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the hidden hand of god



Written by Rick Archer 





Everyone likes to say that God prefers to stay anonymous.  I am not so sure about that.  Some of my experiences were so bizarre, at times it seemed to me that God was deliberately tipping His hand.  One example would be the Bomb Scare incident at the JCC.  Another notable example was the time I spotted Emily and Eric in the Baltimore train station. 

However, of all the strange incidents I have witnessed, my Leap of Faith was the most powerful example where the Hidden Hand of God was revealed.  In July 1974 I made a promise to God that I would take dance lessons until I was a good dancer.  In January 1978 the riveting start to my dance career struck me as validation that my intuition had been correct all along.

I had originally expected this project would require at most six months or so.  And you know what?  That proved to be correct.  Thanks to Casa Mark and the Farmhouse, at the six month mark I accomplished my goal.  However, every time I was ready to quit, something weird would happen to keep me on the path.  Who on earth takes Disco lessons for three years with virtually nothing to show for it?  Only me. Why did I stick with it so long?  Because my intuition continued to insist this was what God wanted me to do.  That is the truth. 

Why did I make this promise in the first place?  The 'Dance Class from Hell' was as startling to me as the burning bush might have been for Moses.  Talk about an attention-getter.  The Dance Class from Hell was so far beyond the realm of normal, I was convinced there had to be a reason for this ordeal.  Believing God had staged this painful event as a spiritual test, I agreed to do what I felt was God's Will.

However, I won't say I followed my Path blindly.  On the contrary, I asked myself if this silly dance thing was a figment of my gullible mind many times.  It is important to note that not once during the Lost Years was there any sort of hint that I was on the right path.  Ultimately it was my curiosity that kept me chasing the unknown.  Like Alice in Wonderland, I wanted to see where this Path led.  However, three years is a long time.  Many times I told myself I was surely barking up the wrong tree.  Did I suspect a dance career was in the works?  Absolutely not.  That thought never crossed my mind during my three 'Lost Years'. 


However, I did became suspicious when the four Stepping Stones hit in rapid succession.  Sad to say, just when I got my hopes up, the the door was suddenly slammed in my face.  In December 1977 Lance Stevens told me Disco was dead, get lost.  I was absolutely crushed.  Why would God organize a series of four lucky breaks plus the Rubaiyat triumph only to blow out my candle at the last moment?  Just when I thought this whole dance idea was a blind alley after all, Saturday Night Fever made its debut.  I was stunned by the coincidence.  The timing was so perfect, I was pretty certain that God had used the Lost Years to secretly prepare me for the exact moment the movie appeared. 

At first I thought this was all the validation I needed to justify my 1974 Leap of Faith.  However, an element of doubt remained.  I had no idea how long this would last.  I was terrified to get my hopes up again.  What if Lance Stevens fired me as he often threatened?  He had fired me in December, so I lived in fear the axe would fall once more.  Then came the Partner Dance Crisis.  To my amazement, my job was saved at the last minute due to a remarkable series of lucky breaks.  My fortuitous rescue felt very close to a miracle.  In my heart I knew there was no way I could have pulled this off without Divine help.  Who else could have brought those people to my aid?

I was troubled by another lingering impression.  How could I overlook my procrastination?  I am very serious about this.  I was so convinced I lacked the ability to conquer this Partner Dance problem that I gave up without even lifting a finger.  Given my sense of futility, imagine my surprise when a series of people appeared from nowhere to give me a lift.  But then I remembered all the times this had happened before.  I recalled the time Maria Ballantyne had appeared at my grocery store to encourage me after the cheating incident.  I recalled the time Mr. Ocker hired me at the grocery store after my acne-ravaged face left me devastated.  I recalled the time the Quaker Meeting pulled me out of a very serious depression in college.  I recalled how Jason and Dr. Hilton stepped forward to prop me up in Graduate School.  I remembered how Gaye appeared shortly after the loss of Katie had sent me spiraling towards the Abyss.  Time after time it seemed like every time I floundered, Fate would step in to bolster me, then send me kicking and screaming towards the next stage of my development.  And now it had happened again.  I had just been saved from Rock Bottom for the umpteenth time.

