Tag Archives: Walt Disney World

Grim Grinning Ghosts

Read 1 Samuel 28:7-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” (Galatians 6:7 NLT)

clare-kramer-grave-dancers-movie-stills-mq-07 “When the crypt doors creak and the tombstones quake, spooks come out for a singing wake. Happy haunts materialize and begin to vocalize. Grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize.” Thus the song, “Grim Grinning Ghosts”, kicks off as one is winding down from the roof of Walt Disney World’s “The Haunted Mansion”, to the graveyard below, filled with ghostly ghouls and whisping spirits flying through the night sky. As a huge Disney fan, who will be at the parks this summer as well, “The Haunted Mansion” is without doubt my all-time favorite ride.

As most people know, I love horror movies and, in particular, I love a good ghost tale. One of my more favorite ghost movies is an independent film called, “Gravedancers”. I am not sure how many people realize this or not, but it is a fact that this film was inspired by Disney’s “The Haunted Mansion”, which is the favorite ride of the director/writer of the film. He has loved that ride since he was a child and the frightful fancies it induced.

In fact, it is the song from the famous ride, “Grim Grinning Ghosts” that the director drew the most inspiration from when coming up with the ghosts that were going to be haunting his film. Perhaps, the word “haunt” is an understatement when it comes to these ghosts. Take a long, uncomfortable look at the ghost pictured above. They go beyond creepy, to downright making your skin crawl at first sight.

Like all horror films, there is a certainly immorality present in all of the characters that causes the horror they go through to manifest in their lives. The ghosts that haunt them, no doubt, do so because they disregard their own moral compasses and act selfishly, with little regard to others (including the dead) in the process. Their sins literally come back to haunt them in ways that are both horrifying and unforgettable. Like, the images literally are etched into one’s mind after seeing this film.

One of the main moral failures that he characters display in this film, is the utter and total disregard of others. The story starts off with a group of college friends reuniting years after they had graduated in order to attend the funeral of one of their former friends. Following the funeral, they all go out drinking and end up taking their party to a cemetery because, well, excessive alcohol intake leads to some pretty nonsensical and irrational decisions and deeds.

At the cemetery, they open up a letter in a black envelope that has a poem in it, which beckons them to dance on the graves of the dead. To most sober people, this would sound like a bad idea just out of respect for the dead and their living, grieving, loved ones. But these characters (to avoid using a more pejorative word) think this would be a great way to celebrate their lives. So they dance and, in doing so, desecrate the graves of the dead, awakening the rage of some pretty vengeful and malicious spirits.

There’s something in this story for us to pull from. How often do we go about our lives, merely thinking of ourselves and our own. We call ourselves Godly people because we, typically, care for those we love and those who love us back. We call ourselves “good” people because there are “far worse” people than us out there; however, we are, admittedly, “not as good” as we could be. We measure the merit of our lifestyles by how much gratification it gives us, with often little to no regard for whether our lifestyles are impedeing and/or harming others, and we fight to keep the status quo so that the powers that be, so-to-speak, favor us over and above others.

While we may not be dancing on the graves of the dead, we are often living our lives in a way that dances on the lives of others, thus sealing their fate in terms of their suffering. We often are dancing on the living graves of the oppressed in order to enjoy the benefits that are afforded to us but not to others. In doing so, we are also simultaneously conjuring up grim grinning ghosts that come to haunt us in ways we could have never imagined.

Just take a look at all of the chaos and woes of society, and you will see the grim grinning ghosts that have been unearthed by the sins of a people who have forgotten to live justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. What can we do about it? We can choose to begin to fight for justice, for equality, and for the peaceable Kingdom of God in our households, our communities, and our world. Through standing up for such ideals, and through self-reflection and contemplation, we can be holy agents of change.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts.” – Italo Calvino

PRAYER
Lord, empower me to recognize the ghosts I have unleashed in my life, and in the lives of others. Help me to stand true in your light in order to remove them once and for all. Amen.

Unfrozen

Read Matthew 18:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6 NRSV)

FrozenCastleMy family and I just came back from what was a really enjoyable vacation at Walt Disney World. Anyone who knows us, knows that we LOVE Walt Disney World. Our family has made many memories there that we will no doubt cherish forever. We had decided to go around this time of year because Disney at Halloween time is simply a great place to be. With that said, we were also going to be there for the first week of November, where the parks switch over from the Halloween them to a Christmas theme. Knowing I would never get down during Christmas time, I always wanted to at least see Disney decked out for Christmas, an.d so we planned this vacation!

