Lent 2014 (40 Days of Disney)

For my 2014 Lenten Discipline, I will be offering a short biblical commentary on the top 40 animated disney songs of all time. Criteria used to select the songs included google searches, iTunes rank, and my personal opinion. The thought is that this may be one example of how God can be experienced anywhere, outside the confines of specifically “Christian” music.

“Mountain Music” by Alabama – 40 Days of Country – Song #20 – Lent 2016

“Mountain Music” by Alabama
40 Days of Country – Song #20 – Lent 2016

With a career that has spanned over five decades, Alabama is one of the most enduring country music groups of all time. Originally formed as the band, “Wildcountry” in 1969, the band’s success began almost as soon as they officially changed their name to Alabama in 1977. With a heavy dose of southern rock accompanied by dueling harmonies, songs like “If You’re Gonna Play In Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle and a Band)” and “Song of the South,” the group really came into their own during the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

One of their earlier hits was the song, “Mountain Music,” off the the album of the same name, which reached the number one position on four different charts in the United States and Canada. Randy Owen, who wrote the song, has stated that it took him three years to write as he desired to paint a picture of what growing up in the south looked like based on his experiences. The song is a celebration of youthful memories and the carefree freedoms of yesterday, as lyrics sing, “Oh, play me some mountain music like grandma and grandpa used to play.”

In the Gospel accounts, Samaria was one particular mountainous region that Jews often avoided, believing the residents to follow an ancient form a Judaism mixed with other regional religions, thus making it blasphemous in the eyes of some. Jesus did not share this opinion, and the Gospel of John records an exchange he had with a Samaritan woman at a well. “19 The woman said, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you and your people say that it is necessary to worship in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you and your people will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You and your people worship what you don’t know; we worship what we know because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—and is here!—when true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth…” Mountains are good. Mountain top experiences are even better. It’s good to remember them, but we can’t always stay there, sometimes we need to “float on down that river,” moving forward in faith on that path that Christ has called us.

God of mountains and valleys, keep us ever mindful of your presence, in our highest of highs, in our lowest of lows, and encourage us to praise you through it all. Amen.

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“Independence Day” by Martina McBride – 40 Days of Country – Song #21 – Lent 2016

“Independence Day” by Martina McBride
40 Days of Country – Song #21 – Lent 2016

Not only is Martina McBride one of the best-selling and most successful country music acts of all time, quite simply, she may also have arguably the best voice country music radio has ever heard. To this day, McBride’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” continues to be one of my favorite live performances of the United States national anthem I have ever heard. With five #1 country singles, fourteen Grammy award nominations, and over 14 million records sold, it’s no surprise why Martina McBride is a four-time Country Music Awards female vocalist of the year.

A number of songs could be chosen as Martina McBride’s greatest hit of all time. 1994’s “Independence Day,” however, may not make everyone’s list, considering it only ever reached number 12 on the Country music charts. Not surprisingly, the music video for the song, which included the lyrics describing the victim of domestic abuse, her hometown willingly turning a blind-eye to the issue, and her eventual decision to burn her home to the ground (along with her abuser inside), didn’t exactly sit well with some of her more traditional, conservative audiences. It is, of course, for that very reason that this song was selected for this list. Truly, perhaps the most disappointing line in the song is not the retributive justice of “let the guilty pay,” but the dark reality so many experience, when McBride sings, “Some folks whispered and some folks talked but everybody looked the other way…”

The number of victims in the world today who can relate to scenario in this song is beyond a simple tragedy. The refrain of the song sings, “Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong.” This is a sentiment that is shared by Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:8, when she sings, “God raises the poor from the dust, lifts up the needy from the garbage pile. God sits them with officials, gives them the seat of honor!” and then again by Mary in Luke 1:52-53 when she, likewise, sings, “[God] has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. [God] has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed.” These unlikely biblical women found strength in their hope for a different sort of “Independence Day,” and that hope gave rise to their powerful voices of witness. Unfortunately, too many stories don’t have happy endings. Amidst the brokenness of this world, however, our God is a God of justice, who continuously sides with those who are struggling and suffering, offering mercy and hope anywhere that the goodness of creation is threatened.  And while burning houses to the ground, as depicted in McBride’s song, may not be the way of Christ, as followers of Christ, there is certainly more that can be done to shine light in the darkest places.

