Lessons from deleavening 2010

(P.S. — Sorry for the accidental early post of this before it was finished.  It’s amazing what a click of the wrong button can do!)

Earlier — actually, right before the Days of Unleavened Bread began — I had the idea of serializing some of the lessons I got out of “deleavening” this year. I thought releasing one per day during the Days of Unleavened Bread would be pretty fun. But, I had more ambition than time and energy, so it didn’t happen. 😦

However, let me make up for it now by listing many of them here in one post. 🙂

By way of introduction, I love God’s Holy Days for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is highlighted during the Days of Unleavened bread: the lessons we learn by keeping them. And, unlike the “lessons” to be derived by keeping man-made holidays, these lessons come right out of God’s Lesson Plan. He designed the days, and He gets all the credit.

The Days of Unleavened Bread involve three commands: Get the leavening out of your home & property, do not eat anything leavened for seven days, do eat unleavened bread for seven days.

What is fun for me about the first of these — deleavening, as we tend to call it — in the days leading up to the festival is the meditations it can spur. During these days leaven pictures sin, and ridding oneself of leaven pictures repenting of sin and removing it from your life — the only proper response to the sacrifice of Christ, pictured by the Passover which occurs (not coincidentally) the day before the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  This makes getting rid of leaven a great meditation on getting rid of sin.

Back in 2008, I think I did a much longer and more detailed post than the one I will do here. Feel free and go back and read that one: “Deleavening Meditations, 2008” — posted back on April 22, 2008.  Feel free to ignore the “Jimmy Buffet” non-lesson in that one!)  There was one follow up that year: “Point that donut somewhere else, lady — it might go off!”  The year before that I did another rather detailed one: “A list of lessons from this year’s deleavening” — posted on April 6, 2007. Actually, there were two more follow ups in 2007: One more Unleavened Bread lesson! & Still one more lesson: Attack of the Unleavened Tacos.

(Actually, that last post was misnamed, since I have now learned that the beef in the tacos at that joint actually has leavening in it.  Can you believe it?  The beef.  Check it out, yourself, with the online Taco Bell Ingredient List.  Look at the list for “Seasoned Ground Beef.”  Yes, it says, “Autolyzed Yeast Extract,” which is not a leavening agent, but, a little later on the list, there it is: “Yeast.”  Plain ol’ leavening agent “yeast”!  Spock Hotel, I thought I knew ye…  Thanks to JS on Facebook who caught that one!  And thanks to GD who then caught later that their “Southwest Chicken” meat seasoning has it too.)

[UPDATE, 5/7/2010: Taco Bell has been liberated! 🙂  As discovered in the comments discussion, below, the yeast is apparently “torula yeast” which is inactive and not a leavening agent, at all.  My Taco Bell-devoted taste buds are going to be so pleased…]

I don’t think I wrote much on the topic in 2009 — just a brief mention in “Wonderful side effect of Unleavened Bread preparations” on April 3, 2009.

But, today, I list a few meditations I had during our deleavening for 2010.  Not as detailed as in years past, but more than last year: hopefully a happy medium. 🙂

  • I eat at my desk a lot and that desk is also home for our cat 50%-60% of the day.  (At least it seems that way!)  We recently put a basket and a pillow up there, and she seems to like the high vantage point it provides for her — up and away from ferret-based interference!  Well, to deleaven properly I had to move the basket while she was in it.  Clearly, she was not happy, as her goofy facial expression told me.

Lesson I gained? Sometimes in seeking to change our lives and remove sin, we inconvenience others.  It may be those who used to enjoy sin with us, or it may be family members and close friends for whom our new way of life is unexpected and confusing.  But we don’t fail to address that sin just to keep from inconveniencing them.  We show them love and understanding and make the change as pleasant for them as we can within the scope of God’s law, but we change anyway.  (Of course, inconveniencing a cat is just a bonus…)

  • Speaking of the desk, I had prepared it for deleavening a few days before I actually did: Straightened, tidied, and ready to be dusted/wiped/etc.  But I didn’t get to it immediately.  Other things came up — projects, phone calls, house-buying stuff…  And before I could get to the actual deleavening, it was all cluttered again, almost as bad as it was before.

