Sunday, April 14, 2013

Beware of Pretty Packages

Blue sky-wispy clouds, sun shining through giant trees, leaves swaying in the wind.  T he golden gate bridge, front yards covered in white,  pretty people in slow motion, eyes full of wonder gazing toward heaven.  Surfers, bicyclists,  snow angels, but not in snow, open hands raised as if in praise...and all the while,  a lovely  chorus of sweet melodious young voices singing "California Dreamin'". Finally the tag line ,


It was truly captivating -all 62 seconds of it.

Even so, about halfway through this exquisitely done project, a feeling of genuine horror came over me.  This white matter wafting through every image was not snow flurries but, instead, a virtual downpour of  ping pong balls. Yes, ping pong balls- and in a sea of white balls floating through the air, in the most beautiful scenes imaginable, one, lone red ball drops from the air into hands held open and a look of absolute bliss comes over the face of the one now holding this special treasure.  His eyes glisten with pure joy- a  look that says, "finally, every  prayer has been answered!"

 This, my friend, describes the newest marketing genius promoting the California Power Ball Lottery.  I  immediately felt a wave of disgust come over me.  Disgust that something presented so beautifully could represent something so vile. Watch for yourself:

I sent a private Facebook message to a pastor friend and double dog dared him to write a sermon around it.  And then I remembered a book I read decades ago, and one line in particular that I've never forgotten.  In his book "The Singer",  author Calvin Miller said,

"Oftentimes Love is so poorly packaged that when we have sold everything to buy it, we cry in finding all our substance gone and nothing in the tinsel and the ribbon.

Hate dresses well to please a buyer."

It's bad enough that this  beautifully done but oh so deceptive ad  panders to those who can least afford to throw money away and who are desperate for a dream to come true- desperate  for something to believe in.  But to insinuate that a one in a billion chance at material wealth is the something to believe in-well, I couldn't stomach it.  Truth is, the facts are in.  Generally speaking, big winners in lottery contests don't have a great track record for living happily ever after.

I am reminded, yet again, that beautiful packaging does not necessarily contain beautiful content.  We are bombarded by so many images of things promising happiness, wealth, money, fame and status.  All of them tout their unique ability to change our lives for the better.  The book of Proverbs says, "There is
a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."

The lottery web site continues:

"When you believe, the world opens up before you.  The impossible is flipped on its head and dreams become a reality. So believe. Believe that today could be your lucky day.  Believe in something bigger."

So, they have it partially right.  Truth is, there is something bigger to believe in, but, not to burst your bubble (or in this case, your little red ball),  let me be the first to assure you that it is NOT having said little red ball drop into your lap. Nor will it spring from having millions or even billions in your bank account.

No matter what the culture keeps telling us, be confident in this:  Wealth, higher education, the next promotion, having the perfect body, home, car or anything else we're told will guarantee us happiness, is not the hot ticket.  Those kind of riches will never satisfy.

As long as happiness is the goal, we will be looking for quick fixes, longing to be overnight sensations and believing the lie, "THEN, I'll be happy."

Instead, let me direct you to the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6, also known as the sermon on the mount. Take five minutes and read it today.   Jesus speaks eloquently on the subject of riches so I'm not going to try to reinvent an already perfect wheel.  He knows what we need and He knows we are often distracted by what we think  we need. Still, His words are crystal clear:

"...your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. "

True riches are within our reach. Reach for them. Not for a silly red ball. 

Monday, April 8, 2013


1. the handing down of beliefs, customs, etc., through generations

Let's just begin by saying I love  traditions.  They anchor us, give us something to look forward to, a reason to gather together and a sense that though relative chaos may be swirling around us, some things remain the same.  I find that enormously comforting.

And, so, maintaining treasured traditions is a priority for me.  Not so much that I cannot bend, but enough  that I am still glad to do the work to make sure they still happen.  My nephew Mike, as he was loading his family into their car after joining us for our traditional Easter family gathering, made the observation, "that was a lot of work to pull this all together and then, much like Thanksgiving dinner, it was done in thirty minutes."  True, that.

There were hours of preparation-a trip to the farmer's market before work to buy just the right flowers, last minute runs to the market, multiple purchases in the weeks leading up to the event to find  goodies to fill eggs for the traditional egg hunt...staying up late the night before with my sister Debi, to prepare in advance much of the food we would consume.  Time in the attic, pulling out all the decor and later to put it away, setting a beautiful table days in advance.  But when everyone gathered around our table, (fourteen this year) it was worth every second--to see each face I love, to remember past gatherings, to see our little ones delighting in eggs found, to relax around our table and enjoy the luxury of their company,  that was, is and will continue to be priceless. 

Just yesterday, the husband and I took our grand girl  (and she is!)  to the garden center where we filled a rolling cart with beautiful things to plant-- notably our traditional tomatoes and beautiful flowers, but some new additions as well.  We spent the day, the three of us, toiling in the back yard, pulling weeds, digging holes, planting, watering and generally getting muddy!  And four year old Ru, while watering our new crop made the observation, "I've been waiting for this day all year!"  She has been part of this tradition since she could walk and she knows that she can depend on it happening every spring...the trip to the nursery, the unloading of our loot, the pulling of weeds, the releasing of lady bugs, the watering, the time spent with her Ommie and Poppa,  the harvesting and the joy of the tradition itself.  

So, traditions will stand for as long as I can.  We may no longer drive to my parents home for Christmas Eve, but we still gather. The faces around our table  may change as some are unable to come and others are added, but there will remain a continuity, a certainty that in this evolving world, some things will remain the same.  Count on it.