Our spirituality needs revival, but the disciplines of the Spirit often go covered with dust, lying unused by Christians because they feel too much like rules. But what if they weren’t rules? What if they were conversation starters? Invitations to discover God right now, today?
In Out of the House of Bread author Preston Yancey leads us in a new but old direction of spirituality engaging the symbolism and experience of spiritual disciplines made plain and accessible by the baking of bread.
The benefits of this book of devotion include: finding a nearness to the holiness of Go and feeling and experiencing the forgiveness of God. You’ll learn again the disciplines of celebration, confession, and conversion, encountering new avenues of prayer along the way. Each chapter pairs a spiritual discipline or practice with insight to the baking of an extraordinary loaf of bread. Readers encounter ancient practices such as the prayer of examen, lectio divina, intercessory prayer, icons, and wonder.
Yancey shows how, like in Brother Lawrence’s kitchen in The Practice of the Presence of God, that when you lift up your hands to God and pray, God will show up right there in the midst of your work and livelihood while you bake.
Out of the House of Bread is a glorious celebration of the sacraments and the seasons of God, meant as reminders and forms of prayer to take readers closer to God in worship. An appendix about gluten-free and vegan bread and suggested reading and artwork for contemplation complete the book.
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About the Author
Preston Yancey is a lifelong Texan raised Southern Baptist who fell in love with reading saints, crossing himself, and high church spirituality. He now makes his home within the Anglican tradition. He is a writer, painter, baker, and speaker. An alumnus of Baylor University, Preston completed a masters in theology from St. Andrews University in Scotland before returning to the States. He currently lives in Waco, Texas.
Read an Excerpt
Out of the House of Bread
Satisfying Your Hunger for God with the Spiritual Disciplines
By Preston Yancey, John Sloan, Bob Hudson, Becky Jen
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2016 Preston Yancey
All rights reserved.
In the Kitchen: The Path
* * *
I have lived in six kitchens.
One of the more recent ones stood at the end of the world in Scotland, overlooking a roadway and facing a wall of trees that formed a tempestuous wood. In that wood there was a path I would take into town, a walk of about twenty minutes, and for a year I lived my life by relative distance. I was either in town and twenty minutes from home or at home twenty minutes from town. The path itself seemed without time. If after setting out I was called or texted, asked how long I would be, I would say simply, "I'm on the path." The path seemed shorter some mornings and longer some nights, but without fail, a glance at the clock on the way in and again on the way out confirmed a constant: twenty minutes.
This path, with but without time, taught me something of God, about the way we journey in faith. We are on the path but unsure of the distance, though we have some certainty about where we have come from and where we are going. It occurred to me that saying "I'm on the path" may be the truest confession of my faith. It is stripped of self-righteousness, of any surety but this: I am walking forward; I am walking toward. Twenty minutes, or whatever the eternal equivalent might be.
I turned these thoughts over in that kitchen in Scotland, with big French doors and a false balcony at the far end. I would open them on autumn and spring afternoons, and sometimes in the last days of summer when the blue nights were heavy and the sun didn't quite set until midnight. It was in this kitchen, on one end of an existence measured by relative distance, that I learned to bake bread again and learned to fall in love with Jesus again too.
I'm not entirely sure which came first. I suppose that has something to do with saying I'm on the path.
This is a book about being on the path. Or it is a book about being uncertain of how far into the path you are. Or how long you have even been on it. Along the path there are moments of shadow and sunlight, and the path is often at the mercy of the tilt of the earth — the seasons, the rhythms of snowfall and melt and blossom. It is also a book about baking a single loaf of bread and learning a handful of different ways to pray. The ways of praying are often at the mercy of the tilt of the self — the seasons, the rhythms of sorrow and waking and hope.
The bread is the only constant. "I am the bread of life." This is a book about that too.
"What does it mean to be a temple of the Holy Spirit?"
Offhandedly, I ask this to the circle of assembled parishioners when we've all settled into the plush dining-room chairs that have retreated from table to living room. We are a diversity of ages, men and women, bound together by our local church but perhaps not much else. It is the seventh week of our study of a newly drafted Anglican discipleship study, and I remain skeptical that my bishop's request for me to lead this group was a good idea.
I am half the age of the rest of the circle, at least. But I find myself here, facilitating a larger conversation about God.
The question I have unceremoniously dropped like an egg that rolled off a countertop onto a tile floor comes from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?"
We trade responses for a few minutes, hedge our half-answers around certainties about God and Jesus, for we are avoiding too much talk of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the mysterious other of the Trinity, the one no one ever seems to have much familiarity with. And when they do, they are generally not the sorts of people we would invite over for dinner or ask to borrow a pie dish from. (I generally want them to calm down.)
But it is the Spirit, Paul stresses, that dwells within us. Along those lines, I can hear the mysterious words of Saint Athanasius, in the vein of Saint Irenaeus, that "the Son of God became man so that we might become God." In the orthodox Christian tradition this idea is called theosis, if you lean East, and divinization, if you lean West. Fundamentally, the two words get at the same theological point: we are in process of becoming more and more like Jesus and will in the end be like Jesus.