God of mercy, allow us never to close our eyes or turn our backs to the suffering of so many innocent women and men throughout the world, many of whom may be closer to us than we ever imagined. Give us courage to speak out for justice, a boldness to shine light that exposes darkness, and a zeal to be agents of your love and mercy for those in need. Amen.

40 DAYS OF DISNEY – DAY 39 – SONG #2 – “THE CIRCLE OF LIFE” – THE LION KING – LENT 2014

2014 Lenten Devotional – “40 Days of Disney” – Day 39

Song #2 – “The Circle Of Life” – The Lion King

With music and lyrics written by Elton John and Time Rice and an unforgettable score written by Hans Zimmer, there is little doubt why so many people regard the soundtrack of Disney’s “The Lion King,” as the culmination of Disney’s musical capabilities.  Audiences are introduced to “The Circle of Life,” in the very first moment of the film, with its iconic shout, “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba,” to ring in the coronation of young Simba.

The opening lines of the song, “From the day we arrive on the planet, and blinking, step into the sun, there’s more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done,” begin to echo the opening sentiment of King Solomon who laments, “What do people gain from all the hard work that they work so hard at under the sun,” (Ecclesiastes 1:1).  However, Rafiki’s song is not lament, but a longing for purpose, singing, “Through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place.”  Interestingly enough, purpose is found through similar themes in the letters of Paul, who writes, “Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love,” (1 Corinthians 13:13).  While we all experience times of despair in our lives, we are given hope through the faithful love of Jesus Christ that never fails and will never let us down, “until we find our place on the path unwinding,” leading straight to our heavenly home.

Faithful, loving Savior of hope, strengthen us in times of despair so that our eyes remain focused on the future glory you have promised us.  We thank you for your never-ending love.  Amen.

40 DAYS OF DISNEY – DAY 38 – SONG #3 – “PART OF YOUR WORLD” – THE LITTLE MERMAID – LENT 2014

2014 Lenten Devotional – “40 Days of Disney” – Day 38

Song #3 – “Part Of Your World” – The Little Mermaid

There are few Disney princesses as loved and admired by little girls everywhere quite as much as Arielle.  Whether it’s the fact that she’s a mermaid, gets to spend her life in the ocean, introduced red hair into the Disney Princess collection, talks to animals, or has one of the most beautiful voices in all of film, children gravitate towards the youthful innocence and hopeful desires personified in princess Arielle, and it’s a sentiment that isn’t lost on older generations.

In her most famous song, Arielle sings of her desire to leave her predetermined watery life of luxury in pursuit of a more meaningful life on land where she’s free to make her own choices and follow her own passions.  In “Part Of Your World,” while surrounded by all her treasures, she sings, “I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty.  I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore.  You want thingamabobs?  I’ve got twenty.  But who cares.  No big deal.  I want more.”  Arielle realized a truth the Jesus had spent a significant portion of his ministry preaching on.  Money and possessions can not bring the eternal joy and happiness that Christ offers.  This is why he tells the man in Mark 10:21, “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.”

Sufficient Christ, free our minds from the desires of this world, so that we can be content in your grace, resting only in your faithful love, while we pursue the eternal life you have planned for us.  Amen.

 

40 DAYS OF DISNEY – DAY 37 – SONG #4 – “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST” – BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – LENT 2014

2014 Lenten Devotional – “40 Days of Disney” – Day 37

Song #4 – “Beauty and the Beast” – Beauty And The Beast

Few songs in the Disney cannon are more timeless and universally acclaimed throughout the ages than Angela Lansbury’s elegantly exquisite rendition of the titular anthemic ballad from “Beauty and the Beast.”  While the protagonists share a romantic dance, Mrs. Pott’s narrates the journey the two have shared thus far, singing, “Tale as old as time, true as it can be, bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong.”

There is a reason these lyrics have touched so many hearts throughout the years, because they speak to a common hope; transformation.  In the Bible, this change begins within ourselves, as Paul writes, “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature,” (Romans 12:2, CEB).  However, our hope doesn’t end in this life, for as we assume the nature of Christ through the Holy Spirit, our hope extends into eternity, as Paul continues, “Listen, I’m telling you a secret: All of us won’t die, but we will all be changed— in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the final trumpet. The trumpet will blast, and the dead will be raised with bodies that won’t decay, and we will be changed,” (1 Corinthians 15: 51-52, CEB).

