“Walt, The Man Behind the Myth”

Family Vacation to Walt Disney’s “EPCOT.”

Trips camping down at Fort Wilderness in Disney World was the stuff of dreams for our kids growing up, so it was with great pleasure that Alan, Joel, and I were able to spend a week down there this spring with our son Jon’s young family, who’d never been there before.

Jon and Linda have three little girls, and everything was new, fun, and fascinating!

Jon is one of the most innovative people I know, and The Magic Kingdom has always been a source of inspiration to him because there’s such strong encouragement for people to pursue those sparks of imagination that come to each of us—if we’ll only stop to pay attention!

Epcot Center: Spring Garden Colors

Every park is creative, clean, and colorful.

Watching “Movies Under the Stars” at Fort Wilderness Campground

No matter where you look, there’s likely to be something delightful—and often surprising—right beside you!

Great White Heron perched on top of a table umbrella

If you’ve been to “the happiest place on earth,” you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Disney: The Man Behind the Myth

Although Jon is a theologian with a heart for spiritual life more than “fun,” there’s a lot to be learned from the life of Walt Disney.

He was without a doubt one of the world’s most influential innovators of the twentieth century.

If you’re ever looking for some insight into this legendary man, his daughter told Walt’s story in a warm and honoring biographical documentary back in 2001 (although we just watched it recently!).

Walt, the Man Behind the Myth is G-rated, family friendly, and well worth watching!

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned from Disney comes from his
“Five Lessons on staying motivated and bouncing back from failure:”

*Follow your heart
*Be grateful for failure and move forward
*Go all in
*Invest in knowledge
*Embrace self-delusion (because) delusion and extraordinary success go together

As a Christian, I might modify these a little, to say such things as “Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading” and “Embrace your calling,” but the ideas can all find roots in the Bible:

*Psalm 37:4, “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” You have to know what’s in your heart, so don’t ignore it!

*Psalms 32, 51, and 138 (for instance), David praise God for his help to move forward in times of failure and need.

*Colossians 3:23, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” If that isn’t going “all in” I don’t know what is!

*Proverbs 18:15, “The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.” Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

*Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Are you inspired? I am! 🙂

How to Get Selected to Open Disneyland

How would you like to be able to open Disneyland Park? On the day we went to Disneyland, we got selected to open the park! Would you like to know how?

Well, let me tell you. I’ve been to Disneyland four times in the past 60 years:  1.) 60 years ago, in 1958, when I was only 8 (like my grandson Reid),
and the park was only 3 years old.  2.) 30 years ago, in 1988, when our oldest son, Aaron was 13
and I was 38 (like my daughter-in-law, Carleen is now).   3.) 25 years ago, in 1993, when our youngest son was a toddler.   4.) Last week, when our oldest son’s oldest son (Reuben, on left) was almost 13.

In addition, Alan and I have been to Disney World 50+ times in the past 45 years. So, we are definitely Disney fans (or at least, Alan is!).                                Talk about fun through the generations!  However, it wasn’t our devotion to Disney that got us selected, and it wasn’t through some application process. Also, it wasn’t because we were first in line (although I gather people do attempt to be first in line for that reason).  Actually, Alan and Aaron had dropped us off at the gate and gone back to our apartment to park (and then walk back) while Carleen and I were waiting in line with our four kiddos.  We were singing a song together about the states and capitals, when a man walked up and invited us to open the park. We were totally surprised. In all my years of going to Disney, I’d never tried to figure out how to get to open the park or even thought about wanting to open the park. BUT, presented with the opportunity, the answer was YES!  So, our patron led us through the crowds to the front gate, took us in, and let us be the ones to lead the count down and yell, “Let the magic begin!”Now, I know this might seem disappointing to you, because as humans we’d think it might be more “fair” if we could somehow be selected based on merit or hard work . . . because we were such devoted fans or got up the earliest and were the very first people in line, or because we had submitted an application explaining why we were the most deserving of candidates. But human wisdom is not God’s wisdom, and for whatever reason, He allowed us to be randomly selected for the privilege of opening Disneyland last week!    Thank you, Father, for that totally undeserved and surprising opportunity! I wonder, are there any of you reading this who believe in God but feel like you’re just waiting in line, hoping to get into heaven someday? You may be real “fans” of religious things . . . go to church faithfully and try to live right. You may even believe the “fair” way to get into heaven is by being good . . . by working very hard, disciplining yourself to be an exemplary student, employee, or parent, or by loving others enough to deserve getting into heaven. Maybe . . .Hopefully . . . ?Disney may be “the happiest place on earth,” but heaven is incomparably better than Disney, and God actually wants all of us to be shouting together, “Let the joys begin!” However, God knows that no matter how hard we try, we’re not going to be “good enough” on our own even to pay our way into the park (so to speak), so He sent Jesus to make it possible!  We don’t have to be in the right place at the right time, and we don’t have to attempt to earn our way into heaven. All we have to do is say “YES!” to Jesus, who like our kindly guide, has the power to get us through the gates: Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you . . .I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture . . .10I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (excerpts from John 10:7-11).  Are you ready to begin your best and greatest adventure yet . . . something infinitely more exciting than getting to open Disneyland?Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).  

