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For 2011: Big Hairy Audacious Goals…or “whatever”?

Somewhere, between Big-Hairy-Audacious-Goal (BHAG) resolutions and a postmodern shrug, “whatever,” lies a profoundly Christ-like approach to a New Year. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I take great inspiration from two Christ-followers, Mary the Mother of Jesus and Phil Vischer, Creator of VeggiTales. Mary was told she would become the mother of the Messiah and her heart song response, The Magnificat of Luke 1: 46-56, gives us a glimpse of her Queen Mother dreams. Phil Vischer didn’t see an angel, but when challenged by Good to Great author Jim Collins to come up with a BHAG, it occurred to him that the media was stealing the imaginations (and the hearts) of the next generation and what the world, and surely God, needed was a Christian Walt Disney. So he named his company BIG IDEA and the rest is VegggieTale history. And while most people know the rest of Mary’s story, most people don’t know the rest of the VeggieTales story. It went bankrupt.

Somewhere, between Big-Hairy-Audacious-Goal (BHAG) resolutions and a postmodern shrug, “whatever,” lies a profoundly Christ-like approach to a New Year. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I take great inspiration from two Christ-followers, Mary the Mother of Jesus and Phil Vischer, Creator of VeggiTales. Mary was told she would become the mother of the Messiah and her heart song response, The Magnificat of Luke 1: 46-56, gives us a glimpse of her Queen Mother dreams. Phil Vischer didn’t see an angel, but when challenged by Good to Great author Jim Collins to come up with a BHAG, it occurred to him that the media was stealing the imaginations (and the hearts) of the next generation and what the world, and surely God, needed was a Christian Walt Disney. So he named his company BIG IDEA and the rest is VegggieTale history. And while most people know the rest of Mary’s story, most people don’t know the rest of the VeggieTales story. It went bankrupt.

So convinced was Vischer that his resolution was God’s will that he kept hiring and spending, ignoring warnings from his accountant, until, when BIG IDEA was slapped with a frivolous lawsuit, he didn’t have the cash reserves to deal with it. Upon appeal the lawsuit was thrown out, but not before it threw the company into bankruptcy. Most people don’t know that when Vischer speaks as Larry the Cucumber he now works as a consultant for the company he founded. And lost.

But a lawsuit did not quiet the volcano of creative talent continually erupting in Vischer’s head. He founded a new company and called it Jellyfish Labs. Why Jellyfish? Jellyfish have no BHAGs. They have are capable of a little personal propulsion, but mostly they are carried along the mighty river of ocean currents from shore to sea and back again.

What we see in Mary’s and Phil Vischer’s lives are two people whose resolutions were shattered and whose dreams were crushed. Two people who took God at his word but let the cultural expectation of what that meant shape their own understanding of what God was up to. God was, in fact, up to so much more than ridding Jerusalem of the Romans or building a Christian Walt Disney. In his fiercely redemptive way God was saving Mary and Phil and millions of others across the ages. Making them into little Christs whom he can set free to rule in his Universe and who will quite naturally want and do what he wants done. For his glory. For our joy. He was giving Mary and Phil something to ponder and pray over. Both learned in the process that our dreams are not always God’s dreams.

And they require that we not simply take God at his word in the way that we tend to envision it. But that we draw so close to him in dependence and prayer that we, like jellyfish, can be carried into a BHAG or a “whatever” open door. Prayer and belief, belief and prayer are at the heart of the action, the heart of the joy we seek. And yet, as Jamie Lath wrote here yesterday in her beautiful New Year’s prayer, the new year “slides into being with a few cheers and some tears, and not nearly enough prayer.”

John Piper has said, “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time." Perhaps a lack of resolve.

My hearts desire in 2011 is to believe God, really BELIEVE God. To take him at his word and say with Mary, “Here I am. Be it done to me according to the mighty ocean current of your will. And may I stay close enough to You in prayer that I get an inkling of what that really means.”

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Lael writes and speaks about faith and culture and how God renews our vision and desire for Him and his Kingdom. She earned a master's degree (MAT) in the history of ideas from the University of Texas at Dallas, and has taught Western culture and apologetics at secular and Christian schools and colleges. Her long-term experience with rheumatoid arthritis and being a pastor’s wife has deepened her desire to minister to the whole person—mind, heart, soul and spirit. Lael has co-hosted a talk radio program, The Things That Matter Most, on secular stations in Houston and Dallas about what we believe and why we believe it with guests as diverse as Dr. Deepak Chopra, atheist Sam Harris and VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer. (Programs are archived on the website.) Lael has authored four books, including a March 2011 soft paper edition of A Faith and Culture Devotional (now titled Faith and Culture: A Guide to a Culture Shaped by Faith), Godsight, and Worldproofing Your Kids. Lael’s writing has also been featured in Focus on the Family and World magazines, and she has appeared on many national radio and television programs. Lael and her husband, Jack, now make their home in South Carolina.