Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dancing The Soul Salsa

I grew up in a home that did not dance. Just the mere mention of the word was anathema. My mother called it foot fellowship. She taught us that dancing was the root of all evil and was the portal through which every other vice imaginable entered. “Don’t ever dance,” she said. “All of that closeness leads a boy and a girl to other wicked things like smoking and drinking beer.” We didn’t dance.

At the end of the school year when the area high school held the annual prom our tiny little church would plan a “prom alternative,” a miserable little affair when all 3 of the teens who went to my church would meet in the basement of the Sunday School area to celebrate the fact that we did not dance. There would be balloons, crepe paper tablecloths, and cardboard stars thumbtacked into the ceiling. A half-dozen matronly, old women would hover around us as we sat at the table, filling our plates with sweet potato casserole and baked ham. We tried to look excited about what was going on, and to ignore the 5th graders that had been invited to make the room more full. We would listen to records of Gene Cotton and Andrae Crouch (the contemporary Christian musicians of that day) and at the end of the evening the preacher (usually my dad) would bring an inspiring devotional message about how much better off we were because we did not dance.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered one day that the Word of God is laced with invitations to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is a time to dance. Psalm 30:11 says, “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.” And in II Samuel David danced before the Lord “with all of his might.” The most amazing dance note is in John 10:10. It is a very familiar verse where Jesus says, “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” The Greek word for fullness is orkaomi. It is the root word that gives us rejoice or dance. Jesus was saying “My purpose is to teach you to dance.”

I love John Ortberg. In his book The Life You Always Wanted  he says, “We will not understand God until we understand this about Him: ‘God is the happiest Being in the universe.’ God also knows sorrow. Jesus is remembered, among other things, as a ‘man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’ But the sorrow of God, like the anger of God, is His temporary response to a fallen world. That sorrow will be banished forever from His heart on the day the world is set right. Joy is His eternal destiny. God is the happiest being in the universe.”

You see, life is Christ is to be ­enjoyed not endured.
Life is Christ is a party not a pity.
Life in Christ is a dance not a drudgery.

Now I don’t know how to dance but if I did, I would dance the salsa. I got the idea from Leonard Sweet.He says of the salsa, "it is fire and ice, precision and passion, delicate beauty and dominating athleticism all at the same time. The salsa comes from the Caribbean where it finds its African roots and its Spanish rhythm. It embraces the majesty of the royal court and the grit of the street. It has strains in Harlem in New York and in Mexico City. In short, the salsa is the dance of the whole world." And the soul salsa, well that’s the dance of the universe.

I am in a season of my life where dancing the salsa doesn’t seem to be very likely. For one thing my knees are creaky and my back is out of wack. When I stand up it takes me a minute to get my balance and to get my joints all moving in the right direction. Let’s face it the salsa is a young man’s dance with zest and zeal that we old folks gave up a long time ago. But that’s not what makes the salsa, or dancing in general, hard. Right now it’s hard to dance because life is happening. There is sickness to contend with, the economy is tight, I’m a little worried about the state of the nation, and the check engine light has come on in my car. Stuff just builds up all around me and I forget to dance.

In fact, I am coming to believe that this is the time when dancing is most important. Dancing, spiritual dancing, rejoicing in Jesus, enjoying the Spirit, soul salsa dancing brings life back into the heart of those of us who have been beaten down. The ability to dance is fights back the fears and frustrations of the foe and defeats the difficulties and destruction of the devil. Dancing is not only allowed us who call ourselves Christ followers, it is mandatory. While it is not exactly a dancing verse I am thinking of the prophet Joel quoted in Acts 2:17, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.” That sounds to me like somebody is going to bust a move. Dancing is getting ready to break out.

So, the next time you find yourself in the basement of life, eating sweet potato casserole and baked ham, the next time your problems are telling you that you can’t dance, forget that. You crank up some Gene Cotton, hang out a few stars, and salsa your way into the life that God has designed for you.


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