July 19, 2019

"Save Me From Myself!"

Have you ever heard this painful desperate cry for help? I have- all too many times. And it comes from me. From my mouth. From my mind. From my heart. Many times, I do and speak and think in ways that do not honor God or show Him that I am truly following his commandments. Are you like me? Do you struggle with treating people well or speaking kindly? Do you struggle with lust, greed, envy, addiction, rebellion, or pride? (Don't these all sound like cable television channels that reinforce and event celebrate the bad side of human nature?) With that in mind, the following comments are for those who claim to be followers of Jesus...

In the Bible's letters to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul's list of what breaks God's heart and what is against His commands is fairly inclusive. If we want to call ourselves Christians (those who are trying to be Christlike and following Him), faith in Him as well as striving to live a life of purity is necessary. Remember, it's an exchange: He gave his life for us- we give Him our lives in return. Living in a godly manner brings him glory. 

There's a better way! 
Keep reading!

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, 19 because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. 

21 For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, 27 and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. 29 They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.

There is hope in Jesus!

The words of the Apostle Paul sting! Those who are believers in Jesus Christ the King (like me) fall short of His Holiness every day. Where is my hope? And where is there hope for those people who do not know Him yet? This list means it is impossible to please God by our own strength. And that's the point. And it directs us to God for salvation and hope. Look earlier in the chapter at verses 16 and 17:

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”

What is the Gospel? It's the Good News that Jesus came to the earth in human form to pay the price for our sins. Those who believe that He died and was resurrected, who trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins, will be saved from an eternity in Hell and instead will enjoy Him in Heaven forever. This message is truly good news! It doesn't matter what you've done in the past- or what you struggle against presently. This gift is God's offer to you - because He knows a perfect and sinless life is not possible.

Don't give up!

Perhaps my sin may be different than your sin. The consequences of our choices may even be different, but God sees them all as actions, words, and thoughts that separate us from Him. So... before you judge me or focus on my sin (and before I judge you and single you out for yours), let's take a moment to read the words above from Paul and celebrate God's heart of love for us! It can be a long, hard struggle to live in a way that pleases God. It will not always be this difficult. Being a Christ follower will and should involve sacrifice of choosing His way versus ours- but the eternal gifts are worth the temporary struggle we have. Keep fighting, and ask Him to give you the strength you need!

(Top Photo from Freepik.com)

July 18, 2019

Rare Polynesian Village Pool Art

Who doesn't love Disney's Polynesian Village Resort? You are looking at a pretty rare piece of concept art designed exclusively for my favorite Walt Disney World hotel. On my very first visit I took the monorail around the property and just had to get off to explore the place. And it's been the same for every trip since. Beautiful grounds, strolling paths, and a great pool. Give me breakfast at Kona Cafe, dinner at Ohana, or a drink at Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, and I've got a smile on my face. Even without the stunning (and original) lobby waterfall, I just cannot get enough of that resort's tropical vibe! 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 17, 2019

Happy Birthday Disneyland and Splash Mountain

To honor the opening date of Disneyland and of the beloved Splash Mountain on this day in 1989, here are a few attraction posters. Disney park executives continue to offer special merchandise to celebrate significant attraction openings and closings- and theme park fans eat it up! Sometimes, I fall prey to their plans just like everyone else. Disneyland has largely remained stagnant of new and great attractions since the Indiana Jones Adventure. This has only strengthened the public's ongoing love affair with the nine minute plus long water flume masterpiece. 

It was brand new CEO Michael Eisner that realized the parks needed fresh attractions to appeal to the growing teen market- and fast. They had to offer new rides that provided thrills found at other competing amusement parks. 

One for each park!

Imagineer Tony Baxter and his team created the idea for a log flume attraction themed to Song of the South, an old Disney film filled with charm and controversy, but they avoided the link to the past and focused on a new storyline. The faded popularity of the old Tomorrowland show, America Sings, provided the perfect reason to reuse Imagineer Marc Davis' characters and place them in a brand new setting. What a smart move it turned out to be for Eisner to green light the project!

