What I’m Praying: Dancing Justice

Continuing my What I’m Praying series, here’s something that’s been on my heart for a few years now, and came to a head again last Friday. It’s something I talk about with increasing frequency on my social media, but rarely if ever on Fragrance Arise, mostly because my thoughts and feelings are still so raw, and it’s difficult to get them into a form that fits the mission of this blog. Also, I think, there’s fear of being perceived as “stirring the pot”, as I’ve been accused of trying to do–i.e. stir up trouble and division that hurts more than it helps.

I’m talking about justice issues. Specifically, right now, racial justice issues.

This past week, Stephon Clark was shot 20 times by police in his grandmother’s backyard in Sacramento. He was unarmed. He was scared. There is currently an ongoing investigation and several outstanding questions as to how the police handled the encounter. They were looking for someone breaking windows in the neighbourhood, and even assuming Stephon was that guy, he did not deserve to die. And yes, he was black.

I don’t have all the answers, but that should never have gone down the way it did. There was no reason for him to end up dead.

This post is mostly not about Stephon Clark. As grieved as I was over the injustice of his death, a more close-to-home grief arose when I witnessed the reactions of some of my white brothers and sisters in Christ. We were quick to defend the police and slow to mourn the loss of life. We were quick to deny racism had any role, systemic or specific, and we were slow to listen to the stories of the black people who had the courage to jump into those conversations and share their experiences and perspectives. We were all too okay with what had happened. And I’ve witnessed echoes of this same conversation so. many. times.

I can already hear the cries of “not all white people/Christians/police/etc!” so yes, I’ll say it here. NOT ALL.

But too many.

And too many turning a blind eye.

“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

My heart aches for us as white believers, who are part of the Body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus on the earth, to slow down, shut up and listen, and recognise that our world is broken, centuries of brokenness have built up to create the world as it is today, and some of our brothers and sisters walk through this world differently than we do.

We need to let go and listen.

Just.

Listen.

I’m still listening. I’m still very much in the early stages of this journey. A few years ago, I realised I had grown up in a bubble, and racism to me was mostly a thing in the history books. When I heard of black people being shot by police, and my black friends crying injustice and tragedy, I silently thought that they were overreacting, because the police are always the good guys who always deserve the benefit of the doubt.

If only.

On Friday, I found myself once again in a conversation where all of these emotions and reactions came to a head, hurtful things were said, there was way more ranting and accusing than listening, and humility and compassion seemed a million miles away.

It broke my heart.

That afternoon I was folding laundry in my room when I broke down crying. I had so much frustration and grief that I didn’t know what to do with it.

Grief for Stephon Clark and the far too many who came before him.

Grief for my friends and family, the church, who seemed to have forgotten how to listen in love.

Grief for the relationships that have been strained, brother against brother and sister against sister, because of these issues.

Grief for America and the world, where I know there will never be true shalom until Jesus comes back.

Grief for myself, my own turmoil, my poor angry heart that had lost sight of peace and joy.

“Jesus, help me,” I cried. “I don’t even know what to do with my heart right now.”

In a moment of clarity and wisdom that I wish I had more often, I knew I needed to worship. I knew I needed to declare again that God does see and hear every injustice, and His heart breaks for it, and He will not be silent forever. I needed to rise above the mess and declare the fierce love and justice of King Jesus. I put on a youtube playlist that I created specifically for processing these kinds of emotions (many of the songs were suggestions from friends trying to work through the same things).

And then I danced. I danced every emotion I was having. I danced frustration, anger, fear…and I danced faith, confidence, and hope. I danced through that playlist until I could hardly breathe. Alone in my bedroom, I declared the bleeding love of God, the fire in His eyes, and His fierce promise to establish swift, perfect justice forever. As I danced, my body became a prophecy and a prayer and a weapon.

Jesus sees. He hears. He will not forget. He will make all the wrong things right. He will restore, and He will repay.

And in the meanwhile… what if we could just listen for a while? What if we could actually listen to the stories of our brothers and sisters of colour who have LIVED this reality for generations? Sometimes those stories come out with anger, true, but what if we could put aside our defensiveness for a while and actually try to hear their hearts? And then just say “Thank you for sharing your story” without listing off our reactions and objections? And what if we did that a hundred times before we opened our mouths to share our opinions?