Lesson I gained? If you’re going to get rid of sin, don’t dilly dally.  Don’t get it started and then leave it half done.  Commit and do it.  If not, before you know it, the old life (and old obstacles) are back with a vengeance.

  • Deleavening often involves dusting, as those fine little crumbs and junk are good and present in that stuff.  (Of course, there is leavening agent in the very air we breathe, but that’s another story!)  In my dusting, I found that an old-but-cherished picture of my two oldest boys was coated pretty good, making the very bright and colorful picture of them dim and a little hard to see.

Lesson I gained?  Sin interferes with my ability to see my family properly, as well as my responsibility to my family.  The more sin I am able to remove with the help of the living Christ, the more I see my family and my responsibilities to them clearly — as God sees them.Lesson #2 I got from that one: It is foolish to think that our own sins, no matter how “private,” do not affect our families.  They do.

  • Actually, shortly after that, I came to an old Bible of mine in the same condition.  Coated in dust.  The admonition, “Blow the dust off your Bibles!” came to mind quickly and gave me a smile, though I have to say that the shelf below that one has 9 Bibles four 4 New Testaments, with considerably less dust. 🙂

Still…I had the same thought that I did above concerning the photograph of the kids.  How does sin affect how I view the Scriptures?  How often does my sin combine with my Jeremiah 17:9 heart to “interpret” the Scriptures in a particular way.  I’ve seen God’s Word in the hands of people motivated not by a real love of the truth but by their desire to win an argument or “make their point” — and it isn’t pretty.  But I have to ask myself if I ever do that.  Do I ever allow my pride (a sin if there ever was one!) to get between me and God’s Word, so that I am not using it properly — not understanding it as God intended it, or not allowing it to reshape and correct me as it should.

  • In cleaning our van, there was a whole universe of crumbs a waitin’…  The most difficult spots were in the back, where our kids would fail to throw away some bread-related item, such as the tip of a hot dog bun, abandoned when the dog ran out before the bun.  Not thrown away, the item rested on the van floor or under a seat, where it dried, crumbled, and was eventually ground into the fibers of the carpet and more difficult to extract.

This lesson came courtesy of my wife’s meditation:  How much easier it would have been if it would have been if those hot dog bun tips were tossed out at the beginning, like the garbage they were!  When we discover sin, toss it then!  The longer it stays, the more chance it has become all the more ingrained — and more difficult to remove.

  • After our cleaning this year — which was probably closer to a full “Spring Cleaning” than last year — everything looked so nice!  My office looked better than it has since…  well, since last Unleavened Bread!

And doesn’t our world and our lives look so much better with sin removed?

  • My wife and I discovered a new leavening agent this year.  For years, we had ignored it thinking it was not in any way a leavening agent, and yet it was, indeed — often used as a substitute for sodium bicarbonate (which we did know about, thank you very much!).  Presented with the facts, there was no arguing about it — just a flushing of certain breakfast cereals down the drain and away from our now-a-bit-more-deleavened home.

The lesson here (which my wife and I both discussed): How many times when presented with facts that demonstrate we are, truly, caught up in a sin do people rush into denial and defensiveness?  Are we humble enough to confront what may have been life long practices and habits and consider the possibility that they may actually be sinful?

  • The last one comes courtesy of a sufferer of Celiac disease (who actually played a role in the one I mentioned immediately above, as well):  Avoiding gluten is a must for her and thus the rest of the year for her is spent avoiding most of the foods that the rest of us only avoid during the Days of Unleavened Bread.  To her, much of these days seem pretty much like what she does all the time and not nearly as odd as it is for those of us who munch on random fluffy stuff without fear the other 358 days of the year.

What she suggested as a lesson from that was that when removing sin is a habit and a way of life, it gets easier — more natural.  It may seem very unnatural at first (thanks to the evil one who has a hand in forming our impressions of what is “natural” for us), but after conversion (an ongoing process, remember?) and a life spent in focusing on God’s Way of doing things, seeking righteousness and avoiding/rooting out evil becomes the new norm: comfortable, accepted, and wonderfully normal in every way.

And that’s it!  I had hoped to make this one a short one, but, as usual, my babble machine got stuck in the “on” position.

Whatever lessons you have learned or thoughts you have pondered during these remarkable days, I hope they have been worthwhile.  God’s Holy Days are a real treasure — a gift from Christ to His Bride — and I pray that this season has been profitable for His people everywhere.

