Wednesday, January 19, 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.

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