DANCE AND THE DISHES: Delighting in Jesus in the Midst of Daily Duties

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I was a new mom, thrilled with the gift of a baby daughter and filled with vision for raising her unto the glory of God. I couldn’t be more thankful for her life, and the privilege of being able to stay home to nurture her and the other precious children the Lord would give in time. Yet I was also coming to grips with how dramatically my life had changed. My growing responsibilities at home made it necessary to rearrange my schedule and scale back on some of my favorite activities. Some of the highlights of my days were to attend prayer meetings where I was able to worship and seek the Lord with my entire being through the Word, song, and dance. The reality of Psalm 149 filled my heart with great joy!

“Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation…”

 One evening I had been looking forward to attending a prayer meeting all day. However, I must have had an extra full day because once I had put my baby down for the night, an extremely large pile of dirty dishes lay glaring at me from out of the kitchen sink. I knew what my responsibility was…what would honor my husband, care for our family, and thus glorify God. The dishes had to be done and the prayer meeting missed. I knew that my service mattered to God, no matter how small and mundane. He had been showing me that through his word for several years, preparing me to be a wife and a mom. What I was not prepared for was how he would encounter my heart through his word while I was doing the dishes!

As I was scrubbing and rinsing, thinking about how much I wished I could be at the meeting, the verse from Matthew 28:20 began to resound through my spirit, “And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” It felt as if one of the lightening bolts from the throne of heaven (Rev 4:5) must have struck my heart, and I began to weep. The revelation that Jesus was right there with me while I was doing the dishes overwhelmed me! As awesome and right as it is to gather with other believers to seek the Lord in prayer and worship, it was just as right that I seek him with all my heart in the hiddenness of my home, in the midst of my daily duties. He was with me!   He is with me! He will always be with me…to the end! He is worthy of all of my love and life in the great and noble tasks as well as the small and mundane ones. I knelt down and repented for all the times I had despised the daily duties of life as a wife and mom rather than used them as opportunities to encounter and praise Jesus. I acknowledged that one day in his courts is truly better than a thousand elsewhere. (Ps 84:10) Wherever I am, because the spirit of God is dwelling within me, can become the courts of the Lord where I meet him through his word and delight in the joy of his presence! As waves of mercy and joy washed over me, I got up and began to dance and sing. I sang the scriptures that the Lord had brought to mind. I put expressive movements to the songs and verses, and I had a truly glorious time! Every few twirls, I got some dishes cleaned, and by the end of the time, not only was the kitchen clean and put in order, but my heart was freshly cleansed and rightly ordered as well. Ten years later, I can truly say that chore time at my house has never been the same! Yet, I don’t always feel overwhelmed by revelation of the love and glory of God. I can still be tempted to see my ever- increasing (now that I have five children) daily duties as drudgery. In these moments, as the Lord gives me grace to fix my mind on his glorious word, to open my mouth and begin to sing his wonders, and to move my hands and feet to express the joy of my great salvation through Christ, the joy of the Lord floods my heart and strengthens me with grace for another round of laundry, dishes, wiping, and working….not to mention the eternal work of loving my husband, children, and neighbors for his glory!

I know that I am not alone in the desire and struggle for delight in the midst of duty. Gloria Furman has written two books recently, Glimpses of Grace and Treasuring Christ when your Hands are Full that have encouraged my heart to continue to press on in this regard. In addition to singing, dancing, and praying Scripture, I also find that my spirit is strengthened with grace in the middle of routine tasks when I listen to Christ centered, Bible based sermons and meditate/memorize scriptures that speak to the anxieties and concerns on my mind. There is nothing more thrilling than growing in the knowledge of God! The command of the Lord in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!” has become a compelling invitation to delight in the living God in the midst of all the diverse moments of my days. He has turned drudgery into dancing to the praise of His glorious grace!

 

 

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Jesus Sets Captives Free!

This past week I had the privilege of leading a team of dancers to minister at The Next Door ministry in Knoxville.  We went as part of a larger team from Fully Alive Ministries and Christ Church Knoxville to lead a Bible study for women who are in desperate need of having their lives restored and set free from great bondage.  My wonderful mom-in-law, Kathy Tarr, passionately and tenderly spoke the heart of God over them from John 4 which tells of Jesus and His encounter with the Samaritan women at the well.  As we worshipped over the Word and in song, I could see hard hearts being softened and blind eyes being opened.  If Jesus loved and transformed a woman such as the Samaritan, living a life of great sin and shame, surely there was hope for them too, I believe many were thinking.  In fact, it was what I was thinking too, as the gospel of Jesus Christ pierced my own heart afresh.  The truth that Jesus set His affections upon me and gave Himself for me, not because of anything in me, but while I was full of sin and hostile towards Him (Ephesians 2) overwhelmed me anew with the glory of His great love and mercy.

