The Beauty of Simplicity

As our Rice & Beans journey continues, we will be featuring the reflections of three guest writers on the themes of Simplicity, Solidarity, and Sharing. Each of them are not only participating personally, but playing a pivotal role in leading the experience for their entire church community. This week, we welcome Sarah Sanderson from Oak Hills Church in Milwaukie, Oregon.

Let’s see… I’ll get out Sriracha, Tabasco, Pink Himalayan Salt… and grated cheese? Or tortillas? I could sauté some kale… Make cornbread? Dessert? Buy beverages?

Our first Rice & Beans dinner guests were due to arrive soon, and my mind was racing.

When my husband (who happens to be the pastor of our church) asked me about hosting a small group for our church’s first year of participating in Rice & Beans for Lent, I readily agreed. It sounded like something I could handle. Rice. Beans. Easy enough.

But when our church kicked off the Lenten experience with a potluck, the variety astounded me. Rice and bean salad. Rice and bean curry. Rice and bean stew. In fact, I was the only one who brought… rice. And beans.

So now, with the members of our small group on their way to our home, I second-guessed my menu plan. At the last minute, as the beans simmered in the crockpot, I worried that plain old rice and beans wouldn’t be dazzling enough. Ordinarily, when I have people over for dinner, I make salad, side dishes, a main course, and dessert. This time, not only was I only serving rice and beans, I was apparently serving the plainest, most ordinary rice and beans in the whole church. So I frantically tried to think of what I could pull out of the refrigerator to jazz things up a bit.

Then my eyes landed on a word in Lahash’s Rice & Beans guide. Simplicity. And a voice whispered in the back of my mind: You’re missing the point, Sarah.

In anxious hostess mode, I had forgotten that this event isn’t a rice and beans cooking competition. The point, to borrow a phrase, is to eat simply, that others may simply eat.

The guests arrived. I served rice. And beans. We showed our children the picture of Gabriel from Tanzania, with a plate of rice and beans on his lap. We listened to the children’s simple prayers: Jesus, give Gabriel some more food. Give him medicine. Give him money. Help him not to be lonely.

As we pray for you, my African brothers and sisters, would you pray for me? Please pray that pride, insecurity, and competitiveness would loosen their hold on me. Please pray that as I travel this Rice & Beans journey, I discover the beauty of simplicity.

 Sarah and her husband Jeremy worship at Oak Hills Church in Milwaukie, Oregon, with their four children. Sarah has contributed to Marriage Partnership and The Upper Room, among other publications. She blogs at, and is trying to figure out how to build a website at She is currently writing a memoir.