Dance to the Beat of Your Fears

I used to harbor a deep fear that the Indians were going to scalp me.

That probably sounds ridiculous to anyone who didn’t grow up across the valley from Zane Caverns where war drums can be heard at various times of the year. Maybe it sounds ridiculous even if you did grow up within earshot of the caverns because maybe you didn’t have an older brother who was dead set on convincing you that the natives were coming for your scalp. (Brothers can be pretty doggone convincing.)

Even when I wised up and grew skeptical, arguing that if the Indians were coming they would take his scalp too, he responded with a statement so logical I lost the willpower to doubt him: “They won’t want my scalp because my hair is black like theirs. Yours is long and brown and beautiful. The Indians are going to want it.”

I take that as a compliment now, but at the time it served its intended purpose.

From that moment on, whenever the drums would start to pound in the distance, I would stick close to the house lest some Magua-lookalike would appear in my woods and come for me with bloody, outstretched hands. (This is why you don’t let small children watch The Last of the Mohicans. Cough, cough, Dad.)

And I remained confined by the boundaries of irrational fears.

Funny Fact about Fear: so much of it is, without question, irrational.

Our minds conjure up multiple scenarios and we fret and we worry and we dread all these things that never come to pass.

But they might, we think. They could.

And we confine ourselves to the same kind of boundaries I set for myself as a child.

Don’t leave the house. Stay away from the woods. They’re out there waiting, but you’re safe here. If you remain behind closed doors, they won’t find you.

As a child, I resented those festivals at the caverns. I resented them because I loved the woods. I loved climbing trees and splashing in the creek and painting tablets of slate with the juice of wild berries.

I resented the drums that played in the distance because they crafted fears that held me captive indoors when my little feet wanted to create a rhythm of my own, pounding down paths that had been carved by a thousand footsteps that had gone before.

But I was never brave enough to chance the woods when the Indians were on the warpath. I was never reckless enough to face my fears head-on.

Then I got a little older and discovered that the drums were a performance, the natives were friendly, and my scalp was never in any danger after all. And once I realized all of that, something strange happened…

I learned to love those drums.

And the same rhythm that once struck fear into my heart became music to my ears.

Some of us will spend our whole lives believing the natives are hostile. Some of us will never step outside the four walls of our homes because we’re afraid of what lurks in the woods.

But we are restless.

Though our fears may strap us down, the fact remains that, deep inside, We. Are. Restless.

And we want more than these safe little walls offer.

We want the world.

We want wide open skies and and an endless path before us, brimming with new things just waiting to be discovered.

Darling, you have two choices when those drums start pounding in the distance: you can hide, or you can dance.

I hope you dance in complete abandon, twirling to the beat of your fears.

the beat of your fears

Relearning the Song

My dad grew up pretty close to the tracks. To this day, he doesn’t register the sound of a train whistle.

There are sounds we can tune out. Sounds to which we can grow deaf. We do this mostly to protect ourselves. Rather than allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by constant background noises, we simply choose what we want to hear.

But what happens when we stop hearing altogether? What happens when we accidentally start tuning out the important things in life?

I fell in love with Jesus through the analogy of dance (Thank you, Shannon Kubiak).

Jesus and I have “a song.” That song has been the background music of my entire life—always present and always beckoning me to join the dance of a lifetime. Sometimes I can close my eyes, hear that song, and imagine myself twirling in Jesus’ arms. But other times, I stop hearing the song altogether. Because, like everything else in my life, I’ve become accustomed to tuning it out.

I’ve grown so used to doing my own thing. I’ve allowed myself to become distracted by all the other noises vying for my attention, and I’ve forgotten the one song that truly matters. It has been lost somewhere amidst the many background noises in my life.

But guess what?

My dad can hear a train if he chooses. If the sound is observed by someone else, he will often stop to listen. And you’ll see it register in his eyes when that train whistle blows.

That gives me hope.

Because if my dad can hear a sound he has been blocking out all his life in the name of a good night’s sleep, then surely I can recapture the melody that has eluded me in recent days.

Oh yes, when I just close my eyes, take a deep breath, and really listen, I can hear the soft refrains echoing through the caverns of my soul.

And I find that my feet cannot help but dance.

sitting on train tracks

New Life

“I could go running, and racing, and dancing, and chasing, and leaping, and bounding, hair flying, heart pounding, and splashing, and reeling, and finally feeling – now’s when my life begins!”

