Meditations on Food

For the past few weeks, every time I have something to say in youth group, it seems to relate to food. I love food. Food is glorious. Every step in the process of preparing a meal is beautiful. Except maybe the dishes afterwards, but that’s because it does not relate directly to food.

But yes, musings on food. I’ve been living in apartments for the past year and a half, which means I no longer eat in the school cafeteria. Nor do I have my parents around to do the cooking. So I have learned to shop, organize, and cook. Perhaps not very well, but adequately. Every shopping trip is beautiful. Firstly, we go as a family – all 3 or 4 or 5 of us college girls (and sometimes boys). It’s awesome to just hang out with close friends.

The bill at the end of the trip is usually quite terrifying – how on earth do we spend so very much?? But it’s also comforting. Every item on that bill, every item filling our overflowing shopping cart, is good. Our shopping cart is overflowing with goodness: fresh vegetables of a great variety, good meat, fruits (the special treat we give ourselves every shopping trip), sometimes we get salmon for the evening (my favorite meal), lots of milk and lots of eggs, bread. The least healthy item on the list is usually cold cereal, or crackers. Sometimes peanut butter, when we run out. At the end of the shopping trip, when we are loading the trunk of the car with all the goodies, we can’t help but feel a little proud of ourselves: look at us, we’re all grown up!

It’s beautiful. Yes, the bill is a little high (we are stocking up for two weeks, at least). But it is such a wonderful blessing! In this time, this place, God has provided that we are together – it is so beautiful to be able to live with such very close friends. In this time, and this place, God has provided us the money to buy good food. Good food isn’t cheap, and we are provided with such an overflowing abundance of it! We eat well. We dine like kings. Good, solid food is such a great, great blessing. And we are blessed to be reminded of it every other week, on our glorious shopping trips, where we chart out a beautiful future (of two weeks) filled with good food our God has filled this earth with.

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And then there’s the fellowship. Not just the 3 or 4 of us who happen to live together (or practically live together). Once or twice a week, we have friends show up, inviting themselves over for dinner. Our doors are always open, and I do usually try to feed you if you walk through around dinner time… though sometimes I let laziness take over… We’re rather proud of the fact that our door is always open, and that friends know they are always, always welcome. That is not to say I will entertain you with the best of my hostess abilities. Most of us are introverts, so while friends showing up randomly throughout the day might mean a loud, rowdy hour of good fun, it more often means an afternoon at our respective computers or books, doing our respective school work, collectively, in one shared space, which is just as beautiful.

Ah, but I was ranting about food. Once or twice a week, we have friends over for dinner. If I happen to cook, I may be cooking for as few as 3 people (the normal day), to as many as 17 people. (I think 17 is the record this semester. Last semester we made it to 21.) But food facilitates the best fellowship. I am excited about graduating from college, moving out, having my own apartment, and inviting people over. I am an introvert, so I do not necessarily know how to entertain people. My idea of entertainment is to feed people. I like feeding people. It is immensely satisfying feeding people. It is beautiful to be sprawled out across the apartment with a dozen friends, just eating and chatting. Food is the universal method of fellowship. It can be anything from a sandwiched shared on the lawn, to a lavish wedding banquet. In my house it will generally be rice, stir-fry, and pumpkin pies when in season.

When I can’t think up an excuse to hang out with friends (with the hectic schedules of college life, one almost does need an actual excuse to hang out), I invite them for dinner. No one turns down free food at college. Dinner always succeeds in summoning my loved ones from all corners of the campus, and we have a beautiful time together, eating the good food God has so graciously provided for us.

Every Act an Act of Praise

So much for writing more steadily… But to the post.

A while ago Jennifer Pharr Davis came to speak at our school. She is a well known hiker, who has hiked the Appalachian trails 16 times, and I think she holds the record for the fastest hike (45 days or somewhere close). She told a nice coming of age story, but inevitably, someone finally asked her, “but what’s the point of hiking?” (It was, of course, phrased more politely.) As a Christian, how does one justify spending so much time and energy on hiking? when it really doesn’t do much for the world or the church.

Jennifer’s answer was something along the lines of, “it’s what God made me for.” Hiking was something she loved, and on the trail she came closer to God than anywhere else. But also, it was something God made her good at.She explained that flat breasts and strong thighs – something that caused her much grief through adolescence – were perfectly suited to hiking. By utilizing the gifts that God has given, by utilizing them fully, it was an act of praise.

Praise is not simply defined as singing in church.

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

By utilizing our talents, by enjoying what God has blessed us with, that too is an act of praise. A power act of praise. Recall at the creation? God created “the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds.” And what did He say of them? “And God saw that it was good.” (Gen. 1:21) The fish were good, not because they could fly, or sing, or do cartwheels. They were good

because they had all the qualities of fishiness. They were excellent fish, because God endowed them with beautiful fishy qualities. Does that make sense? They were good, because they were fish.

The same goes for the birds, or the animals which creep and crawl, or the plants. They were all good.

Recently, I have grown rather fond of the verse about the shouting rocks. Jesus was at the Mount of Olives, and the crowds were praising God “joyfully… in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.” But Pharisees, of course, were displeased and told Jesus to rebuke them. He answers “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:37-40) That’s a scary thought, shouting stones. But why don’t the stones shout in praise? Ought not all creation sing the praises of God? (Psalm 148)

Well, if you ask me, the stones are praising God, by merit of being very good stones. I mean, can one find a more stoney object than a stone? God made them stones, and they are beautiful stones. They are fulfilling all the duties of being a stone. And thus they are a beautiful praise.

Praise does not lie only in songs and dance, or even serving. It lies in using God’s blessings, be that in hiking, or writing novels, or learning a new language. It also lies in washing dishes – to do a good job washing dishes in a great act of praise. It lies in writing papers, in reading for class, in taking good notes. It lies in sweeping the floor, in taking the bus to work, or making a good cup of coffee. Everything can be done in a prayerful, praiseful heart. Monks once thought that manual work (e.g. gardening) was an act of worship. And I think they were right.