Monday, October 28, 2013


I was at a friend's house this weekend enjoying a wonderful feast she had prepared for my family, and we got to talking about how, here in the south, we love people by cooking them food.

You're new at church, but I sure am glad to see you - why don't ya'll come over and have soup and sandwiches with us for lunch?

Your grandma is sick and you've been running back and forth between work, home, and the hospital all week. Can I bring you a casserole?

Your family has just welcomed a new baby into the world? I'll be right over with some fried chicken and mashed potatoes!

I was telling my friend how, when you have a very large family, you don't often get invited over for dinner. Is it because cooking for so many folks is intimidating?

An episode came to mind when my family was in the middle of a terrible crisis. Driving down the interstate after a very difficult, heart-breaking emergency meeting in a distant city, I received a phone call: "Hey, girl, this is Melissa. I'm bringing you dinner."

"You don't have to do that," I protested.

"Yes, I do," Melissa insisted. "Because I love you. I don't know what else to do, and I've got to tell you that I love you some I'm bringing dinner."

When I arrived home that evening, Melissa showed up at the house with enough food to feed a mongol horde. How much food did she think it took to feed my family of nine?

She brought: a huge foil roasting pan of mashed potatoes, another of corn, another of beans. And she brought an entire flock of fried chickens, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, rolls, and dessert. We ate on that meal for the better part of a week!

Looking back on that incident, it occurred to me: Melissa wasn't saying, "I love you." She was saying, "I love you SO VERY MUCH." How much? Her love for me was super-sized, bigger than a roasting pan. Bigger than half a dozen roasting pans. If she could have, I think Melissa would have smothered me with food!

I heard an exposition of Psalm 23 once that has stuck with me over the years. You know the verse that says, "my cup overflows"? The preacher explained that in Middle-Eastern culture at the time this passage was written, there were very well-defined rules of hospitality. A host had a responsibility to feed travelers, and he followed a precise protocol when entertaining visitors.

If you didn't particularly enjoy a certain guest, you'd serve him an adequate meal, make polite conversation, then make gestures to indicate that the meal was over and it was time for him to move along. If you did particularly enjoy a certain guest - and you wanted him to stay longer - you made sure his plate never got empty and that he didn't run out of wine.

If a host truly loved a certain guest and wanted them never to leave his house, he had a way to communicate that, too. The host would stand to refill his guest's wine glass and would pour until the glass was filled completely to the brim. Then, he would make clear and deliberate eye contact with his guest, tilt the wine flask once more, and intentionally overfill the glass so that wine ran down onto the table. The host was communicating, "I want you to stay. Don't leave. My abundance is yours."

Can you imagine sitting at the Lord's table, and then Jesus standing to fill your glass, looking you in the eye, and deliberately overflowing your cup?! That's how much He loves and desires us! Gives me chill bumps just to think about it!

So, yes, here in the south we love people with food. And with sweet tea. And with a hot cup of coffee on the porch swing. Maybe somewhere way back in the long ago, we learned that practice from Jesus.

Today, I am thankful for Melissa, whose love for me is bigger than 20 pounds of mashed potatoes. I'm thankful for Lisa, who can cook up enough slap-yo-momma pinto beans for my entire family, plus our "special friends."

And I'm thankful for Jesus, because my cup truly is overflowing.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

We just got home from visiting James at his parish in Chicago. He says that many people gift the pastors with food, mostly sweets they have baked, always delicious and appreciated. Then he pointed out that his favorite gift of food is meat instead of sweets. So if you want to love your pastor give them roasts, chicken, barbeque, sausages, steaks, pork loins, or whatever meats are your favorites. Not having arrived with a ham handy, I was able to find summer sausages, cigars, and a bottle of Makers Mark bourbon whisky. That suited him very well and pleased his brothers in Christ in the Shrine of Christ the King. I HAD to give him some food.