Category Archives: Disney World

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.)




Fort Christmas

Fort Christmas FortificationsHave you ever heard of Fort Christmas? It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?Santa Claus at North Pole? When I first heard the name, I visualized an outpost near the North Pole
for Santa and his reindeer to protect penguins from polar bears. Fort Christmas EntranceBut, in reality, it’s a fort in Florida where construction commenced Fort Christmas Native Americanon Christmas Day back in 1837 during the Second Seminole War. Fort Christmas RiflesHowever, the war moved southward,Fort Christmas Quiltsand the fort was abandoned after just two months.Fort Christmas Cabin 2A hundred and forty years later, Fort Christmas was rebuilt  Fort Christmas Spiining Wheel by fireplaceas a living history settlement to preserve the rural heritage of Florida. Fort Christmas 3Fort Christmas Historical Park is just 45-minutes northeast of Disney WorldFort Christmas Living room and free of charge…Fort Christmas 2a place where kids can roam without fighting crowds or getting lost.Fort Christmas Green grass Rolling in the grass, Fort Christmas Catpetting the cats,Fort Christmas School room and Interpreter or chatting with the interpreters are all acceptable parts of the experience.Fort Christmas LIving roomI found it totally charming…Fort Christmas Fooda pleasant retreat back in time with a gently educational flavor,Fort Christmas farm cabinand something that could definitely counterbalance Disney mania
one afternoon if you’re in the Orlando area.Inside Fort Christmas I was particularly struck by the story of Fort Christmas
(as a response to attack that retrospectively seemed unnecessary)
because it reminded me of Fort Wilkins near Copper Harbor, Michigan,Fort Christmas Soldiers and Native America which I wrote about last September. ( Fort Christmas Military ScenesIn both cases, our military responded out of fear
in a way that appeared unwarranted. Fort Christmas OuthouseI don’t want to draw any false conclusions about military strategy
from these 2 instances, Fort Christmas Alligatorbut it did make me ponder my own life and recall times I’ve responded out of fear rather than seeking God’s direction in frightening circumstances.Fort Christmas Mosquito NettingSafety lies not in self protection, but in obedience to the Lord,Fort Christmas Larderwho desires us to be at peace so that we can “serve him without fear,”Fort Christmas Hunting gearwalking “in holiness and righteousness before him.” Fort Christmas Hymn BookThat’s why God sent Jesus to us that Christmas so long ago.
We don’t need a Fort Christmas, we just need Christ, who is our fortress!

Fort Christmas BibleBlessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:68-75)

 (I took all the photos at Fort Christmas near Christmas time, 2014. The Santa cartoon is from

Could Anything be Better than the Magic Kingdom?!

Stephen and Joel at Magic KingdomDisney’s Magic Kingdom has been described as “the happiest place on earth,” and the fact that it’s  the world’s #1 paid tourist attraction (with Disneyland #2) lends some credence to their claim , especially if you believe  money talks! Blue and Pink Flowers at Disney 1.6.15 The Magic Kingdom is a combination of delightful rides and gorgeous grounds, and everyone goes there to enjoy life and bond with loved ones…
so of course it’s a happy place! What’s not to love?  🙂Cindarella's Castle at Night Last Tuesday I mentioned many of the best rides in the park for tots, but this week I want to share some pictures from our last trip to the kingdom at night, Magic Kingdom Train Station because it really does seem magical in the evening when all the lights come on, Disney's Main Street at Nightand at Christmas time—when the park is aglow with special decorations and alive with people celebrating Christmas— it seems the most magical of all! Tomorrowland at NightWith many of the littlest ones off to bed, the pace slows to more: more quiet, more strolling…more time enjoying the interplay of colors, lights, and sound. Magic Kingdom CarouselPeople still continue with the rides and fun, but there’s an almost breathless sense of expectation as everyone awaits the grand finale: “Disney Wishes,”Cindarella's Castle Illuminated JPG which is an incredibly spectacular laser, light, music and fireworks extravaganza where Disney extends the hopes that “all our wishes will come true.”Fireworks in blue at DisneyI have to confess, in our 40-50 times of taking the kids to the Magic Kingdom,  we were always among those parents who hoisted their babes shoulder top
(not wanting them to miss anything!) and then had to lug them home whilst visions of starlight and starbright exploded and danced across their dreams,Grand finale fireworks at Disney Wishes and I was ever grateful for our 3 older sons, who eventually helped carry our 3 younger sons home on such enchanted evenings! Cindarella's castle frosted in lightsOf late, some 200,000 lights make Cinderella’s castle look like it’s been dipped in sugar…sugar-coated dreams! Sounds just about perfect, doesn’t it?

