Welcome If you happen to be familiar with the college I attended in central Arkansas, you probably chuckled at my title! If you have never attended a conservative Christian school, you may have no idea what I’m talking about. Read on and find out why I changed nine ladies “dancing” to “doing choreography” and how to make classic gingerbread cookies for your holiday season. Thanks for joining me. Note–I may receive a small compensation from affiliate links seen on this blog post. For further information, please see my Terms and Disclosure page.
Food For Thought You have probably noticed by now that we are doing a little Christmas count down here at faith-family-food. Last week I spent some time discussing proposed theories of the meaning behind the common Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas. When I got to today’s gift, nine ladies dancing, it brought back memories from college and that word “dance.” I grew up in a church of conservative Christian faith. That meant no alcohol, no two-piece swimsuits, and no dancing. Well, I can tell you there are ways to get around all of these, if you try hard enough! No, I’m not trying to trick God, or anything, but it all becomes a matter of semantics and interpretation. I do not regret my conservative upbringing and happily still attend the same church, just a congregation in a different location now.
I remember when the movie Dirty Dancing came out in 1987. My parents were appalled that a movie would come out with that title and any kind of activities that it might lead to! I was told I could not watch it because it was inappropriate. In a couple of summers we traveled to visit my dad’s family in Massachusetts. I was about 12 years old and had a sleep over with my twin cousins. Guess what movie they had to watch on their VCR? Yep, I got to watch Dirty Dancing, anyway! I’m such a rebel! And I told my mom the next day, explaining that it wasn’t anything like she thought, but it was a “good story.” She wasn’t pleased, but not angry either. And you know what? Watching that movie did not make me become promiscuous or start dressing or moving in provocative ways. Years leading up to watching that movie (and others!) were filled with casual lessons that ingrained morals and values that shaped my character and behavior. I’m not saying we should saturate our minds with suggestive movies, music, or literature, but our choices are going to be built more on the behaviors modeled for us and the character displayed by those we look up to and admire. I was blessed to have parents that displayed, and taught, appropriate morals and values and also a church family that I could look to for guidance. My parents allowed me to attend every dance, prom, and formal I wanted to go to when I was in high school. By that point, I had proven to them over and again that I was capable of making smart choices. That, and the fact that “I can’t dance.” No, literally, I have no rhythm or flexibility…it’s like watching an out-of-shape robot try to dance!
So back to the “nine ladies doing choreography.” After high school I went to a private Christian college affiliated with the church I had grown up attending. That meant no alcohol, no dancing, dress codes and curfews. I LOVED it. I am a person who craves structure, rules, and boundaries, so even as I was getting freedom from my parents, I did not mind still having the same expectations. And yes, I am very aware that most 18 and 19 year olds would hate this. So we never had dances, we had “functions.” We didn’t have fraternities and sororities, we had “social clubs.” And when the university had its big Spring entertainment extravaganza, we didn’t dance, we did “choreography.” And it all came down to the hips! We could choreograph these elaborate dance numbers and perform for huge audiences, as long as there wasn’t any exaggerated side-to-side hip movement. There was university staff watching during practices for just such a thing! I’m sure if there had been suggestive shaking from our chest area that would have been vetoed as well, but we were always reminded about keeping our hips straight when performing our steps. At the time I failed to see how hips, especially mine, were going to lead someone astray! It became a big joke among students. Anytime we would see or hear the word “dance,” we would substitute in the word “choreography.” Like I said, it all comes down to semantics.
I am not here today to judge whether you are your kids dance or not. There are definitely some dances that I consider to be quite beautiful, elegant and artistic. I think if you can dance well it’s a real talent. There are also dances, even some performed by local junior dance troupes and school cheerleaders, that I consider to be inappropriate and somewhat offensive. Little girls should not be coached in learning to move their bodies in suggestive gyrations. Just check your motivation and intention behind those movements, whether it’s dancing or “choreography.”
Today’s Scriptures I was always intrigued by the “no dancing” rule when I would read in scripture about some of the people dancing with joy. Nowhere does scripture talk about how much hips can or can’t move, nor does it say that dancing is sinful and choreography is not. But I am very aware that our body movements, along with how we dress and the language we use, should proclaim modesty and not be done to entice another (1 Timothy 2:9.) This weekend I tried to dig a little deeper into this topic by reading various commentaries. Here’s what I found out: There is no specific place in the Bible that says a person CAN or CANNOT dance. Like so many other areas, we are given freedom of choice and discretion based on the context of other directions given, such as not being a stumbling block to others (1 Corinthians 8:9.) The Hebrew word for dancing, as referenced in the Old Testament, meant whirling or turning, not the modern definition of dance that often resembles sexual movements. In the Old Testament dancing was done as an act of celebration, worship, or expression of joy. There is no mention of dancing as an act of worship in the New Testament. The Bible mentions men dancing with men in groups, women dancing with women in groups, but not a woman and man dancing together. I did read one commentary that mentioned a husband and wife dancing together privately is not inappropriate and made reference to Song of Solomon, although I was unable to find any specific verses. There is no mention of Jesus, the apostles, or other Christians dancing in the New Testament. The daughter of Herodias danced for Herod on his birthday (Matthew 14:6) and it pleased him so much he offered her anything she wanted, which turned out to be the head of John the Baptist. That was definitely a way that dancing led to sin! Just like so many other activities we participate in, it really comes down to our motives and the desires of our heart. Whether it be dancing, drinking alcohol, shopping, eating, or even good works, I have to ask myself, “Am I doing this to please others or to please God?”
Today’s Recipe I have another classic Christmas treat for you today. Last week I shared my favorite sugar cookie recipe for decorating. Maybe gingerbread is your thing, instead. So here is the recipe I use when I want to make gingerbread cut-out cookies. I actually found a recipe like this in Taste of Home several years ago and tweaked it over the years. At our house, we get creative and don’t limit ourselves just to gingerbread boys. We make the whole family, along with their pets, too! Like I mentioned last week, the joy of cookie baking and decorating this time of year is to get the kids in the kitchen, get them involved, and get to making some great memories that will last their lifetime.
Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies (makes about 4 dozen)
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp salt
- frosting and candies to decorate (we usually use store bought icing)
In large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add egg and molasses. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture and mix until well combined, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Wrap dough in wax paper and refrigerate at least four hours. When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with assorted gingerbread man or other holiday cookie cutters. Place on baking sheets and bake 10 minutes, or until edges are firm. Remove baking sheets to cooling racks for 2-3 minutes. Remove cookies from pans and place on cooling racks. Allow to cool completely before decorating as desired.
Helpful products for today’s post include air bake cookie sheets, cooling racks, and assorted cookie cutters. Check out these links (valid 12/11/17 at 11:50 a.m., CST) to purchase products I use.