Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cracker Barrel: more than chicken n' dumplings

Cracker Barrel is for their chicken n' dumplings. According to their data, Cracker Barrel serves a whopping 11 million plates of chicken n' dumplings every year. Talk about a lot of dough!
As a child I helped to contribute to those 11 million orders of the Cracker Barrel classic. Chicken n' dumplings were my go-to dinner on Cracker Barrel outings. I didn't even need to look at the menu. For sides I kept it traditional with corn (off the cob) and mashed potatoes (with a generous helping of gravy). I never passed up a flaky biscuit (or two) smothered with strawberry jelly. The indulgent (and heavy) meal was one of my favorites. Being a northerner, it was my closest taste bud encounter with southern comfort food and I savored every bite.
But I loved Cracker Barrel for more than the chicken and dumplings. In fact, the food played a secondary role in the chain restaurants appeal. What I loved most about Cracker Barrel was the wait.
If you've ever been to a Cracker Barrel you've probably experienced a wait to be seated. Aside from their chicken and dumplings, Cracker Barrel is famous for their easy access to the interstate. Pair location with a menu full of carb-heavy classics and you have the perfect restaurant stop for tour bus travelers. Nearly every Cracker Barrel I've ever visited has a massive coach bus in the parking lot and a waiting list at least ten rows deep. At most restaurants this would be a deterrent, or at least an annoyance, but not at Cracker Barrel. At good old CB patrons look forward to the wait because while they wait, they get to shop in the restaurants general store.
For waiting children there are classic wooden toys, candies in big glass jars and old fashioned wind up toys. Ladies in wait for a table love to peruse the candles, scarves and home decor accessories. Men busy themselves with books and grilling tools of the BBQing trade. Even the shopping adverse don't mind the wait as long as they can snag a rocking chair on the restaurant's front porch.
Cracker Barrel has perfected the art of the wait by transforming it from a nuisance into an experience. The delay in seating is a destination for shoppers, front-porch rockers and sugar-addicted children. The treasures and treats found in the Old Country Store are so enticing that diners don't bat an eyelash upon hearing, "The current wait time is thirty minutes." The soon-to-be-diners are too busy being current shoppers.
I'm sure Cracker Barrel would like to take credit for the genius of their restaurant's old country store design but the "enjoy the wait" principle dates back to an era long before the restaurant ever opened its doors. Before 1969 the principle of enjoying a wait showed up in print, in the very word's of scripture.
The Bible established the best way to wait: joyfully. Wait with thankfulness and expectation that what is to come is even better than a heaping plate of chicken n' dumplings. In scripture God has an abundance of stories displaying the treasures to be had while waiting. Blessings for Abraham. Strength for Moses, Joseph and Job as they waited.
Since the very beginning of time, God has used periods of waiting to bless, enrich and empower.
While we wait God has for us gifts and blessings better than anything that can purchased in an old country store. While we wait God offers us rest that is more comforting and refreshing than the best of rocking chairs complete with a cold glass of Sweet Tea. God uses the periods of waiting in our lives to shower us with endurance and spend intimate moments with us. He chats with us without the distraction of rolls and jelly to steal away our attention. He nourishes us with the health and vitality of His word that sticks with us longer than a plate rich in southern comfort food.
But there's a catch. To have this special time with God requires that we be told we'll have to wait. If we get seated right away we miss all all of the pleasures that are in God's old country store. We won't have the time to wander and explore the isles God has so perfectly put on display along our journey. We'll miss out on the beautiful treasures God has in store. Without the wait, we end up walk right past beauty and splendor because all we can imagine is the main course.We miss all of the goodies and treats that we could have had if only we were made to wait.
God longs for you and I to cast away our cares of the seating list and cherish the time spent in His presence while we wait for the main course. Our table will be called. Our plates will arrive int heir time because God has promised us full, bright, nourishing futures and He will not disappoint. But before we make it to that table God has designed a wait worth savoring. 
So next time you're looking for a dinner destination why not try out your local Cracker Barrel. Fill up on some biscuits and order one of those 11 million plates of chicken n' dumplings.
But first, browse the store and enjoy the wait. 

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