This is the cry of my heart. This is what I believe christlike love looks like.

And if you’re like me, caught in the storm of emotion, feeling tangled and pulled and watching the world implode into chaos around you… slow down, breathe deep, and remember what is true. Proclaim it. Pray it, sing it, shout it, dance it. He will not forget justice.

But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.

The LORD is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Psalm 10:14-18

~~~

Enjoy my Justice Worship playlist on Youtube.

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Dancers Who Dance Upon Injustice

tumblr_l8xw33KDko1qdx47so1_500I’ve always wondered about the line “dancers who dance upon injustice” in the song “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?” by Delirious?. As a dancer for most of my life, I’ve often asked, what does it mean to dance upon injustice? I understand dancing to express something, but how can dance actually trample something down?

A few days ago at IHOPU, we held a 24 hour “prayer burn.” Live student worship teams rotated around the clock for a full day of continuous worship and intercession for the church in the middle east. During the second set of the burn, at 6:00 pm on Thursday, I was in the room doing homework when my friend Deni asked me to pray. I agreed and she put my name on the board to be third in line to lead intercession on the mic. I closed my textbook and opened my Bible to find a verse to pray. I was going to pray the good ol’ Ephesians 3:16 “might in the inner man,” but before it was my turn someone started playing the old favourite “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?”

I was already in the back of the room pacing with my Bible trying to get God’s heart for the church in the middle east, but for some reason I didn’t feel I was quite there yet. Then as the song progressed, something in the room started stirring. People started jumping. Eventually I set down my Bible, took off my boots and cardigan, and let loose in the back corner of the room.

About fifteen minutes later, while we were still dancing to the same song, I heard God speaking to me.

“This is what I want for My church in the middle east. Pray for joy out of Romans 15.”

Romans 15 is one of my favourite passages to pray for unity, but as I flipped to the page, I wondered, is Romans 15 even about joy? I couldn’t remember.

Found it.

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:5-6, 13 ESV)

When it was my turn to pray, I got on the mic, read this passage, then began asking God to give the church in the middle east a supernatural unity for His glory, and the joy and peace that comes from the hope of the gospel. Echoing the words of the song, I prayed, “Let their streets resound with singing, and let there be dancers who dance upon injustice, who prophetically proclaim victory over injustice!”

dance

That’s it.

Dance is more than self-expression. It’s also prophecy. When I dance in intercession, I am prophetically proclaiming what God wants to do in a region or situation. Sometimes my movements express something pouring out or springing forth. Sometimes nothing specific is discernible, but when coupled with a heart of prayer, dance prophetically proclaims our victory in Christ (both in the already and not yet) over every form of injustice and every scheme of the evil one.

That’s what I want to see in the middle east. In the midst of oppression, persecution, and injustice, I want the dancers to arise who will declare the hope, joy, and peace found in the confidence of our victory in Christ.

Maybe you need victory in a certain situation in your life. Maybe you feel crushed by injustice. In fact, any form of oppression, be it emotional, spiritual, circumstantial, etc, is injustice, because you were not made to be kept down.

You want a breakthrough? Dance. Proclaim your victory in faith. Seize joy. Celebrate your hope with confidence in who Christ is.

Dance upon injustice.

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NOTE June 15, 2018 – 3 years later, this is still the most popular post on my blog. Wow! My name is Caitlyn, and I am a full-time missionary at a house of prayer in Dallas. That means I raise support to worship and pray in a prayer room. (Well, I also run a ministry school and do a few other things, but it’s mostly all about prayer and worship!) Check out My Story to get to know me, and please feel free to browse and explore the rest of the blog! I’ve also written a more recent blog about prophetic dancing for justice that you may be interested in: Dancing Justice. Blessings!

I Am a Worship Leader, But Not Like That.

When we say “worship leader,” we usually mean the person on the platform behind the mic playing guitar or keys, leading the room in verses and choruses to sing to the Lord. Of course, that is a perfectly legitimate picture, but I submit that that is not the only way to be a worship leader.

