Tag Archives: violence

Nine Months Old


Here’s a poem I wrote a couple years ago while living in the Middle East.  It was in the midst of the Israel-Gaza Conflict of 2008-2009.  Living in the Middle East as an American made that conflict the topic of conversation everywhere I went.

I’m nine months old here
With the vocabulary of a two year old
So when I listen to your voices on the radio
I can only pick out a handful of your words
But I don’t need a translator to decipher the emotion caught in your throat
Don’t need an explanation for why you keep repeating
“Gaza,” “Israel,” “Philistines,” “Hamas”
Don’t need a tutor to help me conjugate the pain carried across the airwaves
Silent tears fall in the back of some rusty taxi
And guilt follows me around like some dark shadow
Refusing to disappear like Peter Pan’s clever one
Instead I carry around this crate of remorse
For being born in a country with too many ties to this violence
Too few answers to offer in return
And I trudge through this night with shackles
Linking me to your mother’s cries
And I can’t be free of them
And perhaps
I never should be free of them


If I’m Invisible to You


The following is a poem I wrote a while ago.  It is dedicated to the children who inspired the Invisible Children movement, for more information check out http://www.invisiblechildren.com.

the soft thud of your footfalls haunt my dreams
i hear your calloused heals hit the dusty paths of beaten down earth
i watch as your thin body balances a small plastic bag in one hand
[contents: one tattered strip of cloth; translation: blanket]
while gently resting your other arm on my shoulder
[you do not notice i am there]
i smell the pungent odor of sweat mingled with sewage as we
walk on
we must be nearing the town
as we draw closer a smiles rises across your beautiful, sorrow- scarred face
in your eyes i watch the moonlight dance as you begin to stretch
your clenched body
soon i hear the litany of drumbeats calling out to us
and then i hear you laugh—
God, what a beautiful sound
laugh, as you lift your arm off my shoulder and run toward the glowing fire
[i rush forward after you]
i watch as you join thousands of faces—
all smiling
[trying to disguise the fear and sorrow i see still lurking there]
i watch as you dance in the street—
rhythmically beating your hips to the bass line that blares from some dollar-store radio
[checking my pockets, i wonder why i don’t have anything to offer you.  i sat down to eat with you only once today]
slowly the sun fades away into complete darkness
[and i push forward, put my arm around your shoulders]
and we begin to hurry towards the small basement nearby
[the size of my one bedroom apartment]
already our friends have arrived
121 of us
[i try to picture all of you in my apartment—sleeping on counter  tops and bookshelves]
you are expert clowns fitting children in a tiny car
i watch as you carefully unpack your plastic bag,
climb atop a pillar,
stretch out your blanket,
and close your eyes
[you don’t see me, but]
i stand by and listen till your breathing slows to sleep.
lean down and kiss your head goodnight.
and i stand by
whispering prayers
. . . God, i know you care for this child . . .
and i stand by
praying that i may ward off the demons that haunt you
and i stand
i stand.

they tell me that you are invisible.
that because your family bore you into another place, far away,
because you’re poor,
because you’re African,
that you are invisible.
and i know they’re right.
but i want to know why that’s true.
i want to know if i’m invisible too
if when i stand
with my dimes instead of dollars
my prayers instead of peace
if i’m invisible to you.

tomorrow we will repeat this pilgrimage.
you will haunt my dreams as we travel that long, dusty road
if i am invisible to you, i want you to know
you are not invisible to me.





Hunger Games, Nanny Diaries, and a Father’s Love


Tonight I enjoyed an awesome girls night watching The Hunger Games.  We tried to go last night at midnight, but apparently even in a small town like Fredericksburg, all ten showings were sold out days in advance.  One person in our group hadn’t read the book, so everything was fresh for her.  Afterwards I asked her what she thought and she told me that she wasn’t too emotional until the famous scene with Rue and Katniss.  (Just in case any of you haven’t read the book or watched the movie yet, I’ll leave out which scene.  But for those of you that have, you’ll know what I’m talking about.) Anyway, she told me that when it got to that scene she was OK until she looked over at me and thought about me and my kids.  (As I affectionately call all the children who I am blessed to minister to.)  What would I do if it were one of my kids?