With its charming story, extremely catchy music, repurposed (and therefore cheap) animated characters, this thrilling flume drop, Splash Mountain was a major hit with fans since its first day of operation. The poster above celebrated its grand opening on July 17, 1989. To this day, the attraction continues to draw some of the longest lines at Disneyland for good reason.

Here's the 25th anniversary poster of Splash Mountain!
Thanks to Alain Littaye at Disney and More for the larger versions.

The Magic Kingdom in Florida and Tokyo Disneyland also have versions of this classic attraction. Will we ever see it in other parks?  Certainly, hot and humid Hong Kong and Shanghai need it as does Disneyland Paris

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 16, 2019

No Rainbow Connection at Disney World

Bad customer service is not excluded just because you're dealing with Walt Disney World employees! Case in point: I sent a pretty easy and direct question via the Company's email reservations. "Rainbow" was too busy to reply, stating it was best that I begin an on-line chat with someone else. My fairly simple question was harder to get an answer to than I thought. It's bad enough you have to plan so far in advance for your trip. And then, to give up some reservations you shouldn't have to. Not once but twice. Two separate trips. Thankfully, when I finally was able to chat, someone did help me but was unable to note my reservations as the systems are not connected. 

One simple, single question I couldn't find an answer to on their increasingly complicated website. And then I waited for two days for a reply. Did I deserve this? So much for a magical day!

July 11, 2019

Rise of the Resistance Opening Dates

Here we go: Rise of the Resistance, the premier Star Wars Land attraction, will open on December 5th for Disney's Hollywood Studios and January 17 for Disneyland. Now, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will really be worth visiting! (And here's the attraction poster!)

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 10, 2019

Disney's Greatest Hits

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge may be the current rage of discussion boards, advertisements, articles, and blog posts, but Disney has a long history of inspiring writers. Here's some of the Top Ten posts on this blog in the Disney World:

Number One- Rapunzel's Fine Form
Tangled was a fine movie. My review of the film is - surprisingly- one of the most read pieces.

Number Two- Disney Park Countdown #3- Disneyland Paris
A Top Ten look at my favorite Disney parks. The lovely Disneyland Paris, designed by Imagineer Tony Baxter and team, is the focus here.

Number Three- Rare Art for Disneyland's Unbuilt Atlantis Expedition
Disney fans love articles on unbuilt attractions- and uncovering this piece of concept art for a never completed Atlantis attraction made this a must see/read.

Number Four- Disneyland Executives Running Scared - and Back to Fan Favorites
The failure of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge to bring in the summer crowds surprised everyone, especially the Disney executives who have been scrambling to get bodies into "Walt's park".

Number Five- Disney World Trip Report- 20 Years from Last Visit
Exactly what the title implies: Impressions of Walt Disney World after 20 years away.

Number Six- The Amazing Disappearing Article- Disney CEO Fumbles Entry Into China
Robert Iger tried his best to make this article disappear...

Number Seven- Disney's Animal Kingdom: A True-Life Adventure (Part Five)
An eight part series on the creation and evolution of Florida's fourth Disney park. Filled with historical insights, concept art, great photographs, and my trip reports over the years. Part Five resonated  with the blog readers.

Number Eight- The Disneyland Attraction Poster Collection
Large size attraction posters for each of the Disney lands in one easy to find collection.

Number Nine- "Bargain Basement" Imagineering: California Adventure 1.0
Everyone knows the second Anaheim Disney park was more than just a tremendous flop. This first piece in the series shows you why as its filled with "art". Thankfully, they eventually Imagined a New Dream (another series showing the park's rebirth).

Number Ten- New Orleans Square and Tales from Lafitte's Crypt
Art from Imagineer Eddie Sotto reveals the untold stories that tie Pirates of the Caribbean with New Orleans Square, The Haunted Mansion and Tom Sawyer Island

Bonus: What Disney Overlooks in Shanghai
Researchers and business historians will be looking into the mess Disney made in China for decades. There's another side to it all that is often overlooked.

