December 31, 2015

A Time to Celebrate

As you celebrate New Year's Eve tonight, stop and give thanks to God for another year of life on earth! Even in the midst of the hardest of things, His love never fails... even when we don't understand the turning of events in our lives.

May God Bless You in 2016!

December 30, 2015

Fixing Disneyland: My End of Year Wish List

The end is near. 2015 that is, and it's been a banner year for our favorite theme park, Disneyland. The 60th Anniversary brought us a new parade, new fireworks, and all kinds of additions from enhancements to Peter Pan's Flight to new Emporium windows. MiceAge / MiceChat has the best year round up I've read, but that's not what this post is about.

The old gal looks pretty good after all this time, but she still needs some help. "How to Fix Disneyland?" A good question with some darned good answers from this writer. Are you ready? Here's my land by land tour of additions and enhancements while the big construction starts.

Main Street U.S.A.: Since the Disneyland Railroad will be closed for quite awhile, place the most beautiful of the trains at the station, using the entire area as a meet and greet for Mickey himself. The rest of the land seems to be in the most complete state possible, so let's move on.

If Moana hits it big, tiki culture can have a greater presence in the park.

Adventureland: Let's begin by dumping all the plastic figures found in Tarzan's Treehouse. Build a new queue on the lowest level and incorporate a character meet and greet inside the kitchen. Guests can check out a face character Tarzan from above while they tour the loft home. Women get a little beefcake, and the crowds in the narrow passageway between two lands thin out just a bit.

Add a new scene for the world famous Jungle Cruise. Keep the folks queuing up. It's a Disneyland classic that does not get the respect it deserves.

For foodies, it's time for something new and crowd pleasing. The Magic Kingdom in Florida gets the Skipper's Canteen. Good for them. It's long overdue- Time to return the much loved Tahitian Terrace to Adventureland. Bringing instant night time rhythm to a fairly dark and exotic piece of the park, it ties in greatly with the Enchanted Tiki Room. In one bold step, it rids the land of the thematically ugly monstrosity of the Middle East desert next to a lush Polynesian paradise. Retro vibe, vintage Disneyland, and more  table service dining. Appeases long time fans and brings in new ones.

Tune up the opening day effects now missing from Indiana Jones Adventure. The culminate effect of so much lost is not quite the Disco Yeti of Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest, but it is a strong statement of lack of care poured out on the park's last "E Ticket" attraction. Last up for Adventureland: Bring in some musical entertainment. The second story balconies can hold a small band, and it would liven up the area.

A scaled back River is coming.

Frontierland: January begins the end of the Rivers of America as we know it. In preparation for the misplaced Star Wars Land, the river is being circumcised so to speak to accommodate a brand new land being carved out of the backwoods, and once you do it, it cannot be reversed. (Yeah, I'm in a feisty mood, aren't I?) The Disneyland Railroad is being rerouted as well. Watercraft plying the course will come to a halt for at least a year as all the work is done. (A special note: Wouldn't it be nice if the Imagineers were planning the train track to route through a re-worked slice of Rainbow Caverns and even past an outdoor geyser or two?)

The question will be how to bring life into Frontierland beyond Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Let's begin by an encore performance of the original show for the Golden Horseshoe and offer a sit down restaurant experience in the evening, compete with a western style menu. Bring back the can can and the comedian with a fast-paced production that honors the past by its highlights while bringing in some new talent. 

Outside, add in some street characters. At opening, Disneyland featured a pair of gunslingers, sheriff and outlaw. The show climaxed with the pair duking it out on the second level of the Horseshoe. It was a crowd pleaser and a great photo opportunity for guests young and old. Imagineering could even use some "misfires" to create some special effects that go off during the show, making it a living Shootin' Gallery of sorts.

With the current acreage, there's really not any room for a bigger  attraction, but a small museum type exhibit could be put into the arcade area. It's the small touches that make and keep Disneyland charming. 

Walt had a good head for what pleased Disneyland guests.

New Orleans Square: A bit of sacrilege here. Close Pirates of the Caribbean now a few days midweek to install some additions and enhancements for its 50th Anniversary in 2017. You know that both the money hungry suits and the creatively inspired Imagineers are thinking about doing something to honor its achievement  It is the premier granddaddy attraction of the park, and its' time to bring it back to top form all the while surprising guests with something new to celebrate. Just make sure its some unused concepts by Marc Davis and not something from the movies.

