Month: August 2011

Baking for God

…remember that He who created you to be creative gave you the things with which to make beauty and gave you sensitivity to appreciate and respond to His creation. Creativity is His gift to you and the ‘raw materials’ to be put together in various ways are His gift to you as well.” –Edith Schaefer.

Baking Creatively

How cool is it that God can take a weeping willow tree, giant burning star millions of miles away, rolling green hills, the most marvelous shades of blushing reds, violets and blues, a wispy breeze, and order them ever so perfectly to create the most wonderful sunset you have ever seen? By God’s grace He does this day in and day out around the world, all to proclaim His glory. It is simply astonishing.

When I switch on my mixer, I find myself thinking of God proclaiming his glory through my creative hands and with His ingredients to bring about something truly delightful… COOKIES! By combining a pinch of salt, couple eggs, flour, sugar, etc. with the right technique, all in the right order I can create something delectably divine! This, I realize, is exactly what I was made to do, not specifically bake cookies…but to reflect my Creator through baking cookies.

Baking Imperfectly

In the process of baking cookies, it’s not perfection that I seek (I am extremely aware I fall completely short of that). Cookies will burn, look odd, or I will simply forget to add an entire ingredient because I got too wrapped up in a phone conversation (Now I almost never take calls while my mixer is going). Yes, I may get bummed a bit, but perfection is not the point.

Failure actually reminds me that I cannot rest on my ability to bake alone. My ability alone will always fail me, but I can rely on God’s grace by finding my identity and worth in Him through Christ’s work at the cross. This frees me to be more adventurous as I bake, more creative, and more at ease. Because my identity rests in Christ, I am not confined to the title “baker”, but able to cling to my identity as a child of God. This is a zillion times better than any compliment or label someone would tag onto my name.

Baking for His Glory

I love the verse our pastor, Jonathan Dodson, used in the latest sermon on work: Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”.

As Edith Schaefer puts it above, “Creativity is His gift to you and the ‘raw materials’ to be put together in various ways are His gift to you as well,” then God has certainly blessed me with edible raw materials and the gift to bake… which miraculously mix together to form a mouth-watering treat! What a wonderful gift to have! It is my job and JOY to “work heartily”, baking away, to glorify Him with what I have been given.

*Rachel is married to Taylor and they are both part of a South City Group. She turned her passion into a business and now bakes cookies professionally, shipping them across the country! You can check our her cookies at her ETSY shop Cookie Crowd


What Does Gardening Have to Do with God?

This is a guest post by Chris Adams, husband to DeeDee and father to Jude. The Adams host the Eastside City Group in there home every week and throw killer 4th of July parties. When Chis isn’t busy doing all of that he works as a web developer.

In 2009 there was a world food crisis leading to the doubling and tripling of grain prices, food shortages, and even riots in some parts of the world. This caused me to wonder, if even if only in a small way, how I could be part of the solution. Around the same time, we purchased our first home with a nice sized back yard. Curiosity about the possibility of growing my own fruits and vegetables began. Since then, I have encountered the many joys and frustrations of gardening, learning some lessons along the way!

Seasonal Lessons

In addition to the routine tasks of gardening, there are other aspects of gardening that draw me in to worship-filled contemplation of God. Austin is blessed with a climate where we can garden year-round. Each season brings opportunities to plant new crops and, as a result, completely different harvests for each season.

“Plants that start out looking like a utilitarian vine or bush are transformed into a beautiful show of color when they are heavy with fruit.”In the spring and summer, my favorite vegetables to produce are many varieties of hot peppers. In the winter, I love to pick fresh lettuce and carrots. As I spend time in the quiet backyard, the variety of crops and changing seasons cause me to consider God as the magnificent Creator, working all seasons and plants together to bring variety that we too often overlook. Plants that start out looking like a utilitarian vine or bush are transformed into a beautiful show of color when they are heavy with fruit. This fruit proves that the preceding weeks and months of work were not in vain. All of this reminds me that God is still at work in me and in creation, and he will ultimately complete his work one day.

Shared Enjoyment

The garden has taught me many life lessons and brought me much joy. However, while the composting, pruning, and harvesting are essential to my enjoyment of the garden, I have come to believe that my enjoyment is not the gardens greatest offering.

“However, the greatest joy that I get from all of gardening’s hard work is when I am able to share a meal with friends and neighbors using the crops from my garden.”

While gardening can be a solitary endeavor, it also brings a wonderful opportunity to commune with others. This can look very different from person to person. Some just take the vegetables and say “Thank you.” Others receive them and offer some of the food that they make in return (bonus!). However, the greatest joy that I get from all of gardening’s hard work is when I am able to share a meal with friends and neighbors using the crops from my garden. Sitting around the table, communing, thanking God for his bounty and enjoying together His gift of gardening.

