I somehow made it through my childhood without seeing The Polar Express. It’s one of my new favorites (although A Charlie Brown Christmas is still tops).
The Polar Express is an odd little movie—from the groundbreaking visuals to the whimsical storyline to the fact that Tom Hanks somehow manages to do half the voices. (I’m still trying to figure that one out.)
It’s a little bit of a mystical tale for children. Or maybe it’s children who understand it perfectly and me who doesn’t understand.
The journey begins with a boy just on the verge of not believing in Santa anymore. We don’t know his name or where exactly he lives. He could be anyone.
That night, a train shows up in his yard, tracks and all. “All aboard!”
He follows the call outside into the snow, where he meets the conductor of the mysterious train. But no matter what that conductor says, nothing can convince the boy to climb on. So finally, the conductor shrugs, adds “Suit yourself”, and leaves him to it.
But as the train pulls away, something clicks into place. The boy runs through the snow, grabs hold of the bar on the side of the train, and climbs on.
That’s only the start of the adventure.
The boy at last returns home—after traveling through forests, up mountains, and over poles, and to the North Pole—with the word “Believe” punched into his train ticket.
“Just remember,” the conductor says as the train vanishes into the snow, “the funny thing about trains—it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.”
And then he and the Polar Express are gone, with one final call of “Merry Christmas.”
We can take this scene one of two ways. We can do the decidedly adult route and get all up in arms about how yes, it is very important to know where your “train” is going.
And it is. Not knocking that. It’s very important to know where you’re going in life and after.
But if we were to take that route, we’d have to ignore the fact that these kids knew exactly where they were going. They were going to the North Pole. And they knew that because the conductor told them so.
None of these kids had ever seen the North Pole before. They didn’t know what it was like. They didn’t know if it was all they dreamed of. They didn’t know how to get there.
But none of that mattered.
They decided to get on.
And that mattered more than knowing every last detail of where they were going.
It Doesn’t Matter Where You’re Going . . .
We’re on a train of our own, too—a little thing called life. Sometimes that train brings us hot chocolate or trips to the North Pole, sometimes it brings us steep hills and cracking ice.
We know where we’re going, don’t we? It’s the whole reason we celebrate Christmas. God sent the Person dearest to Him to feel everything we feel. More than that, to suffer beyond imagination and rise again. So we could know where we were going. And so we could know it’s a wonderful place.
Even though we know where we’re going, we’ve never seen it before. We get little tastes of it here (and hint, you get more tastes of it the closer you stay to your Conductor), but at the same time, we know the joy coming is something entirely different than anything we’ve ever expected.
What if it’s not real? What if it’s not all we hoped for? What if we’re ruining everything here?
Sometimes we forget Jesus also came to help us climb aboard the train.
What Matters is Deciding to Get On.
Sometimes we forget that the journey matters just as much as the destination.
Even though I don’t know where it’s going. Even though I don’t have all the details. Even though the tracks are treacherous. Even though it hurts.
And I can get on.
Sometimes Christmas hurts. Hard years make it hard to believe, hard to find wonder in this season we all love so much.
Get on anyways. Hang on for dear life if you have to. Because sometimes the scary roads lead to the most joyful moments.
It’s okay if it takes some time for you to get used to it all--to let go of the bar, come inside the train, even to sit with others in the main compartment. But little by little, you’ll find the more you leave it to the Conductor Who is never late to get you where you need to be, the more those snowflakes of joy blow into your life. And snowflakes add up to a snowfall as we give the hope and joy that we’ve received to others as well.
Like mysterious bells that only ring for those who believe. Does the bell still ring for you? Even if it doesn’t now, it can again.
Heaven is here. Christmas is here. God is here.
So it doesn’t matter where you’re going.
What matters is deciding to get on.
*What’s your favorite Christmas movie? What do you think of The Polar Express? What does your Christmas look like this year? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
*Why are there so many cute and funny puppy Christmas memes? I forced myself to limit it to one.*
Luca Paguro isn’t so different from other twelve-year-olds in 1950’s Italy. He’s curious and loves learning about everything he can get his hands on. He can often be spotted training on his bicycle for the local Portorosso Cup race. And he’s obsessed with Vespas—whether that means trying to save money for one of his own or helping his best friend, Alberto, build one in the meantime.
Not so different from other kids at all.
Oh, and he also never gets wet. No rain. No swimming. Not even a spilled water glass.
Because if he did, everyone would see that he’s actually a sea monster. (Albeit one with a remarkable ability to look human when he dries out.)