It is a really powerful thought– what would you do to protect the kids that you love?  I remember a time when I was working as a nanny.  Little Zach, who was about two and a half, was supposed to be taking a nap.  But he didn’t want to sleep–there were monsters lurking in his closet.  Or maybe he just wanted to play, and the monsters were his fall guys.  At any rate, I lay down next to him and began to sing him lullabies until he fell asleep.  And as he lay there, curled in my arms, I realized just how powerfully I loved him.  I thought about all those mothers whose baby boys were taken from them and slaughtered back in Egypt at the time of Moses’ birth and again in Palestine at Jesus’ birth.  What would I do if someone broke down my door demanding Zach?  All my strongly held pacifist beliefs were getting a run for their money.

And I wonder, what if that same fierce, protective love is the way my Heavenly Father feels about me?  About all of us.  Surely my love for Zach is not stronger than the Father’s love for him . . . or for me–as baffling and hard to believe as that may be.

So today, for Poetry Friday, I offer up this poem for everyone who offers a fierce love to their children.  Whether as a parent, a pastor, a nanny, or a Father.  And I offer this poem to all the children in our world — may you always be aware that there is someone who fiercely loves you.


I Hold You

I hold you
sweet child
in my arms
I hold you
whispering lullabies
in your ear
I hold you
in my steady arm
fighting off
the monsters that lurk
in your nighttime

Fear not
sweet child
in my arms
Fear not
I watch over you
wreathing flowers
in your hair
Fear not
you are not alone
in the shadows of this pain

Take heart
sweet child
in my arms
Take heart
I cradle you
singing peace
into your soul
Take heart
there is a hope
stronger than fear

Fly away
sweet child
in my arms
Fly away
you are secure
in my embrace
which breathes new life
into your brokenness
Fly away
into the freedom
that breaks all chains
and births creation anew

I Was Attacked In Church


I was attacked in church.  Physically assaulted.  I swear I’m telling the truth—three fingers in the air, scouts honor.

Some of you are freaking out right now.  Some of you who know me personally are running through the Rolodex of your minds trying to figure out who it was.  You don’t know them.  I promise.

I was traveling to churches and speaking about my ministry.  I was seated in the pew, listening as someone gave the standard announcements—Sunday School picnics, bake sales—you know the kind.  The pews around me were empty, and I was focusing on the upcoming message.  Suddenly a family walked in and sat behind me.  A middle aged mother and her two teens began to participate in worship.  From the sounds behind me I was guessing the young girl had some special needs.  As I turned around to greet them during that time-honored tradition known as “handshaking time,” I saw that my guess was accurate.  I smiled and introduced myself and she nodded back. As we sang songs she became very agitated.  Later I would learn that she wasn’t used to anyone sitting near her, other than her family.  Maybe they should have given me a pre-service warning.

All of sudden it happened.  Right there in church.  Mid-song.  She grabbed my hair with the grip of She-Ra, and started pulling.  Perhaps if she’d only had a few strands of hair, or even small sections, my hair would have just vacated my head and there wouldn’t have been a problem.  But she was using both hands and had about half my hair in fists.  When she started yanking, my body almost flew backwards over the pew.  You know those crime scene dramas when some man grabs a woman by her hair and drags her across the parking lot, before stuffing her in a car?  I felt their pain.

No one really knew what to do.  The worship leader tried to focus his eyes elsewhere.  The family across the aisle staunchly stared straight ahead.  The pastor seemed oblivious.  The unfortunate mother behind me tried to wrest my head from her daughter’s hands, but wasn’t having much luck.  This girl was strong!  If they could channel her strength she would have a good chance of winning her high school the state wrestling championship.  The mother was starting to panic.  She kept whispering “I’m so sorry,” while trying to pry her daughter’s fingers lose.  Eventually, after about three minutes, I was able to break free.  Huge hunks of my hair hung limply in the girls hands.  Finally, an usher decided to get involved, and he came to help escort the poor girl out, who was now screaming at me.  I held my head in my hands, tears streaming down my face, trying to compose myself.  Trying to act like it was no big deal that my head was literally bleeding.

I was definitely a “special” guest speaker that day.

In addition to being incredibly painful, it was truly a very funny day.  (Once the swelling came down.)  But it also begs the question . . . what would you do in that situation?  How would you minister to both a beautiful young girl whom God created with her own special gifts, talents, and needs AND the unsuspecting guest in your service?