Thursday, July 26, 2007

It's a Wonderful Life (December 2006 Article)

I’m not sure there’s a colloquialism more on the money than “never judge a book by its cover.” We’ve all said it. We’ve all been victimized by it. Some of us are guilty still of not heeding this sage advice.

The marketing world exists to defeat this idea. Their sole purpose is to convince us that we need what they are offering. Not only that, but that this new _______ (you fill in the blank) is going to make our lives better than ever! It might be the new car, the bigger house, or the no-interest loan that will “save us thousands of dollars.” Maybe it’s something much smaller – the new shoes we gotta have, or the latest, greatest MP3 player. Somehow, we have been such easy prey for marketing firms across the country, which have trained us to actually believe that different is better. We must change – or conform – to the new standard in order to really feel like we’re being fulfilled.

Think of the ads or commercials that we drive by, listen to, or watch each and every day. They play off our desire for immediate satisfaction and our longing for something much better than what we have right now. If you are like me, you have made purchases, tested products, and gone on vacations, thinking – hoping – that “THIS will really be what I need. Finally!” But, the truth is, most of the time we are treated to short-lived gratification or a surge of adrenaline, only to feel the emptiness and disappointment a few days or weeks later.

I remember about ten years ago when I made a weekend visit to perhaps the world’s most popular amusement park (you can probably guess where I went – it’s located in Central Florida, and home to an extremely famous rodent). Things just didn’t pan out that particular weekend like I had planned. It rained the entire time. The lines were longer than I had ever experienced. Five or six of the main attractions were closed down. Kids were crying. I was crying. What was supposed to be an amazing life-enriching getaway was nothing but misery. I kept thinking, “This isn’t what the TV commercials show. They show smiling faces, colorful balloons, spectacular fireworks. Funny, but I don’t remember seeing rain, long lines, and crying men and children in the ads.” Unfulfilled expectations.

We have a tendency to mask our own unfulfilled expectations, don’t we? We, like the marketing experts, show the world what we want them to see. One of my favorite authors, John Ortberg, calls this “perception management.” Basically, it means that we try to control how others think about us. And, at Christmastime, when the world appears to be a cheerful paradise of candy canes and colorful twinkling lights, deep down we feel like something is missing.

Perhaps that is you this year. You’ve got the prefect tree, the wreaths or candles in each window, the mistletoe hanging in the doorway, and the 50-foot blow-up Santa Claus in your front yard. To others, it appears that you’re living in a Winter Wonderland. But on the inside you need a little more - something that a decoration or a Nat King Cole song won’t fill. You need hope. You need a warm smile or a gentle touch. You need not only to be loved, but to feel loved.

I invite you to join us this month at NorthStar Church, as we begin a new series entitled It’s a Wonderful Life. Jesus Christ came into this world 2006 years ago with the promise of giving us a wonderful life, if we would choose to believe Him. I pray that you and your family will make that choice this year, and discover the plan God had for you from the very beginning.

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