Pondering Philippians 1:6, part 2

Just a fun picture of PJ and Chai. She is so patient! One of the girls--I think Kelly--took this picture.

Just a fun picture of PJ and Chai. She is so patient! One of the girls–I think Kelly–took this picture.

One day last week, I threw the ingredients for bread into the mixing bowl of my bread machine and hit the start button for the dough cycle. Two hours later the machine finished its work and I lifted the lid, ready to punch down the risen dough and form it for its second rise.

But I’d forgotten to add yeast. The dough, flat and sodden, lay at the bottom of the mixing bowl.
I am often like that dough, struggling to rise but lacking the power. I am full of desires to do more and be more, but when I try to figure out the “what” or “how” on my own, I either slip into despair at my inability and failures OR I get puffed up over my itty-bitty accomplishments (until I eventually I fail and then fall into despair.)
But all was not lost for the sodden dough in my bread machine. I added the yeast and started the machine again. Two hours later the top of it bounced when I touched it, and an hour after that, light, fluffy rolls made my kitchen smell wonderful!
And all is not lost for me! When I strive-and-fail, strive-and-fail, I forget this truth: I was NEVER meant to provide the power for my growth; the Holy Spirit is my yeast! The Spirit provides the power to rise!
Jude verse 24 is another verse that reminds me that GOD is the one who holds me. I chose to use the Amplified version of Jude 24 for this blog entry because it uses the word “falling” (it’s in bold—my emphasis) and that seemed appropriate:
“Now to Him Who is able to keep you without stumbling  or slipping or falling, and to present [you] unblemished (blameless and faultless) before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exultation [with unspeakable, ecstatic delight]—
25 To the one only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory (splendor), majesty, might  and dominion, and power and authority, before all time and now and forever (unto all the ages of eternity). Amen (so be it).”
Isn’t that awesome! My own desires to be more/do more–there is no way they can compare with Christ’s goals for me! He says he want to present me before the Father faultless and in ecstatic delight! And He reminds me that He is ABLE to do just that.
HE is able! Not me!
His Spirit–the Comforter–is with me (John 14:16, 26).
And THAT is why I can be confident that God will complete the work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6).

Be the Dough

Emily is becoming our master cake maker! This is the angry bird cake she made for Patrick's sixth birthday (1/17/12). She made cake pops for the birds and pigs, colored almond bark to coat them, and then made a marshmallow fondant ("It tastes better than regular fondant," she told me.) for the details like eyes, noses, and beaks! It turned out so, so well.

Proof the yeast, add the flour, mix and knead, knead some more, let it rise, punch it down, shape the dough, let it rise…
It’s a long process, a restful process.
Or a frustrating one.
It all depends on the perspective.
For most of the high school sophomores in the Bread of Life class I taught the first two weeks of January, frustration won over rest.
“Why does the yeast need to proof? And what does that mean?”
“Have I kneaded enough? No? Really? How much longer?”
“It’s still not ready?”
“It has to rise again?”
“When will it be done?”
We made yeast bread six times during the course, and some of them were still asking the same questions on day six.
I ask the same questions of God.
How long? When will this be over? Haven’t I been in this situation long enough? Isn’t there anything I can DO? Just WAIT?
Breadmaking is a complicated process–and a little magical, too. The yeast—captured as a living organism and then dehydrated (“put to sleep” in a sense)—is “waked up” by the warm liquid. It bubbles and pops on the surface, letting you know, “Yes, I’m alive! I will work.” You add flour (and a few other things) and begin to knead. As you shove at the dough, hit it, smack it, even toss it back and forth (if you have a couple people), the protein in the four (called “gluten”) begins to stretch; it becomes elastic and flexible.
Then you let it rest. While it rests, it rises, and you wait, peeking every so often to see it fill up the bowl. Finally (this is a long rise period), you punch it down, knock all the extra air out. It deflates when you do this, like a balloon gently popped. You form it then, into loaves or rolls or whatever shape you fancy, and it rises again, smoothing out the surface, becoming beautiful. Another wait, another rest.
And, finally, it bakes. And it rises a little more with the extreme heat that would have killed the yeast at any time prior in the process.
It’s a lot like spiritual growth. “Magic” is involved: the Living Water brings to life what was dead within us; the Holy Spirit allows us to stretch and grow beyond our natural limits. A Master Baker (like the Potter) knows the complicated process: how long we need (sorry, unintentional play on words) trials and troubles; when waiting periods will help us grow; the right time to knock us down a little, to let failure reveal sin areas in our lives; what shape is the perfect one for us and most useful for the Baker’s grand plan.
I know so little of the recipe and the plan for me. But God says, “I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you… thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome” (Jeremiah 29:11, Amplified version).
I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember that I don’t know what I’m doing, but it seems I have to tell myself again and again to “be the dough,” to let go of the desire to control.
And let God, my Master Baker, work.