My friend, Carol, has the gift of mercy.
After hearing someone was sick, on their way home from the hospital, had a death in the family, or was going through a tough time, Carol’s phone didn’t have a chance to cool down before she was grabbing her car keys and heading for the grocery store.
My family was the happy recipient of several of Carol’s wonderful meals. I still get deeply moved when I remember the day I returned home from visiting a doctor three hours away. It was the day I learned there was a new surgery that could slow my rapid eye movement and possibly give me more vision. Carol picked up our girls from school, prepared a meal for us and while waiting for the last dish to come out of the oven, sat me down and said, “Tell me what you learned.”
Pam also taught me about mercy through the ministry of food. It was a day filled with more worry than hope, for we had to learn the hard news that our younger daughter had been born with the same eye issues I have. After watching three doctors examine my two-week old baby and experiencing two car break-downs, I called Pam to ask her to come rescue my mom, me and the baby. When she pulled into the bank parking lot where we had been stranded, she cautioned me. “Watch where you put your feet. Part of your supper is on the floor.” Supper was the last thing on my mind that day. What a blessing that Pam thought to take this burden off our preoccupied minds. Sensitive that our family might not want to be alone that night, she invited us to spend the evening with them. We did nothing more than stare at the walls, talk little, and accept their silent hugs infused with hope.
Actually, it was my mom who first instilled the idea of giving food to needy people into my spiritual psyche. My major project in 4-H was bread baking. Part of the 4-h experience is keeping a record book of our work in the project. I needed to make lots of bread, lots of different kinds of bread, to get the experience I needed and wanted in order to excel in the various 4-H competitions. My mom came up with the idea of giving bread to widows in the church. My trophies are long gone but the gift of giving lives on.
I never realized how much giving food to the sick and needy was a part of our own family make-up until this Christmas when we got a call that a church member was to have nasal reconstruction surgery two days before Christmas. My oldest daughter immediately said, “Let’s share our Christmas dinner with them.”
“I’m so proud of you for thinking of that first,” I told her.
She shrugged my praise away. “That’s what our family does, right? I’ve seen you do that often enough.”
I guess I have. Thanks to Mom, Pam, Carol and so many others who have been my examples.
Food speaks. Food says you care. Food opens the door and allows you to connect with those who have deeper needs than an empty tummy. A gift of food says that you recognize the struggle someone else is going through and you want to help. Mercy is giving something to someone not because they deserve it but because they need it. Food extends an arm of mercy and says, “I care. I see what you are going through and I want to share your burden with you.”
Cooking may not be your particular gift. That’s okay. There are other ways to show mercy. Cards, prayer, flowers, homemade quilts, a knitted scarf, phone calls, blowing the snow off the driveway of a woman who has recently lost her husband, sitting with a family in an ICU waiting room, even a hand on a shoulder can be a gift of mercy. But if you have been blessed with a love for and an aptitude for cooking, oh boy howdy, the Lord God is ready and waiting to show you abundant opportunities of how you can use your gift for His glory and their good.
Just wait for those phone calls. Keep your car keys handy.
If you know someone who needs a casserole dish full of comfort food, my Aunt Evelyn’s Chicken and Dressing is a great dish to share. It’s bland ingredients make it a great dish to give someone just home from the hospital. Stuffing mix, chicken soup and chicken broth are easy ingredients to keep on hand on your pantry shelf. Cook and debone a 10 pound bag of chicken leg quarters, then freeze the meat in quart Zip-lock bags so you will also have it ready to go.
Chicken and Dressing
1 8-ounce Pepperidge Farms stuffing mix
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 boned cooked chicken (about 3 cups)
1/4 stick margarine
1 cup chicken broth
Pepper to taste
Melt margarine in large glass baking pan. Put half of stuffing mix on top of margarine. Put chicken on top of stuffing. Pour diluted soup on top of chicken. Add remaining mix. Pour chicken broth over all. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until top is browned.
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