Thursday, June 9, 2016

Better Than Disney World!

The Flower Garden Festival at EPCOT was spectacular.
Growing up in New Jersey, a highlight for me every summer was a trip to an amusement park. Often it would be to Asbury Park, although we occasionally went to the famed Palisades Park, which became the subject of a hit rock ‘n roll song by Freddie Cannon in 1962 that was later recorded by several other groups.

This is a vintage view of Palisades Park in New Jersey.
Experiencing the ups and downs, round and arounds, merry-go-rounds, even upside-downs, of the amusement park rides was always a treat. We learned firsthand what it means to say, “Life is a rollercoaster.” Dietary “nutrients” for the day consisted of cotton candy, hotdogs and Cokes – aren’t those the basic food groups? We felt life couldn’t top those warm afternoons. It was always sad when the time came to leave.

Then as an adult I encountered Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. for the first time, and several years later went to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. I’d been a big fan of Walt Disney’s “Wonderful World of Color” and the “Mickey Mouse Club” on TV as a boy, which showed glimpses of the parks, but was totally unprepared for experiencing them in person. These amazing entertainment centers made old-fashioned amusement parks seem as exciting as a sandbox with a toy shovel.

If you’ve been to one of the either of these sites, you know what I mean. The creativity, imagination, artistry, variety, and attention to detail are nearly overwhelming. Recently, I and many of our family members once again enjoyed the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios theme parks at Disney World, and I was just as impressed as I’d been on previous visits.

Not to disparage the traditional amusement parks with the rickety, lattice-work wooden rollercoasters, carousels and Tilt-a-Whirls, but they can’t compare with the thrills that captivate each of the five senses at a place like Disney World.

Spending time with Walt and Mickey
is always memorable.
Granted, if you don’t like mingling with masses of people (as Yogi Berra notably said, “Nobody goes there anymore – it’s too crowded”) or walking for miles around the parks in Florida’s heat and humidity, those “Mickey Mouse outfits” probably aren’t for you. But the point is, many things in life seem just fine until you’re introduced to something that dwarfs (pardon the pun) anything you’ve known before.

There’s an even more profound parallel in the spiritual realm. I’m convinced this life, as great as it can seem in many ways, is just a hint, little more than a tiny taste, of the unimaginable wonders that await each of God’s children when our days on earth are over. The apostle Paul commented on this when he wrote, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived – the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Jesus made this the focus of a promise to His followers while anticipating His imminent crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. He was giving them a “preview of coming attractions” when He stated, “My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2).

The book of Revelation abounds with descriptions of the heavenly realm, in essence assuring us despite our earthbound thinking, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Why does this matter? Look at it this way: If you’re going to an old-style amusement park – and there are still lots of them around – you simply hop in the car, buy tickets and enter for a few hours. Then you return to your everyday routine.

However, if you’re going to a place like Disney World – or on some extended vacation – a lot of preparation is needed. Where are you going to stay? What tickets will you need? What clothes and other provisions will you require? In other words, you want to be ready for the trip.

Also, it’s not enough to know we’re destined a place that far exceeds anything we’ve known in this world. Because if it’s going to be as wonderful as we expect – even “awesome” – then wouldn’t we want to let other people in on the “secret,” so they can experience it as well?

I get not one penny for saying nice things about Disney World or other amazing places I’ve visited – like the Grand Canyon, New York City, a classic football game at Ohio Stadium, or Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany – but wouldn’t hesitate to tell others about my experiences there. Having received a sampling of what’s awaiting all who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ, wouldn’t we want to communicate this to others so they also have the opportunity to experience “the foretaste of glory divine,” as the old hymn says?

The book of Revelation states, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband…. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying of pain, for the old order of things has passed away…. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:2-5).

I’m looking forward to being part of the vast audience witnessing this. And I’d sure like to share the experience with my friends.

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