Okay, first of all, the whole time I’ve known you you’ve been a huge Disney fan. How did that get started?
Like a lot of people, I grew up with Disney movies, and I lived just a few miles from Disneyland. (In fact, most of my childhood I could see the Disneyland fireworks each night.) But there was more to it than that.
Various members of my family were ill when I was growing up. My Grandma lived with us for the last several years of her life, and I helped my parents take care of her. My Mom was sick several times as well, and I helped take care of her, too. I even quit my first job to be home so she could have major surgery without worrying about who was going to take care of Grandma. I was always a “little adult,” and had to grow up very fast and mature a lot faster than one would typically expect of a child. A lot was expected of me. “With great power comes great responsibility.” I had the responsibility part, anyway.
At the same time, when I was in third grade my parents were told to be very careful and watch me closely because I was gifted and highly emotionally-sensitive. If they weren’t careful, my teacher told them, I was at risk for serious emotional and maybe even psychological issues. So I learned, subconsciously for the most part, to be careful about that part of my emotional nature.
Because I was capable of so much—which I’m grateful was nurtured and encouraged by my family—and had the responsibility I did, I was a perfectionist. I expected a lot of myself, never wanted to let anyone down, and knew that in some parts of my life (especially the health of my family) there was no room for error. So my standard became 100% all the time. That’s a very exhausting way to grow up.
As a young adult, Disneyland became the place where I could “recapture my childhood,” reconnect with the emotional side of myself I’d buried, and escape in healthy ways. It was also the place I could consistently spend time with my best friend, Andy, and so weekly trips became the norm for me. And the more I went, the more I loved it!
Tell me the story behind the book—how you got the idea, and your main goals for it.
The idea actually came in, of all places, the parking lot of an IHOP restaurant. I remember standing there with a friend about five years ago and mentioning that I was starting to notice connections between Disneyland attractions and important lessons for us as Christians.
I started with a single sermon. I figured I’d just write it out, cut as much as I needed to in order to preach it, and that would probably be that. Instead, I cut 75% of what I’d written and it was still a 50-minute sermon. I realized there was much more to this than I’d thought, and in July of 2010 I began blogging it at FaithandtheMagicKingdom.net.
I have a couple of goals for the book. First, I want it to remind us the Christian faith is not something we compartmentalize. If our faith can relate to Disneyland, it can relate anywhere, right? Beyond that, though, I hope this book will act as a springboard for conversations with friends and family––such that the next time you go to Disneyland, or just drive by, or even see something about it, the experience might trigger a reminder of what you’ve read. That reminder can perhaps be used to start a nonthreatening conversation with a nonbelieving friend or be a word of encouragement or challenge to a Christian friend–or to yourself. The realities of grace, God’s love, our identity in Christ, the dangers of sin, the importance of relationships, and more are found throughout the park, and in seeing them there, my prayer is they become more integrated in our lives. Even if you don’t know anything about Disneyland, I go into enough detail that you’ll still get value from the book. It might even make you want to visit!
As one of my early reviewers put it, the book “uses a place that is known and loved for its escapism to teach and explain Christian doctrine, turning the Happiest Place on Earth into the ultimate picture illustration of Bible truths.” I truly believe these lessons and reminders can revolutionize a reader’s life in Christ while giving him a greater and deeper appreciation for “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
You’ve written another book—tell me about that one.
Last year I published my first book, Once Upon YOUR Time: 7 Strategies for Gaining Control of Your Time Through a Tour of the Magic Kingdom. In it, I use parts of Disneyland as illustrations of key strategies to help readers gain control of their time. These simple and effective real-world time management strategies include “Have a ‘Motivating Why’” (Main Street USA), “Recognize Your Choices” (Adventureland), and “Schedule Fun” (Fantasyland).
Once Upon YOUR Time is not a spiritually-focused or faith-based book (although that does show up because it’s part of who I am). It’s been very well received and has helped people start to see that there’s more to Disneyland than meets the eye…in more ways than one.
How can people get a copy of that book, and how can they help this new one become a reality?
There are two ways to get a copy of Faith and the Magic Kingdom. When it comes out on November 15, my website will have links to Amazon, Audible, and other platforms. But there’s a better way to get a copy sooner and be part of making it happen.
I’ve launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund the publishing and preparation. (Publishing a book like this, even self-publishing, and doing it in a high-quality way is not cheap!) I’m offering a lot of rewards at different levels—for instance, for $5 you get your name in the book. Also, whether you back it financially or not, please tell your friends about it and invite them to back it. We only have until October 6 to raise the full amount needed and the only way this works is if lots of people hear about it and back it.
Click here to learn more—and thanks, Randy!