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 9, 2019


「 神 愛 世 人 , 甚 至 將 他 的 獨 生 子 賜 給 他 們 , 叫 一 切 信 他 的 , 不 至 滅 亡 , 反 得 永 生 。
 因 為 神 差 他 的 兒 子 降 世 , 不 是 要 定 世 人 的 罪 ( 或 作 : 審 判 世 人 ; 下 同 ) , 乃 是 要 叫 世 人 因 他 得 救 。
 信 他 的 人 , 不 被 定 罪 ; 不 信 的 人 , 罪 已 經 定 了 , 因 為 他 不 信 神 獨 生 子 的 名 。
 光 來 到 世 間 , 世 人 因 自 己 的 行 為 是 惡 的 , 不 愛 光 , 倒 愛 黑 暗 , 定 他 們 的 罪 就 是 在 此 。
 凡 作 惡 的 便 恨 光 , 並 不 來 就 光 , 恐 怕 他 的 行 為 受 責 備 。
 但 行 真 理 的 必 來 就 光 , 要 顯 明 他 所 行 的 是 靠 神 而 行 。 」


July 8, 2019

Thoughts on Halle Bailey as Ariel

Which is the bigger issue: black actress Halle Bailey cast as white Ariel in The Little Mermaid or that Disney keeps dipping into its animated classics for live action films because creativity and new ideas seem to be dying at The Walt Disney Company?

Let's talk about Halle. She's young, very talented, and has a terrific singing voice. She will do Jodi Benson proud. Does her skin color really matter? No and Yes... as long as Disney is just as apt to cast a talented white actress playing a character who is originally one of color. Otherwise, it's just another form of prejudice although one more acceptable. 

This is not a case of white supremacy. And if you think that's what I'm about or what I'm saying, you don't know me or haven't read the blog for long. So let me clear that thought out of your mind.

When does the race switch up in casting affect true cultural diversity as seen in a wide variety of books and folklore? We are all in one world, all humans- but we are placed in different times and nations by a wise and loving God. There's a richness to this diversity that is at risk as well. My views are much the same as to the extreme version of political correctness we see invade the parks. It's a delicate balance that if handled incorrectly, can rewrite history. We need history to remind us of rights and wrongs, good and evil, and what we can learn. And we need true cultural diversity as well.

All said- Give me quality, and I am happy. And enough with the live action remakes.

A Booking Nightmare Part Two- What We Gave Up at Walt Disney World

It does not get any easier to book a Walt Disney World trip. And Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge makes it all the more difficult. In fact, even with Extra Extra Magic Hours, it's still a big problem. We went through this over a year ago, and I thought it would be years before we'd encounter this mess again. But, when our oldest daughter and her husband asked us to go with their family, we jumped at the chance. These kids are big Star Wars fans and had never been to a Disney park. And what a great time we'll have... once we figure out all the pre-trip planning. Ugh, Walt Disney World just used to be much more relaxed and spontaneous. But that was then.

If you look at this post, Booking Nightmare Part One, (from our 2018 trip), you'll see we gave up plenty of must dos in order to get the most out of our time. One thing is certain, having to scurry on line in the early morning hours to get "prime" reservations for rides and restaurants brings out the worst in me, that old sinful nature that reminds me how much I need a savior. Envy, greed, worry, fear, etc. All these things come to the foreground as I compete with others for the best experiences on the property. It shouldn't be this way, but it is. I thought I might do better planning this trip, but no, it was just more of the same. Yet...

For our 2019 adventure with a young family that has never been to Florida, the new addition of Star Wars Land to Disney's Hollywood Studios, only makes things much harder. Unfortunately for guests, Disney park managers and company executives have made things even worse by excluding Galaxy's Edge restaurants and attractions from both Fast Pass+ reservations, restaurant seating times, and the Disney Dining Plan. One more way to extract additional cash from guests in the middle of trying to manage the anticipated crowds. (We all know they didn't figure it out well at Disneyland. But Florida has a whole different kind of vacationer.) How do you explain to middle class kids that building a light saber or eating in the famous cantina won't happen due to pricing and limited availability? Guess we will settle for blue milk to be shared and trinket shopping. The Falcon ride and any entertainment had better be good! 

