Friday, April 12, 2019

Moana: Paddle or Sail?

I was mowing the grass yesterday and came into the house for a cool off and get-a-drink break.

I sat in front of the Television and turned it on to fill my head with something other than the roar of the mower engine.

The Disney movie, Moana, was running. Just about at the end of the story.

This little Disney offering has become one of my favorites. I was late to join the audience -- I heard my Granddaughter, Avery singing "The Water Song" at Church one day and became thrilled by her singing, and so, went home to get caught up!

But, as I rested yesterday, watching the now familiar clip before me, I saw something new.

I don't know if the writers or animators intended this message or not - but as you know - I'm always looking for God in the Movies. And I saw - and heard Him. 

The scene that was playing when I plopped down to wipe sweat and sip on some Kool Aid was where Maui had deserted her, she was alone (except for the Chicken), the little boat was in tatters, she had failed, she was defeated, and more than discouraged - she was filled with despair.

At that moment her Grand Mother's spirit made a special appearance to comfort and encourage her. She gave her Granddaughter permission to go Home.

I hope that my children know that they can always come home. They are always welcome - and they will always be welcomed.

But sometimes going home is not just a retreat - it is a surrender.

It is giving up - quitting.

With permission - Moana decided to go home.

This is what I saw:

Moana left her Grand Mother's loving embrace - picked up her paddle and headed to the stern of her boat. She raised the oar and was about to place it into the water for the first stroke that would begin to take her back - and she hesitated.

I don't know exactly what Moana was thinking at that moment, but this is what came to MY mind: "If you go BACK, you're going to have to PADDLE --- if you go FORWARD -- you can SAIL."

Now sailing is difficult, and we can sail into treacherous and dangerous waters, but sailing (it seems to me) is always more desirable than paddling! Going Forward is always better than going Backward.

The little Samoan girl chose to go forward. She put down her paddle, repaired her torn and tattered sails, sang "I Know Who I Am: I am Moana!" and went on to complete her quest.

At the Movies, God said to me - "Don't go backward - go forward: SAIL. My wind is with you. You can DO this." 

Monday, December 04, 2017

Moana and the Truth: I know Who You Are

"I am Moana of Motunui. You will board my boat, sail across the ocean, and restore the heart of Te Fiti."

This is the prepared speech that Moana intends to deliver with confidence and force to the demi-god, Maui. And she does. 

And she IS Moana . . . but at this point in the movie our little Heroine is admirable and inspiring, but she hasn't really figured out Who she is.

At the pinnacle of the film . . . all of her experiences and all that she has seen and learned sink in and add up.

After utter failure and complete defeat, she sings:

Who am I?
I am a girl who loves my island
I'm the girl who loves the sea
It calls me
I am the daughter of the village chief
We are descended from voyagers
Who found their way across the world
They call me
I've delivered us to where we are
I have journeyed farther
I am everything I've learned and more
Still it calls me
And the call isn't out there at all, it's inside me
It's like the tide; always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart you'll remind me
That come what may
I know the way
I am Moana! 

And she IS Moana. She has finally realized who she is. She has finally become who she is. And that knowledge will be the key to completing her Quest.

She courageously resumes her journey to restore the heart of Te Fiti so that her island and its people can be saved.

But first she must destroy the monstrous Guardian, Te Ka.

In the middle of a battle that she is losing, Moana see's through everything.

"I know who YOU ARE!"

*Spoiler Alert!!

Do not read further if you have not seen the movie!

Te Ka . . . is really Te Fiti.

When I find out Who I am . . . it can open the door that may enable me to know Who YOU ARE.

Maybe you are NOT my enemy.

Maybe we DON'T have to fight.

Maybe I don't have to destroy you, or you don't have to destroy me.

If someone is contrary to you or in opposition . . . maybe they are not just wicked, or evil, or cruel. Maybe something has happened to their heart, something of which you are unaware. Hurting people are often angry and violent people. And it may be that no one knows who they really are . . . they are misunderstood.

Now, there IS Evil and Wickedness in the World, but we probably seldom face it. More often than not we need not slay the dragon or violently quench the fires of Te Ka.

Withholding our blows long enough to find out who our foes really are . . . may be important. But we will never know until we first find out . . . Who WE ARE.

Moana and the TRUTH that makes you FREE

In John 8:32 (in the fourth Gospel of the New Testament) Jesus said that The Truth would make us FREE.

I don't believe that He meant that we would find ultimate Freedom and Liberation in information that is True, or facts that are True, or dogma and decrees that are True.

