Surprised to see the picture of me above in my new Panama hat? It’s hand-woven and very inexpensive. But what does that have to do with dance? Actually, it doesn’t have a thing to do with dance. It has to do with a trip I just took. My husband and I celebrated 44 years of marriage with an anniversary cruise from Miami to Lima Peru. The trip began on our actual anniversary: December 29. It was wonderful! Of course, no matter where I am or what I do, I like to explore the joy of dance in my surroundings.
Now you get the connection. The pictures below share a few instances of what I saw. In Central and South America, dance is part of the culture. They celebrate; they have fun with friends and family; the cultural context simmers with movement. Below, on the left, are dancers from Roatan, Honduras. On the pictures to the right, are dancers from Manta, Ecuador; they closed their presentation by inviting observers to dance with them. Of course, I volunteered! After the end of the last dance, the group took pictures with anyone who wanted one. Look for me in the center of the group picture.
I also got a huge surprise on the ship. Each Sunday there was a non-denominational church service led by cruise staff. Meliah was a dancer on the production staff of the cruise ship who headed up the services. She did a wonderful job as a dancer in the evening shows showing skill and artistry; as a sister in Christ, she also impacted my heart spiritually with her sermon messages. I asked her permission to use one sermon that she wrote for this blog (I’ve also included her picture below). Be fruitful, inspired, and transformed by what she had to say the second Sunday on board:
“Getting Fit: Be F.I.T.
Good evening and welcome to the Marina’s Interdenominational Sunday church service. My name is Meliah Henr y and I’m a part of the Production Cast on board, blessed with the gift of dance. A little disclaimer, I did not go to seminary or bible-college, and I simply volunteered to take on this opportunity to share with you what God is working on in my life.
Last week, we looked at New Year’s resolutions and how 2018 is going to be the year we get fit; get fit with God. I spoke about searching for His strength, His power, and His mercy and about inviting Him to be a part of our lives like we haven’t experienced Him before. We looked in to some areas of weakness and I finished our study with these questions: Do I look to culture and government to make the world right, or do I look to Jesus and His Church as I look within? Do I try to control situations, or do I seek God and trust his grace and mercy? When people treat me unjustly, do I respond with love? When I suffer, do I patiently trust God, or do I try to find my own way?
So in my time I spent with God this week, I asked these questions again. I also spent time reflecting on some areas of weakness I had noticed I needed working on; to answer hate with love, to find joy in the midst of trials, to cultivate peace, to practice patience and kindness, and to rely on God’s strength. And then I realized the answer was there all along. I’m looking to get fit in God this year, so let’s be F. I. T.: fit! Let us be fruitful, be inspired, and be transformed.
So let’s flex some of these muscles today. “F”- to be fruitful; practice the fruits of the spirit. This is a brilliant metaphor of reaping and sowing, that the things we practice and give to the world, will be the things that come back to us; it’s pretty simple really. We find this metaphor in Galatians, where Paul writes out a list of things that will slowly destroy our lives and world and then gives us a way to correct it. Galatians 5:22 reads; “Now the works of the flesh are obvious; sexual immorality, moral impurity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things- as I warned you before-that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control.” Paul is saying if we plague the world with desires of the flesh, we won’t create peace, but if we grow and cultivate love, joy, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, peace will find us.
Another way that Paul speaks about the fruits is found in Colossians 3:15; “therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.” PUT ON. Like these are pieces of clothing that we are to pick up everyday and adorn our body and soul with; everyday to pick up and put on your compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love.
If you’d like a deeper look in flexing those fruit muscles, I recommend a read of Paul’s prison epistles, the books of Galatians, Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon. These books, or letters, teach extensively about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Christian life; commanding us to walk by the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, and keep in step with Spirit- getting fit with Him. You find these themes written through all of Paul’s letter though; like in 1 TIMOTHY 6:11 “but you, man of God, flee from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.”
Now “I” to be inspired, is probably the easiest one, right? You don’t even have to turn to the Bible to see the greatness, splendor, and power of God it surrounds us day in and day out. One of the areas I find I do need inspiration is standing strong; I can be quite a fearful and anxious person. So I turned to God with this and this is what He showed me- in the most simple way He could put it; Philippians 4:13- “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
Now, when I read that the first time, I laughed…like “duh, God, I already knew that…” But then he replied, “now look deeper.” And really the whole Word is story after story of inspiring acts. The creation of this world we call home, Noah and his Arc, Moses and all of his many great awe-inspiring adventures, David defeating a giant, Daniel sleeping among the lions, Paul shipwrecked and travelling the world, planting churches, and a man laying down his life down all of our sins, to rise again. And these are only some of the highlights! Jesus simply said it this way in Mark 10:27- “With man it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.”
These men and women that are featured in the Word faced some of the fiercest trials, biggest obstacles, and such hardship, but they did it all with God by their sides in such a way that we rarely see today. And I think it’s because we’ve lost sight of Him and we may have lost a little faith in Him along the way. But He says in Matthew 17:20- “Because of your little faith, for truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” He says NOTHING. Where is there fear in that sentence?
One last declaration to be inspired by, Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for your well-being, not for disaster, but to give you hope and a future.” Because of our faith in Him, we have hope and with hope, we can move mountains, we can sleep with the lions, we can face giants, and we can outlast and weather the storm. We can live a different life because we were called to by the greatest power in the universe.
Last but not least, “T” means to be transformed; this is going to be the game changer for our New Year’s resolution. This is where the daily practice and prayer are going to come in to play, and where our muscles are really going to be flexed. Being transformed won’t be easy, and it may cause some growing pains along the way, but with that pain, comes endurance, and then character, and then faith and hope. It’s literally written out exactly like this is Romans 5: 3; “We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
We can be transformed this year by the same power that brought sight to the blind, brought health to the sick, and raised a man from death. We have Him in all of us, He’s waiting to run free with us, to flex our fruit muscles, and to love this world and this life. We only need to ask. Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” We only need seek Him and give Him glory in all that we do.
This will be a life-long commitment should you decided to get fit and be F.I.T. fit with God. We will face struggles and opposition and we will be challenged, and that’s because this world is not our home, our inheritance is in heaven. So face your calling with God by your side, flex those fruit muscles, be inspired and inspiring, and become transformed this year by God’s plan for you.”
Thanks Meliah! May God richly bless you in 2018! Thanks for sharing your faith in such a moving way….