Archive for June, 2011

God and Disney World: Not Even a Thank You

Posted: June 24, 2011 by clairer in Creativity, Pride

Disney’s park Epcot is, in many ways, a celebration of the achievements of mankind. In one area of the park, Future World, there are attractions that show cutting-edge scientific discoveries to improve agriculture. There is a 4D movie theater in which you can soar over wonders of the world, feeling like you’re actually there. There is a ride that claims to be the “longest, fastest attraction in Disney history!” And Future World’s most prominent feature Spaceship Earth: a ride that drives you through a world of animatronics documenting the rise and progression of communication throughout history.

While these things were fascinating and fun to see, there was a distinct feeling that something was missing in all of these displays and shows. Disney, like much of American society, was celebrating all these achievements — these gifts from God — without acknowledgement of the Giver. In fact, many times it celebrated these things while blatantly denying the Creator.

For example, Spaceship Earth’s “History of Communication” display was a really interesting survey of history…except that the starting point was a less-than evolved civilization that lived in caves and spoke through grunts to one another. Not only is this a complete denial of the intelligence and dignity that God gave each human from the beginning of the world, but the display also completely rejects the role that God had in creating the world. As if that’s not enough, the narrator on the ride goes on to talk about the advances in technology and communication as if we, mankind, did it entirely on our own through our innate intelligence. We invented the alphabet. We discovered paper. We invented the printing press. And we “sailed into a bold, new era of communication bringing an explosion of tools and technologies which would bridge people around the world as never before.”

True, from a human perspective, “we” did all this. The Phoenicians invented the alphabet, the Egyptians discovered papyrus, and Gutenberg manufactured the first printing press. However, from a Christian perspective, we’re aware that God was behind all of these discoveries and inventions. God was the one who created humans “in His image,” with the intellect and reasoning ability to create and explore. God was the one who created the rules language…and the one who confused man’s language at the Tower of Babel. God was the creator of papyrus, of the wood and metal that the printing press was made from, and the materials we use today to communicate with one another. God was the one who inspired the minds of those who created these means of communication.

And yet, when we’re celebrating that gift — the technological advances of mankind — how do we thank the Giver? How do we show our thankfulness to the one who created and inspired us? We ignore him. Worse, we deny His existence and take credit for these advances ourselves.

I don’t think Disney is the only culprit here. Too often, I take the gift and forget to acknowledge the Giver. How often have I been praised for my talents, giftings, and abilities and merely accepted those compliments without giving credit to God or without Him even entering my thoughts? How often do I wake up in the morning and go about my day without pausing to thank God for the everyday blessings — breath, food, shelter, family, freedom, and education — that He has provided for me? How often do I pray for something and then forget to return to thank God for the answer to prayer (much like nine of the ten leapers that Jesus healed)?

Christians, in particular, should be the most thankful people on earth. Not only does God provide for all our needs, but he has also solved our greatest problem — He saved us from our sins and gave us eternal life with Him. Do we stop each day and thank Him for that? Or is the gospel something we take for granted?

Our thankfulness and acknowledgement of God doesn’t have to be cumbersome or flashy. It should be an attitude that we adopt. Living thankfully doesn’t mean that every time someone compliments us, we say, “Oh, you should thank God; it’s not me.” But that should be the attitude in our hearts whenever someone praises us. We should view praise and compliments as a reflection on God’s creativity and strength, not our abilities achieved through our hard work. Instead of pridefully allowing such compliments to make us feel good, we should use those occasions to humbly (and often, quietly) thank God for the gifts he has given us.

Living in this manner not only glorifies God (because it acknowledges His power and His creativity over our own), but it also gives us joy in our lives. If we view each blessing (even everyday ones) as an undeserved gift from God, our day is full of joyful celebrations. If we’re focused on thanking God for the blessings that God has given us, our minds will be too occupied by these gifts to think about the things we’re not content with. It transforms our complaining hearts to gratified hearts.

So, as you go through your day, try to take time to notice the gifts that God has surrounded you with and take a moment to just pause and thank Him. If you can take time to write a thank you note to someone who gives you a gift for your birthday, can’t you take just a moment to thank the God who gives you life?

As my family passed by Cinderella’s Palace, the centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom Disney park, a crowd started to gather, music began to blare from the speakers, and Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald Duck, and Goofy all popped out of the castle. Little kids excitedly waved and adults knowingly smiled as the “real live” princesses and princes from the Disney movies joined Mickey on stage. In an instant, though, those kids stopped waving as, in a cloud of green mist, Maleficent, the villain from Sleeping Beauty, appeared on stage telling the crowd that she was going to take over. But the day was saved by Donald Duck who stood up to the evil queen and told her, “As long as kids still believe that dreams come true, evil like yourself will be conquered!” As Donald led the crowd in a chant “Dreams come true! Dreams come true!” Maleficent descended through a trap door in screams of agony.