Back to the Studios and not just Star Wars. In an entire theme park with so few attractions (less than 10) versus theater shows, a full day experience is just not possible if you have a family who prefers activity instead of sitting still watching shows. And that's just who we are. 

What did we give up this trip? I'll focus just on the Studios for now. We said goodbye to short lines for Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (the original is still the best version) and next door's coaster. We did snag a meal time at Sci-Fi Dine In, a must do with school aged kids- and honestly, one of very few eating locations worth spending time at while in the Studios. We also gave up a more relaxed morning since we must embrace Extra Extra Magic Hours in order to see Galaxy's Edge. Who wants to get up at 4:30am to make sure we get on a ride that is Star Tours 3.0 at best? Yet, for kids whom this will be their only Walt Disney World trip, we do it out of love when they are fans of the films and cartoon series. Those very early morning hours means we give up late nights at the park. For all its shortcomings, the Studios park is absolutely stunning at night, making evening walks delightful.

We set aside two days for this park to make sure we see all of Galaxy's Edge that we can. This meant only one day is set aside for Animal Kingdom. We'll see how that works out. Epcot gets a day and a half. Thankfully, the Magic Kingdom is still a full two day park for guests of any age, the mainstay of a Walt Disney World vacation. As you'll read in the forthcoming trip reports, we did do smashingly well with our restaurant reservations, allowing us to eat in locales I haven't experienced in years or not at all. I'll save that for later. Stay tuned.

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 7, 2019

Charlie's Angels Reboot? No, Just No

What do you get when you mix a classic campy television show with woman power in the latter half of this decade? A big mistake in the case of the most recent and misguided Charlie's Angels reboot. A big mistake.  Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, and Kate Jackson are still the best of the angels lot. 

Leave the classic television show alone.

The more recent remake with the very talented cast of Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu was just passable even if a bit humorous as was the original. Solid "C" film, nothing more than summer fluff.

Bad but at least a likable cast.

This time around, it's the talented Naomi Scott (fresh from playing Jasmine in Aladdin), playing next to the extremely unlikable Kristen Stewart. This makes it an all around pass. Not even worth a viewing. Sorry, ladies.

(The new live action Mulan, however, looks like a winner...)

July 6, 2019

Disneyland's Ghost Relations Department

Do you have a complaint to make about Disneyland? Make sure you go to the right place! Making a mistake and going elsewhere could be interesting...and scary! 

This sign from the 1960's seemed to catch everyone's attention. Restless spirits? Ghosts? What were those Disney Imagineers up to? Creating an enduring "E Ticket" iconic attraction, that's what! Would the journey be scary or funny or both? Imagineer Claude Coats envisioned one style and Marc Davis another. The end result would be a combination of each. One casualty: Rolly Crump's Museum of the Weird never made it off the drawing boards, however.

Marc Davis tried to tie in the Mansion
 to a previous blockbuster attraction.

The elegant old Southern home found in New Orleans Square sat empty for many, many, years until 1969. Then, the Haunted Mansion opened its doors to long lines of guests more than anxious to go inside.

Imagineer Claude Coats produced this piece.

Almost 50 years later, visitors to the park make their trek into the abandoned house and into mysterious unknown realms. Foolish mortals? Not really. The ongoing popularity of the Mansion proves once again that artistic high quality and a great story results in guest satisfaction and continued profitability.

(Art and photo copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 4, 2019

Congress Declares Bible "The Word of God"

Here's an amazing affirmation of the Truth. Take a look at this document while you pause to reflect on this great country of ours! Do we have our problems? Most assuredly! Which great nation hasn't struggled? Yet, we have a faithful God to follow. He will never disappoint. This does not mean we understand everything He allows. It does mean He is always good, always loving, and always takes care of those who follow Jesus Christ. The year 1982 was the one Congress declared the Bible the Word of God. They got it right then, and it still holds true today. Happy Independence Day!

July 2, 2019

Just Around the Horseshoe Bend...

