Books & Readings

Bread Upon the Waters – A review

How I enjoyed Peter Reinhart’s book, Bread Upon the Waters: A pilgrimage toward self-discovery and spiritual truth.  May this inspire you to find a copy and read it.

This 20-year-old book recently came into my sphere while I was once again trying to create sourdough starter.  As a dear friend said about the failed starter, “you had an unexpected outcome.”  Might the journey be part of the outcome, my spiritual director asked. (Yes, I took my failed sourdough starter attempt to him!  I believe God uses all aspects of my life to heal, transform, and love me.)

Back to this dear book – as I was researching why my third attempt failed, I came across Peter Reinhart’s name as a master bread baker.  The scholar in me loves to read who my writer has read.  Peter Reinhart was new to me.  Who is he?  While I only know him through his books, he appears to be a man deeply in love with God, searching for truth and God, gifted with both pen and words, and water and flour as a master bread teacher.

This book, Bread Upon the Waters likens the move of the spirit in our lives to the journey of raw bread ingredients to delicious bread.  I offer two insightful bits from his book.

One of the bread stages is called benching or resting the dough.  He calls it the principle of patience.[1]  Let’s drop into his words:

Benching, or resting the dough, is also about patiently waiting.  It seems as if nothing is happening, the rough pieces of raw dough just sit on the bench, the gluten relaxing.  But this step is an important prelude to the next stage, called shaping. … There is more going on than meets the eye.  It’s kind of similar to taking a deep breath before shooting a foul shot.  It relives anxiety and, in way, allows the ego of the bread, its identity, to relax into the will of the bread maker so it can be properly shaped into its final form.[2]

Do hear the words of the Holy Spirit?  If you are waiting, might it be so you too can relax your ego and will so that you can be properly shaped?

The second bit I offer to you, reader, is his insight about a spiritual practice called Prayer of the Heart.  While space and attention span prevents the explanation of this practice, he challenges us to consider if were are prepared for the consequences of going deeper with God.[3]  It is a beautiful inquiry for his reader around the cost of transformation.

In the oven, it is the yeast’s death that yields bread.  I do deeply know in my spiritual journey the transformational path has called for death, surrender, or releasing of – in order that the new birthing, the resurrection, or healing might come.  This small book offers a beautiful way to understand the movements of God via an ancient tradition of making bread.

Ever ancient; ever new – St. Augustine of Hippo.

P.S.  Still working on creating sourdough starter!


[1] Peter Reinhart, Bread Upon the Waters: A pilgrimage toward self-discovery and spiritual truth, ICambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books, 2000) p. 113.

[2] Ibid., p. 113.

[3] Ibid., p. 99