Remember that old unused courtyard that's got that awful teal and purple scheme? Turn it into a character meet and greet with Tiana and friends. 

Critter Country: Even though some amount of construction will be needed to connect the land to the new Star Wars Land, the rest of the land should stay relatively open to guests. There's more than just Pooh here, so make the most of it. Fill the place with forest characters as well as the Country Bears. A little hillbilly music would be good, too.

Fantasyland: Unlike the younger parks, there's no dining options in Sleeping Beauty Castle. Make the most of it. Put some work in behind the scenes, and use the old Skyway building as an entrance to a beautiful and remote fondue restaurant that overlooks the graceful gardens of the Storybookland Canal Boats. Instant win as it reuses a very important piece of the park's history and provides a tranquil setting for a meal far from the crowds. There's enough dedicated old timers that would enjoy the opportunity. Throw in a clock shop or even a cooking store to please the retail crowd, and it's a clear win-win for everyone.

Is it just me or is Disney missing a prime opportunity to use the old Motor Boat Cruise area for a temporary Frozen mini land? Bring over everything from California Adventure and place it under the shadows of the mighty Matterhorn. Sure, Arendelle is not in Switzerland, but it works much better here than in any other place. 
It's only temporary anyway. 

Mickey's Toontown: Until this is replaced by Frozen, let's fill the place with characters that are not tied to a single location. Fix that Jolly Trolley. Add a mini hedge maze. Give guests a gag-filled Toontown quick service location so that the nearby Fantasyland eateries are not entirely swamped at lunch. 

... but it's a sleeper at Disneyland.

Tomorrowland: Let's be honest, Season of the Force is a mixed bag. And that is being very gracious. Re-Imagine the carousel theater museum, and make the experience what it was advertised to be. 

Outside those walls, let's bring some real energy to the futuristic area, starting with an astronaut with a working jet pack- or even the Rocketeer- if you have to tie in a Disney film. Place the Rocket Jets/Astro Orbitor/whatever its become back to the top of the launchpad. Bring in Wall-E to greet guests, perhaps even Baymax, this family's favorite robot by a long shot.

Tomorrowland is Disneyland's embarrassment compared to what it was in decades past. It is time for a full remodel, but I'm not sure anyone can really figure out what to do with it. Maybe Star Tours will move with the new land, and the entire entrance can be reworked. It's certainly the toughest problem to tackle. Disney has proven they can do fantasy well but can no longer take us to a real, science based future. Just look at Future World at Epcot.

There you have it. My ideas for fixing Disneyland. What are yours?

(Images copyright The Walt Disney Company/Lucas Films.)

Disney by the Decade

Playing around and discovered a nice little find: The Orange County Register offers up two interactive maps. One is Disneyland at opening in 1955. (Above)
The next is present day Disneyland 2015 before the changes begin in January 2016 to the Rivers of America, Frontierland and Critter Country. 

As you'll see, the park has changed quite a bit, and there's much more to come in the next decade. If you want to play around with the maps and discover more, go here. It's a lot of fun.

Have some great suggestions for fixing Disneyland? Check out my article above. It contains my suggestions and asks for yours.

(Art copyright The Orange County Register.)

December 29, 2015

My Christmas Elves

A new photo from our oldest daughter and her husband. Three adorable little helpers. I love them!

Norway Part of Magic Kingdom South

 Star Wars Land. Avatar's Pandora. Norway. What could these all have in common? These are all the location of the latest infusion of Disney characters- all fictional, all popular, all awaited by many theme park and movie fans. 

It still seems rather odd to me that Frozen is finding its way into Epcot's aging but still beautiful World Showcase. Honestly, I do not know why this should be so. The Three Caballeros were placed in Mexico years back. Canadian Comedian Martin Short made his way into his home country's pavilion, (and he is certainly a lively character!), and there remains some (mostly fan) talk of Remy from Ratatouille making his home in France. In other words, Epcot is turning into Magic Kingdom South one pavilion at a time. One plea for the suits in charge- please do not get rid of the epic Impressions de France, and I may be just slightly  more forgiving.

The mission is mostly accomplished in Future World, where in the oddest turn of events, the one fictional character that really belongs there- Figment- has been given the short end of the stick with an attraction not in the least bit worthy of the source material.  He could be on his way out with Dreamfinder already being kicked to the curb. You don't even really have to use your imagination at all to see this. So Norway, now becomes home to Anna and Elsa. (Nice piece of Imagineering concept are above, though.)

