Is that what I get?

100 boxes of cookies.

I had to sell 100 boxes of cookies to get the you-sold-100-boxes-of-cookies prize.

There were prizes for lower levels of cookie selling, but I don’t remember them.  I do remember that if I sold 120 or so boxes of cookies I would wind up getting a pair of sunglasses instead of the you-sold-100-boxes of cookies prize.  So I watched my donation inventory very carefully around the 100-boxes mark.  I did not want those sunglasses.

At 7 years old, I thought I had discovered the secret to lifelong happiness: earning the you-sold-100-boxes-of-cookies prize.

I sold cookies to my mother.  I sold cookies to my grandparents. I sold cookies to my aunt.  I even got my father to buy more cookies separately from my mother (really, I think my mom had something to do with that).

I sold cookies to my neighborhood.  Nobody who answered the door said no.  I didn’t even have to use any intimidation techniques.

I sold cookies to my church.  I sold a lotta cookies to my church.

My mom helped find phone numbers of people I could call to ask to please buy cookies (as a 7-year-old, about the only intimidation technique you are actually allowed to use is politeness).  I remember standing in my kitchen with our phone with its corkscrew line and making calls.  (Why did we used to mount phones on the wall so that we would have to stand to use them?  What was the philosophy behind that?  –Of course, you could untangle the curly-q line you spent hours tangling while you were on the phone and drag the phone over to the bar stool.)

A big order for cookies came in from a dear friend of ours, who ordered 2 cases of cookies.  I can’t remember what kind he liked.  But I knew I was going to get the you-sold-100-boxes-of-cookies prize after that order–and I knew I was going to have to slow down the selling or I might end up with an 80’s pair of sunglasses instead (which, even in the 80’s, looked outdated, arguably).

I could not wait to get my you-sold-100-boxes-of-cookies prize.  I was so proud.  I had wanted something, I had obsessed over it, and now, I was getting it.

So, what was the you-sold-100-boxes-of-cookies prize that I wanted so badly?

A stuffed animal.

I loved stuffed animals.  Loved them.  Named them.  Played with them.  Line them up on the top of my bookshelf (well, actually, my mom did that).  Got them all down to make a beautiful blob on the floor (I did that).

But this was not just any stuffed animal.  This was the first stuffed animal that I earned.  I saw its little photo, claimed it, worked really hard to get it, and now it was mine.

I remember the day it arrived in the mail.

That was the day I stopped loving the you-sold-100-boxes-of-cookies prize.

It was a white furry furball.  If you have ever seen the old Bugs Bunny cartoons about the red fuzzy fuzzball, that’s what this was, only, it wasn’t red.  I think it had sunglasses on, and no eyes.  Like, the sunglasses were glued to the fur.

I was not impressed.

I felt duped, but I had only myself to blame.  I was disdainful of my prize.  But even so, I had to set the fuzzball on my bookshelf to save face (and relieve my mom, who was guilty by association and all the phone numbers a 7-year-old couldn’t possibly have found).  After all, my little white ball of faux fur had cost my friends and family some $250 or so.

It had seemed so much more grandiose in the one-millimeter-by-one-millimeter photo (ok, I’m exaggerating, the photo was bigger than that).

I had set my heart on this . . . fuzz fuzz . . . and now my heart was feeling pretty disappointed.

But that was only the beginning.

The fuzz fuzz thing actually FELL APART.

Let me give you my credentials before you judge.  I don’t have stuffed animals fall apart.  Yes, I had a Cabbage Patch doll whose head almost fell off from being hugged so much, but my mom sewed it back on.  I did not tear apart my stuffed animals.  I wrapped my stuffed animals in baby blankets and gave them pacifiers or laid them in a cradle.  I still have Beggar Dog, and Rubby-Dub-Dog and Chilly Willy and the animals I don’t have I gave away because they were still so beautiful.  Yes.  So don’t you be judging me that I tore Mr. Fuzzball apart.

I don’t know what happened to fuzz fuzz.  I don’t even remember playing much with it.  I just remember my mom afraid I would have an anxiety attack because it was falling apart and getting rid of it one day when I wasn’t in the room.

It was upsetting.

And please listen friends, I lived in the 80’s.  DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY STUFFED ANIMALS I COULD HAVE BOUGHT FOR $250 IN THE 80’S????????  I could have opened my own zoo.  I would have needed a bigger bedroom.  Maybe I could finally have convinced my mom to buy me one of those cool hammock things that stuffed animals sit in (that was such an 80’s thing).  Maybe she would have bought me 10.  They could have been hanging all over my room like Shelob’s lair, only, not.

That was the only year I sold cookies.  It’s a true story.  That was it.  No more you-sold-100-boxes-of-cookies prize that turns into a you-sold-100-boxes-of-cookies-anxiety-building-fuzz-fuzz-fall-apart-shedding-disappointment-in-the-mailbox-$250-gimmick.

