Thoughts on Dance 2015

Sadie Piper and Bates Dance Studio Recital 2015

This past weekend was the annual Bate’s Dance Recital. It’s held in McCain Hall and has a high production value. After attending it last year our Sadie Piper said that’s what she wants to do. We only let our children be in one event at any given time. She had done cheerleading and soccer and loved them both, but when she saw the end result of a year of dance practice she wanted to invest in that. So now it’s dance all year and softball in the summer.

Anyway, I spent most of my life thinking dance was shallow at best and uncomfortably sexual as more typical. What I’ve learned these past two years is that dance is a medium that has an incredible ability to move the motions and to carry deep concepts.

This year two things on Friday night pushed me emotionally in ways I didn’t expect.

Sadie Piper and Bates Dance Studio Recital 2015

The first was being the father of one of the dancers. See Laura is not a dancer, neither am I. In fact in college we took a country western dance class and I’ll never forget the instructor biting her lip as she stood watching us, pondering how to help only to shake her head and share that she has no idea what is wrong with us, but we’re terrible dancers. So we were surprised to see how much music and dance is hardwired by God into Sadie Piper. Even as a tiny child she wanted us to turn on music and she would dance and dance and dance.

(Dress rehearsal)
SP dance 2015

So last night when I saw my girl on that stage with a giant joyful smile dancing with a team who had worked hard for this moment it almost brought me to tears. My joy was in her joy. I’m so thankful for that moment. I’m thankful also that God has given us a friendship with Damian & Heidi (who is the director of Bates) and to know her love for Christ and the way she wants the faith she has been given to be incorporated in all she does. I’m thankful that we can send her to dance class with absolute trust in the director who is patiently teaching these basics of dance to young children.

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Which brings me to the second time I was moved emotionally during the evening: older girls using these this gift of dance to tell a story. There was a dance to Michael Jackson’s Earth Song. It was a great contrast to the generally bright colors of the evening. The dancers facial expressions and movement told a story of our choices destroying the earth we live upon. I’m by no means a tree hugger and it wasn’t the earth that moved me, it was the deeper sense of our selfishness destroying what is God given and good.

Throughout the dance a planter, a pot, was lit up on the left side of the stage and it was filled with a plant stretched out in brown death. As the song came to an end I expected the plant to transform into something beautiful during the repetitive chorus of “what about us!” I appreciated that it didn’t, that we were left with a dead plant still just there, dead. As the next song began and new dancers took the stage to Jason Mraz’s Back to the Earth I was nervous for them because they had forgotten to get the pot off the stage.

But as the lyrics begin I realize they didn’t forget the rotten plant.

Whenever my head starts to hurt
Before it goes from bad to feeling worse
I turn off my phone
I get down low
And put my hands in the dirt

I try to stop the world from moving so fast
Try to get a grip on where I’m at
And simplify
This dizzy life
And put my feet in the grass

By the end of this joyful tune the dead plant is replaced with a baby plant. I think I’m such a cynic that the dead plant is what I wanted to see, but the baby hopefully plant is what I needed to see.

Again, the earth was the theme here, but it was the renewal that gripped me. As a Christian we view things through a lens that can give deeper meaning. This renewal of the earth, even if lyrically off base at times, was also a redemptive picture of the gospel in creation and in the creatures of that creation. I felt hopeful. I felt joy to be alive and a graciousness for the earth which God has given us for enjoyment.

I know it might sound funny for a pastor to say, but I needed to see out of death come life. I needed to see it outside of my own theological framework. I needed it to hit my emotions. Not because truth is built or established in the emotions, but because truth experienced in the emotions is a pleasure for the children of God too often forfeited.

Heidi choreographed that dance and I’m thankful for the gifting God has given her.

We also enjoyed seeing one of our youth group children, Sophie Elliott, dance and send her little girls on to the stage to perform a dance she choreographed. Thank you for sharing your gifts!

Earning the Wine

Laura and I take a spinning class every Monday and Friday. Our instructor is fantastic, pushes us beyond what we would ever do on our own. One thing I’ve noticed recently is that on Fridays she motivates us by telling us to earn the wine were going to drink this weekend.
This week I thought the only wine I’m planning to drink this week is on Sunday at the Lord’s table, I’m riding way too much to earn that tiny cup of wine. But then it occurred to me that we often come to the table either feeling we’ve had a great week and do deserve this cup or we’ve had a terrible week with lust, anger, gossip or just neglect of God’s Word or prayer and we think “I didn’t earn the right to partake in this cup.” When we come to the sacrament with either mentality we are being fools. We are rejecting what we know to be true from God’s Word.
See, we don’t earn the cup and we don’t earn the bread. It was earned for us by Christ on the cross. In fact our confession that we are unworthy, undeserving is part of participation. When we are served the bread we are saying, “I am a sinner and Jesus alone is my righteousness.” And that’s why this is so nourishing to our souls, it’s a sensible sign pointing us not to what we’ve earned from God, but what Jesus earned for us.

