Friday, February 25, 2005

The Light of the World

Do you how sometimes in the spring and sometimes in the fall, there will be those days when everything is just so sharp, when the sky is as blue as blue can be and when you look at the trees you can see each little leaf, not just one big blob, but each little leaf, and the shadows, even the shadows are crisp and sharp and so well-delineated?

Well, that’s how it is around here a lot of the time. In the light of this community, we can often see things that clearly – like how very rich we are, not because of what we own, but because of one another, because of the grace and fidelity and abundance of second chances that we find in this place.

Like how Jesus really is present in the breaking of the bread, and when two or three are gathered in his name, really is present here among us, loving and loving and loving. Like how wonderful it is to live life freely, authentically, to be who we are, to be able to wonder aloud, to be able to not know all the answers, to be able to come, “just as I am.”

Like how precious life is – as we gather around the table on communion Sunday and we watch the children swirl and dance and delight in being a part of a community that adores them, we begin to feel adored ourselves, begin to feel the glory of life seeping through, that great belovedness above and below and behind and beside and around and within...

We are the light of the world, to these precious little ones, to one another, and to the principalities and powers of darkness. May we shine like crazy, and in our shining, may the world begin to see things clearly.

by Pastor Cindy, the best darned pastor on the planet

A new morning

A new morning

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Legend of the Men In Tights

There once was a mighty troupe of male dancers who pranced across these parts. They were known to some by the somewhat awkward name of the Jeff Street Left-Leaning Men's Ballet Club, but by most they were known and loved as the Men in Tights.

The Men in Tights would appear at times, usually just when they were most needed, to return a smile to our faces or a lilt to our step with one or the other of their little dance numbers. They were mysterious men, but they had good fashion sense, no one would deny them that.

Well, one day, after a particularly grueling performance, they decided that they just weren't satisfied with the outcome. They made a plan to return to the stage after the performance to hearse and rehearse again. Darn them and their perfectionist ways!

As it turned out, the Men in Tights died in a horrible late night ballet accident that night. They had to be buried in one large coffin, a lovely spandex and lace box that brought tears to our eyes. At least they went out in the way they would have wanted: dancing.

There are those who rumor that they still hear the Boys gallavantin' across this stage or that, but they're just that, rumors. The Men in Tights have rode off into that last great sunset, and they're never more to roam these parts again.

We'll miss them sorely.

Rest in Peace, Boys. Rest in Peace.

The Men in Tights

Monday, February 21, 2005

Vernon Easterhare Declares:

Jeff Street At Liberty Baptist Church fits me. As a mental health consumer, it takes a special kind of church to fit my needs, one that could accommodate a guy that has had just a tad too much “direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit” for his own viability or the comfort level of church folks... who always like to accuse directly or indirectly the mentally ill of being demon-possessed. That, in fact, is one of my hot-buttons, and if I get the opportunity in these-here declarations to tell people how much energy I put both into responsible living and Christian discipleship, then maybe this sleeping elephant of demon-possession latent in Christian churches could dissipate.

I wanna clarify something right up front, real quick: only the more-Pentecostalist denominations are up-front in talking about demon-possession. But the onus of such attitudes sticks in mainline church folks' minds, and not just as a carry-over to watching the 700 Club on tv. It seems part in parcel with attitudes about mental illness that go back into the fog of time, back into colonial American history and even into medieval European history with its Inquisition of witchcraft.

But maybe my assessment is incorrect. All I can say is that I sure get a lot of discounts when I go to a regular church and try to talk about my “walk with the Holy Spirit,” which is a lot scarier than most disciples ever have. But I have learned some profound spiritual lessons, which I hope to share with the world via Jeff Street's blog. Thanks to D.T. and all!

I have decided to use a pseudonym, because I read in a book that it is smart to do so on the Internet. I have no problems exactly with people looking me up; but that would not be as important as hearkening to what I say.

I am bipolar, a manic-depressive; I get controlled fairly well on chemicals and a God-fearing psychotherapist from a community mental health center. Mania and depression are experienced as spiritual processes, but psychiatrists-- almost to a one-- decline to even share a word or two about the noetic side of my psychiatry. Every now and then, though, a clinician, usually a social worker, will wink in a way that illuminates guidance in the arduous spiritual trials of the psychotic, whose topsy-turvy world view must now consider that blind and concrete obedience to the Bible-- as opposed to Agapé God-- has caused him to commit horrific acts of unloving crassness. (I could go into considerable detail, but in my life the worst injury to the social fabric has been when I whack off perfectly o.k. Relationships for little or no reason.)

I need a church that will permit me to be a disciple, taking my medication and questioning what whims come. Believe-you-me, the holier the whim seems to be to me, the more I have to watch out. But then this is not unbelief; this is only the testing of belief. See I John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” In a larger sense, this testing implies not the absence of faith but the preparation for faith, fulfilling the prerequisites for determining that all other ways but the truth presented are not here extant.