Transfigured Christ, we praise you for the resurrecting power you have, offering us rebirth and new life.  Help us change our hearts and minds so they are more like your own, and in doing so, may we experience a transformation that brings with it, eternity.  Amen.

40 DAYS OF DISNEY – DAY 36 – SONG #5 – “LET IT GO” – FROZEN – LENT 2014

2014 Lenten Devotional – “40 Days of Disney” – Day 36

Song #5 – “Let It Go” – Frozen

Let’s face it.  There has never been a musical craze based on a song from a Disney film quite like the recent phenomenon that is Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go,” from the studio’s latest animated feature, “Frozen,” (not to be confused with Demi Lovato’s not-so-epic cover that even Disney gave up on).  The song has become the new anthem for millenials everywhere proclaiming their independence from the rigid structures and expectations of tradition and the status quo.

However, as freeing as belting the lyrics to “Let It Go,” may be, there is a fundamental flaw in the sentimentality of the song.  In the film, while Queen Elsa sings she is fleeing from dealing with her problems at home, and what’s worse, she’s abandoning all those people who are not as well off as she is, leaving them to suffer the repercussions.  She proclaims, “let the storm rage on, the snow never bothered me anyways.”  But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother others, and while she has “power” that “flurries through the air into the ground,” she also has a responsibility to aid those who are powerless.  As it says in Proverbs 14:31, “Those who exploit the powerless anger their maker, while those who are kind to the poor honor God,” (CEB).

God of the disinherited, we confess that we too often pretend not to notice the suffering in this world, ignoring the needs of the helpless and vulnerable in favor of our own desires.  Give us hearts that are fixed, instead, only on your will, so that all may taste in the abundant life you intended for your creation.  We pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who did your will, even unto the cross, and we praise you for the eternal liberation he offers.  Amen.

 

40 DAYS OF DISNEY – DAY 35 – SONG #6 – “THE BARE NECESSITIES” – THE JUNGLE BOOK – LENT 2014

2014 Lenten Devotional – “40 Days of Disney” – Day 35

Song #6 – “The Bare Necessities” – The Jungle Book

Few of Disney’s characters are as universally well-loved as The Jungle Book’s delightfully charismatic, carefree vagrant, Baloo.  While his propensity towards good times often gets him in trouble, and is clearly irksome to some of the more straight-pawed characters such as Bagheera, Baloo shows a genuine regard for the well being of young Mowgli, even taking the man cub under his wing for a short, if not eventful, period.

While Timon and Pumba may have encouraged a young lion to a lifestyle free of any worries, Baloo’s sentiment is a little more refined, as he explains to Mowgli that there are only a few things in life worth worrying about.  If anything, Baloo’s ballad is a testament to his faith, saying, “look for the bare necessities,” only to confidently proclaim that, “the bare necessities of life will come to you.”  Jesus Christ often preached on ridding our life of worries and placing our trust in God.  However, even Jesus Christ had his own bare necessities to ask for, as he prayed in Matthew 6:11, “Give us the bread we need for the day,” (CEB).  Jesus teaches that we don’t need to ask for much, but we all share the same basic needs.  Instead, a life of simplicity and contentment with what God has to offer is a cornerstone of the Christian faith.

Generous God who provides, decrease our desires so that our satisfaction with all you have already given us might increase.  In our world where pride is found in excess, teach us to be content with little, so that all can have access to basic needs.  We hunger only for your daily bread.  Feed us.  Amen.

40 DAYS OF DISNEY – DAY 34 – SONG #7 – “WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR” – PINOCCHIO – LENT 2014

2014 Lenten Devotional – “40 Days of Disney” – Day 34

Song #7 – “When You Wish Upon A Star” – Pinocchio

Despite earning the rare distinction of a 100% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes, Disney’s 1940 “Pinocchio,” was initially a box office disaster.  The story of the woodcarver, Gepetto, and his puppet, Pinocchio, determined to become a “real boy,” has proven to have staying power, topping rankings from both Time Magazine and the American Film Institute.  The feature song, “When You Wish Upon A Star,” was also the first Disney song to win an Oscar, and has since become synonymous with Walt Disney productions.

