Simple, isn’t it?

I hadn’t come to any further conclusions recently about this topic of Christian artists struggling to find freedom to make sure they are doing the “right thing” with their art, i.e. honoring God in it, until today when I was struggling with my “laws” again- perfect timing to listen to a sermon. A friend of mine told me that her prayer was that I would “just hear the gospel”. Great, I thought. I wanted it to be more complicated than that, but it’s not.

If you’re interested, in this message Paul Zahl lays out the implications of the law as defined by the apostle Paul in Galations 2 and as it pertains to us everyday. What I wanted to share was this quote: look at verses 20-21 “Christ took the burden of demand so we would not have to live under the law. And therefore creativity would not be under constraint,but it would be totally free…That’s what freedom is. Freedom is the end of the law so the Holy Spirit can inspire free loving and free creating.”

Creativity, in God’s book, was designed and destined for a purpose, to be used, not to go unnoticed.

Freedom from the burden of the law, any law or set of standards we hold ourselves to or others, can be found in Jesus Christ, who came to set us free from the Law. Rom. 10 Christ is the end of the Law.

Liberty I Paul Zahl

dance: me without you.

This semester there is a void in my life. I created it. It is more of a distance than a void because I cannot make “it” disappear. “It” is dance. This void is me without dance.

Me without dance is a novel idea! Let me tell you how scary. It was one of the hardest choices I had to make. Dance is like a person to me, like my best friend, yet some days my worst enemy. So when I say bye to dance it is truly a “good bye, I will have to learn to survive without you”.

I made the choice. I will choose to not look back and try not to regret but only learn. I have a lot to learn about me. I think I can only do it without dance, or experiencing what life is life taking a step outside of dance. The extremity is not all that I make it out to be. I will continue to take daily technique class, but I chose to physically drop all dance courses and dance company. I am free from responsibility, pressure, and attachment. I made that distance for myself. I felt I needed to. I needed to take a step back a step outside to get perspective and to see if I will return, and if I can, how many long it will take. Will I be homesick for the stage? Will I be freed to dance freely, uninhibited by the standards that both I and others have set for me? I want to trust that in giving it up, I am submitting control to God. But I have been advised to take class daily, and I know I would become depressed without that stability. That wayI have provided for a way back in, when I am ready. I hope that I am not lying to God by not trusting Him enough by trying to still hold onto some piece of dance. But who or what am I trying to prove? I have no right to test God. Neither should I try to bargain wiht him. In my heart I must make sure I am not saying “Look God, I gave this up for you” and trying to bargain with Him because I might end up being bitter. God is not a man that I can hurt His feelings or make Him bend to do what I want Him to do.

So in this measure that I am “giving up dance” I am not giving up on dance, and not forsaking the person with the gifts God endowed me with. Simply letting go of something that I allowed to have too much power over me in the past. This was a neccessary turn I had to take, for short or for long term. It will be hard but there are lessons about life and things I need to learn and experience myself. I will ask the Lord to either revive my passion and energy for it in due time or show me it is time to move on. The latter is not what I want to hear. May God fill the new found void with something new. May He fill the most room in my heart so all else is secondary.

Green River

Tubing down the Green River in Saluda, North Carolina was the best thing to finish off the summer. For most of it I was in silence because I was separated from the rest of the group, but it gave me some good thinking time and I began to analyze each turn and bump all the way down the river.

The River can be a metaphor for the Christian life, especially one with lots of rocks and falls. Strangely, I saw a lot of resemblance between my ride down the river and my life. I hit almost all the rocks and bumps along the way, and got stuck once or twice. Some other people seemed to be able to avoid all the rocks. Rocks in the river can stumbling blocks or guide you along the current. There is one solid Rock you can always stand on. When I got too confident in myself and thought I had control, I went over the falls and lost my inter-tube. The current pulled me down, down, down the river. I couldn’t find my feet but kept being pulled under the water and tumbling down the fall. The fall wasn’t even the most turbulent, but I had no power over it until I came to the end, to the placid waters again. I got bruised and scraped up a little, but the water kept me moving. Although I had started out ahead, I began lagging behind everyone else. There was not much I could do to catch up except try to get into the current. I had to relax and enjoy the ride. So with life, some things I cannot control, they just happen, like the rocks come. The twists and turns, rocks, tree branches, and falls made it more beautiful, more interesting. I learned a lot from having to deal with them and navigate on my own.