(You see, the path.)
I share these thoughts with the group, and someone asks if it means we become as God ourselves.
"No," I reply, "it can sound like that's what is being suggested, but the reasoning is a bit more complicated. The Eastern Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware describes it by saying Christians are caught up into the being of God. God is like water, all around us, in us too. As God moves, we move. But he goes on to stress this union is limited because we are limited. God may dwell in us, but we are still human. We are not water, but in the water. We can swim, we can drink the water in, the water is in us and gives us life, but we are not the water."
"So is that what it means to be a temple of the Holy Spirit?" someone refrains. "Does it mean to be drowning in the waters of God?"
Does it mean that?
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness."
There is a pear-and-blackberry cobbler with cherry-and-bourbon-ginger syrup and an almond crust in my oven right now.
Almond meal is tricky to work with, prone to stickiness when fat and liquid have been cut into it, unforgiving in keeping its shape unless first chilled. It makes me think of image and likeness from dust and breath of God. God takes the dirt God has created and mounds it, shapes it, then breathes deep inside to make man. The breath, the very animation of our limbs, comes from God. The breath like the water, giving us our inheritance as unique in creation, made in God's image and likeness.
We take the belief of the imago Dei, being made in the image of God, from the first chapter of Genesis. It is the assurance of the uniqueness of our creation. It is a common phrase, shared across denominational lines. In popular religious speak the imago Dei has become little more than a casual aside, something children might hear in Sunday school. They are told we are made in God's image, which too often leaves them thinking God must have hands and feet like theirs, be white or blond or blue-eyed. The Almighty is reduced to a non-triune god that shares more in appearance with Coca-Cola's Santa Claus than anyone from the ancient Near East.
(For this reason, I have made the effort in this book to not use gendered pronouns in reference to God unless referring specifically to Jesus. Jesus is the only person of the Trinity whose gender has been made known to us in the incarnation. Faithful Christians have noted that since God is spirit, as Jesus testifies, and God the Father and God the Holy Spirit do not have physical human bodies, gendered language can be a hindrance to our full engagement with who God is. If we are truly made in the image and likeness of God, that image and that likeness are not gendered but shared across genders.)
Writers in the early church felt it necessary not only to emphasize the mystery of the imago Dei but also the distinction between image and likeness. Origen says something to the effect that God's image and likeness are distinct in us. The image is what we all have by nature of being created, but the likeness of God was lost to us in the fall. When sin entered the world, the likeness of God was tarnished, obscured; we do not look as God in our thought, word, and deed — we look as sinful humans. We have the capacity to be like God because of the image in us, but we are hindered by our tarnished likeness.
The tricky work of almond meal is its sticky and unforgiving formation into what it is meant to become. Of the dust God made us — is making us — is still making us into what we are meant to become, though we too are sticky, unforgiving in our formation.
After the fall, God did not walk with humankind in the intimacy once enjoyed in Eden. It would take an ongoing relationship with an itinerant shepherd named Abram and his descendants for the unity of God and us all to be restored. This is the story we know: the people of Israel, the coming of Jesus.
But let's linger a moment. Let's take the path slow and see what we might find.
The book of Exodus is a curious book of the Bible. While Greek Christians named it after the triumphant freeing of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, led by Moses and Aaron through the power of God, into the wilderness to seek the Promised Land, only half of the book focuses on the exodus itself. The original Hebrew name of the book is Sh'mot, Names. This makes a bit more sense, because the second half of the book is devoted to the building of the tabernacle, the tent where God says God will dwell with the people, be present with and to them. Verse after verse details specifics regarding the decoration and construction of the holy tent, the quality of the craftsmanship and attention to be paid in its construction and all that will be found inside. Thus, Names reminds us that the people brought out of Egypt in the exodus were once a people without name, but have now been called the children of God. They receive this title in full when they worship God, when God is in the midst of them. Their name is connected beyond their deliverance — it says whose they are.
The narrative of the tabernacle building begins after Moses has led the people out into the wilderness. There is an expectation, perhaps even in the text itself, Moses will be the one asked to build the tabernacle. God, however, instructs him otherwise:
The Lord said to Moses, "See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. ... And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you ... According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do."
God has a particular person in mind for building the tabernacle: Bezalel; indeed, God calls specific people from Israel who are particularly skilled to create the objects that will go in the tabernacle itself.
What makes these people so special? Is it simply they are more skilled? More artistic?
In the above passage, the ESV has translated skill, but the word in the Hebrew transliterated chakam-leb, translates literally as wise-hearted. God says it is the wise-hearted — not the skilled — who will build the tabernacle, the place where God's glory will dwell with Israel. (Not incidentally, what God describes in Deuteronomy as the place where God "will cause [God's] Name to dwell.") In Exodus 35 and 36, we see again all those who are to work on the tabernacle, men and women alike, are described as wise-hearted.
