Notes from Jan

A Time to Dance

February 2, 2024

Mama confessed and the Bible in Ecclesiastes 3:4 declared there’s “A time to dance.” In the Baptist churches where I grew up, dancing was forbidden. Like one of the deadly sins. You know, almost as serious an offense it should’ve been added to the Ten Commandments. Like Number 11:Thou shalt not dance. Some of you grew up this way and heard the rationale about what dancing could lead to. But with or without dancing, we figured out what IT led to and think God had a great idea.

And while I’ve written and told this story before, I no longer apologize for retelling anything. Like I tell my kids or Grands, as they roll their eyes, “Some things bear repeating.” Besides, it’s February. So welcome to February and second chances. It’s the month Mama confessed. Which was something she didn’t often do, as far as I knew. Not that she was sinless, she just preferred getting me to confess. And God knows I had a lot to fess up about. Still do.

Well, according to Mama’s confession, it happened on Valentine’s Day. Mama made a special dinner and baked a cherry pie. Daddy’s favorite. While some Baptists didn’t dance, we excelled in cooking and baking. And Mama was good at both. By now, their nest was empty. So they were free to do whatever they wanted to do. Of course, within the confines of Mama’s Baptist upbringing.

Now, Daddy, didn’t grow up Baptist or anything other than being Danish, a good dancer and lover of baseball. So it was a surprise to his family when Daddy, as a young adult, went to a meeting in Chicago where Paul Rader was preaching. The result? Daddy became the first Christian in his family. So at this point, any baggage was his doing.

And to some well-meaning Christians, that baggage included dancing, which he loved to do. Daddy was agile and light on his feet until he died at almost 80. But some well-intentioned churchy folks, informed Daddy of their versions of Thou Shalt Not. And dancing, while not set in stone, was forbiddden. So he quit. But he still danced on the inside.

So back to Valentine’s Day. After Mama lit the candles, she put on a record. You know those vinyl discs with a hole in the middle. And Mantovani’s orchestra began to play romantic music on thier Magnavox Hi-Fi record player. Besides our piano, it was our most prized possession. The TV came in third.

Then, after removing her apron(nothing more), Mama called Daddy to come and dine. He entered, bringing along the familiar scent of Mennen aftershave and a smile of things to come. He seated Mama, then prayed. I wasn’t there but I know the routine. However, after dinner and dessert ended, Mama stayed seated.

Now, usually Mama would’ve popped up and started cleaning. You know, cleanliness being right after godliness. Still Mama sat while Mantovani’s orchestra wove its spell. But Daddy stood, bowed to Mama, held out his hands and said, “Margaret, may I have this dance?” Mama said that inside she battled. All the dos and don’ts swirled in her head like the flurry of flakes when you shake a snowglobe For a long time Mama knew a dancer lived inside her, too, but she didn’t want to dishonor God or her parents. But over the years she slowly learned a distinction between man-made rules and God’s. So Mama was primed for change. So she stood and with Norwegian conviction said, “Yes!” This was a time to dance.

When Mama told the story to me, long before she wrote it, she explained her reasoning. She summed it up simply, “This has gone on long enough!” I love this story. It’s layered in love and hope that today can be different from yesterday. They each had reasons to resist change. To let unforgiveness and baggage pile between them like a barrier. But they danced.

And so I ask myself, “What’s gone on long enough?” Who needs forgiving? What do I need to let go of or take hold of to dance?

Love is risky.

Just ask Jesus.

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16 Comments

  • Reply valerie mccoy February 2, 2024 at 1:53 pm

    So sweet, Jan…………and MY parents dancing close, it was, Mantovani – Ray Conniff – Glenn Miller – Perry Como.
    And I loved watching them ‘cheek to cheek’. Such a sweet memory.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg February 2, 2024 at 2:29 pm

      Good memories to have, dear Valerie. Sometimes the small things are the big things.

  • Reply Radina Welton February 2, 2024 at 2:18 pm

    As I’ve commented before, my story is exactly like yours, though my Swedish/Norwegian/Baptist mom didn’t have a break- through like yours, except for eventually having a sip of wine occasionally.

    Also as a musician there were many times everything inside of me wanted to dance. Still does! But now God has given me a 12-yr-old granddaughter who can’t stop dancing informally and formally. Her mother, my daughter, observed early in her toddler days that she was a dancer. So she wisely has supported that talent through 7 years of driving her to dancing school where she’s learned tap, jazz, hip-hop, and ballet. Now she has decided to specialize in ballet where she has just entered the level of toe dance. In a few months she and her team will be competing in the nationals. Of course, I’m excited! I live vicariously through her.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg February 2, 2024 at 2:34 pm

      So true, dear Radina. We have much in common, including living vicariously through my children and Grands. All are dancers. Actually, by the time my brothers entered their teen years, my Daddy was no longer a pastor, so they lengthened the leash on my brothers. They danced since Daddy reported to God now and not a board of deacons. But it took until we were all out of the house for Mama to move onto the dance floor. My attempts make my kids and Grands laugh. They named my dance the T-Rex. So you can imagine how lacking I am in smooth moves. Hope your granddaughter does well in nationals. Aren’t we blessed!