The Partner Dance Crisis was the greatest test of all.  Lance Stevens had spelled it out in no uncertain terms.  Unless I met his demand to begin teaching partner dance, he would look for my replacement.  This task looked so hopeless that I gave up on the spot.  That should have been the end right there.  But it wasn't the end, was it?  No.  The Universe took one look at my stubborn refusal to lift a finger and decided to drag me across my mental barrier.  Stunned by an unexpected ray of hope, I woke up and responded in kind.  Trust me when I say I was the most surprised human being on earth when my last-ditch efforts were rewarded.  I could not believe I had succeeded in spite of my feeble effort at the start.  Surviving the Partner Dance Crisis was the moment when I believed God had truly tipped his hand.  To me, the only explanation that made any sense at all was Divine Intervention. 


If there is one message that runs throughout this book, there is no such thing as Absolute Proof.  However, there comes a time when the Unbelievable starts to make more sense than any other explanation.    

How exactly does the least talented dancer in Houston, a complete unknown, become the best-known Disco teacher in the city overnight? 

How exactly does a man with a slow learning curve, a man who has never partner danced in his life, a man with no teacher, suddenly become the leading partner dance instructor in Houston in the space of four days? 

If that isn't Fate, then what is it?

To me, the odds of surviving this ordeal had been so remote, I was incredulous.  Maybe a better word would be 'Awestruck'.  No matter how hard I tried to screw things up, the Universe refused to let me fail.  Clearly 'Someone' up there liked me.  Although I did not know why I was chosen for this role, I was certain God had placed me here for some purpose.  This was the moment I decided my long-shot Leap of Faith had been validated beyond any further doubt.  I expected I would teach Dance for the rest of my life. 

Standing in the right place at the right time, by some bizarre quirk of Fate I found myself placed squarely at the Crossroad of this enormous social phenomenon sweeping across the nation.  What were the odds?  A million to one sounds about right.  Why a million to one?  In a city with a population well over a million, I was the only person standing here at the Crossroad.  Now you know why I believe in Destiny. 



Could my story possibly be more ridiculous?  As things stood, the worst dancer in the Western Civilization had just become an overnight success.  This was a fluke of the highest magnitude.  Due to my obvious limitations, Las Vegas had given me a 1% chance of success at the start of my career.  Which is very curious considering I went on to create the largest independent dance studio in America.  My studio was known as SSQQ ('Slow Slow Quick Quick').  At its peak, anywhere from 1,200 to 1,400 people crossed through our doors every week.  I was very proud of my accomplishment.  However, throughout my dance career I harbored a deep, dark secret. 

In my heart I did not believe I had the talent to accomplish this on my own. 


I have heard other successful people say similar things. 

"Honestly, I think I've stretched a talent which is so thin it's almost transparent over a quite unbelievable term of years."
    -- Bing Crosby

"The Harder I work, the Luckier I get."   -- Samuel Goldwyn, MGM Studio

"Those who have succeeded at anything and don't mention Luck are kidding themselves."  -- Larry King

"I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial... I thought I knew a good deal about it all, I was sure I should not fail."
    -- Sir Winston Churchill

"Most people think that Faith means believing something.  More often it means trying something, giving it a chance to prove itself.  Somewhere there is a mastermind sending brain-wave messages to us.  There is a Great Spirit.  I never did anything by my own volition.  I was pushed by invisible forces within and without me."   -- Henry Ford

I did not choose Dancing.  Dancing chose me.  I say this due to the impressive series of lucky breaks that marked the start of my dance career.  There is no other way to explain why I always seemed to be in the Right Place in the Right Time.  The sequence of events that initiated my dance career was so Magical, I had to believe this was God's Will.






  Partner Dance Crisis: Gary, Sue Ann, Stevens, Janie, and Suzy Q make guest appearances to help Rick create a  partner dance system totally from scratch.  This breakthrough validates Rick's original Leap of Faith.


Lucky Break

  Rick is shocked to discover he is in the Right Place at the Right Time when Saturday Night Fever arrives.   He is even more surprised by the discovery he is the only Disco teacher in the city for the first month.


Synchronicity  1977
  Robert Stigwood's Saturday Night Fever Synchronicity:  Nik Cohn, John Travolta, Bee Gees, Norman Wexler


Lucky Break
  Out of the blue, Lance Stevens offers Rick a Disco Line Dance class job at his studio.  Right place at the Right Time, Stepping Stone Four.  This job would lead directly to Rick's Big Break with SNF


Lucky Break  1977
  Rosalyn's gift of a line dance class at Memorial JCC becomes Stepping Stone Three


Coincidence  1977
  The painful lessons learned at Melody Lane two years earlier help Rick turn into a Pied Piper at Rubaiyat


Lucky Break
  One week after a bizarre bomb threat interrupts Rick's first-ever opportunity to teach a line dance class, Rosalyn offers Rick a job teaching at the Braeswood JCC for the summer This was Stepping Stone Two


Wish Come True
  Rick is so excited after teaching his first-ever class, he spends two hours creating a syllabus for a class that does not exist only to discover one week later his prayers have been answered.


