Using Food for Fuel… and Fellowship

“I don’t have time for breakfast” so a grab-and-go muffin and coffee are consumed on the way to school or work. “I’ll grab a quick bite” so a sandwich is shoveled in while standing at the desk, in the car, or between activities. Or the overused cry of “I’m starving!”  Three common responses we’ve probably all said in the past year. Life is picking up pace again, and we are faced with juggling different schedules, resulting in eating more meals alone. Have you recently had an on-the-go day where you weren’t sure of what you ate, yet had a nagging in the pit of your stomach of being hungry and unsatisfied from all the empty calories consumed?

Compare it to meals of years gone by: sitting down for bacon, eggs, hash browns, and toast in the morning. And everyone comes together again for a meat and potatoes supper. If it was my Grandma’s house, there would be another starch served: homemade biscuits, cornbread, or buttered French bread, ending with coffee and something sweet, maybe a homemade pie or pastry, always a windmill or icebox cookie for dunking. If we were lucky, a second helping would be offered while playing cards, most importantly, together.

I’ll be honest, my mouth is watering remembering Gram’s home-cooked meals, as well as many my Mom still makes. After a couple of years of getting creative with the food available in our pantry due to COVID-19 shortages, I feel God prompting me to look at our appetites.

What are we trying to bite off that is causing us to be busy again?

What are we filling our bodies with?

Why are we seeking comfort from food instead of from a friend?

I pondered these questions for almost a year before I jumped into the boiling pot of Culinary School. As this goes to print, I have one month under my belt. I’m fortunate to have grown up with two great teachers, my mom Nancy and grandma Clem, and am excited to learn the “why” behind their techniques while playing with flavor profiles, textures, and experimenting with presentations. But I also want to explore why people are hungry? Why are we craving soulful conversations and loyal friendships? It seems that there is a desire to feel full, both in our stomach and our soul. With this on my heart, when our pastor Alli prompted us to consider creating a concise discipling intention, I came up with:

Feeding my and others’ Spirit through scripture, writing, and our stomachs.

 These eleven words have resonated with me ever since.

God created us to break bread together (Acts 2:42, Acts 20:7). The Bible is full of stories of eating, strengthening relationships, and the miracles resulting from asking God to join us:

•           Queen Esther hosted two banquets with king Xerxes and spared the Jewish people (Esther chapter 5 – 9).

•           Friendship deepened with Mary and Martha opening their home (Luke 10:38-42).

•           Jesus invited people into His yard, knowing the fish and bread would stretch and satisfy them (Matthew 14:13-21).      

One of the lesser-known stories is about the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (1 King 17). The word of the Lord came to Elijah and sent him to a widow who will “supply you with food.” But the woman he was directed to informed Elijah that she didn’t have any bread “only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug.” In fact, she was gathering sticks for a fire to make her and her son’s last meal. Not only did our God provide bread that day, but He kept replenishing the widow’s jar of flour and jug of oil; neither ran dry. 

Elijah stayed with the widow for three years and they built a friendship. Two strangers God gathered became family. During that time, her son became ill and stopped breathing. Elijah took the boy into his arms and asked the Lord for life to return to him. The Lord heard and provided this second miracle: the first of daily bread, the second of life. (What a beautiful story foreshadowing of Jesus being our Bread of Life).

God’s desire for us to break bread together is not just to feed each other, but to build into our spirit, allowing us to become invested in others, listen, empathize and serve each other. Because when we are alone, the enemy can use food against us. The serpent tempted Eve with an apple and started with the same approach of food temptation with Jesus after His 40 days in the wilderness. I can barely fast for one day; I truly would be “starving” after 40 days!

Pause for a moment. Do you see that the enemy is using the same tricks? Are you surprised that the devil uses his strategies on us today? Jesus didn’t take the bait. What if we took back some ground from the enemy too? What if we put an end to using food to self-soothe? What if we look at the number of nights we binge eat on crackers or ice cream, just to “tide us over” until morning? If we stop eating out of anxiousness, fear, and boredom, and attack the real cause, then we can claim victory against the enemy. That’s a battle I want to fight! And I want you by my side. Let’s get people back together. Let’s fill stomachs with nutritiously dense and delicious food. Let’s ignite the Spirit and see where He takes us!

How could eating together look today? With my Grandma and Mom’s food traditions on my heart, my husband Marcus, and I created “Steak Sunday.” Not only does it protect our Sunday night dinners from other obligations, but it guarantees more in-depth conversations touched upon earlier in the week. We often also gather for Saturday brunch, for fried eggs and toast. Someone might be rolling in from working out, another rolling out of bed, both these meal rituals are where we laugh the most, lay down the law (when needed), and often are my favorite times of the weekend.

Don’t be limited to our meal suggestions. Consider Mash Potato Monday, Taco Tuesday, and Waffle Wednesday. There are so many variations to spice up those meals, you’ll be laughing at the items added to your grocery list. Let your family & friends get creative – I promise these are the nights they will talk about for years to come.

If God is putting gathering on your heart too, start small and simple. Let others bring something to share. And ask your kids to participate in the cooking so they are present for the dancing, giggling, tasting…and talking. As we head into autumn, look at meals with a new mindset. Instead of consuming food, how can you plant seeds of friendships by opening your home to others? It’s amazing how quickly God will satisfy your spirit from the bounty of His harvest.

Please pray with me: 

Lord of the Harvest, thank You for putting hospitality and gathering on the hearts of so many people. And for giving me these words as an encouragement to nourish Your children spiritually. You know exactly what we need and when, and are always nearby to feed us Your daily bread.  I am in awe of all that You do and give. Thank You for letting me be part of Your family. In Jesus’ name, Amen.