Truly Jesus came, and continues to come by His Holy Spirit, to fulfill the words of Isaiah 61, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of prison to those who are bound, the proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;  to grant to those who mourn in Zion–to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;  that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”

After the testimony of Jesus had gone forth in song, Word, and testimonies of salvation, our little team of dancers stepped forward to minister a song by Matt Gilman,  Every Captive Free whose lyrics draw from this very passage among others.  In the dance, three women are covered with black blankets with words of bondages written on them such as depression, addiction, immorality, anger..etc.  A dancer representing the Spirit of Jesus comes out and one by one begins to set these women free.  As each woman arises, she begins to dance the same dance of freedom over the others that are still bound as a picture of the beautiful ministry of the Church as the body of Christ to proclaim His glorious gospel.  Truly our own hearts were encountered by the love of Jesus for these women, even bringing several of us to tears while we were dancing.  At the end of the dance, as a call to turn from the their life of sin and receive the free gift of eternal life in Jesus was put forward, the great majority of the women responded to His invitation.  There were many tears, many smiles, many hugs, and resounding songs of praise going forth from that home that night.  Jesus was setting captives free!

All my springs are in You

Psalm 87:7  “Singers and dancers alike say, ‘All my springs are in you.’”

ImageSprings are a place of refreshment and life giving sustenance.  They are a place where we drink deeply and are satisfied. Without them, we would die.   In our convenient and comfortable modern society, we can simply turn on a faucet and choose to remain blissfully unmindful of the horrible fate that would await us if our access to a water source was removed.  However in many places in the world today, and certainly in ancient times, this reality was ever before them.  Most of the day was spent searching for, drawing, carrying, and purifying water just to stay alive.

In many places throughout the Bible, the presence of God is described as a spring or fountain of living water.  In this, He is declaring that He is the source and joy of our life and that without Him, we will surely die. It is the grace of God when we say with the psalmist, “My soul longs for you as the deer longs for water…” Yet how often we forsake Him!  Jeremiah 2:12-13 says, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this;  be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils:  they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” We are often deluded into believing that the other things and people we look to for life, joy, and pleasure will satisfy our souls.  In reality, they lead only to empty brokenness and death.   God alone is the only true source of life.  Wonderfully, the life He promises is abundant! Psalm 36:8 describes the goodness of those who look to the Lord, “They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.  For with you is the fountain of life….”

Singing and dancing, in conjunction with music, are two significant God given expressions of the heart. In many cultures, they are not separated into distinct forms.  They simply have one word that means “musicdance”.  In complementary ways, song and dance reflect the feelings, thoughts, and passions of our lives. They were also created to powerfully move and minister to the hearts of those who are listening and watching.  All of the cultures of the earth are fascinated with music, song, and dance. When they do not honor God their influence spreads great spiritual darkness.  Yet, God created and gave us these powerful expressions as a way to experience and express the glory of communion with Him.

Our singing and dancing testify to our own hearts and those around us who and what the source of our life is. If we are drinking polluted water from broken cisterns, our songs and dances will evidence such by expressing sin in a way that draws others hearts away from God to ourselves.  John the Baptist lost his life as a result of this kind of wicked dance. Yet he who lost his earthly life due to the power of a dance unto destruction, began his life with a pure and holy dance declaring with great joy the testimony of Christ’s coming by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Luke 1:44 speaks of John in the womb when Elizabeth encountered Mary as she was pregnant with Jesus, “For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”  John’s prenatal leap testified to the worth and joy and meaning of our Savior’s coming.  This is the essence of dance that brings honor and glory to the Lord…it declares the glory and supremacy of Jesus Christ.

Spurgeon in his commentary of Psalm 87:7 says

“Where God is there must be joy, and where the church is increased by numerous conversions the joy becomes exuberant and finds out ways of displaying itself. Singers and dancers, Psalmists and pipers, united their efforts and made a joyful procession to the temple, inspired not by Bacchus, or by the Castalian fount, but by draughts from the sacred source of all good, of which they each one sing All my springs are in thee.” (Treasury of David)

Thus this is my prayer…Oh Beautiful Jesus, in whom is all my delight, may I drink deeply of you and be filled continually with great joy.  May the song of my heart and the dance of my feet be an overflow of the abundant life you are causing to spring up within me.  I often feel in worship as if my heart might explode if I did not have the gift of expressing it back to you in a dance of my strength.  May my dance ever and only draw hearts and minds to you and not to myself.  May they look at my exuberance and grace and passion and see not only the joy of a sinner redeemed, but the Worthiness of my Great Savior!

Dance that Testifies to the Worth of Jesus

When I see someone dance as an offering of worship to the Lord, no matter what they look like or how “skilled” their dance may be, I see the worth of Jesus reflected through their movements and on their faces.  This week I had the opportunity to see some women that are a part of a Biblical Foundations of Dance class I am currently teaching at my church, Christ Church Knoxville, simply move across the floor pouring their hearts out to the Lord through movement.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Jesus who had captured these beloved ones hearts.  This was not easy for all of them as many are just learning to dance before the Lord. That they humbled themselves before the rest of us and stepped out in faith was such a gift!  I was more in love with Jesus after that class and inspired to pour myself out for him in all spheres of life because of watching these women move in faith.

I’ll never forget reading an article written by Sam Storms about the time when he saw Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic for two-thirds of her life, dance and how it moved his own heart to worship.  I have included the link to this article and encourage you to read it.  I pray the testimony of Jesus in her dance will inspire you to love and worship the Lord with all that you are.  May He graciously break down every excuse and every hindrance that is holding you back from fully and freely expressing your heart to Him!  “I Saw Joni Dance” by Sam Storms

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