That song from Disney’s Tangled came to my mind as I danced down the road the other night. Yes, you read that right – danced. What started out as a brisk walk on a perfect autumn evening turned into a wonder-struck worship-fest complete with singing and twirling and running and giggling… There was even a cartwheel or two thrown in there.

Anyone who may have been looking out their window at the moment probably thought I was completely insane – and maybe they’re right – but I honestly didn’t care who might be watching. When Jesus gets a hold of your heart like that, nothing else matters.

When Jesus came and walked the earth, He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) As I danced down the road the other night, all the chaos from earlier that day fell away and I felt myself being infused with new life.

It’s amazing how easily we fall into the mundane routine of life. Incredible how easy it is to forget that we were meant for so much more than sitting in a tower like Rapunzel did for most of her life.

Then Jesus shows up again, inviting us to dance with reckless abandon. And “for like the first time ever I’m completely free… feeling now’s when my life begins.”

A Lively Tune

“A lively tune. I’m inspired to dance.”

That quote from The Three Musketeers has always, well, inspired me, but never more so than when my mom used it as a closing in a letter to her somewhat dejected daughter. Today I just want to leave you with the same words my mother left me:

May you always be the first to hear a lively tune and be inspired to dance.

Remembering the Story

Since my trip to India embarks in two weeks, I spent this last week completing my assignment of preparing my personal story. It’s simple, really, to dig back into the past and remember what God has done for me. How He stepped down from the heavens and made Himself incredibly, breathtakingly real in my eyes. I realized last night that I should do this more often, for it never fails to fill me with wonder.

I don’t have a dark, ugly past that haunts me. I was born and raised in a Christian home by parents who have done a marvelous job in teaching me what unconditional love is, and more importantly, Who unconditional love is. But while I knew all sorts of things about Jesus, I never really knew Him. I knew the Sunday School answers like I knew the answers on my history tests. Although I had given my heart to Jesus when I was a small child, I didn’t fully grasp the idea of what a relationship with Him should look like.

Then, in God’s providence, I opened a book and read the words: “In a busy, noisy world, a little girl walks onto a dark stage and begins to perform.” As her story unfolded before my eyes, I found that it was my own. And when God showed up and invited that little girl to dance with Him, I found myself accepting the invitation.

In that moment, God became so real and alive and vibrant to me. Since that day, I’ve found myself captivated by the thrill of God’s Divine Dance. There’s such a joyous freedom in knowing that I don’t have to perform or pretend any longer. God accepts me just as I am. He loves me in spite of my flaws.

God has given me a story that is completely my own, but so closely resembles what He wants to do for every other person on the planet. If your story hasn’t yet been written, check out the invitation God offers you today. And if you know exactly what story I’m talking about, I invite you to once again lose yourself in the wonder of what God has done for you.

The Language of Common History

The other day, I wanted to write my brother about something that’s happening in his life. Instead of inboxing him, I wrote directly on his facebook wall, knowing that no one but he would be able to discern the meaning of the statement. Since my words could only be deciphered by a long history of inside jokes, I wasn’t too surprised when another friend commented on the post to ask what on earth I was talking about.

A common history creates a language all  its own. You can speak without words or with words that make no sense to third-party observers. Similarly to the secret “love language” I share with my brother, I find that I communicate with God in a way that only He and I understand. Just like I wanted to write my brother and let him know I was thinking about him, I’m often amazed by the simple ways God weaves His love notes into my life.

My friend Emily got me one of those Willow Tree figurines for my birthday. You know, those faceless statues that you can find in quaint little gift shops across America.

“She reminded me of you,” Emily said, “Because she has brown hair, bare feet, and she’s a dancer.”

Normally, I’m not all that impressed by these figurines, but this one was different. I felt as if I had seen that image somewhere before (and it wasn’t in the quaint little gift shops).

Ever since I read Shannon Kubiak Primicerio’s The Divine Dance, I’ve been enthralled by a dancing God. It’s the language God and I speak to each other. Still, I’ve always envisioned Jesus as a Carpenter. I think of the way He molds and shapes us into the image He envisioned us to be from the beginning. And I felt as if that image had just been placed in my hands, a permanent reminder of the person God is continually shaping me to be.

Though not even Emily understands the significance of her gift, that dancer figurine sits on my bookshelf and, with a language understood by none but God and I, beckons me into the greatest dance of all time.

Lord of the Dance

It all started when I read Shannon Kubiak’s The Divine Dance. This picture of dancing hand-in-hand with Jesus quickly worked its way into my heart, and my relationship with the Maker has never been the same.

