white and blue castle

Finding Christ in Disney World

I preached this sermon on June 9, 2013 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Hackettstown, NJ.

Once there was a missionary about to set off on an expedition into the heart of Africa. He retained baggage bearers, planned the trip and the places for stops, and then set out. The first day they made great progress and exceeded his planned goals. After a night of rest, he broke camp brimming with enthusiasm for the progress to be made on the upcoming day.  The baggage bearers, however, refused to move. The missionary did not understand. They had been full of energy the day before and there had not been a word of grumbling. But nothing he could say or do could persuade them to start the trip. Finally, one of the bearers got through to him and made him understand that they had walked too fast the previous day and wanted to wait for their souls to catch up.

I relate to that missionary. I can be just a little obsessive about maximizing the use of time. For example, when we moved to New Jersey I mapped out all of the possible routes to my office and timed all of the various segments of the possible routes. I know for example, that if I want to go to Morristown through Chester the back roads are more efficient and that if I take a left turn instead of going straight at one intersection I save one minute getting to the point where the routes re-connect. Yes I know I probably need therapy…but you get the picture.

And years ago, I planned a family vacation to Disney World. I knew the wait times for the various attractions, the most efficient ways to get from one to another, the routes between the parks, etc. etc. I was determined to maximize our time in Orlando to be sure that I crammed into that trip as much as I possibly could. I planned that effort well. In fact, it rose to D-Day invasion level of planning. I had everything planned.  In short, I made Disney World a project to work at and accomplish successfully, just like I did when I was at the office.

Our children had a completely different measure of a successful vacation. They wanted to have fun…the little ingrates. They just didn’t seem to understand that we had to do and see everything in a relatively short period of time. We had a lot of stuff to jam into the schedule. They just wanted to spend time in the pool. My plan did not leave a lot of time for the pool. Thankfully, we had gone in the late fall and the weather was too cool for swimming, so the pool did not happen to mess with my plan. But our kids just wanted to play.

Disney did not design Disney World for people like me, although I love it. Disney World is a place to go to suspend your other activities of life. A vacation is defined as a period of suspension of activity for rest and recreation. Disney World is a place for such vacations, at least the recreation part of the definition. Disney has taken great care to design the experience for its visitors so that in each moment you are there you can see, smell, taste, or touch something. Even when standing in line Disney takes care to entertain and inform you.

Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist when he grows up.” Good artists live in the moment and are not distracted easily. Disney appeals to the inner artist and invites you to live your Disney World experience moment-by-moment, especially the small children. If you just watch small children at Disney World you will see what that means. Children at Disney World are almost totally enthralled in whatever experience they have at the moment. They are not thinking about the wait time for the ride. Rather they are watching a character or show nearby. When they walk up to Mickey Mouse, they have nothing else on their minds. When they are at Disney World, each of their moments is a Disney Moment.

My Disney World, however, looked much like our lives today — full of schedules, appointments, things to do, places to be. In my Disney World, we can’t spend too much time in the present moment or we might miss the next ride. In my Disney World we need a vacation from vacation. In my Disney World life I am hustling from one event to the next, or collapsing exhausted when I hit home. And Jesus all too often gets missed in the schedule. I know that I need to find rest in Christ, but I just seem to have a hard time finding time to fit him in. Sometimes it is hard to find Christ in my Disney World. Maybe I can squeeze him in between the doctor appointment and choir practice on Mondays. Perhaps he can call my assistant and get on my schedule!

I say that only half-facetiously. You see, before we moved to New Jersey in 2010 I worked from home and had a very strong discipline of reading, prayer, and journaling every morning to start the day. With the move, however, I have to get out ahead of traffic for my commute to Morristown and that time is now my commute time. I am still struggling to recover my discipline for time away with Jesus. And my life is more stressful for it.

Years ago my wife gave me the classic devotional, Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowan. Her devotion for December 24, Christmas Eve interestingly, succinctly reaches the point:

We would be better Christians if we spent more time alone, and we would actually accomplish more if we attempted less and spent more time in isolation and quiet waiting on God. The world has become too much a part of us, and we are afflicted with the idea that we are not accomplishing anything unless we are always busily running back and forth. We no longer believe in the importance of a calm retreat where we sit silently in the shade. As the people of God, we have become entirely too practical. We believe in having “all our irons in the fire” and that all the time we spend away from the anvil or fire is wasted time. Yet our time is never more profitably spent than when we set aside time for quiet meditation, talking with God, and looking up to heaven. We can never have too many of these open spaces in life —  hours set aside when our soul is completely open and accessible to any heavenly thought  or influence that God may be pleased to send our way.

