The Face of a Friend

Hugging the path

My faithful friends are like an autumn breeze,

With gusts of laughter, buoyant on the wind.

Like rusty red and playful yellow leaves,

Our lives entwine entangled one within.

 

When autumn zephyr blows with forceful wail
And maple shakes and shivers in the blast,
The hustling, bustling, ever-changing gale
Sends foliage flying, fleeing – none outlast.

 

In the grass

But friends of mine do bare a softer stream:

With words they mend and tend to broken heart,

With sighs they stir my memories and my dreams,

With prayers they set unspoken needs apart.

 

Theses kindred souls surround me with their grace,
Unchanging, stand beside me face to face.

Chicken Cacciatore

I’ve been thinking some about the rhythm of life… how to meet God in the everyday moments that we often don’t expect Him in.

I make dinner every night for my crew. Cooking gives me pleasure — in the tasting of food and in the breaking of bread — the fellowship that comes “at table.” I think my role in feeding them is about more than simply filling their bellies. It’s about nourishing them.

And it’s about me staying true to my God-given calling to help them grow; a daunting, and humbling task.

 

Chicken Cacciatore by Julie Sanders

Skillet clanks on grate heating

Water runs to wash veggies

Knife slices onion, eyes burning –

still she presses on.

 

Chicken sizzles in skillet browning

Peppers, onions, garlic mingle

Tomato sauce with warm, red wine, simmering –

add to chicken, turn.

 

Call men, plates loading

Chairs scrape on floor

Diners sit, expectant, hunger gnawing

Thank you Lord, Amen.

chicken-cacciatore-a2

 

What about you?  Where do you find God in the rhythm of everyday moments?

For my yummy recipe visit Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes.

Photo credit: Simply Recipes

Morning Walk

Often times, it’s the simple, everyday habits that draw me to God. Something as common as walking or breathing can become a wordless prayer.

Exploring poetry has helped me think about the proper economy of words — how sometimes not saying something is more powerful than trying to put all my thoughts to words.

So, here’s a poem… maybe as simple, and profound as… breathing.


footsteps

 

 

foot falls on asphalt.

arms pump in rhythm

to my

heart beat.

 

lips part to murmur

prayers – in and out –

raised

to

God.

 

Mama’s Dreams

It’s happeningboys' backs
my boys becoming men
brandishing desire and direction different than mine.
Their otherness stares at me
unblinking.

But still, my heart holds dreams
first given by God when each still dwelt in womb safety.
Dreams rooted in the naming –

The son-of-the-right hand
steady, faithful, loyal,
holding fast to the Word of life
and nothing else.

The bearer-of-light
creative, transforming, authentic,
bending to the Light that brings life
to this world.

The strong-and-courageous-one
inviting, open, humble,
taking boldly ground he knows God
has secured.

So even though doubts assail me,
my tongue betrays me,
my fears malign me,
I stand assured –
what God started
He will complete.

Yes, this happening,
this inevitable affair
forces us to face places
new
unfamiliar
but known to the One
Who knows us each by name.

Here I rest.empty road

Tucked away for the future

A writer-friend of mine, challenged me to write a poem entitled, “What I would tell my granddaughter” based on things I know to be true. Well, yes, my granddaughter is still years and years away from making an entrance into my life, but still, I’m hopeful she’ll be here one day.

So, here’s where my thoughts landed.

If I should have a granddaughter… 

I would take her out in the morning early so we could catch the sun rising over the horizon shedding its rays of pinks and purples and yellows.

And I would tell her, “Sweetheart, the sun always comes up in the morning; and even if you can’t see it through the clouds or the haze or the tree-shaped shadows, it’s there ready to offer warmth and a start to a new day unwritten.”

Sand

I would take her on walks along a salty shore lined with shells and seaweed and driftwood; and we would pause to let the waves wash over our toes.  The outgoing water would pull the sand from under our feet and we would sink just a bit each time.

And I would tell her, “Baby, the ocean never stops coming and going, one with the other.  And even though it’s painful sometimes, life is filled with hellos and goodbyes, bringing heartache and healing, tears and tenderness, longing and laughter.”

 

I would take her to city parks crawling with children with different colored skin and hair and eyes, speaking languages strange to her ears.

