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IMG_5801Businesses that do the best are the ones who give their customers a little extra.  It is a selling point to do something more for those who make your business happen.  This is not an old cliché, it is a pragmatic priority.

Our anniversary comes around every year.  We save to make sure that we can enjoy a wonderful meal at a classy restaurant.  Enjoying God’s blessings over so many years is a testimony to His faithfulness and goodness.

I called one of those special places for our 38th wedding anniversary. The receptionist was very pleasant.  She asked, “Is this for a special occasion?”

Without thinking, I just reacted, “Yes, we are celebrating our 38th wedding anniversary.”
“Wonderful!” she exclaimed, “Congratulations and I will make a note of that.”

We parked and waited for a small break in our standard Houston inclement weather downpour.  When a lull came, we scampered from our vehicle and trotted together under one umbrella holding on to each other while we laughed and hopped over water puddles.  Under the cover of the building eave we shook off the beaded up rain water and casually walked to the striking front entrance of the restaurant.

When I announced to the receptionist that we were there for our reservation, she checked her ledger and smiled, “Please follow me.”  The restaurant was elegant and the atmosphere was welcoming.  Every one of the staff that we passed along the way looked up and smiled with a word of welcome.

The receptionist seated us.  A standard setting at the table was appropriate.  Then, we both noticed the added feature on our table.

Scattered on our table-cloth were confetti.  Mylar figures depicting an anniversary celebration made our setting a wonderful surprise.  We both laughed, smiled and played with the pieces of different shapes, colors and enjoyed the extra sparkle from the lights and candles.

It was a simple extra.  But, it was a surprise.  They did not have to do that but we sure enjoyed it.IMG_5810

Admittedly, this dinner at Ruth’s Chris was delicious.  The chefs at this restaurant are extraordinary.  Every bite is flavorful and makes you rehearse in your soul the meaning of savor.

At the end of the meal our very friendly waiter never asked us if we would like to order dessert.  Instead, he brought out a flaming complementary dish of sweets for us to share.  It is the little extras that make a huge difference, don’t you agree?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

11178203_10152408615652614_555981716271583104_nWe are an extension campus.  Our Dallas campus is the headquarters of this amazing ministry.  Yet, our Houston operation is growing by leaps and bounds.

We have 34 graduates this year.  They are mostly local to the great city of Houston and its surrounding region.  Most of their friends and family will have a tough time making the journey to Dallas to celebrate their commencement achievements.

To give local family and friends the chance to be a part of this substantial celebration, our extension campus has a Graduation Chapel one week prior to the central festivities up north.  We honor each graduate with a brief description of what their plans and destination is after they receive their sheep skin.  We fill the chapel service with great worship, intimate prayer, laughter, memories and special recognition of those who stood out with academic and service demonstrations.

I scanned the crowd many times during this chapel service.  The smiles were a mile wide and the tears were free-flowing.  Trying to imagine all of the answered prayers for the many years represented by these graduates is mind-blowing.

Photographs with special people were endless.  The four sheet cakes disappeared as the party spread into the foyer.  Guests drank sweet punch, returned endless times for refreshing chilled water and stopped many times along their course of walking to congratulate and exchange hugs with fellow classmates.

Previous graduates returned to cheer on their friends.  Current students marveled and told me that they had something even more to anticipate.  Relatives were overcome with the joy of reaching this end.

Children were laughing with their parents.  One mom told me that she was rehearsing her Hebrew vocabulary flash cards while in labor for the little one that she hugged next to her leg.  Life and success cannot get much more precious than this.

photo 4Gratitude is over the top on this event.  Conversations about calling, dreams about the ministry to come and deep gratitude of God’s faithfulness were common in the crowd.  With pride I watched out once students now shine as Masters of Theology, Masters of Arts and Over-comers in all sorts of adversities.

Faithful too are the staff and faculty that I am privileged to call “Team Houston”.  They are selfless, persevering and godly men and women who live to serve others.  Here on a Saturday, they are going above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that these graduates always remember this day.

photo credit: brucefong photography