To dance with God

 

For this fourth and final post on the theme of DANCE I’ve found a story that overlaps with my chosen theme for December: CHILD.

The story is taken from the opening chapter of Gertrud Mueller Nelson‘s book, To Dance with God (1986).

Some years ago, I spent an afternoon caught up in a piece of sewing I was doing. The waste basket near my sewing machine was filled with scraps of fabric cut away from my project. This basket of discards was a fascination to my daughter Annika, who, at the time, was not yet four years old. She rooted through the scraps searching out the long bright strips, collected them to herself, and went off. When I took a moment to check on her, I tracked her whereabouts to the back garden where I found her sitting in the grass with a long pole. She was affixing the scraps to the top of the pole with great sticky wads of tape. “I’m making a banner for a procession,” she said. “I need a procession so that God will come down and dance with us.” With that she solemnly lifted her banner to flutter in the wind and slowly began to dance.

My three year old was not a particularly precocious toddler. I think, rather, that she was doing what three year olds do when left to their natural and intuitive religious sense and I was simply fortunate to hear and see what she was about. Mothers are often anthropologists of sorts and their children the exotic primitives that also happen to be under foot. This little primitive allowed me to witness a holy moment and I learned all over again how strong and real is that sense of wonder that children have – how innate and easy their way with the sacred. Here, religion was child’s play. And of course I had to wonder what happens in our development that as adults we became a serious folk, uneasy in our relationship with God, out of touch with the mysteries we knew in childhood, restless, empty, searching to regain a sense of awe and a way to “dance with God.”

 


Call to worship

The people of God were made for worship:
To sing and to praise, to laugh and to dance.
The people of God were made for God’s presence:
For pleasure and praise, for joy and for song.
Come, holy people, God’s chosen disciples:
Gather for worship, come from all places!
We have come to God’s temple, gathered together,
We have come to praise God and enjoy him forever.

~ from jesusscribbles
 

With you I can leap


‘Tree art’, Rotterdam  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 

A prayer

I cannot dance, O Lord, unless you lead me. If it is your will, I can leap for joy. But you must show me how to dance and sing by dancing and singing yourself! With you I can leap towards love, and from love I will leap to truth, and from truth I will leap to joy, and then I shall leap beyond all human senses. There I will remain and dance for evermore.

~ by Mechtild of Magdeburg (1210-1280)
from 2000 Years of Prayer compiled by Michael Counsell, p. 123
 


 
Mechtild of Magdeburg wrote this prayer while she served in the Béguinage at Magdeburg in Germany, as part of a community of lay women who combined a life of corporate prayer with service in the wider community.

One of the churches in our Presbytery, the English Reformed Church in Amsterdam, is located on the site of a Béguinage established in Amsterdam in the 14th century.

Although no Béguines live in the Begijnhof today (according the wikipedia the last Béguine died in 1971 at the age of 84), still the courtyard offers a place of retreat in the midst of a busy city. Somehow it’s hard to imagine the Béguines of old leaping and dancing there, but why not?
 


 
From the blog
Wilderness woes
Come rest
2017: Advent Joy #1
 

First steps


Poster for a Corona-proof cultural route through the heart of Rotterdam
 

“Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.” (Exodus 15:20)

britannica.com describes dance as

the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself.

There is some overlap between dance and prayer, as our bodies help us express our love for God, our delight in knowing Him and our emotional and bodily needs.

Exodus 15 records the use of dance as a community response to God’s saving acts on Israel’s behalf. But there’s no reason why we can’t use “dance” in our personal prayer time too, to enrich it.

Here are some ideas:

  • Adopt the embodied version of St Patrick’s breastplate. A friend of mine was keen to learn it – not just for the spiritual benefits, but also to exercise her weakened left arm. And when I visit her now, we make a point to pray this prayer together before I leave.
  • Dance prayerfully to a favourite hymn or spiritual song.
  • Interpret a passage of Scripture as a series of steps and gestures, to make the words come alive in a fresh way for you.

 
RECOMMENDED
Dance Is Like Thought: Helen Keller Visits Martha Graham’s Studio (including a video)
 

Lord of the dance


… and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  (Isaiah 55:12)

A litany

In the beginning ……
The dance began to swirl and ponder.
In the beginning, all was dark.
And the dance cast forth bright light.
In the beginning, the earth burst forth with wondrous things,
creatures of all sorts, mountains and hills,
vast seas and rivers, valleys and desert areas.
And the Lord of the Dance saw that it was good
and blessed it all.

In our beginning, God blessed us.
And the dance went on,
through our lives, into all that we have done.

Sometimes the dance was slow and plodding;
at other times it was sprightly and fast.
Yet in the midst of it all,
the Lord of the Dance is with us.

This dance, called Life, is everywhere —
in the light and in the dark.
It is in places of hope and in places of deepest sorrow and tragedy.

How shall we dance our dance for God?
We shall live lives of hope and peace,
bringing the good news of Jesus Christ
and all that he taught to us,
so that others may join the dance.
Praise be to the Lord of the Dance,
the Lord of Creation, the Lord of Life!
Amen.