In some ways, things aren't all that much different on the West Coast. Star Wars Land will be built next to Frontierland, dedicating an all too important property to a park and location where it doe not belong. The same can be said for Marvel attractions being badly shoehorned into California Adventure, right behind Hollywood Land to be precise. 

At least at Disneyland, the biggest animated hit Frozen will be given a proper home in Fantasyland as soon as Mickey and his toon friends vacate and the nearby theater closes sometime after Star Wars Land opens up. 

Bottom line- all these changes will bring in even bigger crowds, moving the turnstiles and ringing the cash registers. Even bigger profits ahead for Robert Iger and Company.

December 28, 2015

Fun in the Winter Sun at Blizzard Beach

River Country may have been the first of the Disney water parks, but it was really just a test for something bigger and better yet to come. 

Typhoon Lagoon came along in 1989 during the largest expansion ever in the history of Walt Disney World. It was joined by the Caribbean Beach Resort, the first moderate and the 3rd Florida theme park, the Disney-MGM Studios. With such incredible expansion, Walt Disney World was the place to be in the 90's. And the Imagineers wanted to make sure it stayed that way!

Come 1995, the third water park opened. Blizzard Beach was an instant hit. The concept of a snow resort turned water park was just too much fun, and it was hard to resist. The crowds kept growing, even as River Country was eventually left to rot.

What could be the theme for the next large expansion's water park? How about a Pirates of the Caribbean one? It was proposed sometime earlier this decade but has yet to come about. As they say, good ideas never die at Disney. Maybe it's time will come!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

A Persian Wedding

Our much loved nephew asked me to officiate his wedding to a lovely Christian girl- the only believer in a Persian family made up of both practicing and non-practicing Muslims- and including some who have even denounced Islam altogether. Since anyone can perform a wedding in their state, and because I would be going to it anyway, I nervously agreed to take on the honored job.

Their heart was for a fully Christian wedding without compromise, and I was happy to bless them- knowing all too well it came with an inherent challenge whenever you blend two families of differing faiths. I began to ask God for just the right scriptures and words, desiring a way to build bridges between families without any compromise to our mutual Christian faith. They did not want that either and believed it was important to stand for what they believe- but to do it as graciously as possible.

I really prayed hard and felt God directed me to Song of Solomon 2:10-13 where the lovers are thrilled that the winter is past and flowers have returned to blanket the earth. I quietly chewed on these verses for awhile, and one day, I felt led to look up the meaning of her Persian name. It meant “The one who brings the Spring”. This was a confirmation the Old Testament passage was a perfect choice… but it was only the beginning.

How could I possibly perform a wedding ceremony that would build bridges between the Christian and Muslim guests without compromising the fact that we all do not worship the same God?

The bottom line was that I could not. The media, the school system, and the Pope, would have you believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God, but the work of solid Biblical scholars from centuries ago forward -as well as a thorough reading of the Bible itself- reveals something quite the opposite to be true. (Read the book of Acts 4:8-12. Salvation is found in no other name but Jesus Christ.) How the wedding ceremony and reception all played out taught me some very important lessons…  

As the rest of the wedding story also tells, we will have many more opportunities as our own society continues to change. But that's a topic for another time. About half an hour before the ceremony is due to begin, the videographer attaches the microphone to my lapel and asks “What kind of religious ceremony is this?” I explain the situation, and he laughs loudly, exclaiming “This will be fun to watch!”

I immediately get nervous, realizing anew the potential powder keg of the event. I like her father and mother, want to respect them and build bridges for the newlyweds, and I want to do this well. All without compromise. Nerves, nerves, nerves. I stand outside the room waiting for the bride and groom to come downstairs to begin the wedding proceedings.

Inevitably by default, I become a greeter. So I take my unassigned duties pretty seriously, welcoming people, starting small talk, and helping with directions to the ceremony in this posh, extremely high end hotel. A little baby boy comes in on his father's shoulder, so I talk with he and his two relatives about the little guy, and things get a bit easier.  

Standing with the groom, the doors open, and his beautiful bride slowly walks down the aisle on the arm of her father. They come to the front and, I welcome the guests. Explaining that this is not just a civil duty that’s being performed, I remind them that in God’s eyes, the joining of each man and woman is a very holy thing, no less special than the very first marriage in the Garden of Eden. Her father speaks the words of giving his daughter to this man, and I ask them to join me in prayer. I ask for blessing, ending with the words “In Jesus’ Name”- and all is good. 

