“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! 🙂

Contrasting Two Groups of Rebels

Last weekend—perhaps because we unconsciously had Memorial Day, war, and death on our hearts—we watched two movies that, as it turned out, had more in common than I ever could have imagined! Both are based on true events, both involved teams of men who believed they were being heroes, and both groups were on highly illegal missions. However, the outcomes of their actions were as different as night and day!

If you’re like me, you probably have vivid memories of the second event (which occurred just 18 years ago and has changed our country forever), but you’ve probably never even heard of the other (which occurred secretly in 1948). A Wing and a Prayer is a 2015 documentary making public the rogue heroism of a team of ex-World War 2 vets who risked (some gave) their lives to prevent a second holocaust from occurring in Israel when the Brits left the freshly-minted Jewish nation without any weapons to defend their new-found freedom from the planned attacks of neighboring nations.

In contrast, United 93 is a 2006 portrayal of what happened on September 11, 2001, when 13 Islamic terrorists hijacked four commercial jets, killing 2,996 people, injuring over 6,000 others, and causing some $10 billion in damages. It will always be remembered as “9-11.”

Three of the aircraft reached their targets that fateful morning: Two crashing into the heart of the World Trade Center and a third dive-bombing the Pentagon, but because of the heroism of the passengers aboard United 93, that flight never reached its target.

Instead, United’s flight 93 plunged into a field in Pennsylvania, where all the passengers were killed instantly.

Think of the contrasts between these two events! In A Wing and a Prayer, about 13 men (many of whom were not even Jewish but were motivated by compassion) acted in opposition to the law in order to protect the lives of a beleaguered people still grieving the terrible exterminations and terrors they experienced during World War 2.

These young pilots weren’t terrorists, they were trying to protect foreign people from being terrorized. Many of them were not particularly religious; this was not a “holy war.” However, the men took a moral stand against the American government, who was refusing to aid the Israelis for fear of alienating Middle Eastern leaders with whom we were involved in commercial (oil) enterprise. Their punishment: $10,000 in fines per person and the loss of their civil rights.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed after capture. Wiki. Public Domain

In contrast, the 13 al-Qaeda terrorists were on a mission, not to protect foreigners but to terrorize them. Not to preserve but to destroy. They were not taking a moral stand against wrong; they thought murder and terror was “right!” Their hope of reward? Suicidal death leading to immediate transportation to paradise. No fines, no imprisonment, no punishment, no loss of privileges. But, tragically, the loss of their lives along with those of thousands of others.

I highly recommend your watching the one-hour documentary on A Wing and a Prayer. However, I confused United 93 with Flight 93, which I saw 13 years ago and definitely prefer. Flight 93 has a PG-13 rating and tells much the same story without the terrible language or quite as much blood. So, I guess that’s yet another contrast between two movies!

Last thought, but I’d also like to contrast the Christian and Muslim views on heaven and how to get there. Muslims believe in a sensual paradise filled with pure rivers of water, milk, honey, and wine, where men can take pleasure in beautiful women every day (among other things). Christians believe in a physical paradise but with a spiritual purpose: Worship and fellowship with God and fellow human beings. Jesus taught that in paradise people would not marry but would be like the angels in heaven. The emphasis is not on personal sensual gratification, but on love in its highest and most transcendent forms.

What about how to get to heaven? Muslims believe you can only be assured of going straight to paradise by dying for Allah. Christians believe you can only be assured of going straight to paradise by believing in Jesus, the God who died for us! Muslims hope to get to paradise by being good. Christians know they’ll never be “good enough” to get to heaven, but they trust in Jesus, who was perfect, and who died for each and every one of us, so that we can be reconciled to God by repenting of our sins and putting our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.

Want to be assured of heaven when you die? You don’t need to become a suicidal terrorist! Believe in Jesus, and embrace him as your Savior!

Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Have You Experienced Being Indivisible? How About Iraq?

If you are in the military, have a loved one in the military, or would like to get a little better appreciation for the sacrifices and challenges facing those who are giving their lives to protect our safety, then I want to encourage you to watch Indivisible. (By the way, I’m guessing the pressures and problems would be very similar for any military personnel from a democratic nation.)

Indivisible (2018) is based on the true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner, who was deployed to Iraq back in 2007, fresh out of seminary and basic training.

This left his wife, Heather, alone at Fort Stewart to care for their three young children among the community of other women whose husbands were also deployed.

Every deployment is dangerous and gut-wrenchingly difficult, but Darren ended up supporting the Special Forces, which was sort of the hardest of the hard!

I have a son in the military who was deployed to Iraq, and I can vouch for the constant strain and fear that I battled as a mother, who spent many hours on her knees while he was gone.