I am a worship leader. No, I don’t lead music from the platform, but one of the primary goals of my life is to lead others into worship. I can do that during a music worship set from wherever I am in the room, and in fact I’ve had people tell me for years that the way I worship draws them deeper into worship. When I let loose and let worship explode out of every inch of my body, not only do I encounter God in a very free and dynamic way, but I release an atmosphere of freedom and encouragement for others to let loose as well. If I’m fully engaging I will provoke others and bring them along with me.

You know what I mean. Sometimes when you’re in a distracted funk, just seeing someone else locked in and worshiping with abandon will stir something in your heart and spur you to press in harder. And another day you will do the same for them. That’s the beauty of corporate worship. We all get to lead each other by example.

Of course, this must never be from a “look at me, follow me!” mentality. Leading others into worship is truly serving them, because we were all made to be worshipers. For the rest of eternity, our primary occupation will be worship. John Piper has famously said, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Worship is always the goal of everything else we do in our Christian lives (which, by the way, is your ENTIRE life). And as friends of the bridegroom, it is our mission to point to Jesus above all else, that He would increase and we would decrease. (John 3:29-30)

Leading others into worship is also such a beautiful gift to bring to Jesus. As an individual, I can give no more than my all, and usually even that is a struggle. But if I can play a part in others giving Him all their all as well, then I’m actually giving Him more than I could on my own! This is one way I can multiply my incense.

Of course, this means so much more than in a music worship set. I want my entire life to draw people into worship That’s the primary reason I write this blog. I pray my words will draw you deeper into fascination with this beautiful God, leading you into a life of worship poured out.

Why? Because Jesus is worthy. He actually deserves our highest praises. His inheritance from His Father is the eternal love and worship of the nations. He deserves it, and I want to play the biggest part He’ll let me in bringing Him His inheritance.

Dance Is What The Soul Looks Like

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I went to my cousin’s college dance show today. It was stunning. I haven’t been on stage as a dancer since… March 2009. Ouch. I wanna dance again. I dance constantly alone at home and in the back of the room during worship, of course, but I miss the choreography and the challenge of really pushing myself to express an emotion through every inch of my body.

My favourite thing about dance shows is finding the themes and stories being portrayed through the music and movement (and supported by the lighting, costuming, and all such theatrical elements). My favourite numbers are always the most subtle and abstract, the modern dances that seem to tell a story you can barely catch the edges of. Dance has the ability to celebrate and/or illuminate human nature, the human experience, and the deep shared history that binds us together. Grace and strength, harmony and dissonance. Dance is the story of us.

One of the numbers that opened the show was entitled “Perdido” (which means “lost” in Spanish) and featured a man and a woman on a dark stage. They started slowly, facing each other, and they seemed to awaken and discover each other before breaking away. Their movements seemed to constantly separate and then come back together. There was correlation, symmetry, and also an intensity of discord. I sensed joy and vitality and celebration and unity, and also separation and yearning and despair and confusion and shame. It was as if they needed each other and were bound together, but they were incapable of maintaining the harmony. They ended with the woman leaning backwards over the man’s back as he hunched over with his fists over his face, as though hiding from a deep inner darkness. I don’t know what exactly the choreographer’s original vision was, but to me it was a picture of the Fall. The brokenness of the relationship between Man and Woman, and also between God and his Creation. There was an echo of beauty fractured by fear and shame. It was a profound reflection of the world we live in.

Another of the modern dances that spoke to me was called “Atonement” and featured an ensemble of dancers, male and female, each wearing a straight ankle length black wrap skirt with a bright colour as the lining. Upstage centre was a video screen. The intensity and violence of the music and the dancers’ movements were accented by the images and words flashing across the screen. WAR. POVERTY. TERRORISM. The dance continued, displaying the depravity of humanity and the broken state of our world. The long skirts reminded me almost of ancient Japanese samurai styles, and seemed to represent the ancient violence of this struggle, and the fact that the diverse ensemble of dancers wore the same costume reminded me of the solidarity of humanity. We are all the same; we are all caught inside this beast.

