Monday, December 8, 2008

Tidbits in My Tummy

Syndicated from Gifted for Leadership

Food, glorious food! It’s the time of year for eating. I imagine most of our Thanksgiving turkey gobbled up and the leftovers transformed into dishes like Real Simple’s recommendation: turkey barbeque sandwiches.

Food and Power

Food has power over our health. Earlier this week my husband, Dale, re-lived the poisonous side of food. His favorite meal, pizza, was ruined. It was, unfortunately, during the wee hours of the morning, at the start of our long drive from Los Angeles to home in Colorado. The food poisoning he experienced completely overhauled his body, leaving him weak, annoyed by the embarrassing inconvenience.

Food has power to unite us. Earlier this year Dale and I started a house church with another family. We have three rules, we eat together, we pray together and we share spiritual and financial resources together. The church has since doubled in size. Every week we rotate who will host, who will provide the main dish and who will cook up our “soul food.” So far, I’ve learned more about how to follow Jesus, more about love and unity than I’ve learned in years spent in my church pew. Even the kids participate.

Food and Gossip

One week after discussing gossip during house church, I was giving piano lessons to the youngest member, a ten year old boy named Peter. He told me a story about an annoying neighborhood dog, imitating the dog’s yeowl so convincingly that we both burst into giggles. Then, he paused and sheepishly looked up at me. “I guess I’ve just gossiped about him.” I explained that I wasn’t sure gossip applied to dogs, but I was glad he cared about speaking unkindly about others.

Our house church’s conversation of gossip took place in one of our first meetings. It was while we were polishing off these amazing crème brûlèe desserts. We ate and struggled together to come up with a definition for gossip. One teen daughter defined gossip as saying anything behind a person’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face. Two of the fathers agreed that gossip was that speaking when you’re not part of the problem or the solution. I read a few verses to share a Biblical idea of gossip.

One from Proverbs has since stuck with me, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts” (18:8 and 26:22). We batted around that “choice morsels” phrase trying to live in the metaphor. One twenty-something, made the observation that “choice morsels” of food go down into our bellies and are then distributed throughout our bodies. Just like food actually becomes part of us, so gossip becomes part of us. Gossip is often delicious. But like poisoned pizza: tasty when it goes down yet runs havoc through our veins.

When I gossip it changes me. What may have started as a small misunderstanding grows larger the more I share it. I become more vested in my point of view. Since that house church meeting, I’ve been using the Tasty Moral Test to watch my motivations before I speak of another person.

Tasty Morsel Test

1- Am I hungry for a treat or for a meal? I’ll often share or listen to something because I’m excited about a tasty little nugget, not because I’m really hungry to help, hungry to forgive, hungry to lay down my life for this person.

2- Will this knowledge sit in my soul as poison or nourishment? Once I share or hear this, will it help me love and sustain the people involved? Or will it leave me with a sour taste about them, poisoning my ability to help them?

3- Will I roil, churn and want to belch this stuff out? Crude as it may sound, one tried and true test for gossip is how quickly I want to unload it.

We need hearty soul food. With Christmas pressure to ramp up family and ministry activities we will be sorely tempted to put tasty little tidbits in our souls. Let’s nourish our souls with meals that sustain us so that we are healthy enough to share


Cazandra said...

Wonderful post! Gossip can turn you into a different person. Just being in the presence of others who are gossiping makes me feel ugly. I try so hard, when I am in those situations, to turn the conversations into something positive.

Blessings, to you, Jonalyn.

madame said...

I think I'll write down your Tasty Morsel Test. Sounds like a great mental activity that might just distract me enough not to let the information out or pursue it unless it's for the right reasons.

I've also been trying to cut down on snacking gossip. It makes you fat, like overeating! And it seldom leads to solutions.

You know? I think we can actually find a lot of parallels between food for the belly and food for the information bank. You really have to watch what you let into you.

You've made me think. Thanks!

madame said...

If I lived near you, I'd love to visit your church. I was brought up in a home church.

Anonymous said...


Hi. Just the night before last while editing one of my books, I was looking up this verse to insert. At the time I was struck by how the only other use of morsel (albeit a Gk word, not Heb) was of Judas the Iscariot taking that bite at the last supper before heading out to betray Our Savior. It's interesting how the truly life-giving bit can be as poison to us when we have developed a taste for the other and also how great a forest is set on fire by those small sparks.

Anyhow, I love your tasty morsel test. I've meditated on this passage a good deal before and so have previously thought a lot about the first two concepts, especially the question of "What am I really hungry for?" in regards to speech/listening motivation. But I never thought of #3! This nifty three-step test is a great tool I certainly had not thought of. Seems like it should find a spot somewhere in your manuscript on how women relate to each other in the Church (?).

