Moonwalking, Disneyland, and Jesus

On July 20, 1969, the day of the historic US walk on the moon, I was 18 and working at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

Actually, I grew up in Anaheim, with Disneyland just a 10-minute drive away. Walt Disney opened his theme park in July 1955. As I grew up, the park did too. A trip to Disneyland always meant magical fun.

Because of the park’s anniversary this month and the moon walk’s anniversary today, I’ve been reminiscing. On the day of moon walk, Disneyland visitors could follow the event on a screen at the Tomorrowland Theater. I remember walking by and watching on my dinner break, amazed.

Costumes and Cast Members

Back then I didn’t recognize or appreciate the perfect execution the lunar mission required to be a success. But I did know a little something about the standards and execution required to create the magic of the Magic Kingdom.

College students coveted working at Disney. I longed to be a tour guide or ride operator but gladly accepted cashiering positions at the Plaza Pavilion restaurant and the Emporium gift shop, both on Main Street.

Disneyland employees (always called cast members) received freshly washed and pressed costumes (never called uniforms) every day. At the Emporium we wore pastel Victorian-style blouses tucked into floor-length fit-and-flare skirts.

After getting into costume, cast members walked across a large open area called the berm toward a door in the high fence that bordered the back of Main Street attractions. Disneyland’s Main Street is built to three-quarter scale, creating the sensation of entering another world as well as another time. Walking through that door always emphasized the magic for me.

From Main Street to Tomorrowland, from It’s a Small World to Pirates of the Caribbean, every land and attraction featured carefully crafted details. A legion of roaming custodians unobtrusively swept up any trash anywhere in the park as fast as it hit the ground. At night after the park closed, painters searched for scratches and nicks and touched up every surface. Walt Disney called Disneyland the happiest place on earth, and it was, like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.

What Does This Have to Do with Jesus?

In the US—and in any other country whose citizens are blessed with voice and vote in how their government will run—the challenge for followers of Jesus is taller than Disneyland’s iconic Matterhorn. We can’t help evaluating, even judging, our leaders, issues, and the responses of other believers—and it’s a sure bet we don’t agree with them all.

But agreement isn’t necessarily the challenge. The attitude of our hearts is the challenge, because the bent of our hearts determines our words and our actions.

Jesus tells us that if His followers love one another, the world will know we’re His disciples. He prayed for His followers to have unity. Letters in the New Testament repeat this theme again and again. How we treat one another matters. Unity and love among believers show Christ to the world, whether we’re worshiping together, assisting those in need, talking about racism, or discussing the President online.

It’s not wrong to be concerned about the behavior of other believers. Jesus called out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and the crowds for their spiritual apathy. Paul chastised Peter when Peter had second thoughts about associating with Gentile Christians. James commended bringing wandering believers back into the way of truth.

But we also have this from Jesus: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3).

So we each have to decide if, when, and how to speak up, and most important, the attitude of our heart—the why.

Believe me, I am preaching to myself here. It’s easy to simply avoid the people I disagree with or who express their opinions in unkind, snarky ways, and think I’ve got this covered.

But as forgiven and beloved children of God, declared righteous because of our faith in Jesus and our new birth, we’re told to put off sin and put on the attitudes and actions of righteousness. Following the Spirit, we progress toward the goal of becoming more fully who we already are in Christ.

Unlike stepping into the practically perfect Magic Kingdom for a day, we’ve got some work to do.

I’m pleading with my brothers and sisters to do it.

– Diane

Book Review—Different Like Me

We’re ALL different. That’s the message of this new picture book.
We’re ALL alike. That’s the message of this new picture book too.

Different Like Me
written by Xochitl Dixon, illustrated by Bonnie Lui
published by Our Daily Bread for Kids (August 2020)
hardcover picture book, 32 pages, 9 x 9 inches

Cultural diversity, check. Physical disabilities, check. Communication differences, check.
But the kids in Different Like Me are also very much alike. Read More…

– Diane

Book Review—The Prisoners, the Earthquake, and the Midnight Song

Bob Hartman has a storytelling gift, and he puts it to great use to beckon children into the Bible’s account of Paul and Silas and the Philippian jailer (found in Acts 16:16-40) in this book.

