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as a teen, I spent more Friday nights than I can count at my best friend's house. Carol and I would dance away the hours until we would drop our weary bones in a heap on the floor. As soon as we could catch our breath, we would get up, giggle, and start in again. Nothing took us to the mountaintop of our teenage emotions like rocking around the clock.
Carol's huge, cedar-paneled upstairs bedroom was perfect for trying out all the latest dance steps: the stroll, the chicken, and the twist. We would bebop until Carol's mom would holler up the steps that the chandeliers were swinging and chunks of plaster were ricocheting off the living room ceiling.
Now, forty-five-plus years later, we're still dancing. While Carol remains a dancing machine, I'm more likely to sway than to do the pony. Break dancing sounds more like a threat than an invitation.
Speaking of dancing, have you ever read Ezekiel 37? It talks about a whole valley full of folks who'd lost their rhythm. It seems these people had the dance knocked out of them until they crumbled into a heap of bones on the valley floor. Sound familiar? Sound like last Tuesday? It does for me. In fact, it's probably something we can all relate to. That's why I think it's worth spending a little time looking at thatvalley in Ezekiel-and our own valleys.
But first, let me welcome you, girlfriend, to the valley experience. You've probably been here before. This is where you've met Reality. You know her, the one with the piercing megaphone voice; beehive hairdo; polyester pants; polka-dotted, horn-rimmed spectacles (Reality is a spectacle); combat boots; and backpack full of survival pamphlets.
Truth be known, most of us wish Reality looked more like Gwyneth Paltrow or Julia Roberts. Who invited Miss Party-Pooper? I'd rather have someone who could inspire me to skip to the summit of life. On the big screen, Gwyneth almost always achieves her dreams. But no, we get Raunchy Reality, insisting we hunker down in the valley, of all places, and make ourselves at home.
Still pining for the mountains? You're not alone.
I was on a cross-country flight recently when my plane flew over a range of snowy summits. My eyes traced the roadways up the rocky sides to see if any of the trails would take a car to the top. None of them did. Isn't that just like life? It's never quite that easy to get to the top. I've watched on television as climbers, on arriving at the pinnacle, splay out their arms and do a high step to celebrate their achievement. Why? They're probably delirious from the effort. But beyond their temporary euphoria, I have to wonder if there's not a part of them deep down that thinks if they can just get to the top, they'll escape all the hassles and hardships of the valley.
Behind all that mountain hoopla, we seem to think we can shake off the valley dust of routine and hardships. And maybe even get closer to God. In the Bible, the mountaintop often signifies the place where God speaks, as with Moses on Mount Sinai or the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. So maybe we shimmy up the rocky cliffs in hopes of having our own transforming experience.
Some people climb for the view. Our perspective changes when we're on top. Before our eyes are spread distant shores, valley dips, roadways, and riverbeds like ribbons curling on the package of the land. Yes, mountaintops lend themselves to grandeur and greatness.
But here is the breath-stopping truth: we are called to live the majority of our lives in the valley. Uh-huh, most of our days are spent in the earth's indentions. Now where's the music in that? Who volunteers to don a kilt and do the Highland fling to that news?
That would be me. Yup, I'm jazzed about valley living (well, most of the time), and let me tell you why. From the mountaintop I can see an eagle soar, but I've learned that in the valley I can hear a sparrow sing. On the mountain I see trees like canopies, but in the valley I can sit in their shade and eat of their fruit. On the mountain I see lakes like small mirrors, but in the valley I can touch the reflections and ladle the water to my parched lips. On the summit I see people like walking sticks, but in the valley I can trace a child's face and dab away tears.
So sit down with me and Ms. Reality, and listen up. Or, better yet, put on your dancin' shoes and join us. Eventually, we'll learn that the mountaintop is distant and dangerous. But in the meantime, let's see how the valley is fruitful and dangerous. Because life is like that: bone-drying hard and wildly wondrous.
Jesus Christ knew that. He came from the high places but lived out his thirty-three years among us in the valley. He began his human life in a lowly manger and completed his work on a barren hillside that became divinely lush with his holy sacrifice. Hope spilled out of his pierced side and into the valley. In that valley, birds sang inspired arias, leaves pirouetted to the earth with elegance, and breezes carried the grace melody throughout the lowlands. You still can hear the music in a bee's buzz, smell it in the lilacs' sweetness, and see it in a snowflake's dance. Listen carefully.... There, did you hear it? If you didn't, you will.
We Valley Girls have a reason to tap our toes and move our feet. We won't always hear the music, but even during those dark times, we can keep dancing by faith.
In the pages ahead, we'll meet women who have done that very thing. They will teach us some new steps to help us develop a broader repertoire. And we'll hear a spectrum of thought on what it means to survive-and thrive-in the everyday muddle of our fast-paced existence. They will remind us that we're not alone in our quest to dance in the valley.
Dancing Bones is designed with you in mind. I know life isn't easy for you, because I've spoken with tens of thousands of you in my travels with Women of Faith over the past eleven years. I've been stunned at your losses and the difficulties you function with daily. I'm aware you live in the valley with only occasional visits to the mountaintop for a breath of unsullied air. I offer you a fresh perspective to help you maintain and, if necessary, resuscitate your verve.
Valleys are rich with life and littered with liabilities, which means we'll have to step lively, and periodically we'll visit the mountaintop to maintain perspective.
Hang on to your spandex as we tour together the valley to see what the well-dressed Valley Girl is wearing these days, to examine the cost to maintain not only our wardrobes but also our sanity. We will laugh, think, twirl, and sip the latest caramel frappé concoction, as we chat about current events in our lives.
So dig out some comfy shoes, dust off your dry bones, and get ready to dance!
Excerpted from dancing bones by PATSY CLAIRMONT Copyright © 2007 by Patsy Clairmont. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted August 5, 2011
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