Potluck for the Soul

vintage buffet tableware

One of the best things about growing up in the farming Midwest was the carry-in meals, aka ‘potluck dinners’. Carry-ins at church, after funerals, before bowling, for sports banquets, for new mothers, family reunions – just about every occasion was a reason for a carry-in. And let me tell ya’, those farm wives know how to cook. Those were the days of meat marinating in gravy, potatoes smothered in gravy, biscuits and more gravy, casseroles heavily laden with creamy cheese, salads dripping with mayo-based dressings, and all of it ending with sugar disguised as all manner of desserts. Those were the days before the awareness of the connection between the foods we eat and the illnesses that plague us – heart disease, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity. Even cancers and mental health issues have been linked to our diet. This awareness has sparked a plethora of new food trends.

While I have not committed to any specific theory on which diet is the best way to go – paleo, Mediterranean, vegan, protein, grain-free, etc. – I have made some gradual changes and realized the difference in the way I feel. I have reduced consumption of high fructose corn syrup, most processed foods, white flour foods, and red food dyes to occasional or accidental. I purchase more from the produce and freezer sections and less from the canned goods aisle. I make my own coffee creamer, hummus, pesto and sometimes salad dressings. (Thank you, Pinterest) Since I have made these changes, I have had more energy and felt better overall.

In all of this, I am not here to promote or condemn any certain diet or life-style. And I am definitely not suggesting we cancel all carry-ins! I am suggesting what lots of research has confirmed; that the foods we choose to eat will dictate how our bodies function and whether they thrive or fail. This principle is not exclusive to our physical bodies processing the physical food. This relates even more to the ‘food’ we feed our minds and our hearts. Just as the food we put into our stomachs becomes part of our bodies, the food we put into our minds becomes part of our hearts.

In a sense, our lives are like a never-ending buffet line of carry-in dishes – an infinite pot-luck for the soul, if you will. And not all of the ‘cooks’ are interested in the health and well-being of our hearts. As infants and small children, of course, we had little or no control over what we were fed. We ate what we were given and sooner or later, our bodies reflected whether we had a steady diet of healthy or unhealthy foods. Likewise with our hearts, which reflect whether our minds were fed healthy or unhealthy thoughts. Some of the effects are temporary, like an upset stomach or a bad mood. Others are not so temporary and are much harder to reverse, like diabetes or chronic depression.

As we grow older, we have more freedom of choice concerning what we dine on. In the last several years, more and more emphasis has been put on educating ourselves about healthier food choices and making lifestyle changes to apply them consistently. This is very appropriate and responsible stewardship of our earthly bodies. Of equal importance is the stewardship of our minds and hearts. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Scripture is full of teachings and commands about what we should feed our minds and our hearts.

Proverbs 4:20-22 – My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.

Joshua 1:8 – Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

The manna of the Old Testament, the daily bread provided for the Israelites in the desert, is symbolic of the daily bread of the Word we are to partake of. Jesus directs us to pray in Matthew 6:11, “Give us today our daily bread.” And in case you are not sure what your daily bread is …..

John 6:33 – For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

John 3:35 – Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 6:48-51 – I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

As much as we need to be intentional about what we do see and hear, we need to be just as intentional about what we don’t. Thanks to modern technology and freedom of speech, we have available to us at all times absolutely anything we could ask for to feed on. It is our individual responsibility to choose wisely. Absolutely everything we see and hear will enter our minds and our hearts and affect our mental and emotional health. Scripture is also full of warnings about what we should not ingest.

Proverbs 23:6-9 (AMP) – Eat not the bread of him who has a hard, grudging, and envious eye, neither desire his dainty foods; For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. As one who reckons, he says to you, eat and drink, yet his heart is not with you [but is grudging the cost]. The morsel which you have eaten you will vomit up, and your complimentary words will be wasted. Speak not in the ears of a [self-confident] fool, for he will despise the [godly] Wisdom of your words.

Romans 1:21 – For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Romans 1:28 – Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

We need to be careful about not only what we expose ourselves to, but whom. We need to surround ourselves with people who nourish us and limit or eliminate the time we spend with those who poison us.

Proverbs 18:21 warns us, “The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

The great thing (or not) about a carry-in is that everybody brings food to the table. Let us not forget that we are not only eating from the buffet; we bring our dishes to serve as well. Are you nourishment or poison for those around you?

picnic basket

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