A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of everyday
There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow’s just a dream away

These optimistic song lyrics are used in the Disneyland attraction “Innoventions” a place where Disney tries to show the power of innovation and invention. The song refers to the hopeful view of the future, the thought that tomorrow (the future) is brighter when people dream up possibility and pursue it.

Today I went and saw the movie “Tomorrowland” named after the area in Disneyland where tomorrow is possible today. When Walt Disney thought up Disneyland he wanted to bring in some of his nostalgia from better, simpler days and team it up with the seemingly limitless possibility of the future.

“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

-Walt Disney (Opening Day Speech)

You see Walt was a dreamer and he believed that our world, though marred by human failings had the possibility for better, evidenced in the good of the past and the possibility of the future. The movie’s premise followed this line of thinking, that with the combined efforts of the hardworking, diligent, and hopeful people of the world we could create a better tomorrow.

Without giving too much of the plot away, the movies focuses on a young dreamer and an old disillusioned inventor who are brought together by a recruiter, someone who’s job was to bring people to Tomorrowland, in order to see the promise of the future continue. While watching the movie I was enamored with the whimsical technology of the future, I was more enraptured with the themes the movie laid out.

Simply put, our world is broken, all around there are natural disasters and human induced destruction, and the idea that there might be this better world if we truly tried. The greatest point that the movie brought forth was that this glittering possible future wasn’t made with great strides of science but rather created in the small hopeful actions played out each day. It was the daily persistence of doing simple and small good that would change the world.

One of the most memorable scenes is when one character, who has lost all hope, explains incredulously how when faced with the daily omens of destruction and death, humanity has quit; people have given up trying and have welcomed their fate of destruction. This pivotal scene sold me on the movie. I love movies that have a hopeful message of human dedication to do good turning the tide and here was that poignant point. When we daily decide to turn away from apathy, from the resignation that the world just is awful, and pursue what we can do today, then tomorrow seems that much more brighter.

And here is where the message coalesces for me. Throughout the Bible there is mention of the Kingdom of God, that place where God reigns and there is no more pain or fear. In many of my college classes we learned about the characteristics of the Kingdom in what one of my professors dubbed “Kingdom Culture” and how we are to live as if we live in that kingdom. Studying this subject we come across the phrase “now but not yet” which talks about God’s kingdom. One day Jesus will return and take us to a new earth, a new home, paradise. In that paradise, that kingdom, there is a way of living, where there is no lying, no cheating, no hurting, no hating, no pain, etc. Basically a world devoid of bad.

Because Jesus died on the cross for wrongs he did not commit and then rose back from the dead, we can choose that life. We can choose the life of someone redeemed, not broken. We can accept it in part, because we are still on earth, but if we accept that life one day we will continue living with God in paradise. While we are still here, we live as much as we can of that paradise by following God’s way, taking his perspective, his perspective of hope, of grace, and most importantly love. So while we are still here, we can live like we live in that paradise, as if the paradise is here. Gradually, as we tell others of paradise, more can join in this mission of living in paradise now. It won’t be complete yet, but we can live as if it is now.

This is the hope of following Christ. Living in creation as he planned it. This is what I saw and learned again in watching this movie. My part is to daily live as if I live in paradise, as if that is the destination I am headed to. I live that in the small things, the daily interactions with my world. Slowly, the hope is that others will focus less on the destruction and terror and more on the potential of what tomorrow can hold.

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The Inconvenient Life

You see lurid stories on the internet, on Facebook, or on the news and for a moment you think, “I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be there”.

Today I was there. I was on the train. I was in the car.

It was a beautiful day and I wanted to go to the Highline and Central Park to walk around and appreciate the beauty of the city and nature. I got on the train headed into the city and about halfway there we come to a sudden halt. Every now and then the drivers are not the smoothest on the brakes but not this bad. When the breaks were pulled this time, people fell over in their seats.

I began to play on my phone not trying to make a fuss. Surely the train would leave anytime soon. There was probably just a train that hadn’t pulled out of the station we were supposed to be arriving. There was a sudden awful thought that someone might have fallen in the track at the station and we stopped so as not to hit them.

After ten minutes I realize something must be seriously wrong up ahead because we still haven’t moved. The train conductor came on overhead telling us that there was an issue and once it was settled we would be on our way.

Then a few firemen went by my window. Firemen in the subway tunnel. The voices outside our car were getting louder. One of the guys in our train got up and went to the window at the end of the car. He looked back at us and said,

There’s no way he’s alive.

