December 31, 2011

Another New Years!

Happy New Year Everyone!

May God bless you in 2012, bringing you deep joy regardless of what the next year brings.

Thanks for being loyal readers and friends!

December 29, 2011

Family, Friends or Foes

Mom and Daughter, friends all the more! This photo from our recent vacation remind me what a gift when family are among those closest to us. Can you say that about your family? Why or why not? And what can you do this new year to strengthen the ties or restore the relationship? Worth considering!

December 24, 2011

Be Blessed This Christmas

It's time to put aside all the trimming of Christmas- you know, the last minute shopping, the busyness, the stress- and time to stop and focus on Jesus Christ, the hope of man come to earth in the form of a child.

Stop and seek Him. If you know and love Him, stop and thank God for the blessings in your life. Even under the most stressful curcumstances, He is present and offering you His Joy.

If you do not know Jesus Christ as Lord of creation and Savior from your sins, now is the time to invite Him to take over- and replace your stressed out life with peace and joy that only He can offer. God Himself designed things to work this way: that only through the confession of our sin against God and turning to Jesus will we ever find freedom, forgiveness, and new life for this earth and for eternity. Be blessed and know His love! Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2011

Christmas Changes and Challenges

"Transitions! Difficult? Yes, but it’s what God is constantly doing in our lives. He is all about transitions. The only things that are constant are God and change. We see it throughout ‘HIStory’. God is continually taking his people out of, into, or through transitions for his own glory and purpose. Remembering the lives of Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Elijah, Paul and many others we see that God never really left these men in their comfort-zone for very long. Their lives reflect the fact that God is always orchestrating our lives, our ministry, and our families for what is coming upstream. During these times we can often feel confused, fearful, and sometimes rebellious. We want clarity, but we must let go of clarity... and trust.

Two thousand years ago, God orchestrated the greatest transition of all time. Jesus entered the world, became flesh, lived and died for us so we might have a relationship with Him. This transition changed history and the world forever.

“What is going on here?” “This can’t be!” “What are we going to do now?” “How will I tell my family and friends?” How can God do this, at a time like this?” “Things were going so good!” “Now what are we going to do?” “Just look at what is happening here, it can’t be good!” “Why doesn’t God do_____?”

Haven’t we heard ourselves say these things? And yet we see that God is the Faithful One who will provide, and give us vision and strength for the near thing, even when the distant is clouded. Now, after 10 years in overseas missions, we find ourselves in this season of our lives, waiting on the Lord, again letting go of the need for clarity and remembering His faithfulness in all the times of uncertainty in the past.

Last month we attended the National Missionary Convention in Atlanta, and interestingly, the pre-conference topic was ‘transitions’. It was very enlightening and encouraging to be reminded, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” The term wait has the meaning of ‘twist’. We must twist ourselves around the Lord, and take on His character and be strengthened.

Let us encourage you if you are going through any kind of transition. Jesus came into this world to change EVERYTHING, and because of His willingness to be changed, to enter human flesh and dwell among us, we have the power to be changed and endure change.

“We don’t get to pick the assignment or the suffering that we can endure, we can only pick our attitude” Tim Dogett on ‘Missionary Transitions’ "

A note to me from friends who remain anonymous due to the nature of their work...
Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

December 20, 2011

Why Christmas Beats Halloween at Disneyland

Sure, it is just an overlay of an attraction and one of many offerings at Disneyland in California over Christmas- but what a terrific overlay it is! It's a Small World Holiday charms even the Scrooges in the crowd with its cheerful blend of Christmas tunes and decor. The exterior of the classic all-white building stuns the viewers with its thousands of colored lights, and the crowds begin running into the queue the moment the sun begins to set. It truly is magical- and nothing offered at the park for Halloween even comes close.
(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 19, 2011

Disney's Burbank Backlot

Decades before Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland were even a glimmer in the eye of forward thinking or greedy corporate executives, the Disney Backlot project in Burbank was quickly moving from concept to reality. The beautiful piece of concept art shows what could have been: shops, restaurants, etc. Think of Anaheim's Downtown Disney with a few small scale attractions through in for good measure.

