It’s Good to be on Your Knees

Every once in awhile, one of our guests at Grace House will say or do something that brings what I call, “The Holy” into clear focus. That happened this past week with a homeless guest named, Lisa. I asked her permission to use her name in this story because I wanted to give you a glimpse of her powerful faith.

Lisa has faced many struggles in her young life. Well, “many” is a misnomer! What Lisa has endured, would in my opinion, “do in” the rest of us…emotionally, physically and spiritually!

The purpose and “niche” of Grace in Action, is to simply be present to those who struggle on the streets of our community. Our mission is to offer “food for the body, food for the soul.” Simply put, we offer the love, compassion and mercy of God to those most in need in our community.

Lisa, and our other homeless guests, provide food for my soul every day! The spiritual wealth of our homeless community is a gift to me and our Ministers of Hospitality (volunteers). We are inspired by the faith, strength and joy of our guests…in spite of how they are treated and shunned by others in the community, or the struggles and burdens they face on a daily basis. Continue reading

On the Edge

Edges have been on my mind. I sit on the edge of the ocean bluffs, even now…sea breeze spraying mist into the spring air. Seagulls flying. North coast grasses waving in the wind. Butterflies dancing.

An edge…a place to get away to renew.

Jesus left the suffering crowds to renew and to pray. He left the edge of the deep pain of the crowds in search of healing. My spiritual director reminded me recently, that leaving the crowds is not only good for me in Grace in Action’s ministry to those who struggle, but necessary. Going to the edge of the ocean or a mountaintop or another place of sabbath rest provides balance in ministry. If I am to be any good at all, as spiritual companion to those on the edge of society, I must leave the edges of pain and suffering in order to renew and restore my relationship with God and this “temple” of soul and spirit from which God’s work is done. To be present as spiritual companion to the homeless, I seek the edges of seascape, rugged grasslands and rock outcroppings. Only then can I return to the ragged bluffs of heartache and sorrow of those living on the edge of our community. Continue reading

Tiny Hands

Tiny hands reaching up to loving arms, brown eyes sparkling…wide grin dancing in chubby cheeks …small fist clutching a cookie. Mother…running to safety…not to a stable, but a beaten down car. It’s not shelter, but for now it’s dry and out of the rain. Waiting lists for affordable housing, no room at the Inn. Bronchitis brewing, weary red eyes, tears flowing…help me please! “My baby is sick, we have nowhere to go, I’m scared…help me please.”

Motel room paid for, diapers purchased, warm sleeping bags given, wiping tears away, arms holding, love extended, an encouraging word shared with an apartment manager and prayers…prayers for a mother seeking safety for a small child in need of a home. Prayers the apartment manager will show compassion…take a risk…accept this mother and child.

Christ seeking, Christ giving, Christ…received. That’s a summary of Grace in Action’s mission. Continue reading

You Gotta Have Faith

by Steve (Vincent) Wyatt, October, 2006

The winter of 2005-2006 was one of the most severe winters ever recorded for the Davis/Woodland/Sacramento area. Around Christmas and New Years, two large storms swept through this area, bringing with them non-stop rain and gusts of wind that were clocked at 55 miles per hour. It was so cold in the mornings that people were breathing steam.

Most of the residents of Davis paid little heed to this fluctuation in the weather. It was the Holiday season and a time for joyous reunions with friends and family. But for the Homeless people who live here, the story was drastically different.

Caught out in the open, they had no choice but to brave the elements. Their attempt to stay warm and dry failed miserably. The wind was as unrelenting as it was merciless. It ripped their tarpaulins and tents down, which let the rain in, which soaked their clothes and bedding, which became as cold as ice, which made everything miserable. Continue reading

The Key Word is “Through”

One psalm…two arms. That was the opening for our conversation. She was so young, barely 20 perhaps. Shaved head, several body piercings, she appeared hard as nails. The tattoo spread across her arms. Her eyes were red…weary…sad. She said little, clenched her throat and fists. I could almost hear her internal self command, “don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry…be tough, be tough, be tough!” That was the image I think she was trying to portray…an image of being tough, strong, invincible. As a spiritual director I am trained to notice not only what is spoken, but that which is un-spoken. She was hurting but wouldn’t give herself permission to be vulnerable. I’d seen it too many times…not only in other homeless guests, but in my self.

