October 31, 2013

Halloween What What

Tonight a lot of our team is with the Lake house throwing a block party for the neighborhood. It's become a regular tradition each year, with a lot of neighbors and neighborhood kids showing up and looking forward to the fun, silliness, food, and candy. Last year, the party slid down the road from the Lake house itself to nearby Ragan Park. Now it's even bigger than before, and there is so much room to spread out and set up hoola hooping, caricatures, face-painting, and whatever else brings a smile to people's faces. 


We still have the Banquet to serve tonight, so Andrew has corralled half a dozen or so friends to cover for our regular team who will be setting up the block party. Holidays are a crazy time, but we never want to let the celebrations keep us from our most basic service to our neighbors. Because it's also our most reliable way to get to know each other, and to build relationships. And that's what we're all about. 

As it turns out, InterVarsity is all about that, too. The students of IV at the University of Tampa and Hillsborough Community College are teaming up with us to do a creative type of Halloween outreach. Students will be going door to door trick-or-treating, but instead of asking for candy, they will be asking for donations of food, clothing, or other supplies for the Well to give out to our people on the streets. It seems like an unlikely way to connect people who have with people who could sorely use, but it makes sense to us. It's a great way for them to meet the neighbors and a great help to our neighbors on the streets. Here's what the students will be giving to each house on a card, it explains the idea better: 

What other night can people go from house to house, knocking on doors and be met with smiles, hospitality, and generosity? It is a night when our culture opens our doors and lives to strangers and to children without concern for the masks that they wear, and offers good things just for stopping by. 

We chose to use this great tradition of trick-or-treating to knock on your door on behalf of the hungry in Tampa. Thank you for opening your door to us and for your generosity tonight. 

Tonight we remember Jesus' words, "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.'"

Thank you for opening you doors to us. 

So much is coming together tonight, and so many people, too. This is gonna be awesome. 

October 18, 2013

In Over Your Head

A guy walked in today looking disheveled and asking for help with getting an ID. "He needs Jesus," a woman says under her breath as he walks by. Don't we all? 

Some things are difficult for me to do. If I had to do work on a car, say replacing the water pump, I would have a hard time. Truth be told, putting together an IKEA bookcase is hard for me to do. Whether it's God's perfectly imperfect design or my lack of trying hard enough, I'm terrible with my hands. I don't really do three dimensional work. If I couldn't ask Cliff or Tim for help, I'd be screwed. It just gets overwhelming to me. 

For some of our neighbors, getting a hold of an ID or a birth certificate or a social security card is a nightmare. Asking for help with food stamps could be a daunting process, especially when you don't have immediate access to a computer or phone. Not having a stable address is a huge hindrance, too. Whether they are limited by how much skill God gave them at birth or by the effort they put into it or by the effects of a rough life, some things are really hard for them to make happen. 

When I ask one of my friends for help with something handy, it's embarrassing. I have to swallow my pride and acknowledge that I just suck at this, at something that I'm supposed to be able to handle. I have to accept any jokes they might make, because they're right--I am comically incompetent at some things. But I don't care, because I'm grateful for the help. But I have (usually) kind friends and brothers, who often don't even give me grief over it. 

In other things, I get to be the one who's good at something. Finding information that's publicly accessible is pretty easy. I have a computer, and I'm good at filling out forms. I can make a phone call and navigate through the menu, ask the right questions to find out what I'm looking for. It's no big deal, really. I just gotta remember to be gracious about it and not seem bothered or judgmental about it. People have put up with my incompetence so many times, and they've been gracious about it so that afterwards I don't feel like a piece of crap, I feel cared for. I really need those moments of grace, and so does the next guy. 

You don't need to be a social worker to help someone out. You don't need to be a pastor to care for someone. You don't need to be Jesus Christ to be open and kind. But if you are open and kind, you will be like him. And that may be just what that man needs right now.

October 4, 2013

Deep Calls Out to Deep

Tomorrow night is the Conscious Party, where we celebrate our neighbors. We celebrate because each one is gifted, and each is irreplaceably unique. And because it's fun. On the first Saturday of each month, we invite our friends to share with us their stories, poems, and songs. Some of them are incredible and surprising. Some of them are familiar. Sometimes it surprises you who steps up to the microphone, or what they have to share. A small soft-spoken woman who speaks boldly of healing, who speaks with the kind of authority that only comes from knowing, from having been there. An old man who pounds life out of a piano and into the room. A young guy whose song echoes a subtler and deeper wisdom than what you'd expect to find in him. That's just it--you can find just about anything at a Conscious Party, except your expectations.

So we invite you to suspend your social routine a bit, just once this month, and kick it with us. You may see what you didn't expect to see in another person. You may even find something unexpected in yourself. What is deep in my neighbor calls out to what is deep within me, here in this special pocket of space and time. What is most valuable is often most deeply buried, so I guess that makes this an excavation party. When you see another person opening up the trap door of their heart, it does something to you. It calls to what is behind your own trap-door-heart. It doesn't take tremendous skill to share, but it does take a lot of heart.

The party starts at 8:00 pm. Get conscious, people.

A man who works with his hands is a laborer. A man who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. A man who works with his hands, his head, and his heart is an artist.
― St. Francis of Assisi