‘In Matthew, chapter 15, we read the miraculous tale of Jesus feeding 4000 people with just 7 loaves of bread and a few fishes. I find it to be an incredible story. Can you imagine being one of those 4000+ people who were able to witness that great miracle? I have been studying the New Testament lately and have been fascinated by the miracles of Jesus.
I believe in miracles. I have been a witness to them and a recipient of them many times in my life. Sometimes they have been large and life changing. Other times, they have been small reminders of my Heavenly Father’s love for me. Either way, I am always amazed when I see the power of God working on my behalf. This past week, I experienced another miracle. I’m gonna call it “The Miracle of the Bread.” For you to understand the full import of this miracle, you have to have a little bit of background on my bread making skills.
I am the daughter of two bakers; my father by profession, my mother by necessity. As a young child, our family owned bakeries. I spent many hours in the back room watching my parents bake cakes and other treats. My mother also baked at home…a lot! She baked all of the bread our family ate, which was a considerable amount with 5 growing children in the house. At some point, she discovered that she could bake her loaves of bread in the large round cans that V-8 juice came in and, because they would stand up on end, she could double the number of loaves she could fit in the oven at one time. I grew up believing that sandwich bread was supposed to be round and made from whole wheat. There was no Wonder Bread in our house.
As I got older, the realization hit me that that bread is NOT always round and dark. The soft, white, square bread my friends were eating looked pretty appetizing. I’m not sure when I became resentful of our round, dark bread, but it happened. In a moment of weakness, I promised myself I would never subject my children to homemade bread…especially in their school lunches. So, time went on, I got married, had five children and for 20 years, never baked a single loaf of bread. I could bake up a pretty good pan of Rhodes Rolls, but if I actually had to form the dough myself, you weren’t likely to see it baking in my oven. And then, one day, about 5 years ago, I went to a friend’s house for a workshop on nutrition. She had some samples of nutritious but delicious foods for us to taste. One of those samples happened to be homemade, whole wheat bread…and it was good. As a matter of fact, it was really good. It made me wonder why I hadn’t been baking bread for my family for the previous 20 years! This wonderful woman invited me to come make bread with her one Wednesday morning, and from that day on, I began baking bread. Now anyone who works with yeast knows that it can be tricky. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In the early days of my bread baking venture, I used instant yeast. It was wonderful! I just dumped it in with the rest of the ingredients and it did it’s job! At some point, however, I decided I had matured enough to graduate to regular yeast. It can’t be that much different, I thought. That was the last rational thought I had for many weeks as I baked my heart out and failed miserably, over and over again. The bread would rise too much one time and not enough the next. Sometimes I would end up with big holes inside of the loaves and other times it would crumble when I tried to slice it. I got mad, I cried, I ranted and raved, I even went online and started reading bread baking blogs (yep…they are out there!), but to no avail. Finally, after months of failed attempts, I started proofing the yeast before putting it into the recipe. It is amazing how well that works! Seriously!
With the yeast problem behind me, I began focusing on the appearance of the bread. For some reason, my bread always sticks to the pan! Now, you can eat bread that has stuck to the pan and it tastes just fine. But the presentation just isn’t there. So I decided to experiment. I bought old fashioned silver bread pans, I bought non-stick bread pans, I even invested in stoneware bread pans. I used non-stick spray to grease the pans, I used shortening to grease the pans, I used oil to grease the pans. The bread just didn’t want to come out of the pans. I have tried every trick I can find and still, to this day, my bread always sticks to the pans. It is something I have come to accept. But I often dream about the perfect loaf of bread that rises just right, pops out of the pan without any problem at all, and then slices without falling apart. And that is where my miracle begins…
This past Sunday, Jim and I had an appointment with one of our church leaders. This man has spent many hours counseling with members of our family and we truly love and appreciate all he has done. Every time we meet with him, I feel a little bit guilty about taking him away from his family. I often wish I could do something for him, but what do you do for a church leader who is willingly volunteering his time to serve the Lord, especially on a Sunday afternoon when you only have a little over an hour to do it in? As I pondered that question, the thought came that I ought to bake him a loaf of bread. My first reaction to that thougtht was not a positive one. I put it out of my mind and tried to think of something different…something that might actually turn out. But the bread idea wouldn’t leave me alone. So I got up and pulled out the bucket of wheat from our closet to begin the process of baking bread from scratch.
Right there in the beginning, I had the thought that this was ridiculous. I had exactly 1 hour and 10 minutes before we needed to be walking out the door to our appointment. On a good day, when everything is going right, that isn’t enough time to make a batch of bread. As a matter of fact, I didn’t believe it was really even possible that day either. But I’m a glutton for punishment, so instead of stopping, I said a little prayer. I said, Heavenly Father, I would really like to show my appreciation to this man, who is taking time away from his family to serve mine. I am going to try baking this bread and if you are out there listening to me today, it would be nice if you could help me get it right. If you could just maybe give me some attention for a few minutes, I’d be really grateful.
And then I started.
I ground the wheat, proofed the yeast, measured and mixed the ingredients, kneaded the dough, formed the loaves and popped them in the oven to rise, all in record time. As I watched them begin to rise, I was amazed at how quickly they were doubling in size. Before long, I turned up the heat and baked those little loaves to just the right internal temperature, pulling them out of the oven exactly 2 minutes before we needed to leave. As I turned the pans upside down to dump the bread, they just slid out. There they were, several loaves of bread sitting on my counter, looking pretty good and smelling heavenly. I wrapped one in a clean, white towel and walked out the door.
As I presented my gift, that little prayer I had said didn’t even cross my mind. As a matter of fact, I kind of forgot about it until yesterday. I haven’t been on real great terms with God recently and instead of stopping to acknowledge his tender mercy, I let my anger and frustrations about life take over and even allowed myself to question his existence. (Sometimes, my pride and arrogance amazes even me!)
But once I remembered, it got me to stop and think: Perhaps God really is aware of me. It might be that He is concerned about the little things in my life. Maybe He cared just enough on Sunday to make those nearly perfect loaves of bread. Or maybe he just wanted His leader to have a decent gift. Whatever the case, for me, it was a miracle…and it was something I desperately needed: the reassurance of His love and the evidence of His guiding hand in my life.
So today, I am thanking Him for all of the small reminders that He is there, watching over me and giving me the strength I need to get through each day. For me, those loaves of bread were every bit as powerful as the feeding of the 4000.
(originally posted in Sandra Jean Photo)