Tonight, during our Thursday evening Bible study, I was speaking with Roger, a dear friend who had back surgery several weeks ago – a man who has walked beside me for years in our career transition ministry; and, arguably, has heard more of my stories than any other person – perhaps including Janet. Roger and Rich, our other ministry partner, have sat patiently through untold numbers of meetings, hearing me tell the same stories time after time; and they have never grown weary of indulging my passion for making a point through the telling of a real life experience.
It occurred to me that Roger, and Rich, have probably heard most of the stories I have written about since I started this blog; and honestly, I have walked with them so long that I can’t remember all the stories I have told them. So, tonight, I decided to go way back, and try to come up with a story that Roger and Rich haven’t heard. And I had to go really far back – so here goes, a new story dedicated to Roger and Rich – the best ministry partners a guy could hope for.
This particular story goes back to my early childhood on the far south side of Chicago in the neighborhood of Beverly Hills. No, not California – Illinois. I grew up on Claremont Avenue, behind Van Laten’s Farm Stand, where my mom and dad would go to get fresh produce; and our Christmas trees each year. We lived in the second home north of 101st Street, and most of my childhood stories come from recollections of my time at that house. To our south, Mr. and Mrs. Keith lived with a boarder, Doug, who committed suicide in their home one day. But no, that’s not the story for today.
Next door, on the other side, to our north, Mr. Vic West, and his his wife lived in a two story home. I really liked Mr. West, and I remember getting in trouble with my parents because he insisted I call him “Vic.” Mom thought that was disrespectful and if Vic hadn’t come to my aid, I would have been in big trouble. But, no, that’s not tonight’s story either.
The real story is about Mr. and Mrs. Keller, the elderly couple who lived next door to the Wests, two doors down from us. I was too young to realize it, but Mr. Keller was a senior level executive for a railcar manufacturing company somewhere in northern Indiana. Every year he got a new Cadillac – and they were always green sedans. That way, people he worked with would never realize how often he got a new car. But every so often, my brother Doug and I would notice something different and Mr. Keller would proudly show us his new car. His first name was Harry, but we would never have thought to call him that. After all, he wasn’t as approachable as Vic. Mr. Keller’s wife was Gladys, a heavy set wonderful lady, and they had a miniature French Poodle, Tammy. Doug and I loved that dog, and every night when we saw Mr. Keller drive past our house, we would run down the front stairs, where we had been sitting, and head over to welcome Mr. Keller home.
I don’t know how the Kellers stood it. Every night, we would run over. I don’t remember a night when we didn’t sit on the front steps and wait for that green Cadillac to drive past. But it wasn’t to see them – or even Tammy – it was to have a piece of Mr. Tweed’s wonderful chocolate fudge. So who was Mr. Tweed? A good friend of the Keller’s – who specialized in making candy. He was a portly man who was always jovial – and he would make batches of fudge that he brought over in old tins – the kind you still see people use to store Christmas cookies and snacks today. To this day, I don’t know what his real job was, but he was a great candy maker! That fudge was the best treat I ever had.
Anyway, Doug and I were addicted. Perhaps once a year, we would actually get a tin to take home to Mom and Dad. But most of the time, we waited on the front stairs, so we could get a piece of fudge from Mrs. Keller as we walked in with her husband. Sometimes we could actually have two pieces, and I remember the fudge was cut in almost perfect little squares, so there was no way that Doug and I could hoard anything or fight over who got the bigger piece. Mr. Tweed was a perfectionist – even down to the uniform size of the pieces of fudge. And boy, was it good!
In fact, many times Doug and I got into trouble for being late for dinner – because we were at the Keller’s eating fudge. As I look back on it, it was worth it to get into trouble, as long as I could have that treat before dinner each night. In fact, I think I would have endured any punishment at home as long as I could spend a little time at the Keller’s. And tonight, it occurred to me that even though I was a child when this occurred, there are distractions in my life even today that could potentially cause me to take my eye off the things that are important – God. And I deal with people who succumb to these distractions every day. And these distractions are dangerous – because just like the fudge, we focus on something that is temporary, and is a poor substitution for the real thing – a life with Christ.
Now don’t get me wrong – I know I was a kid, but the point here is that as adults, we must focus on those things that have eternal consequences. There comes a time in each of our lives when we hopefully realize that fudge isn’t necessarily good for us – at least in those quantities. The verse for tonight is from Col. 3:2, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” My encouragement is that we will all focus on the things that are real – a life of service to Christ. And my prayer is that God will provide that gentle nudge (no, not fudge) that continues to challenge you to seek His will for your life. I furthermore pray that I haven’t told Roger and Rich this story 😉 ……