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Safety and Fear

Quick link: But Are You Safe?

After a short hiatus, I’m back writing for A Life Overseas. I’m thankful for the months they gave me to focus on some other projects, while continuing to repost old blogs and essays. Today I’m writing about safety and fear, things that seem to be continual themes for me.

Ultimately, what is safety? Was Paul safe? Was Jesus safe on the way to the cross? When we talk about safety, this is the question that must be at the forefront of the discussion.

but are you safe

The other day a group of Americans asked me if I feel safe. I said, “The country where I live is pretty safe, there is very little crime. We’ve been robbed a few times but, yeah, its safe.”

They laughed and laughed, as they should have. My answer didn’t make much sense. It was also true. There is very little crime, compared to other capital cities. And, we have been robbed 18 times in 12 years, though one of those times was in Minnesota and another was in Turkey and another was in Kenya and another was in Somalia. Meaning, crime happens everywhere.

I should have said, “We’ve been robbed a few times but, yeah, I feel safe.”

Or, “I feel safe enough.”

Click here to read the rest of But Are You Safe?

Is Something Bad Going to Happen Tomorrow?

Is something bad going to happen tomorrow?

I mean, is something really bad going to happen tomorrow?


I guarantee it.

Maybe not to you. Maybe not where you live. But yes, something really bad is going to happen tomorrow.

Is Something Bad Going to Happen?

Sometimes I catch an undercurrent of fear, a sense that the world might be careening toward the ‘End Times’, an anxiety about the future, and a worry that something might go terribly wrong. If not today, then tomorrow, or next month. (I’m not the only one, Marilynne Robinson wrote about it here)

Guess what?

Something horribly wrong already happened today.

If toddlers washed up, dead, on the beach isn’t horrible enough, how about swordsmen at Swedish schools, shootings on Tennessee campuses, bombs in Turkey, Syrians slaughtered, raped, imprisoned, enslaved? How about Yemenis enduring endless violence and mostly ignored by the global community? How about girls abducted from school and forced into ‘marriages’ that are really sexual bondage? How about children going to bed hungry and kids with Downs Syndrome chained to bedposts? How about friends with cancer and spouses who cheat and lost jobs? How about corruption and injustice and greed and selfishness? How about a lack of clean drinking water and little respect for our planet?

The world is broken. There is horror and pain and suffering and grief and the only people with the audacity to wonder, ‘will something horrible happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month?’ are those who refuse to look outside their own lives. The ones who are unable to see that something horrible is already happening. The ones who are protected from global terror and famine and war and disease or from personal devastation and loss. Or who think they are because they have built up the false security of defenses and distance.

Something horrible is happening. Right now. In our world. This world. The one we live in and share and are responsible for.

The question is not: Is something bad going to happen?

The questions need to be:

When something bad happens somewhere else, what am I (you) going to do about it?

And when something bad happens to me (you), how am I (you) going to respond?

Are we going to be relieved that it isn’t our toddler washed up, dead, and then change the channel?

Are we going to build bigger bank accounts and buy more iPhones and plan ever more luxurious vacations?

Are we going to thank God for his miraculous provision of a parking spot while refusing to even ask the question of why he hasn’t miraculously provided breast milk from the sawed-off breasts of mothers in Sudan so they don’t have to watch their infants starve to death in their laps?

Or are we going to sell all we have and follow Jesus? Jesus who went to the uncomfortable place of shame and death on the cross? Jesus who went outside the cultural norms and touched sick people, dignified the sexually broken and abused, and who brought food to the masses, who welcomed the alien, stranger, and outcast?

How much worse does this world need to be for people to take notice?

It is time to look up from our manicured lawns and see that something awful is already happening in the world.

It is time to ask, what are we going to do about it?

For people who live far away from disaster (for now), instead of being afraid of the what-if scenarios of some doomsday forecast, start loving people. Pray for enemies, bless those who persecute. Make choices with your time, money, votes, attitudes, and possessions that are loving toward people.

For those who live closer to disaster (for now), instead of being afraid of what is on the doorstep, love people. Pray for enemies, bless those who persecute. Make choices with time, money, votes, attitudes, and possessions that are loving toward people.

The world is broken and is probably only going to get more broken. God is in the business of redemption, not just of our souls but of our bodies and our planet. Fixing the brokenness is not our job, I will leave that up to the One who is more than able. But loving people and not being afraid or paranoid or isolated is the role I believe God is calling his people to, as part of the redeeming work.

Something bad has already happened. What are you going to do, now?

Here are some articles filled with ideas for what you can do.

5 Ways to Stand Up and Be the Church

Syrian Crisis: Christians Cannot Stand and Do Nothing

By |November 2nd, 2015|Categories: Faith|Tags: , |3 Comments

Fear, Muslims, and Franklin Graham

Quick link: Afraid of Muslims?

Today I am back at SheLoves Magazine to join them in an important conversation, a response to Franklin Graham’s recent inflammatory words about Muslims and immigration. Others have already written beautifully on this, most notably Marilyn Gardner, this piece simply aims at starting a conversation.

Did you know that an American in America is more likely to be killed by their refrigerator than by a Muslim terrorist? Are you afraid of your fridge?

Fear, Muslims, and Franklin Graham

Are you afraid of your toddler? Are you afraid of your dog?

