February 12, 2007
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      Okay, I'm as loyal a Starbucks customer as they can find. I actually have a stack of $5 Starbucks cards that I carry with me to use as "over the top" gratuities for folks who break their pick to help me out in my travels (doesn't happen much, so - when it does - you need to applaud it with something tangible!).
      It was over-the-top, however, when the e-mail landed in my digital box this week. No kiddin'; here's their suggestion: "Give someone you like something they'll love. It's something everyone loves to get - a Starbucks card. This special Valentine's Day Card is an especially nice surprise for someone you're thinking of. Buy one now..."
      Let me get this straight: give a coworker a Starbucks Valentine's Card... and there's a harassment action on the 15th. Give your main squeeze a Starbucks Valentine's Card... and you can forget the squeeze, for at least the 30 days while you're in the penalty box. Most sweethearts aren't angling for caffeine as the romance-stimulant that's top-of-the-list on the Day of Destiny that happens on February 14th...
      Last year, I gave Cheri a cross necklace. Swarovski is a crystal merchant... who makes "lovely" jewelry out of glass. Most of the year, a Swarovski piece would be a nice token; you can come-and-go from their shops with a gift that's on-par, price-wise, with a nice dinner out. Flowers and candy... or Swarovski?
      But, she commented once that she really liked their cross. What to do? My brainstorm was brilliant. We have a friend who is a jeweler; I brought him into my conspiracy. I managed to secure a Swarovski catalog from one of their retail sites, found the cross necklace, took it to my friend... and asked him to help me out. He pulled it off: if you didn't know better, you'd swear those were Swarovski crystals on that cross. Only a pro could put on the eyepiece and tell you that they are... diamonds. Only an idiot takes a $100 glass piece and commissions a "perfect replica" ... with the real deal. Next time you see her wearing it, do me a favor: tell her how attractive her necklace is. I'm not a great shopper...
      Not all duplicates are less than the original, it seems. If you don't look closely, you may mistake the one-of-a-kind high-value unit for the lower-value standard model...
      That happens for a friend of mine. He decided to infiltrate Planet Earth, disguised as an Earthling. If you ran into him in a crowd, you would have probably walked by him without thinking anything exceptional. "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him..." (Isaiah 53:2) is the way he wanted it. If you were going to take notice of the carpenter from Nazareth, it wouldn't be his commanding appearance that would grab you...
      His message was compelling; in fact, the over-religioned Jews of AD 30 said that he was a better communicator than the pros. Alongside his constant comments about "the Kingdom of Heaven" - illustrated with real-life stories that people could grasp, he was frequently performing amazing feats that benefited people in need around him. Crippled people were restored to mobility; hungry people were fed; possessed people were released from oppression; he was completely unpredictable...
      But his most memorable moments happened over a weekend. Friday was a date with a cross; Sunday was an escape from a tomb. That Cross has become a punctuation mark in history. This week, the Red Cross removed it from their logo, because it is "too divisive." This week, Cheri will wear a cross around her neck, because it means something to her. Sure, it was a Valentine's gift... but it reminds her of Easter, mostly. Gifts are great. If you have a most-loved person in your life, Wednesday is D-Day for you. My counsel: avoid Starbucks. Try Swarovski!
      Here's a reminder, though: God gave you the ultimate Valentine's Day gift, about 2000 years ago, on Passover weekend. It wasn't a cross, but it happened on a Cross. Accept it; cherish it; offer it to your friends. It's one-size-fits-all. It's not glass; it's not even diamonds; its value can't be computed. With it, you're rich; without it, you're destitute...

Bob Shank


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