One of the things that we love to do around our house every so often is have what we call “Chicago Dog Night.” Janet and I, with Kristin and her family, always look forward to cooking hot dogs, Chicago style, and then using all the traditional fixins’ any Chicago native grew up with – mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, poppy seed buns and hot dogs with casings that kind of “pop” when you bite into them. And then, there are the sport peppers – a small special dark green pepper that always landed in the middle of a genuine Chicago dog.
Several weeks ago, we decided to have our first Chicago Dog Night of the season and I had a terrible time finding the traditional sport peppers we always use. Apparently, there isn’t much of a demand for this condiment and we must have tried more than 6 different grocery stores before we finally gave up – nowhere to be found. Finally, I got the idea that we could go to a place that sells Chicago style dogs and that maybe, just maybe, I could buy the sport peppers we so desperately wanted. As luck would have it, the people at the shop felt sorry for me and I ended up buying enough for the evening.
But that didn’t solve our problem long term – we can no longer purchase these special peppers locally. So off to the internet to see what we could purchase online. I ended up at the site of the the original Vienna Beef Hot Dog Company. In the old days, whenever you went to the famous hot dog stands, there was a sign somewhere announcing that they served Vienna Beef products – it was kind of like a stamp of excellence.
Well, as I was scoping out the bottles of sport peppers for sale – yes, they sell the real thing – I ran across another Chicago staple – neon green pickle relish. Of course, there is sweet relish, but Chicago hot dogs always had that special bright green relish – with celery salt sprinkled over the top of everything. I couldn’t resist – I ordered a box of original Vienna Beef ingredients – sport peppers and green relish – and they were delivered on Tuesday.
Opening that box was really something special. My mind was immediately transported back to those days back on the south side when Dad took us to Red’s or Snyder’s to get dinner. It was almost like I could re-live the moments – the sights, sounds and smells of some of Chicago’s famous venues. And, that neon green relish! We have never had that before on Chicago Dog Night. All in all, I can’t wait for our next special dinner together.
You know me well enough by now that you must realize there is some theological connection for the evening. And that is that there is nothing like the original – in this case, God. No imitation, no substitute, no pretender is as good as the original. Our verse for the evening highlights the authentic Lord – the One who created everything – the God of Genesis and Revelation. We are told, by the prophet Isaiah in Is. 46:9, “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.”
My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to recognize that He is the original – not some imitation. And the imitation is never as good as the original, anyway. My prayer is that you will take some additional time to invest in a relationship with the original. Because no matter how well you know God, there is always room for a closer relationship. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…