After leaving the Grand Canyon, Sue and I headed toward Page, AZ to visit the legendary Horseshoe Bend (see how I linked the title post to a Pocahontas song? One of the most under rated Disney animated features in my humble opinion)! Now you've probably seen a million images of this unique rock formation surrounded by the Colorado River, so the above image is nothing new or extraordinary. Nearly every spot will give you a great pic, but beyond that, there's not much else to photograph. So what kept me mostly enraptured (as I waited for the sun to set) was the amount of people willing to do funky, and often times, dangerous things to get a photograph! This would include individuals taking selfies perilously close to the edge to whole families dangling their legs over ledges.

The funniest and often most problematic visitors are those who's personal boundaries differ from your own. I've had folks come within inches of my tripod legs while attempting creative and bizarre poses. They seem oblivious to their surroundings, so determined to capture that perfect moment. I've learned to take it in stride and keep a hand on my gear. The last tragedy at Horsebend involved a 15 year girl who plummeted to the bottom from undetermined causes. It's a sad tragedy I wish on no one...

While in Page, we stayed at the Baymont by Wyndham hotel for the unbelievable rate of $109.00 per night (which included a full breakfast buffet in the lobby). During check-in, I was told our room was wheelchair accessible and a bit larger/wider than normal. I didn't request a handicap room so I offered to give up the room for a standard one. The front desk agreed but wanted to charge me $156.00 a night. I respectfully declined!.

Once we were checked in, Sue and I headed into town looking for a place to eat. After looking at Yelp reviews, we decided on mexican food at El Tapatio's. Being in the Southwest, I figured we were in for a good meal, but whoa, the cuisine here was amazing. The guacamole dip contained huge chunks of avocado (not the mashed up type you find at the grocery store or fast food joints) with just a light touch of spices! I had their burrito deluxe which was good for lunch and dinner.

Antelope Canyon was on the agenda for the next day. I booked a photographer's tour which allowed me to bring in a tripod. Located on Navajo land, this location is truly a sight to behold. Carved out by water, the blend of light and colors are a testament to God's creativity. While I loved the sights, taking photos was not an easy task. The pathways in some areas are very narrow, and there can be 4-5 different tour groups running visitors through the canyon at any given time. Fortunately, the competing groups were very courteous to other guests, and allowed me time to take some long exposure shots. My guide would set me up at key points and hold back crowds. I nonetheless felt a bit stressed as I did not want to hold up anyone else for very long. Nonetheless, it was totally worth the effort and I'm happy with how the pictures came out.

                                           Anyone notice the heart shape in this pic?

                                               Falling Sands from Another Time...

The canyons were formed by erosion mostly due to flash floods. During monsoon season, rainwater can be intense, picking up speed and sand as it winds its way through the tunnels. The last major flood occurred in 2006, lasting 36 hours.

The entire tour lasted a little over 2 hours with our guide driving us back to campgrounds at its conclusion. 

As an added bonus, the trip included stops at the Historic Navajo Bridge and Glen Canyon Dam. Both are intricately linked to the Colorado River. Originally named the "Grand Canyon Bridge" upon its completion in June of 1929, the Navajo bridge was officially renamed five years later by the state legislature. It is currently tied as the ninth highest bridge in the USA.

Without the Glen Canyon Dam, I'm pretty sure Page would not exist as a town in Arizona. Built to share water rights among Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah, this dessert area was found to be most conducive to building the 710 foot dam. Constructed between 1956 to 1966, the dam forms Lake Powell and is one of the largest man made reservoirs in the country.

July 1, 2019

Rare Epcot Concept Art for United Arab Emirates in World Showcase

Disney's upcoming D23 is a true fan favorite! And for this year, the Parks exhibition promises to be filled with expansion plans and concept art for the revisioning of Epcot aka EPCOT Center. Future World and the new entrance to the park will certainly be the focus of most of it, but the under developed World Showcase will not be left in the construction dust! 