Then the music changed, and a solo dancer performed gracefully while images of Ghandi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King Jr. came across the screen. The soloist was rejoined by the ensemble, and words like PEACE, HUMANITY, and COMPASSION appeared behind the dancers. The music regained intensity, and the struggle continued, displaying the war between light and darkness that humanity is caught in the middle of.

I wondered what the dancers felt as they performed. Did they feel, as I did, that this was a prayer going up to God for salvation from this mess?

Yes, dance can be a prayer. Dance speaks in ways that words can’t. Dance is music made flesh. It’s shape, movement, speed, precision, grace, and strength telling a story in four dimensions. I have danced joy, freedom, and love… and also desperation, anger, and loneliness. In those moments, I feel like what my body is doing on the outside mirrors what my spirit is doing on the inside.

I love the creativity of God that he gave us this art with which to communicate. To dance is to be fully alive and aware and expressive. To dance is to put feelings into motion. Dance is the colour of life.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
Ecclesiastes 3:4

Weekend Ambush

Last weekend was absolutely splendidly NOT what I had planned. I was planning to go camping in Joshua Tree on Saturday with a few of my co-workers. From the start I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, because although I love these people and I could use a change of scenery, “roughing it” is rarely my cup of tea. I determined to go and enjoy it, though, so even when the plan fell through, I was proud of myself for at least refusing to be scared off.

Instead I spent my Saturday working the rock wall for the Christian camp. I’ve never properly worked ropes with the rec staff before, and I ended up loving it! By dinner time I was already thanking God that he had a better day planned for me than I had planned for myself, but he hadn’t even begun to surprise me. I let myself be talked into going to chapel in the evening when I heard that Tommy Green, the lead singer of Sleeping Giant who has a powerful ministry, would be speaking. I went with my roommate and sat through an hour of a student talent show. There was a definite amount of talent, and also a definite amount of… well. It was well worth it, though, because when Tommy came to the front, the first thing he did was pray for people in pain to be healed and the second thing he did was prophesy over some of the performers.

WHAT?!!! This might be pretty standard ministry in my usual circles, but at this camp? In the three years I’ve worked here, I have NEVER seen a single healing take place in that chapel, or a single prophecy be released (though granted I can’t claim to be there every time the doors are open). Not that God doesn’t move here or that the camp and its guests don’t believe in the gifts, we just don’t… tend to practice them very often.

I’ve spent so many hours over the past few years pacing the camp prayer chapel -and plenty of hours elsewhere too- praying for Holy Spirit to do crazy things in that chapel. I’ve tasted revival, and I am desperate for this camp, my home, to taste it too. Seeing what Tommy brought on Saturday was a beautiful down payment of the revival that I believe is coming.

But the night got better. Tommy’s message was about worship as warfare, and this generation releasing a new sound that literally shifts atmospheres, and the seven Hebrew words of praise, especially “tehila” spontaneous singing and “shabach” shouting, and how powerful dance is as an expression of worship… I could have closed my eyes and heard Jake Hamilton’s voice. (I actually just found out that Tommy has actually worked with Jake on the Voices conference Jake put on last year. So yeah.) I have never felt so completely in unity with what’s going on in that chapel as I did that night. Especially because after talking about free and powerful worship, the band came on stage and we DID IT for an hour and a half! My roommate and I ended up up pushing back the chairs in the back of the room and dancing and worshiping and crying until we were completely overwhelmed. I haven’t worshipped that freely since… well, since the week I left IHOP. The two of us helped clean up the chapel and watched as the campers settled into small groups, then went back home and prayed together until we fell asleep. My heart was full to bursting with the sheer excitement of loving God and watching him move.

Sunday was quite amazing as well. I went with a friend to her church for my second visit. The church is called Tithemi and is actually led by Eric Gregson, a close friend of Tommy who is (was?) also in Sleeping Giant! Bam. Small world. This little church is a beautiful, grungy, passionate band of young tattooed believers who worship with full hearts and pray with abandon. That Sunday night I kicked off my sandals and started dancing during the song Divine Romance, and by the time we’d sung the chorus about ten times the worship leader asked anyone who wanted to dance to come do it on stage. So I went. And we all danced for several more minutes before Eric invited us all to return to our seats.

