Friday, February 13, 2009

My Valentine Dilemma

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I have a dilemma. What do I give my wife to commemorate the day? I’ve seen several television commercials and heard many radio ads that have tried to assist me with my predicament. They have indicated that to be considered a good husband I must do one of the following things:

· Purchase chocolates from a guy named Russell. With apologies to the Stover family, Karla would not want me to purchase chocolates in a heart shaped box.

· Buy flowers. As some of you know, last year I purchased my wife tulips. Unfortunately, they were dead tulips. So while I won points by not spending too much money (I got them half price), I lost what little points I might have gained by spending even one penny on dead flowers.

· Get diamonds in the shape of two hearts designed by that TV cowboy doctor lady. With apologies to “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman” aficionados, I think the good doctor should stick to homespun cures on the range rather than jewelry designing.

· Order a teddy bear made in Vermont. If Karla was six or seven years old this would be a great idea, but since she is slightly older than that—I am not sure that purchasing her a stuffed bear from the Green Mountain State sends the message, “Your husband really loves you.”

· Send a Pajama gram. I’m pretty confident Karla does not want me picking out her pj’s. My idea and her idea of the perfect pajamas are rarely the same.

· Name a star after her. The last thing Karla would want is for me to waste my hard earned money on naming a star after her. I can see it now: In the 14th sequel of Star Wars, in a galaxy far, far way Luke Skywalker flies his spaceship into the blinding glare of a Super Nova and informs the star base command, “I am approaching Karla Prince. She looks hot.” That’s just weird.

Now please understand I certainly want my wife to consider me a good husband. But do I really have to purchase any of those things to prove it?

While I joke about them, none of those aforementioned items are bad (although seriously… who would name a star after someone?). There’s nothing wrong with flowers or chocolates or Vermont-made teddy bears. There’s nothing wrong with heart-shaped cards and candies and jewelry.

But can I tell you—as tasty as a candy heart may be-- the heart I want Karla to know best isn’t made of chocolate or diamonds. It’s the heart I gave her nearly twenty one years ago in front of our family and friends in Westland, Michigan. And when she looks deep into my heart, my hope is that she sees this heart of mine as:

· A loving heart. I want Karla to know that I will always love her. No matter what.

· An honest heart. I want Karla to know that I will always be honest. No matter what.

· An undivided heart. I am hers and only hers.

· A pure heart. A heart that has no room for the impure sights and images from our sex-crazed society.

· A committed heart. I will not waver on a promise I made to her on that rainy spring Saturday afternoon in 1988-- that she could count on me whether times were better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. She could count on me until to death us do part. And most importantly,

· A Christ-like heart. I am determined to be the man, husband, and dad that honors Christ.

Husbands and wives, for Valentine’s Day this year give each other a heart that is loving, honest, undivided, pure, committed and Christ-like. Determined to cultivate and develop a heart that is pleasing to your spouse and pleasing to Christ. Make your heart exude the love that Paul describes, when he wrote:

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.

Love doesn't strut,

Doesn't have a swelled head,

Doesn't force itself on others,

Isn't always "me first,"

Doesn't fly off the handle,

Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn't revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 The Message)

And if an addition to that faithful, loving heart—if you need to give a chocolate heart or a “Be Mine” cushy, velvet pillow then do that too. (Truth be told, I’m going to try it again with tulips. Only this year, I think I’ll buy living ones, even if I have to pay full price.).

Thursday, February 05, 2009

My Free Breakfast at Denny's

While watching the Super Bowl I saw an advertisement from Denny’s restaurants stating that on Tuesday anyone who showed up from 6 AM until 2 PM could eat a free Grand Slam breakfast. That’s free pancakes, free bacon, free sausage and free eggs. Yummy! Since I live by the motto that free food always tastes better (with the exception of free liver and onions, of course), I thought this would be a wonderful exercise for my family to partake.

When the rest of the Prince clan discovered that to take advantage of Denny’s free breakfast offer and make it to school too—we would have to leave the house around 6 AM— both the oldest cherub and my fair maiden decided that no matter how free the food was—they weren’t leaving their comfy beds.

