Food for Thought: How Food and Fiction Bring Us Together

As a culture, we are obsessed with food. We love our cooking shows, enjoy eating out in new and adventurous restaurants, and try new recipes galore.

And why shouldn’t we love food? Food has the ability to bind strangers together, strengthen families, heal our bodies, and create great memories and traditions. Food turns an ordinary day into a special occasion. Who doesn’t look forward to all the chocolates on Valentine’s Day?

But food can also be used as an emotional escape or an overindulgence—to our detriment. We need to be careful to hold this great gift from God in balance. Here are just a few ways to allow food to enrich our lives:

Food as hospitality: A meal invitation makes the stranger feel welcome and the friendless feel befriended. Food is a form of intimacy and caring. Walking across the street to meet your new neighbors with some delicious baked goods says new friend. Making a special dish or meal for someone says they are valued, honored, and remembered. Have you ever been to a dinner party where you didn’t know anyone other than the host and a couple other people but left feeling like you made new friends? Sitting around a food-laden table creates relationships. Cooking with others also builds intimacy. At your next dinner party, invite everyone to participate in meal preparation, or teach your kids to cook.

Food as a creative outlet: Just like painting, writing, or music, food can be a satisfying creative outlet and one that brings pleasure to others, and us especially when we present it as an offering. Explore new food combinations or different ethnic foods—or take a cooking class to get creative juices flowing.

Food as comfort: After the arrival of a newborn baby or the death of a loved one, the food starts to arrive. Friends and family members make meals and stock the refrigerator and freezer so families don’t have to cook. The food provision acts as a form of service and a way we offer comfort to the grieving or share in someone’s celebration. Cooking allows us to move beyond simply offering words.

Food as memory: Food ties us with our past. When we make Grandma’s recipes or Mom’s peanut butter cookies, no matter the miles between us, we are mentally returning home. Holiday meals are replete with memories. Maybe for you it’s the traditional pumpkin chiffon pie and the corn pudding you first enjoyed while living in the South. How many people return to their childhood town after years away and visit all their favorite eating establishments, eating their way through their memories?

For anyone captivated by the power of good food, The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano is the book for you. The author writes with tantalizing attention to meals. (Warning: you’ll find yourself very hungry while reading the book.) After working for 15 years in a restaurant, Denver chef Rachel Bishop is forced out after a smear campaign. The essayist responsible for the destruction of her career tries to repair the damage by hosting Saturday Night Supper Clubs in his luxury penthouse, inviting his connections to experience Rachel’s talents. If you are a foodie, you’ll come away with a deep appreciation for a chef’s life.

After reading The Saturday Night Supper Club, you might even consider gathering people around a welcoming table and enjoying an exceptional meal. In other words, start your own Saturday Night Supper Club! We’d love to hear about your efforts if you give it a try.

How does food relate to your memories and relationships? Please let us know in the comments!

Resolving to Handle New Year’s Resolutions Differently: Making Resolutions with God

Here we are, standing on top of a new year, the future months waiting as unrevealed opportunities. What are your hopes for the New Year? Do you long to become a different person? Do you wrestle with any lingering behaviors or past downfalls that continue to haunt you? Would you like to get out of a relational, emotional, or professional rut?

Many of us attempt to grab hold of new opportunities by making New Year’s resolutions and gritting our teeth to change ourselves through discipline and sheer will. We beat ourselves up about never getting to the gym, eating too much chocolate, or spending too much time on our devices, so we set goals to be different in the coming year. Then the following year we find ourselves making the same resolutions because white-knuckling our way through a major life change just did not seem to stick.

How about resolving to handle New Year’s resolutions differently this year? By inviting God to set the agenda for the months ahead and make the changes in us, we could all take our resolutions to a new, deeper level, allowing him to whisper our unique needs and create an individualized plan for our growth. He might even surprise us, leading our growth in an unexpected direction.