Eventually I caught up, and even surpassed the others when I least expected it! I hope that the results of several big rocks lately in my life will come to pass soon and that I find myself no longer in turmoil but around the bend in the river. I must remember that the rocks are sometimes a blessing. They strengthen us by making us overcome them or get around them, and they give us something to push off of. There is one rock that is a metaphor for this reason – Jesus Christ is the Rock and he is the solid rock. You can build your life upon him. Usually people turn to God when the rocks come in their life. Why not seek him out while you’re still a ways off?

“Bay of Pigs”

This is my response to Dr. Ferguson’s sermon August 9, “Bay of Pigs” out of Luke 8:26-39. Clearly, Jesus thought that one man’s soul was worth more than an entire herd of pigs, a farmer’s entire livelihood in those days. He set the demon possessed man free for two reasons: 1) to display his power over the spiritual forces of this world, and 2) because the man wanted to be set free from his bondage. The Bible does not state why the man was in this position, but he “tore his clothes” indicating he longed to be set free. In verse 36, it is recorded that after Jesus commanded the demons leave the man, he was sitting in his right mind and “had been healed” or “saved” in other versions.

I was challenged by what Dr Ferguson said today. Am I walking in the freedom Christ has set me free from bondage? Or am I dappling in involvement in sin again? We can fool ourselves into thinking what we are doing is “harmless”. If it does not give us peace, that is a sign that the Holy Spirit is saying something is not right here. A verse that speaks  to me is Gal. 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Further, I was challenged to question myself if I am telling of what Christ has done in my life. When was the last time I opened my mouth for Jesus? Who will I tell what wonderful things the Lord did? I am afraid because I may think it is too embarrassing or private. What then, did I heal myself? I could not! He wants to be glorified in us. We are to tell of his great deeds.  After the  demon possessed man was healed in Luke 8 wanted to stay by Jesus’ side, but He told him “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” The Psalmist had it right: “Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things!” (98) and “the Lord has set the prisoners free.” (146:7).

Anything that we place more importance on in our lives other than finding our sustenance in the Lord can hold us in bondage and obscure our relationship with the Lord from growing. I did not realize how much, in trying to take control over my life, I had let it control me.  I worshiped God and trusted in Him for my salvation, but under it all I had a burden that I could not let go. I asked the Lord to take it away many times. I remember going for walks in the Forest and just crying and screaming out to God and falling in the dirt begging Him to take it away. I couldn’t understand why God would let me live like this if I was His. But I was not completely ready to trust Him and give up control.

In experiences over the last 8 years I have come to realize that before  God would heal me and set me free from the bondage I was under, I had to come to a place were I could confess my sin and admit I need help. In doing so, I gave up control. That was the scariest moment of my life, opening up to other believers about my burden, but it was so freeing! James tells us (5:16) Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. It’s an interesting principle, that God would want us to humble ourselves and be vulnerable before each other. I Peter 5 talks about humility and be humble before one another because “God opposed the proud but gives grace to the humble.” We know 1 John 1:9 that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of all our unrighteousness.” So we must confess not only to God, but before men. When sin is out in the light, it has less power over us. Let someone know if you are struggling with something. That’s what the body of believers is for. If they judge you and do not support you in prayer that is their sin. Vulnerability gives freedom.

I am convinced that humans want three things: control, power, and success.  Don’t we? It is a normal human tendency to want control, but that is the root of many of the issues in our lives.Sometimes I think it will be a life long battle. I need daily reminders everyday to give Him control. I need reminders that I need to accept help from others, that I can’t fix everything myself. Perhaps you are caught in a self-destroying habit. Whether public or private, you feel bound. That is why Christ came into the world, to free us from the bondage of sin and death. He has set me free. If you want to be free, begin by asking Him.

“Dancer Within”

Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera

I picked up the book I had sitting on my coffee table for over a month now, “Dancer Within” by Rose Eichenbaum. That book caught my eye on the library shelf earlier this summer when I was eager to begin searching for a “way in” to the dance world again. What seemed to have been a coincidence is not one at all.  This book is a physical example of combining writing with a love for dance and the dancers.

What is so intriguing to me about this author is that although her desire to dance and perform was never filled, she found away back, to revive her passion, even at age of fourty-four. Her story reminds me of another artist, a courageous and fiery ambitious woman- my mom, who, after marriage and children,  is finding her way back to her passion: painting. Both these women are multi-talented and have many accomplishments, including artistic skill, but not their art. The artist within them will not be silenced. It is how God made them.

