I LOVE Smitten Kitchen’s pumpernickel bread. The first time, I only made it because someone gave me an imported bag of Bob’s Red Mill pumpernickel flour and I didn’t want it to go to waste. I’d never had a dark/rye bread that I liked. But I loved this bread SO much that I made it twice in a row and then decided its cute shape would be perfect for bread bowls! Back when the Southies visited from Henan over Chun Jie break a year and a half ago, I made a 2.5 batch and split it into 5 large soup bowls to rise. Home from an excursion on the town we made potato soup (from Amy Keller’s recipe) while they baked and it was PERFECTION on a frigid February day.
I’m making the meal again today, despite the heat, for friends whose preemie baby is still in the NICU – out of danger, but they’ve hardly seen or held her in the week since she was born 😦 Hopefully she can come home soon! Meanwhile I’m starting on my second bag of pumpernickel flour, and hoping a homecooked meal gives them a little spot of sunshine as they wait.
Change of gears. I started trying to memorize Ephesians in mid-July. I didn’t get far until my week in Mongolia had me learning almost a verse a day. Then I got back to China and dropped it, so I still only know the first 8 verses and even then I need hints to get through them. Meh. But I am still determined and am trying to find a plan that will work for me. I have a few ideas, such as: Writing the first letter of each word on the mirror in the bathroom with a dry-erase or overhead marker. Writing those same letters for the verse of the day on my hand. Carrying around a card with the full verse in case I forget it. Listening to it on my audio-Bible app GoBible. And possibly taping it, colorfully marker-written, to the ceiling above my bed. My students set goals these last couple weeks for our 5 categories of Expected School-wide Learning Results (ESLRs) and I did too. One of my goals is to memorize this entire book and meditate on it each day!
One of the things that makes it hard, aside from the discipline and time to DO it, is the number of repeated words and similar phrases! Here’s a chart for those first 8 verses:
Christ Jesus – 2x in the first verse
Jesus Christ – 1x
Lord Jesus Christ – 2x
Christ – 1x
God, God our Father, God and Father – 1x each in the first 3 verses
grace, glorious grace, riches of God’s grace – 1x each
“in accordance with his pleasure and will… to the praise of his glorious grace… in accordance with the riches of God’s grace… with all wisdom and understanding…” 1x each and boy is it hard to remember which to use! And the next verse I haven’t learned yet has “the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure…” Oy! If English has such a broad vocabulary how come we keep using the same words in different groupings? (perhaps because there’s a theme here, or because we’re trying not to use more obscure words in a book we want every reader to understand? I’m sure there’s a great reason.)
And one other difficulty is that I once memorized James 1, and so I start off “Paul, and apostle of God and of Christ Jesus… wait, no, that’s not right!” (it’s a mash-up of the two books’ openings), and after the opening I still, every. single. time., have to stop and think about what comes next because I know it’s not what I naturally want to say – “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds…” (that’s pure James. or at least almost – I just checked and it should be “whenever” not “when”)
Anyway, memorization difficulties aside, I am SO blessed by this book. The repetition of “grace” is SUCH an important theme. I want to soak in the knowledge of God’s infinite grace until my heart starts to really GET it and then KEEPS it! Growing up with the stories they are just “old hat” to me. They didn’t inspire awe the first time I heard them, back when things were flannel-graphed and my little heart and mind were just learning what is and isn’t normal in this world, and so I didn’t realize how far from normal and how earth-shakingly shocking this grace was, and now it’s hard to see them afresh. I long to memorize and meditate on these scriptures so that I can know more how overwhelmingly amazing his Truth is.
And one other challenge that is a constant struggle for me and leads to a waning of that longing for large chunks of the day is a lie that feels logical – that I’ll have eternity with God, but only a few decades on earth, so I need to cram in as many earthly experiences and as much earthly fun as I can while I have the chance, after all I can spend time with Him after I die (sounds like that coffee mug quip, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” – “I’ll get to know and love Jesus when I’m dead.”) It makes a kind of sense while missing the point of life entirely. It’s like a bride-to-be rushing around trying to travel the world, hang out with her girlfriends, do all the things she thinks will change after marriage, instead of spending time with her fiance or preparing at all for the wedding. Or if she’s like the child in Lewis’ Miracles, spends all day eating chocolate while she can. (Lewis was responding to how we can’t imagine heaven being so great if there’s no marriage (nor sex) there – it’s like a child who hears of sex for the first time compares it to the best thing he knows, chocolate, and on hearing there’s no chocolate in sex, says “well it can’t be very good then can it?” instead of realizing no one even thinks of chocolate because they’re having too wonderful a time.) Or like a servant, left in charge of his master’s affairs, who beats the other servants and gets drunk instead of minding his responsibilities and keeping watch.
How do I clear up this mistaken belief? Dwelling on Ephesians is a good idea! Constantly putting before my mind truths from scripture, and books that rest on scripture such as a devotional I’m slowly working my way through by John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. He quotes tons of verses in each short chapter (of which there are 31), and it’s SO encouraging and kind of like taking the bent, drooping plant of my beliefs after a long day and giving it water to fill the vacuoles (which is what makes a plant non-droopy), and moving it over to lean against the support post that it had been pushed away from, setting it back straight and true and facing the sun. My words aren’t coming as clearly as I’d like in that last illustration, but hopefully you can see what I mean.
Anyway, that’s where I’m at today. Back to baking at the end here, I also made bagel dough last night – it’s one of the most uneven processes, SO fast to make the dough yet SO much ma fan to make the bagels the next morning – so I need to go liberate it from the fridge and get that long process started!!