Jesus understands our stress. In the passage that follows our Gospel lesson what is documented is that as Jesus and the disciples tried to leave to get away, people followed. So Jesus stopped to feed them and the miracle of the loaves and fishes occurred. A little later Mark details that in every town they entered people rushed to bring him others to be healed. Jesus also was a very busy man who had a hard time leaving the office behind.

But Jesus also understood that we have to get away not only for physical rest but also for spiritual renewal. In our passage today from Mark, the apostles had just returned from their trip where Jesus had sent them out in twos to preach the Good News. They undoubtedly returned excited by all they had seen and done, but Jesus understood that there must be a balance in our spiritual lives between action and service, and quiet and renewal. Jesus observed that so many people were being served by them that they did not even have time to eat. So he said, “Come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

There are three key points to this statement: (1) get away with Jesus; (2) to a place of quiet; and (3) rest. Although rest for our bodies is essential, the rest to which I refer is spiritual. If we live our lives at a breakneck pace, the most likely thing to happen is that we will get broken necks! Spiritual rest is the foundation for physical rest. I don’t know about you, but when I am spiritually restless there is little chance that I will relax otherwise. Weary souls are distracted souls. And distracted souls are souls that may easily fall away from Christ.

God does not intend for us to live in a perpetual state of hurry. Our souls, minds, and bodies are not designed that way. That is why He commanded that we set aside the Sabbath as a day for rest. When I was young that was what the day was…a slow day of family togetherness with dinner after church; maybe a round of golf in the afternoon with a family picnic at the end. But the pace was slow and it always started with church. In our society today the concept of the Sabbath has become quaint and old fashioned. Many of our businesses are in operations 24 by 7, 7 days a week, maybe even requiring us at least occasionally to work on Sunday.  Blue laws are part of the distant past. Youth sporting events are scheduled back-to-back-to-back on Sundays. Many of us barely have time to breathe before we tumble into bed and rise to start another hectic week. Spiritual renewal and rest for body and mind take a back seat. And we pay the price.

Relationships take time. We have to communicate. What relationship can be maintained without spending time together and sharing with each other? Our relationship with Jesus is no different. Remember steps one and two from our passage today: get away and be quiet with Jesus.

Friends, thankfully we do not have to make appointments with Jesus. He is always in and available. We may have a hard time fitting him into our schedules, but he always has time for us. Just like Disney World, every moment of our lives have been designed so that he is there and reaching out in some way for us to experience him. We just have to pay attention. We have to live life in our Disney World not with my focus, but as the small child. Just like the little child who first encounters Mickey Mouse in Disney World, all we have to do is allow ourselves a moment to be completely enthralled in Jesus.

As L.B. Cowan emphasized, retreats and special extended quiet times of prayer are very important for our spiritual health, but they are all too infrequent. The frequent daily times of quiet with Jesus are the key. They do not have to be long. I call them GTOs – God Time Outs. We all have used time outs with our small children to calm them down and re-center them. Sometimes they only take seconds. God Time Outs can do the same thing. A GTO is simply a moment taken to re-center on Christ. Use everyday occurrences to trigger a reminder to just stop and take a moment with Jesus. You already do these I bet…you just may not realize it. Grace at a meal for example. Sure it is a time when we focus our thanks for blessings, but it is a GTO. We use a regular daily event…a meal… to trigger time focused on Christ. And you can use anything to trigger a quiet moment with Jesus…when your feet first hit the floor in the morning; when you take that last look in the mirror; when you start your car or turn it off before you start work; or, when you turn your computer on or off. Anything can be a trigger where you simply stop, connect with Jesus, and say, “Lord, I am mindful of your presence. Grant me your peace.” It only takes a moment, but it is a moment where you have heard Jesus speak to your soul to come away and rest.

If you are living your life in the same manner as I planned our Disney World trip…so crammed with activities and events that you have little time for spiritual rest, finding those few moments in your day for God Time Outs will surprise you. You will begin to notice more and more of the moments of life that God intends for you to experience. The pace of your life will slow, even if the activities do not, because they will include moments of peace. Your soul will find rest. And you will have found Christ in your Disney World life.


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Welcome, I'm Tom

I'm Tom Trezise a retired lawyer and corporate executive with over twenty years of experience as a Methodist lay preacher. Raised in Appalachia, I proudly call myself a hillbilly at heart. I'm the executive director of The Everyday Kingdom, a non-profit devoted to fostering a community that helps people find and experience the peace, purpose, and joy available from living every day in Christ’s kingdom.

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