Indivisible does a masterful job of relating the terrors and traumas of war. Will our loved one survive? Will he be injured? Will he recover?

Even if he survives, will he be able to overcome all the horrors of death and destruction that he’s experienced?

What about the wives who’ve been left behind, who are constantly plagued by an emotional roller coaster of worry while trying to be emotionally stable for their children?

For many families, life is never quite the same after living through a deployment, and trying to rebuild a strong marriage bond is more of a challenge than some marriages can handle.

The lessons that Darren and Heather learned (and have been willing to share) are critical for young couples who are serving in the military. I wish every person in the service or who has a loved one in military service would see this movie!

It’s raw. It’s real. It’s sad, but there’s also a message of hope for a light at the end of the tunnel of PTSD and broken hearts.

God made a way for Darren, Heather, and a bunch of brave young soldiers and their wives, and He can do the same for you.

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NABRE).

Have You Had a Breakthrough?

Last week, we were treated to one of the premiere showings of the newly released movie, Breakthrough.

It’s based on the true story of John Smith, a 14-year-old Missouri high schooler

who fell through the ice on Lake St. Louis back in January of 2015.

He was underwater for more than fifteen minutes before being rescued, but then he was declared dead at the hospital.

His mother, Joyce Smith, was unwilling to accept his death and started praying for God to bring him back to life even though he’d had no pulse for over an hour.

Miraculously, his pulse did return, although he was only given a 1% chance of making it through the night, and his pastor and parents were warned that because he had been brain-dead for so long, he would most likely be a vegetable if he did survive. His pastor, Jason Noble, brought a group of ministers in to pray over him that night.

You’ll have to watch the movie if you want to hear the end, but I guarantee it will make you laugh and cry, and you’ll be glad you watched.

Although Joyce Smith was a believer when the accident occurred, her son was not. What happened changed his life, and now John is not only a Christian, he’s excited about God! If you want to hear a few minutes more, there’s a short interview with the real John Smith (who was adopted from Guatemala) below:

https://www.foxnews.com/faith-values/god-still-does-the-impossible-the-incredible-true-story-behind-the-faith-based-film-breakthrough

Lisa Durupt (in the movie) at the L.A. Premiere Showing

What about you? Do you believe in God? Do you believe in miracles? Do you need a miracle? God doesn’t promise to do everything we ask, but He does promise to go with us through every trial and make all things work together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Why not entrust your life to Him, prayer for his help and guidance, and see what happens?

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:24-28).

(Because I was watching the movie with a big group as part of a volunteer appreciation event hosted by Exalta Health, I didn’t take any photos, so these are all images I found online. I hope the makers of the movie don’t mind sharing!)

God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness

Some movies are memorable because they dramatize historical events in unforgettable ways, some live on in our memories because they are so artistically produced, but some are compelling because they bring to life creative, new stories to reinforce ancient wisdom.To me, God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness fits into this last category. It’s a 2018, PG-rated film that is A+ in my book, despite receiving less than stellar critical reviews. The major theme concerns learning to balance “our rights” with love and forgiveness, but the film also deals with many issues of faith. The story (completely fictitious) revolves around a church, located on a university campus, which is accidentally burned down by a distraught student. Although I’ve not seen the previous movies, it’s the third of a series.  God’s Not Dead came out in 2014 and is based on Rice Broocks’ book, God’s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty. The first film follows a Christian college student named Harper whose faith is challenged by a philosophy professor who believes God is just “a pre-scientific fiction.” There is also a God’s Not Dead 2 released in 2016 that continues the story. Both of the first two movies were well received by Christian audiences, so maybe I need to go back and view them! Alan and I definitely thought the third of this series was very worthwhile. The characters were likeable.The story was both tragic and heartwarming.There was some sweet romance. There were disagreements. There were tensions and troubles.There was good modeling for young people and admirably wise counsel about how to grow in faith and grace even in challenging settings.There was a good resolution with a (reasonably) happy ending. What’s not to love?I will say it took me a little while to get used to the minister’s struggle with bitterness, but then it occurred to me that forgiving others is challenging throughout life. So, even though it’s ugly to see, it’s real and needs to be explored. I’m also not exactly “up” on the teen scene, so it was a little hard to judge, but I’m guessing the movie was reasonably realistic in its depiction of campus life.That being said, I was glad to have watched God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness and will definitely watch for any sequels. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

