What is February largely known for? I hear you saying Valentine’s Day. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)
So naturally, I’m here to talk about an entirely non-romantic movie.
I recently completed my first trip through all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Aside from the Spider-Man films, my favorite movie was Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the second in the Captain America trilogy. Generally applauded as one of the best Marvel films ever made, it sports a good story, deep character arcs, and all-around amazingness.
But I took away from it one simple lesson that might connect to Valentine’s Day more than one might expect.
There will be some spoilers ahead for The Winter Soldier, so if you care about that kind of thing, you might want to pass on this one until you’ve seen the movie.
A large turning point for Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) in the first film was when his best friend Bucky Barnes fell off a train to his death due to an enemy attack. A very close second was when he crashed his own plane into the Arctic Ocean and was frozen for about seventy years.
Now that he’s been brought back seventy years after he crashed, he has a lot of catching up to do. And time hasn’t helped heal any of the losses.
He doesn’t have any time to grieve, either. He’s just uncovered a sketchy-looking project within his native organization SHIELD. And the person who uncovered it with him has just been attacked by a masked and silent assassin who goes only by the Winter Soldier.
Steve and fellow Avenger Natasha are the only ones left to discover just what this sketchy project is and who exactly is behind the mask of the Winter Soldier.
Spoiler: They do.
During a fight, his mask falls off and Steve recognizes his friend.
A lot of people would have cut their losses. Sure, it’s terribly sad. But Bucky could have chosen to work for them himself. And even if he didn’t, he’s likely so brainwashed that nothing will penetrate it. He’s killed dozens of people, including people they care about. Everything and everyone says he’s better left alone and taken out.
Steve disagrees. He’s certain his friend is still in there somewhere. Even though the Bucky in front of him has no idea who he is and doesn’t seem to care, Steve refuses to give up on him. He risks his life time and again to try and bring Bucky back.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a very likable person sometimes. I make bad choices that morph into disasters. I have a lot of messy things tangled up in my mind. I hurt people that I care about. I hide a lot of my true self. Sometimes I don’t even know who I really am.
But Someone keeps coming after me. Someone believes in me when I don’t believe in myself. Someone shows me the way out. Someone puts Himself out there time and again, even when He knows I’ll hurt Him.
Someone gave up His life—literally everything He had—for me, when I was at my worst.
It’s so simple, yet so complex. I’ll never understand why He keeps coming after me, and yet, it’s so simple and natural, written into the very universe around us to the point that I can see an echo of it in a Marvel movie of all things.
Whether you feel like you can take on the world today or you feel like the worst person to walk this earth today, Someone is still coming after you. Someone is going to stick with you no matter what happens to you or what you do.
Till the end of the line.
Happy Endings in Real Time
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know one of my favorite movies of all time is Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon. And it usually pops up at least once a year on my blog. So here we are, revisiting it again. Because as I watched it again at the start of this new year, I noticed something new, yet another reason I love this story.
In the movie, Hiccup is the only one not strong enough to fight and kill dragons. And when he's offered a chance to learn to fight, he discovers he's the only one not interested in it. Made worse by the fact that he's the chief's son. Throw the dragon he's secretly training in the woods into the mix, and you've got quite the storm brewing.
Maybe you can look at Hiccup’s character and relate a lot. Maybe you’re the odd one out, too, both of you desperately trying to be capable and failing miserably as far as you can tell. Maybe you’re made fun of and talked over the top of. Maybe no one knows what you’re really thinking until you erupt.
And once we relate to someone, we get the chance to see ourselves in their story. Which, in turn, casts a whole new light on ours.
So as Hiccup becomes more confident—stands for what’s right, stops apologizing for all of himself, and does things his unique way, the way he was meant to do them—we feel that maybe we can, too.
Better, we begin to know we can.
Deep down, we wish for happy endings like the ones in movies.
We wish the people who underestimated us would apologize. We wish our time in the positive spotlight might come. We wish someone would give us the chance to speak up.
We want them to celebrate us, to accept who we are.
But Stoick never fully got Hiccup, did he? The second movie is proof of that. While he may have been more open to learning, the fact of the matter is that he still clung to his pre-formed ideas of what his son should be.
How to Train Your Dragon doesn’t have a happy ending because Hiccup became what the villagers expected. It doesn’t have a happy ending because everyone accepted Hiccup at last.
It has a happy ending because Hiccup accepted himself.
