Bigger Better Baked Goods: Ingredients

Reflections

pen-and-paper_400x295_39When I was young, my mother would ask me if I would like to assist her in the kitchen as she baked. Perhaps she invited me to share in some quality time, which I am truly blessed to have shared. Or, perhaps she invited me to instruct me in the dos and don’ts of baking that she, one day, hoped I would use in my own kitchen. If this were the case, she unfortunately failed miserably: my oven and pans were the cleanest parts of my apartment as a bachelor. Sorry mom.

Whenever I was in the kitchen with my mother at the initial stages of the baking process, it always seemed unlikely that the unappetizing mixture of egg yolks, milk, sugar and flour could amount to anything more than the sludge that stared back at me from the mixing bowl. “This is going to be the cake?” I would ask myself. But, to my surprise, each and every time, what eventually emerged from the oven was a beautiful and always delicious product that I wasted no time in enjoying. The reason behind my doubt was that what I saw in the mixing bowl did not share any resemblance to the cake I had concocted in my own imagination. The cake in my imagination was a picture of the finished cake on the cake-mix box, with absolutely no likeness to the cake-mix in the bowl. These two things were completely different in my mind. Placing them side-by-side it would seem illogical to assume otherwise. What I saw in the bowl was unformed and unrealized cake. What I saw on the picture was formed and completely realized. The mixing bowl seemed to me less than desirable, while the image of the cake, whether in my mind or on the box, taunted me with sweet delight. One I had no interest in. The other had my undivided attention.

This line of thought is not much different from the way we tend to view ourselves. One look at our personal traits or characteristics and the “hand that we have been dealt,” what we tend to see is something undesirable or unrealized. Perhaps we see some growth and some potential but, in the end, we come away disappointed by the all-too-real “cake-mix” and no sense of a “cake.”

Successfully, confidently approaching the impossible is like seeing the finished cake that everyone wants to try first. However, what we see reflecting back to us in the mirror is not so much the cake everyone wants, which is the dream fulfilled or the impossible made possible, but rather the cake mix that no one takes a second look at.

While it is possible to find joy without succeeding in all of our dreams, and it is equally possible to find happiness while not achieving every goal, we try desperately our entire lives to improve ourselves or our situations. We always want more and we always want to be something different. Yet, we are consistently, and quite abruptly, brought back down to earth by the reality that there are some things that we can do and many things we cannot. At some point we take a look at the ingredients intermingling in the mixing bowl and say to ourselves, “This just doesn’t look good. This just doesn’t look like cake.”

Now let’s allow our imaginations to run wild a bit and imagine that the ingredients in the mixing bowl had lives all of their own and the presence of mind to assess their respective states. If an egg or a grain of sugar were shown the picture of the finished cake on the box and were told that soon they would become that picture, there would naturally be suspicion racing through their minds that becoming “the cake” was unlikely or even impossible. At this point, we are fortunate to have access to the foresight of the baker with the entire baking process in mind. For example, when I doubted my mother and the sight I saw in the mixing bowl, she reassured me that what I saw was simply the first step of the process and, with delicate care and patience, we would ultimately come to realize the fruits of this labor with a delicious cake. The question for us is, “How can we know that what we see in the mirror every morning has any potential to become something that we might not have the ability to envision?” One possible answer to this question is in the perspective of God toward his creation.

God is a creator God who, after each of the seven days of creation in the Genesis creation account, always uttered the same words: “it was good,” and ultimately, on the seventh day, “it was very good.” What we read in the Bible is the story of a God that desires more than anything to see his creation reach the full potential for which it was originally designed, According to the Bible, the motivating factor behind God’s creation of the world was to share the love and unity experienced in the triune relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit with a creation of willful participation. The attainment of the seemingly impossible exists entirely with God. The desire and the ability to do more than we think we can began with God. We were built for more, and therefore, in us is always a longing for more.

The Bible expresses throughout scripture that in order to share in this “creator power,” one must willingly participate in the relationship with God that requires the element of trust or, faith. However, perhaps we, like the cake, might doubt the state of things as we see them, or doubt the direction in which God is leading us.

God’s expressed desire is that we have faith in his ability to control any situation from beginning to end. This notion of trust, although quite shallow in comparison to the actual trust in and proficient ability of our creator God, reminds me of a show that my family used to watch when I was younger living in Singapore. Living overseas has many benefits but, unfortunately for a small child, certain entertainment sacrifices have to be made. First and foremost, TV will inevitably be different. Your favorite shows from back home out of reach in your new home, and the shows you are able to enjoy are typically third-tier entertainment back where you came from. However, this presents one with the opportunity to stumble upon TV shows that, at home, you would not have given a second glance. One of these shows my family began to enjoy was called “Sledgehammer.”