All best wishes

Jonalyn Fincher said...

We'd love to have you :) What was the house church like that you grew up in?

Glad the test, especially #3, was helpful. And for my book on women being prejudice against other women (Walking in Her Shoes) I plan to have a chapter on how women find it hard to like Spiritual Giants, those women who do devotions every day at 6 am and like it! But, I think this gossip test will be integrated, too. Thanks for the idea :)

Anonymous said...

Heh, heh. I don't know how many people have tried to tell me that scripture calls us to have our major sp. time early in the morning (therefore, to always get up early for it, etc.), but God certainly did not make me that way.


madame said...

The home church I was brought up in was (and still is, although they use a room in a church building on Sunday afternoons these days)a very close knit fellowship, very much like a family, where people care for each other and are involved in each other's lives beyond the "spiritual" realm (to call it something!)
I learned a lot from being in that fellowship, things like being genuine, helping each other, caring for each other and looking out for each other's needs. Living the Gospel, not just preaching it.

We didn't have a pastor per se, but there were three or four elders who were responsible for the meetings, organizing evangelism, preaching and generally caring for the organizational aspect of the church.

It was (and still is) traditional. Men did the speaking and praying out loud, both men and women taught children's Sunday school, and I distinclty remember it only being men at all the church leadership meetings.

We sat in a circle, opened with prayer, sang songs from a hymnal and a chorus book as people requested them (only the men back then, now the women and children also participate). We always celebrated communion, usually led by the elder responsible for the meeting.
After communion the children went out to their respective classes. A few minutes were spent exchanging prayer requests, we prayed and sharing time began.
We didn't usually have a preaching. They followed the instructions in 1 Corinthians 14. Two or three would share a word from the Bible, sometimes only one would because the topic sparked a discussion. Again, only the men talked.

When the service was over we all sat together and had a meal. Each week one family was responsible for the meal. Singles would help a family by providing a part of the meal and helping serve it, or they would team up together and take over one Sunday.

I have some very good memories from that church. The children were well cared for and everyone took part in teaching us. They got to know us and we got to know them.

Over the years I have noticed some weaknesses. The church hasn't grown much, possibly because people feel observed when they arrive and maybe they feel like they have to make a commitment. We had a lot of visitors over the years, some people stayed for as long as they lived in that city. A few new believers began in our church but then moved on to a more mainstream one.
There was nothing for young people so as we hit puberty we wanted to be around people our age and we started visiting youth groups "abroad".

I left the church when I was 22 after nearly two years of regularly attending a larger one where everyone was encouraged to be active and participate in the church life in some way or another. Four of my siblings are active in that other church now too.

I think some weaknesses can be traced back to how the church began. It was a youth ministry that was separated from a larger, missionary planted church. The youth minister had some serious disagreements with the leadership and was fired. The young adults whom he was ministering to wanted to continue meeting at his house, so that's how it all began.
Sadly, the first generation of children have left the church seeking greener pastures, partly because we felt like we couldn't really grow in that setting.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

There is much that I can appreciate about this house church, as you describe it.

I wanted to note a few of the differences between our house church and this one. I think some will be interesting to you.

First thing is that no one person or family is the pastor. We do not designate the men or the older people as spiritually more gifted to lead, preach or teach than the younger or the females in the group. We all take turns leading the church, or as we say, offering the soul food, each week. Different family members (of all ages) team up, or sometimes friends in the church team up. I did a soul food session about Samson because a 12 year old in the church had the idea and she wanted to team up with me.

Second, the children, of all ages, are present during the entire house church. They ask questions, make suggestions, pray and share with the adults. So this means there is no kids church or sunday school especially for them and no dividing of the group to care for the kids. Currently we have a 1 1/2 year old, a 10, 13, 15, 16 year olds.

Third, every meeting we eat together, pray together and share our financial resources (which means we pool our money to give to the community in a way that allows us to do more together than individually).

Sometimes we sing, sometimes we do not. But everyone has a part. I think you've nailed it, however, when you pointed out the reason for a church forming.

The way a church begins will drive the systemic strengths of fault-lines deeply into the way a church grows.

So far we are at 15 people, growing a few every month. By the time we reach 20, I believe we will need to split it half and continue multiplying, like a cell, to keep the entire body listening and knowing each other.

So far, it has been the most meaningful experience of church I have ever known, where I'm truly being taught to follow Jesus by those younger and older than me. The book we've used to guide us is "Houses that Change the World: The Return of the House Churches" by Wolfgang Simpson.