Begin by finding a quiet place with him, bringing only your journal, a Bible, and a listening ear. Do tell him where you would like to grow, but listen carefully in case he has surprising ways he might want to grow you.

Maybe he’d like to veer your heart away from grumbling and turn it toward thankfulness, filling you with expressions of gratitude for a warm house, hot coffee, kind Christian community, music, books, and his guiding spirit.

Maybe he sees how you focus too much on yourself—either thinking too highly of yourself, or too little of yourself by believing you have nothing to offer others. God’s perspective always brings us back into balance.

He might encourage you to work on forgiveness this year, pointing you to people you need to reach out to. Maybe he feels the time has come to reveal a secret, allowing others to truly know you by seeing both your strengths and your past mistakes.

God wants to grow us at any age. In Chris Fabry’s latest book, Under a Cloudless Sky, the main character is an elderly woman struggling to maintain her independence as her kids take away her car keys. When Ruby Handley Freeman’s favorite radio preacher stirs up something within her that needs the touch of forgiveness, she sets out on a journey to face a long-held secret from her past and feel the freedom that comes with forgiveness and being known.

Many of us may need to take the same steps as Ruby. But whatever his plan is for you in the coming year, it will be uniquely yours, offering the freedom that comes with obedience, replacing darkness with light.

Do you have a way you like to welcome in the New Year with God? Please share in the comments below.

Longing for Home over the Holidays—Thoughts on Finding Home in a Good Book

“When you lay me down to die / I’ll open up my eyes on the skies I’ve never known / In the place where I belong / And I’ll realize His love is just another word for Home.” 

~ Songwriter Andrew Peterson, “Lay Me Down”

As the holidays approach, the highways fill with traffic and airport lines grow long as hordes of people try to fulfill their great desire—or obligation—to get home. Whether home is a safe and joyous place for you or a place filled with secrets and hurts, we all long to fill our home-shaped void. Sometimes our actual homes, unfortunately, just aren’t the places to satisfy our longings, no matter how great the distance we travel.

The word home connotes a place where safety, affection, and basic comforts like food, warmth, and water abound. But what if home is unable to meet your basic needs? For every family with windows fogged from warm food cooking in a hot oven to be served to laughing, loving people, others are lonely, wishing they had a family to celebrate with. Many suffer as the product of a broken home, or miss members serving in the military or those who have left this life. For these people, the hordes at the airport and on the roads contribute to their grief.

In Allison Pittman’s new book, Loving Luther, we meet Katharina von Bora, a young woman with a past filled with deprivation after her father sent her to live at a convent at an early age. The harsh living conditions, punishments, lack of love and possessions, and conditional approval all create an environment without grace, mercy, or belonging. Katharina longs for an escape from the rule-keeping that never results in love. Does this remind you of your own living conditions or those of anyone you know?

Home should be a place where we live in truth without harboring secrets, where we are loved for being our authentic selves and feel safe to disagree. But in Katharina’s story, despite confession, Scripture memorization, recited prayers, and paid penance, she becomes a liar and a sneak to hide the times she breaks the burdensome rules. Home should never be a place where we resort to sneaking and lying to avoid punishment.

Everyone is deserving of the dignity and safety offered in a loving home, but if home feels lacking for you on earth, we can remember our real home still awaits us. As we celebrate a King born in a stranger’s bed of straw, let’s remember we’re all truly homeless until we arrive in his presence at the end of this age. Our ultimate belonging happens with God and within the community of his church. At that point, we’ll all realize “his love is just another word for Home.”

Tyndale offers other titles that address the complicated relationships between family members. Maybe some of you need to consider how your parents’ pasts contributed to their parenting style. We see this play out in Francine Rivers’s novel Her Mother’s Hope as sensitive Hildemara interprets her mother Marta’s tough love as rejection when it’s actually an effort to instill independence and strength in her children to protect them from the hurts she experienced. Unfortunately, Marta’s tough love only pushes away her children. Often, understanding a person’s motives allows for healing and forgiveness. This Christmas, would you be helped by uncovering more of your own family story?