And I would tell her, “Darlin’, a smile needs no translation and the best way to approach an unfamiliar situation is open-handed rather than close-fisted; and people who aren’t like you are often the best people to help you know you.”

 prayer candles

I would take her to houses of worship where Jesus is known and loved and spoken of; places where the Spirit moves freely and mysteriously, where people have “met their maker” and lived to tell about it.

And I would tell her, “Angel, you have a story to tell, a story worth telling.  It started the moment God thought of the very idea of you and placed you in your momma’s belly, and it’s still unfolding to point people around you, who know you and your story, to the God who lives to redeem.

 

I would take her to a mountaintop covered in sweet smelling firs, where the wind speaks to the trees who whisper back, “He’s here.  He sees.” And we would wait, hand in hand, blood warmth pulsing through our entangled fingers, for the moon to rise and take its place among the stars.

And I would sit with her quietly, knowing that some moments are better left unsaid, untainted by words that fail to bring understanding. And we would mull our thoughts in the cool moonlight.

What’s in a picture?

One of the things I’ve always loved about God is His nearness, that He’s close by, not distant… as if I have an invisible hand pressed against the small of my back prompting me on.

main-street-usaMy memories confirm this… like the time as a 5 year-old little girl, I went with my family to Disneyland.  I was riding on my Daddy’s shoulders, walking down Main Street, heading for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.  The sky was sunny and blue, and I can even remember wearing my Mickey Mouse ears hat with my name written in cursive on the back.  So, there I was, riding on my Dad’s shoulders, and I didn’t have a care in the world.  I felt safe.  Even with the crazy crowds at Disneyland, I felt his strong arms around me and I knew he loved me; I knew he would protect me.

I think this is why I’ve always known God was close.  Because my parents loved me and took care of me, I had no problem believing that Jesus would love me and take care of me.  But of course, little girls grow up.  And I couldn’t live at Disneyland, riding on Daddy’s shoulders.

…   …   …

Fifteen years later I found myself with another man on a metal bridge in London. Typical for London, the weather was cold and raining, but I was crying.  I was with my boyfriend – the man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with.  We had met two years earlier, and our relationship consumed me.  I wanted to share his love, his opinions, his plans for the future – we had talked about changing the world.

metal bridge

But on that gray bridge in London, I couldn’t have felt more alone. I don’t even remember what we were fighting about.  But I do remember that he used his words to hurt me.  They would cut at my heart like a knife.  Throughout our relationship he would drop little comments about my hair or my weight – just enough to let me know that he was dissatisfied with me.

On that bridge I realized that he wasn’t who I thought he was, and I was afraid.  I know now that God was there on that bridge – close by, but I couldn’t see Him, and I didn’t reach out for Him.

…   …   …

Fast-forward 20 years… It seems like just the other day, I was walking through the Walmart parking lot with my youngest son, Andrew. Cars moved in and out of parking spaces, so he slid up close to me and took my hand.  He just grabbed my hand, but it was like he was saying, “I want to be near you, Mommy.  I trust you.”  It felt good to be trusted.  A busy parking lot can be a scary place to a nine-year-old, but Andrew knew that if he was near me, he would be safe.

I think it’s the same lesson I learned all those years ago at Disneyland with my Dad… and on the bridge in London.  I think God is still trying to teach me: “Stay close to me, Julie. I’ll keep you safe. Take my hand, I’ll lead you on”

But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.   Ps. 73:25

What snapshots from your life tell you something about God?  Do you see?  Are you listening?

 

photo credits:  Mainstreet, USAMetal Bridge

A little bit of this and that

potato saladThe thought struck me today:  Life is like a good potato salad, smooth, buttery goodness; some crunch; the pizazz of color, and the bite of vinegar… but taken all together, totally satisfying.

I know someone reading this might not be a fan of potato salad.  For me, it’s more of an adult taste.  Not something I enjoyed as a kid.  I think I needed to develop an appreciation for mushy.  If that’s not proof of maturity, I don’t know what is.

Regardless of your tastes concerning potato salad, I’d love for you to hear out my analogy. A life, to reach “satisfying,” has to embrace a variety of ingredients.  The potato foundations of family, faith, and friendship provide the canvas on which all other experiences lie. Crunchy celery and fava beans, my add-ins of choice, give texture to the mixture, like hobbies and interests bring variety and depth. Bright watercress, a surprising addition, reminds to me to delight in unexpected beauty.  And vinegar.  Tangy vinegar stands for suffering; searing but essential if my life will come to mean anything in the great banquet of the Kingdom of God.

