Thursday, 10 November 2011

Flag waving - confessions of an imaginative only child!

A lovely friend of mine brought this to my attention through Facebook today.

I've led worship in the past where children and young folks have danced like this with flags or even long strips of silky material to express their joy and praise and love of God in a different way. Expressing that thankfulness in a way that's filled with playfulness, colour, motion, texture and pattern. It needs no formal words. It takes no learning. The dancer just listens to their heart, moves and gives their whole self to God in the moment.

I was pleased to see people are still having fun, a laugh, a ball, expressing themselves in this simple way across all cultures, like whirling Dervishes, caught up in the moment, scribbling and painting in air with their own bodies, extended through the flags.

Whirling Dervishes

It also made me remember with a twinge of longing something I've not done since I was a little child.

When I was little, I used to love what my parents' used to call my "flag waving". I didn't learn it. It came from nowhere but my fertile imagination, love of storytelling, making up songs and worlds of my own. An only child, low maintenance as many Ennea 9-type introverts often are, I'd disappear into the fields that ran from our back garden to the railway line where my dad worked as a shunter. Every summer evening I'd be there, or up in my bedroom when the nights drew in again in autumn. Flag-waving.

It wasn't anything I could really describe to anybody else. It came as naturally to me as the synaesthesia that made burning leaves "taste" like caramel to my senses, or petrol "taste" like apricot when neither had been anywhere near my lips! I was an "imaginative" child, back in those days when we made our own entertainment (and I confess I preferred it that way most of the time!). Happy in my own company. Never bored.

This 'flag-waving' went on for years, before adulthood made it seem a bit embarrassing and best left in the nursery. I'd choose and strip the lower leaves from a slim stalk of rose-bay willow herb (known as fireweed, or, on railway properties like my home in a little valley in South Yorkshire, "railway weed") leaving only a few waggly leaves at the top to nod and twirl.

Then I would watch it, shaking and twirling it in front of me while I told stories, or made up elaborate narratives with imaginary places, people, animals all with wonderful names that tripped off my tongue. I'd make up songs and rhymes and nonsense that made my heart soar with wonder as I felt completely at one with the earth and my Maker. In that state of peace and exhilaration, you could really notice things.

The "flag" didn't have to be willow herb. It could be anything that shook and flowed and painted patterns and shapes at the end of a stalk or stick. It could become a dragon's tail, a flowing head of hair on the characters in my story, a horse's tail - anything! I had an old silk head scarf given as a present one Christmas. I fed the thin end of this scarf  through a slot in a toy golf stick with the mallet end removed, painted black, from some childhood game. Then I could hold the wand of the stick and make the scarf wave as I wove my wonders in words that became my passion as I grew older and could fashion them onto paper in some form. I kept that flag till the scarf part was worn and tattered.

Over the course of my childhood, I used stems of common wild plants, fallen twigs, old chiffon remnants, grasses, sparklers - you name it. I loved every minute. Some of my best ideas and plots were dreamed up that way with a "flag" in my hand in some private space where nobody would laugh or watch!

My "flags" were nowhere near as huge as these ones used in the video. Or in any pictures of "flag dancing" I can find on the net! I wasn't copying anybody else I'd ever seen. My movements weren't as expansive. My "flags" were often nothing more than switches of greenery or diaphanous swatches of scrap fabrics. The flag stayed in front of me, and my eyes never left it as I whispered the stories and words the sight inspired me to create. Every moment was joy, all stress relieved.

I miss the "flag-waving" hours of my youth! I've always been a private dancer. At the moment my health makes it so much harder to stand rapt for ages or dance even with nobody watching. But in my heart I thank God for making us each unique, for His lack of concern with formality and ritual. The freedom He inspires to whirl us up into private heavens, bringing joy to His heart, I pray, as He surely brings joy into mine!
Rose Bay Willow Herb or "Railway Weed" - my number one "flag" of choice as a child!