He just decided to be all of him, to help others do the same, and to surround himself with people who do the same.
At the end of the day, How to Train Your Dragon is still just a movie. Just a movie that nods to something very real.
But in real time, we have something far better. We know that everything about us—personality, likes and dislikes, appearance, passions—was hand-crafted by God. Hand-crafted for a purpose that only we can fill. Hand-crafted perfectly.
And our happy ending begins not when everyone else understands that, but when we do. When we decide to live that truth regardless of what anyone else thinks.
What if we all gave it a try this new year? To be authentically ourselves? To like what we like and not apologize? To follow the leads God gives us? To stop thinking about what the others will think?
To just be.
What might that look like for you? What part of yourself do you try to fix or hide for others? What are you most excited to authentically be this year? Share your adventures in the comments below!
A Grown-Up Charlie Brown Christmas
My favorite Christmas movie is A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s not overly long or even overly complicated, and yet it has held up for decades, still touching today’s generation as much as it did the ones before.
As I watched it this year, it occurred to me that it might be even more meaningful to me as an adult.
Each year, no matter how old we are, we look forward to the coming of Christmas. We’ve been counting down the days since last Christmas even, or at least since we took the decorations down and packed them all away.
But whether we like it or not, Christmas can come with some problems.
Problems that never crossed our mind as a child can interrupt even the most exciting of moments.
Maybe someone’s no longer with us who ought to be, and the hole just feels bigger at Christmas.
Maybe the people who are with us aren’t who they ought to be, and coming together for a holiday is more like preparing for war.
Maybe you’ve lost a job or stuck in a job that brings you as much stress as being without.
Despite what we want to believe, the hardships that follow us throughout the year don’t magically vanish around Christmas.
Sometimes, if anything, they seem larger.
Charlie Brown gets it. He confesses to Lucy, “My trouble is Christmas. I just don’t understand it. Instead of feeling happy, I feel sort of let down.”
Of course, Lucy suggests all he needs is involvement. But directing the local Christmas play or even going out to select a Christmas tree doesn’t solve his problem. If anything, it makes things worse.
Maybe you feel let down, too. Maybe the traditions you’ve looked forward to all year just aren’t ringing the same for whatever reason. So you pull back and withdraw, or you frantically charge forward, scheduling more and more on the calendar to fill the gap between you and Christmas.
Because even the sweetest of traditions was never meant to solve our problems. They were never meant to take our hardship away.
Christmas plays, Christmas trees, and whatever else comes with this season are only little bits of joy. Signposts in the snow that remind us what truly will ease our burdens.
As Linus reminded Charlie Brown, Christmas isn’t about any of those things. Christmas is about what we read in Luke chapter two. “That’s what Christmas is really about.”
It’s not a something, it’s a Someone. A Someone who will never let us down. A Someone who never leaves us, not at Christmas, not at any other time of the year. And all the things we look forward to are little slivers of the joy He has promised for us now and forever.
A Christmas play can’t bring back someone we love, but Jesus can sit with us in the hurt. A Christmas tree can’t end a cycle of abuse or reconcile estranged family members, but Jesus can hold us together. Traditions can’t ease stress, but Jesus can breathe peace into us.
Christmas doesn’t take away our hurt, our sadness, or our worries. But Christmas--real Christmas—doesn’t let us down either.
So this year, as I watched Christmas movies, made sugar cookies and gingerbread houses, and decorated the tree, I searched for Jesus’ joy in it, instead of fulfillment.
I didn’t have far to search. You don’t either.
As we enjoy the last few evenings of sitting in the light of the Christmas tree, maybe it’s a good time to stop and think of how we might find Christmas in this new year.
That thought might even bring a bit of the excitement back, no matter what season it is.
What Is Sadness Good For?
You ever gone into a movie and then come back out with something entirely different than what you expected? That’s how I felt watching Pixar’s Inside Out. Sure, it’s a kids’ movie. But if you’ve been around here for a while, you know that doesn’t stop me.
It didn’t this time, anyway. I came out of the movie feeling like I’d been hit in the face with a Pixar movie, a psychology lesson, and a counseling session all at once.
It really explains so much, these emotions running around in a bright, colorful version of our brains. Explains why we get random songs stuck in our head. Explains why facts and opinions get so jumbled. Even explains why cats can be perfectly calm and then need to be in the next room RIGHT NOW.