Two years ago, I discovered “our song”. The first time I danced to the tune of Lord of the Dance, a picture formed in my mind. In the opening notes, I hear God calling me. As the tempo picks up, it’s like I’m coming alive. And before I know it, I’m spinning wildly in circles, giggling with delight. By the end of the dance, I’m completely out of breath and totally in awe of the greatness of my God.

The amazing thing is, when that song starts playing, I almost literally cannot keep from dancing. Last night, I was immersed in a project that required all of my focus. I had my iTunes playing in the background, but I hardly even heard it. That is… until our song came on.

My head jerked up, and my pencil fell from my hand. A smile crept across my face as I realized He was calling me. So I stepped into the empty kitchen and began to dance. With my heart racing and head spinning, I was caught in the glorious thrill of twirling in my Savior’s arms. When the music finally stopped, I fell back against the counter panting for breath. It was one of the most amazing moments I’ve had in far too long a time.

Jesus is real. Jesus is intimate. Jesus is extending His hand, inviting you into the dance of a lifetime. So what are you waiting for? Can’t you hear the song that plays in the deepest depths of your soul? I pray you won’t be able to deny His call… Arise, beloved, and dance.

A God Who Loves

Christianity is the only religion that is centered around a God who loves. Maybe the thought that a God who created the heavens and the earth and everything in it is too much for people to handle. I’ll admit that it can be pretty mind-boggling at times, but I’ve learned to accept it. I figure that if God loves me as much as the Bible says He does,  He probably wants me to accept His love. How would you feel if someone never accepted the love you extended to them?

Before I ever learned to dance with Jesus, I witnessed another person’s dance with Him. Some friends of my family (a married couple portraying Jesus and His bride) were going to dance for their church, and I was able to watch them practice. I guess my heart has always secretly longed for this dancing relationship with God because I was enraptured by the beauty and romance of this dance. In the end, they were asked to re-choreograph their dance because it was “too intimate” to be performed in church. Too intimate? Jesus is very intimate. Ephesians 5 talks about how marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. Could God explain Himself as being any more intimate? Traces of His romantic love are scattered throughout the Scripture. It could take me all day to pull out every reference regarding God’s immensely intimate love for us, but I’ll leave you with this one thought from Hosea 2:19-20:

I will betroth you to Me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.

Those are God’s words – His promise to us. Maybe that promise doesn’t capture your heart like it does mine.  Maybe you aren’t moved by verse 15 where God says we will call Him “my husband.” And maybe your heart won’t leap when you browse down to verse 23 where God says He will show love to the one He called “Not my loved one.” Maybe your heart isn’t stirred by the fact that God has called you “His people,” but I know that mine sure is. And sometimes it makes me feel like dancing.

Once Upon a Dream

Flashback into a Disney scene in Sleeping Beauty: It’s a typical fairytale set-up including the woodland creatures skittering about the beautiful forest. Lost in a world that is entirely her own, our fairytale heroine reflects on a dream she had recently experienced. And since this is a Disney film, of course it came out in the form of a song.

I know you
I walked with you once upon a dream
I know you
The gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam
Yes, I know it’s true
that visions are seldom all they seem
But if I know you, I know what you’ll do
You’ll love me at once
the way you did once upon a dream

As she’s vocalizing and dancing about to the memory of a dream, her song is suddenly joined by a masculine voice, strong arms wrapping around her waist as her Prince materializes before her eyes. She melts into his embrace and they dance as one, both enraptured by the same dream. It’s so charming, so romantic, so… perfect. This is one of those scenes that elicits the statement: “Walt Disney gave me unrealistic expectations of men.”

Now, I’m pretty sure Walt Disney didn’t set out to crush the hopes of young women everywhere. I know he was an advocate of dreaming big, but I don’t think his intention was to set us up for disappointment. I think it’s our own skewed perspectives that are breaking our hearts. Fairytales weren’t meant to be realistic. I mean, come on, Sleeping Beauty, fairies, magic spells… When’s the last time you pricked your finger on a spindle and fell asleep for a hundred years? And would you really want to watch the movie if Prince Charming had simply walked up to her in that moment and said, “Hey, you’re kind of cute. Want to go out?” Whoo. Exciting.

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute. We’ve taken fairytales to a level they were never meant to achieve. Stop blaming Disney for your heartaches, leave Prince Charming in your dreams, and live as if you believed your life was meant for something far greater.