There ARE Truths in Doctrines, Teachings, Lessons, and Messages that can be inspirational and instructive. They can be life-changing and certainly liberating.

We are blessed if we discover words that are True in Advice, Counsel, and the Verbal Guidance of the Wise.

You might find Truth or principles of Life that are True in a Sermon, or a Song, in a Book, or a Movie. But you will not find the TRUTH that Jesus was talking about directly from those sources.

In the same Gospel Record (John 14:6), Jesus stated flatly that HE was the TRUTH.

You may not choose to believe it or accept it . . . but Christians believe that knowing Jesus is the only thing that brings ultimate, eternal FREEDOM . . . and salvation. We believe that because that is what He taught us.

The life that our Creator offers is not just for those who are most correct, those who adhere to the best knowledge, those who are the most Orthodox in their belief systems and Theologies. 

We would like to believe, and to be able to convince others that we are smarter than they are and that we alone have the real revealed information. We have insider information. We have feasted from the Tree of Knowledge and we have figured out all verity. The Facts. 

Let me tell you what I believe: It's not what you know - It's WHOM you know that matters.

When you finally get FREE from this world and you are to pass into the next - you will not be given an entrance exam to fill in the blanks correctly or check the right multiple choices. You will be asked for a password.

"Jesus sent me."

I think that is true . . . HE is The TRUTH . . . and you will never get HIM or a working substitute for HIM from a book, or a song, a message, or a movie.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

I am Moana and the Truth

I recently got a glimpse of God in another unusual, unexpected place.

In a little Disney movie named after the title character - a small Polynesian Island girl named Moana.

I call it a little movie because it is dwarfed in scope and popularity by a film like Frozen

The story of the movie IS based on the cultural legends and stories of the Polynesian people . . . gods, demi-gods, magic, and mysticism. It has always been my belief that Christians need not fear a glimpse into the beliefs or lore of others. 

I argued openly many years ago in one of my seminary classes with one of my favorite professors: Dr. Reginald Barnard. He was a brilliant man who for some strange reason always chose to stand before his students and read from our textbook!

I know that he did this intentionally . . . and we figured out what he wanted us to do. He wanted us to interrupt him with a question or challenge him in a point of meaning or interpretation. If we didn't jump in and derail him . . . he would drone on . . . reading material that we had already read in preparation for the class.

Don't get me wrong . . . HE was the author of our textbook . . . and its teachings were profound. (On the first day of the course, he told us that he had asked his son to read it and give an opinion. "Excellent work! Rather dry . . . isn't it?"

But when Dr. Barnard went off script and spoke extemporaneously in response to our questions he took us on an intellectual journey!

It was my turn to sidetrack him on a particular day. (Does all of this seem disrespectful or manipulative? Believe me . . . he was a co-conspirator!) He read from the text, "Truth is not the truth wherever you find it."

"Doc, do you mean that if something is true . . . and the Mormons believe it . . . that it is not Truth?"

"Precisely. Truth is not the truth wherever you find it." 

It seemed to me that if some statement or element of thought or expression was genuinely true . . . it didn't matter what kind of philosophy, doctrine, or belief system you dropped it into . . . it would carry the quality of truth along with it.

He disagreed eloquently . . . and we talked for fifteen or twenty minutes. I'm certain that Dr. Barnard substantiated his case and proved his point . . . but he didn't change my mind.

The Truth that I found in Moana was - Know Who You ARE!

Know yourself, accept yourself . . . but strive to be a better, bigger, wiser version of yourself without changing who you are. You ARE whom God has created you to be, but He always wants us to become MORE than we were when we started out.  

In Philippians 1:6 (in the Bible), the Apostle Paul declares, "I know that HE . . . Who began a good work in you . . . is going to continue to work . . . ."

We are ALL a work in progress.

I like this placard:

You CAN be Batman, or Superman, or Spiderman, or Wonder Woman! Never settle for being just how you are right NOW.

Grow. Expand. Experience. Learn. Go. Love. Launch. Fall down and get up. Run, jump, climb, fly. 

But none of that is ever possible at all . . . until you come to an understanding of Who You Are at the beginning of the journey.

Then you must learn who you are becoming at each step of the journey. Stay in touch with your Creator, trace His map and feel the currents with your fingertips, and stay in touch with what He is recreating as you make yourself sail beyond the reef (a reference you can only understand if you have watched the movie). 

I believe that this is True . . . even though you might just find it in a children's film!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

We're on a Mission from God

Everything in a Christian's life is relative to this:

"We're on a mission from God."