I’ve been excited for Pixar’s Luca since the trailers launched. (You may not have known this, but I’m a bit of a Pixar nerd.)
However, a lot of my peers said it didn’t quite have the sparkle of a Pixar movie. That it didn’t quite have that feel.
I watched it anyway and loved it. (I thought it very much seemed like a Pixar movie.)
One of my favorite scenes is the “silenzio Bruno!” scene. Slices of it were used in trailers and other marketing. You can watch the full scene below.
It seems cute enough (if not deadly) in that clip. And sometimes it is just little irrational fears that tug at us.
Not that “I was just thinking maybe I might die” is an irrational fear.
And for the record, if Bruno is telling you not to put something in your mouth, you might want to listen. Good? Good.
What were we talking about?
Right. Then there are the bigger fears. As we see in Luca, often the biggest struggles hide behind carefree faces. Without giving too much away, the kids in Luca are dealing with some big problems: bullying, parents’ separation, and abandonment by a parent, for starters.
Can we really silence our inner doubts when we’re stuck in the middle of those big things? Can we silence Bruno when it hurts?
You Have More Reason Than Anyone Else To Say It
Once again, for the record, sometimes we do need to listen to Bruno. Sometimes he’s warning us and/or leading us towards a good change.
But more often than not, Bruno wants us to doubt ourselves.
You’re not good enough.
And worse, he wants us to doubt the One Who cares for us.
You are a child of God. A child of the true King, the Leader of angel armies. And it’s that Father Who stands by you in every fear you face, big or small. He doesn’t leave when the crisis is over, either. He stays with you in every aspect of your life, the mundane and the insane.
He has a plan in all this. And it doesn’t feel good at the time. But because He is good, because He’s been good for a million other people a million times before, we know His plan is good.
He’s the reason that you’re good enough, because His sacrifice made you worthy.
He’s the reason you can, because He gives His power to you.
You can go to that youth group and meet others your age.
You can be gracious and merciful to the cruel person in your life.
You can bear up under abuse or bullying, always knowing where your worth is.
With Someone like that on our side, why on earth should we listen to Bruno?
So I don’t care what you say to him, or why his name is Bruno. Just shut him up.
Because you have a reason that you can say, “Silenzio Bruno.”
*What is your Bruno? Have you seen Pixar's Luca? What did you think of it? Share your adventures in the comments!*
I remember watching Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. with my younger siblings for the first time. While it had been a movie I loved when I was younger, I had actually worn out the DVD with how often I watched it, and it just never got replaced.
We had told my younger siblings about this, and they all settled in on the couch or the floor, excited to see what might follow.
Once we sat through the (INCREDIBLY LONG) (but there was a catchy song, so it was okay) opening credits, the screen lit up with a picture of an average child’s bedroom.
Mom said goodnight.
The lights went out.
That’s when the terror began.
A slimy tentacle draped over a chair. Curtains rustling in the wind. And a pair of slanted red eyes glaring from beneath the bed.
By this point—not even five minutes into the movie unless you count those opening credits—one of my elementary-aged brothers, who had struggled with night terrors for years when he was younger, was cowered behind the couch pillows, peeking across to the rest of us, probably trying to figure out what exactly he’d signed on for. (“Watch Monsters, Inc. they said. It will be fun, they said.”)
The enormous monster loomed over the bed. The child screamed.
And, uh, so did the monster.
And before we knew it, said monster was skidding across the floor into a pile of jacks. (Punctuated by said brother’s hysterical cackles in the background.) Then the wall lifted to reveal it was all a simulation.
It’s October. Some great things happen in October. Fall decorations start popping up everywhere. Pumpkin spice dominates each and every restaurant. I went to my first For King and Country concert.
But the majority of the month is dedicated to celebrating fear.
October is a month where storytellers go to great lengths to come up with the darkest and scariest stories they can. (Something I never saw much point in. Who wants to be scared all the time? We get enough of that in real life.)
October’s festivities aside, fear permeates our culture now, especially since the 2020 lockdown. (Should I capitalize lockdown? Is it that serious?) It reminded us that our world—and all the things we thought were untouchable—can change in an instant. And with that reminder came fear.
No need to wait until October. Fear is alive and well all year round.
Fear is power.
In the context of Monsters, Inc., the ones who harness fear’s power are a group of colorful and quirky monsters who really just need kids’ screams so they can start their car in the morning.
