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  • Shawn Thornton

More Than a Smiley Face Cookie

Saturday - January 16th

Devotionals from the Book of James

Scripture to Read Today: James 1:21-25

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law

that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting

what they have heard, but doing it

—they will be blessed in what they do.

James 1:25



When I was a kid, local Burger Dairy Stores in my home area of South Bend/Mishawaka, Indiana, sold smiley face cookies. They were much like a traditional Christmas cookie with frosting, but these were sold year-round and had the familiar bright yellow look in a perfect circular shape. The simple eyes and smile in black frosting finished out the iconic 60's symbol.


Anytime I went into a Burger Dairy store with my parents or grandparents to buy milk, I begged for one of those cookies. They not only looked cool, but they also tasted great (and were fairly big at about 4 inches in diameter). Even as I kid, I was curious about who and why someone made the iconic yellow smiley face symbol.


The State Mutual Life Assurance Company of Worcester, Massachusetts, purchased another insurance company in early 1963. The merger resulted in low employee morale. Company executives hired Harvey Ball, a freelance commercial graphic artist in Worcester, to help create something symbolic that would lift the companies' spirits.


Ball came up with the world-impacting yet straightforward round yellow smiley face (with one eye bigger than the other) in less than ten minutes. The simplicity of the image brought smiles to the faces of the executives who had hired him. They paid him a whopping $45 for his creation. The smiley face became part of the company's friendship campaign through which State Mutual handed out hundreds of smiley pins to employees. The campaign's goal was to get employees to smile while using the phone and doing other tasks.


The buttons became instantly popular, with orders taken in lots of 10,000. The insurance company sold more than 50 million smiley face buttons by 1971. The simple icon became an international symbol seen in the farthest reaches of the planet.


Ball never applied for a trademark or copyright of the smiley. Neither he nor State Mutual made any money from the design (other than Ball's pay of $45 and any indirect effect the symbol had on sales for the insurance company). Over the years, reports surfaced that Ball's son, Charles, said his father never regretted not registering the copyright. Media sources quoted Charles Ball as saying, "Dad was not a money-driven guy; he used to say, 'Hey, I can only eat one steak at a time, drive one car at a time.'"


While I enjoyed that cookie from the Burger Dairy store, I understand that the joy and blessing God wants us to experience in life is more than a yellow smiley-face cookie! James 1:25 concludes the whole paragraph that began in verse twenty-one by saying, "They will be blessed in what they do." Who are they, and what is it they do that promises them blessing?


Those James says will be blessed include anyone who looks into the "perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it." They see and understand what God's Word says about how they live their lives, and they obey it - they continue in it. They don't forget it. They do it. To be blessed means to be satisfied and fulfilled. It means to be happy.


When we understand God's Word and live our lives in obedience to it, we are blessed. We find life's ultimate joy and fulfillment!


What makes you happy? Are the things that make you happy things God says we should eliminate from our lives? Are you settling for stuff that gives you a fleeting thrill, but cannot bring you sustained joy throughout life? Are you chasing smiley face cookies rather than the healthy diet of living in obedience to God's Word?


When we live by something other than God's Word, we settle for far less than the blessed life God wants for us!

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