Then the Persian part of the ceremony begins. As I explain it, the couple sits down on low benches before the table. A shawl is lifted over the them. Mothers and sisters rub sugared loaves together over the bride and groom. They are lightly dusted, symbolizing a sweet blessing over the couple. Afterwards, similar to a cake slicing, the bride and groom dip their finger in honey and feed the other. It’s a very tender moment. While they sit, I begin with Scripture. Sharing the verses, I speak that God is a god of love and that He created marriage and is not embarrassed by romance.

The Sofreh Aghd, a Persian - not Muslim- wedding tradition, as I was boldly told. This beautiful table is spread before the bride and groom at the front of the ceremony, symbolizing the family’s wishes for the marriage.

Admonishing the bride and groom to fulfill their duties wisely and as unto God, I remind them that marriage is also an example of how deeply and sacrificially Jesus loves the people He has created, etc. Vows are said, rings are exchanged,“I Do”s are spoken. The wedding blessing takes place, and I ask God Himself to join them together and that no man would separate them. Jesus is again acknowledged. I joyously pronounce them man and wife. It’s over. Now the fun begins…

What kind of response would I be given at the reception?

Surprisingly warm, it turns out. Honestly, I was quite nervous. Not so much for me but more so for the bride and groom who had to live with the consequences of the clearly Christian ceremony. We are asked to take part in a large both families together photograph. Her brother comes over and throws his arm around my shoulder. The bride’s parents made a point to come over and thank me for such a warm ceremony… as does the bride’s absolutely wonderful brother- who turns out to be a Scientologist! Later I would tell him how much I wanted to honor and respect his parents as well as the wishes of his sister. He smiles and thanks me for doing well. Another hug. I easily hug him back.

The dinner and party begin. We all eat, drink, talk, and take lots of pictures. Mostly Farsi and some English. Steak, salad, potatoes, and saffron rice with vegetables. Candied rose and lavender petals as mints. Home made baklava and delicious nuts from the bridal table. Luscious cake with vanilla cream. Members of her family come by and introduce themselves.

The music is strictly American Standards while we eat, but it’s almost totally ethnic when its time to dance, save Uptown Funk and a Michael Jackson tune. The young bridal party jumps for the chance to dance. The bride’s father comes directly to our table and enthusiastically encourages us all to dance with his family to the Persian songs playing. We get up, and join in. Everyone’s loud, laughing, holding hands while dancing, people hugging each other. After several hours, it’s time to go, so we gather our things and thank our hosts, hug the bride and groom. “Thank you for making the ceremony PERFECT!” they say. We walk out into the lobby as we leave.

I never did find out the meaning behind the Wedding Knife dance.

One woman thanks me for my introduction of the Sofreh Aghd as well, telling me how much it means to her and her family that it was identified as a Persian tradition. “It is NOT Muslim”, she states emphatically. One of the eldest men quietly approaches me and thanks me in broken English, “The service was lovely. Prior to tonight, I did not have much understanding of Christianity - thank you.” One of the bridesmaids approaches us- “ Did you enjoy yourselves? Were you comfortable? I want you to know that 50% of my family really is ok with Jesus and God and everything!” We smile and thank her, both wishing the percentage was higher! 

Was everything said what I wanted to hear? Not entirely, but it was pretty positive overall. Doors to deeper conversation were opened, and I learned and relearned some important lessons, just like I do with much of life:

1- People respond to genuine love and kindness. 
2- A man’s culture and his religion are not the same thing.
3- I have much to learn, and God is still working on me. 
4- Some people are more open to Jesus than you would think.
5- We all have stereotypes to overcome. 
6- God is faithful when we seek Him.

December 27, 2015

Sledding in a Winter Wonderland

 Twas the day before Christmas and all through the backyard, the boys were all sledding... while the women stayed inside chatting and enjoying that second cup of coffee!

 Visiting kids and grandkids made it  very special day. It was a fairly warm December day- with just enough snow and a bit of ice to make a great sledding route.

This grandson would spend all day outside, going up and down the hill in our backyard. Forwards, backwards, sideways. It doesn't matter in the least bit as long as its fast!

Here's our "miracle boy" who days before his birth, my daughter and son in law were told he would be severely deformed as part of his brain was missing. Who'd have guessed a day or so before delivery, God would fully create the part of his brain that was missing. Our God is personal and cares for the people He created!

