As I type these words, sourdough bread is rising in the kitchen. My husband and I have been making our own bread for 12 years. In the spring we decided we were ready to try a new challenge: sourdough. So we ordered a starter from King Arthur—because theirs was started in 1789, the year the American Constitution was signed, and I am geeky enough to think it’s super cool that I have something that old living in my refrigerator.

But having a sourdough starter is a bit like having a cat. It’s mostly self-sufficient, but you still have to feed and water it. Hence this weekly routine:

Yesterday, I pulled my storage starter out of the fridge and divided it. Half I fed with flour and water and returned to the refrigerator. The other half I fed with flour and water and let rise on the counter. Later in the day I fed it again. Before bed I put it in the fridge. This morning I pulled it out of the fridge. And now, I am turning it into bread: I just finished mixing still more flour and water (and a little salt) with the sourdough starter.

In an hour, I will give the slightly risen dough two business letter turns (think of folding a business letter in thirds, and then doing so again) and let it rise for another hour. Then I will rinse and repeat. After that second rise and the third pair of business letter turns, I will let the dough rise for 5 or 6 hours, until it’s doubled. Then I will shape it into rounds and let it rise for another 3 or 4 hours. Then I will bake it.

Every time I make this bread, I think good grief, this is a lot of work. But when it comes out of the oven and I slice through its shattery exterior—sending crumbs of hot crust shooting like sparks all over the counter—and then through its soft, chewy center, and when I slather it with salted butter, and especially when …

Friends, you can read the rest of this piece over at Grace Table. (And just so you know, it’s not really about sourdough…)


Dear friends,

Back in August, I had the privilege of preaching at my church. My sermon text was Hebrews 12, focusing on the bit at the end about receiving an unshakeable kingdom. This is the Christian promise: that we have already received a kingdom that cannot be shaken! It’s pretty shocking, that claim. But as I read and study Acts for a class I’m teaching, I see so clearly that the early church lived as if that kingdom really were among them. They were fearless—or if they feared, their fear was drowned in their vision of God and their radical hope in His love and grace. And God’s saints down through the centuries have echoed that hope, insisting that love and joy and peace and righteousness are possible here and now.

In my life. In yours.

After years of squinty-eyed skepticism, I am coming more and more to believe it’s true. I’ve seen the fruits of God’s transformative work in my life, and between now and Thanksgiving I promise to write and post an essay here that I hope will encourage you to believe (and live!) it, too.

In the meantime, you can listen to the sermon. Or if 25 minutes of sermonizing seems a little long to you, you can head over to The Cultivating Project, where Lancia Smith has kindly published a revised and (somewhat) expanded version of the sermon’s application section. I hope that one or both of these resources encourages you today to breathe the rich air of God’s love that surrounds you as an atmosphere. May you be filled to the measure with all the fullness of Him who loves us to the uttermost!


Being Broken Bread

Three years ago my second book, which I had written as an act of obedience, was published. Since God called me to write it and clearly carried me through the writing of it, I thought He would make it commercially successful. He didn’t. In terms of sales, it was an utter failure. I was confused and hurt and angry: had I misheard? Had I wasted my time? What was going on?

Six months later I found myself at Laity Lodge. Early one morning, I got up and walked out to Sanctuary, an interactive sculpture on the grounds. Seating myself inside and looking up at the Texas sky, I asked God for clarity, for a vision: what was my writing for?

Immediately, an image came to mind. A plate filled with pieces of broken bread. I shoved the image aside and waited. Again, I saw in my mind’s eye a plate of broken bread. I shook my head, cast the image from my mind, and stared harder at the sky. No use. Broken bread again filled my thoughts. Well, that’s rich, I thought. A prosaic plate of passive bread crumbs. Thanks a lot, God. And I promptly forgot about this little vision-quest.

I shouldn’t have been so insulted. And I certainly shouldn’t have been surprised….
Friends, I am thrilled to say that I am now a contributing writer at The Cultivating Project, a beautiful blog dedicated to Christians in the arts, hosted by the lovely Lancia Smith. It is one of my very favorite places online—quiet, thoughtful, and beautiful, and I am honored to get to participate in it.

This is the first piece I’ve written for Lancia, and it would bless me (and her!) no end if you would take a moment to hop over, read the rest of the essay, and leave a short comment. Thank you so much! While you’re there, you might want to poke around—Lancia takes beautiful photographs, and her interviews with artists are rich and satisfying. I think you will find that The Cultivating Project blesses you, too.

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