Fireworks over Cinderella's CastleNow, I’m not contesting the beauty and pleasure of the Disney experience,
and  we’ve probably taken our kids to Disney more often than anybody we know, but I just want you to know that there is a kingdom even greater than the Magic Kingdom, and that’s the Kingdom of God. Disney WishesThere’s also something infinitely more effective for finding fulfillment than wishing on a star or believing in ourselves, and that’s believing in God and petitioning Him for the grace and strength to enable us to do what we should …and for his miraculous intervention to accomplish what good we cannot. Magic Kingdom Christmas TreeIn addition, there’s a tree more glorious than Disney’s—the cross on which Jesus died to pay for our sins and make it possible for us to become sons of light and children of God…the one, true God who can make all our wishes come true! Potpourri of lights at Disney's Wishes FireworksI’m sorry that the Kingdom of God is not a place I can show you now, although it will be one day. Until that time, God asks us to believe by faith and walk by faith, with the promise that someday our faith will be rewarded by sight, and in the end we’ll find that it is more glorious and more wonderful than any place we’ve ever seen here on earth!

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

The Best of the Magic Kingdom for Toddlers

Opening the Magic Kingdom at 9If you’re taking little ones to the Magic Kingdom, and they’re early risers (aren’t Opening the Magic Kingdomthey all?), then it’s worth the hustle to get the to the gate for the grand opening! Peter Pan Shadow on MoonIf you can, get your fast passes before you go, and I recommend Peter Pan as 1 of your 3 choices. Last year we waited in line for 70 mins. for our 3-minute flight to Peter Pan's Magic Ship with Pixie DustNeverland. Everyone loves the ride, but nobody likes a huge wait…for anything! Line for 7 Dwarfs Mine TrainA fast pass is almost mandatory for the 7 Dwarfs’ Mine Train. Because it’s new, the line forms immediately and is in excess of an hour…up to 80-90 minutes. 😦 Waiting for DumboThe third fast pass depends on what your kids love best, but our kids (and now our grand kids) always love Dumbo, so we make a bee line to Fantasy Land, Dumbo Ridealthough another great favorite is Jungle Cruise, and if you want to zip around all the rides at Fantasy Land first, you might consider a fast pass to Jungle Cruise for later in the day. Disney's Carousel Favorite rides in Fantasy Land definitely include Prince Charming’s Carousel, Disney Carouselbut when we went a couple of weeks ago, it was a walk on! Magic Kingdom Tea cup RideThe Mad Tea Party was another almost walk on, and we were amazed to note Alice and the White Rabbitthat the line was shorter for the ride than to have a picture taken with Alice! Be My GuestWe were able to avoid a 90-minute wait to try the (somewhat) new Be My Guest restaurant by eating as soon as they opened for lunch. (If you like huge pork shanks, Gaston’s Tavern next door is also good and has much shorter lines.) Lunch at Be My Guest The food was delicious, but our little ones still wanted their same old first choice: Mac’n’cheese! (For dinner, we went back to the Harbor House, our favorite.) Under the SeaUnder the Sea is full of playful, animated creatures who sing along,Under the Sea. Ariel and Ericand even small children pick up the excitement of a happy, fairytale ending! Small WorldOur family’s personal favorite small fry ride is “It’s a Small World.”Small World Magic CarpetsPassengers sail on small boats around the world and across every continent Small World Africaencountering all sorts of exotic animals and animated dolls singing and playing. Small World Dolls in WhiteWe think of it as the perfect “last ride” before a nap or long trip home, because the song shares such a positive message about learning to love and care. Main Street. Christmas Tree at Magic KingdomWhether or not you take your little ones home for a nap, try to hit Main Street Magic Kingdom Parade in time to see the afternoon parade, which is usually around 3 pm. Parade at Magic KingdomThe parade is on a different theme every year, but it’s always colorful and lots of fun, with clowns, music, and everybody’s favorite characters atop the floats. Wedway People MoverIf you want your tots to have a cool, dark place for a nap in your arms, the Carousel of Progress works, but the Wedway People Mover is a relaxing ride that takes you on a journey around Tomorrow Land while you sit in shaded comfort. Train ride around Magic KingdomAnother “rest” ride is taking the All Aboard Steam Train, which encircles the entire park and give’s you a frontiersman’s-eye view of Disney’ kingdom. Winnie the Pooh at DisneyAfter the kids are feeling perky again, Winnie the Pooh’s Many Adventures Winnie the Poohwill keep the kids mesmerized as they travel through Christopher Robin’s world. Stephen and Joel at Magic KingdomThose are probably the top 12 or so rides for tots at the Magic Kingdom, and if you manage to get your kids on that many, then I’d say they’ve had a grand day! Disney World IlluminationsIn fact, our little ones went home with their parents for bedtime after dinner, although the rest of us stayed for the “Wishes Nighttime Spectacular”
… but I might save that for next Tuesday. 🙂

While you’re busy giving your toddlers a Kaleidoscope of fantastic sensory experiences, I hope you don’t forget to nurture their souls (before, during, or later on). As you talk about the rides, you can use the fun and fantasy to bring home lessons about a zillion subjects, like trust, wholesomeness, failure, forgiveness, responsibility, courage, and discerning goodness from badness. It’s all there in living color…great presentation that needs wise interpretation.

Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19).