So, that’s what came to me as I prepared my lunch today.  I just pulled the ingredients together from what I had in the frig and pantry.  The more exotic things were in my organic produce share this week. Isn’t that like life?  We make do with what we are given — the everyday and the exotic.

I’d love for you to share your thoughts on what ingredients make your life “satisfying.”

Fava Bean and Japanese Sweet Potato Salad 

2 medium Japanese sweet potatoes (or any other sweet potato), peeled and cut in chunks
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 lb fava beans, shelled, blanched, and shelled again (see how to prep fava beans here)
small handful of watercress, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced on diagonal
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 C. sour cream
1/4 C. mayo
1 T. dijon mustard
1/2 t. dried tarragon
quite a bit of freshly ground garlic salt or plain sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Plop the sweet potatoes in a large pot of boiling water.  Boil for 8 minutes.  Add the russet potatoes and boil for another 3-4 minutes till the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.  When they are done, immediately drain them in a colander and run under cold water.  Place them in a large mixing bowl, and sprinkle the vinegar over the still warm potatoes.  Toss gently with a spoon.

Fava BeansWhile the potatoes are cooking, take care of the fava beans according to these instructions.  Then add them to the potatoes.  Add in the watercress, celery, and green onions.

In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, mayo, dijon and tarragon.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Gently combine the dressing with the potato mixture and chill in the frig or eat warm. If it tastes bland to you, add more salt and pepper, and maybe even a bit more vinegar — it’s essential.

Bon appetit!

 

A Touch

I woke up this morning thinking of the Widow of Nain.

Cemetery Statue

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.  Luke 7:12-15

Jesus doesn’t shy away from the wailing and the grieving.  He perceives the hopelessness and breaks in.  Not concerned with propriety, he stops the funeral procession mid-step. He sees what’s  broken and sets it right.

He knows… a mother shouldn’t have to bury her son.

… … …

A little over a week ago, my friend’s son took his own life. Today is his 15th birthday.

And every time I think of my friend, my heart breaks. Somehow the darkness became so dark, her son didn’t see any other options.  For the rest of their lives, my friend, her husband, and their other children will have an indelible blot on their stories… a pain to share that words fail.

So when I think of the widow of Nain and how Jesus touched her, I think, “Sure.  Jesus brought her son back to life.  It’s easy to believe he’s good.  Easy to believe he’s the Son of God.  Easy to follow him after something like that. ”

But my friend’s son… he’s not coming back.  Somehow, the Destroyer got ahold of his mind and convinced him that there are some things that Jesus can’t touch, can’t redeem.  He took the pen and wrote the ending to his story, “There’s no hope. Period.”

Does Jesus still have a touch in the midst this kind of pain?  When questions swarm unanswered, does Jesus still step in and set things right?  Will they ever “be right” again?

I don’t know.  Some things simply lay beyond my understanding — sad things and glorious things.

But, I do know that when questions scream beyond reason, or when I feel like I’m breaking at the seams, the cross stands firm.  The unshakeable act of Jesus Christ dying on a wooden cross to pay for my sin shines true in the darkest night.  He saw this grief.  He saw these tears.  He saw these questions and went to the cross with them in mind.

There are answers at the cross, because there’s love at the cross. Love that reaches beyond the this-is-not-what-we-were-created-for pain of death.  Love for the grieving, and the hopeless, and the lost.

heavens

Have you felt the touch of Jesus at the cross?

 

cemetery statue photo: © Ladykassie | Dreamstime Stock Photos &Stock Free Images

Not the end

Stories to Live ByLazarus was sick. Maybe it was staying out late fishing in the rain that turned his cold to the worst. Maybe the infected cut on his hand from mending the nets had turned to gangrene, or a pounding ache in his head that won’t go away.  But now, his sisters Mary and Martha had exhausted their salves and home remedies.  They sent for Jesus.  They needed the Healer.

But Jesus didn’t show up.  It wasn’t for lack of love for Lazarus, but because he loved him.  He wanted Lazarus to experience God’s glory.