The old grandpa himself- what a joy to have so many grandkids!

December 26, 2015

Counting Down to Downton

The series may certainly be over in the U.K., but here in the good old United States,we cannot wait for the final season of Downton Abbey to begin! Having picked it up in Season Two by watching the series on DVD, we weren't sure we enjoyed the series. All it took was episode three for us to go from"It's ok" to "I can't wait to watch more!" Michelle Dockery and Dan Stevens were great fun to watch as Mary and Matthew, as was just about every servant found  downstairs. 

We certainly missed  Matthew as well as other characters that were sent off- particularly Siobhan Finneran's evil Mrs. O'Brien and Lady Sybil, played by Jessica Brown Findlay. With all the changes the series went through, the show faltered only so slightly at times, while Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess sharply kept things from becoming maudlin even in the worst of times.

One week and counting- and then farewell begins...

December 25, 2015

From Our House to Yours

May your Christmas holidays be blessed with wonderful times with family and friends! May God encourage you and give you a heart of thankfulness for the gift of Jesus Christ- the ultimate Gift that makes life worth living!

December 23, 2015

Long Beach Disney Sea?

Unbuilt Disney Imagineering Attractions. There are few things like this topic to bring about a variety of reactions from any hard core Disney theme park fans. Just mention, say Discovery Bay, Western River Expedition or Westcot, and see what happens. Try discussing with them California Adventure 1.0 or Tokyo Disney Sea for two very opposing and different reactions.

All this leads me to Port Disney, the unbuilt theme park once designed by the Imagineers for Long Beach, California, just a few miles down the 405 Freeway from Disneyland. Depending on who you talk to, the park was either a very expensive ruse set up by the Disney suits to get the city of Anaheim to cough up big bucks for a second theme park on the existing property or it was the real thing that remained one of the inspirations for creating a water themed park in Tokyo, the beloved and much admired Tokyo Disney Sea

The concept above shows the beautiful and unrealized Oceana at Port Disney. (You just have to click on this one to see it in a very large size.) Inside the sparkling glass domes, lucky guests would have experienced a variety of edutainment experiences that only Disney could do. Think of the park as a combination of the original Living Seas pavilion at EPCOT Center, throw in a few modern day scientific exhibits, sprinkled with a dash or two of good old Disney magic... and even a section that sounded and looked a lot like Paradise Pier at California Adventure.  All the while, this new park would have also taken a hefty stab at Sea World's fan base, a savvy and cutthroat business strategy that had proven quite successful for Disney in Florida. 

A battle ensued between the cities, with Anaheim ponying up the massive funds and new infrastructure for an additional park, with  Disney promising a dazzling Westcot. Of course, with some local protests and a lot of help from those internal to the Walt Disney Company, the suits pulled a fast one- spending far less cash- and instead delivered a second rate California Adventure instead. The rest, as they say, is history.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 22, 2015

New Shanghai Disneyland Map

Here's the latest Shanghai Disneyland map in the brightest display and the strongest resolution I've ever seen. It looks to be fantastic!

If the reports are right, the park is not even close to completed. There's still large amounts of greenery to go in and well as some major work to be done on attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and even the centerpiece, Enchanted Storybook Castle

We will have to wait and see if that Spring 2016 opening really occurs or if Robert Iger needs to make another speech about how important China is to the company... while there are more delays. Time will tell, but for now, click on this and enjoy!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Stumbling at the Tree

Disney's Animal Kingdom captures my attention these past few years in so many ways. Imagineer Joe Rohde's design intrigues me. Particularly the Tree of Life. I could stand there and just stare at it! I'm always reminded of the Garden of Eden whenever I take a stroll through the Oasis Gardens. Beautiful! Lately, I've been reminded of something totally different...and I don't like it one bit.

Are you just like me? Do you seem to get caught in the same old things over and over again? You know, those snares that seem to take you down. The traps that cause you to think you'll never conquer some bad habit, some old fear. Get in line.

It's been years and years since I first begun reading the Bible. Since it's the greatest story ever told, I am always uncovering new truths each time I read. Such a gift! Just recently I saw for the very first time something I had never realized in one of the most famous passages in the Bible. It is so powerful in its simplicity that I am surprised I do not apply this truth more often.