Operation Finale

The most disturbing but worthwhile film from 2018 that I watched was Operation Finale, based on the memoirs of Israeli officer Peter Malkin, concerning the capture and testimony in court of Adolph Eichmann, the “Architect of the Holocaust.” Ben Kingsley did a masterful job portraying Eichmann, and Oscar Isaac was absolutely brilliant as the cunning but compassionate  Israeli intelligence operative who was able to form a positive emotional bond with the man who had been responsible for the murder of his (Malkin’s) sister and her children, along with six million Jews and six million people of other nationalities, including 1.5 million children.Is the movie accurate? Overwhelmingly. According to Director Christ Weitz,“For example, there was a girl in Argentina who was tortured by authorities and had a Swastika carved into her chest. We moved it forward to up the suspense, but we didn’t change any outcome. The majority of the film is accurate to the history.” In an interview, Weitz pointed out that he actually moved his family to Argentina so he could film on location . . . even using the same movie theater to shoot the scene where Eichmann’s son takes an interest in a beautiful young woman (who turns out to be Jewish). So, touches of extra romance (the expedition’s physician was really a man) and suspense (the timing of the plane’s departure), but otherwise distressingly factual.If I were still teaching history, I would definitely have my kids watch this movie, because the issues are (sadly) current within the Neo-Nazi movement today.I have no Jewish blood, so I can say (without feeling biased) that I stood in awe of the compassion and self-control Malkin exhibited. He said he thought Eichmann would be a monster, but when he spent time with him, Malkin realized that Eichmann seemed very human in person. In his memoirs, Malkin wrote, “A monster can be excused for his behaviour . . . The problem is not how a monster could do it, but how a human being did it.” -Peter Malkin ObituaryI also marveled at how humane the 11 operatives were who were involved in the case. They didn’t torture Eichmann or brutalize him. He was fed kosher food and allowed to sleep in a regular bed. All this for the man who had been responsible for executing “The Final Solution” (extermination) for over 12 million people.Operation Finale tells the story of Eichmann’s escape from Germany to Argentina, how he was discovered fifteen years later, and how he was eventually brought to trial. This was the statement he was persuaded (without violence) to sign:

I, the undersigned, Adolf Eichmann, hereby declare of my own free will that, since my true identity has become known, I realize the futility of trying to continue to flee justice. I declare myself ready to travel to Israel and to stand trial before a competent court. It is clearly understood that I shall be provided with legal counsel, and I myself will endeavor to clarify the facts of my years of service in Germany so that future generations may receive a true picture of those events. I am making this statement of my own free will. I have been promised nothing and no threats have been made against me. I desire at long last to find repose for my soul.As the head of the Jewish department, Eichmann had been responsible for orchestrating the deportation of millions of Jews, but he never admitted any guilt: “As far as this question is concerned, I can only say that I’ve never killed anyone . . . I had to obey orders. I had to do it.” “So, it looks like, in those days, behind a desk, you could kill much more than with a pistol, and that’s what he had done. He’d just send them to the camps.” Peter Malkin-Charney ReportThe terrifying question that we all have to answer is: For what are we willing to die? Would we kill others to avoid being killed ourselves, or are we strong enough morally to choose what is right, even when it means resisting evil and most likely being killed as a result? I’m sure (I hope) that all of us believe we should and would stand up against evil and take the consequences, but in reality, martyrs for the sake of truth and righteousness are few and far between. Jesus is the only man I know who willingly subjected himself to death—and the horribly cruel death of crucifixion—for the sake of overcoming evil with good. He knew the night before his capture that he was going to be arrested and killed, and he forewarned his disciples of this. Jesus could easily have slipped away in the night and left the area. No one would ever have found him. Why didn’t he?

Why did Jesus tell Judas, “That thou doest, do quickly” (John 13:37)? Why did Jesus go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he knew Judas Iscariot would betray him? Why didn’t he defend himself when he went to trial? All he would have had to do was deny that he was God, and he could have gone free! Why didn’t he? Why didn’t he call down 10,000 angels to save him?

“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:6-7).

Ten Thousand Angels

They bound the hands of Jesus
In the garden where He prayed
They led Him through the streets in shame
They spat upon the Saviour
So pure and free from sin
They said, “Crucify Him He’s to blame”

Chorus:
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free
He could have called ten thousand angels
But He died alone for you and me

Upon His precious head
They placed a crown of thorns
They laughed and said, “Behold the King”
They struck Him and they cursed Him
And mocked His holy name
All alone He suffered everything

When they nailed Him to the cross
His mother stood nearby
He said “Woman, behold thy son”
He cried, “I thirst for water”
But they gave Him none to drink
Then the sinful work of man was done

To the howling mob he yielded
He did not for mercy cry
The cross of shame He took alone
And when He cried, “It’s finished”
He gave Himself to die
Salvation’s wondrous plan was done

Chorus 2:
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free
He could have called ten thousand angels
But He died alone for you and me

(—Ray Overhalt © 1959 by Lillenas Publishing Co.)