Closer to God – Pausing, Praying, Encountering and Moving at our Soak events

Our Soak events have evolved over the past two years into a time where getting closer to God is essential, they can help to put a pause in your week and focus back on God.

What is a UC Grace Soak event?

In 2019 we launched our first soak evening. The Soak evening developed out of a need to offer opportunities to grow closer to God. Being specific about the time that we give to that. What began as an evening event in 2019, migrated into a morning event in 2020. Moving with the world situation, it migrated further to an online event during their biggest restrictions of the COVID-19 lockdown.

We are now back to meeting face to face, yay!! Therefore, looking forward to the opportunity of seeking to deepen our relationship with God and grow closer to him.

Mel sitting with her hands out closer to God

Why should we set aside specific time to get closer to God?

Integrated within us, is a need to gather with others. By choosing to gather with others it can help us to recognise where we feel our relationship is with God. This allows us to not only go deeper looking at scriptures and praying for each other. But also the chance to dance with others whose hearts are simply to use dance to deepen their relationship with God.

Some people found it a bit indulgent having that chance to give ourselves some much needed ‘me-time’. But the world that we live in means that we need to give ourselves some time. Plus, God rested, and he calls us to rest to.

“for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” Hebrews 4.10-11

Often we get wrapped up in what’s happening around us, running around after one thing to the next, but God wants us to pause, he wants us to soak in all that he has for us, and sometimes that means giving ourselves some self-care.

Encountering God and getting closer to God with hands palm up.

So what happens?

During our soak events there is no ‘set’ agenda other than to encounter Jesus. But there are four main things which we do to encourage that encounter and help people to make that connection throughout the course of the evening.

  • Pausing
  • Praying
  • Encountering
  • Moving

These four key things help us on that journey to deepen our relationship with God and ultimately get closer to him. We live in a world where things are changing daily. Routines which once were set have evolved into something different and will continue to evolve into something else. But the importance of putting aside time to draw close to God will always be there. That’s why I want to encourage you to give that time to yourself, to get closer to God.

Praying for others at a soak event to get closer to God.
Raising a flag in worship closer to God.

Here are some participants feedback on getting closer to God at a UC Grace soak event.

‘Space to move as well as utter freedom to be still for long periods introduced a new dynamic.’

‘Just enjoyed being free to move’

‘It gave me some focus time to spend with God’

Want to know more about our Soak Events, then head here.

Golden Whirlwind

Does your movement change things?

God encourages us in those moments we need it most, even if we haven’t recognised that we need it. Whilst I was away at Rivercamp, there were several things that struck me.

The first being we all dance and move with the same heart. The second that a whirlwind is created as each of us moves in someway.

Let me share some more.

Part of my journey with UC Grace has been overcoming people’s perceptions of what I do and my heart behind it, as well believing and trusting that I was good enough to do it, and there was a need for it. It hasn’t been easy, at the Going Deeper weekend in July I shared some of this. That in the beginning of UC Grace I judged my ‘success’ on the number of people that came to my events and if I didn’t have many, I wasn’t good enough and doing it right.

Yet I knew the foremost reason that I was doing UC Grace was because it was about the hearts of those that came. The hearts that God needed to work with, take on a journey and grow. That’s what my heart needed to do, in order to recognise the gift God had grown inside me. A passion to share, motivate and grow others in movement and dance with Gods word as central.

During my time at Rivercamp I noticed a group of people that always congregated near a space at the side at the front, and claimed the space so to speak, and as the meeting got underway I realised they were movers and dancers of varying degrees of ability. As I began to watch them, a wrestle began in my spirit. A wrestle to watch, receive and bless what I was seeing, but at the same time resentment, longing, and feeling put out and it was unfair! Lots of emotions that had crept up and I didn’t know where to go with. Except I did, but only because of the journey I had been through with UC Grace.

Let me unpack this.