Brazil is coming- which makes fans all the more curious as to what happened for the plans once designed. Israel, Venezuela, Spain, and Equatorial Africa were also on the drawing boards, among others. (Look to find concept art for Israel here, Australia here, older concepts for Brazil, art for the Philippines, amazing art for Russia, a beautiful concept for Spain, and of course Equatorial Africa.)

Top view of the model.

Thanks to a recent posting on the WDWMagic Boards by "Herbie" we finally can see the some concept art for the long forgotten United Arab Emirates pavilion designed back for the late 70s by the Imagineers. (Confirmed by the much respected Martin Smith). With a little bit of (poor) Photoshop magic, I was able to clean up the top piece, removing the title words from the plans- just to make it look a little nicer. 

It would have been nice to add one more country to complement the beautiful Morocco pavilion.

The original piece in the folio.

Will we ever see this country added to the line up? I sincerely doubt it. Human rights violations and a tense political environment in the Middle East will probably keep it coming to fruition. Even recently, Princess Haya fled the country with her children to seek asylum. Yet, every country- even ours- has its secrets and shortcomings, so you never know what will happen in the future. It's a beautiful region, rich with history and wonderful people!

One last piece filled with art for a magic carpet ride... only to prove that the real world is as beautiful and inspiring as anything the Imagineers can come up with for Intellectual Property such as Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 29, 2019

Disneyland Executives Running Scared - and Back to Fan Favorites

The return of the Main Street Electrical Parade for Summer 2019 only proves that executives of the original Magic Kingdom are terrified of a soft summer. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is not bringing in the crowds they want for a variety of reasons. Changing blackout dates? Step One. Special deals for annual passport holders and their guests was Step Two. Opening up the land with no restrictions? Absolutely. There are so many quick changes being done to save the Summer, that I'm forgetting what order it all came in. 

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (Star Tours 3.0?) and Oga's Cantina are not enough of a draw to bring folks in. It's up to the Rise of the Resistance to draw them. The real "E Ticket" of the expansion. The main reason for redoing the Rivers of America.

Where have we seen this panic before? The solid flop of California Adventure 1.0- the return of the parade, some quick, cheap, additions, and an announcement of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to make things right. 

What will they do this time?

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 28, 2019

More Disneyland Paris to be Found in Denver

Back about two years ago, I posted some beautiful photos showing an unexpected connection between Denver and Disneyland Paris. This garden structure was originally built for EuroDisney’s Main Street. Well, we just returned from the Denver Botanical Gardens, and I had to take a look at it again with a summertime atmosphere. 

It wasn't as enchanting as during the winter, but it was still pretty sweet. Reminded me of Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom favorite, The Crystal Palace- but on a much smaller scale.

The original blog story and the beautiful wintertime pics can be found on my post here

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)

June 27, 2019

Breaking Free

In a time and season such as this, it feels right and necessary to talk about forgiveness. Unfortunately, the human condition fights against actually forgiving each other. Yet, to not choose forgiveness is to put ourselves in a prison of our own making. One we cannot break out of unless God intervenes on our behalf as we choose to step out in faith.

Choosing forgiveness is one of the most difficult things anyone can do. Sometimes, it is a constant choice, one we make daily. Maybe you are just like me. The slightest hardened thought toward those who have offended me, the least twinge when I remember the past without having hope for a new future, and I find myself thinking I am back at square one in being free. But the truth is, forgiveness is a major work from God that takes more time than we'd like.  

Let me say this clearly: Forgiveness does not mean allowing someone back into our lives. Sometimes that is not desired or even possible or safe. The loss of relationship can be a natural and necessary consequence of doing wrong.

If I'm hurt, how can I be free? Certainly, if I only look at the end result, it may utterly and totally impossible to be released from the pain. It always takes time. Nothing good happens without process.

I've been thinking about Jesus and his life and earth, the sacrifice of it all, being God in the flesh, choosing to give up heaven in order to redeem man, and what it cost Him to do so: death on a cross. A death without dignity, instead one of shame. One that took the very power of God to accomplish.