  • Reply Jeri February 2, 2024 at 4:27 pm

    So love this story Jan. And I remember reading this in her book…such a wonderful retelling. Thank you for reminding us of what is truly important in life here on earth. And LOL, T-Rex, really??? They have no filter, do they??? 😉

  • Reply Jan Carlberg February 2, 2024 at 9:43 pm

    No filter whatsoeveer!! And I hae to admit it but I do a mean T-Rex. And I love this story, too, dear Jeri.
    It’s how it was told to me so it varies from the written one but the heart of the story remains the same.

  • Reply Phil Eaton February 3, 2024 at 7:43 am

    So lovely, Jan. So vivid and personal and beautiful. And so thoughtful, as usual. So many of us trying to recover from no dancing and many other such requirements, longing for God to set us free. Yes, indeed, this has gone on long enough.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg February 3, 2024 at 9:56 am

      And what a lovely surprise to see your name show up, dear Phil. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Sending hugs to you and Sharon out in beautiful Arizona. It’s interesting to note what tripped up ones that came before us. I wonder if we are doing the same thing today, but with a fresh batch of man-made rules. But still rooted in fear and a need to control, as earlier man-made rules attempted to do. And, as it did for too many in the past, our fear and distrust may be causing our children and Grands to back away from following Jesus? Lord, have mercy.

  • Reply Jackie February 3, 2024 at 6:37 pm

    I had sent a question to you concerning the violets your mom loved that were the first blooms of spring. I wanted to know where I can purchase some and what they are called. I’ve not heard anything from you and am not sure the best way to contact you.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg February 4, 2024 at 8:11 pm

      Dear Jackie, I’m so sorry I never received your question, but I can answer it now. The book was Violets for Mr. B by Margaret Jensen. It is no longer in print but I suggest you go on-line and hunt for a used copy. It’s amazing what’s out there. Hope you can find her book. Thanks for connecting through this means.

  • Reply Alyssa Arnold February 3, 2024 at 11:01 pm

    Yikes. the thought of not dancing nearly puts me six feet under. I’ve dedicated my life’s work to teaching dance. I hope Christians feel they can dance without feeling guilt or shame. Dance has been one of God’s greatest gift to my life!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg February 4, 2024 at 8:22 pm

      And you are an amazing dancer, dear Alyssa. I loved watching you and Andrew at your wedding. . God made our bodies to move. And I hope you sense God’s pleasure when you dance, like Eric Liddell did when he ran. Have you heard of the movie Chariots of Fire? It’s from 1981,before you were born, but worth looking into and watching. Sending hugs to you and Andrew, two of my Gordon kids, in Utah.

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe February 4, 2024 at 8:17 pm

    Jan, I resonated with your post because my Baptist upbringing didn’t allow for much dancing either (other than folk and square), but oh how I LOVE to dance at weddings! The first class Mike and I took when we moved to NC five years ago was clogging, as people here dance in the streets on summer Friday evenings to bluegrass. Such joy!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg February 4, 2024 at 10:01 pm

      Well, keep on clogging, dear Maggie. How fun to do something good for more than your body. God’s given us so much to enjoy, including those beautiful North Carolina mountains, Bluegrass , along with feet and legs capable of clogging.

  • Reply Barbara Van Brunt February 5, 2024 at 4:39 am

    I loved reading your blog. I have always loved to dance, and I didn’t grow up with those restrictions. Fred doesn’t like to dance at all, although he has given it a try a few times at weddings and once when an Elvis impersonator was singing my favorite song!
    I never knew your dad was converted under the ministry of Paul Rader. Would that be the Paul Rader connected with The Salvation Army?

    • Reply Jan Carlberg February 5, 2024 at 10:03 am

      It was his uncle, Barb, pastor/evangelist of the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle. Jud and I were colleagues with the Paul Rader you know, after he became President of Asbury College, now Asbury University, We enjoyed our years with Paul and Kay., hearing stories from their years with the Salvation Army and their love for the Korean people. And I told them about my Dad’s connection to another Paul Rader.
      As to your reluctant dancing partner, for sure a Fred Astaire type wouldn’t spun your around on the dance floor. But teaming up with Fred Van Brunt, the Salvation Army and choosing to follow Jesus, will one day have you dancing with the real stars! But it can’t hurt to start practicing with Fred. Think of the fun your grandchildren and children will have watching the two of you! Mine show no mercy.

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