Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Feast on This

Dennis says that my blog sounds like I'm depressed. What? Me, depressed?? I might be sounding depressed, but I'm not. He says that I appear to be crying for help.

Hmmm....all the deep thoughts about dying, Mom, wilted tulips, chocolate binges, Bob Dylan, St. Augustine, missionaries, Pope Benedict, pictures of Jesus healing lunatics, repentence...whatever made him think that? Actually, I've been happy. Even though I have these waves of depressing thoughts, I like that. It's fun. I'm alive. It's when I'm not feeling or thinking anything is when I'm having problems.

I enjoyed talking with Danielle who is learning about her spiritual gifts and getting to know herself. She is volunteering to help with the high school group at church to see if she has a calling to that, and she is a volunteer coach to help with high school track and feild. Since she is an athlete and has a degree in secondary education, it looks like she's going to have a lot of fun.

It's funny, I've been thinking a lot about my spiritual gifts as well. I've had feedback before, I've been told I've got this gift and that gift. I'm usually pretty skeptical. Some people say I have gifts I've never seen described as gifts in the Bible. For instance, hospitality.

Where's that verse?

When I look over the usual lists in Romans and 1 Corinthians, and I see things that hospitality would fall under. It's an activity, in my mind, that could employ gifts of helps, mercy and encouragement. Not that it matters. I am hospitable whether I'm good at it or not, because it is a command and because it is love. When I was a kid, I was shy and during the rare times my parents had people over, I pretty much disappeared. I also burned everything that Mom attempted to teach me to cook. I wasn't that interested, I would've rather spent the time reading.

In college, I lived in a dorm. Post college, I was more likely to get the coats and wash the dishes while my roommates did the planning and the cooking. When a mentor, Karen, walked me through menu planning, cooking and biblical principles of hospitality while I lived with her, it was really hard and I did not take to it like duck takes to water. After that year of agony, I then lived with Debbie and Cindy two of the best cooks and most hospitable women in Christendom, I still hard a tough time. It was worse than physics, calculus and statistics all wrapped into one.

Something finally clicked while living with Debbie and Cindy when it was my week to invite someone over for dinner in the Spring. We took turns once a week all year long, and after several months, I still was dreading my turn. I asked Darcy and Krista, who were in my bible study on campus and Krista's roommate, Kimika, from Japan over. Kimika was graduating in a month and wasn't a Christian. I chose to do a kind of Easter dinner with ham slices, scalloped potatoes, salad and a green bean casserole. Peach crisp and ice cream was dessert. Kind of ambitious for me, so I started cooking early in the afternoon. Kimika told me that she really enjoyed the meal and it was the first time that she had a real homemade American meal in an American home since she had been in the States. I was dumb founded--I told her I wished we had her over more often. The evening also had a profound emotional effect on Krista and Darcy about the importance of hospitality.

After that, I decided that hospitality was going to be a part of my lifestyle, no matter how hard I found it to do, I was going to find a way. I've also learned since then that it was more than cooking, it was the way people felt comfortable and encouraged and also in the way that you opened your life. It also didn't matter how much money you had or how fancy the food you served. It had everything to do with providing an environment where people could feel the love of God through serving and encouraging them.

A year later, in 1987, I was watching the movie in Seattle "Babette's Feast" that underscored the "bones" or framework of hospitality for me. The story is about two middle aged single Danish women living in the barren Jutland coast and caring for the aged and invalid in the community as well as their late pastor father's congregation. The backstory is promenient about lost chances at love when they were younger and dominated by their father's fear of losing them. Later, as they were older and penniless, one of the daughter's ex-beau (if you could call him that--he didn't even have a chance) sent to them a french refugee named Babette who offers to be their servant in exchange for a place to stay. Babette takes care of them--in small ways daily adding more creativity and style than the sisters ever imagined possible on their income, while managing to increase their savings and after 14 years, finds out that she won the french lottery for 10,000 francs. With the winnings, Babette asks to cook a meal for them and the congregation with the result that the sisters learn a lesson about what sets Babette apart from everyone else even in poor times and rich times. Perfect ironic parable written by Isak Dineson, a.k.a. Karen Blixen of "Out of Africa" fame.

Vincent Canby, in his reveiw of the movie in The New York Times, October 1, 1987 says this:

"It's not telling too much to report that this glory is Art - in Babette's
case, a very special God-given talent. ''Babette's Feast'' is an affirmation
of Art as the force by which, in the words of the old pastor (who never
quite realized what he was saying), ''righteousness and bliss,'' otherwise
known as the spirit and the flesh, shall be reconciled."

Caille en Sarcaphage--Babette's specialty

Not that I think that every meal I serve should be worthy of a Michelan five star rating, not that I wouldn't want to try sometime. But that the idea that I could do it artistically in a kind of way that would be edifying to people, and create a "banqueting table" with God's banner of love over us helps me enormously to commiting myself to the endeavor. It gives meaning to every tedious task involved with creating a place where "righteousness and bliss shall meet together".

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