So I read a lot of books, most of which I have the privilege of reading before they are released to bookstores. It’s a little perk of doing what I do. My daughter likes the opportunity, too, and often relishes in finding a spelling error here or there. She is, perhaps, an editor in the making.
I just like reading a book imagining who I think would benefit from taking the time to read it. I just finished reading JESUS, BREAD, AND CHOCOLATE by John Thompson, releasing in April. I met John decades ago, when he started a little independent music store in Wheaton, Illinois. John carried the music that others didn’t; music that was off the beaten path. Music that was honest and pure, if not raw and vulnerable. Every time I drove from anywhere east of Chicago back to my home in Des Moines, I made time to stop by True Tunes and pick up a few musical treasures. As luck would have it, I’d occasionally get to see a show in his upstairs venue. I spent many late summer nights at his True Tunes stage at the Cornerstone music festivals. And between these interactions, I looked forward to each issue of the True Tunes magazine that he published. John and I shared similar passions and interests, connected by a store, venue and magazine. Had I been entrepreneurial in my younger days, perhaps we’d have been business partners.
The afternoon I saw John’s book come across my desk, I knew I’d be reading something that would fit. We spoke the same language for so long, I was looking forward to seeing what he had to offer in the way of literature. Who would benefit from reading this book? Easy answer: Me.
The subtitle on JESUS, BREAD, AND CHOCOLATE says the book is about “crafting a hand-made faith in a mass-market world.” You’ve piqued my interest, Mr. Thompson. I’m in. What follows is a fascinating look at artisan bread-making, coffee roasting, chocolatiers, micro-breweries, farmers markets, and indie musicians, ultimately calling us away from the mass-produced. Rather, we are called to put in the effort, the care, and the investment in practices that make us responsible for things that are valuable not just in our local economies but in our walk of faith.
Yes, there is a connection between chocolate and faith. Brewing has a long history in the Church. Bread? Come on, Jesus called Himself the “Bread of Life,” yet we consume crappy Wonder bread in place of the grandeur of something more satisfying and awe-inspiring. And there is, of course, a look at hand-crafted music that is not as easy to find as the saccharine of the Top 40, but music that speaks to the heart of each of us. (And the world NEEDS more of that!)
Interwoven throughout, is the story of John’s journey of faith. Aspects of his story make it a miracle that he retains a faith at all. But the pursuit for the essential ingredients of life will ultimately lead any true faith traveler into the arms of Jesus and His community of followers that bears His name. As John points out, that too, has become subject to mass-production and consumerism the same way fast-food has become a god of our nation. JESUS, BREAD, AND CHOCOLATE takes us through a short history of hand-crafted arts, with stops at central Tennessee hidden treasures. In my travels to Nashville, I hope to savor these stops for myself.
My one criticism would be that the faith application in JESUS, BREAD, AND CHOCOLATE was pretty similar from chapter to chapter. But then again, maybe that was John’s intent all the way through. Every couple dozen pages, a simple reminder that our faith, and the expression of it, doesn’t have to be canned. If fact, it shouldn’t be! Much like bread, coffee, chocolate, beer, farming and music, here are essential elements of faith that get lost when it becomes a commodity. The artful touch of a Creator on our lives makes each of us a unique masterpiece. We easily settle for the polished and convenient when the broken and bothersome are often where we expertise Jesus the most. Perhaps John just wanted this point hammered home each time I put a piece of bread or chocolate to my mouth, when I walked through the farmer’s market, when I opened a bottle of beer with my burger. Easy rarely equals better. And when it comes to my faith, I need that reminder all too often.
What did I take away from JESUS, BREAD, AND CHOCOLATE? …You know that hunger you have, the one you are feeling now? The one that tells you that you need something more? Too often, we just add to what we have, accumulating more. But what if “something more” was really “something else?” What if that hunger is for a different way of living? It will require searching, trial and error. It will require extra effort, and the resilience to leave the mass-produced on the shelf. It may cost you more time and more money. You may feel like a lone wolf. But rest assured, people like John and I will be there to welcome you with a table spread with fine bread and beer, home-grown veggies finished with fresh roasted coffee and artisan chocolate. And of course, your new favorite musician will be heard through the speakers was we share life together. Don’t be surprised if you hear a twang in that music…