I’m a terrible dancer!
In college, the school that I attended figured dancing constituted a sin. Or, almost. By moving your body around in ways that looked like Elvis Presley on steroids, you would tend to stimulate gender-specific hormones. Allowing such hormones to work would certainly lead to mortal sin. So, the institutional policy said, “No dancing on campus!” What it meant was that, “As far as our supervision extends, no one will participate in dancing under anything that resembles our authority, or our responsibility for keeping college-kids’ hormones reasonably suppressed.”
As a result, campus leaders (students) took it upon themselves to rent a near-by dance hall, get the word out, and hold off-campus dances. No doubt, it constituted a symbolic thumbing of noses to those who must have known all about sinful hormones. Maybe from experience? Who knows?
In spite of never even having thought about dancing, rebellious inspiration took hold of me. My buddies and I seldom missed an opportunity to attend those weekly dances, to thumb our noses at higher authority. Even when exams lurked right around the weekend corner.
Back then, several song-writers immortalized new dance moves. Maybe ten years earlier, Chubby Checker introduced “The Twist”. Maybe, one of the most hormone inducing songs ever written or sung. It became a highway to Hades. Not sure that anyone ever got there that way. But it must have been a slippery slope, had anyone ever begun to slide. Perhaps a few drew inappropriate inspiration from those dances. But time has a way of changing perspectives on the concept of slippery slopes. Seems there are many other slippery slopes that one could take, if they allowed their passions to matriculate inappropriately.
I learned an important lesson from those days. I learned that I couldn’t dance.
In spite of those lurking hormones, I probably spent more time on the edge of the dance floor than in the middle. The problem was that, in order to dance, I needed to ask some other person to dance with me. I wasn’t in to asking other guys. But asking a girl meant extending myself a little, risking a “No!”, or “Are you kidding me?” type of response. For me, girls still seemed somewhat unapproachable. Obviously, they came from a different planet. And, like a lot of other guys, it seemed easier to pretend our bigger enjoyment from just watching.
Well, I didn’t really know at the time, that I couldn’t dance. When I finally summoned the courage to ask another sideline watcher, I threw my hips, my arms, and my back around like nobody else! Well, not quite true. Pretty much like everybody else. Nobody else knew how to dance, either. We all just made it up on the fly. Didn’t see anyone laughing. At me. Or, at anyone else. When nobody knows how to dance, and everybody in that group does it, it’s not funny. It’s serious.
Must have also been ridiculous!
I think I looked much like a scarecrow jerked around by some invisible puppet strings. But, forget those hormones. The music that we listened to also constituted an entrée to a slippery slope. We tested those slippery slopes, perhaps more than we should have. Probably never would have gone to a dance, had they been held on campus and approved by administration. But somehow, rebelliousness ingrained itself into a lot of us. So, we showed ‘em!
Do you remember the movie, “Footloose”? Yeah, that was us. I was one of those on the sidelines, when every once in a while, someone who really knew how to dance, took center stage. Yeah, that was me standing on the sideline, pretending to enjoy the watching, but eventually asking a fellow sideliner (female) to dance.
* * * * *
Over the past few years, I’ve drawn inspiration from a song that keeps singing in my head. If you have the chance to Google it, you can probably play it from the internet. It’s called,
“I Hope You Dance!”
Consider the lyrics.
“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger.
May you never take one single breath for granted.
God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed.
“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens.
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance.
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance! I hope you dance!”
I don’t think my parents ever thought twice about my dancing. In fact, much like the song writer whose lyrics you just read, they encouraged me to take appropriate chances. I couldn’t be more thankful for the way my parents encouraged me. I probably scared the hell out of them from time to time. Or made them swallow hard, wondering what kind of crazy venture I would next embark upon. And though they never said so explicitly, I always knew their silent admonition that, when I got the choice to sit it out or dance, that I would dance!
* * * * *
Confession: I can’t sing, either.
It’s Easter afternoon, as I write these thoughts. But this morning, I sang, in a chorus of others, some who sang very well, others whose song made me thankful I wasn’t sitting next to them. With the latter, I would have competed. Made them sound like angels.
“Christ the Lord is risen to day, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens and earth reply, Alleluia!”
I realize that Singing and Sinning is only one “g” away from each other. Song and dance could easily put a person onto a slippery slope. I wonder, however, if seemingly slippery slopes ever lead to good things?
After Christ reversed death, he told his disciples to wait and “stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 28:49) Later, Luke wrote (Acts 1:8), “. . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth.”
I have to wonder if the gift of the Holy Spirit might be something like the chance to dance? I also wonder if we should still be waiting. Have any of us already been inspired by the Holy Spirit? Standing on the sidelines of our life’s dance floor, have we ever received the temptation (or invitation) to extend ourselves? To perhaps do something as outrageous as “going out into all the world” and sharing discipleship? Would this cause our parents to wonder about us, if we were younger? Something outrageous? Something risky, like asking a girl to dance?
“Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance.
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,
I hope you dance! I hope you dance!”
I wonder if the thought of a slippery slope might sometimes mask opportunistic hope. Perhaps hope is only a letter or two removed from an inappropriate slope.
* * * * *
What’s in a chance? Is a chance simply a risk of failure? Or, could a chance be an opportunity to dance?
As many of you know, opportunities in Tanzania stimulated a bit of a passion in me. About two years ago, I considered taking a chance. I considered challenging others, both in Colorado and in Arusha, to take chances worth taking.