As I was sitting down, he started talking about how powerful worship is, and how powerful dance is, and how that first person to dance serves the community by providing a “covering” for everyone else’s awkwardness… in other words, that person sets the tone for how free the group is allowed to be. It was a huge blessing and confirmation for me, because I knew that I was the first person to start dancing that night, and because I have so often been told about how my dancing creates an atmosphere of freedom and worship for others.

Even when I know something, I love it so much when God remembers and tells me again. He sees me, he knows me, he enjoys me. And he’s using me through my simply enjoying him. I’m just being who I was created to be, and he’s encountering me and using it to bless people.

Also, I’m so grateful for the community I’m surrounded by. From the people I worked rec with, to the people I was in chapel with, to the people at Tithemi, I am so deeply blessed to get to be around like-minded people who love me and are going after the same things. I love them all, and I love my Father for giving them to me.

Oh… one more thing. On Wednesday at camp, I went into the prayer chapel to spend my break. The first thing I did was unwrap a Dove dark chocolate square. And what did my wrapper say?

Be the first to hit the dance floor.

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Prophetic Dove wrapper (torn and taped)

Open the Floodgates

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:13-14 ESV

For those of you who haven’t heard, the American midwest is in the middle of what is being described as the worst drought in a hundred years. Crops are being devastated, power is being lost, and the heat is becoming especially dangerous to children and the elderly. IHOP has been interceding for God to end the drought since last weekend (we jumped on this a little late, unfortunately) and on Wednesday night we got a breakthrough.

That night during the 8:00 intercession set we spent some time corporately praying out of 2 Chronicles for the ending of the drought. A few hours later, in the second hour of the 10:00 worship set, a spontaneous chorus was released that grew and grew until it launched the room into a 30 minute crazy dance party. “You have loved me so well, I’ve never another love so sweet. You have loved me so well, I’ve never known another love so great.” We danced ourselves into a glorious sweaty mess of JESUS JOY ‘SPLOSION till a good ten minutes past the time the next worship team was supposed to come on. Many of us hung out till about 12:30 still worshiping, even though we’re supposed to head back to the apartments at midnight. (The leaders gave us permission. There’s lots of flexibility for whenever the Spirit decides to knock plans out of the way.)

Go HERE to watch the webstream of our dance party! Start the video around 01:15:00 to see when it first started picking up.

As I was exiting the prayer room with one of my roommates, I saw lightening crack through the sky. I was just enjoying God’s display of glory and didn’t even realise what it meant until a minute later when I felt the first drops. Within ten minutes the FLOODGATES HAD OPENED and it was pouring rain!!!! Interns came pouring out of their apartments to dance in the parking lot and laugh and yell worship into the sky.

As awesome as that was, though, the midwest is still in a heavy drought and still very much in need of intercession. Please join with us in praying that God would have mercy on everyone depending on the rain and send us what we need!

But now hear, O Jacob my servant,
Israel whom I have chosen!
Thus says the LORD who made you,
who formed you from the womb and will help you:
Fear not, O Jacob my servant,
Jeshurun whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
Isaiah 44:1-3 ESV

I Will Waste My Life

Here’s another song I love dearly… I Will Waste My Life by Misty Edwards. (Misty is one of the worship leaders at IHOP.) And it’s not just the song, it’s this video in particular. The first time I watched it, I already knew and loved the song, but when I saw this performance I literally stopped breathing. All I could think was, I recognise this. I don’t know that wimpy guy playing Jesus, but that girl… so enamored, so in love, so ready to just take his hand and dance to the ends of the earth without looking back… I know her because she’s me.

And the moment at 2:40… yeah. I definitely recognise that moment too.

Waste is one of my favourite words in the English language. I have magazine cutouts spelling WASTE taped up on the wall over my bed. It always reminds me of Mary of Bethany, and how she wasted her perfume on Jesus’ feet.

Ah. Yes. Anyway, watch it.