The Stolen Key of Dance (Pt. 1)

From the beginning of creation there has been a war over the worship of humankind.  This is no surprise as the affection of our hearts and thus control of our lives are given to whomever we worship.  In the garden, Satan convinced Adam and Eve (Genesis 3) that their was another way than God’s way–a way to the knowledge of God (you will be like God-knowing good and evil) apart from intimacy with and obedience to God.  This war over human hearts has raged ever since and will continue to intensify until the return of Jesus to the earth.   At the center of this battle is the glory of God.  We were created to brilliantly reflect His glory for all of eternity.  Thus there is nothing the enemy of our souls desires more than to mar, pervert, and steal the glory of God for himself.

Because dance is a key of praise and worship given to us to encounter the presence and power of God in accordance with His Word *(see earlier posts), Satan has perverted it and used it as a key to draw the nations into communion with evil spirits. His purpose is that the kingdom of darkness would be gain power and be advanced in the earth.  As I began to research the history of dance in the world, I was looking for some small glimmer, however faint and corrupted, of the role, purpose, and significance of dance in the earth.  I believed that what I would find would serve to confirm God’s Word and deepen my understanding of the cultural context of the Biblical passages referring to dance.   As I studied, I was shocked to learn that the primary purpose of dance in every culture for the majority of human history has been to connect with the spiritual realm!   In almost every ancient people group, this purpose was served by inviting demonic presence and possession through music and dancing.  This was not an occasional occurrence but a primary means of religious expression.  Music, dance, and spiritual reality were inseparable in their minds.

Dance is one of the premier ways  the “medicine men” or religious leaders of each native tribe sought  both spiritual counsel and power.   In fact, according to Curt Sachs World History of the Dance, “In ancient and primitive peoples, scarcely anything approaches the dance in its importance.”  “On no occasion of the life of primitive peoples could it be dispensed with”.*  It was thought of as a sacred act and priestly office–the premier way to bridge the gap between the physical and spiritual realm.  Today in our Western culture, dance has for the most part been relegated to the entertainment and artistic realm of society.  Yet its power to influence the hearts and minds of people is seen everywhere from the television dance shows that top the charts to the thousands of commercials that use dance in attempt to sell products.  Dancers beckon to us constantly from such venues without us even stepping foot or setting eyes in such places as nightclubs, raves, or the dark corners of the internet.

There is much more to say about the war over our worship and the role of dance in this battle, but for now, I want to leave you with a question.  How should we as believers in Jesus think about dance?  Should we love it or hate it, welcome or fear it?  There are complexities to the answer that will take time to develop, but to begin with, we surely should not take it lightly or flippantly. Dance can be “fun”, but it is not merely fun.  It is spiritually powerful unto life or destruction.   There should be a tremble in our souls in an awe filled fear of the Lord as we view this gift of expression he has given us.  Where dance draws peoples hearts to Jesus and releases pure and holy delight in one another, it is to be welcomed and celebrated. (Ps 149, 150)  Where dance leads people into idolatry, sensuality, pride, and other such expressions of darkness and wickedness it should be detested and and turned away from.  A Biblical example of this is found in Exodus 32 when Moses comes back from receiving the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel worshipping a golden calf.  Verse 19 says, “And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’s anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.”  In the context of the chapter and book of Exodus, it was not the dancing itself that was the problem.  It was the fact that their dancing was at that time an act of idolatrous worship.  It led to thousands of them being destroyed immediately following.  When they had danced unto the Lord at the crossing of the sea described in Exodus 15, it was right and honoring to God.  They appropriately celebrated the Lord’s gifts of freedom, victory, and salvation.  As I look at these examples in God’s Word and many throughout history as well, one conclusion is that I do not love dance for its own sake.  I love Jesus, and I love to worship Him with all that I am through dance.  This is an extremely important distinction to make at the beginning of pursuing understanding regarding the purpose of God for dance. Dance was created to be an expression of the heart…thus the fundamental significance of it can not be found in the mere movements themselves but in the reality of the affections they reveal.

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The Triumph of Christ in Anina, Romania

The first town our team visited immediately upon arriving to Romania was Anina.  It is a little mining town in the mountains, but the mines have been closed.  This has left the people who still live there for the most part unemployed or retired.  Beni Lup from Bridge to Europe whom I have mentioned in some earlier posts helps pastor a church there several times a month called Hope Church.  Hope Church has its own amazing prophetic history as it was formerly a building used by the secret police during the communist era.  For close to 40 years a believing woman in the town would come down to the building, lay hands on it, and pray that it would become the town’s church building.  One day a man from inside the building began mocking her and asking her what she was doing. She told him and said something to the effect of, “One day you will be the mayor of Anina and you will give us this building for a church.”  He laughed at her and told her to go away.  The building was in the service of communism  trying to destroy Christianity.  The thought seemed utterly ludicrous to him.  However, God had the last laugh.  That building was eventually given for a church by the man she had spoken to, who had indeed become the mayor!