And like the subtitle says, the story is about more than simply God’s power or the dedication of Paul and Silas. The goal of this book is to show children how God uses people to save people.

The Prisoners, the Earthquake, and the Midnight Song
written by Bob Hartman, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri
published by The Good Book Company (2020)
hardcover picture book, 32 pages, 9 x 0.5 x 10.5 inches

The story opens with a question, engaging kids right away. Someone’s snoring. Do you hear it?

Read More…

– Diane

Book Review—I Love Me!

The text is simple and never mentions God, but this new picture book has lots to say about our appreciation of God’s gift of our bodies and the diversity within the human race.

I Love Me!
written by LaRonda Gardner Middlemiss, illustrated by Beth Hughes

published by Beaming Books (2020)
hardcover picture book, 32 pages, 8 x 0.5 x 8 inches

I think most young children are thrilled with their physical bodies as they grow and discover each new ability and skill. At some point, however, comparison creeps in. Kids may wonder why they don’t look like someone else or why they can’t do what some others do.

This new picture book can be a tool in the toolbox for teaching children to celebrate who they are before the comparison trap sets in—and, equally if not more important, to see and celebrate who others are too. Read More…

– Diane

Book Review—My Breakfast With Jesus

Meals on the go aren’t unusual in our busy world, but in the world of the Bible, eating together often has great significance. This new picture book captures that for kids while it also communicates lots of fun information about foods and cultures around the world.

Deuteronomy 12:7, part of God’s instructions to the Israelites regarding meals as a part of worship, opens the book, followed by the reminder that Jesus shared an early morning breakfast on the beach with His friends.

A holy way to start the day.
A breakfast blessing.

The refrain continues on each spread as the text and illustrations take us to twelve different locations around the world—well, one is out of this world—as followers of Jesus start their day with breakfast and thanks to God. Read More…

– Diane

Book Review—Far from Home

Good children’s books lead to empathy, something our nation and our world surely needs right now. Stories about diverse cultures show children of all ethnicities and backgrounds that we are all human, all equally valuable, all very much alike.

In Far from Home, children will empathize with the emotions of a young refugee who journeys with his parents away from all that’s familiar and loved. Read More…

– Diane

Book Review—The Big Book of Bible Questions

Kids are curious about their world, right? Discovering new facts about interesting subjects can be a lot of fun, and it usually leads to new questions and wanting to learn more.

That’s how it is with Bible knowledge too. Kids have questions as they grow and learn—why questions and how questions and what-does-it-mean questions. Read More…

– Diane

Book Review—Jesus and the Lions’ Den

Wait, what? JESUS and the Lions’ Den?

Yes, that’s right.

Jesus and the Lions’ Den
written by Alison Mitchell, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri
published by The Good Book Company (2019)
hardcover picture book, 32 pages, 9 x 0.2 x 10.8 inches

I began to love this book as soon as I opened it and saw the vivid endpapers that invoke the Persian setting of the story. Then an intro page explaining how the book works reeled me in. Read More…

– Diane

Book Review—Two Books for Baby Showers

Spring and early summer often bring a round of baby showers, right? So here are two completely different books that will make good gifts or books-in-place-of-a-card.

One of the books almost makes a sweet Mother’s Day gift to a new or soon-to-be mom.

And, they’re both by the same author! Read More…

– Diane

Three Picture Books About Hope—Book Reviews

Three recent picture books can help children feel safe and happy even though their routines have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

Quinn’s Promise Rock
Written by Christie Thomas, illustrated by Sydney Hanson
Harvest House, 2019
hardcover, 32 pages, 9 x 0.4 x 9 inches

Out on a night flight with her father, Quinn is a worried little owl. What if she gets lost? What if she can’t keep up with her father, or loses sight of him?

Quinn’s father uses three different rocks to assure Quinn that she is safe and that God always takes care of her. Read More…

– Diane