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15 thoughts on “Lessons from deleavening 2010

  1. Chris Johnson

    It is so comforting to see and know that God will work on each one of us through his Holy Days and bring things to our understanding that we have never seen before. It always amazes me just how cunning Satan is and the times we do not see it right off….

  2. Zono Riggs

    Alright minister son, clarify for me. For 30 plus years I have been told it is the days of Unleavened bread, not the days of unleavened beer. (which is clearly made with yeast and will even puff up bread or batter if used in the cooking process.) If the beer is not used in this manner it is perfectly okay to drink during the days of UB.
    Explain the difference between that and yeast in the meat. The tortilla shell was already cooked and the meat was not used to puff the shell in the cooking.
    You know I don’t like beer and I am not a fan of fast food tacos, but I am concerned about the principle.
    I can understand the lesson that sin can be found in the most unlikely places, but was there and inferance to avoid the meat during these days because of the yeast? What was the substitute for bicarbonate soda?

  3. I will be happy to clarify, oh mother-in-law-whose-son-in-law-is-a-minister. 🙂 In fact, I’ll even point out where I lack clarity, myself, and would welcome further info.

    The sodium bicarbonate substitute was calcium carbonate, the leavening agent in Cheerios.

    As for the yeast present in beer, as you know I am not the world’s greatest beer expert, but it is my understanding that the yeast in beer is mostly spent and is not capable of doing much leavening. That’s why one still has to add leavening (baking soda or yeast + sugar) to beer bread to make it fluffy, or else you get a very dense non-fluffy result. I’m open to explanation from those who know better, but that’s my understanding. (Side note: I note that the Jews do consider most all beers not Kosher for Passover due to the grain, not the yeast, itself, which is why they OK wine, since “wine yeast” was on a grape instead of a grain.)

    The issue with the Taco Bell meat is that I do not know what role the yeast and wheat played. Forgive my culinary ignorance, but when I see “yeast” and “wheat” lister on the ingredients, I do not know the source and wonder if some sort of leavened bread was used as a thickening agent or something in their seasoning. Ground up bread crumbs? I don’t know! 🙂 But in my ignorance, I decided better “safe than sorry” — the same approach I try to take with sin.

    I’d be very interested to hear from someone who could explain: what purpose could the yeast and wheat in the Taco Bell beef and southwest chicken (or their seasoning mix) have? It’s my understanding that yeast (as opposed to autolyzed yeast extract) is not used as a flavoring agent. So what purpose might it be fulfilling?

    Anyone with light to shed would be welcome!

  4. The Taco Bell discovery admittedly stunned me — good thing I skipped that place this year!

    A woman claimed to me on NTBMO that Wendy’s adds yeast to its chili, because it does something to the beans. But a check of the Wendy’s web site found that is NOT accurate.

    Isn’t it amazing how the Internet has revealed these fast-food secrets, which we didn’t know 20 years ago? Is it “simplifying my life,” to borrow an old Church of God phrase — or the opposite?!

  5. Steve

    Limestone? Really? That’s the main ingredient in cement! I’ll never eat that stuff again. No matter what time of year. Think I’ll stick to oatmeal.

  6. Cheryl Brown

    On the yeast question, I’m of the opinion that the yeast is used as a preservative and the flour as a filler. The key is to see how the yeast is listed on the products ingredients. If the flour is being used to “fluff up” the meat so to speak, the word “flour” would be followed by the word “yeast” in parentheses. You can see for yourself at Taco Bell’s website that this is not the case, because the yeast is not listed in or with the flour. What this means is the flour is not leavened. Check it out at http://www.tacobell.com/nutrition/ingredientstatement under “seasoned ground beef”. The yeast in the seasoned ground beef is most likely listed as a preservative.

    We can also find some yeast agents on frozen potatoes so they won’t turn brown, and some people have even found it on green beans as a preservative!! The question I would like to ask is, “When do we start ‘straining at the nat, and forget the weighter matters?” Isn’t this whole Taco Bell meat issue (and speculation I believe) just a unnecessary burden, especially for our new folks? But, if Taco Bell comes out and says their meat is made to be more fluffy because of the yeast they put into it, then we’ll gladly give it up for those 7 days each year.

