it over and over again since December. I have nothing to offer except a beckoning to get started. Mercy!
In the early weeks, fumbling through the process, my lack of skill and confidence brought me to my end. I wasn’t finding time to “feed” my starter, and soon the bowl of fermenting water and flour took a turn for the horrifying (covered in what I later learned was “hooch”).
THAT’S IT, I’m done! and I moved impulsively to put an end to the mess I had made of the whole effort by throwing it out. And that’s when I felt it—FFFTFT. Whoa. I sensed a being between me and the bowl, an invisible presence. Bread of the Presence? A force, a guard, a burst of life. Holy awe, What is it? I don’t know, except that I was turned back from destroying the contents and left with a strange conviction to see this through.
Grabbing my phone to look up sourdough-starter testimony, I stirred the goop, made peace with my incompetency, and learned more about forgiveness in bread-making. Starters are surprisingly resilient, I read. I was renewed to wander a new realm, rhythm, and rest, saved from precise timing and perfect procedure, freed to simply bake bread. It has been wondrously satisfying.
We have enjoyed many loaves throughout the winter, celebrating them with butter and boysenberry jelly, our own expression of Mrs. Rabbit’s dinner. My humble reminder beginning Lent: I am a mess, and God Most High is merciful.
They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer…he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them.
Psalm 78:35, 38 NIV
Bread. A simple loaf, a strong remembrance. May we enter into the Lenten season in awe at the many ways God’s salvation story bursts into our lives, beginning with our daily bread.
Photo Credit: © 2015 Shelley S. Cramm A fresh loaf of bread and Lenten roses, (also known as Hellebores), named for the season in which they bloom.