His life was filled with seeming contradictions. Accessible to children but strong enough to confront those who offended the name of God by their lives and words and actions. Willing to let a friend die to the scorn and disappointment of the dead man's siblings but powerful enough to raise him from the dead. Bold and blunt as John the Baptist proclaiming repentance to the masses, not always patient with those who followed him. All done by the power of God.

Jesus was willing to change water to the finest of wines to aid in a wedding celebration. (Love that part of Him!) And willing to ask the Father to forgive those who cruficied Him on two wooden logs while these same executioners slandered the very One who laid down his life for them. Again, by the power of God. Interesting that forgiveness was the last thing He did on the cross, and it was probably the hardest.

There it is: it is by the very power of God Himself that we choose forgiveness and let God do his work in us to accomplish it. The process and end result is His work; the obedience to want to forgive, asking Him for strength to walk in it- and be sensitive and honest when we struggle to be free- belongs to us. His work, our obedience. Like all of life, we cannot do it without Him. It's prideful and foolish to think we can, and it's very unwise and ungodly to live in bitterness and hatred but so easy to do.

Jesus' own words speak of the importance of forgiveness and why we must do so. Look at Matthew chapter 18:  “For this reason, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves.  As he began settling his accounts, a man who owed ten thousand talents was brought to him.  Because he was not able to repay it, the lord ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, children, and whatever he possessed, and repayment to be made.  Then the slave threw himself to the ground before him, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you everything.’  The lord had compassion on that slave and released him, and forgave him the debt.  After he went out, that same slave found one of his fellow slaves who owed him one hundred silver coins. So he grabbed him by the throat and started to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe me!’  Then his fellow slave threw himself down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you.’  But he refused. Instead, he went out and threw him in prison until he repaid the debt.  When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were very upset and went and told their lord everything that had taken place.  Then his lord called the first slave and said to him, ‘Evil slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me!  Should you not have shown mercy to your fellow slave, just as I showed it to you?’  And in anger his lord turned him over to the prison guards to torture him until he repaid all he owed.  So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Help us, help me, Heavenly Father, to rest in your love and to trust in your work to help me to forgive. I want to, but I cannot do it on my own. Set me free from the prison others have created within me by their words and actions and my response to them.

June 26, 2019

Magic Kingdom's Changing Skyline

In an exciting season of change, some good and some not so good, the skyline of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is changing. And you don't have to be at the top of the Contemporary Resort to see it. Space Mountain will soon be joined by a version on Shanghai Disneyland's Tron Light Cycle Power Run. Here's an older, great photo showing both the futuristic resort and the iconic mountain from the side of Bay Lake. Enjoy the view!

(Photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 24, 2019

Design Detail: Disneyland Paris' Main Street U.S.A.

Great design detail is often realized by what you don't see at first but notice upon closer inspection. When this occurs, the impact on the guest experience is subtle and richly rewarding. Disney Imagineers, when given the time and money to rightly work, are masters of the craft. Disneyland is California is chock full of these details, but newer parks such as Tokyo Disneysea and Disneyland Paris are also excellent examples. 

My photograph below may not be a wonderful shot defining the art of photography, but it does make a great example of how a myriad of details make an overall impression. (Make the image larger to see all of it.)

Not just an ordinary forgotten side street!

The trash cans in the foreground, the building architecture of the individual shops in the background, and everything in between (signage, seating areas, lamp posts, and even those seasonal Christmas decorations) work together to enhance and complete the overall experience. 

Imagineer Tony Baxter built a team of first class, experienced Imagineers to make this park a work of art. Eddie Sotto is to be commended for making the requisite Main Street U.S.A. as something more than just the gateway to the other themed lands. 

Love Herb Ryman's work!

I decided to add two "bonus" pieces to this article as they further strengthen my points. Directly above is a piece of concept art by Herb Ryman, and at the very top, the new Disneyland Paris "Fun Map" that was released several weeks ago. Each display the incredible amount of care to design detail in two very different styles. 

In an era where true Disney works of theme park art (Pandora, Cars Land, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge) are intermingled with cheap disasters of design (Pixar Pier, the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster building in Epcot), it's good to be reminded of great design that can still take place when viewed from any angle. It's in rich abundance in Disney's first French theme park. Go see it for yourself!