In the first two chapters of Genesis, we see what God intended the world to be: beautiful, peaceful, purposeful, and relational – God with his creation! It was good- very very good! This is where He creates our world and blesses it.

Chapter 3 is where things fall apart- in the Garden of Eden- and the world becomes what we now experience. Let's look at it.

Now the serpent was more crafty (note: some translations say “cunning”) - than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it."

Let me paint the picture here:

Beautiful garden, a beautiful day, Adam is lazily looking around- probably admiring his wife’s beauty. In fact, he’s probably too absorbed by her naked body to think about what is happening… probably doesn’t even initially notice the serpent.

Eve’s already next to the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, probably admiring it and thinking about it- and totally oblivious to what was to come. She may even be a little bewildered by a creature that speaks. A conversation takes place. Eve ponders what was said and makes a decision to eat from the forbidden fruit. She hands the fruit to Adam, and he eats too.

How did things go south for them?
The enemy had a strategy that still works well today. Sadly, all too well- on me, on you, and on just about everyone I know.

Satan’s successful plan is a progression. One step at a time, he lures us in. It begins with questioning God’s word. Look at verse 1- “Did God really say?”

He questioned whether it was a sin to eat, wearing Eve down bit by bit, planting seeds of doubt regarding God’s goodness- "Why would a good God deny you?" you can almost hear him saying. Boy, I get this- and buy into it myself sometimes.

But then in verse 4 – “You certainly won’t die” / when you eat, your eyes will be open like God’s" . Here the serpent denied the inevitable consequences and danger of sin, wearing her down again. He's selling the advantage of sin very slyly by offering a falsehood: the half lie and half truth always equals total deception. 

Then, he boldly suggests it's to her advantage to sin. Let's be honest: This is exactly where I fall most often and maybe you as well. This proposed advantage helps us justify our own sin nature and the lies we tell ourselves. 

The offer is made, and Eve considers taking the bait.

But here is where Eve blows it. She has a chance but never runs from the serpent. She doesn’t go back to God for clarification. She blindly takes the serpent’s word as truth. Eve makes the decision alone without consulting Adam, who God gave her for truth and support. Her eyes fixates on the benefits of eating (good for food, pleasing to the eye, gaining wisdom). Instead she indulges and passes on the "blessing" to her husband. 

Here's the challenging application:

Truth Number 1: If we don’t run away from temptation, we must face a battle that is even bigger and harder to deal with!

Truth Number 2:  With everything we are told/read/watch, we must go back to God for the truth.  This includes:

1-  What we tell ourselves  - "I won’t get stuck in it"
2-  What we hear from our wives, friends, and others
3-  What the media reinforces all around us- the benefits of sin

Truth Number 3:

We need to know what the word of God says, and we need the support of the people around us when we are tempted.

Choosing to do rightly will be a constant battle- especially if we know what we want to do is wrong! It’s a control issue! We love to be masters of our own destiny. It’s not just about sin- its about obedience and allowing god to direct our lives.  Sometimes it is just ego! We don’t want anyone telling us what to do or we are impatient and will not choose to wait for God's best. We do not want to wait for god to take action- so we do it ourselves, what we think is best- even if its against his wishes. “Human wisdom” versus trusting God.

Truth Number 4:
Most importantly of all- let me say this again- most importantly of all:  Besides displeasing God, the saddest part about taking things into our own hands is the truth that it limits us from ever seeing God take care of our lives. Read that last line again. He wants to be that personal with us, but our own refusal to submit to his ways or his commands lead us to a life much less satisfying... and then we wonder where God is when we need Him!

We constantly battle giving over control, and we rationalize our sin while we pursue knowledge of God. How can we expect God’s blessing if we knowingly indulge in sin?

From Lord of the Rings.

So Satan wears us down with his schemes, but we also can help him win! How is that possible?

Truth Number 5:

We flirt with sin, thinking we are in control, and we end up giving the enemy a foothold.

Our biggest mistake is revealed in how Eve handled herself. Notice the opening of this passage reveals the serpent didn't lead Eve to the Tree. She was already there!

Instead of going about the garden enjoying all that God had given, being thankful and satisfied with God's goodness, she fixates on the tree itself and the forbidden fruit she cannot have. She flirts with it, obsesses over it, perhaps even thinks about how close she can get to it without falling!  We do the same thing! 

Truth Number 6:
Knowledge without relationship and obedience is not Christianity!

The focus of real faith remains on relationship with him not what He does for us. Adam and Eve traded  a pure relationship with God for knowledge like God!