Wish Come True
  A bizarre bomb threat at the JCC interrupts Rick's first-ever opportunity to teach a line dance class.  The Bomb Scare coincidence was Stepping Stone One, the first of four major events leading up to Rick's dance career. 


A vow made to
God on Intuition
  The Parking Lot Inferno following the Dance Class from Hell marked Rick's triumph over Phobia.  Rick's decision to return the following week was based on a Leap of Faith which started his three year Dance Project.


The success of my Partner Dance program catapulted me deep into my new career.  My Beginner-level classes from January-February were promoted to the Intermediate level while a new set of March-April Beginner classes were added in different time slots.  I was now teaching two classes per night.  The same thing happened again in May-June.  The demand for Partner Dance classes was so great that I created an Advanced level.  At this point I taught 3 classes per night, 7-8, 8-9, 9-10.

Working two full-time jobs, something had to give.  The first to go was weeknight basketball and volleyball.  The second to go was my Friday Jazz class with Patsy Swayze.  I explained to Patsy there was no way I could take her 6-7 class and still make my 7 pm class at Stevens.  Patsy understood completely.  She wished me luck on my grand adventure and gave me a big hug. 


Of course the toughest decision was saying goodbye to Gaye.  The moment I walked in her office, before I could say a word, Gaye said, "It's time, isn't it?"

I was surprised.  "How did you know?"

Gaye replied, "I don't even recognize you anymore.  Whatever happened to that moody sourpuss who used to walk in my office?  All you do now is smile."

Pleased by the compliment, I nodded.  "Yes, Gaye, it's time to leave the nest and flex my wings.  I have gained a lot of wisdom from you regarding my problems with women.  You were the one who helped me recover from my mistake with Katie.  Over these past three years, you have helped me understand that women are just as afraid of being hurt by me as I am by them.  As a result, I have learned to be a lot more gentle in my dealings.  In addition, since I am not nearly as afraid of a woman's rejection as I once was, I feel ready to try dating someone my own age for a change." 

Gaye smiled broadly.  "I had a hunch that was what you were going to say.  I agree with you.  I see a maturity I would have never thought possible when we first met.  I cannot begin to say how proud I am of your growth."


I appreciated Gaye's kind words.  Gaye frequently chewed me out, but I trusted her so much that I had learned to take her criticism to heart.  Due to my rough edges, it had not been easy for either of us.  It had taken three years, but I was almost civilized at this point. 

"Gaye, I owe you a tremendous debt for bringing me to this point.  When we first met, you helped me climb out of a hole that was so deep I could not have done it without you.  But you did not stop there.  By helping me come to grips with my graduate school mistakes and my romantic mishaps, you have allowed me to rejoin the human race and stand on my own two feet.  I want you to know how grateful I am for your constant helping hand.  You have made an enormous impact in my life.  Thank you so much."

As we rose from our chairs, Gaye threw her arms around me.  We both cried, but they were happy tears.  Although I would never see Gaye again, her wisdom and influence would continue to guide me through the formative years of my dance career.  As I left Gaye's office, I had a very curious thought.  Thanks to lessons learned during the Dance Project, I was emotionally healthy for the first time in my life.  Was that the plan all along?  It certainly felt that way.  It was very curious how the dance suggestion in the Mistress Book had brought me all the way back from my failures at Colorado State.  My Phobia was gone and my shaky dance apprenticeship was almost over.  The time had come to make my move.


Ah, the Epic Losing Streak.  We haven't talked about it much lately.  Why not?  The answer should be obvious.  Not only did I teach three hours of group classes Monday through Friday, I had a full-time day job plus private lessons on Saturday.  Where would I find the time?  Where would I find the energy?  The first six months of my dance career served as an apprenticeship where every free moment was spent developing my three levels of partner dance classes.  I finally caught a breather in July.  I had become so good at what I did that I no longer feared losing my job.  Lance Stevens still didn't like me, but I made him so rich he would not dream of killing the golden goose.

