Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Me, Myself, and Bob

Anyone who was involved in American ministry in the 1990s is familiar with that all-important children's video series, Veggie Tales.  Doesn't matter if you didn't do children's ministry.  EVERYONE knew about VeggieTales, and most people - myself included - LOVED them.  Bob and Larry were a refreshing change from most children's video series.  Instead of goofy or campy names and songs and so-sweet storylines that adults were left gagging, Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber brought humor, Monty Python references, French Peas, and songs about water buffaloes.  While kids were learning that God made them special and loved them very much, adults were rolling and asking their kids of they could watch it again.  My own mother sat in a Christian bookstore and watched an entire episode without any of her children around, she was so caught up in the hilarity.  The creators, Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki, were legends of the Christian publishing world.  Their website proclaimed their goal of being in the top 5 children's production companies in the country.  Yay for Big Idea!  Yay for Veggie Tales!  Go God!

Funny how we have one perception of reality when the truth of what's going on is so very different.

A few years ago, I found a book called Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Vischer, telling his story of the rapid rise - and then, unknown to me, destruction - of Big Idea studios.  While I had noticed that VeggieTales had undergone some changes in recent years, I had no idea of the behind-the-scenes story.  Phil's story - testimony, really - filled my heart with both joy and pain and gave me a whole new perspective on what it means to follow your dreams.

Me, Myself, and Bob is Phil's story of a man with a dream to be the next big thing in Christian media.  His goal was literally to become the next Walt Disney.  Phil had a passion for storytelling, a passion for teaching kids about the Bible, and a passion for humor.  These all came together in the phenomenon of VeggieTales, which worked wonderfully for a time.  However, as time wore on, Phil failed to do something key: keep his dreams before the Lord and have Him guide the way.  As a result, the vision of Big Idea became blurred, people were hired that did not have the same passions as Phil, and things came apart at the seams.   The result was the implosion of a company, the laying off of hundreds of employees, and the death of a dream - a dream that turned out to be killing Phil, his friendships, his family, and his company, because he kept trying to do it all on his own and cling to closely to what he thought was supposed to happen.  It was only when it all came crashing down that he began to learn what God was really telling him all along and how to pursue his dreams in the way God intended.

It's good to have dreams.  It's good to have ambitions.  God places desires in our hearts and He wants us to pursue them with passion - but success comes when we pursue them with HIS passion and direction, not our own.  That's the story of Phil and his band of veggies.  Phil doesn't even have rights to his own characters anymore.  Legal and financial issues tore them away.  But in the tearing down came the building up of his own faith and the ability to let God take over.

Phil now writes and produces what I believe is the best children's series of all time, What's in the Bible?  This series is a 13 DVD journey that literally takes kids through the entire Bible and simply tells them what's in it.  No interpretations, not really a lot of commentary, and no translating stories into "softer" versions for kids.  This series has given Phil the ability to pursue the real dreams that God has placed in him and do things that VeggieTales never could let him do.  The series is wonderful, and I highly recommend it for adults as well as children.  But it is all the more wonderful for having read Me, Myself, and Bob and having a greater understanding for what God has done in Phil Vischer's life.

Me, Myself and Bob is a great story of letting go and letting God.  It is hilarious and heart wrenching and teaches some all-important life lessons.  If you are pursuing your dreams - or even if you're not there yet - I highly recommend it for your summer reading list.

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