Sabbath Bread

Price and I are trying a little experiment in these fledgling days of 2011 … I wouldn’t call it a resolution, persay, but more of a goal. We will not succeed, I guarantee it, but we are intentionally taking steps toward keeping the Sabbath.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. (Exodus 20:8-10).

For us, it is a goal. We long to keep space for the Lord in our daily lives, but fail constantly. And it’s as simple as following the rules He spelled out for us thousands of years ago. I’ve struggled my whole life with this idea of “quiet time,” the most-talked-about, least-practiced discipline in my youth. “Are you spending your 30 minutes with the Lord every day?” “What did God do in your quiet time this morning?” I’ve never ever been able to maintain any kind of consistency in that idea, and so more often than not it’s easier not to try at all than to keep trying and failing.

The Bible doesn’t say 30 minutes a day. It says a WHOLE day.

My gut reaction is, “are you kidding me? A whole DAY? With MY schedule?”

But we keep reading in Exodus, and it says “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Talk about a gut check. If God can rest a whole day, I certainly can. Surely.

So what does it look like practically in our lives, in 2011? We’re not entirely sure yet. It means leaving space for Him and for us. It means no noise. For us, that means no television, no computers, no cell phones. It means not being dogmatic, but respecting the idea of being quiet and resting before the Lord. So, for example, I am currently using my computer. But I’m staying off of Facebook, and Twitter, and Google News, and all of the myriad things that clutter my mind every single day. The point is not that any of these things are inherently bad, but that sometimes it’s nice to turn them off and be quiet for a little while.

We listened to hymns. We did a load of laundry. We talked and cuddled with Puff and took naps and drank tea and read books. I spent a lot of time just sitting, intentionally not doing anything. It’s a really strange feeling for me to not do anything. On purpose. It’s really, really hard. But I’m hoping it gets easier over these next weeks and months as we try to dedicate this one day a week to quiet.

I baked bread today, which I suppose is technically work but it is truly one of the most beautiful things that I can do. I love the whole process … the patience a good loaf of bread takes is truly amazing. It is such a discipline! I always want to keep working at it … knead a little more, keep checking the rise, impatience at every turn. Is it risen yet? Can I poke it? Is it time to add more flour? Why isn’t the yeast bubbling yet? Sometimes, the process drives me crazy, usually because I’m trying to cram it into an already-full day.

But today, it was joyful. Peaceful. Relaxing. I literally had nothing to do but bake this loaf of bread, and when you have all the time in the world, why not do it right? It’s an exercise in patience and rest … very much like learning to observe the Sabbath. The vast majority of time spent baking bread is spent waiting.

And when it’s done? Oh, it’s delightful. I’m working now out of an amazing cookbook that Price got me for Christmas – the Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook (Commemorative Edition). What I love most about this cookbook is it’s not just page after page of recipes. Every category has a base recipe (for example, hearth bread) and then there are several pages explaining the role of each ingredient (ie, yeast, fat, grain, liquid, etc) and then different substitutes and how they would affect the final outcome. So once you learn proportions, you can experiment to your heart’s content. It’s teaching me how to cook, not just how to follow recipes.

The bread I made today was completely basic. No frills. But I did it right, with no shortcuts. The yeast proofed a full 6 minutes. Two kneading periods, 4 minutes each. A long first rise. Another knead. A rest. A shaping. A long second rise. A baking. And the hardest part of all … waiting for the bread to cool.

The cookbook describes it best … “It is in this simplest of breads that the marriage of wheat flour and yeast becomes sublime. The smell of it as it comes out of the oven, the first taste before it’s even cool, that feeling of complete satisfaction after eating the first piece, all these combine to put the world right for at least a little while.”

And that’s how I feel tonight, and how I felt all day. The world was right, for at least a little while. No noise. No clutter. Just space and peace and time and rest. And bread.

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