Thursday, May 1, 2014

Chocolate Gravy

My Life Group (Chandler Christian Church) has just finished up a 12 week bible study on the book of Acts. The series was titled, "Unleashed - Acts That Changed The World". The theme  of being unleashed for Christ was taken from Acts 8:4, "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went". We learned how important it is to share our story with others.... our stories of God's power in our lives; and how important it is to share The Story... the story of Christ and his death, burial and resurrection. We practiced these principles by sharing our own stories with one another in our Life Group. I shared this story (Chocolate Gravy). It is not a story that I have told to many others, but I am going to put my money where my mouth is in being unleashed for Christ, and share it with the world. So here it is.


Have you ever eaten chocolate gravy? Maybe you have never even heard of chocolate gravy, much less tasted it! I hadn’t either before I married my wife. Her family is from Texas and Oklahoma. Apparently, chocolate gravy is a peculiar regional delicacy, known only to that part of the country. Chocolate gravy is served warm, over biscuits, with a pat of butter on top. It’s really a thin chocolate pudding, but because it is traditionally served on biscuits, it is called chocolate gravy. Whenever my wife’s aunt Carol came to visit, she would always make chocolate gravy for the whole family. I can still see Carol and Dean (Donna’s mom, Claudean), fussing in the kitchen, while Donna’s dad sits at the counter, giving them all kinds of unwanted advice, the kids waiting patiently in the other room for the feast to begin. If Donna’s grandmother (Mrs. Owen) made the biscuits, they were a treat all by themselves. If you have never had the opportunity to enjoy chocolate gravy and biscuits, my advice to you is to find some sweet elderly lady from Texas or Oklahoma, and ask her please, if she would make you some. You will be richly rewarded with this ultimate comfort food.

My childhood, while not overly privileged, or uncommon, was nonetheless quite idyllic. I never really wanted for anything, and in so many respects, I suffered none of the misfortunes of my friends, such as broken homes from divorce, domestic violence, or discord. But as I grew into manhood, my expectations for happiness in my life began to wane. I despaired that I would not measure up to expectations, both my own, and those of my family. By the time that I was in my mid twenties, I also began to doubt whether God was very concerned about me, or that perhaps he wasn’t there at all. I never enjoyed dating very much. I liked girls well enough, but I didn’t enjoy the games and charades involved in dating. I also began to think that I would probably never find someone to love and someone to love me back.

My grandmother died in August of 1981. She was the first loved one that I lost to the enemy… death. It was a difficult time for me. I had failed repeatedly in college, my own fault, and no one else’s. I had worked in a series of unfulfilling jobs, and I didn’t see my prospects being very bright for the future. I had a real maturity problem, and was mired in a serious pity party. What I am describing is a failure of my faith. I had begun to deny every lesson that I had been taught in Sunday school, about trusting God, and believing that he knows our needs, and is faithful to provide for us. I suffered this failure of faith alone, and in silence. I still went to church. I still sang the hymns, and helped out when asked to serve in any way. In fact, I had been appointed as a deacon. Here I was, appointed to serve the church, and to minister to the needs of the flock, and my faith was drying up inside of me like a cornhusk. I realize now that there are many in the church like I was then. Sitting in church, mouthing the words of prayers and hymns of praise, while inside, their souls are a barren wasteland, a desert of spiritual desolation. How easy it is for us to hide our spiritual poverty from one another, but not from God. He is there. We can’t see him. He has not allowed us to. But he is there. I know. I know he is there, because he answered my desperate prayer.

I sat in my bedroom one night, and I handled an old .38 revolver, and I wondered if I would not be better off just being dead.  Finally, I did the thing that I should have done all along, the thing that I knew that I should do, but because of pride, and spiritual immaturity, the one thing that I had failed to do. I got down on my knees beside my bed, like I use to do each night when I was a little child, and I prayed. I prayed like a child prays, with simple urgency. I asked God to help me. I prayed for him to find a place for me in this world. I prayed for him to send someone to help me find my place in what had up to now, been a very lonely place.

A month later, my whole world changed. I met the girl who is now my wife.  I knew the moment that I met her that she was the girl that I had been waiting for. I knew it as sure as I knew that the sun would come up again the next morning. I knew that God had sent her to find me, and to love me, and to save me. She stood there in front of me, a young beautiful woman, looking back at me with a rather doubtful expression. It was a strange moment. I knew, but she didn’t. I’m pretty sure that she didn’t know about God’s plans, or mine. It took a few days of desperate courting, and charming, and cajoling, for her to warm up to me, but I was sure of it from the start. I was looking at the angel that God had given to me. I was willing to do whatever was necessary to bring God’s plan, and mine, to fruition. I have often asked her if it was love at first sight for her. She answers with a good-natured deference, but I know the truth. I had to win her. God might have brought us together, but it was still up to me to win her, and win her I did. For me there was no doubt. I saw my future as clearly as a person sees a vast and distant vista after he climbs to the top of a mountain and gazes into the lands beyond. All I had to do was go forth into this new land and plant my flag, and claim it for my own, like Joshua and the children of Israel headed for the Promised Land.

I have learned to trust God finally. I have learned to wait on him. I have been tempered and tried, and refined by fire and water, hot and cold, agony and ecstasy. Some might argue about the refined part, but the process continues. I am changed, made and re-made into what God would have me be, or at least, what I have allowed him to make of me. Imagine what we could be if we could just yield to his will completely in our lives! Our resistance to his will is the only limiting factor in our lives. I still resist. I still stumble and fall along the way. I still get impatient, and mad, when I don’t get my way, like an impetuous child. But I will never deny my God again. I will never turn away from him again, and I know that he will never turn away from me.

I never expected to have as much joy and happiness as God has given to me. I didn’t expect it, because I failed to trust him. He has surprised and amazed me with the abundance of his generosity. We should not be surprised when God answers our prayers. We should not be surprised when he keeps his promises. But we are. We ask for a little, and he blows us away, with abundance, and joy, and wealth beyond measure. He heaps it upon us, “My Cup Runneth Over”. Imagine what we would receive if we asked for a lot! (Mark 11:23, Matthew 7:7-8)

If I die tomorrow, I have lived richer, and have received blessings ten times more than I could ever have imagined. Every day that I awake, and greet another day is like being in the bonus round. Paul said, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). Someday, I am sure that I will be ready to give up this body, and this life, and gain what awaits me in heaven, but for now, every day is like chocolate gravy, sweet and rich, an unexpected delight. And despite the burdens and trials that I face in this world, I’m ready for another helping every day. Life is an indescribable delight, a rare delicacy. Don’t despair, just Trust God and taste it. Life is good. God makes it so.

I hope that there is a kitchen in heaven. I can’t imagine a home without a kitchen. I hope Aunt Carol, and Dean are stirring a pan of chocolate gravy for me when I get there. I hope they let Mrs. Owen make the biscuits. There won’t be any heart disease in heaven.  Pass the butter!

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