Writing about Thanksgiving and Food

Photo/Jordan

If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes … (Matthew 6:25 MSG).

Food, food, food! Why does everyone make such a big fuss about food during the holidays? I’m always focused on food! Either I’m overeating, dieting, or trying to feed someone else. I can’t remember one day of my life that I didn’t focus on food at some point.

So, how can my worries about food help my spiritual focus? Over the years, I’ve discovered that my hyperfocus on food is often a warning sign for a much deeper problem than just trying to meet my physical needs.

Needs. While we were seminary students, I first learned how my own worry about food could actually motivate me to seek deeper spiritual insights.

At seminary, we lived on a much lower income than most of our family and friends. Often we didn’t have enough money for the food we needed for our family.

Miracles. God used that problem to capture my attention, and I saw Him provide in miraculous ways for some of my friends. Groceries would be left on their doorsteps. Money for food would arrive in the mail. Or they would discover some random source of free food, like day-old bread or vegetables discarded from the grocery’s produce department.

Tips. Intrigued by my friends’ stories, I began to ask to God to help me find ways to deal with our food needs. And I discovered many tips for stretching my food budget with recipe ideas and coupons. My friends and I found that we could all stretch our food budgets by sharing our resources. When we gathered together for a meal, each family would bring their menu contributions.

Manna and quail. In Exodus 16:4, “God said to Moses, ‘I’m going to rain bread down from the skies for you. The people will go out and gather each day’s ration. I’m going to test them to see if they’ll live according to my Teaching or not’” (MSG).

I joked about identifying with the Israelites in the wilderness as God provided manna and quail for them to eat. But as I experienced God providing for my own family, like He did for His children in the Old Testament, I searched for more answers to my everyday problems in the Bible.

Traditions. Before my seminary days, I never thought about asking God to provide for my family’s needs, especially our food. Yes, we taught our children to express their thanks before our meals. But my prayer of thanks usually came after I had purchased groceries and prepared our meals.

So, I examined our mealtime prayers and Thanksgiving blessings. Could they simply be a family or religious tradition? Had I ever offered my mealtime prayers with a heartfelt gratitude for God’s blessings?

Diets. I still struggle with worry and my spiritual focus on food from time to time. Even now, as I try to eat a healthier diet, I realize that I must stop and ask God for direction every day–sometimes moment-by-moment–as I seek answers to my problems and needs.

As I prepare to enter into this season of Thanksgiving once again, I pray that I will remember this promise from God’s Word.

… The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:5-7 NIV)

What stories about food come to mind as you prepare for this Thanksgiving season? Have you recorded them?

Loaves, Fish, and Writers

Late in the afternoon the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” 

He replied,  “You give them something to eat.” 

They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.”  (About five thousand men were there.)

But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.”  The disciples did so, and everybody sat down. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  Luke 9:12 – 17

Give it up

Poking at God about what I could cook for you today, he flipped this sizzling little fish story onto my brain plate.

Eyes scrunched on “impossibility” rather than on the Master of limitless capability, it’s easy for us writers to be disciple-like and condescend to natural-mindedness.

The crowds aren’t growing less hungry, aren’t inching any closer to food. Cloistered in the middle of nowhere, fatigued and famished, the beloved twelve scratch their heads before Jesus speaks: “Give the people something to eat.”

As we shake our heads at our scanty drizzle of words, Christ tells us the same: “Give the people something to eat. Don’t worry about sparse resources or small beginnings. If I’m in it, as sure as the heavens, you can make a difference.”

“Give them something to eat.” 

Thrust in this love-test, the apostle John records a different angle in sharing Philip’s retort: “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.” Andrew speaks up. “Here’s a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

No matter how measly, how un-supersized our flounderings, if God calls us to serve fresh truth in a word-stir, if he speaks the royal “ok,” we step up.

Notice how Jesus dishes up faith-stretching instructions to the disciples. Directing five thousand people to sit in groups of fifty is no small potatoes. It takes time and sweat. Just like advancing in writing.

And so we lift our minuscule loaves and fish, and give thanks.

Give Thanks

Wouldn’t you give your lunch to see the puzzled looks on those hungry faces when Jesus raises his bitty snacks to give thanks?

Thanksgiving flows from a posture of humility. The soul bends low, acknowledging our Sovereign Source, his power, ability, and desire to provide.

Jesus gives thanks and his fingers rip the bread. I wonder if he considers how his flesh will soon be broken to feed many.

Writers know about brokenness, the heart-deep pain-sap that drives and feeds our meanderings. With battle scars, we give thanks to the living Word who uses our words and wounds to paint blood-colored pictures of grace.

No matter how few or many we touch, we give thanks for the opportunity. Chosen conduits of hope, we’re blessed to be a blessing. Our words, charged with Spirit-power, awaken God-hunger. They sustain and multiply life!

Whenever we naturally live out thankfulness, we display God’s bigness to a hungry, watching world. We become more than wishful thinkers about remote possibilities.  We reveal supernatural expectancy. This is how the world sees truth in us as we step up to our dream.

Expect Much

“It will take a miracle to get published!” We say it like miracles are viruses when they’re more likely God’s favorite pastimes.

Food in hand, Jesus says thanks because he expects the miracle. He prays and “looks to heaven.” He isn’t focused on his stomach, the food, or the crowd, but on his Father, the source.

The more we fix our eyes on God, the more we see miracles. The more we see miracles, the more we look for them in him.

“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…” God’s prayer transcends the “me,” and rests on “us,” because we, in the body, are one, and because love necessitates caring for those outside ourselves.

If we want to use our love gift to nourish souls, we can expect God’s provision to match his call. I haven’t forgotten that we can also expect spiritual warfare (perhaps even intensified tests from a rattled enemy), but ultimately mercy triumphs over Satan’s thievery. God promises to give us everything we need to win!

This gift, this impervious spawning of words, isn’t an instant dinner miracle; rather, it’s a progressive one, a long-term partnership with Chef Jesus.

Part of the miracle involves staying with the process. If God says, “Get everything and everybody in place,” that’s what we do. We plunge in for the long run, expecting to produce sweet fruits like patience and perseverance. Likewise, we expect readers, writers, characters, and observers to be transformed by our faithfulness.

We’re Christ-followers, sojourners on the cusp of miracles. In the course of our collective, out-of-this-world writer-journeys, we can expect nothing less than God cooking up his best.

Bon appetit!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.