When I am in an environment where my emotions seem to be getting the better of me, or, better put, the Devil is trying to windle his way in. I check myself. I take a pause, a visible breath. The negativity that I was experiencing was pulling up my insecurities, ones that I had defeated. But there, in that present moment, in a new situation they were trying to come to the surface again. I just kept saying to myself, ‘they have a heart to move too,’ ‘they are worshipping God their way.’

In those moments in the worship, where I was desperate just to be lost in it and dance myself, I had to deal with this before I moved forward. I had to deal with the elephant! So, I began a conversation with God, asking what I have got to learn here, what did I need to deal with, recognise, bless, repent. Tough going!

As I relaxed into his presence, he encouraged me that it wasn’t about me being ‘left out’ or ‘not included’, it was about opening up opportunities for others to experience God.

The essence of UC Grace….

As UC Grace has grown, part of my battle has been addressing how UC Grace is seen, or what it is. It’s only been the past few years that I’ve acknowledged that it is a business. I say this here because it is through that acknowledgment that God presented me with opportunities for UC Grace to grow and develop.

Over the few days after that initial encounter in the tent at Rivercamp, I thought about it more, the impact of my reaction to what I had felt, and asked God to reveal more about it.

I had the most amazing picture.

This is the reason for this post, but I wanted you to understand a few things before I shared it. Every dancer and movers journey is different. You will experience some negativity at some point on your journey about dancing and moving, the key is how you deal with it when you are presented with it.

My heart is to release and equip others with their faith through dance and movement. Jesus will always be the number one person I go to for decisions, reasons and conversations, and that includes business ones. UC Grace is a business, it’s a business God has blessed with growth over a very big journey, the picture God gave me, not only encouraged me in my journey with UC Grace, but the journey of Christian dance organisations, businesses, and individuals. Whether they are moving now, will be movers, or will simply just experience the soaking of the Holy Spirit through someone moving around them.

So the picture…

During one of the last worship times at Rivercamp, the tent had come to a very hushed quiet, what I began to see were small whirlwinds over the tops of groups of people. As these whirlwinds began to move around the place, gold started to be threaded through them.

All the whirlwinds then converged into one. Into a tornado. A tornado of GLORY, filled with gold. As it moved it changed the atmosphere, transforming those it moved over. The more it moved the more different colours came into it. The more it moved it was clear that it was the interaction of what was inside the tornado that was causing the shift in the atmosphere.

As the image faded away, it was an ah ha moment. A moment where I recognised why God had to reiterate to me before about how precious each person’s movement was, and how each individuals movements when converged with others creates something far more powerful than we can ever fathom. It creates a movement in the heavens that transforms those around it.

This is something that I knew, but sometimes you can loose sight of it, when you’re tired and been giving out lots.

There is however more.

My friend told me about a picture an artist had in a tent, that I needed to go and look at. This is it… what do you see?

Painting by Helen Yousaf https://www.helen-yousaf-art.com/
Painting by Helen Yousaf https://www.helen-yousaf-art.com/

Two things were brought to my attention. The whirlwind effect of colours spiralling with the reaction to the environment around it. But also, how it fits in with the UC Grace logo. The lady that painted this is Helen Yousaf a prophetic artist and an amazing worship leader.

I was just astounded (again) at how God brings everything together. Are you a dancer? Are you ready to change the atmosphere that you move in? Are you ready to take your whirlwind where God tells you? Get in touch as I would love to hear from you.

Want to be kept up to date with all things UC Grace? Head here.

Do you need a soaking of the Holy Spirit?

Sometimes we just need to stop. Breathe. Pause. Say, ‘God I need you right now’, ‘please send more of your spirit’, ‘wrap your arms around me’.

Our new Soak events are designed to provide just that. An opportunity in the month to enter into Gods presence.

Although we all try daily to walk with Jesus beside us, there are always moments where life takes us down a different path, and we get to the end of a day, week, month and realise, those moments that we struggled through, were exactly the moments when God wanted to step into the breach for us.