  1. Oh I loved reading this blog. I too had such joy as a child of imagination with days alone in the fields or along the canals. For me it was the birds and animals who were my companions. Even my 'toy' glass ornaments became so real and friends for me. I wasn't lonely with them but we were friends together.

    I love the freedom of what you've described in your flag waving and storytelling. Don't you think this is the childlike joy we're encouraged to recapture and imitate. Unselfconscious and abandoned, living in the moment.

    I sometimes find even now, when the body won't coooperate, that when I'm lost in worship, I can feel my spirit dancing before God in the most beautiful and outrageous movements. Roll on our new bodies! Perhaps we'll dance together in eternity - with flags waving. Now won't that be fun.

  2. Hey,

    that's me in that video, love this post, I just want to encourage you that this is Gods confirmation to me, I also do Propehtic Art and am helping someone do a prophetic artworkshop tommorow, but in my workshops I always try to take flags because they help to release freedom, and I was attempting to sew some flags today but my sewing machine broke as did the last one, and I had also had some orders for some flags, so I was feeling very dispondant, wondering if this was an attack or if God didn't want me to do it! but this has just confirmed to me to persevere, and also I'm not as young as I look on video, but God has given me so much freedom, (I used to be really locked up) so I would encourage anyone, any age to be childlike and dance with flags, also God healed me of M.E through dancing. Wow! I encourage you to move even if in slow motion if you can manage, with the flags! bless you, Alison :)

  3. I discovered flags and worship dance back in the 90's in church. Worship has always been my passion, but to express it in such a physical, artistic way is wonderful. I never learned any of it, the moves and gestures just came to me, I "see" them (in a prophetic sense, on the inside) and my body just flows and follows. When the music starts I can't stay in my seat, I just have to go find a space and go for it. I'm not young and I'm not female, but that matters not, if God likes it then I like it. People who have the gift of seeing angels have commented how much they love to join in. At times the anointing of the Holy Spirit has been so strong that I might get to flag for a couple of moments and then fall to the floor under God's presence. I do know that my movements have a wordless, visual prophetic significance to them and like Eric Liddell, when I move, I feel His pleasure. It adds a fresh meaning to "loving God with all my strength".

  4. I Worship with Banners at a Church I visit at times..they have several Banners I use when I don't have my own banners with me.. I have 6 Banners I made..they do not have designs yet..but the colors are orange, bright-green, red, yellow, white, and purple. I have them on strong sticks of wood.. God told me to make them with limited funds...and when I dance with them in the Spirit- I always feel the presence of blesses me with time with God, and I know it blesses the atmosphere in the sanctuary!!..I also dance with tamborines..sometimes 1 or 2...sometimes on my head and move with the banners!! I made a Worship outfit on a sewing first one with the same fabric of the Banners...and I felt really Wonderful dancing before God with the Banners!! I also use a Shofar too in Worship as the Holy Spirit leads...and this I have understood changes the Atmosphere or the Strength of the Anointing when Blown on God's Command!! It is addicting--Dancing with Banners, tamborines, shofars, etc... I have tried playing a flute..and is a whole different level...and even a tom-tom...!!

  5. Hi, I just found your blog today...several years late, but still thoroughly enjoyable and beautiful! I, too, was one of those highly imaginative children. I don't think I ever did the flag-waving, but I did love to dance and come up with unusual costumes, made up of bits and pieces of other things. I, too have synesthesia (I taste words, and see some numbers in color) I have always believed that synesthesia is one of the most remarkable gifts. It colors and flavors our world and makes it a lot more interesting. I think it is what allows children like us to be alone and not need to be constantly entertained by outside forces... we are our own entertainment!! I was obsessed with mermaids at a young age (I still love them) and I would play at being a mermaid for hours on end. Or I was a star in the sky, crossing the beautiful velvet-blue palette with the planets, who were my playmates. Anyway, thanks for the blog, I love it.