They say cooking is an art, but baking is a science.
Part of what makes baking scientific is that it often calls for exact timing.
When you cook a roast or a turkey in the oven, the estimated cooking time can vary. The meat will be in the oven for several hours, and the recipe might give you as much as a half-hour window to start checking for doneness.
But when you’re baking cookies, the recipe will sometimes only give you a two-minute span to remove them from the oven. You have to be on your toes so you don’t miss this window, but at least you have a greater degree of certainty as to when the baking process will be over.
We humans crave certainty, don’t we? And that’s especially true when we’re going through difficult things in our personal lives.
Wouldn’t you love it if God told us exactly when our time of suffering would end?
If you look out the (virtual) window here at The Faith Cafe, you can see the leaves starting to change colour on the trees outside.
The tops of the maple trees are starting to blush with red. There’s a hint of yellow among the linden leaves. And the sumacs are beginning to fire up in vivid shades of orange.
This change creeps in gradually, however. At first, you barely notice fall coming on. Weeks from now, though, the trees will be ablaze in vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. The difference from how they look today will be dramatic.
Oftentimes, I think this is the way God works in our lives.
He is slowly but surely leading us through a process of change and sanctification.
We may not notice that aspects of our character are being transformed, because the change is so gradual. One day, however, you look up and realize how far you’ve come and what amazing things God has done in your life.
If you’re a gardener, you probably have a stash of seeds tucked away.
I certainly do. I have a special bin in a cupboard where I store all my seed packets:
Envelopes containing seeds I’ve harvested over the years from plants in my garden. Seeds that friends have collected from their own gardens and then passed on to me, along with handwritten notes about the plants.
Packets of seeds I’ve bought the Botanic Garden’s seed fairs that look intriguing: seeds of rare plants, unusual colours of better known plants, or hard-to-find heirloom varieties of vegetables or flowers.
I have a veritable treasure trove of seeds in my cupboard!
There’s only one problem:
Those seeds are doing me absolutely no good sitting in a bin on a shelf.
I may take the packets out from time to time and look rapturously at the photos on the front. I might imagine how nice it would be to grow such gorgeous flowers or unusual veggies.
But until I put those seeds in the ground, all they are is wishful thinking and pretty pictures.
If I don’t take a step of faith and plant my seeds, I’ll never get a harvest.
Similarly, we sometimes leave our dreams and desires on a shelf, so to speak.
Baked Alaska is one of those desserts that seems like it will end in disaster.
This dessert involves covering a core of ice cream and cake with meringue and baking it at 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit. Really.
Who puts ice cream in a hot oven anyway?
Surely it will result in a melted mess, and you’ll be spending the next hour resentfully scrubbing out your oven.
But Baked Alaska will surprise and amaze you.
When you take this dessert out of the oven after a few minutes, you find that the meringue has cooked and slightly browned, but the ice cream underneath it is still cold and has retained its firm shape. The ice cream inside the “igloo” has remained untouched by the intense heat.
It seems miraculous, because you’d think that ice cream would melt when it came anywhere near temperatures that high. It’s not actually a miracle, however, but rather a clever application of physics. The dessert was invented in the 1800s by American physicist Benjamin Thompson, who was investigating the insulating properties of whipped egg whites.
If you want a genuine example of miraculous protection from a hot oven, you need to go the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.
Is there such a thing as something being too easy?
The original developers of cake mixes seemed to believe so.
When cake mixes first debuted in the 1930s, all the baker had to do was add water and then bake. It was as easy as pie, so to speak.
But they soon realized they had to tweak the recipe. First off, the powdered eggs in the original mixes didn’t taste that great.
Later, psychologists thought that bakers wanted to feel more involved in the cake-baking process. Home bakers found the mixes a bit too easy, as though they weren’t putting in enough effort. There was a sense that baking a cake from a mix didn’t really count.
So the cake mix companies changed their recipes to require home bakers to add fresh eggs in addition to the liquid. Putting the eggs back in the hands of the bakers proved to be the winning formula.
I sometimes wonder if we apply the same logic to our faith.
Does trusting in Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins seem like it’s only part of the recipe?
Are we sometimes tempted to add in some effort on our own part to make it “complete”?
Can the monstera houseplant teach us something about our faith in God?
This plant, nicknamed the Swiss cheese plant, has become hugely popular in recent times. Much sought after, it has risen to the status of an icon among houseplant aficionados.
But besides being a fun plant to grow indoors, is there anything we can learn from the monstera? Can its example help us grow spiritually?
I believe that just about everything in the natural world can teach us something that can deepen our faith. I like how Ralph Waldo Emerson put it: “Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.”
And the monstera is no exception!
Here are 5 things this special and beloved plant can teach us:
Someone who watches over you, keeps tabs on what’s happening to you, and is ready to step in if it looks like you’re headed for trouble.
Even flocks of geese have a bodyguard of sorts. The individual bird which fills this role is called a sentinel.
While the other geese are feeding, individual geese will take turns acting as protectors for the rest of the gaggle. These sentinels will stand guard, necks erect, alert to any threat from predators. They have keen eyesight and hearing, and will honk loudly to warn the others if they sense any danger.
Geese make such effective guards that we humans have often taken advantage of their services. We’ve employed geese at farms and warehouses as living alarm systems, and have even used them to guard U.S. Air Defense Command installations in Germany!
We could all use a sentinel like that in our lives, couldn’t we?
Did you know that if you’re a believer, you already have a “bodyguard”?
The snow on the mountains appears static and unchanging. From day to day, nothing looks different. It seems like the status quo will continue as before.
But then all of a sudden, a mass of snow and ice breaks loose and barrels down the hills. Sweeping change happens in a flash, seemingly coming out of the blue.
There was no hint that this would happen.
Or was there?
Underneath the surface, things were going on that we couldn’t see. Perhaps the composition of the snowpack was changing, the load was becoming too great, or sublayers were weakening through melting. From above, we might not be able to tell that the snowpack was becoming increasingly unstable.
But it was now being held in such precarious tension that at any moment a tipping point would be reached. It would be enough to set the whole thing off, leading to a massive snow slide.
Do you ever feel that you’re in a period in your life where nothing seems to be happening? Despite your prayers for change, everything looks the same from day to day.
Looks can be deceiving.
When Jesus is in the picture, sudden change may be on its way, perhaps even an avalanche of blessings.
Sometimes there can be magic hidden within the most unlikely of places.
Take tree burls, for instance (or burrs, to our British friends).
These rounded, knotty growths found on tree trunks can seem very ugly.
Burls form when the tree is under some kind of stress, causing bud growth cells to develop in an abnormal way. Such stressors might include bacteria, viruses, fungi, insect infestations, or wounds. A burl is visible evidence of how the tree is dealing with these attacks.
They look rather like tumours, and mar the otherwise regular pattern of the bark.
Surely there’s nothing good about burls?
But there is.
Their unsightly exterior hides magnificence.
Few people know that inside these contorted and gnarled outgrowths is concealed something wonderful. The wood that burls yield is unusual and highly figured, making it valued and sought after by woodworkers and artists.
This unique wood is prized for its beauty and rarity, and is often used for veneers or inlays in fine furniture, trim or panelling inside luxury cars, and for household objects like bowls or pens, which become works of art.
Do you have a few “burls” in your life? Some knotty problems that have grown into a tangled mess?
Wonder if God could ever bring something good out of them?