In Riley’s head, Joy is in control. At least, she was until this whole move happened and all the other emotions thought they needed control of the board. And Sadness (who is secretly Joy’s least favorite person, uh, emotion in the world) felt the need to touch everything no matter what Joy tries.
When you think about it, it’s really that misguided attempt to keep Sadness from touching everything that gets Joy and Sadness sucked up a tube and deposited in long term memory. Leaving Anger, Fear, and Disgust to rule Riley’s head.
It’s a long movie with a lot of nuances that I can’t dive into here. (Well, I could, but it’s not really necessary.)
But really, the whole journey isn’t as much about getting back to Riley’s headquarters. I mean, Joy and Sadness are stuck together for this whole journey. And along the way, Joy is forced to admit that Sadness gets some things right. Like the way she comforted Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong who was in danger of being forgotten. Like the way she came up with the idea to scare Riley awake to get the train of thought running again.
But that’s not enough. When it comes down to keeping Riley’s core memories entirely happy or getting them both back to headquarters, Joy chooses to go on alone.
Of course, the tube she’s taking back breaks and lands her in the dump, where any memories left fade to gray and then into ash and then into . . . nothing.
Joy wanders through the gray memories, picking up one here, another one there. “Remember this?” “Remember that?”
Finally Joy drops all the memories, wraps her arms around herself, and begins to cry. “I just wanted Riley to be happy.”
That’s when she notices the one glowing memory still scattered among the grey.
It’s one of Joy’s favorites—a time that Riley spent with her parents and her entire hockey team. But when she rewinds the memory a bit, she realizes it only came because Riley missed the winning goal and was sitting in a tree alone wanting to quit the team.
“They came to help because of Sadness,” Joy realizes.
Nobody really likes Sadness. Not many of the people watching the movie. Not her own emotional peers. In real life, we don’t like feeling sad. (I don’t, anyway.) We don’t want Sadness invading our everyday life, our memories, our anything.
It’d be so much easier to just skip and dance our way through our happy days.
But what I’d never thought about or expected when watching Inside Out was that sadness is what makes happiness possible.
The best moments of joy come from the deepest moments of sadness.
Sadness is like the listening ear that comes and sits next to us in our darkest moments. Joy is the friend that comes and helps us stand back up.
I wouldn’t know how deep joy is if I hadn’t known how deep sadness was.
I wouldn’t know how much my friends and family care about and support me if I hadn’t felt alone first.
I wouldn’t know how much God loves me and His power over the darkness if I hadn’t felt unloved and helpless first.
Sadness isn’t a place to camp out. It’s a checkpoint, a train station on the way to Joy. A checkpoint we need.
We need sadness. But we need joy too.
Luckily, I know the Source of all joy—the One Who works even sadness to lead towards the brightest moments.
*What about you? Did you like Inside Out? Any insights from your own emotional journey?*
Rebels Rebelling Against the Rebellion
The climax of the movie Rogue One (yes, I've been involved in a Star Wars marathon, you?) involves a group of rebel fighters who have now technically rebelled against the rebellion to complete a secret mission to retrieve plans for the Death Star (a big planet burning cannon) that could exploit the Star’s fatal weakness. Wow. Can I take a breath after that explanation?
Each of the fighters has a part to play in this attack. Some of them fight on the beach. Some hang out inside the ship, trying to get the technology up and running (unfortunately working with a cable that is too short). Still others break inside the station itself to smuggle the plans out.
Chirrut Imwe (I probably haven’t spelled his name right, I tried, okay?) is on the beach.
It’s interesting that he’s there at all, mainly because he’s blind. (Proof that a disability does not slow a person down). This Jedi has to rely completely on his instincts (which are very good, by the way), and usually he fights better than anyone else on the team.
At one point in the conflict, the Station Rebels need the Beach Rebels to flip some sort of command switch to allow the satellite to send the plans back to the Rebellion. Multiple people try and fail to reach the command switch in many different ways.
Then Chirrut Imwe steps out from the rubble he’d taken shelter behind and steps towards the switch.
Right out in the open. With blaster fire on every side.
Whispering, “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.”
Life Isn’t a Battle But It Kinda Is
This is my favorite scene in Rogue One. Because it kind of illustrates life.
To be clear, I’m not saying life is just a battle, so expect horrible things, and be intense and serious and as gloomy as possible all the time. If that’s how I’m living, then I’m setting myself up to lose.
