How do you Gumbo? “An Invitation to Live”

“So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have told you to do. You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of time.” – Jesus, Matthew 28:19-20

The moon early Tuesday morning – 12-degrees

I know it sounds like a cliche but, “Baby it really is cold outside.” I can just hear our Florida friends laughing in our direction as they make their way to the golf course, wearing the light sweater they will likely discard after three or four holes. But – 12-degrees notwithstanding – I still like the climate in North Carolina about a hundred times more than Florida’s relentless humidity and heat.

So here we are, January 2 with all the joy of endless possibility stretched out before us. I have already talked about looking at the coming twelve months through the lens of “Invitation,” and I’ve been wondering about how to parse the idea without completely dropping Tales from the Great Adventure.

Here’s what I’ve come up with – “An Invitation to Live: Tales from the Great Adventure.” I’ll work out a new header design, then post it on my front page. The address won’t change – I’ll still be writing at – but (like the title of a book) the new name should begin to inform the direction of my content.

The Gumbo Thing:

me, Rachel, Rebekah, Tom

Meanwhile, back in the Maul-Hall kitchen, yesterday afternoon I made my traditional “New Year’s Gumbo.” Rachel and Tom McMahan joined us (Rebekah’s sister and her husband), and we enjoyed a good evening of sitting around the table sharing stories, and then sitting around the fire sharing stories. It partially made up for missing the traditional “Alexander siblings” gathering down in Florida.

My gumbo recipe is a hybrid rooted in the instruction I received from Rebekah’s mama many years ago. “Whatever else you put in your gumbo,” she told me, “always start with a turkey carcass for your broth and build from there.”

Being the week after Christmas I had turkey bones and dark meat on hand, so once the broth was made all I had to do was add everything else. So, as the afternoon wore on, my large pot subtly shifted the aromas generated in response to: one large Vidalia onion, two hearts of celery, two cloves of garlic, diced tomatoes, ham, sweet corn, and okra (seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, bay leaves, and Worcestershire sauce). Then, later, just a few minutes before serving, I threw in a pound of shrimp, a pound of lump crabmeat, and a dozen oysters.

I served the gumbo over jasmine rice, adding a garden salad and hot biscuits on the side.

Other than being a great recipe, I’m talking about gumbo because it’s a useful metaphor for this Great Adventure we’re invited to live.


You see the best gumbo is a mixture of standard elements you simply have to have (the base broth, okra, tomato, seafood)…, and then whatever happens to be on hand. “Okay, we know the general direction we’re headed, now what else from the refrigerator can we throw in here…?”

Sometimes it’s sausage, not ham – or maybe neither. Chicken can make good broth too. Whitefish may be all the seafood you have – crab and oysters are wonderful, but not absolutely necessary. Great gumbo emerges from a combination of proper intention, availability, opportunity, and good judgment.

Life as Gumbo!

Life is so like that! If we want 2018 to absolutely rock and hit all the best gumbo notes, then we must begin with a good base and a solid sense of direction – that’s my commitment to follow Jesus and to live according to God’s purposes. Then the gumbo kicks in. How do I claim the opportunities as they come along? What will improve the flavor?

Is it going to be the same for all of us? No. Will it be an exact copy of my journey with Jesus last year? Not by a mile. Is it appropriate for me to tell others they have to follow the same recipe I’m using? No, that would be wrong.

So what are the key ingredients to a 2018 that’s rich and flavorful? Jesus is the foundational essence. Following Jesus must be our plan. Then it’s a matter of building from there, always rooted in Christ, always committed to growing, and learning, and loving, and serving in his name.

That’s the other element I should have mentioned from the get-go. You cook gumbo to share – it’s part of what makes it so good. Faith is the same way; we are called not just to love and enjoy Jesus, but we are called to extend that invitation to others.

1-IMG_3872“So go and live like you mean it – because God certainly meant something when you were created. Make followers of all people, add their flavor to this amazing mix. Teach everyone how to live authenticly and to follow me in the ways of Love. I am (I Am) always going to be with you, and I will be your guide until the Age of Time is replaced by Eternity” (author paraphrase).

Jesus is the deep, rich, satisfying, warming, comforting, nourishing essence.



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