Sunday, November 28, 2010

Making Jesus the Main Course

by Susanne Dietze

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Php 4:19

Photo showing some of the aspects of a traditi...Image via Wikipedia
I’ve got food on the brain this weekend. It seems appropriate, given that this is Thanksgiving weekend for those of us in the US. Our gathering Thursday was met with more hunger than usual, considering that a few of us gathered around the table had either recently fasted for medical tests, just recovered from the flu, or are growing like proverbial weeds and have outgrown all the jeans I bought for back-to-school. My family consumed the traditional turkey dinner with gusto, and we’re now making good use of the leftovers. (Lunch today: the last of the white meat, mixed with red onion, dill weed, cucumber and mayo, nestled in pita bread.)

When you walk hungry into a feast, however, it’s easy to inhale the food without tasting it, easy to forget the “why” of the gathering as well as the “Who” from where the food came.

In her book Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline, Lauren F. Winner writes of her conversion to Christianity from Judaism. As a Jew, she observed kashrut – keeping kosher – by following the food-related rules found in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Among them, no shellfish, no mixing meat and milk products, and no pork. As a Christian, Winner no longer observes kashrut, but she writes, “Keeping kosher transforms eating from a mere nutritional necessity into an act of faithfulness. If you keep kosher, the protagonist of your meal is not you; it is God.”

The sense of intentionality present in keeping kosher is something many of us don’t think about. Freed from dietary restrictions since Peter’s vision of the sheet in the book of Acts (and yes, this passage does refer to God’s inclusion of Gentiles in the Kingdom, as well as to what we may eat), Christians don’t have to consider God’s laws when making out grocery lists or worry about God’s opinions on cheeseburgers or shrimp scampi. But maybe we should, if only to include our maker, redeemer and savior in every aspect of our lives.

The Bible is full of descriptions of food. From the fruit in the Garden of Eden to Esau’s lentil stew, to the Passover lambs to the most precious supper in the upper room including bread and wine, God has provided for His people and taken an interest in their meals! As the creator of our taste buds and the One who made us require daily bread, He delights in the pleasure and sustenance food gives us. As the One who placed us in families and gave us the gift of a personal savior, He loves when we gather around a table together. Whether we acknowledge it or not, He is in the midst of our food, from its inception to its digestion.
Chocolate Cupcakes

Intentionally keeping God at the center of our meals – and our lives – changes how we relate to our food. When I remember that God cares about what I eat and how often, and that He provided the food in my fridge, I remember His character: He is a loving, personal God who is interested in the small and big parts of my life. He cares for my basic needs. He wants the temple of His Holy Spirit, my body, to be healthy. He deserves my thanks for His provision and my praise for the exquisite taste of my favorite foods, like avocados and chocolate and California Pizza Kitchen’s grilled vegetable salad.

So this past Thursday, I wasn’t just feasting with my stomach. My heart was pretty full, too. I appreciated the work that went into every square of diced onion in the stuffing and made note of my daughter’s pride in making her first pumpkin pie. I tried to include God as the heart of our meal and take note of His many gifts to me. That’s a resolution I hope to keep, not just at Thanksgiving, but every day of the year. Intentionally including God in what I eat is, perhaps, the perfect ingredient in any meal.

Have you ever found that attentiveness to our food can be a spiritual discipline?
Did you try any new recipes for Thanksgiving this year? What turned out best?

Mudhouse Sabbath: copyright 2003 by Paraclete Press

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  1. Attentivness to food? as in obsessing?
    That was me the last month or so. Because I was feeling stressed, emotional, overwhelmed, I lost my ability to control my eating. I used it to smother my grief over the loss of my close friend Linda.

    That lead to feeling like a failure because I had no self-control, and there it spirals down. I beat myself up for it. Prayed about it then feel worse when I blew it. Thankfully control comes back when we sicken ourselves, and for me, just not having that kind of stuff in the house. I think that's the way of any over-indulgence, or-- call it sin.

    It sickens us while we are partaking. Avoiding the temptation is one major step back up out of the hole.

    The special treats of the holiday season are to be enjoyed - judiciously. The Lord can be savored every day in increasing amounts! Hurray for indulgence!

    I love how you've looked beyond the food to God, Susie. And I thought for sure that was your own holiday table!

  2. Good morning, Deb! No, that photo isn't my table. You know, I didn't take a single photo on Thanksgiving. Shame on me -- really. I should've taken pics of the people gathered but I totally blew it.