We were the first team to be able to stay in the newly finished bedrooms on the top floor of the building and had a delightfully full two days ministering to the people of Anina and near by villages.  They were hosting a week of evangelistic meetings at night, of which we led the first two.  My husband Nathan powerfully proclaimed the Word, I danced to “Alabaster Box” which I mentioned in my post about the Roma people, and our worship team did a beautiful job of leading worship in a cross cultural setting where they didn’t know the language.  There were times where we were able to sing in English, and the congregation sang the same lyrics in Romanian and it was glorious.  It was like a small taste of heaven!  Beni also asked me during worship to lead the congregation in simple movements to a few of the worship songs such as “Hallelujah”.  He explained that it is in the Bible to dance before the Lord in worship, and he invited people to follow me.  The memory of leading Romanian men and women in simple arm movements will forever be etched in my mind.  It was thrilling to see a tiny picture of the unity of the body of Christ!  Even though they had not been exposed to worship dance before, even men from the most conservative neighboring congregations were amazed and longing for such freedom in worship for their own church.  It touched their hearts in a profound way and each night at the end of the service, 5 or 6 new people received Christ into their lives for the first time.

Nathan and my father-in-law Jack had the opportunity to train pastors from the area during the day time while the women on the team ministered to some of the local women.  Many of the women were unable to attend because of work, so the majority of those we prayed for and taught were older and very precious in the sight of God.  They had walked through very difficult times of persecution and were so touched to hear that God sees them and knows them in the hidden place.  I  interpreted Psalm 40 through movement as a heart’s cry to the Lord and again found that it transcended language and cultural barriers beautifully.  They said could feel in their own hearts what I was dancing.

In the afternoon we traveled a few miles up to New Hope Church where around 70 kids and young people were waiting for us to have a service for them.  We worshipped in song and movement with them, my brother-in-law Chandler shared a message, and we gave them some candy.  They are absolutely precious!  We were honored to have met them.

Our church is going to partner with Beni Lup to help establish a Bible Training School for pastors in Romania and other Balkan countries that will begin in Anina.  My husband has always desired to start a training center, and by the end of the trip we were already talking about helping start 2 schools in Romania!  We are also hoping to start a training program at our church in Knoxville.  We know this is such a huge vision, and we can not do it by ourselves. We are asking for the Lord to bring us those who would desire to partner with us and Bridge to Europe in this phenomenal opportunity.  ImageImage

Reaching the Roma (Gypsy) People for Jesus

Thirteen years ago, when I was a freshman at Wheaton College, there was a unique six month season of time in which the Lord spoke much prophetic destiny into my life.  It was in this timeframe that my call to ministry was confirmed and my heart was healed and touched by Jesus in powerful and life-changing ways.  In fact, this was why I began sneaking into my dorm hall’s “living room” in the middle of the night to dance before the Lord.  It was the only way I could express the amazing amount of love, joy, and thanksgiving that was overflowing my heart!

I was able to attend a worship conference where the ministry team prayed for all of the college students after the meeting.  One of the ministers prayed over me that she believed God was calling me to be a type of Deborah, a worship warrior through dance.  She said I would lead many people in worship and prayer in this way and that many victories in the kingdom of God would be won in this way.

I was blown away!  I had never thought about dance having a significant purpose for ministry, and I had only recently begun really dancing before the Lord in worship.  In order to respond in faith to this word, I immediately got up and began dancing.  There was no music or words.  I just began expressing my heart through movement.  My friend Mia began dancing as well, and soon the entire group of 20 or so students were dancing and singing praise songs to the Lord well into the middle of the night.  It was as if a mini revival had all touched our lives.  That same evening, someone came up to me and said that they sensed by the Holy Spirit that one day I would minister the gospel through dance to the Gypsy people group.  I was intrigued to say the least. I remember going to the school library and looking up dance and the Gypsies.  It was my first step in researching the history of dance in the nations, which since has become one of my most significant areas of study.

I have held that word about the Gypsies in my heart for over a decade without knowing of any open door for me to meet them, much less minister among them.   All that changed when we met Beni Lup of Bridge to Europe.  Beni and his wife Eugenia are a  couple being used by God mightily in remarkable and diverse ways in Romania where they live and even throughout Europe.  Beni has been given great favor with the king of the Gypsies who is a believer in Jesus Christ and is working to see salvation in Jesus be brought to his people.  Because of Beni’s relationship with the royal family, we were invited on our recent trip to Romania to meet with and minister among the Roma believers who live in Sibiu, Romania.  I was able to dance to a song by CeCe Winans called Alabaster Box, which is one of my all time favorite songs to dance to, that tells the story of the Mary in the gospels who poured her perfume on the the Lord’s feet and washed them with her hair and tears.  The story was told in Romanian and the lyrics were read before and after I danced.  It is a call to whole hearted extravagant worship and love for Jesus.  After our team led worship and the dance, my husband Nathan brought a powerful evangelistic message from the Word, and we saw several people come to salvation in Jesus that night. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the Lord bringing me to the fulfillment of the word that has been in my heart for 13 years.