My heart for the Soak events is a time to actively make the decision to draw deeper with Jesus and dwell in his presence. In 2 Timothy it talks about the need to nourish and support our faith, and it’s the Holy Spirit within us that can help us do that.

soak night scripture 2 Timothy 1.14

We can’t give out, if we are running ourselves on empty, taking the time to fill us up should be a priority.

What will happen at Soak events?

We’ll spend a short time welcoming each other and doing a warm up movement activity together. As well as reading through some scriptures to focus on during the session.

This will lead into an initial time of free worship, after which there will then be a creative reflection exercise for people to part take in if they wish, leading back into free worship.

There will be the opportunity to take part in some prayer movement if people wish, this will be led and guided by the event leader, depending on peoples strengths.

The rest of the evening we’ll see where the Holy Spirit takes us!

You can see our current dates for Soak Nights here.

Do I need to have had dance experience?

Absolutely not! Part of dancing and moving in your faith is the recognition that movements are tiny and big, so whatever you do, a foot tap, or hand raise, is still a movement.

Want to know more and be kept up to date with other events at UC Grace? Head here to sign up.

Christian Dance – 3 things that influence my dance ministry teaching

I love teaching and I love being able to intertwine faith and dance together. This is because I see them as one, a continuous cycle, so one can’t function without the other. Therefore it makes sense to teach them both! However, there are 3 key things that influence my dance ministry teaching and I’m looking forward to sharing what they are here and how they are a springboard to UC Grace.

1 – My faith journey impacts my dance ministry teaching

Our faith helps us display who God has made us to be. It helps us realise and accept the qualities and purpose God has written on our lives.

In my dance ministry teaching, my passion is to help these things to develop – passion to teach that God has written our purpose in our lives already. Purpose to identify how you can use the experiences you have in your life to encourage you in your walk. Freedom to give you space to grow and release who you are.

In other words, it is my desire to share my faith that propels me forward with my dance ministry teaching. The enjoyment I get from learning more about God’s word and demonstrating that through dance and movement. Leads me to build and share into dance ministry from a strong foundation.

Quote - Our hearts follow Jesus. Jesus fills our hearts. Our hearts initiate our movements. By Anna Gilderson.

2 – Childhood memories helped grow my dance ministry teaching

Memories pay such a key part in building our foundation for how we live the rest of our life. Here are just two stories that helped to lay the foundation of where I have come from with dance and teaching.

  1. The first story is about when I began dancing. Something stirred in me, even from a young age, I loved it. From an early age I was given the opportunity to take part in solo’s and duets at competitions. There is one memory that sticks with me. I was performing at a competition and have lots on fun, until I managed to forget my dance!!! It left me with such a feeling of embarrassment, upset, and shame. It made me shrink back from performances.
  2. Who has felt that tug of the Holy Spirit, the nudge that you should do something, or that total abandonment feeling that the Holy Spirit is there right with you? Who has had that through movement? What an experience! The first time this happened, my eyes were opened to how I could share my heart with God and be lost in the process. There was no pressure to do things a certain way, or wonder about whether I was doing it right. It was just purely sinking into God in that moment to grow closer to him through dance and movement.

The impact…

These two very simple stories, are what started my journey to where I am now and influenced me moving forward.

Amazingly, as a result of the stall in performance as young girl it means that when I perform now, I have to make the choice to lean on God throughout the whole dance.

Making the effort to breath is the most important thing! Although breathing seems such a simple thing, it enabled to remain grounded throughout the dance and choose to put my focus on God. There have been many times since then, that I have struggled with performances, and I know during those times it was because I wasn’t leaning on God and trying to do it by myself.

Recognising the nudge from the Holy Spirit has made me more aware of my journey and conversation with God. That important thing, of both talking and then allowing time to listen back. Realising that the reasons you move, may be different to what others may see in your movement. Where you have the chance to be blessed and bless others. To look for the GRACE in that moment and seize that conversation with God.