The Pharisees, those religious leaders of the ancient Jews, had all the knowledge anyone could want about God. And Jesus told them they were phonies and frauds! They looked good on the outside but inside, they were dead. And they were leading people in ways of death instead of life. 

For some of them, this was hard to hear as they truly desired to please God and desired others would please him. But they flaunted their knowledge, desiring the respect and fear or men. Status was so important to them.

That sweet baby grew to be a man with a mission!

Here they were, the spiritual leaders of the day, and they could not recognize God in the flesh - Jesus- when they saw him.

Back to Chapter 3 of Genesis: "...then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the lord god as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 

Thankfully, God looks for Adam and Eve, and later we read the episode in the Garden ends with hope and a sacrifice by God on our behalf. A foretaste of what God would provide by sending Jesus to die for our sin while on the cross. God in the flesh dies on our behalf so we can live... and later rises from the dead to prove his conquest over death and sin.

All this is a reminder that God pursues us- even after we are in sin! Satan desires to use guilt and anger to push us away from God,  but our loving God draws us near, wanting us to change direction.

Let's put this to application- We’ve got the Ten Commandments as our guide to living a life that pleases God. We seriously add to our troubles and displease Him when we break them. It's always good to take a look at these and evaluate where we are and how we are doing.

Ask yourself:

·       What are my idols?
·       Where am I involved in sexual sin?
·       Do I covet what other people have? etc.

Or is it just an issue of control- Wanting to do what you want?

Is it pride? "No one will tell me what to do!"  Or is it just flat out disobedience. Has God told you to do something and you have refused?

If you are a follower of Jesus, admit where you are, and give it all back to the only God who loves you and gave His life for you. If you're not, consider who He is by what He has done on your behalf. 

Peace with God. It's available this Christmas and only through the gift of Jesus. It's offered to you. What will you do with it?

(Most photos copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 21, 2015

The End of Pirates of the Caribbean

It remains to be seen whether or not the 2017 Johnny Depp focused Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a big hit or flop.  A 5th go around could end up either way.

This is not the case for the Disney attraction that inspired it all!

The Imagineers under the direction of Walt Disney himself cooked up a rollicking journey worthy of the name... and I love writing about it. (See a 45th anniversary look at the attraction here.) Upon its debut at Disneyland in 1967 at the elegant New Orleans Square, the attraction became an instant fan favorite. No one had ever created a theme park attraction like it- almost 15 minutes of astounding adventure. It is the theme park gold standard world wide, but unbelievably, it was not an opening day attraction at Walt Disney World

The plan for the expansion of the Magic Kingdom included a Wild West styled version of the pirate adventure, Western River Expedition, along with a multitude of other attractions. Had it all been built as originally planned, it would have made this new park's Frontierland the one to see. 

 Not there on opening day. No plans until the guests kept asking for it.

Blame it on the energy crisis, cold feet of Disney executives, or even the deluge of complaints from guests wondering where Pirates was, but Western River Expedition and all the attractions at Thunder Mesa were not to be. Visitors won out with their complaints, and executive Card Walker made the decision to scrap Marc Davis' unbuilt masterpiece in favor of a known hit.

A great construction photo.

You've got to see this in full size! Just click on it.

When it came time to duplicate the show for Florida's Magic Kingdom, Imagineer Marc Davis created a brand new conclusion along with some new opening scenes. I've always loved the original ending where the Spanish soldiers protecting the fortress are tied up while the pirates grab the golden treasure.

The final scene.
Postcard at

When the films based on the attraction became very popular, both the Disneyland original and the Florida version added Johnny Depp aka Captain Jack Sparrow to the mix. Purists scoffed. Fans of Mr. Depp and the films cheered. Nonetheless, crowds began to return to the Florida attraction, filling the queue once again.

Photo by Mike Thomas at Magic and Memories

Changes are constantly in play with the attraction. Additions have included other characters from the film and even a hint of deadly mermaid activity in the caverns. 

In 2017, Pirates of the Caribbean celebrates its 50th Anniversary at Disneyland. You can bet the Imagineers are planning for some new surprises to celebrate and honor this landmark attraction. I'm certainly hoping they pull it off!

(Unless denoted, art and photographs copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 18, 2015

The World Awaits the Force Awakens

One movie house at a time. Sold out theaters and waiting in line to snag a seat. Here it comes! It's like the beginning of the series all over again. Will it be worth the wait?