    Food is a major source of comfort, isn't it? And food can be a major example of trying to fill a void only Jesus can fill. I'm guilty of this. I'm not so much of a sweet person, but give me some cream cheese or a loaded baked potato or, well, I guess anything potato and/or dairy related works for me. There's nothing wrong with these foods in moderation. God, I am positive, adores potatoes more than I do. He made them, revels in their texture and taste and ability to blend so well with gruyere and cream...but I tend not to focus on God and His creative mastery when I'm standing at the stove eating out of the baking dish, feeling sad. I'm focusing on me.

    I'm working on shifting my focus when I plan meals and partake of them. It's like you said: all the treats of the holidays are to be enjoyed -- God gave us the taste buds and preferences we have! -- but in moderation, and not as a substitute for Him.

    I hope you're having a good day, Deb! It's so cold here this morning. Not like your or Anita Mae's kind of cold, but it's frosty and brisk.

  3. Susie, this is great! I've heard all sorts of random explanations for kosher food rules, but that's the first one that bears witness in my heart.
    Food was a form of self-medication for me for years. It was only after I understood more about God's grace that I was able to submit my eating habits to Him. The development of that discipline improved SO many other areas of my life as well.
    Love this post! And your scripture verse is SO appropriate after yesterday's discussion, too!
    Off to church!

  4. Hi Niki! Thanks! Well, I'm home from church now. Debating whether I want to brave the crowds and do a bit of shopping. It may not be Black Friday anymore, but it's still psycho at the stores!

    What a testimony you and Deb have about God's grace in this area. Thank you. I am glad the quote about keeping kosher touched you. It did me, too. Some of the OT kosher laws seem arbitrary to us, but I love what Winner said about these rules helping her keep God as the protagonist of the meal. A little shift to my thinking, now!

    Another example she used was to take a lot of time and study, appreciate, savor, and rejoice in your food. She also talks about eating seasonally as a way to keep God in our meals.

    It's also something to think about when I have to eat something I don't like...Sigh. But it's still a blessing from God.

  5. I tend to think that the healthiest diet is the one God gave us in the garden. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains. My husband and I have been trying to go more in the vegetarian direction these days. We've found things we really love like big kettles of bean soup, sweet potatoes, squash, eggplant, portabella mushrooms, colorful salads, kashi cereals, greek yogurts. I don't feel deprived at all.

  6. You know the book "French Women Don't Get Fat"? According to the author, the French take so much time and thought and preparation with their meals that they don't need to eat mass quantities. That's why they can have such rich food. In fact, most authentic ethnic cuisine is considered not only an art form, but a demonstration of love and honor. Contrast that to our American fast food, drive-through, convenience in a box or a can meals. Then consider the possible correlation to our spiritual lives: quality vs. quantity, love vs. knowledge. I'll be "chewing" on this one for awhile!

  7. Hi Dina! What a lovely idea. Simplicity, seasonality, and enjoying the flavors and textures of your food.

    I have a fun cookbook called Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, and Br. Victor's (the author, and I can't remember his last name right now) goal is to include a recipe for just about every vegetable grown in North America. We've enjoyed some fun, satisfying meals utilizing veggies we don't normally eat. Now we have new favorites. My daughter's favorite is the black-eyed-pea soup, flavored with lemon and cumin. Full of protein, nutrition, and flavor, and low on fat. Delish.

  8. Niki, interesting idea. I totally see the truth in that. We are such a quick-and-easy society, and I'm guilty of indulging in pre-made meals or fast(er) food places. (I'm not a drive-thru sort of person. Rarely, we go to a fast food place but then I never feel right after eating. But take a "healthier" quick stop, like Rubio's, where I love their fish tacos and salads, and I'm absolutely guilty of indulging in ease.) I realize that when it's a rushed evening, I could've prepared something homemade and fresh in the crockpot hours earlier, rather than rip open a package from the store.

    I adore Indian food, but I've never made it because of the intensity of the process. There's a lot of grinding and simmering that goes into those curries! My favorite dish is called malai kofta, and they're like little meatless well, meatballs of ground veggies and cashews, surrounded by a rich creamy sauce. I can't imagine the work that went into making those kofta balls by hand.

    Mmm. Thank God for malai kofta! Yum!

  9. I'm vegatarian.

    Only I'm not legalistic about it because I hate to be legalistic about anything.

    My son likes to say he's a beefaterian.

  10. Gina, I gave birth to a carnivore too. We do vegetarian a few times a week but this kid thrives on meat.

    Glad you had a good Thanksgiving! Ladies, I am in shock that it's Ye Olde Christmas-shopping Season already.

  11. I've started making a vegetarian option and quick kid food option at each meal. My hope is that since the vegetarian food is homemade and yummy looking that the kids will transfer over to it in time. My oldest, Christi, likes the vegetarian options, but currently boys are both meat and potatoes guys.

  12. Dina, that's how it is in my house, daughter and I could eat veggie options all the time, but the boys love meat and potatoes. Hmm.


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