As the story unfolded, we found out that a man was walking along the track and was struck by the train. He was declared dead on arrival.

I was then able to witness how people respond to terrible situations.

“People don’t want to f—ing live anymore”

“How long is this going to take?”

“I think it was that guy who was asking for money earlier”

(It wasn’t by the way)

“Can’t we just walk out”

Perhaps because I’m new to the city, or just new to tragedy of this nature but I was astounded. This man’s death was such an inconvenience to so many people.

I could be too judgmental in this as I had no where I had to be, but I simply could not fathom how people were so irritated, life could not wait for death, not even for a moment.

Life is interesting. We are born and we go day to day eating up resources, producing waste and moving onto the next thing. Most the time life is given worth with the interactions we have with one another, the love we share and the memories made. Sometimes there are individuals that do great things for our world and bring positive changes. There are few who mar the world and the people around them, but when distilled down, life comes and goes.

The book of Ecclesiastes talks about life. One of the phrases repeated throughout refers to life as “a passing of the wind”. How everything under the sun has no meaning, there is a season for all things and all things have happened. It seems pretty bleak on the outset. When you get into the reading the significance of life becomes apparent. Life is meaningless, what has happened will happen again, history repeats itself, we are born and we die. What makes life meaningful is having purpose. To fulfill the purpose you were given when you were born. The author of the book points to God, that purpose is found in him.

When I was experiencing and then reflecting on today’s event, I wondered how he was living and how those around me were living. Was their life too uprooted to stop and be patient for life halting? Would the world stop because you didn’t get to work on time? Why are we so concerned about moving onto the next thing, the next part of the rat race? Was his death so inconvenient to your life?

Free

I had a personal revelation today. I think I in some part always knew, but it rose to the surface in a conversation I had, as most of my personal revelations do.

To set the scene (I’m giving you much more back story than is probably necessary, but it’s part of the narrative that got me there) I was sitting in a bar with a coworker. Originally the plan was to go see an Improv show at UCB (the Upright Citizens Brigade, please look it up) so I had spent much of my late afternoon/early evening waiting in line for a free ticket. When it came time for the tickets to be passed out my coworker hadn’t arrived, so I was left with a ticket to see the show.

The whole purpose of seeing the show was to spend time with my coworker outside of work. This was a good way, I thought to connect because he had mentioned he liked and wanted to do stand-up. The night could have ended there with me seeing the show, which probably would have been funny, but instead I followed the Lord’s prompting and gave it to the guy who sat behind me in line who as it happens also hoped to get his friend a ticket to go with him. The difference in our stories is he is an Israeli man who is only in town for four days, which again makes more sense that he could see the show with his friend who lived in the city.

As I mentioned, the whole purpose was to hang out with my coworker outside of work. Instead of scrapping the night and wasting his $5.50 of metro fare we decided to get drinks (and subsequently Chipotle, but that is honestly irrelevant). There we are sitting in this bar was chanced upon enjoying conversation and our beverages. In the course of the conversation we obviously discuss work issues, as most coworkers do, but in the midst of this conversation we approach the subject of faith. I told him about going on a trip to Trinidad for a missions trip when he mentioned that he was born there and lived there until he was eleven.

Honestly it is so amazing how God sets things up like this. Eight years later and this trip is having an impact on a conversation.

Anyway, we begin talking about faith and he mentions his journey of faith, being raised Catholic and then falling into a more protestant church life in the developing relationship of he and his wife. He then mentioned how he had pulled back from faith/religion in general because he just wanted to focus on what was in front of him, what was tangible.

In these moments, I get so nervous. I know how important they are. Not that I could ever save someone, but I know that what I say in these clinching moments can lead one way or another in terms of pursuing more of Christ. I always tread lightly. I waited as he spoke for the invitation for him to ask, or lead into me explaining why I have chosen this Christian life. This was the moment where I would share my testimony, my story of Christ.

In this was my personal revelation.

As I began my story of growing up in the church I explained how much I thrived in the environment of religiosity (with simpler words and much less eloquence). I enjoyed growing up having the lists of do’s and do-not’s. In fact for a long time I thought I was really good at this game and I thought highly of myself. Yes, I was a sinner but I had come so far and done so much good. Everyone saw it; others even praised me for how well-behaved and “good” I was. Realistically I was a white washed tomb, a Pharisee. I was a child pharisee, haughtily believing I had achieved something of worth.