It was a cute skit with good songs and talented dancers…but something bothered me about the play. To a crowd full of starry-eyed youngsters, all the advice that Mickey and Minnie had to offer the next generation was “Just believe that dreams come true!” That’s it. No promise of success, no foundation for their hope, no assurance for their future. What kind of advice was that?

But as I thought about it, I realized that Mickey and Minnie gave this advice because…they really didn’t have much else to give. When you look at the choices available to us, there are really only four options of things we can choose to trust in: God, ourselves, other people, and other things.

It doesn’t take long for any of us to learn that other people will fail us. People hurt us, insult us, lie to us, and break promises. Why? Because we live in a world that’s full of sinners. Even Christians, who have been filled with God’s Holy Spirit, will fall short of perfection…often. Because of this, people quickly learn that basing our faith on other people will ultimately fail us.

Things too, don’t satisfy. People often spend their lives jumping from fad to fad, possession to possession, addiction to addiction searching for the thing that will satisfy their need for more — the thing that will give them happiness. Why do their interests continually jump around? Because each new thing they try only leaves them with the empty awareness that it didn’t satisfy. It may have made them happy for a time, but possessions get old and break down. Addictions never satisfy, but leave the addict desiring more and more. Fads occur, then people move on to a new fad. Believing in “things” will never be a sure foundation for our lives.

Then what about ourselves? Surely if other people and other things can’t be trusted, the one thing we can be sure of is ourselves…right? I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t want to trust in myself for my whole life. I’m very aware of the fact that I fall short and that I control very little. I would hate to go through life beating myself up over all the bad things that happened to me, because, if I’m trusting in myself, those bad things must be my fault. I would hate to have to go into every test knowing that the result depended exclusively on how smart I was. I would hate to know that I would have to be constantly vigilant to find the job I hope to hold, because that’s all up to me to find. No, living by trusting in myself would be the most depressing, stressful, and discouraging option of all.

So…what was Disney left with to tell kids to believe in? Dreams: a vague, hopeful idea that things will happen the way we want them to. That’s all that Disney thought was left to tell the next generation. Just believe!

Donald Duck isn’t the first person in history to tell people to “just believe,” though. Those very words were spoken by another person nearly 2,000 years ago: Jesus. As Jesus came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jairus, to heal his daughter from sickness, people told him not to bother…the little girl was already dead. Jesus turned to Jairus and said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

Just believe. What is the difference between Donald Duck’s advice and Jesus’ command here? The differences is that Donald Duck gave the children nothing to believe in. Believing in dreams will get you nowhere except an understanding that dreams don’t always come true. Jesus gave us an object of our faith: himself. He also gave us a reason to believe: he provides. The crowd believing that “dreams come true” may have defeated the fictional Maleficent in a Disney skit, but Jairus’ belief in Jesus defeated death in the real world: Jairus’ daughter came back to life.

So, while the world is telling us to believe in things, or people, or dreams, or ourselves, it is important to remember that there is only one steadfast foundation that can satisfy: Jesus.

God and Disney World: Creativity

Posted: June 22, 2011 by clairer in Creativity

We had beautiful weather for my family’s 10-day vacation in Florida. The sun shone, the sky stayed blue and cloudless, and even the temperature generally stayed below 100 degrees. It was perfect…except for the night when we were supposed to attend the sound and lights water show at the Hollywood Studios Disney park. Then the storm came. As we drove back to our hotel amid the rumbles of thunder, the spectacular flashes of lighting, and the pouring rain, my brother made an interesting comment: We may have missed out on Disney’s show, but we were getting a magnificent sound and lights water show from God — on a far greater scale than Disney could ever accomplish.

As I reflected on that comment, I realized how true that was of so much of Disney World. I loved the Disney attractions. I enjoyed the boat rides that took me through worlds of animatronics, the safaris that drove me through the “plains of Africa,” and the rides that flew me over the canyons and forests of the world and through waterfalls and jungles. All these things were fun to see and do, but none of these attractions were real. They were all copies and simulations of the real thing. They were replications of the real world that God created.

I think it’s interesting that one of the most creative companies in the world still could not even come close to the creativity and ingenuity of our Creator. True, Disney could make human being animatronics, but these “humans” were stiff, robotic, brainless, and only a shadow of the beauty and creativity of true living humans that God has fashioned. Disney could take tourists through rain forests of the Amazon and desserts of Africa, but only by means of fake plastic plants and gigantic movie screens. Even the attractions with living creatures — like the Safari in Animal Kingdom — was a simulation of the greater natural and free creation God made in the real African plains. In the end, the best that Disney could offer its visitors was a shallow and condensed reflection of God’s world.