In real life, though? There’s nothing quirky or colorful about the one who wants to use our fear to power his empire.
Fear is powerful. It holds us back from the things we love the best. It shuts us down and keeps us in a dark place. It overwhelms us.
But as I watched Monsters, Inc. with a boy who used to refuse to go into any room of the house after dark without a light, who used to never spend the night in his own bed, who used to leave the room over visuals in even G-rated movies—as I watched him laugh his way through the film, I realized something alongside those quirky and colorful monsters.
Joy is more powerful than fear.
Why write stories of fear and despair when we can celebrate joy? When we can point to the pinprick of Light shattering the inky dark? When we can break free of the black prisons that we cower oh-so-comfortably in? When we run outside into the light and discover both new things and old things that truly don’t change when the whole world is flipped upside down?
It’s hard to uncurl from that ball and take a step outside. But maybe this October, we’ll find ourselves celebrating the power of joy—not fear.
(P.S. That boy I mentioned? He hasn’t scurried out of his room at night for years.)
One of my most recent movie forays was Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. While the setting, characters, and story were all brilliant and unique, the theme and emotion were what really blew me away.
Raya and the Last Dragon
Raya is a former princess who now roams the various countries of Kumandra (Heart, Spine, Talon, Fang, and Tail) in hopes of piecing together the legendary Dragon Gem. That Gem was also destroyed at what was supposed to be a peaceful event. When the five countries realized where the Gem was, they accused Heart of hoarding all its benefits. In the rush to all claim it, it fell and shattered.
And when it shattered, so did Kumandra.
Giant purple shadow monsters (Druun) rage unchecked without the Gem’s powers to protect their country. And anyone they come across, they turn to stone.
Raya’s peace-hoping dad among them.
So now Raya’s hoping maybe a magical dragon from the past—Sisu—could bring her Ba back.
I mean, it really is understandable that Raya has some trust issues. Especially a girl she’d befriended was the one to lead the invasion for the Dragon Gem. And there is the fact that the same girl (Namaari) hunts Raya to this day.
But in order to get all the gem pieces, she’ll have to take a few chances.
Three, to be exact, which lead her to assemble quite the misfit crew.
The Great Sisu Debate
There’s been quite the debate as to what this movie was trying to say, and I had a lot of fun discussing it with some of my writer friends.
Sisu, the hilarious yet wise dragon, advocates giving everyone a chance. But in real life, we can’t just walk up to a random person on the street and ask for help. We can’t go to someone who has seriously hurt us and give them a gift and make everything better.
Raya, on the other hand, trusts no one. And we see throughout the movie that her way doesn’t work either. We can’t do everything ourselves (and I would highly suggest you not try drying your own food unless you know how).
So what are we to do?
I think the answer lies in the scene when Raya and Sisu confront Namaari. (And we’re preparing for a whole lot of spoilers, so be warned.)
Namaari—whom Sisu believes can be trusted—turns a crossbow on them both and demands they hand themselves and the Gem over. Despite this turn in plans, Sisu continues to assure Raya it’s alright.
Raya draws her sword anyway. Hurls it at Namaari. Namaari’s finger slips on the trigger.
And Sisu dies.
This is where a lot of the debate begins. Were they saying Raya should have blindly trusted Namaari and none of this would happened?
Or was it not really about Namaari at all?
Backing up the tape—Sisu was the one who assured Raya it was alright. Sisu had proven herself trustworthy over and over again throughout the movie (if not a bit scatter-brained at times). Even Raya trusted her by seeking her help in the first place.
Raya couldn’t see past her own hurt with one person to trust someone who truly did care about her and whom she truly could trust.
Taking the First Step
Why is this all so important to me? Because I see this a lot. In myself. In others. In the stories I write. We’ve been hurt over and over again, sometimes by people we trusted very deeply. So we hide away in a little ball (not unlike Tuk-Tuk, really), shielding ourselves from everyone and everything.
We don’t ask for help, because it’s safer to do it ourselves.
Even from God.
But Raya got a second chance. A chance to trust former enemies as they put the Dragon Gem back together. Even when it all seems to go wrong and she’s turned to stone.
She took the first step. (Thanks for the line, Sisu.)
There is still hope. There is still light. There is still Someone far more trustworthy than any dragon.
And because of that, we can take the first step.
Although it may not be giving a gift to someone who wants to kill you . . . it may just look more like the quiet acceptance of Someone you know can be trusted.
When Raya took the first step, the Druun were destroyed. All those who turned to stone were restored. Sisu and the dragons returned. But most importantly, Kumandra was united again.
