On the God of the Dance and the Ballerina in Blue

Phyllis Nissila

I estimated that when the ballerina in blue performed with her dance group there was not a dry eye in the audience— or backstage, my niece added, during the time she waited in the wings with her own group for their turn, watching…

Yesterday I attended the Junction City School of Danceopen clip art library ballerina spring recital. Dozens of dancing children from tots to teens aided by choreographers and assistants transformed an area high school stage into nearly two hours of every kind of ballet, modern, tap, hip-hop, and “open lyrical” routine that delighted, amazed, and touched moms, dads, grandparents, friends, siblings, uncles–and aunts–who crowded the auditorium.

We chuckled over and cheered tiny tappers in sparkles who at times clicked and clacked “to their own music”—and their own choreography.

We held our breath a little and applauded wildly when teen hip-hoppers spun, leapt, and flipped to the beat of their young enthusiasm and fresh sense of the routine.

We were amazed by the visual treat of shimmering lace and soft Lycra in multiple hues as toe-pointed ballerinas pirouetted and jete’d across stage, and over the metaphor-in-sync of “modern lyric” dancers interpreting motion and emotion with new vision for the ancient art form.

But what rendered tears was the ballerina in the flowing, blue-skirted costume referenced above, who danced big with her heart and her smile though cerebral palsy interrupted her turns and slides in bits and spurts. The grace-of-a-different-kind that we observed in her performance touched another level of response altogether. And her peers dancing with and around her? No problem. They gently assisted, as needed, as we watched and tears welled.

You see, one and all in this dance school perform to a higher (stage) call, if you will.

As I learned, JCSD is both an ordinary dance school run by professionally trained dancers with an eye and a heart for best performance, and an extraordinary dance school, a ministry with a vision to not only entertain and amaze but also to heal and transform—dancers, directors, and audience.

“Our mission,” explained the school founder and director, is that “people would be healed through our love of the dance and our performances.”

Before each recital, students and instructors pray for each other—and for the audience, my sister told me—even as they pray for each other throughout weeks of learning and rehearsal prior. And then, with overhead—and ministry—spotlights focused, young people and adult helpers perform from their hearts in hopes of touching ours with not only love of the dance (and our delight and pride in our tots and teens!) but also with a new or renewed love for the God of theDance, He Who gifts and graces participants of all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities…

THE GOD OF THE DANCE

And so there I sat, seat 102, row B, recalling my own childhood dance classes, the flow and grace of movement I experienced after finally succeeding in a difficult dance turn after pirouetting time and time again into walls and furniture; after “the moment” when multiple jerky attempts in stiff tap shoes finally produced perfect “shuffle-ball-changes”; at the disappointment when I realized, as an emerging teen, my legs were a little too chubby, my height a little too tall, for the much-desired ballet solos and ballroom dance duos—at least in that school of dance.

But I also thought about what my sister had said about the Christ-focus and healing mission of this school of dance. I thought about my ongoing recovery from the world’s critical eye over body shape and “performance” in general. I wondered who else in the audience might also be in the process of healing a little bit in some other context; who was touched for the first time or perhaps again by the God of the Dance who values not external but internal “performance”; motivation over merit; perseverance over perfection; heart over matter.

And I wondered who else was touched by the ballerina in blue who ministered perhaps most powerfully as a visible reminder that each of us struggles with our own impediments, visible or not, but those challenges need not hinder heart, spirit—or opportunity. A theme replete in Christendom.

THE HONORS

I was impressed with something else, too, another spiritual theme.

The school’s director presented bouquets of appreciation and merit to her staff and assistants before the recital began, a show element usually reserved for the final bows. This ministered to me in another way by reminding me of an additional reason I am grateful to God for His work in my own life.

You see, there is Someone Who already “took the bow” for us, as it were, even prior to our entrance on the spiritual stage.

Like the honors given before the dance recital, Jesus “took the honors,” as it were, before our “show” even began. How?

He, Jesus, God’s Son, at the “curtain” of His own “performance” on earth, took on all of our challenges, visible and non, all of our sins, hurts, disappointments, and heartaches and allowed them to be nailed to the cross on which He sacrificed Himself in our stead so that we can be healed and perfected not as the world demands, but as God fore-ordained—whenever we might appear on the world’s stage.

Three days later, on Easter morning, He “took the bow of accomplishment,” you might say. He came back to life, triumphant over evil…a triumph available to us, too, if we put faith in Him.