Cathy Gohlke’s Secrets She Kept also might provide some perspective. In this novel, protagonist Hannah Sterling longs for a close relationship with her estranged mother. Following her mother’s death, Hannah discovers the existence of a grandfather she never knew who ends up holding the key to the family’s tragic past. Sometimes other family members hold the answers we seek.

This Christmas, may we strive to understand our family histories. And may we not forget those around us who have no safe place to go. If possible, invite them into your celebrations, to sit at your table and feast. And keep them in your prayers.

To continue the conversation about home and family, we’re offering these titles as e-book deals this month:  

Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers

Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke

Loving Luther by Allison Pittman

Visit E-book Extra for more great deals available this month!

~*~

Thanks for reading! When you think of home, do you think more of a person, a place, or a promise?

Let us know in the comments!

Unexpected Masterpieces—How God Uses Creativity

No one doubts Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 or Les Misérables or The Lord of the Rings are deserving of creative masterpiece status. But creativity and masterpieces come sometimes in unexpected forms. Often people say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” but most likely these folks are not seeing the giftedness in their lives and lack a vision for how they can use their gifts and abilities.

If you are a skilled painter, writer, or musician . . . wonderful! You need to steward those abilities from God until they shine, always keeping in mind they are gifts. But outside the official world of the arts, creative thinking is alive and well and appears in many forms. Engineers may not be hammering away at their most recent novel, but they go to work daily to solve high-tech problems in the realms of security, travel, communications, business, and more. The same can be said for the scientists, mathematicians, and anyone thinking creatively outside the box.

The very idea of “creating” means to make something that didn’t exist before just as God once made humans out of dust. And it means to mold already-created resources into something fresh. Daily we are surrounded by people who feel like nothing, yet unknowingly wear the amazing title of God’s most valued masterpiece: you, your loved ones, coworkers, enemies, the folks inside a prison, the one standing at a street corner holding a sign saying, “Anything helps. God bless you,” or the one spraying graffiti on buildings. Some people may look more like rough drafts than finished products, but God wants to chisel away at us all, smoothing down sharp edges and bulky surfaces, aiming for that precious finished product underneath. How would the most lost and broken among us feel if they knew, really knew, what lay beneath their surfaces? The good news is, we are invited to befriend and support these wounded souls so they move closer to realizing their masterpiece status in Christ.

When we invest in broken lives through our time, prayers, wisdom, and counsel, what joy Jesus must experience as the dirt and detritus from shattered lives vanishes to unveil something unimaginably new. We share in that joy as we accept His invitation to cooperate in His work and cast a vision for people. Maybe we can’t all write a symphony, pen a novel, or paint a stunning landscape, but we can all dial the phone number of a hurting and lonely person, speak to a stranger, or share our resources. In doing so, we are given the privilege of investing in human works of art.

In Francine Rivers’s newest novel, The Masterpiece, we meet two broken people who have experienced deep trauma in their past, leaving them disengaged and withdrawn from healthy relationships. Drowning in shame, they hide their histories from each other. Artist Roman Velasco draws one practice sketch after another, aiming for the finished vision in his head but in the end tossing them in the garbage, unable to reach his imagined work.

Often a troubled background leaves people believing they deserve the same outcome. But no matter how rough the appearance, no human being is a practice sketch to be thrown in the trash. And here’s where we all come in: next time you claim you don’t have a creative bone in your body, take a look around your town and neighborhood and ask how you can put your hands on an in-progress masterpiece. We can image God by encouraging wholeness where only fragments existed before, offering a way where previously there was no way.

For other stories highlighting God’s intervention and healing in broken situations, check out our e-book specials this month:

Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli

Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke

The Grace Medical Collection by Candace Calvert

Visit E-book Extra for more great deals available this month!

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