I know for my mom, she is completely content to be by herself for hours painting or sketching either outdoors or in her studio in silence or listening to classical music pulsing out of that old 1980’s radio-cassette player. My Mom is an artist in all true sense, that is where I got it from, but during the 20 plus years of raising kids she had to lay her career laid aside. She found many other avenues to use her skills, from teaching history, ceramics, drawing, leather craft and gen ed to both home school kids and in public schools, in addition to being producer of our ballet company, lighting designer, sewing costumes and painting stage sets, but those were all side roads from what she was created to do best – paint.

That is why, with so much angst and sacrifice, my mom did all she could to enable me to follow my passion; my brother and sister also, but I am the one who knew what I wanted to do all along. My parents did all they could, considering they didn’t know much about the world of dance and the financial cost attributed with 6 or 7-day a week training, then gone every summer.  They were constantly questioning it themselves, whether this was something they should let their daughter pursue at expense of social interaction, friends, family vacations, a college education. But there was no stopping me. I fought every last grain of dust that identified my family as a rural conservative Christian family. I remember driving to ballet in a snow-topped truck in wintertime, loaded up with hay in the summertime. I am sure we were the only people to ever pull a horse trailer into the ballet studio’s parking lot. My brother and sister went more for the 4-H and rodeo life, and the occasional sports teams. my sister is actually a very talented dancer also, but I am glad for her sake she has no desire to pursue it as I did for a career.  At the time I was extremely embarrassed of my family. Looking back, I know how indebted I am to them for their sacrifices.

A lot of pressure was placed on me inadvertently to prove that dance was not a waste of time and that I myself  was worthy of it.  Of course I blame myself for letting down people who had high expectations and hopes for me by letting my dream crumble, although it was really circumstantial. Christmas Joy is what finally changed my Dad’s mind about dance. Karen Alwin would fly Lynn in from California every August to set new piece on us girls (and Jason), a pre-professional troupe about 40 more or less, each year. It was an exciting time! When other students were returning from summer vacation, those of us who were serious were returning from summer intensives and beginning rehearsals even before  classes started. The highlight of our year was revealing the cast list, preparing us for disappointments in the “real world”.  By age 13, when I began to win competitions, I began to get  noticed.  I caught Lynn’s eye, then Karen’s and was cast in many roles. Lynn’s choreography poured out of her heart, and every movement, no matter how stylized or repetitive, managed to express emotion deeper than words. I try to remember only the good, and not all the drama and jealousy it caused among the girls, and more so betwixt the parents. The show in itself told the gospel story, from birth of Christ to its celebratory finale “Worship the King”. It was the most powerful ministry of dancing I have had the privilege to be involved in.

What a wonderful foundation I have from my high school days to be reminded that dance can be Christ-honoring! My experiences with Boston Ballet  were magnificent and illuminating, but not heart-wrenching or soul-searching.  Pittsburgh Ballet was too transparent-all the problems were exposed.  Columbia City Ballet was the farthest from anything I wanted to be doing with my dance career., and it ended there,before I had really begun…People will tell me since I obviously won’t be dancing professionally again that I should take up choreography, after all it used to be natural for me. Dad used to suggest I create a work centering around the Easter message. If that is something I am suppose to do, my heart has a lot of growing before I get to that point.

Right now I am drawn to writing about dance: my experiences with and questions about that elusive world.  It may be only for my gratification, to work through where I am in my life right now. I am too rational. I want to explain everything, have  a reason, a purpose, a plan, yet the artist within cries to be “free”! The rules and plans sometimes  hold me back, and I am afraid that too much freedom will destroy what I have just barely holding together with glue. Perhaps through words I can come to understand myself in terms to better relate to others and see this conquest of a dancers spirit come to fruition. Although I respect her work, I would like to move beyond living through other artists, as Rose did through her writing.That is not the way I want to fulfill that longing. That piece of my heart that longs to dance and be “free” cannot ever be explained utterly in words. Neither can every stroke of the brush on the canvas be given a word to describe the painting.

Donna McKechnie, the all-singing, all-dancing Broadway star, is quoted to have said:

“Dance is something that you do – not something you talk about. It’s abstract and emotional. Art comes from a private, hidden, never fully understood place…To talk about it is to trespass in a restricted zone.”

Rose Echenbaum interviews famous and not-so-famous dancers and choreographers in her book “Dancer Within”. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the essays and confessional interviews of the artists and reading some more of Rose’s books. google book:Dancer Within

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibitions pays tribute to Eichenbaum’s works: Smithsonian Institute:The Dancer Within

online gallery of some of her photos displayed in the SI: Exhibit Images