The Good Samaritan For Women

Quick link: The Good Female Samaritan: What I learned when I passed a man on the road

Yesterday I had a post up at Her.meneutics (had to look up how to spell that one) about when I ran by a man I thought was dead.

What is a woman supposed to do in a country where she isn’t certain about the cultural boundaries, her own safety, or causing offense to the man on the road? The essay chronicles my journey of surprise, compassion, confusion, anger, and eventual deepened understanding. Would love to hear your thoughts.

first aid1

Click here to read about what I did and how I felt conflicted about it and what a difficult conversation with my husband helped me understand: The Good Female Samaritan.


How Islam Prepared Me For Lent

Ramadan begins this week, the month of fasting for Muslims around the world. Off and on this month I plan on either writing about Ramadan or linking you up to Muslims as they experience this month of physical deprivation and heightened spiritual awareness. To begin the month, I’m reposting this piece from a few months ago…

I grew up Baptist. Not only did I never observe Lent, I thought anyone who did observe Lent put too much emphasis on a man-made tradition. These Catholics and Methodists and Episcopalians didn’t love the Bible as much as I did. They didn’t experience Jesus as deeply as I did.

Ancient, liturgical Church traditions held little meaning. What this translated to were brief religious holidays, one to two days long, preceded by a month of Christmas cookie baking and scouring malls for gifts or a week of purchasing chocolate eggs and fake plastic grass. Consumerism settled in quite nicely, yet I managed to maintain an aura of smug superiority. None of which helped me focus on Jesus or the meaning of these holidays.

easter eggs

Easter, in particular, arrived with the sudden abruptness of a humanoid bunny leaping across my path. The Sunday before Easter, church was filled with children waving palm branches, and then voila, the next Sunday Jesus rose from the dead and we got solid white chocolate bunnies from Grandma. More candy than sorrow or somber reflection.

Nothing is wrong with palm branches or white chocolate bunnies, which will forever remind me of Estée Lauder perfume. But a decade of living in Muslim countries in the Horn of Africa has, equally forever, changed the way I think about liturgical religion.

Of the five major pillars of Islam, only the first one, the Shahaadah, deals explicitly with faith. The others: prayer, giving, fasting, and pilgrimage are actions. Islam emphasizes orthopraxy, the rituals and traditions of faith in contrast to the orthodoxy of evangelical Christians, who emphasize matters of faith and theology over rites.

I watched Muslims in Somalia and in Djibouti pray five times per day and fast for an entire month during daylight hours. I attended parties when friends returned from pilgrimage to Mecca and splashed water from the well of ZamZam on my face. I saw homeless women give coins to blind beggars in the name of Allah. And what I discovered in these traditions was not a weakness of faith but the strength of community, the reinforcing power of continuity, and an intimacy with God achieved through intentional and purposeful action.

Two of the Islamic pillars seemed most enlightening as I considered Lent this year.


Ramadan is an entire lunar month devoted to fasting and preparation for the Eid holiday when sheep or goats are sacrificed to symbolize forgiveness. The feasting that follows is rich with meaning and celebration. Eating in the middle of a sunny afternoon! Ice cold water whenever one is thirsty! The entire community has been through a month of hunger and thirst and the anticipation of Eid is thick, the rejoicing on the morning of Eid filled with relief and a sense of victory.

The hajj takes place over the course of a month and while not every Muslims goes to Mecca, many know a relative, friend, or coworker who does. The month is a time of increased reflection on the rituals of the hajj which include circling the Ka’ba, symbolically stoning the devil, and running between two hills in remembrance of Hagar and her son searching for water. There is a powerful sense of community, humility, and equality. The month ends with another sacrifice, which Muslims around the world participate in.

After living among these Islamic traditions, these months of anticipation and spiritual emphasis, communal rituals, and the celebrations that come at the end of a period of trial, when I was invited to an Ash Wednesday service, I was eager to attend.

It was only the second Ash Wednesday service of my life, hosted by a US diplomat and his wife who is a Methodist priest. The service was brief and serious and quiet. A sense of reflection and even sorrow permeated the room as we each contemplated our sin and the ways we needed to grow in faith, the ways we needed Jesus.

This service launched me into a 40-day period reminiscent of Ramadan, though considerably less challenging. I merely am trying to limit my intake of sugar and internet but don’t abstain from all food, water, or sex during daylight. I read on-line about others who have made choices to increase their focus on God during this month. I read special prayers. I felt part of a larger community because people around the world were thinking and experiencing similar things those 40 days.

This wasn’t a time of corporate New Year’s resolutions. This was a time of corporate brokenness and dependency and eager anticipation.

These 40 days also end in sacrifice, not the blood of a sheep or a goat. The sacrifice is the shed blood of the perfect lamb of God. What this month of Lent reminded me of every day is that the sacrifice wasn’t once. It is always and every day. It is forgiveness purchased and celebrated for now and forgiveness purchased and celebrated and guaranteed for always.

failed family easter photo

failed family easter photo

I realized, as Djiboutians celebrated Islamic holidays and as the Methodist priest drew an ashy cross on my forehead, that I had been wrong in thinking people of liturgical traditions didn’t love the Bible as much as I did and didn’t experience Jesus like I did. The practice of rituals revealed not the lack of a deep commitment, but the physicality of and a longing for a unique encounter with the divine.

People who practiced Lent didn’t love the Bible the same as I did. They didn’t experience Jesus the same as I did. Which is exactly why I have so much to learn from them and why, this year, I finally observed the season of Lent.