25 Better Ways to Ask Your Child: “How was school?”

“How was your day?” just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes I get frustrated that the only response I can pull from our kids when they get home is “Fine.” But then I realize if someone asked me the the same question, I’d have a hard time remembering and summing up 8 full hours too.

We found these questions and in the weeks we’ve been using them in the evenings with our kids, we know the Crazies so much better. I feel like we know more about their lives, what makes them tick, their classroom dynamics, their friends. Our kids even beg us to ask questions “from the sheet.” We also make sure we aren’t using this question time as “preaching” time. We listen and ask follow up questions only. Most of the time this isn’t the time for correction, that can be worked in later.

Hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

#1.  What was the best thing that happened at school today?  (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)

#2.  Tell me something that made you laugh today.

#3.  If you could choose who would you like to sit by in class?  (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class?  Why?)

#4.  Where is the coolest place at the school?

#5.  Tell me a weird word that you heard today.  (Or something weird that someone said.)

#6.  If I called your teacher tonight what would she tell me about you?

#7.  How did you help somebody today?

#8.  How did somebody help you today?

#9.  Tell me one thing that you learned today.

#10.  When were you the happiest today?

#11.  When were you bored today?

#12.  If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed up someone who would you want them to take?

#13.  Who would you like to play with at recess that you’ve never played with before?

#14.  Tell me something good that happened today.

#15.  What word did your teacher say most today?

#16.  What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?

#17.  What do you think you should do/learn less of at school?

#18.  Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?

#19.  Where do you play the most at recess?

#20.  Who is the funniest person in your class?  Why is he/she so funny?

#21.  What was your favorite part of lunch?

#22.  If you got to be the teacher tomorrow what would you do?

#23.  Is there anyone in your class that needs a time out?

#24.  If you could switch seats with anyone in the class who would you trade with?  Why?

#25.  Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school.

In The End

JJ Heller has a song called In the End with lyrics that are amazing for sitting and listening to while you think about the life you live. Read them below, listen here. Then go read Ecclesiastes in your Bible (right after Psalms and Proverbs).

“In The End”

Oh this silly heart of mine
Looking for new things to buy
Nothing really satisfies
In the end, in the end
Greed is making fools of us
Waging war betraying trust
Empires only fade to dust
In the end, in the end

Safety is not for sale.
(You can not buy peace of mind)
Earthly defenses fail
(There’s nothing new under the sky)
Build your kingdom all your life
And say goodbye
In the end, in the end

Have I forgotten how to wait
Providence won’t hesitate
Seldom early never late
In the end, in the end

Safety is not for sale.
(You can not buy peace of mind)
Earthly defenses fail
(There’s nothing new under the sky)
Build your kingdom all your life
And say goodbye
In the end

Vanity, vanity
Don’t lie to me
Vanity, vanity
You’re not fooling me

Safety is not for sale.
(You can not buy peace of mind)
Earthly defenses fail
(There’s nothing new under the sky)
Build your kingdom all your life
And say goodbye
Build your kingdom all your life
And say goodbye
In the end

What I Learned From Dance

BatesDanceStudio

“Dance, Shine” was the name of the Bate’s Dance Studio end of the year performance last weekend. It was truly amazing. I’ve seen dance before, but last Friday night dance challenged my thinking in new ways. Ways that make me want to live different. Better.

I’ll start with the biggest thing that stood out. There three types of dancers.

1. Those who know the steps and do them. They seem worried about falling out of step or making a mistake. Maybe just a little too aware of the audience watching them.

2. Those who feel the music. They move with the beat and rhythm and seem absolutely unconcerned with a huge theatre of watching eyes. These are the dancers that make me want to dance.

3. The third group, which the majority seem to be, are those who are in and out of the music, there are parts of the dance that they know and do and there are parts of the dance that they know so well that they let go and just embrace the dance for awhile.

I see this as analogous to our spiritual walks.

1. There are those who know the steps of Christianity: what words to use and not use, what behaviors to abstain from, they know words that sound like prayer and watching from the outside they are in step enough to be a part of the chorus. The effort is appreciated, but the dance of Christianity looks difficult and taxing.