Bummer.

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I wish I had actually learned the lesson God was showing me here.  If I had known at 7 years old that all the things Satan gets us obsessed with are worthless and will hurt us, I would have had a different life start altogether.

It’s easy to laugh about a fuzzy white toy that fell apart like a Bugs Bunny routine.  But it’s not easy to laugh about the stuff in our life that we spend our lives focusing on, only to find out . . there’s nothing left to what we were looking so forward to getting.

Whether it’s a relationship or a job or a new house or new stuff or the next big movie or best-selling novel or most cutting-edge video game or winning something or earning something or saving up for something or getting into debt for something or going on vacation or getting to retire . . . it’s all a blob of fur that falls apart if it becomes our obsession, our life goal.

The only thing that can be at the center of your life and not disappoint–and ruin–you, is Jesus.  That’s it.  Otherwise, it’s just a rinky-dink sham to get your eyes off the Savior.  And not only that, but it can lead other people’s eyes away from the Savior, too.  Just like I got practically all of everybody I knew to buy in to my gimmicky dream of a fuzzy fall-apart with glue-on sunglasses, we mislead people into believing that something besides Jesus can bring satisfaction when we go on a quest to find it (or pretend we have found it).  It’s not there.  It never will be.  Kinda like how, as a Tolkien fan I can go on a search around the world for Middle Earth, and I can search every last blade of grass, but I’m not going to find Hobbiton or Rivendale or Gondor.  It’s not real.  I can want it to be real as much I want, but I won’t find it.

People sometimes accuse God of being self-centered for commanding our full devotion to Him.  But, if God is the only anything in the entire universe (and beyond) who can bring us fulfillment, joy, peace, true reward, and, best of all, love . . why would He be in any way unreasonable to ask us to turn our devotion to only Him[1]?

And here’s the crazy thing that seems so hard to understand when you’re not seeking after God–I know from personal experience here: when you’re not seeking God, it seems hard to believe, or even unimaginable, that God could be the fulfillment for all our needs and wants.  But part of that is because what we think we need and what we find ourselves wanting change as we know God.  Another part of that is because, we have no idea the magnitude or glory of God before we know Him.  The Israelites were so frightened by His voice that they wanted Moses to act as a messenger for them–they were afraid they would actually die by hearing His Words!

The amazing thing is, God gives us a way to hear Him without being afraid we’ll perish at His Words, even though we are sinful and unholy just like the Israelites (and Moses) were.  What is that way?  Jesus Christ.  And through Jesus Christ, we can hear God and know what He wants for our lives.  And finding Jesus is no mystical experience.  We hear Him right through His Word.

In His Word is the fulfillment of everything.

As an adult, looking back on my thinking a fuzzy furball would bring life’s joy to me seems ridiculous.  But just as ridiculous is believing than anything else outside of Jesus will.  There’s no difference in value between that fuzzy furball and a fairytale wedding . . or between that fuzzy furball and living in Hawaii . . or between that fuzzy furball and publishing my first book.  None of those bring any more joy than that fall-apart prize I got as a 7-year-old.

What will happen in eternity will be a fearful and awful thing for many people.  Thinking they lived their lives “somewhat decently” or that the “good outweighed the bad”, they’re going to stand before a Judge who judges not on good things we’ve done, but on bad things we’ve done, just like a judge doesn’t judge a murderer on whether or not he paid his taxes, but on whether or not he killed someone[2].

What so many people will find, I fear, is that they have lived their lives for rewards that fall apart on examination.  Rewards that leave them with no eternal value whatsoever.  And they will be standing at eternity, looking back over their life, expecting a reward, and, when they find out they have nothing but emptiness to show God . . . and nothing but a future separated from Him in a miserable place . . . they will ask, “Is that what I get?”

That’s not what I want to get.

I tell you for certain that everyone who hears my message and has faith in the one who sent me has eternal life and will never be condemned. They have already gone from death to life. (John 5:24, CEV)

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[1] Of course, God can require anything He wants, because He is God (He is Boss).  But because He is just and loving and truthful, we don’t have to be afraid that He would require anything unfair or abusive or deceitful.

[2] Concept from Courageous by Sherwood Pictures.

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The story of my testimony, in 2 pictures

Part 1

Part 2

Have you asked the True Shepherd, Jesus Christ, to find you?

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’” (Jesus, quoted in Luke 15:4-6, NLT)

I lay down my life for the sheep. (Jesus, quoted in John 10:15b, AKJV)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Come quickly.

Come take your seat at Christ’s banquet.

Christ has paid for it for you.

“A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come.’

“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’” (Jesus, quoted in, Luke 14:16b-24, NLT)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Where Am I?

If you are seeking to know where you are, the best book you can ever possibly read is the Holy Word of God.

“For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is trustworthy. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the LORD’s unfailing love.” (Psalm 33:4-5, HCSB)