And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
January is a bleak month for us humans. The festivities of Christmas and New Years have passed and we’re back to all things real-life. For many of us it’s freezing outside and the sun sets at what feels like 2:30 in the afternoon. Whatever worries or tasks we were able to shelve during our time off work and sleeping in and over-eating are now back without December’s buffers. If you overspent at Christmas, credit card bills are coming; If you began a diet or an exercise program, you’re sore and ravenously desiring chips.
We don’t even have Downton Abby this year.
I was reminded yesterday at church of our January plight when I spotted an acquaintance on the other side of the aisle. I wished her a Happy New Year with heartfelt enthusiasm and asked her how she was doing. “I’m in a serious New Year’s rut” she said. “This is just a hard time of year.” First, let’s just thank the Lord for an honest reply at church. I was so happy for her vulnerability because I’d been battling a little of that myself.
The top of the year can be difficult for many reasons, not the least of which is that the parties are over and we’ve got another 12 months of routine ahead—some of which are monotonous or overwhelming or just plain lonely. This is precisely where the tomatoes come in.
Make Tomato Soup and Invite Your Friends Over
The tendency at this time of year is to isolate. And this is exactly what you and I cannot afford to do. As the author of Hebrews puts forth, we can’t stop gathering together. We need to be encouraged and spurred onto love and good works, and if ever there was a month in need of extra spurring, it’s January.
I know what you’re thinking—you can’t add another dinner party to this already crazy month, you’re over your grocery budget from Christmas, your house isn’t put back together and you’re finding pine needles in the bathroom. I have a challenge for you…
Grab 1 (28 oz.) can of whole tomatoes and invite some friends over for tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, anyhow. I’m not even sort of kidding. (See recipe below). If you’re not a cook—it’s tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, loved ones. (If your friends are gluten free or dairy free or don’t like tomatoes, I don’t know what to tell you about those friendships.) You wouldn’t believe what a simple meal around a table will do for your souls. It doesn’t have to be Pinterest-board fancy or expensive. I’ll say it again: tomato soup.
Gather for the Purpose of Encouragement
When speaking of the early church, Reuben Welch put it so beautifully in his book We Really Do Need Each Other: “They were being together as Christians, not just Christians being together.” So when you make your soup and gather together with other believers, do it with the intent of encouraging one another in matters of the faith. This doesn’t mean you have to go around the table and have each person recite her favorite Ten-Commandment. Just be intentional about sharing honestly and praying for each other. Remind one another to live with an eternal perspective . Cheer one another on in her God-given giftings. Speak about the things of Jesus. You’ll leave the table knowing you hadn’t only been believers who got together, but you will have been together as believers.
Let’s not let this month get away from us without pushing through the chill of winter with fellowship around the table. We can’t neglect gathering together. Especially not in January as that Great Day is approaching and there’s soup to be had.
Tomato Soup Recipe
In a saucepan melt butter and saute onion over medium heat. After onions become translucent saute garlic for 2 more min. Add tomatoes and chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add pinch of red pepper flakes and heavy cream. Stir. If you have a handheld mixer puree whole tomatoes in soup to the desired consistency (chunky or smooth). If you don’t have a handheld mixer let cool and puree in food processor, then return to saucepan. Or, use a potato masher.
(optional) In another pan heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and saute for 3 minutes or until tender. Then add zucchini to soup once pureed. I like to add the zucchini for flavor and texture.
Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches.
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (save juices)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 zucchini, roughly diced (optional)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
optional garnishes: sliced basil leaves, Parmesan cheese