Thursday, August 29, 2013

To Rachel With Honor

When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you- Psalm 42:6 (MSG)

Not long after I accepted the chaplaincy position at the Mission I met a young woman who was spending time here while she secured housing. In the opening moments of our evening service I usually ask for requests for prayer. There is never a shortage of requests. The people we serve here never have a shortage of needs.

Deliverance from drugs or from alcohol, healing from abuse, comfort from the death of a loved one or divorce. The needs are staggering in scope. Food and shelter often lead the list. This particular evening I was receiving about what I was expecting and I was readying my spirit to agree in prayer for God's answers.

Then I called on Rachel.

"Pastor, I need a drum! Pray God gives me a drum!" A drum? Really? Rachel needed a home. She needed food. She needed a job. At that moment however, she saw her greatest need as the need to express worship to the One she called Savior. Rachel slept in a borrowed bed but her soul had furnished a room for God. 
We prayed for a drum.

Often since that night, when I inventory my particular needs: how I can better open the Word to people, how I can reach a heart that has been wounded into numbness and retreat, all the other personal life needs I have, I find myself praying for my own "drum". This teacher has become the pupil. Rachel shared her wisdom with me and it informs my days.

We have a need to worship and that need will always precede the blessing.

About ten days after we all agreed together that Rachel should have a drum, a lovely wooden frame drum with its taut goatskin head and ancient pedigree was placed in her waiting hands. It was the style of drum the women in Israel used to celebrate their many festivals. The kind of drum they sang into while they played. The drum had come home to Rachel who had made God her dwelling. 
Her other needs were met soon after by the Father who delighted in her. She stops in occasionally to let me know all is well and that she is still playing her drum. That delights the musician in me as well as the minister. I know God must love her enthusiastic gratitude.

I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. Psalm 59:16

Do you have a pressing need? I encourage you to pray Rachel's prayer. You may not have a desire for drum-worship but Rachel's prayer is a prayer of putting God first, setting Him above, satisfying Him. The rest will follow the music. 
Praise precedes the blessing.

John LaMantia
(featured in the September Rescue Mission Newsletter)

Monday, August 26, 2013


Under the sway of water lapping against the rocks
beneath the rhythm of waves rippling through grass
below the hum of the hive
and the velvet lament of the morning doves
just beyond the sound of lovers lips parting
there is a living quietude
susurrant music almost out of range
divinity whispering into the ether
it sometimes wakes me just after the first stars appear
or takes my hand between the loons calling for their mates in
the vaporous swirls above the lake

there and not there- but substantial
beckoning me to follow
murmuring soft promised secrets
Sleep casts its net over the day
my heart beats in unison with that incorporeal pulse
and I slip quietly into the whisper where God
rocks the world in His arms

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. Romans 1:20 NIV
Kasia Derwinska Dreamlike Photo

Wednesday, August 14, 2013



I swam in the black ocean
I swan and swam out beyond
civil discourse, beyond gentle greetings
I swam where there was no grace said over meals,
no thank you notes written in blue ink,
no benedictions
I swam in the cold, thick water
and forgot the smell of bonfires
the feel of hot sand,
the sound of fishing line running out,
the taste of good night kisses,
the breaking of bread
I swam out to the moonless deep
a weight of unspoken apologies
held me under like stones
Your hands on the oars-
a boat named forgiveness
rowed to the edge of oblivion
calling my name


Sometimes we sink. Sometimes we row.

Monday, August 12, 2013


The paper bag was on her nightstand when she woke up.
Her name was on it in blue pen with the K gone back
and forth over and over where the ink started to flow.
She sat up and opened the bag smelling something new.
Her six year old fingers were quiet and she was
careful not to tear the bag, to tear her name.
The bag was stiff and would give her away.
She would not be able to enjoy it half so much
if the rest of the house were up and busy.

She made her way down the hall to the stairs
passing to look into their bedroom.
Even in the half dark she could see his black
hair against the white pillow case and the one
leg that always escaped the covers no mater how
cold it was.

She was glad he was home.
She had missed him and not just because he
would eat the runny eggs that imprisoned her
at the breakfast table until they disappeared.

He was tall and fast and could outrun her.
On his shoulders she could touch the very
top branch of her favorite peach tree.
He would take her on his calls and talk to
her about stones and streams and saints.

Her feet fell lightly on the stairs but she
paused and waited each time one creaked.
She left the lights off and the bird covered
in the dining room and found the kitchen
with the sun just starting to make a pattern
on the yellow and black linoleum.
Light enough.

Cross legged on the floor she tucked her
nightgown under her bare legs against its
chilled hardness and opened the bag less

It yielded a soft suede pouch gathered
at the top with a leather cord.
It was brown on the back side
and turquoise on the front with
the words she would learn later as
'DALLAS TEXAS' embroidered
on it. She held it up to her nose
and smelled the scent of leather
and cigarette smoke. It was lovely
and special and a mystery.

She opened the puckered top and
another smell was released into the
empty kitchen- rubber.
A pink rubber ball and ten tiny metal
jacks spilled onto a bright yellow square.
She knew how to play but had never
gotten above six but these jacks were smaller
so she started to bounce and grab.

The ball flew into the air and the silver jacks came
right to her over and over one more each time without a miss.
St. Bernadette put the final sweep of ten into her palm.
One by one she kissed each jack, and then the rubber
ball with its bitter taste, as they were dropped back
into their leather home. Her finger traced the letters
she would learn to say later and even still later would
live there with her own child.

For the moment the day was as golden as the linoleum.
The peach tree was not yet cut down in a rage
and the flow of empty beer bottles, that even the powerful
Bernadette could not staunch, had yet to intrude on
her childhood.

She had made ten.
Ten was perfect.

-Kat Cavanaugh LaMantia

Novelist Tom Robbins is often quoted as saying, "It is never too late to have a happy childhood."  I agree. I want to agree. My faith in the One who loves me best helps my happy choices.

How many of us have had one peach tree or another uprooted, chopped down, plowed under? Countless, I imagine. I grew up in an alcoholic family system that not only bled our bank accounts (including our little piggy banks) but bled out trust. A hard thing to recover. So many of my adult choices were due to the dysfunction in my childhood or a reaction against it.

I had mostly eight good years before spin the beer bottle began to strip away the happiness from our family. In that time I began to be drawn to the Lord whom I would later fully embrace. In those eight years my father planted some good seeds and I have some wonderful memories of them. The ones that followed were a different story. I will not elaborate. Forgiveness is the fruit of the most sacred Tree.

Suffice it to say that I learned to plant my own peach trees. I wanted peaches and I was not getting enough waiting for charity. I got a shovel. I grabbed up the "whatever things" admonition of scripture and drew up plans for an orchard.

If you have peaches you can eat well and you can share. You don't have to be stuck with a hole in the ground. If there is something you miss, if there is a godly way to get it,  then go for it. Why wait for someone else to beautify your emotional landscape when you have the best gardener in the universe as your Father? You get your talent from Him.

Can't replace that exact thing?  Substitutes are allowed. Start planting and when your yard is full of whatever it is that comforts your heart, just step over the fence and keep on going.

The world needs your peaches.

Who listens to the Word will find good, and happy is one who trusts in the Lord.- Proverbs 16:20


My favorite tree as a child was a peach of peach at the far end of our yard. It got the ax and when I couldn't stop thinking about it as an adult, I thought about planting my own. At the time I did not have a yard of my own so I planted my peaches in the yards of poor children around the world. Beauty for ashes. I just may see those peaches in Heaven.