Today the tattoos on her arm were the focal point. One arm…23…the other arm…Psalm.

Her heart was obviously heavy as she entered the Grace House. Her soul mate, travel companion and life connection, was dying. Her dog (appropriately named Jedi)….was very, very sick. Some people believe that homeless individuals shouldn’t have pets. Yes, life is hard for the animals outside, but it’s harder for those who have made a connection with a pet, and can’t or won’t let go. These pets are more than animals …they are “family.” Continue reading

The Good Shepherd

The scar on the Good Shepherd’s face wasn’t obvious to all. The years of living outdoors had taken their toll on his body. In fact, the scar could have easily been mistaken for a stress line. I knew differently. It was a scar that had a story behind it…a story he shared with me the first time we met. Someone approached him in the middle of the night as he slept outside and he tried to protect himself. Homeless individuals are always prey to thieves. It’s not unusual to have to fight to protect one’s property or what few belongings the homeless may have.

As he spoke, I noticed his steel blue eyes begin to dampen. “You’ve got to talk to her Cindy, she was raped last night and she won’t report it.” The Good Shepherd was telling me about one of our female guests. Women are especially vulnerable out on the street. The Good Shepherd, through this homeless man, was taking care of one of his own. As he continued, I thought of the scripture message in Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” He sat across from me as a living witness to this scripture passage. In fact, many of our homeless guests “live” the scripture. They truly know what it means to be a family…to take care of one another as the Body of Christ. Continue reading

No Words

A newly ordained pastor was telling an older colleague that he thought he had failed miserably in his job. It was the first funeral he had ever done. “I failed a young couple in my congregation. They lost their child to cancer and I didn’t have any words of comfort to offer them…all I could do was weep.” The older pastor placed his hand upon his young friend’s shoulder and said, “You did more than you realize.” Shortly after that conversation, the young pastor received a note from the bereaved parents. It read: “We want to thank you for your presence and compassion. So many people offered words of comfort in their effort to console us, but you did more…you wept with us.

Compassion…is to “suffer with.” That’s what we do sometimes, at Grace in Action. We listen to the concerns of our homeless guests, and we suffer with them. I often reflect on the shortest verse in scripture.

John 11:35. “Jesus Wept.” Continue reading

Headline – A Miracle

I could see and hear it, but couldn’t name it. It felt like a distant echo. In my mind I heard the sound of newspaper pages shuffled closed. The story made the front page, but the introductory words most likely caused many to shift uncomfortably and move on to the next story.

The opening line of the story read, “Local transient’s legs were severed below the knee this morning after he was struck by a train…”

Transient…what does that mean? The first definition in Webster’s says, “passing away with time; temporary” The second says, “passing quickly.” The final definition is; “temporary lodger.” Sadly, in today’s society, “transient” is also an unkind label. It’s a label for someone many of us choose not to see.

Ironically, the first definition of transient is how we treat those in the second …. fleeting … passing quickly … passing away with time.

Would the pages have turned if the story had begun with, “Local professor’s legs were severed?” Or “Local businessman’s legs were severed?” I wonder. Continue reading

Touching the Cross

I watched her carefully as she left my office, tears washing her cheeks. She was weary, genuinely weary. She didn’t understand how I knew what she was going through. Her suffering had been revealed and that frightened her. She had spilled her story of abuse and pain and family separation. I held her hands in mine and gently spoke, “I’ve been where you are, I know your suffering.” She looked at me incredulously before the tears suddenly welled up in her eyes. “I’m so glad I found this place, she whispered.” Then she grabbed hold of me, pulling me toward her in a hug that nearly choked the air out of me. It was as if she were holding on for dear life. In that moment, I suppose she was.

This thin, frail woman was just one of many homeless guests who need someone to listen to their life legend. Grace House is more than a home away from homelessness, it’s a safe haven, a sanctuary…a place full of God’s mercy. Our mission is to offer the shelter of God’s hope and love. Someone asked me when that mission was born, “What does that mean exactly?” I struggled to find an accurate explanation then. I realize now, it means something different to each person who enters there. For some, it’s a safe and much needed nap on the couch. For others, it’s a quiet place to read and pray. For someone else, it’s a place to vent their anger and frustration. For this woman…it was a place to weep, to be held, to be renewed and to find…hope. Continue reading