Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp. - Psalm 149:3
The last Monday of each month we focus on a spiritual practice. This month is the eloquent and divine human movement we call dance.
Who doesn't love a dance party! I have some great memories in which my family and I danced together humorously in our kitchen. It was carefree, fun, and created much laughter and smiles. It got us creatively moving to the music creating space for connection, which surpassed words and moved straight to our hearts.
Dance has the ability enliven our body and souls, break down barriers, and free our bodies of worry if we let. The multi-sensory and emotional way it moves through our body creates moods and communication patterns. Its both an inward and outward experience connecting our mind and body together. I find it funny that this practice physically and emotionally changes us and yet there is often very little of it happening in church. Maybe its the stiff dress clothes, tradition of being proper, or just the thought that others would judge us.
None of them seem like good reasons in my opinion for us not to engage in something that can connect us with the divine.
So how can we use dance as a spiritual practice? In what ways can we incorporate dance in our religious and spiritual settings?
History of Dance
Dance is believed to be around before humans had written language. Many people believe it was used to pass the oral tradition of stories from one generation to the next. Dance Facts and History indicate the first "proof of dance" was discovered in paintings inside a 9,000 year old cave in India. It became common for dance to be used in religious ceremony or rituals in sharing the stories of others or to celebrate a certain time of the year. It eventually evolved into other forms of social life but remained in the religious realm as well.
"The ancient Greeks believed that man took delight in active movement. A person was considered educated if he could dance, and his moral code was defined by the dances he performed. Men and women in Greek society danced, though what they performed might not be considered dance today. It was an ordered form, integrated with music and poetry as part of rituals, religion, and social life (Human Kinetics)."
During the renaissance dances moved into forms of entertainment and display. It also had a major place in the social aspect of society. During this time dances were written down in detailed forms separated by categories. This time period had an explosion of art in the form of dance. Dance has continued to evolve into various other dances such as the floss as we have below.
Dance And Our Spiritual Life
Dancing is moving spirituality! It puts our emotions and feelings out for everyone to see. Sometimes you are even surprised at what comes when you allow your body to move. Dance is freeing and allows us to go directly to God with both mind and body. So how do we use it as a spiritual practice? How do we use it in our current settings? First check out the music video "God's Great Dance Floor" by Chris Tomlin.
1. Find Your Rhythm - When we find the rhythm of the music we can choose to be free with it. When we make this choice we allow the love of God to move freely through us. However we must each find the rhythm that works for us. Try different kinds of music, different dances, or just be free in your creative expression. Don't know what to try, try this!
2. Don't Care - Be like King David dancing and leaping before the lord. Our perceptions of what other people think stop us from using our bodies to move freely in dance. When we throw out those thoughts and judgments we open ourselves up to the divine. It doesn't matter if you have never danced before or if you are experienced. Dancing is for everyone!
3. Learn New Steps - Dancing can be incorporated into worship if we allow it but it means we have to do the first two things already listed. Sometimes it is easier for a group of people to be instructed first through choreography and other steps. It lessens the fear factor and allows them to feel like everyone is at the same level.
4. Dance With Others - Dancing with others allows us to be creative and free with someone else. Dancing can connects us physically, emotionally, and spirituality. It invites them into an intimate relationship where we express ourselves openly.
5. Find Time - Give yourself time each week to dance. This can be at home, out somewhere, or even in church. Dance can happen anywhere as its just allowing your body to react to the moments in your life. For churches they can intentionally schedule dance ministry or times in the service for dance to happen. Be creative!
So get out there and dance!
Thank you for all the kind words and support!
Take some time and dance this week by yourself or with someone else!
My grandfather Virgil Billings was a minister for the Community of Christ 50 years ago. Growing up I heard many stories about his ministry and interactions with others. One that always stuck to me was his time spent in southern Indiana.
He traveled to the area for a sermon series which included visiting members homes. One family in particular farmed watermelons. The husband was not a church goer but supported his wife attending. During the visit my grandfather spent a lot of time with the man talking about his farming and various other interests.
My grandfather told him, "In Texas they only grow the watermelon seeds on one side of the watermelon." The man looked in astonishment at my grandfather and eventually asked how. My grandfather with a sheepish grin replied, "They grow them on the inside." The two laughed at the joke. My grandfather invited him to come to church the next night and left to visit another family.
To my grandfather's surprise the man came the next evening. The man was focused intently on what was being preached and as my grandfather finished his sermon the man shouted for his attention, "Minister, Minister do you know how to get water inside watermelons?" My grandfather saw the proud look on the man's face and said, "No". The man shouted, "You grow them in the spring."
The farmer's entire reason for attendance was to tell the joke to my grandfather. Something transpired in their conversations, a relationship was sparked, and humor brought it all together. Sometimes we get so caught up in our traditional ways of sharing God that we miss at the basis of every relationship is mutual respect and enjoyment for each other. Humor in this situation was what made all the difference.
Let's look closer at how humor ties us together and can open us up for further relationship. And does God have a sense of humor?
The Power of Humor
We can find humor in just about every aspect of life if we look. Obviously not every situation calls for it but many are eased when we allow humor to be present. Laughter not only puts us in a good mood but has tons of health benefits. This article "Stress Relief from Laughter" from the Mayo Clinic indicates laughter soothes tension, stimulates organs, improves immune system, relieves pain, and relaxes your stress response system. Overall it allows us to relax our defense mechanisms and be open and present to the world around us.