Who can tell what might happen if we take the first step?
*Have you seen Raya and the Last Dragon? What did you think of it? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
When the first glimpses of San Fransokyo—and Disney’s Big Hero 6—lit up our TV screen, I had no idea what to expect. Or what I had just gotten myself into. I skeptically watched the first bot battle.
When the end credits finally rolled, I was a devoted fan. Despite the movie being far outside the genre I usually read or watch, it quickly drew me in.
How? Many things—the creativity of the plot, the diversity of the characters, and well, the Baymaxness of Baymax.
But mostly, something deeper that was buried in the amateur superheroes and microbots and robotic nurses.
Throughout the first quarter of the film, we not only meet the film’s protagonist Hiro Hamada, but we’re introduced to his older brother, Tadashi, too. Tadashi picks Hiro up when a bot battle goes wrong, doesn’t get (too) angry when that lands them both in jail, and even tricks things around so Hiro visits the tech school Tadashi attends—a visit that leads to Hiro abandoning his career in bot fighting and trying for their scholarship.
Then Tadashi runs into a burning building to save his professor.
And he doesn’t come back out.
Without Tadashi, Hiro turns from bright, creative, and upbeat to withdrawn and depressed. Neither his Aunt Cass or his new-found friends or his abandoned scholarship to the university can bring him out of it.
But maybe, an inflatable robotic nurse named Baymax can.
I mean, that, and a plan to save the world from the microbots that Hiro himself invented that have now fallen into the hands of a masked man who may have killed Tadashi.
What really drew me into the film was how real it was. I mean, yeah, San Fransokyo isn’t a real place, and we’re not likely to encounter microbots or inflatable nurses or basically any of the other tech in the film.
But moments like when Hiro admits to Baymax, “People keep saying he’s not really gone, as long as we remember him . . . it still hurts.”
Moments like when Hiro faces the masked man and confides, “You just let Tadashi die,” moments before he tries to kill the man.
Moments like when Hiro desperately tries to open Baymax’s access port despite Baymax’s protests, ending by banging his fists against the robot and screaming, “Tadashi’s gone!”
One thing I’ve learned through writing and reading and just living is that life hurts. I generally like to set forth life as an exciting, adventurous, and magical place to explore. And it is. But the truth is, all of that magic comes with its own shadows. And lots of people are hurting. Many writers create stories as a way to cope with very dark, very painful circumstances. Many readers turn to books for the same purpose.
But if you ever passed any of these writers and readers in church? You would never be able to tell. They smile just as bright. They shrug. They say, “We’re fine.”
But we’re not.
In one scene early in the movie, Hiro trips and ends up wedged between his dresser and his bed frame. Baymax repeatedly asks him to rate his pain on a scale of one to ten. When Hiro insists he’s fine, Baymax pulls him out of the crevice anyway, adding, “It is alright to cry.”
As the film progresses, Baymax continues his care, whether that be contacting Hiro’s friends for him, diving off the Golden Gate Bridge when he senses (before Hiro does) that their first flight is making him happy, or showing him a long-buried video of Tadashi when Hiro is at the end of himself.
But none of that healing could happen while Hiro said he was fine.
It is alright to cry.
It is alright to scream.
It is alright to not be alright.
It’s alright to need help.
It’s alright to hurt.
I still believe the world is a place of wonder. It’s a place to heal. To find hope. As Tadashi told Baymax, and Hiro, and all of us, the world needs us. And maybe that will start when we admit that it still hurts. Maybe gather a few friends. Maybe make a few mistakes and shed a few tears.
And then get back to work.
*Have you seen Big Hero 6? What did you think of it? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
Last month, I discussed one of my all-time favorite movies, How to Train Your Dragon. And it just wouldn’t be complete without discussing its sequel as well!
So, a quick warning before we jump in—if you are planning to see this movie or care if you ever see it, DO NOT READ THIS POST. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is one of those movies that cannot be discussed without spoilers, and believe you me, you do not want this movie spoiled.
Moving on . . .
Heading into How to Train Your Dragon 2, I was most worried about the character personalities. I’d seen enough graphics from the movie to know they’d updated how each character looked. Great. So now Hiccup will be older and more mature and everything will make sense and he’ll just breeze through life without a care in the world like how many other sequels. Yippee.
Yeah, that’s not what happened.