At the exact moment I felt my job was secure, women came flying out of the woodwork.  During the summer of 1978 I dated five of the most beautiful, exciting women I would ever meet.  Yes, believe it or not, Gaye's three years of advice had transformed me into an attractive young man.  In addition I had my nightly stage at the dance studio to help me meet countless women.  However, sad to say, the Curse was still in effect.  Inevitably something went wrong with every one of the five women.

However, there was one remarkable difference.  I did not make a single mistake with any of the fair maidens.  For reasons beyond my control, something crazy happened with each woman to drive us apart.  But it was not my fault.  And yes, I blamed Fate.  If you knew how weird each story was, you would too.  But here is what is interesting.  After holding my own with five sensational women in a row, my confidence grew sky high.  Negotiating five tricky situations in a row with aplomb, I suddenly realized I was not afraid of women anymore.  Now I was really spooked.  First I had stumbled into an incredible career, now the Rejection Phobia was gone.  I was so much stronger around women I could scarcely believe it.  Looking back, I believe my summer adventures had a Divine purpose.  The more I thought about it, I had the impression these five women had not appeared at random, but rather by design.  I viewed each woman as a Messenger of sorts, someone sent to teach me a lesson, then move on. 

Their departure opened the door for the strangest story of my life, the Temptation Triangle.  In the Fall of 1978 I was chosen by three stunning women to determine which of them was the fairest one of all.  Over a period of three years, I was caught in the middle as these cunning, manipulative women clawed each other's eyes out for the right to be declared the Supreme Diva of Disco. 

Naturally the Reader wonders if there was a Supernatural element to this odd tale.  That would be an understatement.  Over this period of three years, I would add 40 new stories to my List of Supernatural Events.  During this bizarre rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, I became a nervous wreck.  However, when the smoke cleared, there I stood as the owner of the largest dance studio in Houston.  As always, my problems with women advanced my dance career.  The lonelier I was, the more successful I became.

This intriguing story is told in my next book, Magic Carpet Ride




I never set out to be a writer.  I stumbled into my writing career.  When the Internet came along, in 1998 I tried using a monthly email notice as a way to advertise upcoming classes.  I soon discovered that adding gossip caused readership to grow exponentially.  Pleased by the dramatic uptick in business, I became increasingly imaginative with my gossip column.  However, one day I couldn't think of any good gossip.  In a pinch, I added a story from my dance career instead.  Wow.  Huge compliments.  That is how I discovered adding stories from my career was just as good for business as gossip.  In the space of two years, the SSQQ Newsletter helped turn the studio into the largest of its kind in the America.  This pleasant development gave me a powerful incentive to continue writing. 

In 2004, I ran into a problem.  There was no current gossip and I had exhausted my treasure chest of amusing dance stories.  Hmm.  Why not try a story from my personal life that had nothing to do with dancing?  As my Readers well know, I have all sorts of unusual stories to tell.  However, to do so would violate a personal taboo.  Throughout my career I had been very reluctant to discuss God or Fate.  In my heart, I was certain that God was the true architect of my studio's success.  But did I dare reveal my secret?  NO!!!  Some people can wear religion on their sleeve, but not me.  I assumed that any story which revealed my secret beliefs would backfire.  Not only would my candor invite scorn and derision, it might give people a reason to turn their back on the studio.  Given that I had no credentials as a spiritual or religious person, better just to keep my mouth shut.  To me it was not worth the risk. 

On the other hand, I still needed a story.  Given the profound effect Maria Ballantyne had on my life, I decided to tell the tale of how she helped me during our 1968 Parking Lot conversation.  However, I also stuck to my taboo by avoiding any references to God, Fate or the Supernatural.  If someone wanted to draw their own conclusion, that was up to them, but I certainly was not going to point it out like I have done with Hidden Hand.  To my surprise, the "non-Supernatural" version of my story was a big hit.  Relieved to discover I could tell such an important story without negative consequence, the coast was clear to add more stories.  All I had to do was sanitize each story by withholding any hint of my personal beliefs.  And so I became a writer without really intending to be a writer.  People often ask how I can remember so many details after all these years.  That is because I wrote most of my stories 25 years ago when my memory was still fresh.  Hmm.  Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't that sort of how my dance career started as well?  I was secretly writing my books before I knew I was writing my books.  In other words, I did not choose Writing, Writing chose me. 