I could write much more about worshiping through the art of gardening, which shows me that as I garden God is at work in my heart, drawing me toward himself and desiring to make me more like Jesus. As I continue to learn and grow in the art of gardening, I pray I may become even more aware of God’s patient love and leading in my life, constantly pointing me to the greatest love of all… God Himself.

What Does Cooking Have to Do with the Gospel?

*This is a guest post by Tim Gillen, husband, father, City Group leader and lawyer.

Like any good, red-blooded American college student, I was all too familiar with the local Chinese food takeout places. For $5, I could get a Styrofoam container full of fried rice with some kind of fried meat and some barely recognizable vegetable drenched in a brown sauce. I saw Chinese food as a way to eat fried, salty food cheaply.

Sammy’s Flipped my World Upside-down

That all changed the first time I went to a place called “Sammy’s” in New York City. The first time I ate at Sammy’s I had just finished finals. and went out with classmates to celebrate. I walked in expecting Chinese food as I had always experienced it, but instead. my entire world was flipped upside down. The food was… good! Not just Chinese food good, but honest to goodness good.

At Sammy’s things were made from scratch. There was a care and craftsmanship that went into how the meat was sautéed and how the vegetables were crisp.  The best part was that Sammy’s wasn’t some gourmet Chinese place. It was just as cheap as those places I had always known, only better. To this day, I don’t know the nuts and bolts of how Sammy’s makes superior dishes, but I am incredibly grateful that they do. In fact, after moving away from walking distance to Sammy’s. I swore off Chinese food for a long time. Why? Because I knew no other place could compare to Sammy’s.

Why Cooking is my Passion

I love to cook. I’ve always had some aptitude for it, but over the last half dozen years or so it has evolved into a passion, my main hobby. I am hardly alone in this, and people love to cook for a variety of reasons. Some love to experiment and try new flavor combinations. Some love to experience different cultures through food.

What I love most about cooking is the cooking techniques and food science behind a great taste. I have a very ordinary palette. My passion lies in taking dishes people are familiar with, and by putting in time, love, and effort, with a dose of technical know-how, elevating the familiar to the superior.

This drives me to learn words like “chiffonads”and “Maillard reaction”, and it is why I buy most of my spices whole, heat them, and grind them. I love making brownies for people used to eating box-made brownies, or spaghetti for people used to eating dried pasta and jarred sauce, and having those people incredulous that my version can taste so much better than what they had accepted as normal or good.

When I cook, I pay close attention to each small detail that goes into elevating a dish, dispite the fact that who ever eats it will not be able to discern what I did to make it taste superior. If all goes according to plan, the diner will know the end product is good in totality, but won’t know and appreciate all the steps andspecial touches it required.

God the Cook

I think about God as all-knowing cook and myself as the unaware diner.

As I cook, I am often reminded of God’s character. I think about as the all-knowing cook and myself as the unaware diner. God acts, provides, and works for me in ways that I am often not aware of. When I am at my best, I have a vague awareness and appreciation for what God does for me. At no time, however, am I able to discern and give appropriate thanks and praise for the infinite number of small ways God cares for me.

The marvelous thing is that God knows this. He knows that I am blissfully unaware of His loving steps and touches, but He does them anyway. He does them because He loves me and not because he needs or requires my praise. Because of this, I am able to put my touches on a dish, not to be recognized and praised for my skill, but to joyfully reflect God.

When I elevate dishes from ordinary to extraordinary, I am reminded how God is always elevating us through the gospel. He takes a rough approximation of forgiveness and evaluates it to permanent, enduring forgiveness at the cross of Christ.

Just like I had no idea Chinese food could be truly good until I experienced Sammy’s, I now realize in-part that God is always at work in profound ways, one of which is elevating, redeeming, ordering and fullfilling my desires through the gospel of Christ.

City Seminary, PlantR, GCD, & Arts Update!

There are so many great things in the works, I thought I would give a bullet list of things to look for this Fall:

  • City Seminary: 2 stellar courses that will fit, inspire, and equip everyone in our church! Registration starts soon! First Micro
  • PlantR: Microconferences & Missional Hubs start this Fall. Don’t miss this Thursday meeting if you’re a local church planter! RSVP for free BBQ lunch!
  • – our launch of this all things GCD site is just days away. The content is top-notch and will equip many to make, mature, and multiply gospel-centered disciples!
  • The Gospel & Domestic Arts: Don’t miss this week-long series of posts on how people in Austin City Life are pushing the gospel through ordinary things