What have you learned from another faith that informed or changed your own?

SheLoves: When I Would Rather Stand. Or Sit.

Today I’m also posting over at SheLoves about standing or sitting and the Power of the Hand and the pressure to conform.


Here’s an excerpt:

When I Would Rather Stand. Or Sit.

One thing I love about my church in Djibouti is that if the pastor tells us to sit but the choir is still singing and people in the congregation feel like standing, they stand. If the pastor says to stand and someone in the congregation feels like sitting, they sit. One person might pray out loud during a time of silence. One might do the march-in-place dance and clap, out of rhythm, to a slow song. One person might remain still and quiet while another weeps and jumps. And the whole time a Malagasy baby gets passed from Congolese arms to French arms to Ugandan, British, Ethiopian, American arms.

I’m not used to that kind of freedom in church. Where I come from, there is something my husband and I call, “The Power of the Hand.” When the music leader lifts his hand high up into the air, palm forward, and lowers it slowly, solemnly, the congregation obediently sits and remains seated. When he energetically sweeps it upward, up we stand.

Sometimes I don’t want to stand. Sometimes I want to sit with my head between my knees, bent low by the weight of the long, weary week. Or I want to kneel and cry and feel my smallness before the holiness of God. Sometimes when other people are sitting and I’m overcome by gratitude, I want to stand and raise my hands and lift my face to the sky (ceiling) in thanks.

Read more here.

Letters Never Sent

If Kleenex boxes could be sent via email, she should have sent me one of those too. I promised to write a review and I’ll say upfront that parents of Third Culture Kids should buy this book (I am not an affiliate of anything and earn nothing if you do). I tried to read the book while in the lobby of a hotel and had to put it away so I wouldn’t snort and sniffle and otherwise disrupt the peace. I finished it at home.

The sub-title of the book is: a global nomad’s journey from hurt to healing and that is a perfect description of this book. As the mother of boarding school kids, my eyes and heart burned while I read about her loneliness and the lies she told herself, and that seemed to be perpetuated by the environment, that she must be strong, must not feel the hurt.

The book is a series of letters Ruth didn’t write until later in life and chronicles her journey that began the first day of boarding school as a six-year old in the 1950s when, in her words, “her heart got pulled out.” Ruth writes bluntly and honestly and compassionately about her years in boarding school, high school in the US while her parents stayed in Nigeria, college, marriage, having children, and eventually moving overseas herself. She walks through separations and brokenness, loss and deep questions of faith.

Where was God when she was sick at boarding school and there was no comforting mother’s hand to soothe her? Where was God when she had to say good-bye, again, to parents and siblings and Nigerian friends? Where was God when she felt like a failure for crying?

And, I think ultimately, where is God when the pain is unbearable and is it okay to say that something good hurts like death?

She writes, “I wish someone would acknowledge that pain of what He is asking. Just once, I wish someone would give me a hug and say, ‘I understand. It’s okay to say that the right thing to do hurts. Go ahead and cry.'”

Through depression and wrestling, Ruth comes to a fuller understanding of grace and experiencing the comfort of God. The end of the book has a reflection on this comfort and on what it means to be a person made in the image of God. She also describes her journey of coming to write Third Culture Kids, which I found delightful because the process of writing always fascinates me.

Along with prayers and questions for my own children, I came away from this book with a longing to know this comfort of God, and with hope. Hope that through pain, Jesus shines beautiful and true and that the gospel has power. This is the only hope parents can hold when we know our choices are affecting our children for better and for worse, like Kelley wrote about on Tuesday in the Painting Pictures series.

Ruth writes, “There is great richness in this Third Culture Kid lifestyle and there is also great pain – ironically often because of the richness.”

Thank you Ruth, for your vulnerability. Thank you for contributing to this blog, for bringing my soul comfort, and for being a gentle shepherd of so many parents and TCKs.

Have you read any of Ruth’s books? Heard her speak? Other insights to share?

Engraved, SheLoves

Writing at SheLoves, about reclamation, engraving, and citizenship: Engraved


According to USAID, in 2011, Ali Addeh refugee camp in Djibouti supported approximately 17,000 refugees, most of them Somalis and most of them women and children. Traditionally, refugees born in Djibouti have not received identity cards. This means they are not Somali or Djiboutian. They are people without a nation, infants with no homeland.

No official birth certificate, no papers, means children can’t go further than the fifth year in school. They don’t have access to national health care. They are limited in their ability to defend their basic human rights, and struggle to participate in the cultural and social life of Djibouti, says an article in The Djibouti Post, Djibouti’s English newspaper.

April 2013 changed the future for more than one hundred of these children and launched an era of hope for other, unborn, second-generation refugees. With celebration and fanfare, and in partnership with the UNHCR, Djibouti has started to give these children, born between countries, Djiboutian birth certificates.

I picture the names of the kids: Aisha, Ahmed, Muna, Muhammed, now stamped on a piece of paper. I imagine their parents’ grief at the realization that in order to obtain this paper, they had to abandon their beloved Somalia. I imagine those same parents’ joy that now their child belongs someplace.

This name, on this paper, earns a child the right to immunizations, education, and a record of birth and eventual death. It earns them the increased chance to avoid child marriage, human trafficking, child labor, injustice in the court system, unwilling conscription into the military.

This is the reclaiming of identity, of nationality. This is the name of an infant on a piece of paper in a miniature nation in the Horn of Africa.

Do you know where my name is? Read the rest here, Engraved.