The style would have been a combination of the current Grove shopping center found by the Farmer's Market in Los Angeles with hints of classic American nostalgia and a bit of riverboat flair like the old Empress Lilly at Walt Disney World. Right in the middle of Burbank. It would be a "lifestyle center" long before the concept was ever coined. Throw in the Disney craft of marketing and showmanship, and Disney's Burbank Backlot had the potential to be a smash.

Cold feet, city politics, and too many other projects on the boards ended up being the kiss of death for the idea, much to the disappointment of Disney fandom. It would have been a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon, adding a little class to the area as well as being a great incentive to remind folks to visit a full fledged Disney resort.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 15, 2011

Frontierland- When the West Was Simply Wild

Love these old souvenir books! This great little map is from my 1957 Disneyland guide. Doesn't this Frontierland look like Davy Crockett's (or wannabe Davy Crockett's) dream? It sure was mine! My mind races back to others times and places just looking at it, and my imagination starts to work in full color. I know I wasn't alone in this bit of play. The old The Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland and its Rainbow Caverns certainly had its impact on John Lasseter and the design of Carsland's Radiator Springs Racers.

One aspect I really enjoyed about the younger years of the park is that Disney allowed you to create your own adventures. Sure, stories were told- and often times they were of a company film- but especially in Frontierland, we were encouraged to exercise our own imagination a bit. There we could explore caves, an old fort, the Indian village, or even an entire western landscape by mule or train. Paddling a canoe or taking a cruise on an old steam wheeler took us places where we didn't know what lay ahead. Great fun!

There was something very hands on about the place, be it shooting rifles, searching for the perfect coonskin hat, or hanging on to the ropes while crossing those pesky barrel and suspension bridges of Tom Sawyer Island. Nowadays, hands on tends to mean "hands on the controller" as Toy Story Midway Mania and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin take prominence at the Disney parks. Sure, those rides are fun, and the parks need this kind of variety, but the simple pleasures of simpler times also have their place. Yet, these kind of smaller attractions are no longer built. With their absence, we are also missing a part of homespun Americana and the opportunity to embrace our own imagination.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 12, 2011

Tales from Rwanda: A Cow in My Classroom

Editor's Note: A good friend of mine travels to Africa regularly as part of a mercy team to provide care and schooling for the children of Rwanda. Below is the first of several notes from her adventures. It's not Disney's Animal Kingdom but the real thing. Enjoy!

Kamate’s Primary School, started just two years ago, consists of two rooms made out of mud bricks, a tin roof, and trimmed tree branches of varying sizes for seats. The windows and doors allow complete access to the natural elements; there is no glass in the window openings and no actual doors to keep out the wind and debris.

Currently it consists of four primary grades – P1, P2, P3 and P4 - as well as pre-K and Kindergarten and its 500 students range in age from four years old to mid-teens. Yes, that’s right – 500 students, which means they attend half days. P3 and P4 hold their classes in the school building. The other grades meet under their assigned trees.

Sydney and I knew that we would be teaching English at Kamate, but we didn’t really know what that meant. We thought we might team teach and brought a number of teaching materials and other supplies with us. However, God had other plans. I ended up solo teaching - mostly P3 and P4 - the better part of the school day. However, one morning I was assigned to P2.

I was bent over writing the lesson on the blackboard, when a student made a noise and I heard something being thrown off to my right. At that point I looked up and immediately saw a cow on my left, my very near left, less than two feet away- and then not just one cow, but several others just behind the tree that held up the blackboard. These are not your ordinary mild Jersey cows, but Watusis, which have long, curved horns. To buy time and keep my composure I said, “How nice! They want to learn, too!” It was just then that the herdsman made his appearance and drove his cows away. I continued on with my lesson.

