When I was still at home and my parents would take me to Disney World all the time, I remember vowing that I would never go to Disney on purpose. How in the world could there be value in escaping reality for a couple days to fill my senses with artificial pleasures? Thankfully, through marriage God has been chiseling away my legalism and asceticism, and He’s helping me worship Him through all things. John Calvin has said, “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.” Worshipping God for everything---even the things I had dichotomously considered “secular”---has been something I’ve been trying to train myself to do lately, and taking our little family to Walt Disney World Resort every once in a while has given me some great opportunities.
By the way, right now Florida Residents weekday passes for all 4 parks for the whole year are going for $233 (it was cheaper when we bought them :/) and last I checked AAA’s website they were only $201 per person.
1. Teaches Me How to Celebrate
I’ll never forget a particular moment in Animal Kingdom’s Africa when we came across a group of performers who were playing really catchy tribal music. All the musicians on stage were relishing the groove, and a couple costumed dancers were on the ground trying to get everyone else involved. We wiggled and clapped and waved our arms and sang and laughed. I looked around and everyone was smiling and happy. I almost wept then and there as I thought of heaven and how we will all be celebrating and enjoying God together, in community. It also made me excited about worshiping with my church on Sunday, because even though we don’t form a Conga line we truly do enjoy worshiping God collectively.
2. Stirs My Heart for the Nations
EPCOT is my favorite park, by far. I’ve never been to any of the actual countries that are represented in the World Showcase, but seeing the extraordinary cultural diversity makes my heart burn for all peoples to know Christ. I just want to hop around the countries and say to the Italian, “God loves Italians!” and to the Norwegian, “Christ has ransomed His beloved from Norway!”, etc. etc. Probably the only other time on earth when the nations will be surpassed in beautiful representation is in Heaven. Plus, just walking around and riding on the buses helps us talk to fellow guests from all over the world. (Read Psalm 87 to have a richer understanding of this ethnic diversity.)
3. Educates Me About My Awesome Creator
Disney is very educational about creation, be it the Safari or Rafiki’s Planet Watch or Living with the Land or the Living Seas. Disney doesn't attribute credit to God for His incredible design, of course, but to the Christian it’s impossible to miss. Disney is a really great place to go to view and appreciate creation.
4. Spurs Me to Imagine
God is creative. Disney’s Imagineers brilliantly display that mankind is made in God’s image because they do a really good job at creating. I’m having trouble thinking of specific examples because almost everything at Disney is magnificently larger than life and beautiful.
5. Displays the Reward of Skillfulness
A lot of times I tend to be so wrapped up in “what matters is the heart” that I forget how much God values skill in the Bible. In Exodus 35 it says of Bezalel, “and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft.” God even commanded that the yarns are “skillfully woven” (Exodus 28:8.) The psalmists repeatedly speak of playing with skill as well (Psalm 33:3). When I watch Off Kilter and their unparalleled celtic rock, or when I see the Jeweled Dragons of China doing incredible acrobatics, I am reminded to be skillful at what I do because God values skill.
6. Gives Me a Glimpse of Eternal, Joyful Rest
This life is not our rest, and that really stinks sometimes. But Disney world allows me to get a faint shadowy glimpse of what my eternal rest will be like. The peacefulness and pleasure of Fort Wilderness comes to mind. As I biked or strolled through the paved trails, my family and I were able to enjoy the beauty of creation...without ants or thorns. As I walked through the exceptional pool at the Beach Club, squishing artificial sand beneath my toes, I was able to enjoy the pleasure of water and sand without the grime or itchiness produced by the fall. I can look to Zion, Heaven, “the perfection of beauty” from which “God shines forth” (Psalm 50:2.)
7. Models Childlike Wonder
I love to see the raw expressions of amazement on the faces of children at Disney when watching a show or gazing at something spectacular truly helps me remember how to be amazed. We’ve been created to be amazed by He who upholds the universe by the word of His power. I want to look at passages that describe God (like Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4, for instance) like the seven year old girl does as she goes on Soarin’ for the first time, or as my own toddler gazes at the larger-than-life jar of Play-Dough at the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playground.
8. Reminds Me of the Limitless One
With all my Disney-amazement I still need to remember verses like Psalm 119:96; I have seen a limit to all perfection but God’s commandment is exceedingly broad. Even the Imagineers have their limitations but God’s greatness is unfathomable. These incredibly creative minds are still created; these beauty makers still---without exception---have to sleep and eat and use the restroom.
Lent begins this week, and I definitely want to be more spiritually prepared for celebrating Christ’s resurrection than I have in years past. Thankfully, in God’s sovereign timing, I received Captivated: Beholding the Mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection by Thabiti Anyabwile in perfect timing to turn my eyes crossward.
Thabiti’s goal in Captivated is to help us learn how to stare. Normally it’s rude to fix our eyes on something, but to take long looks at the cross is the most worthy opportunity to gaze. In all my attempts to be cross-focused and go to a gospel-centered church and have a gospel-displaying marriage and a Christ-centered family, I have done poorly at slowing down and really thinking about what happened in Christ’s death and resurrection. It served my soul greatly to read Captivated as Thabiti explained the scriptures to me more deeply.
I kind of expected that a book about the cross would just quote a bunch of pastors and theologians, rephrasing rephrases and simply finding new ways to tell me things I already knew. But, refreshingly, for this book Thabiti rarely dipped into man’s words and primarily used scripture to help me behold Christ. He used verses from all over the Bible---verses I had never even noticed---to give me a deeper glimpse into what happened in those three days after which sinners could become justified once and for all.
In my favorite chapter, “Why Have You Forsaken Me?”, Psalm 22 and other supporting scriptures pounded into my heart the mysterious forsakenness Jesus felt at the cross for my sin. As Thabiti says on pg 25, “The Father’s abandonment of Jesus leads to the sinner’s adoption. God abandons one perfect Son in order to adopt millions of sinful sons. It is the only abandonment with any honor and redemption.” As I continued to read of the agonizing abandonment Christ experienced on multiple levels---and ultimately abandonment by the Father Himself---not only was I gripped by His mercy but I was comforted by what He accomplished. I should never feel forsaken by God because Jesus already drank every drop of forsakenness for me.
This book was incredible. Concisely and beautifully written, Captivated truly helped me get my eyes off myself and instead gaze at the cross and the empty tomb. Though the topic of Christ’s death and resurrection can never be exhausted (hence the beauty of its mystery!), Thabiti did an excellent job of humbly expositing scripture to aid readers in better understanding---and appreciating---what was done there. The questions for reflection at the end of each chapter helped drive these truths home even more. As I believe was Thabiti’s intention, Captivated successfully brings its readers to their knees in worship and repentance. Gazing at the glorious Christ tends to have that effect on people, and I’m grateful that this resource helped me do just that.
Disclosure: I received a copy from Reformation Heritage Books through Cross-Focused Reviews for free in order to give an unbiased review.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising four little people ages 1,3, and 5, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and Coke icees, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today