I pray a great deal, but my prayers are not the real relaxing, take-it-easy, slow-brainwave types, but active struggle with hard stuff in my noetic consideration. Of course, I am on disability (having had 25-plus involuntary mental hospitalizations); money is somewhat tight; but I would not say that is the tip-top hot issue burning my thoughts. Nope.

What burns me is how I believe in the preachings of Jesus and the disciples but have a real problem with miracles. I want to say “I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24 NRSV.) But when it comes to getting the sins outa demon-possessed crazy guy...which happens several times, several ways... I get queasy. Even if Jesus is doing the healing.

But I don't think Jesus assures you will land in the major leagues of discipleship just after flocking-around; a period of becoming “fully qualified” (katertismenos), Luke 6:40 NRSV, is required before a disciple, meaning a 'student,' can make it from the little leagues to the majors and “be like the teacher.”

So, I do pray with a murmuring heart. But when I learned that the Aramaic word that Jesus probably used for “to pray,” tsli, means: “1. to bend, wrest, pray; 2. to roast”-- then I knew that the mindset of Jesus in praying may have not been much different “wrestling” than my own! (This may explain the tradition of 'sweating blood' in the Garden of Gethsemane; See Luke 22:43-44.)

Jesus, help me to know from false witness the True
So that in temptation the Compass will point to You!

By "Vernon Easterhare," a new member of our beloved community

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Splendor In Diversity

Friday, February 11, 2005

Coffee House of Kingdom Come

It's dark and crowded. At one table, there is a group of homeless men. At the next table, there are some hip-looking college kids. At still another table there are people with mental illnesses. At some tables, a mixture of all the above.

Emmanuel, God with us.

Bouncing between the tables is an adorable four year old girl. As she walks past the unshaven gentleman with the battered captain's hat on his head he smiles and says, "Hey there, sweetie."

God's word made flesh. God's kingdom come.

The bustling, dissheveled room holds a collection of children and adults, black and white, poor and not-so-poor, gay and straight, some who smell of cigarette smoke and some of too much perfume.

I visited the Urban Goatwalker Coffee House in December and was inspired at all of God's Kingdom that was busting through. The Urban Goatwalker is an open mic coffee house sponsored on a monthly basis by Jeff Street Baptist Community at Liberty, in Louisville, KY, in which all are welcome.

A nervous-looking gentleman with one arm took the stage tonight briefly and introduced his set by saying something like,

"I've always wanted to be a dancer.
I...then I lost my arm and, well, I...I can't dance.
I can't sing real well, but I'm going to try to sing two songs for you"

He then proceeded to stumble out a song inviting, "all you beautiful people, all you beautiful animals, all you beautiful nature, won't you come with me?" and heaven fell down upon us.

This gentleman was followed by Old Joe, the Bluesman, who belched out in his deep, toothless voice some raucous blues numbers about pretty women; finding one and keeping one.

After three songs in this vein, Joe sang a song about the Risen Jesus and how, "He's gonna carry me." And you knew it was true.

As usual, the beautiful little children of our church and neighborhood mingled politely about, dancing, clapping and providing deeply treasured smiles for all who wanted them.

Marvelous. Transfiguring.

I cried for the joy of those moments.

My life seems to be incrementally changed by each Goatwalker I attend, even if it's only for a few songs. I can't usually put my finger on how I've changed, but I know I have.

Perhaps it's that I'm less afraid of the city, less intimidated by those different from me.

Perhaps I become more a believer in the mystical properties inherent in a genuine song sung by an honest voice.

Or, maybe, it's like I've had an impoverished and sickly piece of my soul surgically removed and been made more whole.

Whatever it is, if it could be sold, someone would get rich.

Fortunately, it's not a thing that can be commercialized. It's just there or not. Get it when and where you can.

It's magic, this Goatwalker Stuff they give away each month.

by Dan Trabue, who sometimes secretly goes by the name of "Gus."

Wild Drummer Girl

Drum Girl Posted by Hello


Jeff Street has been home for us. Community. Sanctuary.

Jeff Street is a safe place where we know we will be loved, welcomed and encouraged.

At the same time, Jeff Street is a risky place, where we are challenged to begin building the Kingdom. Jesus did that and they killed him, so we try to keep our eyes open and our minds clear.

Still, we are a happy community of love-sowers, peacemakers and troublemakers. We are singers and songwriters, artists and poets, teachers and social workers and students and homeless and silly persons. Most of all, we are family for one another. And that is no small thing.

We welcome you to our page and hope you find a bit of family here.

Come on in, friends, the water's fine.

Jeff Street Baptist Community at Liberty

Jeff Street Posted by Hello