  7. Steve: Calcium carbonate isn’t so bad. Cheerios wouldn’t be Cheerios without it! 🙂

    Cheryl: Thanks for your thoughts. While I agree with the principle that I think is at the heart of what you’re saying, I also still have some questions.

    For instance, concerning your comments about how yeast would be listed if it were a leavening agent, that just doesn’t match the products we have. I checked the first five (wonderfully fluffy!) leavened products I could get my hands on in our kitchen — wheat bread, English muffins, flour tortillas, raisin bread, and sandwich thins — and none of them matched your description of how the ingredients would be listed, but all of them matched the manner in which Taco Bell lists it ingredients. So, I’m afraid I have no comfort in that way.

    Even if I ignored that, I also can’t find any evidence of yeast being used as a preservative, though I would suppose that it is possible. (Normally, preservatives protect against yeast, though perhaps spent yeast can work in this way.)

    So, I’m stuck where I began. Believe me, I’m all about not “over focusing” on such things. Some people, for instance, do turn the Kingdom of God into a matter of “eating and drinking” (Rom. 14:17) and that is something I strive to avoid.

    And if those ingredients are there as some sort of simple flavoring, or preservative as you suggest, etc., I don’t have an issue. But in my (admitted) ignorance, I still wonder: I’ve used crumbled up crackers and the like to change the texture of thickness of some chili that I’ve eaten — is this something similar? Admittedly, they are the Days of Unleavened Bread, not the Days of Unleavened Chili. 🙂 Yet, during those days, I would avoid chili with crumbled crackers. Not because the chili is somehow “fluffier” but because I am avoiding leavened bread and those crackers are leavened.

    So, what role does the wheat and yeast play in the seasoning? I don’t know. But until I know, I’m skipping it. (Well, if it were still the Days of UB I would be. But it isn’t. So I’m scarfing them!)

  8. Ed Ewert

    I hope I’m not being too liberal on this thing, but I basically approach this from the “if it doesn’t look breadish and puffy, then leavening is not an issue”. I’m somewhat familiar with orthodox Jewish concepts of kosher, where you can have kosher and non-kosher water based on the microscopic content of water. Things can get crazy when one overanalyses. I simply “put out the leaven”. I don’t look for for ways to make sure I don’t come in contact with a single leavening molocule. For all I know, they use yeast to manufacture computers.

  9. Ha! Thanks, Mr. Ewert, and I, too, am familiar with many of those and agree. As Jesus noted in the Scripture, that approach sometimes leads to being over strict and other times to being over liberal.

    And, as I said above, I definitely try not to go overboard. (E.g., is it really necessary to get rid of your store-bought toothpaste because it has baking soda in it? Is there any chance that you would take that toothpaste and attempt to leaven some bread with it???) In this case, I simply have an outstanding question. If I were at my mother’s house visiting during the Days of Unleavened Bread and she had a dish there that I discovered was made with leavened bread crumbs, I wouldn’t eat it. It’s as simple as that.

    Do I think that God expects us to get degrees in food science in order to keep his holy days (or, for that matter, keep his wonderfully simple laws of Leviticus 11)? No, I don’t. And do I have a problem with everything that is brought to my attention in these things, where I feel the need to keep up with the latest website list or catalogue of exotic ingredients? No, I don’t. I rather suspect that time would be better spent visiting a widow in her trouble, thus making sure I am attending to both parts of James 1:27.

    But on occasion someone brings up something that makes me wonder. And in this, I have some wondering going on. The (delicious) meat clearly isn’t fluffly. Is it made with stuff that is? I don’t know.

    If only that cute little “Yo quiero Taco Bell” dog were still alive to clear things up…

  10. Zono Riggs

    I understand why I was so confused. In your original missive you mentioned the yeast in the taco meat, but not the wheat. I notice that on the food list it mentions oats(wheat). I can understand now why you would be concerned about possible bread crumbs. Before I couldn’t possibly see how yeast would puff up meat???

    I am more concerned about limestone in my cheerios. Where do people get these ideas from? Strike that, I know from where they come. Thanks for the explanation.

  11. Norbert

    What impressed me this time round during this spring feast, is how profound the simple action of deleavening can be, when it provides some straight forward no nonsense insights that produce analogies about throwing out sin.