We weren’t let down. On our last night at The Magic Kingdom, we got to see this year’s lighting of Cinderella’s Castle. It is actually hard to put it into words how awesome. It was themed after Frozen, where Elsa (the Snow Queen) comes out and freezes over the entire castle with ice. To pull this off, they projected images of snow and ices swirling and crystallizing upon the castle, followed by sparkling lights, projected images of shattered snow while simultaneously lighting what seemed to be billions of white, icicle style Christmas lights all over the castle…giving it the appearance of being frozen. What’s more, actual snow was being blown quietly from somewhere thus adding to the magic!

Watching this, I felt like a little child. I was bright-eyed, filled with wonder and amazement, and captivated by the experience. Everyone there was! I captured it on video, and even on video it looked amazing. Being the reflective person I am, this also caused me to reflect on the story of Frozen, which is about two sisters who learn that their innocence isn’t completely lost, and that true love (not romantic love…but true, unconditional love) can rediscover that innocence. The story of Frozen was, as you may or may not know, loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic Fairy Tale, “The Snow Queen.” What is captivating is that Andersen ends his fairy tale with the following verse: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

In this context, converted does not mean from one religion to another; rather, it means being changed or transformed from one state of being to the other. As adults, we are so hardened by the world. We have become cynical, cautious, defensive, faithless and, consequently, often left feeling hopeless in a world that seems to be without hope. Like Elsa in Frozen, and like The Snow Queen in Andersen’s story, we have become frozen solid. We’re frozen by a frosty world and, in turn, we participate in spreading the snow like winds traveling over the Great Lakes.

The truth is, as Elsa found out, that we are not hopeless. Somewhere deep within us there is the child that God created us to be. Deep within us is an innocent child filled with wonder, faith and amazement. The truth is that innocence is not lost and Christ is calling us to be converted to the state of being child-like. The key is that we need to learn to live like Christ and to love like God. We need to open ourselves to the LOVE and WARMTH of the presence of God and allow our frozen exteriors to be melted away.

I truly believe that if we start attempting to shift ourselves in the direction of Christ’s footsteps, if we start living and loving like he did, if we start caring for others as much as we care for ourselves, if we start taking care of the least of these and begin living into Christ’s mission of bringing hope, healing and wholeness to those around us, then we will begin to “convert” to the child that God has created us to be. So, to quote a famous song from FROZEN, “let it go!” Let go of the frosty ice that is entombing the innocent child within you. Allow God to ignite the fire of LOVE within you so that you may emanate that warmth to the world around you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

PRAYER
Lord, warm me up with your love and spark a fire with in me so that I may bear the warm presence of your love within me and share that love with others. Amen.

The Happiest Place on Earth

Read Galatians 3:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

Disney-World-in-Orlando-FloridaI just returned from my family vacation in Walt Disney World down in sunny Orlando, Florida. Let me tell you, there is nothing like a Florida vacation when you are in the middle of a record-cold and snowy winter. The skies were blue and clear, the humidity was non-existent, the temperature was 75-80 degrees, and the people were as friendly as can be. Quite frankly, with temperatures like that, it’s hard not to be friendly.

Speaking of friendly, have you ever been to Walt Disney World? The people working there are always the nicest, most friendly people you’ll ever meet. They all have big, bright smiles on their faces. They all look genuinely happy to be at work. They all treat the park goers (aka the customers) as if they can do no wrong. Walt Disney World is certainly the HAPPIEST place on earth. If any of the “cast” members are having a bad day at work, no one would ever be able to tell.

While reflecting theologically on Walt Disney World, one can’t help but notice that the place is almost too happy. It’s almost too clean. I mean, one never finds a shred of paper, bubble gum, straw or trace of any kind of litter around the park at all. That is because they employ a whole host of “happy” helpers to sweep it up. When one enters Walt Disney World, it is as if they are leaving the real world and entering the greatest utopia ever (that is unless you hate to wait on lines…then you might not find it a utopia at all).