This really shows the wonderful power and creativity of our God. Mankind’s power to create is limited. We may think we’re creative, inventive, and powerful, but in the end, our best is easily beat by God. Think of all the greatest accomplishments that mankind has achieved. We are able to communicate with each other from around the world without wires. God was able to communicate from heaven to earth starting in Genesis. We are able to send men into space to explore planets, stars, moons, and galaxies (although we have yet to land on a planet or go very far into our own galaxy). God created the universe and knows each star by name. We are discovering cures to a whole host of diseases. God has been healing people throughout history.

Ultimately, the greatest things we do as mankind are dim reflections of the beauty, creativity, ingenuity, and power that our sovereign God has already displayed. In fact, the most creative and brilliant minds that are a part of Disney…those minds were hand-crafted by the ultimate Creator.

Not Your Will, but Mine Be Done?

Posted: June 17, 2011 by clairer in Prayer, Trusting God

Have you ever wanted something really badly? Have you ever prayed hard for that thing, and then reluctantly added at the end of your prayer the phrase that Jesus first spoke, “Not my will, but Yours be done?” I certainly have.

At the beginning of my senior year, I knew which college I should attend. In my mind, it was the absolute perfect college…except for the price tag. However, I knew that it was the right college for me, so I prayed that God would provide. “Father, could you please help me to get the scholarship money I need to go to this college?” I prayed again and again. At the end of each of my prayers, I would tack on the “not my will” phrase, but always with a bit of foreboding. Did I really want to pray that God would do His will, not mine? What if God answered that prayer and what if His will and mine didn’t match up? Then I would be stuck at some college God wanted me at instead of the college I wanted to attend!

Now while this thought process seems ridiculous when written out like this, I think we tend to do this all the time. We’re hesitant to pray for God’s will to be done or to commit things to God because we are afraid that God will do things His way instead of our way. But when we examine why we entrust things to God in the first place, we see how faulty our fear really is.

So, why do we pray for God’s will to be done?

First, it is because we serve a God who is sovereign and who holds control over all the universe. Jeremiah 51:15 says, “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom, and by His understanding stretched out the heavens. When He utters His voice there is a tumult of waters in the heavens and He makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lighting for the rain, and He brings forth the wind from His storehouses.” This is a powerful God that we serve. We serve a God who controls the heavens and the earth.

In contrast, how much do we control? We struggle to change minds with our words, much less change the weather with the “utter of our voices.” The book of Job always aids me in putting my power in perspective. If you need a reminder of how little you actually know and control in comparison to God, I would encourage you to read and mediate on Job 38-41.

When we understand that God controls everything and we really don’t control anything, it makes it pretty easy to choose in whose hands we want our future. Therefore, we trust God because He is sovereign and powerful.

But, a sovereign and powerful God alone does not give us a reason to want His will to be done. It just shows us that it is futile to try to stay in control. The reason we desire God’s will to be accomplished is because we also serve a good God who loves us and wants the best for us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” So not only is God sovereign and knowledgeable about His plans for us, but those plans are for our good! And, since God knows everything, doesn’t it make sense that He would know what is good for us even better than we do?

Now just because God promises good for our lives doesn’t mean that our lives will always be easy or fun, of course. “In this life, you will have trouble,” says John 16:33. However, we can have assurance that since we have a sovereign and good God, He will be working through the difficult circumstances in our lives to “work all things together for good” for those whom He has lovingly drawn to Himself. In many ways, it’s like the relationship between a father and his son. Sometimes, the father is forced to deny his son something that the child wants, not out of malice, but out of love. The father, knows better than the child what is good for the child and what will harm the child. The son may not understand…and may think that what the father is denying him is a good thing. But the father understands and knows more than the child ever could, and thus lovingly protects the child. In many ways, this is a reflection of how God knows our good better than we can ourselves. Therefore, we trust God because He is good and trustworthy.

Finally, we trust God because it changes our disposition towards our situation. When we pray that God’s will be done, we humble ourselves before God and we acknowledge God’s sovereign control over our lives. This act brings glory to God.

It also helps us to be watching for God’s hand in whatever happens. When we’ve consciously submitted something to God’s will, we know that everything that happens is done by the hand of God, so we can see His work more clearly.

Trusting God gives us peace that our life is in his capable hands and it builds our faith as we wait and watch for what He will do in our lives.

Finally, it helps us to be content in our circumstances. When we’ve prayed God’s will be done and we believe that God is good, then we can be assured that our circumstances are God’s best for us at the present time.

Therefore, we trust God because of how it changes the disposition of our heart.

There is every good reason to trust God with every area in our lives. Sometimes it’s hard “letting go” and putting our future in His hands…which is where it has been all along. We just need to let go of our delusion that we ever had control in the first place.