Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, Thanksgiving, wisdom

Bring on the Gravy

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7-8

It can make good things better!  Thanksgiving is disappearing quickly in the rearview mirror.  Even in the COVID mess this year it was good to get together with family and rejoice and remember.  I know from this side of the fence the Taylor cooks are off the scale good.  Our menu, at least the one that lists the side dishes, is almost set in stone.  Mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, strawberry salad and other salads that makes you like salads, Apple pie…well you get the idea.  There is one thing that plays a minor role at our Thanksgiving table…gravy.

Now I am a Southern boy and gravy was a big part of my eating life.  Mama would regularly make both brown and white gravies for our supper and they were incredible.  I remember one time I was reminded that you can have too much of a good thing.  She had made a roast and one of the things I loved was to take two (one wouldn’t do) slices of bread and then smother, no drown, the bread in gravy.  Well, one time it got me.  I guess all the goodness in the gravy was too much and I got sick, real sick to my stomach.  It wasn’t pretty.

Mama also made a great giblet gravy at Thanksgiving.  She would take all those things that are tucked inside the turkey when you buy it, cut them up in tiny pieces and put them in her gravy.  Yup…it was incredible.  That’s when I began to learn the value of gravy.  It could take the driest dressing (not my Mama’s mind you) and make it the best dressing in the world.  It worked even better on leftovers.  You go back later that afternoon, fill your plate for round two of the feast, warm up the gravy and let her fly.  The dressing, the potatoes and the turkey all were reborn with a little gravy.

Gravy also can play the role of redeemer with biscuits.  Now even the best biscuits almost always need a little help to become great.  It might be a smothering of butter or butter and honey or syrup and good becomes great.  By far the greatness soul mate of a biscuit is a flood of good sausage gravy.  On my goodness—that combination is it’s own food group.  Any good restaurant that serves breakfast is always sure to include that in its offerings. The bottom line is that gravy makes things better.

I know something else that does the same thing—even more so.  That is grace.  Grace is when we choose to extend something good to someone that doesn’t deserve it.  It might be an act of kindness, a measure of forgiveness, or a kind word or two. As a pastor I know people have extended a measure of grace when they commented on some of my sermons.  “Best sermon this year, preacher!”  Well, truth be known it wasn’t that good—they were showing grace.

Now hear this.  Just like a good gravy can make ordinary or less than extraordinary food taste incredible—grace can do the same thing.  Families are stronger, relationships are better, teams at work are more productive when grace gravy is poured all over them.  You know this COVID thing is fracturing relationships like crazy.  It is dividing families, friends and, yes, churches.  I think we need to pour some gravy—some grace—all over it.  If we don’t, we are going to have some scars that will take a long time to heal.  If that happens and when this thing is all over, we might be able to heal, but the scars will be forever visible.

If you are a Jesus follower then you should be a grace expert.  You know that God extended grace, His unmerited favor, to you and forgave all your failures, sins, and warts.  If you understand redemption correctly, you know you didn’t deserve it—He just did it because of His love for broken people.  Grace makes the impossible possible.  Grace, like a good gravy, can redeem the worse and restore the driest.  God talks a whole lot about grace in His Book.  I encourage you to Google it and be amazed at grace—God’s grace.  It is so amazing they even wrote a song about.  Perhaps you’ve heard it—Amazing Grace.

Sometimes when I order at a restaurant, I will order my gravy on the side. Let’s be honest—not every place can make good gravy.  But when it comes to God’s grace don’t ever get it on the side.  Just ask God to pour it on heavy—flood the plate of your life. The Book says that through faith in Jesus we have redemption through His death on the cross.  When we believe that God forgives our sins through His grace then He lavishes it on us.  Wow and bring on the gravy—bring on the grace. If your life is like a dry biscuit, take a break and ask God to pour on the grace.  And if you are overwhelmed because of this COVID mess and its left you like so much dry turkey, ask God to pour on grace and you will soon be revived because…He’s got this.

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

Masterpiece

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”  Ephesians 2:10

I am not much of an art fan but with that said, sometimes I am just amazed.  That amazement usually happens when I am watching one of several travel shows on PBS.  Invariably, wherever they are traveling they visit an art gallery.  And one thing is certain.  The art is as varied as the people who paint them.

To me it is hard to believe that Picasso and Rembrandt are both considered masters.  Both of them are held in high acclaim and yet they and their work are totally different.  Picasso’s later works, at least from this art critic, appear to have been drawn in a kindergarten classroom.  Amazingly he didn’t always paint this way.  In his early years he was a masterful realist in his work.  What happened?  I think he got bored and went artistically berserk.  And people now love it.  Notice that word “now” because “then” they didn’t. His masterpieces became masterpieces mostly after the master had died.

I frequently find myself thinking about how incredible it is that according to God…and because of God…you and I are a masterpiece…a true work of art.  In case you missed it, the scripture reference is Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”  Isn’t that just an incredible thought that the God of the universe holds His children—you and me—in such high regard?

Now it is only because of God!  It certainly is not anything that we have done…not because of any of our own merit–it is just amazing grace. Sometimes people will say you are “a work of art” and you just know it isn’t exactly a compliment.  It is like Picasso’s work pictured above–not exactly a masterpiece—in my eyes anyway.  With apologies to his fans, I just can’t figure how he became famous for his artwork.  I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I’m just saying…

I know sometimes maybe our lives look more like a Picasso than a Rembrandt but just remember–often–beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in this case that is God.  When Jesus comes and gives us new life, we become this beautiful new creation.  The great part is that His opinion is the only one that matters.  It doesn’t matter what your spouse says, your kids say, or even what you say.  Nope, in Christ you are a masterpiece because God has declared you so.

