Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

Homemade soups and stews—I revel in ‘em. They’re hearty, healthy, and happy-making. And you only have to wash one pot when it’s all over.

I kind of fancy myself a Renaissance man when it comes to cooking these scrumptious olios, sort of the Sultan of Soup, the Star of Stew, the Bon Vivant of Broth, and the Leading Man of the Liquid Lunch.

In short, I can throw down on some homemade soups and stews.

So when I went home to see my parents a couple Christmases ago, I decided to make one of my favorites: “Red Bean, Chicken, and Sweet Potato Stew.” Not only does it have those three oh-so-tasty title ingredients in it, it also has tomatoes, bell pepper, garlic, green chilies, Cajun seasoning, and the pièce de résistance: peanut butter.

Peanut butter—for real. (Don’t be all “eww…” until you try it. It’s magical.)

And now for the rest of the story…

The *squish* wasn’t the end

From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay

Below is the final installment in “The Lizard Lounge Series on Clay,” at least for this season. Quite a summer… Here is a link to the whole series, if you’re just tuning in. (And here’s a link that explains the whole “Lizard Lounge” bit.)

Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?

• • •

I love summer in Florida. Sunshine and beaches and the smell of orange blossoms. (And tourists who need to stay out of the sun and off the beaches.) This past summer I had planned to while away the days watering my bell peppers and tomatoes, lazing on the front porch reading, and collecting rocks for my dry creek bed. However, in Jeremiah 29:11 the Lord says:

I know the plans I have for you…

…and none of those plans included tomatoes, lazing, or collecting rocks.

And now for the rest of the story…


From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay

Below is the next installment in “The Lizard Lounge Series on Clay,” a wet-n-wild little piece about disasters—house AND spiritual varieties. Here is a link to the whole series, if you’re just tuning in. (And here’s a link that explains the whole “Lizard Lounge” bit.)

Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?

• • •

Stepping into my dark kitchen one evening after work I heard a sound I wasn’t expecting…


*squish*? I thought. Tennis shoes on tile don’t usually make that sound. *squeak* maybe or *kerplop*—but *squish*?

I made my way across the room to flip on the light switch.


That can’t be good

And it wasn’t. With the light on I could see that the kitchen was standing in water. While barely a half-inch deep (so far), standing water of any depth in one’s home is not a good situation. Not a problem on tile floors, but…

…wood floors. Please no, I prayed silently as I set out on a tour of the rest of the house.

And now for the rest of the story…

Dear Carmen

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Dear Carmen –

You may not remember me – after all, I was just one of five American guys who built your new home in Guatemala recently – but I remember you; in particular, I remember your smile.

I remember because I never saw you without it. When you met us there on the side of the mountain that morning and told us “Si” we were building “su casa” – your house – there it was; the whole time you and little Jenny sat and watched us digging and measuring and sawing, there it was; when you loaned us a hammer when ours broke, when I saw you at church across the mountain, when we came for your house dedication service the morning before we left (and borrowed your hammer again) – there it was.

It was a pretty smile, a friendly smile. It was more than that, though. I mean, your smile was definitely pretty and friendly, but it was also… What’s the word I’m looking for? Radiant, maybe? There was a sense of peace to it, a feeling of contentment. Which, from the start, had me a little puzzled.

How to put this…

We were building you a basic 12′ x 12′ house out of wooden posts and corrugated tin with no electricity or running water on a flat spot dug out of the side of the mountain. I’m pleased with the fact that Eddie, Perry, Paul, Cliff and I made it solid and plumb and square but, when we finished, it was still just a 12′ x 12′ house built out of wooden posts and tin. Under the circumstances, your peaceful, contented smile had a sort of “what’s wrong with this picture?” feeling to it. But, in spite of a situation that to some would seem hopeless, you seemed anything but.

Maybe the Nueva Versión Internacional Biblia we gave you at your house dedication service can shed some luz. (One good thing about the Biblia – it’s full of luz.)

In Hebreos 13:5, the author writes:

Manténganse libres del amor al dinero, y conténtense con lo que tienen, porque Dios ha dicho: “Nunca te dejaré; jamás te abandonaré.”

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

You told the seminary student who spoke at the dedication service that you were a Christian – that made me muy feliz. I was so glad to learn that, because that means that Dios promise in Hebreos 13:5 is obviously the secret to that peaceful and contented smile. And even though you seem to have very little materially, you actually have la perla de gran precio – the pearl of great price – that Jesus taught about.

That’s worth infinitely more than a fancy house or a wallet full of money. I know, because I’m a Christian, too, and I don’t have either of those either. Please know that I’m not comparing my situation to yours, although I think that maybe it’s all relative. Obviously God has blessed you just like He has blessed me – in different ways, but still according to His good and perfect will.

I have to tell you something, though: while I was there in Guatemala, I struggled with trusting God to keep this particular promise. I had kind of a “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” test of faith.

It was my first mission trip and I really didn’t know what to expect, money-wise, so I didn’t bring a lot with me. I thought I had enough, but there was just so much need around me and so many opportunities to give that I wanted to be obedient to what I felt God was leading me to do and give as much as I could when the opportunity presented itself. Before I knew it I had three days left to go and all I had in my wallet was a Visa card and enough U.S. dollars to pay the toll between the airport and my house when I got back home. I didn’t have any more Guatemalan Quetzales and I didn’t see a single credit card-swipe terminal in all of Chimaltenango.

But, as you can testify, Carmen, God is faithful. He kept assuring me that He meant every word of Hebreos 13:5 – that He wouldn’t leave nor forsake me.

And He didn’t; He made sure I didn’t miss a meal:

  • Bro. Johnny loaned me a few Quetzales to tide me over, which I was actually able to use to feed someone else in the group who had also given all he had. The last night we were there, I had 40 Quetzales left and he had 5 – our bill was exactly 45 Quetzales.
  • Ellen unexpectedly bought several of us breakfast at the airport the day we left. (You remember her – she preached Tuesday night when I saw you at church. What a heart she has!)
  • Mark and Carolyn insisted on paying for my dinner in the Atlanta airport before my flight back home – again, unexpectedly, although by that time I knew what God was up to. I could have easily used my credit card, but that was just His way of using these dear new friends to drive the “Never will I forsake you” point home. (Always a lesson with God.)

I’m sure, considering your circumstances, my money woes while I was there seem blown way out of proportion; and I suppose you’re right. It certainly wouldn’t have killed me to miss a couple of meals. But that wasn’t God’s plan. His plan was to use me to testify to the richness of His blessing, the faithfulness of His promise, just like His plan for you. For me, it was a few meals; for you, it was a new place to live.

I may never see you again in this life to tell you how God used you to bless me; how He used our contrasting circumstances to remind me to, like you, trust that He will never forsake me. But I know I will see you again in a better place than the side of that mountain; a place with no need left unmet; a place where both of our little houses and empty wallets will be a distant memory.

And on that day I’ll get to see your peaceful, contented smile again; but better than that, I’ll get to see who you’re smiling at – Jesus.

I’ll be smiling at Him, too.

Until that day, Dios te bendiga, Carmen – may God bless you…