Monday, October 5, 2015

Dancing Lessons

Our Wedding Day Dance
Years ago for Christmas my daughters gave my husband and me dancing lessons. Four lessons at a professional dance studio. Four appointments with a private dance instructor to learn to the rumba, the waltz, and the cha-cha. We were a little stunned, but we decided to give it a whirl. What could we lose? Maybe it would be fun; certainly, the participation in the classes held a romantic aura. 
Each week we donned fancy clothes and went on our dancing date. Newly engaged we were in the midst of the I’m-learning-even-more-about-you-stage. Steve walked over to my house and out to his car, opened the car door for me (he still does, always). I scooted into the car with weak knees and butterflies. What was the root of these flutterings? Nervousness about dancing? Or because of the striking handsomeness of the man of mine? These dance dates proved to be awkward and challenging. Our self-consciousness raised to new levels. Certainly there was something incredibly romantic about those nights in that studio. Being held in his arms and looking up into his face seemed to be movie material—but we discovered (or admitted) that we both had two left feet.

When envisioning the lessons, I saw us gliding gracefully across the floor. Every movement choreographed together, synched. As close as we were and are I thought we would anticipate each other’s movements. I thought I would be able to follow his lead. What a picture we would make, I dreamed. 

This dream was far from the reality of the situation. We were awkward and disconnected. Stiff and tight. The rhythm of the dances didn’t come naturally to us. We were too busy counting and trying to remember the next set of steps. I’m not sure who was more uncomfortable? Steve or me? Our instructors were patient, tolerant. But their eyes spoke volumes: This couple is hopeless.  We knew it too, but at the end of our gift package, we decided to sign up for four more lessons, not because we thought we could dance. Not because we were determined to be great dancers. No. We signed up because we were learning something hard together—a built-in weekly date that forced us beyond our comfort zones and into trusting each other.
The waltz came the easiest, though far from elegant. We didn’t know how to guide our feet on the floor or how to keep our eyes pivoted away from our feet. We had no innate rhythm. The instructors kept encouraging us to raise our chins and look at each other. And for a few moments when we followed these instructions we danced. Briefly.

I’m sure the instructors felt a bit awkward themselves. Steve and I couldn’t dance, but we were in love. Written all over us was this “I’m crazy about him stare, and this I can’t look at her enough gleam.” And we did not bother to hide it.  If anything we reveled in it, and the instructors had front row seats. Thankfully, they often turned their heads and allowed us our private moments.
At the end of the second set of sessions, we discussed the option of investing in more lessons. We laughed and decided to invest our money elsewhere. We opted out of the sales pitch, and the somewhat insincere “but you are doing so well”. We knew better.

This week I thought about the value of those lessons. Those eight lessons solidified something in us that had nothing to do with dancing.
These lessons taught us to ask questions and evaluate. How would we interact and respond and react to the difficult and uncomfortable places in life?  What choices would we make when we just couldn’t get it right? How would we handle the reality that there would be situations when we both would have two left feet? What would we do when we couldn’t find the why or the how? What would we do when we stepped on each other’s toes or missed steps or moved in the wrong direction? These lessons helped set a precedent for what would we do, as a couple, with the challenges in life.

We still dance. At the weddings and chaperoning school dances and in our kitchen. We still have two left feet. We don’t remember any of the steps of choreography. But what we learned and still know is how to keep looking at each other. To lift our eyes away from our feet and look at each other, through love rather than perfection and expectation. In those dance classes, we learned that even with two left feet we danced well with each other. We met and meet challenges together. My hand in his, his hand on the small of my back, leading me even when I am moving backward. 
After we had married, long after the lessons were over, we were in Wal-mart. In the middle of the household department, Steve caught me up in his arms and pulled me close. We danced—swaying and laughing and gazing at each other. We didn’t care about steps or choreography or who was watching. We danced in and because of joy. Silly wonderful delight.

More often than not we dance through life with two left feet—a weakness and limitation that makes the tricky combinations quite difficult. But our Father knows our frames. He knows about our two left feet, our lack of rhythm, and our awkward lilt. But when we dance in spite of being uncomfortable and self-conscious, he is delighted. Laughs right with us.
Friends, dance. Lay down the self-conscious censoring. Put aside the unreasonable expectations. Give over the hobbling limitations. Seriously. Just put your hand in the Father’s, look into his face and dance. 


