I mentioned previously how I took a big (for me) leap this summer by signing up to be on two different launch teams (I reviewed the first of those books, Holly Gerth’s Fierce Hearted, here in case you missed it). The second of those books (actually the first one I signed up for) came out yesterday. I’m so, so glad that I took the risk and said yes to be on these teams, because I’ve been so blessed by each book, albeit in different ways.
Dance Stand Run: The God-Inspired Moves of a Woman on Holy Ground is a book that author and pastor’s wife Jess Connolly (co-author of Wild and Free) felt led to write after trying to convince three different women that they needed to watch the show Pretty Little Liars. In church. On Easter Sunday. And then, as she tells it, she went home feeling disappointed and let down, and as she prayed expressing her confusion as to why their congregation didn’t experience the spiritual awakening and revival that they’d been hoping and praying would happen, she remembered those three conversations, and a thought struck her: “Have we forgotten about holiness?”
This is, at its core, a book on the fundamentals of Christianity. That might strike some as being too elementary, but the hard truth is that we all need a refresher course on the fundamentals of faith. I think we all know church bodies — as well as individual believers — who are so legalistic they’ve forgotten about grace. Just as we also know those who emphasize grace to the exclusion of holiness, righteousness and sanctification–fearing that to even mention the idea that receiving God’s grace should transform us to be more like Jesus is a slippery slope that leads to legalism and bondage.
In Dance Stand Run, Connolly firmly but gently presents a Biblical case that grace and holiness go hand-in-hand, and that to focus too much on one and not enough on the other leads to a faulty Christianity. She makes the case that, while it’s certainly a blessing to rejoice in our deliverance and what we were delivered from, we also need to remember what we were delivered to — to a life of transformation and sanctification made possible by the Holy Spirit. Grace says we don’t have to be holy — but that we get to be holy.
I especially appreciated the chapter that talks about drawing a circle around yourself and your own holiness. I and the Holy Spirit in my are the only ones who get to decide what holiness looks like in my life, just as you and the Holy Spirit in you are the only ones who get to decide what holiness looks like for you. So if I’ve decided that I can’t watch Game of Thrones that doesn’t mean I get to decide other Christians shouldn’t be watching it, either. And if you feel like you shouldn’t read Harry Potter you don’t get to decide other Christians shouldn’t read it.
Connolly doesn’t pull any punches, even delving into that touchy subject of alcohol, and getting a big ol’ YES AND AMEN from me when she points out that we can get drunk on all kinds of things–things that might be innocent on the surface and perfectly fine for someone else can be crutches or stumbling blocks if our motivations and our relationships with these things aren’t what they should be. She invites each of us to examine our own lives and encourages us to focus on identifying the planks in our own eyes and not getting distracted by the specks we see in the eyes of other people.
I also like that each chapter includes a section of Bible study, taking a close look at a relevant passage of scripture, as well as questions to aid self-examination and personal application. I haven’t read it myself, but I know that there’s also a Bible study guide available to go along with the book.
This book confirmed a lot of my own beliefs, which might bias me in its favor, but it also convicted me more times than I’d like to admit. I think this is a timely book that’s needed in today’s Church, full of life-changing truth and encouragement. It could just spur the kind of spiritual awakening and revival that Jess was hoping for on that cringe-worthy Easter morning.