I then explained how in high school I went through a failing of faith, how I realized how terrible of a person I really was. This was honestly longer than one single moment, but I was giving a gist. I had a crisis of faith, internally at least. On the outside I kept living this facade. I took this time to learn more about my religion so I could find more laws, more things to live by, more ways to be a “better Christian”. I could hear God and even followed his will, but as a way to do better, to be a better person. This is why I went to Bible College, to find out how to be better.

What I found in searching my religion for more religion was less.

Another way to say it, I was looking for more rules and got less, got none, really.

I found comfort in the rules. Rules were the bumpers of life that would keep me from falling into the gutter, and what did Jesus do? He showed me how he removed the bumpers long ago.

Most people (I assume) avoid Christianity because they believe it to be a strict set of guidelines to live your life. A lot of no’s. I dove further into with that same belief, hoping it would give me some way to crawl out of the messiness that had started eating away from the inside.

I had seen glimpses of God’s grace throughout my life, but it wasn’t until I left home and went to Bible College that I learned of how much deeper it and His are for me, for everyone. He is good. He is righteous. He is full of grace and mercy. He remembers and fulfills His promises. Just because these are all in His character, His faithful character. So regardless of all that I could or could not do, He remains.

In telling my friend of how I sought religion and found freedom, I realized that was what I was searching for. This wasn’t some Christianese cliched story of how it’s relationship and not religion, this was really my story. I had a relationship and in pushing forward in it, hoping to get more shackles (to hinder me from making mistake) I was released from many.

I hope and pray that this conversation might help get him thinking, but either way I know I came away from it seeing better.

Two Days from Now

Do you ever get wrapped up in your present that it seems you have only lived this present reality?

Another way to put it

When you remember your past, things you’ve lived through but it feels like that was someone else’s life, like you’ve watched their story and what you live in this moment has only ever been your life?

If it sounds muddled and confusing it is.

What I am getting at is, every now and then (more often than not) I reflect on my life, where I am currently, where I’ve been and where I hope to be going. In these moments I can get daunted because I wonder when the next thing is coming. The next step or part of my journey and I think it cannot exist because my reality seems so, well redundantly so, present. That there could be nothing more than what my now is because I cannot see it. Then I turn back to see where I’ve been to remind myself life does move and progress, but sometimes in turning back I dissociate from my memories.

I have distinct memories from growing up. Unique experiences that have singed onto my mind for whatever reason. Sometimes they are the big important changes, but more often than  not they seem to be innocuous. I remember picking up medicine from the pharmacy when I was in Pre-First (grade between Kinder and First, another story). My grandma (Granny) took me because both my parents had to work. She remarked on the color of my medicine (anitbacterial medicine, pills because I wanted to be a grown up and not take liquid), they were grey and maroon, the colors of my grandpa’s (Papa) alma mater.

Another random memory I have is of a conversation I had with a friend in First grade where I confided my greatest fears in moving two states away and he comforted me. I remember a conversation I had later that year with a friend in California about the movie “The Mummy” because I was scandalized that any first grader was brave enough to watch it and it was his blase attitude that made me go to my parents and say I wanted to watch it. One night, I believe in second grade, my parents rented the live action Pinocchio for me and I watched while there was a thunderstorm outside.

More recently I look back to the past five years and I wonder at how my life has changed so much. Five years ago I was living in Southern California about to graduate High School. I knew next to nothing beyond my little world. A year later I had just finished my first year in college and was getting ready to move across the country. I’ve spent the past three and a half years in Virginia. At each step of my life, I have wondered what the next step would be not believing it could be any different than what it was at that moment. A year ago, I thought I would be living in Virginia for the next four years and I was putting my dream of living in New York on a shelf.

Now I look back (fondly) and wonder if that truly was my life. If I really was a guy who at one point living in California trying to keep some form of the Pacific Northwest alive in me. That I was once living in Virginia thinking about how easy it used to be to get to Disneyland. Just like I am now living in New York remembering how good it was to live in a place with hills and trees and fresh air. I look at the guy who lived these lives and doubt that he could be me.

All this to say, life is odd, but more than that our vision is finite. The past me, the one from Washington, California, Virginia and New York, the one who was an International Baccalaureate graduate, Senior Class President, resident Coffee guy, Disney fan, director, actor, they are all part of me and I, much like the world around me, am more than what I see right now. Life is so much bigger than a present reality and tomorrow is a brand new day and a new me, with the experience of today’s me will go forth and live knowing that there are unseen possibilities already forming surely, perhaps a bit slowly, in the day beyond that.