Veggie Tales – Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato
How has your week been? I have been reading lately, when I’ve been able to have a few spare moments before bedtime, and one great book that I just finished is Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Vischer, founder of Big Idea Productions (the man who started Veggie Tales). My sweet friend Kimberly Ehlers told me about the book, and as I finally read the last 3 chapters, tears poured down my face. As I shared with a few family members and friends this week, this book has just demolished me.
In Me, Myself, and Bob, Phil shares the story of the big dream that began in his heart when he was just a young man, to become the “Christian” Walt Disney, to build a new media empire for God – teaching children funny, touching stories using the talking, colorful vegetables (Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber and other characters) and using the truth of God’s word…unapologetically including God and His word. Phil wanted to change the world with his big idea.
As Big Idea Productions grew bigger, so did its budget – and its enormous debt. Veggie Tales sold more than six million Veggie Tales videos in 1998. Between 1996 and 1998, its revenue grew by 3, 300 percent – from $1.3 million to $44 million. Between 1996 to 1998, their marketing department grew from 1 person to 30 people. Big Ideas had grown from an original staff of two creative, enthused college guys to 315 people.
Yet by the time Big Ideas produced its first feature film, Jonah-A Veggie Tales movie, Big Ideas was in serious financial trouble. The company eventually went bankrupt and was auctioned to Classic Media, at $19.6 million in 2003.
Phil wrote on pages 227-228:
“…I entered adulthood (1) absolutely committed to spending my life to doing things for Christ, and (2) determined not to be a “parked car.” I had to get going. I had to get busy. But busy with what?…Eventually, I found a place where my storytelling gifts seemed to line up with a need that was tugging at my heart – a need to express God’s word through popular media. And that would be my work for Christ.”
“That issue resolved, I got busy. I built, and built, and built. Even when I wasn’t building, I was thinking about building, dreaming up the things I would build next. And in the midst of it all, God showed up, blessing my efforts. Great! I thought. Look at all the good I’m doing! But I was just getting started…And so, I got busier. …”
“…And then, in the midst of my great goodness, everything started to go wrong…Good thing I was the good guy, I thought, because the good guy never falls off the cliff. Except that I did. My dream and I fell all the way to bankruptcy court, where a gaggle of lawyers picked through the wreckage, packed up all the good parts, and mailed them to Franklin, Tennessee, leaving me alone, with nothing. Nothing but my old Big Idea office chair, my thoughts, and the God who had watched me bounce down the stairs without raising a finger.”
Nothing left but him and God. Ultimately it’s where we all end up. 🙂
Phil also quotes an old family friend, pastor Richard Porter: “If God gives you a dream, and the dream comes to life and God shows up in it, and then the dream dies, it may be that God wants to see what is more important to you – the dream or God.”
What matters more to you – God or your big dream?
Phil also shared from Henry Blackaby, author of the devotional study Experiencing God, who wrote a book studying the life of Samuel.
“If you start something and it does not seem to go well, consider carefully that God, on purpose, may not be authenticating what you told the people because it did not come from Him, but from your own head.” (p. 239)
This is where I couldn’t stop crying. The thought that I may have been doing many things over the last year (such as writing, speaking, blogging, podcasting, creating information products, writing a bi-monthly ezine, forming relationships through social media), the possibility that these things may not have come from God, but came from myself, was devastating. Only God knows if this is true and that is what I am praying about this week, for clarity and wisdom.
I don’t want to do anything that God doesn’t authenticate or authorize. I don’t want to be like Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu, offering unauthorized fire (Leviticus 10: 1), or to be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand, instead of the Rock of Christ, and when the rain, wind, and floods came, it collapsed and was destroyed. (Matthew 7: 24-29) Anything apart from Jesus will not bear fruit and won’t last.
As a result of this book, I have taken some time this week to pray and seek God on His will, His purposes, His vision for my life. I am still thinking things through, asking for Him to speak to me clearly. My dear sister Maria said God may have used this book as a warning to me about future success – to not let my dreams become an idol.
Yes, there are dreams in my heart, big, big dreams! I don’t want to live a medicore, boring life and want to do great things for God! I believe God is the one who put those dreams there in my heart, because He’s a big God and has big plans for His glory. 🙂 The Bible says nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37) God is the Dream-Giver and the Dream-Fulfiller.
But I never want my dreams to mean more to me than God does. I only want to please Him and do His will, not my own. (Luke 22: 42) While I desire to do great things for God in this lifetime and to make an eternal, significant mark on the timeline of history, influencing and impacting others’ lives, most of all what I want is an intimate relationship with God. For every part of my life to glorify Jesus Christ.
As Phil writes on page 251, “The impact God has planned for us doesn’t occur when we’re pursuing impact. It occurs when we’re pursuing God.”
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” (Psalm 42: 1)
I encourage you today, pursue God, not the dream. Because He alone satisfies. And when we pursue God, then He will make sure the dreams that HE has for us come true. Even beyond our wildest expectations! (1 Corinthians 2: 9)
***What are your thoughts on all this? I invite you to comment below.
Powerful article and beautifully written, Beth! Thank you for sharing your insight. I know that I will re-read and re-read certain sections of this book, and I’ll re-read this article over and over because you really nailed the truth.
Thanks, Kimberly, as always for your encouragement! You’re such a blessing!
Wow. What a great reminder to make sure that God is what we pursue, and that our dream is what God wants us to do.
Thanks for that encouragement, Susan. The book penetrates straight to the heart! I believe with all my heart that God has great plans for our lives and that it is often so much bigger than we can even imagine, if we will just yield to and obey Him. I think far too many people struggle with the opposite problem – not knowing and understanding their identity in Christ and getting how powerfully God wants to use them….But we need to make sure they are HIS plans…not ours. 😀