Monday, September 21, 2015


Mark 1:9

In the streets or the synagogue of Nazareth, the news of John’s message of repentance reached the ears of Jesus. The emergence of this voice in the wilderness was Jesus’ trumpet call—the shofar of the Lord—to enter the last season of his ministry and time among us. Yes, the last of his ministry.

Surely the gospel years were not Jesus’ only ministry. He ministered before. The three years recorded in the gospels were the fruition of the previous thirty years. Scripture tells us Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. In those years all the wonderful things we see in Jesus developed. The patience. The wisdom. The understanding. The discernment. The compassion. The insight. When he stepped into public ministry, by the avenue of association and baptism, then came the power and authority. Jesus allowed his Father to do his work in him.

But when Jesus got wind of John's voice he packed up his belongings (what little he had) and kissed his mama goodbye. We don’t know if Jesus traveled alone, or how far he traveled, or if he sent a message to his cousin that he was on his way. Regardless he left Nazareth. He left Galilee. Jesus leaves home, the place he grew into a man.

He left his places of routine, comfort, and familiarity.

Jesus came to John. He walked into the river water. John looked up and recognized Mary’s son. John knew the stories: this cousin caused him to leap in his mama’s womb. Once again John's spirit leaped. He knew this man, and he argued with him.

“Baptized me, John,” Jesus spoke with John’s gaze riveted to his.

“No, Jesus. It is you who should baptize me.” John confessed and dropped his head.

“John.” John looks up into the face of Jesus.

“Baptize me so that all righteousness is fulfilled,” Jesus explained.

John laid his cousin back, buried him in the dark waters of the river. Eddies swirled around and over them both. Jesus came up from that watery grave, his hair streaming, his beard pouring, his tunic plastered to his chest, and his eyes on fire.

John staggered backward in the wake, and just as he regained his balance he saw the anointing rest on Jesus, remaining. He felt Jesus’ squeeze on his shoulder and watched him as he walked back up the bank of the river. And the wind blew, whipped Jesus’ hair and billowed the sleeves of his tunic. John saw the water trail behind Jesus, dripping ripples in the water and John watched until the widening circles touched him. 

And these ripples, of Jesus fulfilling righteousness, have touched us.

If you are reading this post the ripple has reached you, the very ripple caused by Jesus.

Hebrews 1:3 and Colossians 1:15 declares to us that Jesus is the exact representation of God. He came to show us who God is. Jesus came that we would have a better understanding, a clearer vision of the Father.

God called us to the same ministry as his Son—a ministry of representation and reconciliation. We are called to help fulfill all righteousness. In Mark 1:8 John tells us John baptizes with water, but Jesus baptizes with the Spirit.

The Spirit descends on us, lights on us, and indwells us just as He did Jesus. We can argue like John, protest and hesitate, or we can be baptized (immersed in the Spirit) and enter the rippling ministry of the Good News.


We must be ready to leave home; we must be willing to leave our places of routine, comfort, and familiarity. We must decide to go down into the river. It is there we will be immersed and anointed by the Spirit. Only then we will be prepared and equipped to carry the good news up the bank, into the wilderness, and beyond.

Monday, September 14, 2015

We All Need I.P.A.

Mark 1: 9-11

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus came to be baptized by John. In approximately sixty words (NIV) something utterly new unfolds. As Jesus lifted up out of the water, Heaven tore open (Jesus' presence tears many things) and fresh revelation descended.

What did the voice of the Father say to his Son at that moment? 

1.    You are my Son. Identity. God the Father declared Jesus as the Son. His Son. Here’s who you are, Jesus.

2.    Whom I love. Position. God the Father proclaimed his love for his Son. This love gave Jesus a position that no one could take from him. It marked him with favor, with the relationship, and with a place. 

3.    With you I am well pleased. Affirmation. God the Father affirmed his satisfaction with Jesus. With pleasure, he affirmed Jesus.

Why are these three points important to us?

How are they relevant to us? We are not Jesus. No, we are not, but the same things offered to Jesus are available to us. If we accept these points, if we receive them, and if we embrace them, our lives will be radically different.

In the past two weeks, our grandsons have all had birthdays. We bought presents, had parties, and celebrated them. This third birthday is the first time Elijah and Judah were quite aware that it was their birthday.

