A Very Big Idea

      Comments Off on A Very Big Idea

Back in the 1980s, Phil Vischer had a big idea.
The puppeteer and amateur filmmaker dreamed of developing a creative way of teaching kids how to discern right from wrong.  Along the way, he would introduce them to Bible basics.
His big idea led to Big Idea Productions, which led to VeggieTales – the ongoing adventures of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber and their gang of friends from the produce aisle at the grocery.   Phil and his partner Mike Nawrocki had found it difficult to animate human likenesses.  So they opted to create a cast of characters that would normally seem unappetizing to young diners, but who quickly won the hearts of their target audience of young kids.    
The VeggieTales team produced video shorts that featured Petunia Rhubarb, Madame Blueberry, Archibald Asparagus, Pa Grape, Frankencelery, and those cheeky French Peas, led by Jean-Claude and Philippe.  Vischer himself voiced many of the characters. 
Then an unfortunate thing happened:  VeggieTales became a national hit.
Sales went through the roof.  As Vischer describes in his autobiography, Me, Myself and Bob, he hired hundreds of talented people.  Well-meaning associates came alongside him and said, “Phil, God can use you to give birth to a creative Christian empire that will rival Disney.”
By the year 2002, however, Big Idea was over-extended and deep in debt.  VeggieTales vanished into the artistic abyss when another company bought the rights to Larry and Bob and all their friends.  A wonderful small idea was extinguished because a lot of people tried to super-size it.
Fans of the Veggies held their collective breath in 2019 when it seemed that Phil and Mike were on the verge of reclaiming the creative rights to their characters.  But so far the right circumstances haven’t come together in the right way. 
A few years ago I listened as Vischer described — with humility and humor and great wisdom — what he thought God had taught him through it all.
He found himself reflecting on the opening words of Psalm 42:  “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for that awesome ministry I can’t wait to establish.” 
No, that’s not actually what the psalm says. 
“So my soul pants for the great things I’m going to do to change the world.”
That’s not it, either.
“So my soul pants for you, O God.”
What is our call?  It’s not to go out and attempt great things in our own strength. 
Our call is to fall deeply in love with God and then serve others out of the fullness of that relationship.
And as Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber would be the first to tell us, the only thing God needs to start that process is a willing heart.