Saturday, November 23, 2013

My First STM to Pravaham and Bootcamp Ballet for God's Kingdom

A deep sigh escaped my throat, which had been tight, choking me of much-needed air. I sank back deeper into the cushions and the soft sounds of guitar strings being plucked began to filter into the air, filling me with life-giving oxygen. "You open the horizons in my life of limitless and cloudless hope, You defy the gravity in me, and give wings to my flightlessness, Oh, Christ has set me free from negativity, impossibility. Oh, Christ has set me free, all hope has been released, Oh, Christ has set me free. You've taught my future how to shine all the colors of eternity. You've given my soul the space to breathe, And discover what it is to simply be." For almost two weeks, ever since we'd come back from a lovely trip to Chicago, I'd suffered from a lump in my throat. I felt like I was choking the whole time and was puzzled. Was this from the travel vaccines? Nope. I learned this was a sign of stress. Something was making me anxious. What could it be? Surely, it wasn't the short term mission (STM) trip upon which God was sending me? I'd been so exhilarated that I'd literally shouted the news from the rooftops, sending numerous emails: "After 7 years of diligent preparation God is sending me to Pravaham (rural South India)." Earlier this year, my book Casa Charis: A Daybook of Freedom had been published. Based on Galatians, devotions and narratives in the book describe how I found freedom from many things including stress, and learned to fly to the freedom there is in God, rest in Him, and simply be. Yet, here was a lump in my throat!


God, sometimes, though not always, speaks to us through our bodies. I knew He was telling me something important. Our Adventures in Prayer group couldn't pray this week when we met! Faithful Marilyn prevailed, somehow managed a prayer, and continued to stay in prayer for me. She was even led to identify what was happening with me as a "stronghold" at about the same time as I was led to it, quite separately!  Yesterday, the lump was released. I hope it will never come back. Through this experience the Holy Spirit showed me how I allowed past and original family issues (gravity in me, flightlessness, negativity, and impossibilities) to block God's power and loving presence in my life. Once my weakness(es) had been named, and I surrendered myself anew to Him, the lump disappeared.

I leave on Tuesday, 3rd December and arrive in Madras (now called Chennai) on the morning of the 5th, the day of my sister's birthday. On Dec. 6th, my Uncle and I will host a family and friends reunion dinner. On Dec. 7th, I will be a guest of honor at Pravaham Fest. It is a celebration of their 20 years of Kingdom building in rural south India, the opening of their first walled classroom, lab, media room, the Learning Resources building, along with the Christmas program put on by the students. I will remain at Pravaham: A Community for Peace and Justice, visit my Dad's grave, God willing, and return home on the 13th.

At Lucy’s request, I am planning to introduce the students to some of God's most creative gifts to us, music and dance. I am working with Jennifer Colon, creator and teacher of Booty Ballet at Tustin Dance Studio, to produce a 45 minute ballet workout video along with a Glossary. Using these, I will lead the students (daily or as they want) in a formal hour-long class/workout. I will open with 15 minutes of Lectio Divina and then lead into the 45-min ballet workout with the video. The video will show Jennie, at the barre, doing basic ballet and other abdominal and strength-training exercises. We won't have the barre, but through this activity I will introduce the students to 1) American music, 2) Ballet, 3) English Bible verses and French ballet terms and 4) Fitness concepts such as the core and types of exercises such as Pilates. The music is a mix of genres including Christian, dance, hip hop, jazz, baroque, and Bollywood.

Music, dance, language are God’s great gifts to us. I’ve personally found them to be healing and will be able to share not only personal stories but also discuss cultures and civilizations and their contributions to God’s kingdom within and among us. Music and dance also draw me closer to our awesome living God. I often wonder about Jesus singing, dancing! He would have been tremendously fit with all that walking he did! Lucy has given the school a short holiday while I'm there so it will be a time of fun and play together. I've almost forgotten what it is to be a child and just play and have fun. I'm hoping these young girls will be able to teach me that :). The video/activity will thus set the stage for un-structured learning and community-building experiences during 4 days of play. In my mind's eye it is a picture of all of us dancing with God, letting Him lead. Friends and I are also in the process of writing this up as a grant to stimulate and build local missional communities among us, right here, where we live, even while we engage in global mission. I will bring back video stories of the girls. Jennie and I will use the feedback from Pravaham to modify and streamline the video/activity. So, the name for this video/activity is pretty important - since it is about you too - and Jennie has asked me to get your input on it. What do you think the name should be?

Booty Ballet is the name Jennie uses for her regular classes at Tustin Dance Studio. For Jennie, "the name Booty was born of the treasure found in the mind/body/spirit connection that is centered on our Heavenly Father and His bounty in our health and lives. Booty also is an endearing term shortened from Boot Camp and expresses the strength built through the beautiful art form of ballet.”

For me, the two meanings of the word booty in the global context, meaning treasure and boot camp, are particularly symbolic,. Each of us is God's treasure (in clay jars!!!!) and this world is our boot camp, training ground, preparing us for God's glory and the time when we will all live together with Him, without tears or fears. So, I've been playing with the title, Booty Ballet for God's Justice and Peace, Booty Ballet for India. The American slang meaning for booty makes it unappealing to some. Marilyn's come up with Bootcamp Ballet for God's Kingdom. What do you think?  I welcome your suggestions through comments left here, by email, or in person. Thanks!

Tomorrow, we will celebrate the Feast Day of Christ the King. God in His amazing, marvellous way has me serving as the liturgist at my church's worship tomorrow, something I just love to do! May Christ help you find your wings like He's done for me and continues to do so. If you haven't heard the song, Christ Has Set Me Free by Rend Collective, here it is a 2.2 minute video!


4 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing another thought provoking message! I can't wait to hear of your experiences when you return. My personal feeling on the name of the video... I do feel "booty" has a negative connotation in our society and I don't know how it translates into other languages & cultures. Webster's actually defines it as "1. The spoils of war, 2. Plunder". (my version is circa '80s, so maybe there's been an update!) I think Marilyn's suggestion for a name beautifully sums up the concept for the dance video.

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  2. Thanks for sharing another thought provoking message! I can't wait to hear of your experiences when you return. My personal feeling on the name of the video... I do feel "booty" has a negative connotation in our society and I don't know how it translates into other languages & cultures. Webster's actually defines it as "1. The spoils of war, 2. Plunder". (my version is circa '80s, so maybe there's been an update!) I think Marilyn's suggestion for a name beautifully sums up the concept for the dance video.

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    1. Christie, thanks! Here's what another friend of mine EmKay Anderson wrote and I'm sharing because I think her response answers some of your concerns we all share too: "I love what you are doing, Anita! I also love "Booty" just as it is, and don't mint the slang overlay. Our bodies (one implication) or sex (the more negative use) are a wonderful part of what God intended for each of us, and only negative when misused or idolized. I think a simple discussion about exactly that word and all it's implications would be a wonderful piece of your program."

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    2. Thanks for the beautiful uplifting message Anita! I love Marilyn's suggestion of Bootcamp Ballet for God's Kingdom. As Chirstie said, it sums it up very well. I will be praying for a safe trip for you and will be looking forward to hearing all about it when you get back.

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Thank you for taking the time to encourage me with your feedback. Blessings.