TAKING TIME TO DANCE
"JUST Imagine how many more victories WE'D HAVE in life
if we PAUSED to dance instead of RUSHED to worry."
- Leanette Lopez
JUST MOVE; DANCE
by GUEST BLOGGER Leanette Lopez
(CHRIStiAN SINGER & SONGWRITER)
February 22, 2017
Dancing Through Trials
We may find ourselves wanting to dance during victorious times, but what about during the difficult trials? In the Bible, we learn that God's people were accustomed to dancing in the face of adversity - that these literal "leaps of faith" contributed to the winning of major battles.
“After talking it over with the people, Jehoshaphat appointed a choir for God; dressed in holy robes, they were to march ahead of the troops, singing, Give thanks to God, His love never quits. As soon as they started praising, God sent ambushes against the men of ..., and they all ended up dead." - 2 Chronicles 20:21-23 (MSG)
Here, the Old Testament reveals that Jehoshaphat humbly praised God and then led his people into a powerful moment of worship. Their boisterous "praise march" showcased both their obedience and their faith, which then caused God to set ambushes against the various enemy troops (the armies started battling each other in a state of mass confusion). The point? That they didn't even have to touch their enemies to defeat them; that instead, God fought their battles because they took the time to march in praise first.
Just imagine how many more victories we'd have in life if we paused to dance instead of rushed to worry.
As a worship leader, I love leading people from trial to triumph through my music. When performing at concerts, I notice fans dancing to all the different genres of music (Gospel, Latin, Contemporary & Praise and Worship). I also find that dance is an amazing icebreaker when speaking at women's conferences. My experiences have shown that movement, often through dance, usually leads to freedom.
Often, fans ask me to reveal my "secrets" for losing weight or defeating depression. Usually, my first response is "just move; dance." I lost nearly 100 pounds by moving and dancing, then gradually working towards more types of exercise equipment. As a recording artist and speaker, I'm often told by fans that my music impacts their lives both spiritually and physically - and that's precisely what motivates me to keep singing and dancing. I love watching people get free! Click here to learn more about Leanette's ministry.
Why We Dance
The definition of dance is "to move rhythmically to music, typically following a set of steps." And there's just something about a beat that automatically makes the body want to move. I wrote a song called "He Makes Me Dance" (Me Hace Danzar), that I perform bilingually. Although most of my concerts are primarily in English, I find that when dancing breaks out...so does the language barrier. During concerts, I'm always pointing out the babies that are dancing and jumping. By looking at toddlers, we realize that they don't have to be taught how to dance, rather it's in their nature - they just want to move. We should allow the Spirit of God to sway our bodies in the same way - into a supernatural praise that goes beyond our natural comprehension. Without shame, we can dance in Jesus name. In Psalm 150:4, David declares,“Praise him with the tambourine and dance..."
Being both spiritual and purpose-driven in nature, I like to see the practical benefits of God's Word. According to Scientific American magazine, "Music is known to stimulate pleasure and reward areas like the orbitofrontal cortex, located directly behind ones eyes, as well as the midbrain region called the ventral striatum. Music activates the cerebellum, at the base of the brain, which is involved in the coordination and timing of movement." This simply means that dancing makes us feel good. When we feel down, it will lift our spirits. So why don't we dance more often? I'm guessing it's the embarrassment factor.
KING DAVID'S DANCING
In the Old Testament, we learn the details that surround King David's dancing. “And David danced before the Lord with all his might..." (2 Samuel 6:14 MSG). This story causes me to envision David dancing before the Lord with everything he had. His head is bouncing up-and-down, with his arms flailing in rhythmic euphoria; all while sporting a toothy grin that couldn't be taken out, not even by his embarrassed wife who stood their watching him.
So why was David dancing like that? The scriptures tell us that the Presence of God had traveled to his city - dwelling in a holy box referred to as the ark of the covenant. Because David's kingly directives and blessings all came from being in God's presence, he was overjoyed in the moment. In the New Testament, we come to understand that Jesus died for us (taking the place of burnt offerings) which means God's Presence would no longer be contained in a box and instead could be felt by praising and worshipping Jesus. So today, we can literally dance outside the box.
David was probably the first king (and most likely the first man) to dance publicly in front of a crowd this size. That's probably why his wife was so embarrassed. Until then, women typically performed ritualistic dances. At that time, when great national blessings were bestowed, the women would be told when and how to dance. But when the ark of the covenant had traveled to the city of David, the king felt the need to express his reverence and humility in that moment and then danced before his servants. That too, would have been considered a lowly act (as a king of his stature). Here, we observe that David's love for God was greater than his pride as he fervently danced in the streets in his underwear praising the Lord.
