Many of you are familiar with the works of great historical figures of the Church like Brother Lawrence, Thomas Merton, and Andrew Murray. These men of the faith helped us to consider the ways in which we can draw nearer to God through spiritual disciplines. Much time was spent by these men outlining what it looks like to being a praying people, a meditative people, a reflecting people. Today we see other pastors and theologians, such as Donald Whitney and Eugene Peterson, continue to emphasize these themes through their ministries, continually pointing us back to the spiritual disciplines as the life-blood for our walk with God. These men have all contributed great things on the subject, yet still so many of us find ourselves “hungry” for God. It is not as though these men have failed us. But perhaps many of us just need a more practical, tangible demonstration of what the spiritual disciplines should look and feel like.
In Out of the House of Bread, author and soon-to-be Anglican priest Preston Yancey (P.S. I went to youth group with this guy, how cool, right?) pulls on the themes outlined by these men of the faith. Along the way he infuses his own personal tastes and experiences with the disciplines, guiding us along the path of Christian living and spiritual formation and leading us into his very own kitchen. The concept of the book is unique, one of the strongest points of the book. Preston unequivocally parallels the shape and function of spiritual disciplines to the process of baking bread. The book is broken up (ideally) into weeks, where the reader visits an aspect of bread-baking (i.e. kneading) and then lines it up with a discipline (i.e. intercessory prayer). The book tries to connect these themes at every turn, urging the reader to practice these disciplines as they bake, helping us see the baking of bread itself as a reflection of the discipline, and even equipping the reader with not only recipes for bread, but “recipes” for practicing the discipline.
There is a constant back-and-forth between the subject of bread and the subject of spiritual disciplines, but it’s not tiresome. Preston is an excellent story-teller, and that shines through in Out of the House of Bread. As someone who by no means is a “bread baker,” it was at times difficult for me to connect with all of the aspects of this book, but that’s more on me than the author. This book, surprisingly enough, has stirred me to try making bread just for the sake of it, and further, to learn and glean from the spiritual implications of the process. Like bread-making, in our spiritual journey we need, for example, a Mise en Place, a time survey the ingredients and equipment are in place. What I like about this book is that it doesn’t major on the technicalities of achieving disciplines, but always points to the fact that the Christian life is a journey, a path, and that sometimes means we’ll measure wrong, or use an uneven oven. There is less focus on “how,” and more focus on “why,” and that’s the big win for Out of the House of Bread.
Although I don’t agree with all of Preston’s conclusions and theological points, I think Out of the House of Bread is a balanced and healthy conversation about bread, life, and the Bread of Life. The reader will not walk away from this book with a “7 Steps to Success” manual for Christian living, but he will walk away from it with a little more patience with himself, and with more wonder and praise for God.
The book is very easy to read, and also very informative, with a lot of church history consulted along the way. I appreciate Yancey’s heart behind such a book and hope to see it shape the way I come to the throne of grace, giving me confidence in Christ to pray joyfully, examine my heart honestly, and come to the Lord’s Table gladly.
Note: I was provided a copy of this book by Zondervan in exchange for my honest review.