When Jesus finally made his way to Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days.  Mary and Martha’s grief overwhelmed them.  They both came to him with questions…

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (Luke 11:21 and 32).

Lovingly, Jesus met them in their pain. He mourned death. He wept. But Jesus knew something they didn’t know.  Jesus knew about belief so strong that it conquers death. Jesus knew about resurrection and life — real life.

At the tomb, Jesus showed them.

He told them to roll away the stone.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (Luke 11:39-40)

…   …   …

Oh, how many times I have faced a brother’s tomb and come to Jesus with questions?

When a brother betrays his wife with years of a secret addiction; when a brother takes a joy-ride in his father’s sports car and kills his best friend in the accident; when a brother smiles, but in the end sees no option but to end his own life…

I ask, “Where were you, Jesus?  Couldn’t you have seen what was happening and stopped it?  Couldn’t you have stepped in?  You’ve healed others, why not my brother!”

Patiently he tells me roll away the stone of my doubts. Gently, he asks me to believe.  Quietly he whispers.

“I know it hurts. Remember Gethsemane? But I know how the story ends.  It’s for God’s glory. Trust me. The grave is not the end.”

empty_tomb_wide

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Luke 11:25-26).

 

This, friends, is the beauty of Easter.

What a wonderful Savior.

…   …   …

boy walking photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

empty tomb photo credit: icr.org

Check out Institue for Creation Research for an article on the impact of the empty tomb.  It’s a great read!

Encountering Jesus

I pulled this post from the archives.  It seemed appropriate in remembrance of the crucifixion and resurrection.  Where do you take your botched responsibilities?

…   …   …

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.  “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

Morning Gate

“What is that to us? they replied.  “That is your responsibility.” 

When Pilate saw that he was getting no where, but instead that an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in the front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. ‘It is your responsibility!” Matt. 27:3-4, 24

What an interesting parallel between Judas and Pilate… responsibility.

Judas had followed Jesus closely for three years.  Judas had sat under his teaching, watched him heal blind, and broke bread with him.  Judas got it all wrong… the betrayer.

Pilate had only one brief interview with Jesus.  One cryptic conversation probably left him with more questions than answers.  Pilate ducked out and missed it… the dodger.

 

When the innocence of Christ’s blood rises up before him, Judas only sees his responsibility.  Actually, he sees his culpability, his blame.  It grips him around the throat and pulls him under.  He sees no option other than to take his own life.  He doesn’t see Jesus’ offer for a new one.  Responsibility blinds him to it.

When Christ’s innocence stares Pilate in the face, he lets his desire for peaceful public relations get the better of him.  He abdicates his responsibility and kowtows to the crowd. In washing his hands of the innocent man’s blood, he only implicates himself further.  The irony jumps out and grabs him – for only in washing himself in Jesus’ blood would Pilate find the truth he is seeking.  But Pilate misses Jesus’ offer of new life.  Responsibility disguises it.

twisted

Two men.  Two encounters with responsibility.  One overcome with the weight of it.  One skirting the glory of it.  Both blinded.  Both guilty.  Both forever tied to the story of Christ’s death that brings life.

Some might argue that it’s unfair to hold either Judas or Pilate responsible for Jesus’ death.  After all, it was God’s plan.  Jesus said so.  This is why he came – to die.  Judas and Pilate were simply pawns in God’s chess match with the evil one.  How can they be responsible?

True. God’s intention was to have Jesus Christ die on man’s behalf.  But even truer is the fact that my sin put Jesus on that cross just as much as Judas’ betrayal or Pilate’s poor judgment.  My sin… and your sin… drove Jesus to the cross.  We are all responsible for the innocent man’s blood.

But our confrontation with our guilt doesn’t have to end in despair or disillusion like it did for Judas and Pilate.  Not if we know who to bring it to.

See, Judas sought the religious leaders for absolution.  All he got was his blood money thrown back in his face.  Pilate sought the crowd for answers. All he got was “Crucify him!” slammed in his face.

But you and me?

With all our botched responsibilities, we can come to Jesus and get nail-pierced hands cupping our face, and love-laden eyes washing over our face, and grace-filled words warming our face saying, “My child, your sins are my responsibility.  You are forgiven. Now, come, follow me.”

Sun through tree

What a wonderful Savior.