Divine leadership, protection, direction, success, health, healing, strength, comfort, peace, and answered prayers. None of these things are available to the Christian Pilgrim unless he is on the path, in the groove, on the beam, in His Will, in the palm of His hand, on target . . . on mission.

All of it is available as it empowers us to be on mission.

God has a plan . . . it is greater than me . . . and you. It is bigger than my plan, my plans, dreams, wishes, and desires. It is greater than any of us . . . it is greater than all of us.

God has invited us to be a part of what He is doing . . . to be a part of his plan . .  . He has a mission for us and THAT is all that matters. All of His Omnipotent power and Providence is at our disposal as long as we are on mission.

I can always rejoice (Philippians 4:4) when I am on mission-
I have unexplainable peace (Philippians 4:7) when I am on mission-
God will be with me (Philippians 4:9) if I am with Him, on mission-
I can only be content (Philippians 4:11) when I am on mission-
I can do all things (Philippians 4:13) when I am on mission-
I will always have all that I need (Philippians 4:19) when I am on mission-

When I am following my own plan, my own way, my own desires - when I am doing what I myself think is right, doing my own thing, seeking my own selfish goals and interests. When pleasing ME is my goal --- making ME happy --- arranging the world around me the way that I want it . . . . . . no Heavenly power or promotion is available to me. When I am on MY mission I walk apart from God, I walk away from God, I walk without God.

I'm on a mission from God . . . if Jake and Elwood see the value of that . . . then surely I can!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Happily Ever After

A little girl came home from school, bursting with excitement and enthusiasm over the day's story time.

"Mommy, today Teacher read us the story of Sleeping Beauty! It was wonderful! The Evil Queen placed the young Princess under a terrible sleeping spell! And she slept for ever and ever until a handsome Prince came and kissed her awake!"

"And Mommy, do you know what happened next?" the bubbling girl asked.

"They live happily ever after?" the Mother answered.

"No, Mommy," replied the daughter, "They got MARRIED!"

Well, I guess there are many ways to tell this story.

Friday, November 28, 2014

True Love's Kiss

Best scene in the move. A twist on the traditional solution.

The hero is the villain.

We seldom get the chance to revoke the curses that we have cast on others in our lives -- being kissed free from a curse cast on us by others is very, very rare -- love will do it where nothing else can.

Not magic -- reverse spells -- potions.

There is a strange and refreshing look at love in the Cinema these days. Maleficent places true love's kiss --- not the handsome Prince. Ana saves Elsa --- not the heroic fixer-upper. Romantic love is wonderful --- but we need so much more of all of us loving each other.

I love to see redemption. Salvation. Rescue. Revokation of wrong. Undoing (Ctrl-Z). Redoing. Unmaking. Remaking.

In me.

In you.

Hello, Beastie.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Revoking our curses

I thought that I had one more thought on Maleficent before departing (I've been rushing to True Love's Kiss and Happily Ever After, as everyone does!)

But, I keep coming back to another sad scene.

Maleficent magically tucks her Goddaughter into bed and is moved to revoke the terrible curse that she has placed upon her.

As I have mentioned . . . my eyes are adjusted for a Christian world view and I'm looking for spiritual truth and divine self-revelation everywhere I go (even in the movies).

Aurora's relationship (though at first in innocent ignorance) with the Evil Maleficent seems truly Christ-like. Jesus told His followers to bless those who curse them (Matthew 5:44). The young girl has certainly been a blessing to her malefactor. And that will be the key to unlocking this shackle in the end.

Can we revoke our own curses? Can we undo the wrongs that we have committed against others? Can we atone for our sins? Can we redeem ourselves?

It is very difficult in almost all cases, and certainly impossible in many. We can't turn back time, change the past, unring a bell, undo the action, or unsay the curse.

One of the reasons that the claims of the New Testament concerning Jesus hold such promise to me, and many others, is the hope of redemption -- from me and my curses.

 Galatians 3:13 records, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us:" The curse of the Law of God is in the fact that I have never obeyed it myself, and then I have cursed many who have not obeyed my laws or submitted to my wishes.

It's not magic. Magic doesn't work. It wasn't something magical, supernatural, or miraculous that Jesus did to purchase and pardon. He offered Himself in love for the cursed. And love . . . is the enemy of all curses.

Before happily ever after can be found, Maleficent must brokenheartedly discover that she cannot revoke her curse, she cannot negate it or remove it. She must meet its conditions. That is what she finally did.

I believe that is what Jesus did on the cross.