Another research study suggests that those who laugh together have stronger bonds. The study "How Laughter Brings Us Together" discusses how laughter is a social glue that connects others and helps share worldviews. Our quality of life improves when we are able to laugh because we ultimately are connecting with people.
If you are looking for more information about how humor increases positive relationships and leadership check out this tedx video by Paul Osincup. Trust me its entertaining, funny, and yet informative.
If you need a short clip to laugh about the funniness of relationships check out this 2 minute bit by Comedian Steve Rizzo.
Humor of God
Does God have a sense of humor?
If God created us as him/her self than ultimately humor is one of the characteristics of God. Rarely do we talk about the funny things life presents in church or from the pulpit. If laughter truly has these amazing health benefits listed above and helps us connect with each other shouldn't it be something we are more intentional about.
A spiritual life is about being filled with joy and what more joy can you get than laughter. Kids in particular have a keen sense of humor, contagious laughter, and the ability to find the funny in mundane things. Kids mask that quality God has created in them. Maybe we should look closer at our children and try to catch a glimpse of their humor.
Acquainting God with a sense of humor makes the divine more humane and approachable. It takes away the notion of a God far away and puts the spirit lovingly beside us laughing together. I like to envision Jesus with a sense of humor. He was able to relate to a number of people, bring them joy, and redefine the spiritual laws of the time. This type of person had to have charisma and bring humor into his work with others.
So I encourage you to use humor not only in your daily life but as you are reading the bible, praying, and doing the spiritual practices that fit your needs. I think you will begin to find the funniness all around us and ultimately the humor of God. You can also check out one of our past posts by Steve Hensley titled "The Similarities Between Comedy and Church."
If you want to learn more about the Community of Christ please contact us as we would love to talk with you.
This week pick out a joke online someplace to use with people you interact with.
In 2006 I spent the summer in Australia with World Service Corps. It was an amazing experience learning about another culture and being introduced into what it means to be present with others.
The 15 hour flight had us arrive first thing in the morning in Melbourne. Our hosts met my world service corp partner and I at the airport and let us know it was better for us to stay up as long as we could that day to help us adjust for the time difference.
Our schedule was busy orienting to our new place, learning and playing the sport footie, and attending a scripture study that night in a members home. By the time we got to the scripture study it was almost 7:00 at night. The people were excited to meet and entertain us for the evening. They welcomed us with much joy and made us feel right at home.
I have no idea what scripture we studied but half way through my eyes shut. Good night folks thats all there was! The back of my eyelids were just too hard to resist. Luckily I don't snore and hopefully I didn't drool. Someone eventually woke me up and I was welcomed to have dessert with them. No matter how tired you are, you can always eat dessert! They pulled out this amazing trifle which I scarfed down before traveling an hour back to our hosts home.
Thinking about this funny memory makes me laugh. Now obviously the people knew my circumstances but even if they didn't I don't think it would have mattered. The people were genuine, gracious and loving. Welcoming was part of their nature even if I hadn't acted in my best form. It was something they had chosen and strived to be well before I knew them.
There are so many ways to welcome others. Despite the method the meaning comes through. You openly offer what you have and who you are to others without reservation or condition. What can we do to show hospitality to others? What is the welcoming nature of God? Let's explore this further.
Hospitality and Hostmanship
Hospitality is the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. This definition indicates it is an action but I also think it is a mindset we can choose everyday if we wish. Hospitality is all about welcoming others with an overwhelming grace. We do not have to be perfect, or have everything in place. That's not what its about. We must remove all of our expectations and conditions. Its about understanding the needs of others and meeting them where they are at. If we can do this we will truly be hospitable and welcoming to others.
Jan Gunnarsson from Sweden talks about Hostmanship in his Tedxtalk "How To Make People Feel Welcome." He lists qualities of a welcoming mindset (openness, curiosity, non-judgment, humility, sensibility, respect, presence, and dialogue) which I really like and goes on to state it really starts with us as an individual. Its a call for us to be present in the moment. Not thinking about the next task, our own intentions, but merely listening to the person whose face we see in front of us. Enjoy the short Tedtalk!
The Welcoming Nature of God
Community of Christ believes God's divine self is best revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus' message and actions speak to the welcoming nature of God. Jesus loved those he came in contact with unconditionally. His radical love crossed cultural boundaries, gender stereotypes, and religious laws. Children were asked to come unto him as he welcomed their presence. Matthew 25:35 says "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in."
Jesus welcomed the stranger, the poor, the unholy, and the sinner into his life without hesitation. He saw the worth in them even when they themselves did not. Jesus engaged them with his presence, listened to their stories, and called them a child of God. You too are part of his fold no matter what has happened. Jesus understood God's love has no boundaries and it was through these acts that he was to teach us the true nature of God's love and welcoming spirit. We are called to find this characteristic in ourselves, in our time and place? It is through our self-reflection and choice in which we become more welcoming and present with others.
If Jesus was here today who would he welcome to teach us? Who is it in your life that you need to welcome? Taking the time to be welcoming allows us to take a breath and live in the moment. We open ourselves us to allowing God to work instead of always trying to get back to our own agenda. It takes us out of the equation and puts our focus on others and the moment we are in. We can allow welcoming to be apart of us if we let ourselves.
Let us each take the steps toward a welcoming mindset so that we can live the love of Jesus in our lives.
I appreciate the comments and positive statements on all of our social media posts. Keep them coming!
This week take a breath and give the next person you meet your undivided attention.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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