The Gospel of Carl and Ellie

Call me a sappy sentimentalist if you want. I’m good with it, and I’ve been called much worse.

Anybody else remember Disney’s “Up” from 2009? Hopefully, without spoiling it for those of you who haven’t seen the computer-animated film, I’ll offer a quick synopsis. Determined to honor the memory of his beloved wife Ellie, the 78-year-old widower Carl sets out on a journey to Paradise Falls. I’ll frame it like this: the spectacular “airship” is Carl’s unique invention. Along the way, Carl meets his childhood hero, forms a special and unlikely bond with a boy who needs an in-the-moment dad, and realizes the preciousness of life: not just the one he shared with Ellie, but the one he’s still privileged to live.

Are you grateful for your life?

That might sound like a silly question, but I don’t think it is. In fact, Psalm 90 is captivating me this week …

You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.

As Moses writes this psalm, he is an old man. He has seen his entire generation wander aimlessly in the desert, with no clear destination ever in sight. Nearly forty years of wandering. After God announced that only Joshua, Caleb, and the kids would survive to make it into the Promised Land, that meant that 90 people a day would die during the remaining years. (If you do the math, that’s more than 30k deaths per year.) But, I contend, this is not a morbid psalm. I believe that it is a psalm meant to teach us what Carl had to learn: every minute matters.

The years of our life … are soon gone, and we fly away.

All the human progress in the world can’t erase the problem of death. And denial is not a river in Egypt. Soon and very soon, you and I are out of here.

The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw got it right: “One out of one dies.” It’s coming. I don’t share that to make you depressed, but to make you awake! You have a purpose. I have a purpose. We have a purpose. And the time is now to live out that purpose! C.S. Lewis obliterated the notion that you and I can be “so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good,” when he rightly observed: “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom … that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Friends, every single moment contains a spark of eternity. And, in a very real sense, there are two days that matter most: 1) the day when I’ll be finally with the Lord; and 2) today! This day is of eternal value.

So you and I are to wise up (pun fully intended). The fact any anybody ever has to die is a constant reminder of God’s wrath toward human sin. Even the poor dead squirrel on my way to work reminded me. Each one of us will stand before this great and holy God. It will happen as surely as we have breath. On that day we will need a Savior. In fact, we need Him today. And Psalm 90 is an invaluable wake-up call to worship the only eternal God who has revealed Himself to us in the Person and work of His Son.

Christ changes everything! His empty tomb is more than enough to reshape our perspective and our priorities. In Christ, despite our present suffering, you and I are safe. Perhaps A.W. Tozer said it best: “How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none. Eternal years lie in His heart. For Him time does not pass, it remains; and those who are in Christ share with Him all the riches of limitless time and endless years.” What we are tempted to do – but what we must not do – is live in the past, or live in the future, but miss the present.

Up is a love story. Carl has some great lines, like, “We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” And, “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” And my favorite line from Ellie is this one: “Lucky is the man who is the first love of a woman; but luckier is the woman who is the last love of a man.” I don’t think Ellie meant it like this, but I want to share an incredible truth with you: IF YOU COULD LOOK INTO THE HEART OF JESUS, YOU WOULD SEE THAT YOU ARE THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE.

War in Ukraine? Empty grocery shelves? Trouble from China? Trouble in my own heart? Come what may, our Christ is able. More than able. So … Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

Now matters.

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts
3 comments on “The Gospel of Carl and Ellie
  1. Becky Brown says:

    I also loved this film, even though I cried my eyes out. Our family was struggling with infertility at the time and it hurt my heart but this blog was a beautiful reminder to be grateful in my heart.

  2. Diane Lamm says:

    We have seen the movie and loved it. Thanks so much for your message. You and Eileen and Josh are in our prayers.

  3. Tim Pace says:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *