Sunday, April 14, 2013

The best recipe

What do you think of analogies, metaphors, allegories, and themes? I remember trying to find all of these in high school English texts, let alone understand their applications. Now, though, I see them in everyday life. Here's a recent example.

Yesterday, I baked bread from scratch. A few years ago, I tried it for the first time, and it was SO good! Sister and I just stood next to the oven after the bread had cooled and ate piece after piece with nothing on it - no butter or honey or jam. It was so fresh, and the aroma was intoxicating.

Fast forward a few years, and I realized it had been a long time since I baked those first two loaves. Why? Well, it's a time-intensive project. Is it gratifying? Yes. Is it nourishing? Yes. Do other people benefit? Yes.

So, it was time. Below are the fruits of my labor:


Okay, time to make the analogy. This morning at church, Chuck compared the study of Scripture to baking. First, you start with a recipe (a passage in the Word). You make note of the ingredients, go shopping, and prepare according to the recipe (study the Word, make note of the principles and lessons, live it out). Then, you reap the benefits of preparing the dish according to the recipe (enjoy delicious food and experience nourishment and health benefits). Makes sense, right?

Now, consider what happens when you don't follow the recipe. Case in point: Before baking the bread yesterday, I attempted a new recipe from my aunt for almond flour crackers. I bought all of the ingredients listed (sea salt, basil, thyme, and flax), except for the almond flour. I thought, "I have plenty of wheat flour - I'll just substitute."

All you bakers out there, I can just hear you groaning for me.

Anyway, it didn't work. Not at all! The ingredients didn't come together to form a dough that I could cut into 2" pieces and place on the sheet tray to bake. It looked (and felt) like a pile of sand. Although I've heard it said that baking is an exact science and cooking is more free-form, it took this real-life experience to confirm it.

Can you make the analogy?

When we try to take shortcuts or make substitutions to the principles in God's Word, things don't go right. The Bible is not a list of rules set out to inhibit our lives. The Bible shows us how to live the best life. It is for freedom that Christ set us free (Galatians 5:1). Shane and Shane sing it well in their song Liberty.

So, when we study the Word and follow the "recipe," is it time-intensive? Yes.

Is it gratifying? Yes.

Is it nourishing? Yes.

Do other people benefit? Yes.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Free will is like chess

I am working my way through C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain for the second time and reading it with fresh eyes.

Confession: I can only get through 5-10 pages in one sitting because he goes so deep! Lewis does not mince words or waste time with fluff. Every word, every phrase has a purpose.

Tonight's gem jumped out at me from a passage about free will. Almost as an afterthought to a fairly comprehensive explanation, Lewis includes this final sentence that summarizes free will in a way that hit home to me:

"(...)the chess player's freedom to play chess depends on the rigidity of the squares and the moves" (p. 65).

If life is a game of chess, we humans long to have the freedom to choose which moves we're going to make. We have a strategy that we think will help us win the game. We don't question the fact that there is a bishop and a pawn, a king and a queen, dark and light squares. We play with the game pieces as they exist. We honor and abide by the rules. There is a code to follow, and it is respected. There are some serious chess players out there!

The analogy is an easy one. In life, there is freedom to choose within "parameters" and in relationship with other "game pieces" (people). These parameters aren't established to ruin our fun or make life boring or a list of rules. They control the chaos and create order. The game Creator knows that the game will work best when played by the rules. He wants us to enjoy the game - enjoy it together and learn from each other. How fun is it when you play chess with someone who makes up rules throughout the game that work to their advantage? We all know what that is like.

So, the next time you think about free will, think about chess.

Bobby Fischer said it best: "Chess is life."