2. Then there are those whose walk with Christ is like the dancer who feels the music. They flow with Scripture and prayer pours out naturally, they aren’t struggling to grow in grace, it’s a simple rhythm of their life and these are the Christians that make me want to dance.

3. Most of us are the third group, there are times and aspects of our Christian life that we feel the music and those times are the greatest times of our life, but we also find ourselves in a dance we don’t know that well and we’re much too aware of the eyes watching us. We want only to fit in and not screw up.

These ideas and many others blew my mind Friday night, but then we went back on Saturday night to watch the younger children perform. This added a new layer, because I realized none of these little children felt the music. They were funny, they were cute, they did a fantastic job, but they didn’t feel the music. I realized that it took people like Heidi teaching them over many years to get to them to the point that these older girls were at where they begin to feel the music. It’s real life discipleship.

This reminded me in a  visual way how beautiful the fruit of discipleship can be. I feel encouraged to teach our children to feel the music; to not just know the steps of what it means to follow Christ, but to go after Him with joy and real knowledge, that there is grace in missteps. I am thankful for dance today and my prayer is that God would free me from fear of failure so that I might not not simply know the steps of Christianity but feel the music that is His grace and dance the dance of faith.

Other things I learned. 

A. The opening number was an amazing Gospel Choir version of This Little Light of Me. It was awesome. Glorifying God in the arts doesn’t have to be cheesy or in a Christian venue, in fact I think it was better outside of a “Christian” venue.

B. There was a song (The Bridge by Cloverton) that included a real bridge . I wish you all could see this dance, may be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. The second night the first thing I did when we got the program was look to see if it would happen again. I was disappointed that it was not begin redone. The images of salvation and rescue challenged my mind to to try to understand it. It just seemed to have layers of meaning and I didn’t know that existed in dance.

C. I’ve always been surprised how the Church in history has at times looked at dance as evil. Footloose comes to mind. I went one semester to a Baptist college where in 1999 dance was still forbidden. Square Dance, Two Step, Swing Dance, Line Dance, all dance. Yet we see in Scripture dance spoken of in wonderful ways. Just like most things dance can be put into practice in shameful ways, but that should not result in the good gift of God being shamed outright.

In Psalm 30:11 we learn that God has turned the sadness of mourning into the the joy of dancing.  “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,”

In Psalm 149:3 their praise of God included dancing of some sort.  “Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!”

When I did a search on dance the most surprising discovery was Luke 15:25. This is the well known story of the prodigal son. The son leaves home, wastes his inheritance on pleasure and finds himself eating with pigs. He eventually goes back to his father’s house and confessing his unworthiness to be included asks for a place among the servants. Instead the father welcomes him and throws a celebration at his return. We read in the following verse, “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.” There was dancing at the celebration of the returning child. There was dancing because there was joy, because the father showed grace the people danced. Except the jealous older brother who hated that grace was poured out on the younger brother. I think maybe we dance too little and I am a bit concerned that it might be because we don’t celebrate the grace of God enough. Let us feel the music and dance.

Nothing.

NothingButTheBloodThree

I was reading this morning when Pandora played Nothing But the blood of Jesus. I love the simplicity of these lyrics. It takes all the things I’m worried about in life like what do people think of me and the future of Manhattan Pres. It also takes all the things that I should be worried about like sin and right standing before God and it points to the one universal solution. The Blood of Jesus.

Hebrews 9:22 “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

Isaiah 1:18, “Says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

I like to think visually. As much as I love words, I love when concepts are displayed without words. So I tried to make a symbol for this. My first version was like the one above except the heart was little and below the blood droplet and it was black. It was a symbol of my heart just before the blood of Christ transformed it. I thought that was too focused on looking back though and the song points to what is real, and what is true at this moment so I kept thinking until the version at the top of the page.

NothingButTheBlood

What was really fun was I made this at home while Sadie Piper sat over my shoulder and watched. I asked her about it and she figured it out. She read the words and then without missing a beat she sang the next line of the Hymn. On the first version she said she didn’t like the black heart, I told her I didn’t either.

I want to meditate on this today. The Blood of Jesus and nothing but the blood of Jesus.

What will take away my sin? Nothing but the blood.

What will take away my anxiety? Nothing but the blood.

It bought me access to God through prayer and it transformed me from creation of God to child of God.

It made me His, I now belong to God and I can only look to the blood of Jesus for this most precious gift we have to be thankful for.