I hope to return to Tanzania later this summer. Since I first went and returned, I’ve partnered with two individuals in entrepreneurial ventures to enable them to achieve higher levels of self-sufficiency. I continue working with multiple individuals over the internet (e-mail) to try to bring their entrepreneurship ambitions to fruition through building credible business plans that individuals here in the United States might find interesting enough to help fund and mentor. But other opportunities rest right around the corner. These could constitute dances in which fellow US based Christians could participate.
Not everyone gets the chance to dance. Others, much like my younger self, feel more comfortable standing on the side of the dance floor, pretending to enjoy watching others dance. And yet others will tell me, they simply have not yet felt the Spirit inviting them to go out into the world, onto the larger dance floor.
I understand all these thoughts. I understand risks. I certainly understand actually venturing onto the dance floor without really knowing how to dance. And, looking ridiculous!
Been there! Done it!
But for anyone who might consider dancing with a partner from Tanzania, consider any of the following;
- Invest in the hopes and dreams of an entrepreneur. Mentor that person and hold him/her
accountable for attaining a higher level of self-sufficiency. I can help enable this dance. Potential pending entrepreneurship
- Enabling one or more individuals to begin his/her own safari tour company,
- Enabling one or more individuals to begin his/her own greenhouse or irrigation farming enterprise,
- Enabling a young mother of 3 to begin her own airport and local shuttle service,
- Mentoring an entrepreneurship consultant into a higher level of service to the entrepreneurship community,
- Enabling at least one individual to leverage his eco wildlife & marine based cultural tourism company to a higher level of success (off Mafia Island, in the Indian Ocean),
- Enabling a group of women to start their poultry and female entrepreneurship empowerment venture,
- Enabling one or more young farmers and/or livestock growers into a higher level of production and sales,
- Help propel a degreed engineer to expand his already successful generator sales and service business into a higher level of project development, including the possibility of utilizing heavy equipment to participate in infrastructure development projects.
- Contribute to writing a novel about a person’s life in Tanzania. When I next go, I want to write the All-American, I mean, All-African, novel. I want to draw from real-life experiences of individuals whose lives began and developed in that country. If one or more individuals (especially a Tanzanian) might detect a calling to contribute to this ambition, I can help enable this dance.
- Take a trip to Tanzania. This summer! I hope to visit from early August to late October. I will be there to help facilitate a life-altering experience for one or more Americans and fellow Tz peers, if this could be arranged. Rockland, as a church, will not sponsor a trip this year. So for Rockland congregants, this could be a different kind of chance to dance. Christians from other churches could participate, also. In fact, if there emerges enough interest, several people from Tanzania have already expressed strong interest in arranging activities for visitors that would culturally enlighten participants and significantly influence intercontinental friendship and co-discipleship. As per the business plan described on the website called, www.TalentTrippers.com, it would be designed to partner each individual from one continent with a peer from a different continent. Talking about going out into all the world, this would be hard to mistake for anything else.
- Sponsor a trip to Colorado. This past year, I sponsored Lota’s visit to Colorado. This became an adventure that neither of us will ever forget. If you’re not quite up to traveling around the world to disciple, perhaps you might take an interest in hosting someone from Tanzania whose opportunity to visit the United States might never otherwise be able to take flight. Invite a dance with someone else, also standing on the sidelines of the dance floor. Actually, if anyone would care to do this, I might challenge U.S. friends to arrange for culturally significant activities, just like Tanzanians would do for us if we visit them.
- Help Enable a New Medical Rotation Program. A group of doctors recently expressed interest in beginning their own program of sending medically trained individuals to Tanzania on a year-round rotation program. I have begun to facilitate conceptual planning and negotiation with this group of local doctors through the exchange of e-mails with decision-makers associated with the Lutheran Church in Tanzania. We don’t yet know where this dreaming or planning will take us. But I envision not simply a donation of medical talent. I envision an exchange of talents whereby medically trained individuals from the US exchange their skills for value returned to them in the form of hospitality, friendship, and a “pay-it-forward” promise of Christian assistance to someone else. I also envision concepts contained in the above referenced business plan described on www.TalentTrippers.com. Each participant from the US would therefore, not simply contribute medical skills, but would also involve himself or herself in the participation and exchange of experiential cultural activity. Although exploratory in nature at this point, I suspect that you, as a reader (from either continent), might imagine your participation or assistance in establishing this kind of program.
There is a refrain sung in the background to “I Hope You Dance!” that goes like this;
“Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along.
Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone.”
The song continues;
“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance.
Never settle for the path of least resistance. . . .
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance.
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance! . . . .”
Christ not only turned death back into life; He also ascended as a Spirit back into heaven.
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to dance with Jesus, with His Spirit? Need it be a waltz? Could it be a jitterbug? Maybe a polka? Maybe just a good old-fashioned square dance. Or, maybe you just make it up on the fly! Or, would any of us prefer to enjoy watching?
One thing I can say for certain. He gave me talents to use. He gave me the opportunity to invest them on behalf of something good. Don’t know if anything good will ever come of them. But just like braving that question to the other sideline gal just waiting for the invitation to dance, if I never risk the question, I’ll likely never get a positive answer.
I wonder how many of us decline the opportunity to ask.
When He said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me” I wonder if He just told us how to dance with His Spirit? Hugging the wind? Or, arm-wrapping a fellow Christian in mutual discipleship and sharing?
Changing a seemingly slippery slope into opportunistic hope? Turning love into an activity might even cause you joy.
Has He asked you?
Have you asked?
Or, are you simply a bad dancer? Just like me?
Scarecrow flapping or not, chances are good, no one will laugh.