Are you afraid of Muslims? I say “Muslims” instead of “terrorists” because, as media outlets and Franklin Graham apparently want us to believe, the two words are synonymous.

Franklin Graham seems to believe we should be afraid of Muslims and that we are at war with Muslims both in the US and abroad. A few weeks ago he said immigration needs to be closed to Muslims, that we are under attack. He isn’t alone in this kind of ignorant fear-mongering. Over 160,000 people liked his Facebook post.

In the United States in 2013, three people were killed by terrorists (who were Muslim), all three at the Boston Marathon. That same year, five people were shot by gun-wielding toddlers, and about 34 died of dog bites.

Why didn’t Graham insist we prohibit toddlers inside our borders? Why hasn’t he called for a moratorium on dog ownership?…

To read more and to join the conversation, click here: Afraid of Muslims?

*”Ground Zero Mosque Supporters 4” by David Shankbone from USA – Ground Zero Mosque Protesters.


Facing My Fears

Quick link: Another Chance to Be Afraid – and Trust God

Today I have another piece published (see also Djiboutian Women at the Gym in the Sahan Journal), sometimes they all just fall on the same day. This essay is in Her.meneutics, a branch off of Christianity Today. My last pieces for them include:

The Good Female Samaritan

You Can’t Buy Your Way to Social Justice (or Why I’m Afraid of American Christians)

Today’s piece is about the Garissa attack that took place on Maunday Thursday. I wrote a blog post about it (Whispers in the Dark, Garissa) and this essay branches into another direction, away from grief and into fear.

When I Am Afraid

…I fear a lot of things. Malaria. Loneliness. Physical pain. I can’t sleep the nights my kids are flying between Djibouti and Kenya for school. Easter Sunday after the Garissa attacks I noticed that our church hadn’t placed any armed guards outside like they often do on holidays. During the service, my body was tense and my eyes constantly flicked to the doorway.

If forced to choose between “brave” and “coward” to describe myself, I have to say coward. I am the woman cowering behind Jesus, clinging to the edges of his robes, trembling. I’m the one saying, “I want to be with you. I want to go with you. But are you sure you want to go there? You really want to do that?”…

Click here to read the rest of Another Chance to Be Afraid – and Trust God


The Bookshelf: Finding Peace in Somalia, a mini book?

I hadn’t thought of this as a book for The Bookshelf until a couple of readers said they enjoyed my ‘short book.’ A longform essay is how others refer to it. A mini book? A long read? In any case, today on the bookshelf is my own story from the week.


The Proper Weight of Fear

I don’t know why a writer wouldn’t promote their work, we want people to read it, right? If I didn’t want people to read it, I wouldn’t publish it. Writing is about connecting. Its about finding that universal aspect of my story that expands outward and connects with the universal aspect in your story. But still, it can feel awkward to be shamelessly self-promotional. And yet, I know that how essays do bears weight on future projects so…here goes.

Another invitation. I’d really love for you to read, if you haven’t already, The Proper Weight of Fear, in The Big Roundtable. Some people have spoken of it as a book, but its a mini-book. One site marked it as a 50-minute read. So grab a cup of coffee and a snuggly blanket and enjoy. It is much easier to tweet and repost a list or a cat meme but still, I’d be ever-so-grateful if you’d share this, comment on it, repost the link…donate(?!) And fellow writers, The Big Roundtable is an excellent site to consider submitting to.

Here are two questions the editors asked me to think about.

1. Why did you need to tell this story?

I never thought of myself as a fearful person so when a suicide bomb attack in Djibouti filled me with nearly paralyzing fear I was shocked.  Someone suggested the reason for my extreme reaction could stem from a forced evacuation I had experienced eleven years earlier, in Somaliland. Three people had been murdered there, one of them a neighbor, and my family fled. We carried almost nothing with us and had no chance to say goodbye, and for all we knew someone with a gun would come after us soon. I don’t remember feeling afraid but now I most certainly was. I needed to understand that fear. Why hadn’t I felt it before, or had I? Why did I feel it so acutely now? How could I move past it? My husband was in Somaliland the week after the bomb and in order to escape the fear I felt in Djibouti, I returned—for the first time—to Somaliland. That seemed crazy—to leave one dangerous place and seek peace in Somaliland. But to deal with this surprising emotion, I had to face it in Somaliland: the place that birthed the fear and the place where I would lay it to rest.

2. What did you learn about yourself as a writer?

Through the years I’ve scribbled thoughts about the evacuation and aftermath but never fully addressed it on paper, especially not the emotional impact of it. Yet writing is how I process and understand the complicated swirl of expatriate life. And, I learned through working on this particular piece, writing is also how I let go and move forward. I don’t think I could have written about the evacuation soon after it happened, or if I had, the story would have been quite different. I needed this distance of more than a decade in order to unearth the deep ways life in the Horn of Africa has affected me, to understand how much this foreign soil has become my home. As I continue to write about living in the Horn, I’m encouraged by this realization. It means I’ll keep learning and will be able to write about it, with better reflection and perspective, long after I leave.

The Proper Weight of Fear

What I’m reading this week

Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists

Still reading Next Wave from last week.




Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War





The Tiger’s Wife: A Novel
(recommended by my sister. I started it before but didn’t get far. Am trying to read more fiction)




What are you reading this week? What do you think of long reads essays?