Elijah sporting the blue icing on his fish birthday cake!
Tatem's 5th birthday. His geode cake!

Judah and his Aunt Wivvy monkey cake. Photo credit to Ashley Wellman.

When I pray for these little boys, I pray several Scriptures over them. This passage of Mark is one I added recently. I want these little boys to know three things as they grow and develop and become. And for them, or any of us, to know we must have the same three things God the Father gave to Jesus.


The boys are learning the connections of family relationships: who is aunt, cousin, uncle, grandfather, and grandmother. Quite often I tell these little boys they are my grandsons. To know this connection helps them to understand their identity. I am their grandmother (I am not the only one who tells them; their grandfathers and parents tell them too). As they learn their familial connections they develop their identity.

We are God’s children. Scripture tells us this repeatedly. We are the adopted children of God. Grafted into his family. We assumed his name. He is our Father. These truths should afford us our identity, not success, wealth, abilities, skills, appearances, or connections.


I tell the boys ALL the time I love them. I whisper in their ears I love you. I love you. I love you. All  of them. (Atlas just grins.) Right in their ears, as close as I can get. I do this every time we are together. I do this at random times. Their behavior, their performance, or their abilities do not determine the frequency or the intensity of this practice of mine. I declare my love for them because they are mine. My prayer is that my love coupled with their parents, other grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins will give them a sure position. When people know they are truly loved, not tolerated or indulged, but unconditionally loved their position in this life seems to be more stable and solid. The foundation is laid deep.

We are loved by God. Before the foundations of the world were in place, and even while we were far from him, he loved us. Because of this love he sent his Son to whisper this news in our ears over and over and over.  Scripture assures us that this is our position and  NOTHING can separate us from this love.


The other phrase my grandsons (and my daughters) often hear from me is that I am proud of them. Incredibly proud. In their accomplishments, developments, successes, and endeavors. But even more I am proud of who they are. I am well pleased with the growth of their character, with the sweetness of their spirits.

During this birthday time, all attention centered on these three little boys. That much attention is hard for even a grown-up to handle. But these boys swelled my Noni-heart. At Elijah’s birthday, he did not pass his birthday cards by uninterested. At three years old he opened them and looked at them and listened to his mama or daddy read them. He expressed the same gratitude for the cards as for the gifts. A close friend of the family commented on Elijah’s thoughtfulness. I beamed. His mama cried.

At Judah’s party, Elijah wanted to blow out the candle too (what child doesn’t want to blow out the candle?). Judah shared his candle and his seat with Elijah, and they took turns blowing out the candle. Judah had several helpers when he opened his gifts; there were no declarations of this is mine, nothing of the these are mine attitude.

I am well pleased with my grandsons, but what if they looked at me each time I said this, and they gave me excuses for why I shouldn’t be proud? What if each time I expressed my pleasure in them they attempted to negate this truth with negative things about themselves? I know the negative, I am not a blind grandmother. I have seen my grandsons not share. I have seen them angry because they did not get their way. I have seen them fight over a toy. But these times do not negate my pleasure in them.

God is pleased with us. And this point is the hardest to accept. This truth is hard to swallow down past the buts and exceptions. We do not believe God can be pleased with us. We know our secret sins, the condition of our hearts, and the state of our spirits. How can God be pleased with us? We don’t pray enough. Study enough. Read the Word enough. We are angry and resentful. We are jealous and envious. We are lustful and vengeful. We are ______________________. How can God be pleased with us?  THIS IS HOW:  God is pleased with us because of his Son. Grace affords us this place. Grace. When we shun God's affirmation of us, we deny grace.

Father, I thank you for your word—the relevancy of it for us today. It is not a worn-out, archaic book that no longer applies to the modern age. No, Father, your truth is timeless. You know people. You know us. You know what we need. And Father, we need to know who we are. We need to know we are loved. And we need to know that someone is proud of us, that someone is pleased with us. Father, these are essential needs. Your word tells us that you know what we need before we even ask. Father, I pray you would pour out these gifts, supply these needs for these sweet people today. Father, tell them who they are. Remind them they are loved. Assure them you are proud of them. And wherever there is a lack or unbelief, I pray for you to help. In the name of Jesus. Amen