Best story I’ve read in a long time…

3 05 2012

From Fast Company magazine comes the unlikely story of gang members, felons, bakers, and businessmen … and a Catholic priest who lives by the motto “You are so much more than the worst thing you’ve ever done.”

Please. Go read it now. You won’t regret it. 🙂

Loaves + Fish = Great Idea!

13 05 2010

So I was reading the story of Jesus feeding the multitude, when suddenly it occurred to me … Jesus would  have been a great youth minister!

I mean, look at this model of ministry:

1. Free Food! It’s a well-known fact that teenagers (and college students…and well, maybe everyone) are 10 times more likely to show up when there’s free pizza.

2. Flashy Miracle!  I’m not saying that multiplying the food was a gimmick…but it certainly gave people something to talk about.  And really, it’s not all that different from ministries that give away iPods, or ministers who offer to shave their heads when enough people show up for youth group.  Bottom line is, we want our meetings to be absolutely positively cool enough for our students to talk about with their friends when they get to school the next day.

But the best part about Jesus’ model is that it doesn’t stop there.  The next day, when the crowd shows up again, Jesus has some sharp words for them:

You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.  Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.

Gimmicks and free food are fine…at first.  But if we never challenge our students to move beyond a superficial understanding of faith, then we’re not doing our job.  If we feed their bellies every week and never feed their souls, then something’s missing.   As we introduce them to the Bread of Life, the invitation is always the same: “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”

Creepy, yes? This is what happens when you google "Jesus pizza." From


16 01 2010

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
– Matthew 13:33

I’m in the process of making ciabatta bread (it’s actually a two-day process; I just made the poolish, or starter, which will be transformed into a few loaves of home-baked goodness tomorrow). One of my Christmas presents was a book called The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The author, Peter Reinhart, spends the first 90 pages telling a story about his experience entering and winning a national bread contest, and then expounding on various theories and techniques in the creation of artisan bread (this is before you ever even get to the recipes).

I dutifully sat down and read the opening section tonight before I started baking my bread, and soon I discovered a world far more complex and fascinating than simple step-by-step formulas (which was, I believe, Peter Reinhart’s intention). My head is spinning with new vocabulary and scientific processes and mathematical calculations, and I am intrigued enough to wonder how many varieties of ciabatta I could make, simply by tweaking the ratios here and there.

One point from Reinhart’s introduction especially stood out to me: “Remember that our mission is to evoke from the wheat the fullness of its flavor. The flavor of bread comes from the grain, not from the yeast. Leaven should not draw attention to itself but to the grain. Therefore, a baker’s maxim is to use only as much yeast as is necessary to get the job done. This minimizes the flavor of the yeast and maximizes the flavor of the grain” (53).

I couldn’t help but read that paragraph in kingdom-terms (and I apologize if I’m stretching the metaphor too far by trying to explain myself). For we only experience the tiniest glimpse of the kingdom of heaven, yet that is enough to work its way through all of the “dough.” And as the yeast works, it makes the dough rise and become far bigger than it ever could on its own.

And what about “maximizing the flavor of the grain?” Now, here’s an interesting thing. Ordinary flour contains two partial proteins, gliadin and glutenin. One of the main goals of the mixing process, I learned, is to allow those two proteins to link up and form glutin, the protein in wheat that gives bread its flavor. By themselves, the partial proteins are nothing. But the whole — glutin — is essential to the entire process.

And so it is with the kingdom of heaven. When we let it work within our lives, we find that our broken pieces are made whole, and we are united as the body of Christ, empowered to share our unique “flavor” with the rest of the world. And the all-important yeast helps us to rise up for a purpose higher than we ever could imagine on our own.

Back to Crowder: Psalm 40

11 10 2009

BK01I first discovered the 40th psalm during my sixth grade Sunday School class, and it has been one of my favorites ever since.  (Although I suspect that the reason I picked this particular psalm had less to do with its message and more with the fact that it used the word “mire,” which I thought was a great word).  So, it was fun to come back to this passage through the book’s Lectio Divina approach (although, the Message translation uses the word “ditch” instead of “mire,” which took out a little bit of the fun).

This psalm is about being rescued, and it is about waiting patiently for that rescue.  Crowder compares it to the show Gilligan’s Island (or perhaps, its modern-day equivalent??); with every episode, the viewer watches as the characters get themselves into some kind of predicament, knowing that the situation will be resolved by the end of the show.

But that’s not what keeps the viewers coming back.  Throughout the whole overarching narrative of the show, the viewers (and the characters) are waiting for a bigger kind of rescue, the kind which will finally take them back home from the shipwrecked island.

And isn’t that the story of the entire Old Testament?  From Abraham, to Joseph, to Moses, to Joshua, to Gideon, to David, to Jonah…none of these characters are perfect.  They always get into trouble, and in spite of their mistakes and flaws, God always comes to their physical rescue.  But throughout the Tanakh, there are hints of another kind of rescue that is coming, one which we recognize as being fulfilled through the person of Jesus Christ.  This rescue is of a spiritual nature, intended for all of humanity: one which will finally bring us home.

We are living out these two stories, as well.  I’m reminded of a certain exchange in John 6 between Jesus and his disciples:

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

This passage occurs right after Jesus finishes feeding 5,000 people with just five barley loaves and two fish.  Yes, he is able to satiate our earthly desires, and provide us with all we need to satisfy our physical hunger.  But that’s not the whole story, nor is that even the most important part of the story!  He also has the solution to our spiritual hunger, an eternal solution.  This is the “big rescue” that we have been awaiting.  This is the final episode.

Daily Bread

29 07 2009

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
– Jesus of Nazareth, John 6:35

my first loaf of bread!

my first loaf of bread!

One of my ongoing life goals is to become a baker of bread. There’s something wonderfully familiar and appealing about the smell — and taste! — of homemade bread. Last weekend, I came a little closer to my goal as I tried out the Farmhouse White sandwich bread recipe, which was advertised as beginner friendly and foolproof. Not to mention, delicious!

the first slice

the first slice