Sure, Hiccup and his dad, Stoick, have made up a little bit. But they sure don’t understand each other. Stoick is determined that Hiccup will become the next chief. And Hiccup is just not so really very extra sure he wants to . . . or, more accurately, that he’s ready to.
But things like life rarely wait for us to be ready. (I mean, really, does he ever just have a normal date with Astrid?) Hiccup stumbles upon a group of dragon trappers who warn him of a coming threat—Drago, the alleged dragon master.
Hiccup believes he can change Drago’s mind, despite Stoick’s warnings and the fact that Hiccup has only known he existed for about five minutes now. “This is what I’m good at,” he insists moments before he and Toothless sneak off—okay, there was no sneaking, it was very obvious that he was leaving—of the barricaded island.
And just before he’s kidnapped by a vigilante dragon lady who is actually his mother.
Valka has at least one notable mistake in her past—namely, leaving Hiccup. She genuinely believed that leaving was the safest thing she could do for him—after all, she wasn’t like all the other Vikings and believed they could make peace with the dragons. What if one did attack and she couldn’t bring herself to kill it? But she’s on a mission now to do her best to fix what she broke.
What really struck me is how Valka just is. She apologized for the hurt she caused, she made it right, but she never apologized for who she was. She’s just herself—in the very best way she knows how.
Meanwhile, Hiccup clings desperately to his hope of changing Drago’s mind, the only thing he thinks he can do. A hope that leaves him stranded in the heat of battle when Drago takes over Toothless’ mind and sends him to kill Hiccup.
When Stoick takes the fatal blow to save Hiccup.
(YEAH, SO I WAS NOT EMOTIONALLY PREPARED FOR THIS MOVIE.)
At his dad’s funeral, after he’s shot the flaming arrow to burn his father’s ship, Hiccup stands on the beach with all his friends behind him. All waiting to hear what he has to say. What the plan is to get their dragons back. To save their island.
(Better yet, watch the scene here. It's a hard scene to describe. Or if you don't feel like being emotionally pulverized, just read my description below.)
And all he can say is, “I’m sorry, Dad.”
The silence stretches on a minute, before he adds, “I’m not the chief you wanted to be. I’m not the peacekeeper I thought I was. I don’t know . . .”
Valka steps forward and lays a hand on Hiccup’s shoulder. “You came early into this world. Such a wee thing. So frail, so fragile. I feared you wouldn’t make it. But your father, he never doubted. He always said you’d become the strongest of them all. And he was right. You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon. Only you can bring our worlds together. That is who you are, son.”
That is who you are.
Training dragons, changing people’s minds about them, the only things he thought he was good at, that was what Hiccup did. Not who he was.
Hiccup stares into the growing flames. He confesses, “I was so afraid of becoming my dad. Mostly because I thought I never could. How do you become someone that great, that brave, that selfless? I guess you can only try.”
So he just is who he is. And that is what helps him win back Toothless, defeat Drago, and save his village.
Hiccup was so caught up in what he did that he lost sight of who he was.
Sometimes we do the same thing.
“I play this sport.”
“I write this type of story.”
“This is my career.”
“I have been hurt in this way.”
All of those things shape who we are. But they do not define who we are.
Like Hiccup, we sometimes look to those who we view as chiefs in our lives. We worry how we can ever be as much as they are. It terrifies us, really.
But it’s not about becoming them. It’s about becoming us.
Who are you, really? When everything else is stripped away, what is still in your heart?
That is who you are—who God has made you to be. All you can do is try. And together, He and you will do amazing things.
*Have you seen How to Train Your Dragon 2? What did you think? What are the things closest to your heart? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
I promise I do not think constantly about movies during family devotions. Just remember that fact.
I don’t know about anyone else here, but I love How to Train Your Dragon. The characters, the story, the visuals, the soundtrack. It was one of the first movies a friend loaned us in a quarantine survival package last year, and I immediately got lost in the story. Still do.
Back to family devotions. But they say to love God with all your mind, and well, my mind thinks about stories. A lot.
So we read 1 Corinthians 1:26-28.
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.”
And my brain went, “It’s just like How to Train Your Dragon!”
Alright, I’ll explain. Spoilers abound for the movie, though, so tread carefully!
How to Train Your Dragon opens with an intense dragon battle. Dragons spitting fire everywhere, Vikings swinging war hammers, and a whole lot of shouting.
And in the thick of it is a teenage Viking named Hiccup, sticking out like the hidden object on a “What doesn’t belong?” activity page. All he wants is to kill a dragon and impress his father, Stoick, who also happens to be the village chief. And if he could impress his pretty blond classmate, Astrid, who’s working the fire brigade over there, he wouldn’t be mad about that, either.