Follow Me, Boys!

If you’re ever in the mood for a charming Disney movie about small town America in the 1930’s, especially if you have any grade-school aged boys or budding Boy Scouts in tow, you might really enjoy watching Follow Me, Boys When our boys were growing up, they loved all the old Disney movies with Fred MacMurray, like The Happiest Millionaire, The Absent-Minded Professor, and The Shaggy Dog. They were family “cult classics” that got watched repeatedly.  We also had a lot of laughs over the Disney movies starring Kurt Russell like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit, Now You See Him Now You Don’t, and The Barefoot Executive. By the way, did you know that Walt Disney personally signed up Kurt Russell with a ten-year contract when he was just a kid, and Kurt became one of their studio’s leading stars in the 1970’s? Somehow, we all missed finding the earliest Disney movie where Fred MacMurray and Kurt Russell starred together: Follow Me, Boys! It might be because it was so old (1966), but it’s full of good-spirited fun and all the themes that make Disney movies memorable!Fred MacMurray plays the role of a young musician who decides to give up city life and settle down in a small Midwest town, where he becomes involved with the Boy Scouts. Kurt plays the role of a young boy who struggles with finding his own identity because his father is an alcoholic. Although you can kind of guess the plot from the beginning, there are some twists and turns along the way, and it’s a refreshing break from modern life! It’s good to remember a time when America was safer, life was simpler, and boys were free to enjoy hard work with lots of challenge while still having fun.Both my older brothers were proud Eagle Scouts in the 1950’s, and I’m really excited that my oldest grandson has just joined Boy Scouts! If your church doesn’t offer Awana or some other program geared to help kids grow up wise and capable, at least consider Scouts. But, maybe watch Follow Me, Boys! first. By the way, there’s something even better than following a good role model who will teach you how to tie knots, fish, and work hard as a kid, and that is a role model who will teach you everything you need to know about life both now and forever. There is only one such perfect role model, and his name is Jesus. Jesus can teach you not only to fish, but to be a fisher of men!  Do you know Him? Are you a follower? It will be the most challenging thing you’ve ever done in your life—much harder than becoming an Eagle Scout— but you’ll never regret it!

“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world:
he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
(John 8:12)

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

New Soarin’ is Worth the Wait (But Get a Fast Pass and Get There Early!)

If you haven’t been to Epcot since June 16, 2016, but plan to go in the future, be sure to take time for their marvelous new Soarin’ ride. We were surprised but also absolutely thrilled to find that they’ve totally updated their adventure from an aerial ride around America’s Southwest to a breath-taking, 4-minute flight around the globe soaring over more than a dozen of the world’s greatest wonders. Want to know what and where? Here are a few interesting details:  First stop is the Matterhorn. Like a huge, pyramidal hat, this massive mountain crowns both Switzerland and Italy and is one of the highest peaks in the Alps (and all of Europe: 14,692 ft.).         The flight then soars north to Isfjord, Greenland, where Polar bears reign.   Males weigh up to 1,543 pounds and live in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean, which crowns the northern tip of world with its massive 5,427,000 square miles of ice and freezing waters.                 Next we fly across the famed Sydney Harbor in Australia, past the Sydney Opera House, which is one of the world’s most famous and distinctive buildings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and host to more than 1,500 cultural performances annually. (We saw The Merry Wives of Windsor there when we visited back in 2004.) Neuschwanstein Castle, nestled in the Bavarian Alps was commissioned by Ludwig II (in Germany).  It’s perhaps the world’s most popular “dream castle” and was the inspiration for Disney World’s Cinderella’s Castle. (This photo is actually of Disney’s castle and not from Soarin’.)Mt. Kilimanjaro, with its three extinct volcanoes, is the highest peak in Africa (19,341 ft.) and the crowning beauty of Tanzania, where herds of wild elephants and other exotic animals roam freely in the scorching savannas. (The elephants take dust baths to clean themselves!) Many of the sites are familiar to everyone, because they’re world famous! The Great Wall of China was begun hundreds of years before the time of Christ and measures 13,171 miles. It’s one of the few man-made structures that is easily visible from outer space!  The Great Pyramid of Giza (Cheops) in Egypt was built around 2560 B.C. and held the record as the tallest man-made structure in the world for 3,800 years!  India’s Taj Mahal, described by Rabindranath Tagore  as “the teardrop on the cheek of time,” is a glistening white marble mausoleum by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan to commemorate his beloved wife.     Soarin’ blows by hot air balloons floating above Monument Valley in Utah                    and encounters outrigger canoes off the Lau Islands in Fiji. At the border of Argentina and Brazil, Soarin’ glides above the world largest system of waterfalls along the Iguazu River.        From South America the flight goes past Europe’s beloved Eiffel Towerbefore finally returning home to where it started: Disney World and the EPCOT Center, affectionately known as “the happiest place on earth.”  If you go, I highly recommend getting a fast pass as soon as you buy your ticket, and be at the “starting” line first thing in the morning on the day you go! That way you can go once or twice (or three times, like we did by making a beeline to the ride the minute the park opened)!  As fun as Disney World and Epcot are, I want to say that there’s one truly happier place on earth, and that is being at the center of God’s will, wherever He wants you. Whether you’re on vacation or at home, let God make you the happiest person on earth by being—not in the “dead center”—but in the living center of His will, abiding always in Him!  May God bless and keep you!