The next day got even better if that is possible!  My husband Nathan, who is a pastor/teacher, was asked by King Florin, in partnership with Beni Lup and his ministry, to help start a Bible School for the Roma pastors who are in great need of training.  Florin has planted over 120 something churches throughout every district in Romania and desires all those pastors to have Bible training.  Eventually, he would like to make training available to the Roma pastors in other nations throughout Europe as well.  Now this is REMARKABLE!!!! This people group has suffered and continues to suffer great rejection and derision throughout the many countries where they live.  They also value their culture greatly and thus are careful of outside influence on their families.  Yet Jesus knows and loves them and has a plan to redeem them and their culture!

At the same time as my husband and the men were meeting together discussing the Bible school, my amazing mom-in-law Kathy and I were able to teach and lead a group of women in worship dance.  Kathy taught them from John 4 about the love of Jesus for the Samaritan woman at the well, and many of the Roma women were deeply touched and moved to tears.  Then I had the joy of teaching them what God’s word says about worshipping Him with dance and  lead them in simple movements to the song I mentioned in my earlier post, Restoration.  

I will write more on this in coming posts, but dance breaks through cultural barriers in such a powerful way.  We could not speak the same language, but we could do the same movements that expressed the same heart’s cry. In one sense, we were able to “speak” the same language and it brought such a sense of unity and togetherness despite how very different we are.  Some women were so overwhelmed at the joy and freedom of worshipping this way that they had to temporarily stop moving because they were crying so hard at how touched they were. (They had formerly been taught by other missionaries that dance is wrong and they can not “dance” once they become a Christian.  I was not surprised by this…..which is why I taught them from God’s word because it is the truth that sets people free!)

I had such an incredible time!  So much that I had been researching and praying about, thinking and writing, I was now touching and seeing and tasting.  I even got to have my hair braided by the princess and bought a traditional Roma dress.  I requested to learn some of their culture’s dance movements because I have such a heart to see the dances of the nations redeemed, and I had fun learning it!  How their own dance can be used for worship is still a little unclear in their minds, but I have no doubt the Lord will make it clear to them in His time.  They are beautiful people, and I fell in love with them!  I can’t wait to go back!

Restoration in Romania

Ps 30:11-12 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

I just returned two weeks ago from one of the most amazing trips of my life.  My husband Nathan and I and a team from our church, Christ Church Knoxville went on a mission trip to Romania in partnership with Bridge to Europe.  We ministered at several evangelistic services, pastors’ training, and women’s seminars. We even got to share the gospel and teach worship songs and movement in a class at one of the public schools!  Each day of the trip deserves its own post as we saw miracles every day, and our schedule was extremely full.  I had the joy of using dance as a tool of cross cultural ministry and communication in several different ways and contexts.

One of the ways I was able to offer my dance as a gift of worship to the Lord and the body of Christ was on the last day of our trip.  It had been pouring rain the entire week, and the sun broke through just in time.  We were headed to a property near Timisoara that has been  given to   Bridge to Europe                   for lives to be transformed and restored by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  One of the buildings that will be on this property is called “The Butterfly Center.”  I encourage you to follow the Bridge to Europe link to learn more about this amazing vision.  Women who are being rescued out of human trafficking will have a place to be healed and restored!

As part of aiding this ministry in their efforts to raise awareness and funds for this center, I was blessed to be able to choreograph and teach movement to David Brymer’s song “Restoration” to two precious Romanian women who have a testimony of the Lord’s powerful restoration in their own lives. Carla, one of the women who danced with me, will live on site as one of the leaders of the ministry and see the vision the Lord has put in her heart for these women (and children) come to fruition.  Not only was our dance a prophetic declaration of the plans of the Lord to come for this property, but it was also filmed in order to help capture the essence of what the ministry is about.  It will be used to help share the heart of the ministry as the vision is communicated.

To think that my simple dance could be used by the Lord in the war against human trafficking humbles and overwhelms me.  To think that women will one day learn at the Butterfly Center how they can worship the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength and see their bodies redeemed out of slavery to darkness to a place of purity– learning to dance before the Lord in freedom –completely undoes me! This is just one of the reasons why my resurrected dream of dance unto the Lord is so much better than my original plans and desires to be an entertainer.  By the grace of God and His Spirit at work in me, eternity is being impacted.  Precious lives will be healed and restored by the Lord!  My dance is just one very small piece in this Master Plan that is being worked by the God who delivers people out of slavery, but it matters all the same.  My prayer is that many will find their mourning turned into dancing in this place.Image