 
~ written by Nancy C. Townley, and posted on the Ministry Matters website. http://www.ministrymatters.com/
 


 
From the blog
On Writing Prayer-Poems
Call of the wild ones
Consolation joy
 

More food for thought

 

According to euronews.com, there are multiple benefits to eating locally and in season. For example:

  • reducing our carbon foot print
  • protecting local land and wildlife from mass-scale agriculture
  • minimizing our exposure to preservatives
  • reconnecting our body with nature’s cycles
  • enjoying nutrient dense food

 

Another benefit is that we get to share in the joy of harvest on a regular basis.


From the blog
Food for thought
Environmentally water-wise
From parched to satisfied
 

The fruit of lips


A GDR family savours a banana  (Artwork ** by Irene Bom)

 

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

 


A prayer

Blessing and honour, thanksgiving and praise
more than we can utter,
more than we can conceive,
be unto Thee, O holy and glorious Trinity,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
by all angels, all men, all creatures,
for ever and ever.

 
by Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)
from The Open Gate by David Adam, p.48
 

A more contemporary/inclusive version of this prayer:

Blessing and honour and thanksgiving and praise
more than we can utter, more than we can conceive,
be to you, most holy and glorious Trinity,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
from all angels, and all people, all creatures
for ever and ever.

from churchofengland.org
 


 
** The photographs used for this collage come from a National Geographic article on the fall of the Berlin Wall. The collage (together with the quote that inspired it) is from a 100-day project on Instagram channel irene.bom, beginning in April 2020.
 

Seed


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 
Reflecting on Jesus’ parable of the sower, Uli Chi writes:

… there are two kinds of uses for seeds.

One use is to make something that can be appreciated and enjoyed for its own sake – for example, grains of wheat ground into flour to make bread. We regularly (and rightly) give thanks for that kind of seed.

But there is another, darker purpose for seeds, one which Jesus focuses on in this parable. That darker work finds its fulfillment not through the seed’s life but through its death.

As Jesus himself says, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

[from depree.org]

 


Opening Prayer

(based on Matthew 13:1-9)

O God,
We gather together in Your presence with expectation,
hungry for an encounter with You,
eager to hear Your Word.

Open our eyes and ears to the presence of Your Holy Spirit.
May the seeds of Your Word scattered among us this morning
      fall on fertile soil.
May they take root in our hearts and lives,
      and produce an abundant harvest
      of good words and deeds.

We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ,
our teacher and our Lord.
Amen.

~ by Christine Longhurst, posted on re:Worship
 


 
From the blog
Who do you work for?
Hot-hearted in serving thee
Theme: Called into community  [prayer sheet]
 

All good gifts


 

“As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”

 


A litany

All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above,
so we lift our hearts up to you, God,
in praise and thanksgiving.

As we count our blessings, and acknowledge your goodness,
our hearts go out to those who do not have,
and who are in need.

We thank you for plentiful harvests and full refrigerators
and ask that you supply the needs of those who are hungry.

We thank you for jobs that provide for our families
and supply the needs of our society,
and pray that you would care for those who have no work,
or the dignity and purpose it brings.

We thank you for opportunities and choices,
for meaning and challenges,
and pray that you would give a sense of purpose
to those who feel trapped.

We thank you for family and friends who love us and care for us
and pray that you would befriend those who are alone.

The abundance of the harvest
is a symbol of the abundance of your love in our lives.
May we live in a spirit of gratitude to you
and generosity to our neighbour.

Loving God, in this season and all year long,
give to us the gift of a thankful heart,
so that we may acknowledge you as the giver
of all that is good in our lives.

In the name of Jesus we ask it.
Amen.

 
~ from the Presbyterian Church in Canada website,
posted on re:worship in 2012.
 


From the blog
The work of our hands
mud mud mud
The Gift #7 : Traces
 

Open the door, open the window

 

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

 
~ Jesus,  from Revelation 3:20
 


A prayer

O God, You who are always doing a new thing, we confess that we sometimes close windows against the fresh air of new ideas, against the noise of other people’s worries, against the winds of change. God of every place and time, we confess that we often draw the curtains against people who are different, against world news or community concerns. Forgive us our insulation in our locked homes, our shuttered churches, the security systems on our hearts. Open up our lives, and let your Spirit blow through. Amen.

 
~ written by Rev Teri, posted on revgalprayerpals.blogspot.com
 


 
From the blog
Treasure for our times
How good, how pleasant
Embrace the cities and towns
 

Crossing the threshold


Stolpersteine – in memory of a Jewish family who used to live here
 

Meditation

Many times today I will cross over a threshold.
I hope I will catch a few of those times.
I need to remember that my life is, in fact,
a continuous series of thresholds:
from one moment to the next,
from one thought to the next,
from one action to the next.

Help me appreciate how awesome this is.
How many are the chances to be really alive …
to be aware of the enormous dimension
we live within.

On the threshold the entire past
and the entire future
rush to meet one another.

They take hold of each other and laugh.
They are so happy to discover themselves
in the awareness of a human creature.
On the threshold the present breaks all boundaries.
It is a convergence,
a fellowship with all time and space.
We find You there.
And we are found by You there.

Help me cross into the present moment –
into wonder, into Your face:
that “now-place,” where we all are,
unfolding as Your life moment by moment.

Let me live on the threshold as threshold.

 
~ from Begin home by Gunilla Norris, p.14-15


More meditations by Gunilla Norris
Table grace
Full of air