The story revolved around a police detective, nicknamed “Sledgehammer” who, for most of 30 minutes each week, went around making a mess of a situation. But, come the end of each episode, Sledgehammer found a way to be the hero. As a result of his constant bonehead antics, there was little trust on the part of his colleagues or friends that he would ever amount to anything or achieve his objective. However, before heading off into each mission, Sledgehammer always left the audience with his tagline of choice: “Trust me, I know what I’m doing.”  While Sledgehammer clearly did not deserve the trust of those around him, God has left us with a 3,000-page autobiography that provides us with reason upon reason why we can, with all confidence, trust him. So, trust him, he does actually know what he is doing.

When it comes to our ability to foresee our potential or purpose, our position is not all that different from the ingredients in a recipe.  As ingredients, we lack the proper perspective to know who we truly are in God’s design of us and why we were created in God’s design for us.  To acknowledge these simple truths is the beginning of true life as we were created to live.  To deny them is to remain under-developed and hopelessly incomplete.

Thursday Reflection Series: Bigger Better Baked Goods

Reflections

pen-and-paper_400x295_39We live in a world where achieving dreams or fulfilling maximum potential is a driving force in each of our lives.  Dreams are meant to be chased and fulfilled. This is a wonderful thing: children are taught that the world is their oyster and anything is possible. We hang posters of our heroes on the walls of our bedrooms, we watch movies starring our favorite actors, we watch sporting events displaying the explosive talent of our favorite athletes. Regardless of the particular area of interest that fosters our dreaming, we grow up with an innate belief that we can achieve anything. Unfortunately, this is worldview is entirely flawed.

Growing up role-playing as my favorite sport star of the moment,  it seemed perfectly logical to assume that I could naturally develop the skills I pretended to have in my neighborhood games. Of course, all of us boys began to realize our natural limitations as time passed, a sobering reminder that impinged on the “if you can dream it, you can live it” perspective.

This brings us to the main focus of this particular reflection. Most of us lose hope in “dreaming” and “achieving the impossible” because the voices that typically encourage us to do so don’t truly know us and in the end don’t care about us. The more we come to grips with reality, the more we begin to see that the “just do it” slogans that perhaps at one time motivated us are really fake, empty and misleading. We begin to see the wizard behind the curtain and all of his selfish incentive to get on our good side by “encouraging” us to do and be more all the while lining his pockets and laughing all the way to the bank.  We see that the world has no room for the dreamer and has much more respect for the down to earth doer. While this might seem pessimistic, it is often the case. The more time passes, the more we realize that there are many things that we would love to do, but probably very little that will actually get done. Either “life gets in the way,” or we collide headfirst into our own limitations.

This glass-half-empty outlook is based on a steady string of disappointments. Throughout our lives we have come to the realization that life boils down to the hand of cards we have been dealt, and to think otherwise is to a naive, irrational dreamer.

It is no surprise, then, that many are put off by the claims and promises of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus. Within the pages of the Bible we are repeatedly confronted with a God who tells us that we can do anything, and that nothing is impossible with God. We are told that all things are possible through Christ and with faith in Jesus Christ we can “move mountains.” That leaves most of us responding with an emphatic, “yeah…right!”  So, as one questions the possibility of a mountain being moved on faith alone, you might also be wondering how possible it is to transition from where we are now to where we plan to go.  As proof that miracles do still happen, allow me to introduce our focus of this series, baked good.

There is nothing more satisfying and mood-lifting to me than the smell of a bakery. The aroma that escapes the confines of a bakery is beyond distracting. Reading the Bible, I believe that God shares in my love of baked goods. In the Old Testament, after the Israelites were rescued from Egypt, as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, God provided a miracle “bread from heaven” that the Israelites dubbed “manna.” These were flakes that appeared every morning like that of morning dew atop the grass and, after collected, was then made into dough and baked. This sheds light on two crucial ideas that make me love God all the more. First, I learn that God will always provide for us. Second, God is a bread lover and shares my passion for fresh baked goods!

Yet, as much as I love to indulge in the tastes and smells of freshly baked pastries, I absolutely have no passion for baking. There are several reasons why I have fostered distaste for baking, but a strong taste for the finished results. Baking requires delicate care, attention to detail, and prolonged patience. These are three qualities that I regrettably lack, making me and the art of baking bitter foes, no matter how often I might make the attempt.

Often while looking at dreams or challenges impossible to surpass, we Christians revert more quickly to the logical sense of doubt that society has impressed upon us, than to the firm confidence in a creator God that has expressed his desires to achieve what we deem impossible. Because of my previously mentioned love of pastries, let’s look at this idea of the Creation questioning the Creator like a cake questioning the baker about its promised potential. If using this analogy, we can identify three sources of doubt that might pass through the figurative, albeit delicious, mind of a cake during the baking process. What we see is that the doubt of promised potential arises from:

Doubt in the Ingredients

Doubt in the Process

Doubt in the Baker

Join us every Thursday as we see explore what happens when our limitations are met with the limitless power and ability of God.