Only one problem--nothing about Hiccup is wired to kill a dragon. He's lucky to get from point a to point b without tripping over his own feet. Which is why he's kept hidden away in the blacksmith shop more often than not.
Wonder of wonders, Hiccup manages to trap a dragon with his (not so) trusty homemade net-slinging invention. Not only does he catch a dragon, but he catches a Night Fury, the rarest of all dragons. He also gets chased by a dragon, has to have his dad save him, and burns half the village down.
But does anyone believe him? Nope. Because, well, Hiccup’s tried this sort of thing before. With little success.
So the only logical thing for Hiccup to do is to find his dragon himself and kill it. Then those other Vikings will have no choice but to believe him and accept him as one of them.
Sure enough, he finds his dragon. He rips out his knife and holds it over the beast’s heart.
But then, well, the big, black scaly dragon opens it eyes, looks at him, and whimpers.
And then . . . Hiccup just can’t kill it.
For some reason, he follows the dragon. And then he comes back again. And then he comes back again with fish. And then he comes back again with a new tail fin—after all, he was the one who shot the poor guy down, it's the least he could do. And then he comes back with a saddle.
He dubs the beast Toothless, and the two get to understanding each other quite well. In fact, what Toothless teaches Hiccup about dragons makes Hiccup quite popular in dragon fighting class as well. Even Astrid has to admit it’s pretty cool.
There is, however, that pesky problem of Hiccup having to kill a dragon for his final test in class.
Or does he? I mean, if he could just train the dragon instead . . .
Dad, however, is not impressed when Hiccup tries out his new found dragon training skills in the arena during his test. And he’s definitely not impressed when his new pal comes to save Hiccup when his attempts fall flat. In fact, the only idea he can conceive for what to do with Toothless is to use him to find the dragon nest and destroy it (which Stoick is a little obsessed with). “You’re not a Viking,” he says. “You’re not my son.”
And as Hiccup watches the ships sail away—taking both his dad and Toothless with them—he wonders, “Why couldn’t I have killed that dragon when I found it in the woods?”
“The rest of us would have done it,” ever-helpful Astrid points out. “So why didn’t you?”
To everyone else, the idea of training dragons was foolish. After all, it’d never been done.
To everyone else, Hiccup seemed weak—fumbling everything and barely able to lift an axe.
Even to himself, Hiccup didn’t seem noble. All he wanted was to be like everyone else.
But he wasn’t like everyone else. As Astrid pointed out, he was the first Viking to ever ride a dragon. The first Viking to even try.
The first to throw down his helmet, toss aside his knife, and reach his hand out to a dragon.
And if he hadn’t, if he’d gone on trying to be everyone else, he never would have saved his village from a threat they couldn’t even imagine yet. He never would have changed centuries’ worth of thinking.
He would have never become who he was meant to be.
You may feel weak, foolish, or less than noble. But take it from the dragons—if so, you might just be who God has in mind to change the world.
See? Just like How to Train Your Dragon.
*Have you seen How to Train Your Dragon? What did you think? Share your adventures in the comments!*
So, yeah, I have way too many How to Train Your Dragon graphics that I like. So I just chose two for your enjoyment.
I just saw Disney's Moana for the first time last month. And yeah. That's a whole lot of quirky packed into one movie. I expected a fun family summertime make-some-popcorn kind of movie. And it most definitely was.
But it actually had some great themes to think about.
Here’s the whole deal: Moana, daughter of an island chief, is fascinated with the water. Only problem is, her people don’t go beyond the reef. For any reason. The only reason they even go out to their tiny reef is to get fish.
Dad’s got reasons for the rule (sort of). But there are two problems that are strongly suggesting it might be time for a change.
One: A mysterious darkness is rotting the island’s coconuts and devouring the fish. Legend says it is due to the long-missing Heart of Te Fiti, a glowing green rock that has the power to create life. Unfortunately, it’s been buried in the ocean for years now, centuries, really. And only Moana’s grandma believes in it. Also, the darkness is coming for the natives next.
Two: Moana was chosen by the ocean when she was just a toddler to find Maui (oh, yeah, the guy responsible for taking the heart) and restore the heart of Te Fiti.
Might explain the fascination.
The opening song Where You Are insists that “you can find happiness right where you are” (along with a bunch of random stuff about coconuts that I have yet to figure out). And the movie proves it’s true. Moana loves her island. She might have stayed there forever.
