Two Rows By The Sea – A Very Powerful Poem

Two Rows By The Sea – A Very Powerful Poem

Our Minister at church this morning told us about attending the Portstewart Convention during the week. The last time I was there was in 2013 with Leah, I write about this here.

Our Minister read to us a poem called Two Rows By The Sea that he had heard at the Portstewart Convention.

He explained the background of the poem to us:

On February 15, 2015 a gruesome video was released showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by Islamic fanatics in Libya. As they were being executed, cries of “O Jesus” could be heard in the background. The video shocked the country. Both Christians and Muslims shared a common revulsion over this barbaric act. As soon as the video was broadcast, Egyptian President El-Sisi delivered a speech declaring 7 days of mourning. Shortly afterwards, the Egyptian Air Force bombed ISIS targets in Libya.

In response, the Bible Society of Egypt produced a simple leaflet called Two Rows by the Sea. Scripture verses were carefully chosen. A moving poem was written that finishes by asking some searching questions:

Two Rows By the Sea

“Two rows of men walked the shore of the sea,

On a day when the world’s tears would run free.

One a row of assassins, who thought they did right,

The other of innocents, true sons of the light.

One holding knives in hands held high,

The other with hands empty, defenseless and tied.

One row of slits to conceal glaring-dead eyes,

The other with living eyes raised to the skies.

One row stood steady, pall-bearers of death,

The other knelt ready, welcoming heaven’s breath.

One row spewed wretched, contemptible threats,

The other spread God-given peace and rest.

A Question… Who fears the other?

The row in orange, watching paradise open?

Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?”

Several thoughts went through my head as I heard this poem being read.

I thought of my own daughter, of how she also faced death without fear, but it wasn’t a man with evil eyes that threatened her with a knife. Instead, it was an evil disease process in her young body, that the best of modern medicine proved ultimately powerless to conquer – that was her enemy.

I thought of the families of these 21 Egyptians and how, with one communal act of hatred, their families were plunged into deep mourning.

I reflected on the Bible verse that tells us

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3 (NIV)

It’s so easy to get caught up in our own “stuff” and forget our global responsibilities. We are called upon both to pray for those who are being persecuted and to provide practical support, wherever possible.

 “The Lord has told us what is good. What He requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.” Micah 6:8 (GNT)

Sometimes we can be in a situation where we have to find the courage to speak up for justice on behalf of somebody in our circle who is being mistreated.

Other times, our concern can be for a person or a people group in another part of the world and we can give financially to bone fide organisations who are fighting the cause of the oppressed and marginalised.

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We have this Treasure in Jars of Clay

We have this Treasure in Jars of Clay

Something Leah and I both really appreciated after she became ill, was for friends to share a Bible verse with us and to pray with us.

Thankfully we know so many amazing people here in N.Ireland, that we weren’t short of people who were willing to minister to us in this way.

Therefore during Leah’s stays in hospital in N.I. we usually received some kind of pastoral support on a daily basis and we loved this.

Bristol was another matter.

We were warned in advance that the only minister who would be allowed to visit us in the bone marrow transplant unit was the ‘official’ hospital chaplain, nobody else would be allowed in.

We were shocked to discover that the hospital chaplain only visited once a week.

Three weeks into our stay, her visits in the transplant unit were stopped, on the grounds of infection control.

I went through the official hospital complaints procedures, to insist on Leah’s rights to chaplaincy and I succeeded in getting the hospital chaplains redesignated as “essential visitors” so that her visits could be reinstated.

Sadly for us, a few weeks after this, our lovely chaplain left, to take up a new post elsewhere, so her visits stopped again.

Our minister from home managed to visit us in Bristol on one occasion, as did our church Family Worker, Leah and I appreciated this so very much.

The hospital staff in Bristol were amazed at this pastoral input from our church in Northern Ireland.

Notwithstanding all of this, by week three, Leah was seriously ill and we were seriously missing the pastoral support we were so used to receiving at home in N.I.

Leah and I were virtually in ‘lockdown’ in an isolation room on the bone marrow transplant unit.

