Cooking as a spiritual practice

2015  11 21 Wilma Cender photoFor more than a year, the Mennonite Spiritual Directors Network has been posting brief articles about spiritual direction – testimonies that witness to the potential of spiritual direction for encouraging and deepening spiritual growth. 

In addition to continuing articles about spiritual direction, the series will also include brief articles about spiritual practices that renew our faith and strengthen us for ministries of love – peacemaking, healing, compassion and service.

Wilma Cender is a spiritual director, retreat leader and on the ministry team at Valparaiso (Indiana) Mennonite Church, where she works with faith formation. She has a master of arts in Christian formation from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. She is married to Karl and has two adult children.

A daily life delight for me is working with food.

Cooking healthy meals for daily nutrition is one of those delights along with growing some of my own food and preserving it for later use. I also enjoy baking and the aromas it creates that delight my family’s senses in anticipation of later enjoyment. For times of relaxation, I enjoy watching cooking shows. I delight in food.

Recently, while in seminary training, the demands of classwork along with other daily responsibilities left me with little time to savor this delight. I found myself cooking on a whim, making quick meals and taking less to church potlucks.

I simply became too busy to give much attention to this life enjoyment.

As I neared the end of my seminary studies, I was looking forward to having more time to spend in my kitchen. I missed cooking and baking and all the preparations that go along with that. It had been a long time since I smelled homemade bread coming from my oven to go with a pot of homemade soup. One day while pondering on this longing, I began to wonder if I could make cooking part of a spiritual practice.

As a spiritual director, I am continually looking for creative ways for myself and others to experience God more in daily life activities.

Why not with cooking? Why wait until seminary studies are completed?

A few days later, I pulled out an array of vegetables from my refrigerator to make a pot of soup. As I cleaned and chopped the vegetables, I began to intentionally shift my perspective to experience cooking as a spiritual practice. I did not hastily prepare the food as I had become accustomed to during my seminary years, but instead I took my time. In that slower pace I noticed the crunch of the vegetables as I cut them and admired their colorfulness. I felt grateful and thanked the Lord for the bounty of food around me.

Since that day, I have finished my seminary degree and I do have more time to work with food again. Life is still full in other ways, but cooking as a spiritual practice has helped me to slow down a rushed time of the day and enjoy food preparation.

In that slowing down comes opportunity to express thanks and gratitude to God.

It provides opportunity to pray for my neighbors or for the people of my congregation. It provides opportunity to pray for members of my family or for those who don’t know where their next meal will come from. Cooking as a spiritual practice has helped me to become more grateful for what I do have and has provided more opportunity to simply delight in the art of cooking while conversing with Jesus.

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3 thoughts on “Cooking as a spiritual practice

  1. Thank you, Wilma, for the reminder that ordinary–even monotonous–activities can be an opportunity to pray and connect with God. How appropriate to build these practices on food as a gift and a connection to others, instead of taking food for granted or (in this season of the year) tending to indulge too much.

    1. What a lovely thought. Expressing grattitude to God for His and remembering those less fortunate, while performing every day tasks. I would love to have your recipe for this soup and bread. Thank you.

  2. Wonderful reflections on cooking as a spiritual practice. Thanks for elevating the kitchen’s place in our daily lives and giving it space for “sacred pause” and pondering! I, too, delight in this creative place, and especially at this time of year.

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