But sometimes it seems like a lot of horrible fiery things whiz past us—far too close for comfort. The pressure to get everything on a list done and make everyone happy. The loss of someone or something important to you. An underlying struggle that no one knows about because they’re not listening. Abuse—whether physical or emotional—from someone you trusted.
It can be a hard world to live in.
But we have the Force with us. And not in the Star Wars sense of the word, as in, we have the only single Force in our universe that can be stopped by nothing. (Regardless of your feelings about the Force in Star Wars, you have to admit, the correlation is strong with this one.)
And because Jesus didn’t stay dead, because He rose again and defeated anything that might have a hold on us, we have the Force. We are one with the Force—we’re His sons and daughters actually—and the Force is with us.
That means everything that whizzes past us whizzes past Him too.
The Force is With Me
Looking at it in this light, I completely understand why Chirrut Imwe didn’t hesitate to step out from behind the ship. If I had something on my side that could defeat anything life threw at me, why on earth would spend it huddled behind a ship?
But I do. So often I do.
Life may be a blaster field. Just because Chirrut had the force didn’t mean the blasts stopped coming. If you’ve seen Rogue One, you know how this scene ends, and it’s not altogether happily for Chirrut Imwe. (Or does it?)
It hurts to live out here sometimes.
But because God is with us, the hurt we feel isn’t unheard, unseen, or unfelt by someone else. And we don’t have to let that hurt stop us from being where we were meant to be, fulfilling the purpose He gave to us.
I am with the Force. And the Force is with me.
*What did you think of Rogue One? Where are you in the battle--still in the ship? In the direct line of fire? With the Force? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
Can't imagine why I thought of this meme when I was thinking of Rogue One . . .
Gifts Can Be Overrated.
Have you seen Disney’s Encanto yet? Over Christmas break, I watched it with a friend of mine, and then quickly anticipated the movie’s release on DVD so I could share it with my family.
Every member of the Madrigal family has a unique gift—a magical power that they use to help others in their village. Even their house is magical—with doors, drawers, and floors that open or shift at will. Every Madrigal has their own unique room, given to them when they receive their gift at the age of five.
Every Madrigal . . . except Mirabel.
When Mirabel stepped up for her gift ceremony, her door dissolved. And she’s been stuck giftless in the nursery for the ten years since.
Many members of her family try. They really do. But when it comes to things like family portraits at her younger cousin’s gift ceremony, well, sometimes Mirabel gets left behind.
Naturally, however, Mirabel is the only one who can see that their magical house might not be as strong as they think it to be. Maybe it’s even . . . cracking?
(Spoilers for Encanto to follow.)
The Real Miracle
At the helm of all this is Mirabel’s Abuela. She suffered a huge loss in her past. And at that loss she received the candle that keeps the magic going. Since then, her life has been wrapped around the miracle they somehow received and keeping that miracle perfect and pristine. Which means that Mirabel and all her attempts to be good enough must go.
It’s not just Mirabel, though. Luisa is convinced she has to be strong enough to protect everyone. Isabella believes no one will love her if she’s not perfect. Camilo has no idea who he is, shifting into whoever might fit the situation best and covering it with his humor. Pepa’s emotions come and go as quickly as the weather. Dolores has a lot of things she's not telling anybody. Agustin and Felix grapple with being gift-less outsiders. And Julieta is just trying to keep everybody sane.
That’s a lot of drama. For a long time.
And finally Mirabel can’t take it anymore.
“I’ll never be good enough for you.”
Mirabel says all the things that have been boiling inside for a long time. And those angry words—piled upon all of Abuela’s expectation and the tension that has already been damaging the house—are what finally collapsed the casita.
The candle—the miracle goes out.
Or does it?
Abuela eventually finds Mirabel out at the river. “I’m sorry.” Mirabel swipes her hand across her eyes. “I didn’t mean to hurt us. I just wanted to be something I’m not.”
And finally Abuela opens her eyes. Maybe it was something Mirabel said in that argument. Or maybe it was something in the memories. Or maybe she just really saw Mirabel for the first time.
And she says one of my favorite lines in the movie. Even as their house has crumbled and their gifts have vanished, she says, “The miracle’s not some magic that we’ve got. The miracle is you. All of you.”
When the family worked together, even without their gifts, just valuing what made each of them the miracle they were—that was what brought the candle and the casita back.
Not because they were perfect.
Not because they were strong enough.
Not because they had some gift that proved they were special.
Just because they were . . . them.