I have heard people muse that it would be awesome if the church took a clue from Walt Disney World. In other words, some people think that the church would be a whole lot more successful in its outreach and its growth if it would just put a smile on its face and show the world that the church is a happy, happy place. If churches would just be happy and distance themselves from fighting, bickering, power playing, and judging then it would only make sense that more people would want to go to church, right?

Yet, is that the answer for the church? To put on an act of happiness? Should the church turn itself into a clean, wholesome, happy-go-lucky, unlittered, perfect-in-every-way stage. Should church members become cast members who only show their good sides and are given no place to show any other side but their good sides? Would this church even be called “real”, should such a church exist?

The fact of the matter is that Jesus never called for a clean church; rather, Jesus calls us, the church, to get our hands dirty. We are called to be present in the lives of others. We are called to express ourselves honestly, we are called to present others with the opportunity to express themselves honestly. We are not called to be perfect, but are being called toward perfection.

The truth is that it would not be healthy for the church to model itself after Walt Disney World, as that is not true to what the church really is. The church is a mess that God continues to work in and through. It is because we are a mess that we are kept humble and that we are continually reminded of our need for God to guide us through! While it certainly wouldn’t hurt for our church to be cheerful and joyful, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt for church members to be as hospitable as the Disney Cast Members are taught to be, we are not called to be an escape from the real world, but the hope of God brought into the midst of a real and messy world. It’s time to get our hands dirty!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.” – St. Augustine of Hippo

PRAYER

Lord, rather than seeking to be perfect, I seek to be perfected by you. Show me where I err, and change me to what you will. Amen.

Rise to the Challenge

Read Proverbs 2:6-8

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“The righteous walk in integrity—happy are the children who follow them!” (Proverbs 20:7)

selena-gomezAnyone who knows my family knows that we are HUGE Disney fans. Every year we go to Walt Disney World, or one of the many Disney Vacation Club resorts. We love Disney movies and frequent the Disney stores, both in the malls and online. We LOVE DISNEY!!! One of my kids favorite channels is the Disney Channel and, as a parent, I couldn’t be happier because I at least know that the Disney channel shows age appropriate content.

Both of my daughters used to love the TV series “Hannah Montana.” They loved how Hannah could be a “rock star” and maintain a normal life. Miley Cyrus played the larger-than-life character in a way that made young girls the world over aspire to be just like her, to be a little wild and yet maintain the integrity of who they are as simple, everyday people. What an awesome thing to be able to, as the phrase goes, “have their cake and eat it to.”

But anyone who has been following the news lately knows that Miley Cyrus hasn’t quite the handle on that balance in real life. The wilder she gets, the more and more she seems to be losing the integrity that her on-screen alter-ego was able to keep. The reality is, no doubt, that she is being advised by people to “shake off” that “good girl” image so that she can move into the realm of being accepted by adults. Whoa! Pause and think about that? What does that say about us adults in terms of what we expect out of our entertainers?

Yet, not all young stars are taking that advice. Another Disney star, Selena Gomez, has been very firm in remaining true to who she is. It isn’t about being a “good girl” but about maintaining her own integrity. In a recent concert, she told her fans that the only way to be cool is to have class. AMEN!!! And she recently told Teen Vogue that she will “always be the girl you want to take home to your parents, not for the night.”

Thank God for young people like Selena who are showing our young ones that there is more to life than celebrity, popularity, sexuality and money. There’s a little word called, “integrity” that should trump all other things. But this isn’t just about young boys and girls. Everyone should come to embrace “integrity.” In this world, it seems that it is a word that is abandoned by many people. We are living and participating in a world of instant gratification, a world centered around “me”, and many of us get sucked up into it.

So the challenge for us today is for us to probe deep into our lives and see where we have integrity and where we don’t. Where are we seeking instant gratification at the cost of our integrity? Where we are centering life around ourselves rather than around God and God’s purpose of us? God is challenging each of us to remain true to who God has created us to be. God is challenging us to maintain integrity and to live a life that bears witness to hope as opposed to despair, healing as opposed to destruction, and wholeness as opposed to being incomplete. Will you rise to this challenge?

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“A life lived with integrity—even if it lacks the trappings of fame and fortune—is a shining star in whose light others may follow in the years to come.” – Denis Waitley

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for making me a person of integrity. Guide me in my life so that I may bear witness to your hope, healing and wholeness. Amen.