A Little Leaven, A Lotta Heaven

“The kingdom of God is within you.” –Jesus, as quoted in Luke 17:21 NKJV

Friday night at our house is-pizza-and-a-movie night. It began when the youngest left for college, and my husband and I ate out at a local pizzeria. Eventually our date night morphed into dining on frozen pizza at home. After a while frozen pizza lost its appeal, and I rooted around in my recipe box and retrieved my old pizza dough recipe.

Years ago I learned the secret of making good pizza dough. It’s in the kneading. First I dissolve the yeast in warm water. Warm, not hot, because hot will kill the yeast. Then I add the sugar, salt, and oil, mixing it well so the yeast, sugar, and salt dissolve. Then I add about half the flour, mixing it with a wooden spoon until it’s just past the gooey stage.

Then I knead in the rest of the flour by one-half cupfuls—and I don’t pay attention to the recipe! I pay attention to the dough. I’m done adding flour when the dough is just past being sticky, soft like a baby’s behind, and springs back when I lightly indent it with my finger. I rarely use all the flour the recipe calls for.

Now, you’re asking, what does this have to do with the kingdom of heaven? Everything. You see, Jesus spent a lot of time teaching the people about the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, using analogies of things they understood so they would grasp what He was trying to tell them.

“The kingdom of heaven,” He said once, “is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matthew 13:33 GW). The kingdom of heaven is like yeast.

The older versions use the word “leaven.” Leaven, according to my trusty Webster’s, is “any influence spreading through something and working on it to bring a gradual change.” In bread dough, the leaven causes it to rise and gives it a delectable flavor. Ever eat bread that failed to rise? It’s useless, isn’t it? Fit only for the trashcan.

In this world, the leaven is the kingdom of heaven, or the rule of God over all who accept and submit to Him (see John 3:3,5). In each believer, the leaven is the words of the Master, found in Scripture, that gradually spread through our minds and hearts, transforming us, transforming our lives, ever so gradually.

First, though, the leaven must be added carefully then worked through the dough of our lives. Just like bread dough, the secret is in the kneading. Ever knead dough? It takes time and patience—and just the right touch—not too heavy and not too light.

God is the one who kneads His Word through our lives. If you’re dough being kneaded, though, it doesn’t feel too good to be twisted and turned and folded and pushed and pulled. But the Master knows what He’s doing. He’s not following a recipe because we are individual lumps, each needing a different touch, a different amount of flour to be added, and a different amount of kneading time. The Master works us until we’re pliable, soft, resilient—not too sticky or gooey and not too dry or tough. Then He sets us aside for a while for the leaven to do its work.

But we’re still not ready. Like bread dough, we must be punched down, worked again, shaped, and left alone, covered with a soft cloth, so that the leaven can finish its work. It’s a long process.

Child of God, are you being kneaded? Don’t despair. Just remember—a little bit of leaven, worked just right into the dough of your soul, means a whole a lot of heaven.

Dear God, thank You for kneading me in the way I need to be kneaded. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 13:33 and Luke 17:20–21.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Photo courtesy of ABSFreePic.com.

Work-In-Progress Problems

 

I am sure that God Who began the good work in you will keep on working in you until the day Jesus Christ comes again. Philippians 1:6 (NLV)

GhostMountainFrontFinalI’ve written and rewritten the first few chapters of my current work-in-progress so many times, I’ve lost count. I do save what I’ve deleted from the working manuscript, just in case there’s something I want to put back in the story. There are probably as many words in the deleted files that are in the “keep” files.

When I wrote the blurb for Ghost Mountain, the second book in the PennWoods Mystery series, I had a clear idea of what the plot would be. However, as I wrote, the story took on a life and direction of its own, and, seven chapters into it, I have yet to introduce the antagonist (the bad guy) and get to the events mentioned in the description.

Since I published the blurb in the back of the first book and readers are expecting that storyline, I can’t change it. But tell that to this stubborn story. So it’s back to revising the first chapters so I can weave in the villain and set up the main conflict of the story, which I already described.

The other problem I’m dealing with is my own perfectionism. When writing the first draft, I’m supposed to let it flow and lock up the editor in me. But she wiggles out and takes charge, interrupting the flow of the action and calling attention to things that are supposed to be addressed in the revision phase. She wants it to be perfect now and doesn’t want to wait. I don’t know why I don’t bind her with imaginary duct tape, lock her up in one of the closets of my mind, and throw away the key.

But I want this book to be better than the last one—writing-wise and story-wise. I want to grow as a fiction writer and become a better writer with each novel I produce. Hence the editor trumps the muse.

Nothing wrong with improving yourself, right?

But I’m splitting the proverbial hair, and my focus on perfectionism only stymies me.

I need to follow the advice of countless published novelists: write first, revise next, polish last. I need to let the muse dance. It’s her time to shine.

This manuscript and me have a lot in common—we’re both works in progress.

But often I’m like my stubborn manuscript—wanting to go my own way instead of following my Creator’s planned storyline for me. My manuscript, however, doesn’t give me permission to change it. I just take charge and do what I know is best. God, however, waits for us, His manuscripts, to give Him permission before He begins to revise.

Another way I liken my growth as a Christian to writing is my tendency to perfectionism. I want to be perfect now. I don’t want to have to go through the things that will transform me into the masterpiece my Creator has planned.

E.B White, the author of the children’s classic Charlotte’s Web and a much-acclaimed stylebook on writing, once said, “The best writing is rewriting.”

God is the Master Wordsmith.

He’s the One who’s writing and revising me, one chapter at a time.

When I become impatient with myself, remind me, Father, that I’m still a work-in-progress. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Psalm 138:8Isaiah 64:8, and Ephesians 2:10

 Ghost Mountain, Book 2 in the Pennwoods Mystery series, will be released this fall.