Category Archives: Society

iGod

ipod boyI’ve wondered about so many who seem surgically attached to their electronic devices. I’ve got a theory, and it goes back to how I use my computer and social networking sites. These things are addictive! If you’re feeling lonely, just tweet or text or check your Facebook account. If you’re feeling a little aimless, do the same and see what you can stir up or is getting stirred up by someone else. Instead of relying on our ability to stimulate ourselves, we’re constantly looking to the laptop, cell phone, or handheld device to entertain us or motivate us or at least keep us busy doing something instead of nothing.

But here’s something else I’ve noted. Such extreme dependence on being plugged in, instead of being a great way to build your friendships, is actually a negative. Note the word “extreme” in my previous sentence; there is a healthy way to use this stuff. I am not anti-Facebook or anti-Twitter or anti-cell phone.

I have seen unhealthy dependence in my own life. Because of this I’ve made choices not to look at social media for a time because I was trying to get something from those connections that needed to come from my relationship with God or my face-to-face relationship with other human beings. Or I was using social media as a way to avoid some constructive endeavor, a project that would be healthy for me and fruitful for others.  Even now I got stuck for a minute about what to say next and my mind instantly thought, “Hey, you should check your email.” Nothing wrong with that, but I think use of these communication tools has to be reined in a bit. I don’t have to give in to every impulse to post a new status update or check out what’s happening on Yahoo.

I think about the Apostle Paul’s statement, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27, NIV).

Am I slave to my impulses? Have I got the ability to gut-check each thought and determine if looking at LinkedIn is a good decision right now or do I just need to keep rolling with this blog? I know God has given these things for our enjoyment but I shouldn’t be mastered by them either.

“From now on those who…buy something, [should use it] as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

So, happy Facebooking, Tweeting, posting, chatting, texting and everything else this fall. May these tools be your servants for good rather than masters that distract you from God’s best.

Vischer Gets Visceral

Phil and Bob pictureSo I got to hear Phil Vischer last week in Chicago. Phil created VeggieTales, the smash hit Christian animated series featuring armless, legless talking vegetables. Further proof that with God all things are possible.  

I’d heard rumors of Phil’s story and read a few headlines which indicated things had not gone so well for Bob, Larry and the gang. But it was a whole other matter to have the Visch stand in front of a banquet room full of communication pros and lay out the whole rotten tomato (no offense to Bob). It was one more example of how one man had been brought back to the big question, “What does God want me to do?”

In 1993, Vischer, along with business partner Mike Nawrocki, had produced the first VeggieTales show, Where’s God When I’m S-scared?” Sales were mainly word of mouth at first but word spread quickly. By 2000, their production company, Big Idea Inc., had blossomed from 3 to 200 employees. People were touting Phil as the next Walt – Walt Disney that is. The PBS newsmagazine Religions & Ethics NewsWeekly named Phil one of its “Top 10 People to Watch” on the American spiritual landscape, along with the likes of Bishop T.D. Jakes.

Then the roof caved in. Big Idea’s massive personnel ramp-up occurred at the same time as a gigantic sales slump. Even the VeggieTales’ first full-length motion picture, Jonah, could not right the ship. Big Idea was dragging anchor. Then Vischer and company were hit with a lawsuit from a distributor claiming breach of contract. “God could have saved the company,” Vischer reported. “He could have but he didn’t; the distributor got all they wanted and more.”

Bankruptcy was next. And in one last prayer meeting at Big Idea, attended by only 13 of 65 remaining employees, Vischer sounded the call to battle once more, assuring the baker’s dozen that God could still act. Then one lady, a true prayer warrior, came up to him and delivered the prophetic blow: “This isn’t about God and Big Idea; this is about God and Phil.”

Phil found himself on the outside looking in as another company took over his creation. He made what he viewed as a magnanimous offer to serve as creative director for the new owners. “No thanks, we’ve hired another guy for that job,” was the reply. That was the last straw. But then he was confronted with Jeremiah 29, where the Israelites were commanded by God to pray for the prosperity of Babylon, not wish for its sudden destruction.

Finally he approached the new owners about serving in whatever role that would help – making editorial notes on scripts for instance. In exchange he would get a couple pennies for every dollar earned off his veggie pals. That money has now funded new ventures, such as Vischer’s What’s In the Bible puppetry-based DVD series or his online program, Jelly Telly (www.jellytelly.com).

“Seven years ago my dream died,” Phil related. “But I learned that impact doesn’t occur when you’re pursuing impact but when you’re pursuing God.” I think Bob and Larry would be proud.