“Happy is that people, that is in such a case:
yea, happy is that people,  whose God is the Lord
(Psalm 144:15).

(I took all the photos at Disney World, EPCOT, and on the Soarin‘ ride this March, 2016, while on spring break.)



Rewriting Stories: Jungle Book

jungle-book-coverHave you seen Disney’s new version of The Jungle Book? How did you like it?  jungle-book-2I’d definitely recommend it, and I especially loved their fantastic graphics.
The world of reality and imagination are merging at an incredible pace!

jungle-book-3Although I appreciated the advances in sophisticated graphic design techniques, the movie was a little disappointing to me. It was scarier and less humorous than Disney’s original cartoon classic…more tension; less relaxation and fun. jungle-book-cartoon-versionAdmittedly, I own a copy of Disney’s original version, and we’ve watched it so often as a family (kids and now grand kids) that we know all the songs by heart and use classic lines to pepper our family’s own peculiar inside-joke culture. baloo-and-mowgli-singing-in-disneys-jungle-bookSo, I guess I’m not surprised that the new version is a bit of a let down. Who can forget all the good song and dance routines, and who will never miss them?  🙂

mowgli-1895-illustration-by-j-lockwood-kipling-father-of-rudyard-kiplingHowever, I was doing okay until the ending. What? No romantic “happily ever after”? In Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Mowgli enters the village, is adopted by a human family, marries, and has a son of his own, which is portended in Disney’s original cartoon version. The thought of Mowgli spending his life in the jungle is simply unacceptable to me! I want all my endings to be happy, and “happy” usually ends with wedding bells and a “happily ever after.”

Thankfully, my comfort isn’t riding on how accurately Disney portrays Kipling’s book, but my comfort is riding on how accurately churches portray the end of the Christian story. The Bible is clear that there will be a happily ever after ending for all who believe and come to the Lamb of God. If you go to a church where they’ve rewritten the ending to the story of life, I hope you’re not content. Find a church where the story of man’s need for redemption and the marriage supper of the Lamb is still told!   summer-sun-and-cloudsThen a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.‘”
(Revelation 19:5-9, NIV)


Zootopia: Can Utopian Dreams Come True?

zootopiaBy now, probably everybody and their bunny have seen Zootopia, but it was so cute that I want to write about it anyway in case you missed watching because you thought it was just a Disney movie for kids. It is that, but Zootopia is much more. It’s complicated, and I think it will be a classic.

Zootopia looks into racism and stereotyping, and there’s definitely a call to understand and value everybody, whether they’re rabbits or foxes, but the overarching theme is about living your dreams, and that’s a salient topic for all of us regardless of our age. The question it raises is: Are you willing to live your dream, even though it’s going to be hard?

Am I? Are you? What is your dream? Have you thought about it lately?

Recently, I’ve being conversing with a friend who’s been dear to me for over 45 years. Not long ago, he left his wife to begin a new life. “Coming out” I think it’s called. Because this person (and his wife) mean so much to me, I’m trying to understand what motivates such behavior.