Ben, on the other hand, shared my enthusiasm for a free breakfast. Which upon further review is a bit curious, since technically, whenever Ben goes to a restaurant with me his meals are free (at least for him). I cannot recall a time in Ben’s nearly 14 years of living when he paid for a meal when I was present. So, I’m not sure why Ben was excited to go, but I am glad he came to Denny’s with me.

Tuesday morning, before any roosters awoke, when it was still dark and very cold, Ben and I (and two million of our fellow Americans) got a free Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s. When we walked into the Lenexa Denny’s, every seat was taken and there were approximately 40 people waiting to be seated. It was crowded. People were standing all over the place. I wasn’t sure where the hostess was to put my name on the “to-be-seated” list. I wasn’t sure how long the wait would be. I was worried they’d run out of eggs before we ordered. I was worried that I would have grandchildren before we ordered. The waitresses were having difficulty getting through the crowd to deliver the free breakfast orders to the other patrons. It was a little crazy in Denny’s.

If this day would have been a normal day (well if it would have been a normal morning—Ben and I would not have been there. I would have already had my breakfast of champions—a cup of Mickey D’s coffee—and Ben would still be asleep)—still, if this would have been a regular day and had I walked into a crowded restaurant at 6:20 in the morning, with forty people ahead of me—I would have been out of that restaurant quicker than you could say, “Where’s IHOP?”

But of course, this was not a normal day. Denny’s food was free. So I gladly stood in the foyer of the restaurant with my forty free food-loving friends. And once we were finally seated, I didn’t mind that the waitress was a little over worked and a little slow in filling my coffee cup. (Actually, I am amazed at how quickly I was served and how friendly the staff and everyone were on that morning. Believe me, I have been in other restaurants far less crowded and far less crazy, with a much more cantankerous staff and much slower service). With the promise of free food, the waiting and the crowd didn’t seem to matter much.

It was a good morning. We ate good free food; had fun conversation; and, Ben still made it to school on time. (And we saw of couple of other free pancake-loving Centralites, too!)

On the way back to the church after dropping Ben at school, I started thinking about the whole experience and wondered what I could learn from Denny’s that morning. I was reminded that:

1) People love a bargain. If it’s free… they will come. Hmm… isn’t God’s grace free? Isn’t the offer of forgiveness and acceptance free? Maybe we aren’t communicating what we need to communicate to the world—if we did a better job of letting people know of God’s free gift of salvation maybe folks would be lining up at our doors too. We need to get the word out! God’s gift is free. It’s a better bargain than free eggs and pancakes.
2) Free is no respecter of person. There were old folks and college kids. Well dressed businessman types and people who looked liked they just rolled out of bed. There were families and single people. There were black people and white people. Most of the people spoke English, but some did not. As I looked around, I thought: This is what the church should look like. All ages. All races. All together.
3) People were happy. Usually waiting in lines makes people cranky and not finding an up close parking spot makes people crabby too. But I didn’t see anyone cranky or crabby. The promise of free bacon makes people forget about those minor irritants and focus on the yummy stuff that is to come. I wish we in the church wouldn’t worry about the minor irritants and instead focused on the good that is yet to come. And,
4) When I finished my free meal and I was ready to leave, I left more than my usual tip. I assume most people did too (OK maybe the poor college kids in the booth behind me didn’t… but they were poor college kids after all). The service was good, the food was free, everyone was happy—so I wanted to share the joy of my free breakfast by leaving more tip for the waitress than I normally would have. Likewise, in the church when we experience the free gift of joy and peace from Jesus, we need to be generous and share so that others may know that deep down in your soul happiness too.

I don’t know if Denny’s is going to have a giveaway day again anytime soon. I know they got a lot of free publicity and general goodwill from their action. (I’m kind of hoping that Jack’s Stack Barbeque or better yet, Outback Steakhouse sees the light. I’d gladly eat a free juicy steak and bloomin’ onion.)—but I know this-- we can learn a thing or two from good business practices. We need to get the word out that Jesus’ love is free, and we need to get the word out that His love is open to anyone, anywhere. And for those of us who have already experienced the free gift of joy and peace, we should be happy and generous in all we do!