Gratitude & FREEDOM
“You did it: you changed my wild lament into whirling dance; You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about you. God, my God, I can't thank you enough.” (Psalm 30:11-12 MSG)
The psalms show us that dance is a poetic praise of gratitude. Dancing seems to make us forget about ourselves and our own troubles. In a world faced with temporary pain and suffering, a decision to dance moves the heart of God in a major way. Have you ever been at a wedding or special event where the music was going, the dance floor was open, and the people in attendance were just too shy to dance? At my daughter's quinceañera, (15th birthday party), the girls were all initially too shy to dance. But once the DJ encouraged my daughter to form a line and start dancing, the other girls then followed. And once an invited guest (a hip-hop dancer) started dancing... then most people in the room were on the dance floor within a matter of minutes. It just takes that one person to lead everyone into a time of dancing. The Bible tells us that "Miriam the prophetess took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dances." (Exodus 15:20 MSG)
Maybe you're like Miriam. That special person who'll lead your family and friends out of darkness into the light by dancing. At first, you may need to encourage yourself as you begin to dance. But as you're dancing, you'll feel the weight of life's burdens being lifted off through the swiftness of your feet. And don't be concerned about how your dancing looks - it doesn't have to be pretty... just move; just dance.
There are instances in the Bible where dancing is implied but not directly mentioned. In Acts 3, we learn what happened to a paralyzed man who was placed at the temple gate to beg each day for survival. When the man eventually encountered Peter & John, he inadvertently "danced" after being healed by God's power. His newfound ability to walk (after being crippled since birth) caused him to leap, and this was his thankful jig. “And leaping forth he stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God.” (Acts 3:8-9 MSG). Love and mercy should be the motives for his movement. Divine worship coursing through ones body (in acts of public or private praise) demonstrates both the love and gratitude between the worshipper and their Creator.
So why keep dancing? My one word answer is freedom. Dancing breaks the yoke of complacency and sadness and reminds us of Jesus' blessed return. God's presence keeps us safely in the arms of His promises. Last week, I can remember feeling overwhelmed by the busyness of my life and was feeling the need to take a break. At that same moment, my husband came walking in the door and I found myself dancing excitedly at the very sight of him. He sheepishly smiled (as I danced around) and told me that he wanted to walk back out and then walk back inside over again because that felt so good. In the same way, our Heavenly Father gets excited when He sees us praising Him through dance.
I remember that I played "A Thousand Years" at my daughter's quinceañera. For Latinos, this celebration is as important as a wedding. To remember this special moment, I sometimes play that song and will ask to slow dance with my daughter. This is the type of intimacy that dancing creates before God. As the world bogs us down with distractions, our Spirit raises our faith anew through dance.
So as you take the time to eat, breathe and sleep, make sure you also take time to dance before your King. Twirl in a whirl or leap like a leopard. Jump like a frog or flail like a toddler. Because it doesn't matter to God what you look like while you're dancing, it only matters to Him what your divine dance feels like... as praise in the presence of His sovereignty.
Just move; dance.
THE "WHY" OF MY DANCE
BY GUEST BLOGGER
Dr. FELICITY JOY
Being a Christian is an interesting experience because you are living a life that’s “not about you.” It’s not even necessarily a life for others, but your life is for and about God. Because of that, you get to do a bunch of stuff you don’t want to do...same as anyone else, but for you it’s part of a higher calling. Because of this, I particularly am thankful for the Biblical concept of gathering together to worship God. Many churches begin their service with music, but for me, they are far from the “warm up band,” they are the “main event.”
Why? This is the one time that’s not just “about” God, but it’s about me and God. The Lord “rejoices over us with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17) and invites us to “dance” in praise before Him (Psalm 150:4). Worship dance for me is about keeping my eyes firmly upon God and translating what I see and feel from Him in movement. How can you not forget all your worries and sorrows when you’re spending concentrated time focusing upon one who loves us so much?
I often wonder why more people in the church don’t participate in this glorious activity. Perhaps there is an encouragement in the Bible that they have missed. Ephesians 5:18 tells us to “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Most of the time people focus on not getting drunk, but do you see there that God is comparing the feeling of being filled with the Holy Spirit to being drunk? Do you see that God is encouraging that feeling? To me, life on planet earth without intoxication is a cruel proposal. And indeed, those that resist the Spirit’s leading toward intoxication are often a stodgy joyless bunch. I believe life on planet earth REQUIRES intoxication, and God just desires to seek such from Him.