One thing I know is that we have to determine who we are going to listen to.  Will we listen to the worse critics of our life…those whose spiritual gift (they think) is demolition or the One who died for us?  Hmmmm….not too hard of a decision, is it? Why is all this so important? Because as we understand how God views us, we begin to live as the masterpiece we are.  We begin to live and understand that we are created in the image of Creator God and He thinks very highly of us.

Not once has God ever taken a masterpiece off the wall of His gallery of grace and declared it unworthy or junk.  Never has, never will.  And the reason is simple.  We are who we are because of Whose we are.  We are what we are because He has made us so and He just doesn’t make mistakes.  So today, rest in the declaration of your Dearest Father that you, yes-you, warts and all, are a masterpiece.  Rest in the full assurance that even if your life looks like a Picasso, His grace can rearrange the squares and make you a Mona Lisa.  How? Because, He’s got you and He’s got this.

Posted in life, Military memories, Scripture, Southern born

I Said, “Sing”

“My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27

Bummer.  I knew I should have listened.  I have always liked music and I have always loved to sing.  From the time my mother forced my oldest sister to allow me to sing at her wedding…I’ve been hooked.  Not only do I like music I generally like almost all kinds of music.  To me music is the melody of life.  It often expresses emotions and feelings that otherwise might go unexpressed. So I sing…loud and all the time.

You know, some people says, “I saw you at the store the other day.”  Not me.  People will say, “I heard you at the store the other day.”  Regardless of where I am there is usually a song somewhere close by.  And the funny part is you never know what you will get.  It might be “Amazing Grace” or Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”  That’s really not an issue except for the fact I work at a church.  It can be kinda strange.

I also have a hard time getting the words right.  I know some of the words to hundreds of songs but unfortunately know all the words to very few.  People used to correct me when I would get the words wrong.  Most finally gave up.  Now they just smile. I should have listened a long time ago when someone would try and correct me.  Especially since that time in basic training.

Basic training in the Air Force is that time when they teach you the ways of being an airman.  That includes knowledge and action.  Clearly it involves learning to follow orders.  I was raised in the South so saying, “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” came real easy for me.  I was even a pretty compliant person.  But one day, well, I just missed it.

For some reason I was in the barracks by myself and I was letting it go.  It was an old hymn, maybe “Amazing Grace.”  From somewhere a voice boomed, “Shut-up.” Well, I thought it was one of the guys jerking my chain so I kept right on singing at the top of my lungs.  From somewhere the booming voice boomed again, “I said shut-up.”  It was just about then that I vaguely remembered hearing that voice before.  “Oh, that’s right,” I said, “that’s the voice of my drill instructor, Sergeant Catchings.”  Oops.  Game, set, match.

So he comes from somewhere and is madder than a hornet.  “Taylor” he said, “didn’t I tell you to shut-up?” he boomed in his drill sergeant voice.  I knew there was no use trying to explain that I didn’t know it was him so I just muttered a weak, “Yes, sir.”  So he walks over to the mop closet, opens the door and invites me to step inside.  Gulp.  I step inside and as he shuts the door he said just one word, “Sing!”

So, with all its odors and in the dark, I start belting out “Amazing Grace.”  After a few verses, he opens the door and says, “Do you know, “Rock of Ages?”  “Yes, sir” I said.  Once again came the one word command, “Sing.” The door closes and I sing.  After a few verses, the door opens and he said, “Do you know…” and he named another hymn long forgotten now. “Yes sir” I said. You know what he said, “Sing.”  Well, after a few verses the door opens and he says, “Get out.”  I wasn’t sure if he meant out of the closet or out of the Air Force and I didn’t stick around to find out.  I got out.

Well, I learned something that day.  It is important that I learn to recognize and obey the voices around me…especially those that might be in charge.  I never missed the voice of Sergeant Catchings again.  When I heard that booming voice…I listened. No more mop closets. Listen to your sergeant.  Oh, and even more importantly, listen to God.

You see, one day Jesus was describing His followers to a bunch of religious bad guys.  He said, “My sheep (code for followers) know My voice. I know them and they follow Me.” That verse, in English, has 12 very important words.  First, he said, “My sheep know my voice.” Check.  We need to recognize Jesus’ voice.  Amid all the noise of the world we have got to hear Him.  Second, He said, “I know them.” Wait, what? He knows us. I like that.  It means that He has a relationship with me.  He is looking out for me.  It also means He knows my quirky habits like singing too loud in the middle of WalMart…and loves me anyway.  Last, “They follow me.” What He is saying is that followers follow. Plain and simple.  Follow Him and you might avoid the “mop closets” of life. Trust me…I’ve been there and done that.  It’s not the kind of place you want to visit or sing in. I’m sure Sergeant Catchings had my best interest in mind.  He was there to teach me discipline and he did. Looking back, I’m sure he thought it was all pretty humorous.  So do I…now.  But that day, well, I just wish I had listened a little closer.  Its’ important that you…. Wait, do you hear something?  What’s that?  Is it Jesus saying something?  Oh, He’s whispering.  “Rest in Me. I’ve got this.” “Yes, sir” I whisper.  I believe you do.