The Maria Ballantyne story served as the origin of the Hidden Hand of God.  However, back then it had a different title, A Simple Act of Kindness.  The title was a reference to how this dynamic woman went far out of her way to give comfort to a suffering boy she did not even know.  By coincidence... yes, there's that word again... in 2005 a girl named Elizabeth Ballantyne, 10, ran across my story on the Internet during a Google search for mention of her grandmother.  Mrs. Ballantyne was so touched by my story that she contacted me.  Meeting off and on over the ensuing years, she told me several 'behind the scenes' St. John's stories that left me utterly amazed.  For example, one night Mrs. Ballantyne explained how Mr. Salls, my Headmaster, had secretly arranged my college scholarship to Johns Hopkins.  I was shocked.  How could I have failed to realize Mr. Salls had been the great benefactor of my life?  Seeing Mrs. Ballantyne as a messenger as well as soul mate, I updated my A Simple Act of Kindness story to reflect the new details about Mr. Salls.  Over the years, thanks to Mrs. Ballantyne's revelations, the original story tripled in size practically to book length.

The studio's landlord refused to renew the lease in 2010, thereby ending my 32 year run as owner of SSQQ.  Age 60 at the time, I decided I was too old to start over.  So I sold the studio and switched to writing travel stories.  Two years later, something odd happened.  A series of curious good omens suggested God wanted me to make a comeback.  Did I want to make a comeback?  No.  I had gone out on top.  I enjoyed taking cruise trips with my wife and I did not need the money.  However, when my Intuition suggests that God wants me to do something, who am I to defy God's Will? 

To my astonishment, my 2012 comeback attempt failed miserably.  However, it was not that I failed that bothered me, it was the way that I failed.  A series of unfortunate events beyond my control sabotaged my comeback attempt.  This series of bad breaks troubled me greatly.  It had not been my idea to make a comeback.  I had only returned because I believed God wanted me back in the game.  I am serious about this.  After all, I once created the largest dance studio in the country, so I had nothing to prove.  I only returned as a favor to God (please forgive if this sounds blasphemous). 

Now, unless I was badly mistaken, it appeared God had deliberately ruined my return with this series of bad breaks.  I was aghast.  Maybe even hurt.  This felt like having my best friend stab me in the back.  Considering all those blessings God had given me over the years, why would God set me up for such an embarrassing failure?  The irony was overwhelming.  Back when I started in 1978, I was given a 1% chance of success.  During my comeback attempt, I pegged my odds at 99%.  How was it possible to fail so badly when renewed success was a near-certainty?  To me, there was only one answer.  God's Will.  Only God had the power to create this series of unlucky breaks.  But why would God invite me to try again, then turn around and slap me down?  There could only be one reason.  God was sending me a message.  At the time I did not have a clue what it could be, but fortunately I did not have long to wait.




One day I received my answer in a stunning way.  Poking around the Internet, I stumbled across an ancient Arabic Proverb. 

What is meant for you, will reach you even if it be underneath two mountains.

What is not meant for you, will not reach you even if it is between your two lips.

I felt goosebumps.  On the day I had my blind Leap of Faith validated in such a spectacular way, I had been overcome by a sense of awe. Considering I had been the most unlikely candidate for success imaginable, it was very easy to believe God had moved Two Mountains in order to create my studio and dance career.

However it was the second part of the proverb that really shook me up.  "What is not meant for you, will not reach you, even if it is between your two lips."

I had assumed the success of my comeback attempt was a slam-dunk no-brainer.  And yet I failed miserably even though success was so close I could taste it!!  This proverb suggested that sometimes we are meant to fail despite our hopes and dreams of a rosy future.  Take Graduate School for example.  Or the Dance Class from Hell.  Both situations demonstrated God's willingness to knock me down for my own good.  So what could I learn from my Comeback failure?

After careful thought, I came to a very unpleasant conclusion.  I realized talent and hard work mean nothing if it contradicts God's Will.  It was embarrassing to admit that over the years my pride had taken the lion's share of credit for the studio's success.  Chastened, at that point I became very humble.

Why had I lost sight of the truth?  By my count, I benefitted from 40 lucky breaks during the first 4 years of my dance career.  However, the moment the future success of the dance studio was guaranteed, the lucky breaks disappeared.  It was like God decided once I was set, I no longer needed His help. 

Over the ensuing 28 years, I was on my own.  As the studio grew by leaps and bounds, I believed my continued success was due to my own talent.  Or maybe not.  The time had come for the Lord to set things right.  Before encouraging me to begin writing my books, first God wanted to remind me who is really in charge.  From this point on, God became the undisputed star of each book, not me.

All Glory must go to God. 



the hidden hand of god



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