According to Exodus, these wise-hearted people also build the Ark of the Covenant. The ark is effectively the seat upon which God comes and rests to rule over the people, to be in fellowship with them, but because of God's awesome holiness, the people are hidden from God behind a veil in the tabernacle. The tabernacle is the place where God is found, the ark the place where God's presence chooses to dwell. Through many vast wildernesses the tabernacle endures, the movable tent sheltering the presence of God traveling with Israel wherever it went. Though there were times God made God's own self known outside of the sacred tent, the ark housed within the tabernacle was the place where God had vowed to be found. If the people should seek God there, God would answer.
Centuries after the tabernacle was constructed, the Israelites had settled and established the kingdom of Jerusalem. No longer did they move about the wilderness, so they felt compelled to establish for God a permanent home. King David went into the presence of the Lord and asked to build a temple for the ark. But God replied this was not for David to do. It would be the work of one of David's children, Solomon. In 1 Kings we read that Solomon loved the Lord and God granted him the right to ask for whatever he wished. Solomon asked for wisdom, to which God replied:
Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.
Again, our translations don't quite grasp it. In 1 Kings, Solomon asks God for the Hebrew word chakam, wisdom, but God replies with such approving of this desire that God gives Solomon something even better: chakam-leb, wise-heartedness.
Once more, the person responsible for building a place where God will reside with the people is explicitly said to be wise-hearted. The medieval rabbinic scholar Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki writes: "A person does not request [wise-heartedness] unless he has the fear of Heaven in his heart, as it is stated (Ex. 18:21): 'But you must seek out from the people men of ability, God-fearing men.'" God-fearing is another way of translating wise-hearted. Here, Rashi has noted what Solomon is being given is the same as what was given to those who were to build the tabernacle.
In the Old Testament, only a few people were said to have this quality. Only to a few was the honor given. But we know as Christians the Spirit of God is within us, and if the Spirit is within us, truly within us, then what could that mean for our own requests to have wisdom?
Can we ask to be wise-hearted too? I think we can.
I think that's also something to do with being on the path.
In 587 BC, the Babylonians destroyed the temple Solomon had built and took the Israelites as captives into Babylon. There is no record of what happened to the ark, though speculation ranges from its seizure by the invaders to God miraculously hiding it until its revelation at the end of all things. Regardless, the place where God had promised God's presence and the place where God's presence had been housed were lost to the people of God. When they returned in 538 BC, they began a just-over-twenty-year project building a new temple, but one that did not have the ark within it. This time, the temple did not house the presence of God.
We date Malachi's prophetic work around this time, the last prophet of Israel. For this reason, Protestants hold no Scripture was written after Malachi before the New Testament. God was no longer present to the people, who lived in the silence of God for hundreds of years. We call this the intertestamental period, during which the Jews were conquered by Greek-speakers and needed a way to preserve the Hebrew Bible. Jewish scholars together created the translation of the Scriptures into Greek called the Septuagint, often-abbreviated LXX, the Seventy, so-called for the number of scholars legend holds were a part of the translation.
The LXX contains, in addition to the Old Testament, a handful of books we call the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha is not considered Scripture by Protestant believers but is a reflection of what faithful Jews were thinking about during the period of silence when God did not speak through prophets. Over the centuries, orthodox Christians have used the Apocrypha as they would any other text written by a saint in the church: as helpful for revealing truths about God but not the Truth of God on their own.
In one of the books of the Apocrypha, the Wisdom of Solomon, we read:
God of my ancestors, merciful Lord, by your word you created everything. By your Wisdom you made us humans to rule all creation, to govern the world with holiness and righteousness, to administer justice with integrity. Give me the Wisdom that sits beside your throne; give me a place among your children.
Wisdom that directs and guides. Wisdom, if we are mindful of it, that must be the same kind of wisdom that those who were called wise-hearted had. Writers in the early church found this description of wisdom to be foreshadowing Jesus. In fact, for centuries it was common practice to read this passage during Christmas Vigil, just before the gospel account of the birth of our Lord. The wisdom of God, which does all God's good purposes and work, must be what those who were wise-hearted had within them.
This, or something akin to it, is what it means to be caught up in the life of God. At the very least, what it means to be made not just in the image of God, but in the likeness of God.
Excerpted from Out of the House of Bread by Preston Yancey, John Sloan, Bob Hudson, Becky Jen. Copyright © 2016 Preston Yancey. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword Shauna Niequist 11
In the Kitchen: The Path 17
The Recipe 31
Mise en Place: The Examen 39
Measure and Mix: Lectio Divina 51
Kneading: Intercessory Prayer 65
In the World
Rising: Wonder 81
Forming: Rootedness 95
Last Form, Last Rise: Remembrance 109
At the Table
Baking: Fasting 125
Serving: Feasting 137
Setting to Rights: Seasons 151
Appendix 1 Suggested Resources for the Tradition 167
Appendix 2 Suggested Resources for Contemplating Icons 171