I am writing these words about 2 PM on Tuesday afternoon. That means it is 3 AM Wednesday in Beijing, China, which means that Mark is in the air, on the first leg of his long trip home. He and his teammates fly to Los Angeles where they will say goodbye after spending a year teaching English in China. At some point tomorrow Mark flies from Los Angeles to Charlotte, NC, and from there he flies on to Birmingham, AL, where we will meet him about 9 AM Thursday.

That's part of the big news. Now if you had a son coming home after being gone for a year, you would take him to some nice restaurant, right? And there are lots of nice restaurants in Birmingham. Mark told us via email last week that when he gets home, he wants to go to the . . . Waffle House.

That's right. Our beloved son wants to have his celebratory meal at the Waffle House. You know, those ubiquitous restaurants with the bright yellow neon signs, the ones you almost always find near a freeway exit, the ones that are open 24 hours a day, the place you used to go when you were in college and it was 3 AM and you were hungry and there was no place else to eat. So you went there and ordered waffles and drank coffee and pondered the meaning of life. I mean, the Waffle House is famous for drawing an eclectic group of customers. You could stay there for an hour and anyone--literally--might show up.

I haven't been to a Waffle House in maybe 30 years, and I've tried to erase it from my memory. But here's the ironic part. My beloved bride and I were talking two weeks ago, and she told me that she was disappointed in me for something I had neglected to do. A few months ago as we were driving into Tupelo, we passed the Waffle House and she said, "I'd like to eat there sometime?" "Where?" "The Waffle House." "You're kidding, right?" She wasn't kidding. When we discussed it, she reminded me that I had taken her to IHOP, which was a big flop of a meal, but I hadn't taken her to the Waffle House.

Needless to say, she was delighted when she read Mark's email. Mother and son reunited at last at the Waffle House. It's a beautiful thing.

When Nick heard about it, he just shook his head. Actually, he thought we were joking, but we weren't. As soon as Mark arrives on Thursday, we're all heading for the Waffle House.

I can't believe I just wrote that last sentence.

You can reach the author at  ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.