But the ocean called her to something different.
So Moana bravely defies tradition and sails off into the ocean alone. Oh, did I mention she can’t sail? If it weren’t for the ocean's "help" and running into Maui, she might have gone in circles forever.
The more obstacles Moana and Maui run into, the more it becomes evident that Moana is not prepared for this role. Ever-helpful Maui reminds her of this frequently.
The last straw comes when Moana causes Maui’s magical fish hook which allows him to shapeshift to be cracked. Maui, who believes he’s nothing aside from the powers bestowed upon him, leaves her stranded on the boat.
Just Moana and the ocean.
The wave surges up before her. Moana holds out the glowing heart. “I’m not the right person. Choose someone else,” she begs. “Please.”
And the ocean seems to agree. It takes the heart and vanishes.
But, in typical Disney fashion, a song and dance number with her grandma who is also a stingray reminds her of what the viewers have seen all along.
Moana was the only one with spirit enough to dive headlong into the Kakamora pirates to rescue the heart. The only one with determination enough to hold her breath and jump into the Realm of Monsters. The only one clever enough to distract a giant killer crab with bioluminescent algae.
The only one who dared to dream beyond the reef.
The only one who could see past Te Ka’s fiery façade.
Yes, the ocean made the right choice.
We, too, are chosen. By someone much more powerful than the ocean or the legends or a magical fishhook. We are called to something different than those around us. We dream of things others haven’t dared to think of yet.
A darkness is coming for our island as well. And it’s doing far more than just rotting coconuts. It’s taking away the light that our world needs so desperately. We have been chosen to bring life back to our seas.
Sometimes we don’t want to leave our island. It’s perfectly safe and perfectly sound. We love it and we know exactly what our part is there.
Sometimes we feel like all we are our own magical fishhooks. Like we’re nothing beyond the abilities or impressions we give other people.
Sometimes we feel like we’re just bumbling our way through sailing. Like we don’t have any of the skills we need.
And sometimes that makes us feel alone. We watch our best-laid plans vanish into the ocean and take it as more proof that we’re not meant to be here.
But you are the one He chose. And whether or not you have all you need, you have something that makes you the only one to accomplish this mission. You don’t need demigods or magical fishhooks.
You already know the way.
So chart your course for new islands, explorer.
*What did you think of Disney’s Moana? Have a favorite Moana song? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
Today, I'm going to start out the writing new year with an underrated animated film called Epic. Ever heard of it?
At the center of this fun film is a magical pod--the last thing the kingdom of plant men and women have of their queen, and their only hope of defeating the enemy Boggans who'd like to rot their entire kingdom from the inside out. That pod is placed in the hands and care of Mary Katherine (MK) by Queen Tara as the queen's final act.
Only problem? MK is a human, mysteriously shrunk down to the size of the plant warriors. She has no idea what she's doing there. She just wants to go home, if it can be called a home. She doesn't belong there.
Or so she thinks.
See, MK works better alone. It wasn't really her first choice--with her mom gone and her father, shall we say, distant, she had to adapt. "You may be connected," she tells Leafman commander Ronin. "But I'm kind of on my own."
As for Ronin, he should be the expert on working with others. "Many leaves, one tree," is the Leafmen's motto, of which he is a leader. But no matter how hard he tries to protect anyone and everyone, he seems to lose everyone he cares most about--his best friend; Queen Tara; and his best friend's son, Nod.
Nod is just tired of the Leafmen in general--or more accurately, just Ronin. He wants to do his own thing his own way, and usually does, no matter what anyone else says.
The perfect trio to guard the kingdom's last hope.
Changing gears here for a second. Writing has been aptly called the lonely craft. And it is. No one else can write our stories for us. We have to put on the noise-cancelling headphones and do it ourselves.
Our stories are a whole different world, where anything can happen. Where things happen our way.
Sometimes it's hard to remember that while we have to do the writing, we shouldn't do it alone. We need family, friends, readers, editors, and more to see us through.
Some of us have people to support us. Some of us don't. Some of us can't even figure out what the people we call our team are even doing. It's so easy to hide our story world away and do things our way.
How do we change that?
Accept your strengths and weaknesses. Accept your uniqueness, what makes you you. No, MK didn't belong in their world, but that gave her unique advantages and connections to the human world. A different perspective that could turn the tides of battle.