December 17, 2015

Michael Buble's Christmas Misfire

This guy has one of the greatest voices ever. Smooth and warm or crisp and focused, Michael Buble can sing it all. And I love so much of what he puts out. Unfortunately, his brand new Christmas single, "The More You Give (the More You'll Have)" falls flat. It's a very nice and very true sentiment, but the snappy arrangement doesn't quiet come together- and for one of the first times, it sounds like a rather uninspired vocal performance. 

December 16, 2015

Notable and Quotable: Sarah Drew

"The stay-at-home mom has the terrifying, holy, charge of raising up little eternal beings not people who will encounter the world either with kindness and grace, or with malice and indifference. I cannot think of a more important job. And yet, our culture rolls our eyes at these women. Our culture says they've 'given up' on doing anything with their lives."

Actress Sarah Drew, from Grey's Anatomy

December 15, 2015

Imagineer Tim Delaney's DCA Poster

Alright, I'll admit it: It's a pretty ugly day out there today, and I'm doing some California dreaming. That said, I thought it would be nice to post a little something special for those of you also stuck inside working because of the winter weather.

How's this piece of attraction poster art for California Adventure? Imagineering's Tim Delaney- that designer of the incredibly gorgeous Discoveryland for Disneyland Paris- created this concept for the second park in Anaheim.

It's clearly for DCA 1.0 as it features a "hip and edgy" style the suits so loved, featuring the Sun Icon, the entry tile murals, and the miniature Golden Gate Bridge.  As we all know, the first version of the park was a colossal failure which eventually resulted in a grand redesign- the first ever in Disney park history (until Disney's Hollywood Studios follows suit)- and it's now a great success and worthy of the name Disney. 

If you want more Tim Delaney, and you should, then cruise the blog for more rare artwork from a very talented man!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 14, 2015

Tomorrowland's Mighty Microscope

In a galaxy long, long ago, long before Disneyland's disjointed Tomorrowland became the mess we know it to be, Tomorrowland '67 was an incredible place filled with forward thinking attractions. It was scientifically focused. It was not about cartoon characters that had an adventure in outer space. That's the way Walt Disney approached the Land of the Future, and that is what was on the boards for Disneyland right before he died.

Some of the most inspiring concept art comes from this period of Imagineering and of the concepts designed for EPCOT Center's forward looking Future World. Imagineer Herb Ryman led the charge, creating piece upon piece of beautiful designs for the second Disney park in Florida. But back to Disneyland...

Here's Adventure Thru Inner Space's art for the huge Mighty Microscope. When guests boarded "Atommobiles", they immediately ventured into the microscope on their way to being shrunk to the size of an atom- and beyond. The soundtrack for this attraction is worth digging up for a great combination of excitement and retro fun.

In the next chapter of "Disney Theme Park Disasters", we'll look at the Tomorrowland of now and how looking at the future from a realistic standpoint has disappeared for the Disney parks. Going forward, it's either Jules Verne retro, cartoon visions of the future, or a whole lot of Star Wars. Yes, the snowflake has melted...

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

December 13, 2015

Happy 90th Dick Van Dyke!

Happy 90th Birthday Dick Van Dyke! YOU should have been the Disney star ambassador for the 60th celebration of Disneyland. As a beloved performer, your star has never shone brighter! 

Mary Poppins would not have been the smash without you. I'm sure Julie Andrew herself agrees- along with your millions of fans.

Sunday Dreaming

Cold cool air and lots of snow on the ground from yesterday's storm. It's the perfect kind of weather for me to dream. And so I do dream of far away places, warm breezes, and crystal clear tropical waters. I just know that this Italian villa has an incredible view of the water just beyond those steps!

(Photographer unknown.)

December 12, 2015

Crescent Noon

An early recording by Karen Carpenter circa 1968 or so. Below, you'll find an amazing early recording of the Richard Carpenter penned Crescent Noon, a song that would later appear on their major breakthrough A&M Records album Close to You.

She's performing here with the California State University of Long Beach choir under the director of Frank Pooler, co-author of the classic Merry Christmas Darling

This recording reveals some major changes in phrasing compared to the version Carpenters fans have come to know. It's a nice switch up- and to hear Karen hit those low notes at such a young age is a wonder. It's almost effortless, but I guess that was part of the reason so many took her for granted. The woman was made to sing- and her legacy continues on.