Sunday, September 18, 2011

Challah Bread: The Pinch

In our small group, my husband led us in a study of OT feasts that he called “Portrait of the Messiah,” because the feasts reveal so much about Jesus. When we studied the Sabbath, I made Challah bread, and found it an especially spiritually moving experience. These are my musings from that day:

Challah is traditionally a richer bread, made with eggs. Two loaves are served, reminiscent of the Lord providing a double portion of manna in the desert, so that the Israelites wouldn’t have to gather it on the Sabbath. A portion of the dough is pinched off in dedication to the Lord after saying a blessing. Originally the command was from Numbers 15:20 to give a portion of bread to the priests, a portion dedicated to the Lord. Today the pinch is to be burned.

“Mom, what’s a pinch?” my kids asked…and I too wondered, how much do I give to the Lord? (I remember the widow of Zaraphath who baked the last of her bread and gave some to Elijah…)

The simple act of pinching off a piece to dedicate to God reaches far into the soul. It’s like giving a bit of my life to God. Maybe there’s something I need to do but don’t want to—but I can pinch off that bit of time and dedicate it to the Lord and do what He has asked—suddenly there is joy in the task. Suddenly there is holiness.

Dedicated—irretrievable. What do we think we’ll dedicate to the Lord and then take back in our time or our money or other gifts—they were not meant to be accessible to us again. A dedication cannot be taken back. It is no longer ours—it belongs to the Lord.

Peace. Wheat that I ground (and they would also have grown), and then mixed—and then let rest. Dough that I kneaded, the heel of my palm pressing into the spongy form until it springs back and glistens—and then let it rest. Then braided and formed—let it rest again. And finally baked—and then it rests. Bread is full of resting.

Vulnerability. As if I have pinched off something of me in that pinch, because I was there in the making of it—as was He. There is no bread without rain, without land, without strength, without fire...or without the mysterious seed that somehow grows and becomes something new. And there is no bread unless we harvest, process, mix, knead, form, bake. A physical connection with the workings of God. The part that I give is so small—and what He gives fills the stomach and the soul. And so we pray over the pinch and connect with Him again.

I thought, I hold the pinch in the palm of my hand, about the size of an olive. I control so little—just this one piece of dough. I realized how small I really am. Our lives, all of our needs, my kids spiritual lives, my husband’s health, everything—is in the palm of the Lord’s hand. And so we, who can do nothing, appeal to the Lord for strength, healing, wisdom. If we have the power to help someone or to affect anything in our lives, it is from the Lord.

I hold the fate of this one piece of dough. Treat it as holy—dedicated to the Lord. But it is just a small offering.

What else is in our hands? The ability to help another. Treat the opportunity and especially the person, as holy. Dedicate our time, our possessions, whatever portion we can give—to the Lord. Give thanks to the One who enables us to give. And remember His rest, His peace.

The Sabbath meal is served without knives (or a knife is covered if one is needed), because it is a day of peace. The braiding of the bread means you can break off a chunk easily—no cutting needed. Peace—for today we lay down our weapons of war, whether wars between countries or wars between individuals. The lion lies down with the lamb. There are no knives used in the baking of the bread. Swords are pounded into plowshares. Hatred, anger, malice, revenge—all put aside to let peace reign in our hearts and allow the Lord to heal the wounds and touch our hearts.

The bread of life—we pinch off a tiny piece in trust. We are giving our food—and He becomes to us the Bread of Life, our Sustainer, Healer, Provider—He becomes the food that sustains and the Eternal Food.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Give me Jesus

My husband's doctor is on a medical missions trip to the Dominican Republic, to a very poor area with no running water and no access to medical care. In one of his updates he wrote this:

"Visited a lady who has been bedridden for 17 years and asked if she needed anything. Her reply--'I have Jesus, I don't need anything else.' How humbling to see her faith."

Reminded me of this African-American Spiritual that Fernando Ortega updated, and thought I'd share.

When I rise...when I am alone...when I come to die, Give me Jesus.