While the lyrics fit perfectly when cast against the narrative of Pinocchio, “When You Wish Upon A Star,” plays a theme that reoccurs often during Disney’s classic era.  “When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.”  Truthfully, Disney doesn’t hold total claim to this statement.  In fact, Jesus Christ himself desires that we all see all of our hopes and dreams fulfilled.  In Mark 11:23, he tells his disciples, “I assure you that whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea’—and doesn’t waver but believes that what is said will really happen—it will happen.  Therefore I say to you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you will receive it, and it will be so for you,” (CEB).  We don’t need to wish upon stars, we simply need to faithfully trust that God will always provide for us.

Provident God, you hold our futures in your hands and you desire nothing but the best for each of our lives.  May we trust in your plans as we embrace the fullness of life that is found in you.  Amen.

40 DAYS OF DISNEY – DAY 33 – SONG #8 – “GO THE DISTANCE” – HERCULES – LENT 2014

2014 Lenten Devotional – “40 Days of Disney” – Day 33

Song #9 – “Go The Distance” – Hercules

Michael Bolton’s “Go The Distance,” from Disney’s “Hercules,” has always been a favorable one for me, but in honesty, it may be the entire reason this 40 day devotional was started.  I have often said that God reveals Godself through the lyrics of all sorts of music, not just Christian praise and worship.  It only took attending a Leadership Conference at Adam Hamilton’s Church of the Resurrection, whose opening worship began with a performance of “Go The Distance,” that I realized that maybe I wasn’t the only one that felt that way.

In the thematic anthem of the film, Hercules (or Michael Bolton) sings, “I have often dreamed of a far off place…”  All to frequently, this is how Christians regard our faith, as an evacuation plan to get somewhere else, heaven.  But this fundamental flaw leaves us missing out on some of the most miraculous elements of the life in Christ.  As Christ said in John 10:10, “I cam so that they could have life, indeed so that they could live life to the fullest.”  The Christian life doesn’t take us to a far off place, not yet, at least.  In truth, it encourages us to live a better life in the place we’re at, right here and now, to “find our way” and to “go the distance.”

Strengthening Provider, we praise you for the incredible talents you have bestowed on our lives through the power of your Holy Spirit.  Motivate and encourage us to embrace these gifts, realize the fullness of life you have intended for us, and use our talents for your will.  Amen.

 

40 DAYS OF DISNEY – DAY 32 – SONG #9 – “YOU’LL BE IN MY HEART” – TARZAN – LENT 2014

2014 Lenten Devotional – “40 Days of Disney” – Day 33

Song #9 – “You’ll Be In My Heart” – Tarzan

While in the movie, it is Tarzan’s ape-mother, Kala, who sings “You’ll Be In My Heart” to her newly discovered and adopted son as a lullaby, most remember the Phil Collins rendition of the song, and for good reason, as it was this version that took home an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Grammy Award in 2000.  The song is not only a ballad of comfort, but a proclamation of commitment to a loved one.

The lyrics begin with the line, “Come stop your crying, it’ll be alright.”  The writers of scripture have long echoed this sentiment.  In Isaiah 35:10, the prophet writes of a time when, “grief and groaning will flee away,” (CEB).  Meanwhile, in the John’s Revelation 21:4, Jesus is seen returning to earth to “wipe every tear from their eye,” (CEB).  In both these apocalyptic visions of the Old and New Testaments, readers are not warned of a coming destruction as some have been conditioned to expect, but instead, offered words of strength and comfort from a loving God who desires nothing more than to heal our broken world so that there is “no mourning, crying, or pain anymore,” (Revelation 21:4, CEB) and offer instead, “everlasting joy,” (Isaiah 35:10, CEB).

Caring Consoler, there a days in our lives when, despite our best efforts, the tears come and the crying can not be held back.  Constantly remind us that, “Weeping may stay all night, but by morning, joy,” (Psalm 30:5, CEB).  We know you are always here for us and we praise you for your healing touch on our hearts and in our lives.  Amen.