Although I might be wrong, my guess is that most of us who are in heterosexual relationships and have been married more than a few years have gone through one or more cycles of feeling like the marriage was no longer (or perhaps never) fulfilling, and that life might be greener on the other side of some fence. I’ve heard people joke that married people are like flies: Those who are in want out, and those who are out want in.

I am thankful for my marriage, and I don’t mean to disparage marriage, but I will say that I’ve struggled a lot at times in my marriage, and if I thought I could somehow (anyhow) absolve myself from my commitment to marriage, I’m sure I would have quit at some point along the way. Marriage is tough. It isn’t always fulfilling. It’s probably never “the dream” that we imagine it’s going to be before we get married.

If we want to “live the dream,” then we’d better make sure our dreams are rooted in reality, and we need to be visionary so we can recognize our dream when it’s broken and becomes a different stained glass design from what we imagined. In a zootopian utopia, perhaps a bunny can become a cop (especially if teamed up with a wiley fox), but in this world’s present dystopia, I think the only implausibly possible dreams that come true are those backed by the steady hand of God, who can actually make “all things possible.”

Got a dream? Can you open your hand and give it to God? If it’s a good dream, He can make it come to life. If it’s not a good dream, He can help you let it go and show you the dream He’s dreaming for you. His dreams are best anyway! May we search and find the place where our dreams meet God’s dream for us.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV).


Walt Before Mickey…and After Mickey: A Lasting Legacy

“I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young.
I learned a lot out of that” (Walt Disney). 

Walt Before MickeyWalt Before Mickey is an indy film about the early years (and mostly failures) of Walt Disney before he became famous for his effervescent Mickey Mouse. Walt Before Mickey 5I am surprised that the movie hasn’t been more popular, and I’m not sure why, although after researching I discovered that despite the claim that Walt Before Mickey is  based on Timothy Susanin’s meticulously researched classic work by the same title, the movie is far from an accurate biography. Walt Before Mickey 6If you think of the movie as trying to convey the spirit of Disney’s struggles without serious regard to factual accuracy, then you can sit back, relax, and feel inspired. Why? Walt Disney with Kansas City Newsboys Wiki Well, just look at Walt’s record:  He grew up in a humble home. His family moved several times trying to make a living. Walt even sold newspapers to supplement the family income and finally dropped out of high school at age 16, Walt Disney after WW 1 as ambulance driver Wikihoping to join the army. However, he was rejected for being underage, although he was eventually hired as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross. Walt Before Mickey 1As you’ll see if you watch the movie, Walt had an extremely difficult go of it as a starving artist for a decade after World War 1 (although I’ve read that he was never really quite as destitute as the movie depicts), and Mickey Mouse was a last, last-ditch attempt to keep from bankruptcy. Walt Before Mickey 4Even though his cheerful mouse did keep him from going under, Walt was far from finished with living life on the edge. Walt Before Mickey 7During the great depression, Walt determined to produce the world’s first technicolor full-length feature film, Snow White. His wife Lilian and brother Roy tried to talk him out of it, skeptical movie insiders dubbed it “Disney’s Folly,” and he ran 400% over budget, but Walt pushed on and eventually succeeded in his dream. Walt Disney introducing 7 Dwarfs WikiSnow White was instant hit and the best-selling movie of his time, earning more than 4 times as much as it cost to create within the year! His creation of Disney Land put him to the edge again. In fact, Walt lived his entire life on the edge…dreaming, creating, and pushing his own (and everyone else’s) limits, but I also believe he’s the world’s most successful entertainer. Disney Display Case by Cullen328 by Jim Heaphy WikiHe’s earned more Oscars (22, plus 4 honorary Academy Awards) and Oscar nominations (59) than any other person in history, and there are 248 awards displayed at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. Disney WorldDisney’s resorts top the lists of paid tourist attractions around the globe, and our family must be some of Disney World’s greatest fans. Our kids playing at Disney WorldThe family joke is that our kids grew up at Disney, and it is undoubtedly true that we’ve camped at Disney’s Fort Wilderness more often than place else on earth!Camping at DisneyIn fact, one day when we arrived, the hostess greeted Alan cheerily: “Congratulations! This is your 50th visit!” Walt Disney 1946 WikiOur kids also grew up with Walt’s visionary “If you can dream it, you can do it” firmly imprinted on their brains, and as I watch them dream and work to create today, I know that Walt Disney’s legacy continues. How about you and me? Are we living life on the edge, dreaming big and giving it all we’ve got? In God’s will and by his grace, I sure hope so!

“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound:
every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”

(Philippians 4:12-13).

(All photos from Wiki Commons and the 2015 movie, Walt Before Mickey, except the 3 I took at Disney World over the years.)