Hope for the hurting was resurrected that day, too, hope for each of us, despite our challenges, to become new even as Jesus, body glorified, walked and talked anew on earth until He returned to His eternal home for another season. I pondered this theme, too.

A theme that graces the Good News from act one.

A theme that prompts the kind of rejoicing believers of all times and places can experience as they dance their own challenges.

A theme that gives hope daily to all those who, by putting faith in Him, enter more fully into the calling of their individual lives whether on some stage, at home, in a boardroom, classroom, prayer closet—or a still-empty auditorium—ministering to and interceding for others, especially for those who have yet to know Him, the Divine Choreographer, Who not only set the eternal stage but Who faithfully and gently assists us when we, in bits and spurts, do our best to follow Him here and now…

~~~

Curtain down, spotlight dimmed, life resumed–a little more edified, a little more healed.

Mission accomplished, Junction City School of the Dance, at least for the one in seat 102, row B.

Bravo and thank you.

Unforgettable performance.

***

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Hope for A Hot Mess

Phyllis Nissila

flamesWe live in a hot mess.

We ARE a hot mess.

This is readily apparent when one reads the news, looks around, looks in the mirror…

But it really hit home recently when I began re-examining the “holiness” concept. Continue reading

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A Timely Reminder: Armor Up, 2–Whose Integrity?

Phyllis Nissila

Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand (Psalm 37:24, NIV).

armorIn a refresher course of study on spiritual warfare ( see Ephesians 6:10-20), I came across a broadcast on the necessity of walking in (complete) integrity otherwise spiritual warfare will be ineffective, Satan will not “flee,” apparently, even when the power of God’s Word is applied, and we may be all-around miserable in the trenches.

Or so the logic of the subtext implied. Continue reading

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A Timely Reminder: Armor Up

Phyllis Nissila

armorFinally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18 NIV). Continue reading

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What God Makes of Us

Phyllis Nissila

THE COMPETITION

1371541492747731845picnic basket-hiI enthusiastically confess I love the Food Network show, “Chopped.” It is a contest starting out with four chefs who have to create appetizers, entrées, and desserts in a given amount of time with ingredients unknown to them until the timer starts ticking and they open up their food baskets (with some additional basic ingredients available from the show’s fridge and pantry).

Each round, one chef is “chopped” from the competition and he or she who wins the dessert segment takes home the cash, the honor, and an almost insured boost in his/her own food-related business.

Sometimes the basket contents make sense, but other times the stress intensifies as ingredients are selected to be over-the-top challenging. For example, contestants might be charged to create an appetizer of, say, a bottle of root beer, a pound of Gouda cheese, and a can of creamed corn. The entrée might require creative use of, say, a pig’s head, a package of phyllo dough, and a jar of horseradish. For dessert, they may open the basket to a bag of fried won tons, a handful of gummy bears, and three avocados. Taste, creativity, and appearance are at stake.

I am always amazed at the results—and the talent.

THE CHALLENGE

But it’s the spiritual kind of “tough ingredients” of the contents of our lives, if you will, that intrigues me just now.

Permit me to indulge in a dollop of metaphor. Continue reading

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Water Ways: Ten Simple Assignments to Change the World

Phyllis Nissila

REFRESHMENT

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. (Psalm 1:1-3, NIV).

creekWe used to live on the edge of a town bordering the McKenzie River, a ninety mile tributary of the Pacific Northwest’s Willamette River that drains the Cascadia Range. The turn-around point in my walk was a bridge atop a narrow segment of that rumble-tumble waterway where I usually paused briefly for both refreshment and inspiration.

I enjoyed the breather, but more, I enjoyed what I came to call the “Lessons of Spring Creek,” the spiritual metaphors gleaned there. I came to look forward to the truths I might find bubbling up beneath the walkover that paralleled insights surfacing within me; life- and wisdom-giving psalms, proverbs, and poems from The Book I had been meditating on for years. Here are a few samples from my journals: Continue reading

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In Plain Sight, 2: More on Those Mini Metal Spies

Phyllis Nissila

UAV from the public domainSince I last posted on this topic, even more technological innovations have come onto the scene. Here is part 2.

Where it used to be ginormous UFOs menacing the night skies and the population, what will soon blip on radar screens on enemy turf or backyard barbecues—the palm of the hand, even—is a growing mini-zoo of “bugbots” [1] that are also, many believe, up to no good (see previous posts under the category listing “technology,” to the right, for more perspectives). Continue reading

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