We were fortunate that on the 31st July ’13 we were given an accommodation upgrade from a small pokey room that we hated (cubicle 4) to a beautiful, airy, spacious one, with ensuite facilities, that we really liked.

I couldn’t make phonecalls or ‘FaceTime’ as the noise irritated Leah when she was so unwell. The one thing I could do though was send and receive texts and emails.

I so very much appreciated the support that we received from so many people during Leah’s hospitalisations, by text, email, Facebook and private message.

This is one very helpful text that I received at just the right time:


Gradually it dawned on me that I had no choice but to be Leah’s ‘chaplain’ myself. This is a text I sent to someone else around that time:


As evangelical Christians in N.I. I think that we are too used to the easy life sometimes – we can choose from any & every type of church and denomination.

We could go to a Gospel meeting or Bible study every night of the week if we choose to.

Most major towns have well stocked Christian book shops.

Many of us go every year to conferences like New Horizon, Portstewart Convention, Focusfest, Mandate and many others.

When and how do we put all of this teaching into practice in our lives?

The Bible says in Hebrews 5:12 

‘You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.’ NLT

I had lots of devotional books with me that I read daily for my own benefit but at this early stage I wasn’t used to sharing any of this with Leah.

She had brought her own books with her but was now too ill to read them herself.

In early August Leah was so ill and so sedated that she could only listen and concentrate for very short periods of time.


I needed to pick out the most appropriate pieces from my own reading for sharing with Leah.

I was sort of nervous and self conscious at first, wondering if I was getting it right, but Leah was so appreciative.

Soon it just felt so “normal” and so nice, that every day, I read the Bible and some devotional readings to Leah and prayed with her. Leah was so “hungry” for the things of God, that even when I was having my own personal time with God, if she happened to be awake, she would say “read that out loud to me please Mummy.”

At times we as Christians can feel so very weak and inadequate, but yet God can still use us in the lives of others.

The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:7 

‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.’ NIV

Our very weakness and sense of inadequacy is what helps us to rely on God instead of doing things in our own strength.

I have learned many lessons on this journey, but if the truth be told, they aren’t lessons that I would ever have chosen to learn – or at least I wouldn’t have chosen to learn them in this way!


The Memory Box

The Memory Box


Our eldest daughter Rachel left and Leah middle with their daddy, December 2012.
Our eldest daughter Rachel on the left and Leah in the middle with their daddy, December 2011

Before Leah left home in N. Ireland to go to Bristol Children’s Hospital for her bone marrow transplant, she gave personalised gifts to some of the people closest to her.

For her daddy she made a memory box.


For Christmas 2011 she had gifted him a “Daddy and daughter day out” promise.

Then they spent this day together by first going to church at the Vineyard in Coleraine.

Afterwards they had a picnic in the beautiful seaside resort of Portstewart in the Summer of 2012.


On the Monday night of the 14th July 2013 I took Leah and her boyfriend Nic and her cousin Deborah to the Youth Night at the Portstewart Convention.

When this had ended Leah informed me that they were walking down to the harbour. I was chatting to friends – nothing new there – and when I finally went looking for Leah, Nic and Deborah, they were nowhere to be found!

I tried all of their mobile phones and nobody answered. It was late at night and pitch dark. My daughter had a life threatening illness and I was supposed to be a responsible parent – I started to feel very anxious.


After what seemed like way too long, they reappeared around the coastal path, with Leah brandishing a jam jar full of sand.

She’d insisted on walking a considerable distance in the dark, until they reached the exact beach where she and her daddy had walked together the previous year.

There she filled up the jar that she had brought with her and that I had known nothing about. This jar was labelled and put into the Memory Box.


The remainder of the box contained other bits and pieces that she had bought for her daddy.


Leah left the memory box for Horace when we departed on Sunday 21st July ’13 with a note for him to not open it until he and Simon returned from Bristol on the Wednesday.

Horace was accompanying Simon to and from Bristol to have his bone marrow harvested and frozen until Leah would be ready to receive it.

Leah made a card for Simon and left a gift for him too.



The bar of whole nut chocolate now sits on my husband’s dressing table, still in it’s wrapper – too sacred to be eaten.

How precious each of these items, so lovingly chosen, now seem.