Their gifts were wonderful. But they didn’t need them. They were a gift, a miracle, all on their own. Just the way they were.
And it was the most unlikely member of their family that showed them that.
This world constantly wants more. We’re supposed to have it all together all the time. We’re supposed to make everyone proud.
And when we don’t, sometimes we get left behind. Whether by accident or by the purposeful actions of people who are choosing to let their own insecurities keep them captive.
But to the One Who has the final say, it’s not what we can do that’s the gift. It’s not what we can be that’s the gift. Sure, we’ve been given gifts that we can use to serve others and glorify Him. I wouldn’t be here writing this blog if it weren’t.
But if all those gifts and abilities were stripped away, we would still matter.
It’s just us. The one He made us to be.
That’s the miracle. That’s the gift.
You. All of you.
My all-time favorite Pixar movie is Up. (Fun fact. Save that for surprise trivia later.)
The whole movies centers on Carl Fredericksen, who just wants to be left alone to grieve his wife’s death. His house and everything are exactly the same as they were the minute she died. Except a bustling city has sprung up around said house. And the construction company in charge of that city would dearly love to have Carl’s little piece of land.
When push (a cement mixer that squashes the mailbox he and Ellie painted together) comes to shove (Carl whacks a construction worker over the head with his cane), Carl finds himself ordered out of his house by the judge.
So he does what any normal guy would do.
He ties a gazillion balloons to his house and flies his house to South America to fulfill his wife’s dream. After all, a promise is a promise, right? (He CROSSED HIS HEART.)
Just Carl and Ellie. Heading to Paradise Falls. Alone.
But there was this kid named Russell who was looking for a snipe under his porch. And there was this dog named Dug who’s convinced Carl is his master. And there was this bird named Kevin, who was, well, Kevin. (As if Kevin wasn’t enough, Kevin also happens to be an extremely rare creature being hunted by Carl’s childhood hero.)
Adulting. Need I Say More?
When I graduated from high school, I was extremely introverted and socially anxious. I hadn't had a lot of interaction with kids my age or people outside my family in general due to circumstances outside my control. Just the idea of having to make eye contact with the clerk at Walmart made my heart pick up the pace a little.
Ever since I was little, I craved routine. I wanted the same things to happen at the same time every day.
I hated the unknown. If I had no prior experience with something, fun or not, it was immediately subject to careful inspection.
Which didn’t cause too many problems as a homeschooled high-schooler. I could curl up in my Carl-like world, safe and mostly content.
But then I graduated. And I had to get a job. And a driver’s license. And make conversation with other people without my family around.
There was this job at an elementary school. And there was this young adult gathering at church. And there was . . . ADULTING.
It was awful. For a few days, anyway. I was overwhelmed and frustrated and anxious. I didn’t even talk about my coworkers for almost a year because I was still so nervous every time they tried to even say good morning. True story.
Then something strange happened.
So Many Doors I Never Knew Existed
I discovered I wasn’t as shy as I thought.
Once I had the chance to get out and experience life, I realized my coworkers were very different than I am, but pretty fun. I learned I liked meeting friends for chai or going over to their house to watch a movie (and actually picking out the movie on my own!).
There still were the matters of driving places I’d never gone before, going to appointments alone, and shopping on my own. But even they weren’t quite so bad as I had imagined. (Google Maps helped.)
I still love and need my quiet time at home. But so many doors I never knew existed stood wide open before me.
I smiled looking back at my goals for 2021. I had written that I wanted to become more confident. That’s exactly what happened. And it wouldn’t have happened unless I’d taken a few risks and a few chances.
I can’t imagine what life would be like now if I hadn’t taken any of those adventures, unexpected though they were.
Life doesn’t go the way we plan. Carl’s didn’t. Mine didn’t. 2021 didn’t. 2022 won’t.
And maybe that is a fantastic thing.
Whether or not these unexpected adventures feel wonderful at the time—some do, some don’t—they will lead us somewhere wonderful.
Know how I know? Because God’s steering the ship, and He told me so. “For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
So go tie balloons to your house. (Or don’t, on second thought, that could be a safety hazard. Some things in Pixar just don't work out real well in real life.) Don’t overthink it. Take the doors that God opens for you.
Who knows where you’ll go?
*What unexpected adventures did 2021 bring you? What are your hopes for 2022? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
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.)
Hi, I'm Rachel! I'm the author of the posts here at ProseWorthy. Thanks for stopping by!