3 – Making training a priority for my dance ministry teaching

I mentioned at the beginning about how I see faith and dance intertwined as one thing. Think of it like this –

As you grow in dance, you grow in God.

As you grow in God, you expand you dance.

This quote is brilliant as it demonstrates how our relationship can go round in a continual circle. By investing in one of the things (faith), it influences the impact that the other (dance) can have.

Most importantly it offers the chance for continual growth. Part of recognising the space for that continual growth is immersing myself in God’s word. Allowing space for the scripture and it’s application into my heart and how I can apply it.

For dancing, it’s taking the opportunity to learn and be grounded in dance technique, that has been essential in the development of my dance skills. Part of learning those skills and technique involved going back to university as this offered the best place for me to grow in teaching styles and and understanding of creative process.

Creative process within dance teaching ministry is extremely important as it’s where we really let the Holy Spirit fly. Choosing grow in your faith and dance will have no impact if you don’t let Holy Spirit work alongside you.

Dancing together at a dance ministry teaching workshop.
Living Colour February 2018

What does this mean for me?

In your personal dance ministry teaching you need to understand how the past, present and future can impact it. Here are some simple things for you to think through and how they could affect your teaching journey as you go forward.

  1. Your past experiences influence the passion that drives you. What speaks to you most, what stories do you remember the most? How does your faith connect you to your dance and movement journey?
  2. Your present situation will help you define the purpose that you stand for with your teaching. Do you feel adequately equipped to step out into dance ministry teaching? Are there things that you need to learn more of?
  3. The future offers you a chance to bring freedom to many through dance and movement. However, in order for this to happen, you need an open channel of communication with God, a continuous conversation allows both parties to listen and respond.

What’s your story? What got you to where you are, at the moment?

Dancing at Candlemas

Last night I had the privilege of being invited to be part of the Candlemas service at St Micahel’s, Aldershot, it was such a lovely evening, I left buzzing and I want to share some of what God spoke to me during the service.

I had been asked if I could find some dancers who could respond as the felt led to a piece of live piano music based on Psalm 121: I Life my eyes up, to the Mountain. The lovely Helen Warren joined me as a second dancer, and our prayer before we danced was that we would reflect some of Jesus’ heart, that people would be drawn in with a desire to explore God more through our movement.

Recently I recognised that I spend a lot of time teaching and delivering, and not so much time dancing for myself. Last night gave me the opportunity to come before God and thank him that I have the ability to move, but also reinforced that for UC Grace to grow, and share Gods heart, I need to make sure I am giving God mine, and that in turn requires time set aside for me to dance, and be lost in his love through movement.

As the service progressed, Alwyn, the Vicar asked if we would dance again later in the service. By this point me and Helen felt we had ‘warmed up’, laid the foundations of showing Jesus through movement. So, as Jesus Christ, I think upon your sacrifice played, our hearts were stirred more by the spirit and we loved sharing more of that through dance and movement.

Much of the journey I have been on over the past week has encompassed the desire to draw back to the centre of what and why I do what I do with UC Grace. There were several things that God drew my attention to last night, it made me chuckle as the theme seemed to be everywhere I went at the moment.

In my previous post I mentioned about the interaction between creativity and the heart, and that my desire when I started had always been that it was about the hearts impacted not the numbers. You can read more about it here. It is this theme of people’s hearts and prayer that keep cropping up.

This prayer below reminded me that God places me where I need to be and with who I need to be, and I need to be willing to serve Him in what ever way that looks like.

It’s really hard in reality isn’t it to keep that sense of doing what God wants and following his will. This chorus of ‘I the Lord of sea and sky’ (brilliant song, you can listen to here), sums it up very well.

I will hold your people in my heart. The people that God puts in front of me at events, in conversations and through dancing. Each one is important.

We did manage to video some of what we did last night. Not everything is in full view. But it will give you a flavour from our first dance.

What special services have you danced in? Let me know.

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