I submit to you that praise dancing is a marvelous way to get lost in the Spirit, lay down your burdens, and be in greater intimacy with God so that when you pick up those burdens again, you have greater wisdom, strength and joy with which to carry them. You may even agree with Jesus that His burdens are “light.” (Matthew 11:30) It even seems that during the dance, Jesus carries many of those burdens away. So take time to allow Him to do that! Take time to refuel your joy! Take time to get swept away with God in the dance! ----> Click here to learn more about Felicity.
Confessions of a Dance Mom
By Jessica Olivito
There’s something emotional that happens to me when I watch other people dance. At first, I simply thought I was a proud mama who loved to watch her little ballerina twirl. But soon, I noticed that the alligator tears continued when I would watch other people dance. I remember thinking, "What’s wrong with me? What are all these emotions about? Why am I always tearing up when I watch others dance?”
It’s safe to say that I wasn’t much of a dancer as a child. Needless to say, I never received any formal training or had much personal interest in this beautiful art. My parents weren’t dancers either. I remember thinking that I lacked both the coordination (and the rhythm) for it…so I pretty much gave up on the idea of dance before even trying it.
As one of the “chubby” girls in middle school, I’m sure my low self-esteem also attributed to the situation. At this age, dancing would have drawn way too much attention to my flawed body - so the bottom line was this: there would be no dancing. By high school, I had convinced myself that I was too fat and too awkward to dance in public, and by college, I remember getting drunk to have more “courage” to dance.
Of course, there were also some dance memories from my wedding. First, I became emotional when slow dancing with my father because I realized that I was no longer his “little girl.” Then, I remember my shy, younger brother hitting the dance floor (which threw our whole family for a loop) as we watched him perform a “full-on” choreographed routine to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. I will never forget the laughter that billowed from our reception hall as we watched my brother let loose. It was freeing to watch my brother dance.
Five years later, my daughter Morgan was born. By her third birthday, it was obvious that she had a passion for dance. As soon as she was old enough, her father and I anxiously enrolled Morgan into competitive dance where she began developing skills in many different genres: ballet, tap, modern, jazz, lyrical, and hip-hop. There, Morgan spent 10 years growing in skills and agility. In her prime, she was dancing over 20 hours a week after school.
Looking back, God really blessed us with the perfect dance instructors for Morgan – people that were not only strong role models – but were also teachers capable of providing both the love and the discipline she needed (while her parents selfishly chose to focus on the aftermath of their messy divorce instead). But for Morgan, dance was more than just an escape from her broken family – it was a place of pure solace and unconditional support – a place where she always felt accepted, loved and valuable (at a time when her mother was incapable of fulfilling the role). And for this, I will always be thankful to Turning Pointe Dance Company.
But most of all, I am thankful to God for bringing reconciliation and restoration to my life. In exchange for these newfound freedoms, I felt empowered to dance without reservation (or worry) as to whether people were laughing at me or with me as I worshipped. And yes, I’m fully aware that my dance style still closely mirrors Elaine from Seinfeld, but I consciously choose to dance anyway - in spite of my imperfections and lack of professional training.
For me, dancing became an important act of worship and a provided me with a new way to express my freedom. And without God’s grace and mercy, I’d still be in bondage today - selfishly “stuck in my own head” fixated on my past. So for this reason, I’m no longer afraid to dance in public. Instead, I rejoice in the freedom that Jesus provided me.
In recent months, the Holy Spirit has given me more insight as to why I tear up so easily when watching other people dance. For me, I guess there's just something special about corporate dance (regardless of the genre or song). Maybe it's just the spirit of cooperation that happens right before our eyes? Or maybe it’s the presence of pure unity – that happens through the cohesiveness of their movements as we watch the "body" physically come together for a greater purpose? To me, that’s what makes corporate dance so magical.
I’ve also come to learn that God loves dance (because He talks about it in His Word). And while it may have taken me 40 years for me to appreciate the importance of dance in my life, I now recognize it’s supreme value from the perspective of worship. Dance is an extension of my soul and a personal expression of my freedom in Christ. For me, it’s an opportunity to truly worship my Father in a state of pure gratitude.
For almost a year, the subject of dance has been close to my heart, but because of my lack of “training” about the discipline, I’ve felt unequipped to write about it. Yet God kept encouraging me to study what His Word said about dance and prompted me to feature some guest writings about dance. As a result, I invited two other insightful writers into the conversation, Leanette Lopez & Felicity Joy.
My prayer is that our writing "collectively" causes you to think a little deeper about the role that dance (and worship) plays in your life. And just maybe… there might even be a few brave souls out there willing to contribute to the conversation (by adding their personal sentiments under my blog page).