Grace Notes, By Nancy Kennedy

We’re doing the happy dance at my house these days.

It started when, one day last week, I went to turn on the TV in the living room and it popped, which is never a good sound coming from a major appliance or electronic device.

My husband had been pining for a flat-screen, high-definition TV for months and I’ve balked at the idea. Our TV was good enough.

But that morning “good enough” became “dead.” Later that day Barry called me at work and said, “Before you start screaming, hear me out.”

(Note to male readers: That’s never a good way to start a conversation. Trust me on this one.)

He called to say he bought a flat-screen, high-definition TV. He had gone out with every intention of buying just a regular TV but had a momentary lapse of husbandly fear of wifely retribution.

Honestly, I have nothing against flat-screen, high-definition TVs. My only concern was size. I have a cabinet that a local cabinetmaker made me years ago and I didn’t want a monster TV ruining the living room décor. Barry assured me the one he bought would fit inside the cabinet.

Crisis averted. And the Kennedys can live happily ever after.

Also, we discovered, with a high-definition TV comes the need for a high-definition cable box. As we were fiddling with it we noticed we got a bunch of premium movie channels that we didn’t order. Barry called to cancel them and the lady at the cable company said we could watch free movies until they turned them off the next day.

Saturday morning “Evan Almighty, a modern-day Noah and the ark story, was playing. As with “Bruce Almighty,” I love Morgan Freeman as God. He’s exactly as I imagine God to be — patient, witty, winsome, yet unwavering in what he wants to do in a person’s life.

Throughout the movie, the main character, Evan, does a kind of jerky “happy dance,” and at the very end of the movie, after the big flood and after wrong has been righted and Evan is a hero because he built this crazy gigantic ark and saved his neighbors from drowning after a dam broke as a result of a crooked Congressman’s shady dealings, he sees God under a tree on a hill.

They talk and then God says, “It’s time — do the dance.”

Evan says, “Care to join me?” and then they do this silly, jerky happy dance together and God disappears and a white dove with an olive branch in its mouth takes his place.

Then, before the credits roll, Morgan Freeman appears on screen holding stone tablets and says, “I now issue a new commandment: Thou shalt do the dance,” and everybody in the cast and crew dance to C + C Music Factory’s “Everybody Dance Now.”

When Evan danced with God tears came to my eyes and I said, “I want to dance with God!”

That hit something in me, something that felt true and right, and I sensed God, the real God not the Morgan Freeman God, say that I can dance with him — that I do dance with him. That I am dancing with him.

The life of faith really is that simple. It’s not about keeping rules, because we can’t keep them — but Jesus kept them for us so we could be unburdened and unshackled and stripped of guilt and shame and freed up to dance with God our silly happy dances.

For those who think the faith life is all about our obedience, it is — but obedience comes as a result of the dancing and not as its cause. If you think God is cold and stern and demanding, you’ll never dance with him, despite your obedience and diligence.

But if you dance first because he’s invited you to, then you’ll obey his rules. Not always and not completely, but willingly.

I believe nothing happens without a reason and I believe God wanted my husband to bring home a flat-screen, high-definition TV and a high-definition cable box so I could watch a free HBO movie with questionable theology but a great reminder that God smiles and he laughs and he says to his people, “Everybody dance now!”

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached via e-mail at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.

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