Fundamentals, Fundamentals, Fundamentals


Just ask any of my family and they’ll be the first to tell you: I can’t cook (really, I can’t). I burn toast in the toaster, make hotdogs black on the stove, my eggs are more like edible rubber, and my oatmeal is…. well… I say it’s like oatmeal rice pudding, but no one else can eat it. I’ve even ruined those Maruchan Instant Lunch cups (I thought that cup contained everything needed for the meal. Didn’t realize you were on your own for the water. Victory Christian Academy will forever remember that lunch break). Anything domesticated feels foreign to me.

For some reason, about once a year (when the weather gets cold and extra family gathers in) I get this unnatural urge to be a Martha Stewart or a Betty Crocker and I start stirring around where-I-don’t-belong.


Several years ago I got one of those dangerous drives to be domestic. I pulled out a recipe for cookies (cookies! you can’t possibly go wrong with cookies) and decided I was going to do this one right. I would follow the recipe down to the smallest detail and prove I could make something decent. So I did. I followed every directive and was very surprised when I opened the oven at the appropriate time. I discovered that my endeavors had produced a trayful of crumbs (cookie crumbs, mind you. But crumbs, nonetheless). I was disheartened. I had tried so hard. My mother wasn’t convinced that I’d followed the recipe so she reviewed it step-by-step with me.

“You put in 1 teaspoon of baking soda?”


“1 cup of butter?”


“3/4 cup pack brown sugar?”


“2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour?”


And on the examination went. I’d done everything the recipe had said to do.

Well, actually, I’d done more than the recipe had said to do, and that proved to be my problem.

“You packed the brown sugar?”

“Absolutely. That was the funnest part of making the cookies.”


Actually, I’d enjoyed packing the brown sugar so much, I decided I might as well pack the flour, too. I mean, the recipe didn’t say whether or not I was supposed to, so I did it for good measure.

And instead of soft, gooey cookies, I got a bunch of dry, inedible crumbs.

I read a book as a teenager by Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, entitled The Last Lecture. The book was based on a special lecture Pausch had been invited to share at Carnegie after he’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Pausch emphatically states in his book, “Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. You’ve got to get the fundamentals down because, otherwise, the fancy stuff isn’t going to work.” While Pausch’s The Last Lecture has nothing to do with cooking, his maxim still applies.

No sense in adding a flare of chocolate chips or M&M’s if you’re going to pack the flour. I would assume that for most chefs, “Do Not Pack the Flour Unless Otherwise Directed,” is a fundamental (even unstated) rule of the kitchen.

And I look at my own heart and ministry and calling and realize that there are a lot of things that are important, even necessary. But if in my personal life — the hours of my day that are hidden from the public eye, even the eyes of my family — if within those quiet, leisure moments, I don’t lead a life saturated in prayer and grounded in God’s Word, then the fancy stuff, the good works, the ministry endeavors, the charitable giving, the volunteering, the being a good neighbor sort of Christianity, isn’t really relevant. If the fulness of the Spirit’s indwelling is not apparent to those I live with, to those that taste the fruits of my life most frequently, I’m missing the point.

Like I do at the start of every new year, today I write out goals for myself, things I want to accomplish, changes I want to make in my daily schedule, priorities I want to get straight. And I remember that at the top of the list must come devoted time in prayer and Bible study. Before every resolution to read more, exercise consistently, or achieve long-planned goals, I must commit to seeking the Spirit’s fulness and maintaining that fulness within every aspect of the choices I make.

Otherwise, the fancy stuff isn’t going to work.

Merilee Barnard2 Comments