I absolutely loved teaching the Kamate students. For me it was one of the highlights of not only the 2011 trip but of all three times I have been in Rwanda. But a cow in my classroom! Who would have thought it! That’s real life in Kamate, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I sure look forward to teaching there again.

December 10, 2011

Captain America Versus Jack Sparrow

Top of my DVD wish list? Captain America!
Yes, the Chris Evans / Hugo Weaving blockbuster beats out Johnny Depp and Jack Sparrow's 4th journey with the Pirates of the Caribbean. Kudos to Marvel for giving us a real hero we can cheer for- one with a heart of self-sacrifice, boldness, and a determination to fight evil versus embracing it. Not something we see everyday where the lines get blurred, and the end justifies the means.

December 8, 2011

From Disneyland to the Top of the Pop Charts

Here's an old photo I really like. Richard Carpenter and his friend and songwriting partner John Bettis at Disneyland's Coke Corner. Long ago and oh so far away, years before he and sister Karen Carpenter started Carpenters and their reign at the top of the Billboard charts in the 1970's, Richard and John Bettis played on Main Street U.S.A.

With a little help from Photoshop!

Says John Bettis in a 2011 interview with Press Telegram

"We were 20 years old, maybe, and full of ourselves," Bettis said. 
"Disneyland had all these rules, you had to act a certain way, and Richard and I broke all the rules. When we were supposed to be playing `Ain't She Sweet,' we were playing `Penny Lane' and `Light My Fire.' So they rightfully, and deservedly, fired us."

No doubt according to Richard that their boss, Vic Guder, was their inspiration for the song, Mr. Guder, from the Close to You album. Nonetheless, Richard and John would go on to write some classics that would be among the Carps great hits: Top of the World, Yesterday Once More, Only Yesterday, I Need to Be in Love, and the opus Goodbye to Love. So, here's to getting the boot at Disneyland. It can open to doors to a great career!

December 6, 2011

A San Antonio Christmas at the River Walk

Yes, it is absolutely true. The River Walk in San Antonio is stunning on a Christmas evening. The sounds celebrating the season fill the air with a Mariachi twist. Restaurants pump out the delightful scents of Mexican treats, children and their parents are caught laughing while they wait for a cruise on the river, and everyone is having a good time. In a world where family is increasingly devalued, San Antonio is one place where celebrating takes on a warm heritage all its own.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

December 2, 2011

From Tower of Terror to Soarin' Over California

In all the deserved excitement involving the billion dollar extreme makeover of Disney's California Adventure, there's still this small little area for kids filled with the charm of old school Disneyland circa 1955. Critics will argue, but Flik's Fun Fair is chock full of great visuals, rich theming, and kid friendly attractions very similar to what was found in Fantasyland at opening. Sure, a nicely themed dark ride would have made the area complete. It's certainly not Radiator Springs Racers or even Ariel's Undersea Adventure, but Flik's is a nice place to spend an hour. This Pixar pleasure world for little ones is especially enchanting in the evening and well worth your time as you stroll from The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to Soarin' Over California.

December 1, 2011

A New Species of Theme Park Posterized

Oh, the promise! Oh, the potential!

When Disney's fourth Florida theme park debuted, this beautiful poster of Disney's Animal Kingdom was found for sale in the shops of Safari Village. Thanks to a friend, this image was sent to me, in appreciation for my extensive series on the creation and evolution of the park.

Imagineer Joe Rohde's vision for this gorgeous place could be seen here in its condensed glory, but it was only a fractional picture of what was originally imagined. True, Beastly Kingdom would never appear, but in its place came the thrills of Expedition Everest and the soon to come controversial Pandora land from the film Avatar. All this proves once again, that in the Disney universe, the winning concepts that succeed from blue sky ideas to concrete and steel reality are only proving the survival of the fittest.

(For those that are interested, I look at the park from its roots to its future in a six part series that begins here.)

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)