    Of course some of those analogies can be so straight forward that it could be said, “You should of already of known that!”, but that takes away from the wonderful fact that such a simple direction can also be found within the analogy. It’s truly amazing how this works.

    Also I imagine that by being more diligent in following those spiritual lessons the analogies can provide, the issue of solving physically deleavening would follow.

  12. Hi Mr. Smith (and All),

    I don’t know why an earlier comment I submitted was left out here, but let me try again at this late date…

    First, the yeast in taco meat, on certain seasoned tortillas, and many other products (usually called “torula yeast” – cf. the brief article on Wikipedia) is a seasoning agent, not a leavening agent. It never leavened anything and as used cannot leaven anything. It’s an extract -I gather, the same extract that’s used in Marmite and Vegemite, because brewer’s and baker’s yeast extracts are bitter. Torula yeast gives an intense meatlike flavor to things it seasons, and those two spreads have that characteristic too.

    Second, compare the articles on sodium bicarbonate, baking soda and calcium carbonate on Wikipedia and in other sources. Calcium carbonate isn’t added as a leavening agent either, for the simple reason that it’s all but inert in unleavened bread dough. (At most there may be some exchange with water ions on the atomic level.) In Cheerios it’s added as a source of calcium which then reacts in your stomach, but not in baking. If General Mills wanted to leaven Cheerios, then they would’ve used baking powder or some other much more reactive ingredient than calcium carbonate.

    What I suggested last time I’ll suggest again. Maybe the lessons here are that 1) often what we consider leaven (physical or spiritual), isn’t; 2) discerning what spiritual leaven is far outweighs discerning what physical leaven is. But that should go without saying among us, shouldn’t it?

    I can hardly believe that God would have had the Israelites or we their heirs get all persnickety about what leaven is or what eating a leavened product entails – the Hebrew words and contexts are clear and simple (and very easily applied). Yes, man’s ways of trying to adapt nature to his own ends makes things more complicated, but so do our own efforts to “improve” on good old flat unleavened bread by “puffing it up” without the use of yeast or even baking powder. And sometimes I wonder if we let much later Judaic custom influence our approach to “deleavening” our dwellings much more than it should. If ever there were a subject on which one should “stick to the trunk of the tree”, this is one.

    And the joke all the time is that the real cause of leavening (yeast spores) is omnipresent in the air; short of living in a “clean room”, we can’t get rid of it. It’s like trying to get rid of your human nature, or at least Satan’s part in it; it can’t be done. No amount of works on our part will take care of that, physically or spiritually. Perhaps we should revist Mr. H.W. Armstrong’s concept of the DUB: if Passover is the Work of the crucified Christ, then UB is the Work of the risen Christ. It’s not so much about putting sin out of our lives by our own efforts, but much more about putting Him into our lives and keeping Him there afterwards. It’s the only way we can keep the omnipresent yeast spores out, let alone the leavened bread of malice and wickedness!

  13. Howdy, Mr. Wheeler, and thanks so much for your comment! I, too, have no idea why one you may have submitted earlier did not show. I certainly did not see it in the queue, so maybe something went wrong when you hit the submission button. That happened to Mr. Millich, once, too, when he was going to comment. I suppose it might be in the Spam queue (in which case, I would not have seen it), but since you have written again, anyway, I am too lazy to look. 🙂

    I am very thankful for your explanation about “torula yeast” — it was my hope that something like this was the case, but without more info to go on, I couldn’t say. Those tastebuds I have that are devoted to Taco Bell appreciation (a sadly large percentage) will rejoice, and I will add a comment above to reference the subject. I’ve known for some time that not all “yeast” is “leavening yeast” but had never heard of this one before (and could not identify any further details about it).

    As for Calcium Carbonate, I will need more info. My wife and I, too, used to think that it was not a leavening agent, until seeing it being sold specifically for use as a leavening agent. Rather than accuse the company of ignorance or deception, which seemed unreasonable, it was easier to toss the Cheerios and look at the matter in more detail another day.

    As I tried to indicate above, I am all for focusing on the spiritual and not letting the minutia-of-the-physical distract us from the picture or the lesson that is what God is actually striving to produce within us. (I don’t believe that God requires us to get a bachelors degree in food sciences to be able to obey His simple commands!) And I appreciate your comments.

    Thanks, again!

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