Daily bread. Whether it’s the Matthew version (“this day”) or the Luke version (“each day”), my time here has taught me to appreciate that each day’s food provisions are a gift! A gift from God. There is no room for “likes” and “dislikes” in this place; there is food provided and we can choose to eat it or not. Our choice.
At the Camp last week, we were invited to join the doctors for their meal. I’d been playing in the sun with the children and walked in to find this platter.
When you walk into a room after hours in the heat and see a platter of “not entirely sure what” the thing to do is give thanks. This particular platter was a melange of what was on hand. noodles, rice, chicken, tomatoes (there are ALWAYS tomatoes), squash of various types, onions, something green, and maybe mushrooms, I think. There are no special diets here. There is simply “this is what we have today”.
We are incredibly spoiled in America. We have become a nation that takes its privilege all the way to the dining room table. Now, I’m not talking about people with true food allergies. I’m talking about those who have chosen to eliminate food groups from their lives. (“I don’t eat ‘fill-in-the-blank’. It’s not in my ‘diet’.”) When I was a kid, we called them “picky eaters”. Today, even when going to a restaurant, people will quiz the waitstaff on preparation methods. After being here, it is upsetting to me how selfishly entitled we behave. Even to the point that when invited into a home as a guest, we place our demands on those who wish to welcome us into their homes.
Again, I’m not talking about food allergies. I have an uncle who is allergic to paprika. At family reunions and church picnics he would steer clear of deviled eggs. After learning of his allergy, my mother began to make a few without paprika and set them aside for him. This was out of her hospitality and love for him, not because he demanded it. I’ve become acutely aware of the trap we’ve fallen into in today’s society of making demands and mistaking them for requests.
Here, when welcomed into a home, guests are welcomed in a specific way. First, everyone is served a glass of water…delivered by the host on a tray. Welcoming with water; the thing of life here. Next, a tray is brought out with a sweet beverage. Sometimes, it’s a tray of tea. Sometimes, it’s a tray of Arabic (think Turkish) coffee, and sometimes it’s soda or juice. It is always accompanied by something sweet to eat. It is a representation of the sweetness of our company.
The pink drink in the photo? I’m not really sure. I was told pomengrante juice. But it did not look or taste like ANY pomegranate juice I’ve ever had. It was OVERWHELMINGLY sweet!! It was offered at a home in a community that is in a remote place in the mountains. Clearly it was a very special item that they had on hand and shared with us as an offering of their hospitality.
These welcoming customs MUST always be accepted. However, it is your choice whether or not and how much to partake. The host is only offended if you do not at least accept their hospitality. It has made me reflect a lot on Jesus instructions in Luke 9:5: “And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” The customs are palpable here in what it means to “receive” someone. (I’ve also developed new insights on footwashing and removing dust from my feet, but that’s another blog entry!)
I realize that I may have gone off on a bit of a rant here, but my point is that each day that we are provided with a meal is a thankful occasion. Each meal is a blessing from the hands that made it. It may not always be to our liking, but it is still a gift. For a seafood lover like me, sometimes it is Masgouf (with pickled vegetables and naan bread)!
…other times it’s a mystery. Some kind of soup with burger and okra and some other unidentifiable vegies.
I’ve only ever had the occasional okra dish when traveling through southern US. It is not something I typically seek to order. But it was what was on the menu one particular evening…and I gave thanks for it. And, thanks for the hands that lovingly made it and served it! We are blessed beyond belief with the abundance of food that we have in our country! I am afraid we have long forgotten the meaning of “give us each day our daily bread” because we have it SO abundantly and in SO many varieties! (Take a look sometime at how many options we have in the bread aislie alone!)
Yesterday, my Mom was messaging with me. (Isn’t modern communication from the other side of the world amazing!?!) She jokingly asked, “I’m headed to the store. Need anything?” I wrote back: “Orange juice, milk, Mudpie (the Sheboygan version of a chocolate covered pershing donut), and coffee.” Yes, there are foods that I look forward to having upon my return. Staples, really, like bread.
This morning, I woke to find that someone had been to market and brought home a huge bag of what look like Sheboygan hard rolls aka “semmel rolls”. A staple of any weekend grocery shopping list back home in Sheboygan. It was as if Mom had made the delivery herself! And, as I do when I’m home and there are fresh rolls, I had one for breakfast with some of the very limited butter we had on hand. It was a feast for me! After six weeks abroad, it was a blessed gift of “home”!
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” -Psalm 37:4
“I will abundantly bless her provisions; I will satisfy her poor with bread.” – Psalms 132:15
“I am the bread of life.” -Jesus (John 6:48)