( Art copyright the Walt Disney Company.)

June 21, 2019

The Grandest of Canyons

How long has it been since I visited here? I don't want to even venture a guess, but to just say that life got in the way. Since the last post about my Tokyo Disney trip (which I hope to finish one day), I've lost my mom and Juneau (my husky dog)...two incredibly important parts of my life. I'll maybe write more about it, but that's for another time. 

I don't want my first post back being a downer, so what better way to return than with another trip report? My wife Sue and I were blessed to finally visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona a couple of weeks ago. GC has been a bucket list destination for me ever since I saw the diorama inside the tunnel of the Disneyland train ride (see how I was able to get a Disney park into this post...LOL) back as a child. That view of the canyon with animals, foreboding weather, and light effects mesmerized me almost as much as the dinosaur scenes. I was bummed the train was closed on my last visit due to incoming Star Wars, but a journey to the real thing was a revelation!

No disrespect to the Imagineers, but the real GC is beyond magic! You truly sense a creative and intelligent hand involved behind this magnificent vista.

We flew out of Hawaii on a Friday evening, catching the red eye which landed early morning in Las Vegas. After an obligatory stop at In-N-Out, we drove the 3 1/2 hours to the canyon. Being an island born boy, I really enjoyed the drive, soaking in the southwest scenery that seemed to pop right out of Pixar's Cars. 

The first three days were spent on the South Rim...the more popular  tourist destination thanks to the warmer climate and lower altitude. While we didn't journey into the canyon (maybe next time), we did do our fair share of hiking paths and park buses. We were blessed with an incredible sunset on our last night while at the top of Yaki Point. I had initially headed to the lookout at the top but the colors turned out pretty drab. Calling it a bust, we headed back down a bit disappointed. As we got off the bus, the sky began exploding with color and I quickly set up my camera so we could do our "selfies"...LOL!

We also visited the Desert View Watchtower designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter...a major player in the architectural design of the park. It wasn't based on an actual structure, but modeled after several buildings found in that area from times past. Besides the usual visitor center, there's a small gift shop that sells some of the best coffee ice cream I've ever tasted. Definitely worth a stop if you're in this vicinity of the south rim.

From there, we drove over 200 miles to get to the North Rim.  another pleasant drive that found us alone on the road for the most part...passing more "Cars" like scenery. As we began to ascend, the climate got much cooler and wetter...with snow very evident in parts of the landscape. It took a few hours to get acclimated to the more rustic lodgings and quieter pace. Less amenities and tour options, but this area is your choice if you prefer a more laid back and less hectic pace. 

I made it a point to shoot the milky way out on Bright Angel trail the next evening. We had scoped it out earlier in the day and both Sue and I were uneasy with the sheer drops on either side of the path that provided no rail guards. However at night, with only a head lamp to light the way, I couldn't see any of the steep drops so I was fine. While sitting in the dark at 2:00 am, alone without a soul in sight, one thinks about a lot of things. My two main thoughts were "Are there any rattlesnakes?" and "Am I crazy shooting at this hour?". My wife often questions my sanity when the alarm goes off at midnight for one of these photo excursions...haha!

Earlier in the trip, our meals were mostly from general stores and snack shops due to lack of options and time. Sue came to the point where she didn't want to look at another sandwich, so the fine dining at the Grand Canyon Lodge was much welcomed! We were able to have an amazing breakfast and dinner there. I played it safe and opted for one of the best pasta dishes I've ever eaten while Sue went with the Braised Bison. She was kind enough to let me try and let me tell you...it was melt off the bone delicious! If you look closely at my breakfast order, you'll notice the plate was made of recyclable and environment friendly material.

We also did another obligatory selfie on the South Rim...so standby....here you go!

The two nights on the North Rim turned out to be a day or so too short. We really loved the cool weather and much smaller crowds. If you plan to visit GC, make sure to explore both rims!

Photographs Copyright 2019 by Len Yokoyama