Yes, Ronin was over-protective. But perhaps it was that--the hurt he had seen--that made him such a good leader, willing to give anything for those we cared about most.
Yes, Nod was reckless. But is was his spirit of adventure that stepped in and pulled the Leafmen together for one more battle when the odds were slim.
You be you. You've got something no one else has. Use it to its full potential.
And remember, everyone you're working with has their unique strengths and weaknesses, too. Maybe where you have the disadvantage, they excel. Find a way to bring them in. To encourage them to make the most of their abilities. Nod wouldn't have come along if Ronin hadn't asked. MK's dad wouldn't have helped them if she had given up on him.
There will be mistakes as you and your team mates figure out those strengths and weaknesses and how to use them. Throughout Epic, all three characters make pretty big mistakes--multiple of which cost lives. While our mistakes aren't likely to do that, they can cause other problematic fall out. There's nothing to do but to climb back on your bird and fly again. To sort through the fall out and try again.
This is not a feel-good post that says anything is possible when you work together. People are weird creatures. Some people reading this may truly not have anyone to support them. It's tough. It's really tough. But don't give up. Look for people who can help you, and people that you can help. Get connected somehow, even if it's not quite in the way you thought it would look.
It's good advice for all of us--don't give up. Epic is a little over ninety minutes long. Imagine if even one of the trio of characters had given up thirty minutes in. Imagine what could happen if you give up now.
Many leaves, one tree. Now climb your tree.
*Ever seen Epic? What did you think? What's your team like? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
I recently watched the new Grinch (by Illumination Pictures) with my family. While I haven't seen either of the other two, this version of the familiar story quickly became a keeper for our Christmas movie collection.
Likely everyone here knows the general basis of the story. A furry green monster called the Grinch hates Christmas because of the years he's spent the holiday by himself. He comes up with an elaborate scheme to quote, "steal Christmas," unquote. And it works.
Or does it? Because even as he stalks away with all their presents, all their trees, all their lights, the Whos are still singing.
And when the Grinch closes his eyes and listens (thanks to some advice from a little girl who believed he was Santa Claus), he realizes what he's been missing.
He returns the gifts, much to the Whos' astonishment, and retreats to his cave. But Cindy Lou still shows up to invite him to her family's Christmas dinner--despite all that he did.
It's there, over the Christmas dinner, in the final minute of the movie, that the Grinch finishes a rhyme equally as applicable to writers as to the Whos. He raises his glass and leads the Whos in a toast.
"To kindness and love, the things we need most."
And he's right. We could argue that it's an incomplete list--after all, where's Jesus. But, God is love, after all.
Christmas is hectic. Christmas in 2020 is even more hectic. And if you're like me, the urge to write doesn't go away because it's Christmas. We're juggling family, decorations, gift shopping, school events, fundraisers, and finishing our novels like items in Max's precariously packed little wagon.
Those are all good things. Fantastic things. It's part of what makes this season special. But I've learned to relax between those spectacular traditions and to just enjoy those moments.
But whatever we're doing, kindness and love are what we need most.
What good is it if I've finished my novel, but not taken time for my family this season?
If I didn't have time to brighten someone's day at work?
If my book is full of twists and turns, but its heart is two sizes too small? If it has nothing to share with the rest of the world?
This is why we're here, doing this, writing. We're the drop of kindness that turns a mean one into a Mr. Grinch. We're the song of love that makes others close their eyes and listen. Or rather, God's kindness and love through us is.
Even as the Grinch leaves Whoville with his sleigh piled high with the Whos' Christmas, Cindy's mother, Donna comforts her daughter who fears the missing Christmas is her fault. "He didn't steal Christmas," she says. "He just stole stuff. Christmas is in here." She lays a hand over her heart.
The same is true of us. We know what Christmas is really about--Love that came into a world of Grinchs. Worse than Grinchs, actually. Who would die for them. Who would rise for them. For us.
Kindness and love.
Christmas is inside us. And nothing can steal it from us. Not 2020. Not a Grinch with elaborate inventions.
So this Christmas, let's listen with our hearts and refuse to keep silent.
To kindness and love, the things we need most!
*Which version of The Grinch is your favorite? Original, live action, or remake? How are you sharing kindness and love this Christmas season? Share your adventures in the comments below!
Alright, so it has nothing to do with writing, but if you can't post puppy graphics around Christmas, when can you post them?
Alright, so I have a writing one, too.
Hi, I'm Rachel! I'm the author of the posts here at ProseWorthy. Thanks for stopping by!