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Breeze no. 21: True anger, because we love

10 Oct 2020

Often people think I am peaceful and nice. Most of the time I may be so. Right now, I am really angry with myself - I wanted to take the time to write something and manage to forget it completely.  While I am cross with myself, I am also irritated by all those people gathering in pubs without enough distance, causing many of us a problem for future months. Being tired, I am easily annoyed by neighbours and by friends .… 


How can I find a better response? ’Rejoice!’ The wise man said. Make your gentleness known wherever you go… and the peace that passes all understanding will guard your heart and mind ….


You know what? I will go for a walk, and maybe what I wanted to say to you earlier, turns out to be important enough to come back to me. And while I walk, the true and just anger may remain: those things that are truly meant to cause anger, because we care from within our inner being. True anger, because we love. 


If we can, we might want to take up walking and find healing for our body and soul. And in the freshness, may stillness and insight come to the surface. A sense of being, of ‘seeing’ what is truly worth our attention. 


In our humble attempt to change the world

and in our frail response towards change - unwanted

Help us, dear Spirit, to respond with soft hearts and pure minds

Trusting in your strength and peace, Spirit of true life and love

Enabling us to let go what is unhelpful

to shine in what is utterly relevant and what needs to be addressed

to find growing holiness within and among us

just as we walk and breathe, somewhere along the road


Breeze no. 20: simple as it is

04 Oct 2020

I love reading St John’s gospel. I simply do. This was proven once more when I happened to be in Goslar a few weeks ago. There I walked into the town museum and found the Goslar Gospels: a unique piece of art from medieval times.  

Of each of the gospels one page was shown with stories told by some great pictures. The story of the feeding of the 5000 couldn't be more simple: it showed the Christ drawing so close to the crowd, that they - sitting down - received food from (what seems to me) his own feeding hand. There was something so close and generous about this picture. Not the dramatic distant godhead, but a man drawing close to those he cares for. 

This story we find in John 6, just after an interesting theme of the gospel starts to be explained in the previous chapter: that Christ knows many precious and ‘great things’ made known to him by the Father in heaven. And from chapter 6 it is shown that he doesn't keep it to himself: he wants to pass it on. The same applies to the water of life in the following chapter etc …

The theme of ‘passing on’ is a great concept in this gospel: that Christ knows the most intimate depth of love and the deep value of life as the Son of God but also, that he wants to pass it on with great generosity. To me, this life-giving example of Christ is the core inspiration of the gospel.

And somehow its appeal was renewed by the simplicity of that medieval picture: a Christ who cares, draws near the hungry crowd and gives out in abundance and perfection what is first given as a perhaps small but authentic gift to himself.

In Goslar the ‘great things’ of Christ’s life story is captured simply, yet powerfully. It encourages me here and now, in a time of restriction and search for meaning that I can start small, with what I have: seemingly small, it might grow if it is given with a heart as generous and expectant. 


In these days of decline and insecurity 

may we not only hold on to what we have

but hungry as we all are for true life and love

may we share what we have been given

and reach for divine love multiplied in our midst

simple as it is, but shining with all that is true

Breeze no. 20: simple as it is

19 Sep 2020

I love reading St John’s gospel. I simply do. This was proven once more when I happened to be in Goslar a few weeks ago. There I walked into the town museum and found the Goslar Gospels: a unique piece of art from medieval times.  

Of each of the gospels one page was shown with stories told by some great pictures. The story of the feeding of the 5000 couldn't be more simple: it showed the Christ drawing so close to the crowd, that they - sitting down - received food from (what seems to me) his own feeding hand. There was something so close and generous about this picture. Not the dramatic distant godhead, but a man drawing close to those he cares for. 

This story we find in John 6, just after an interesting theme of the gospel starts to be explained in the previous chapter: that Christ knows many precious and ‘great things’ made known to him by the Father in heaven. And from chapter 6 it is shown that he doesn't keep it to himself: he wants to pass it on. The same applies to the water of life in the following chapter etc …

The theme of ‘passing on’ is a great concept in this gospel: that Christ knows the most intimate depth of love and the deep value of life as the Son of God but also, that he wants to pass it on with great generosity. To me, this life-giving example of Christ is the core inspiration of the gospel.

And somehow its appeal was renewed by the simplicity of that medieval picture: a Christ who cares, draws near the hungry crowd and gives out in abundance and perfection what is first given as a perhaps small but authentic gift to himself.

In Goslar the ‘great things’ of Christ’s life story is captured simply, yet powerfully. It encourages me here and now, in a time of restriction and search for meaning that I can start small, with what I have: seemingly small, it might grow if it is given with a heart as generous and expectant. 


In these days of decline and insecurity 

may we not only hold on to what we have

but hungry as we all are for true life and love

may we share what we have been given

and reach for divine love multiplied in our midst

simple as it is, but shining with all that is true

Breeze:tryptich on the theme of walking

07 Sep 2020


1. LOOKING AFTER THE STRONG



One of the results of the lockdown period has been, that I walk more. All in all it has been an interesting experience to see all these different neighbourhoods and hideaways in London, which I had never explored so much without this period. One walk I discovered leads from Bow over Mile End cemetery to St Katharine’s in Limehouse. You could walk all the way to St Dustan’s, though this is a small detour. Between the cemetery and this ancient church there is a section which might be boring, but once you know where to go you see some great street art. 

The ‘graffiti’ is a cry to humankind to look after endangered species: it simply refers to our responsibility in this. One whale looks very colourful. The pictures make these vulnerable creatures look strong, very royal and futuristic. If possible, I’d love to bring you along and have a look and reflect on what you see. 

Too long we have approached our existence and our life on this planet with a survival of the fittest mentality. Aren't we as horrific as the survivors in Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’? I’ve started reading Peter Wohlleben’s ‘The hidden life of trees’. I was intrigued by his comment, that the stronger trees will not survive their challenging seasons, if they lack the support of their weaker neighbours. 

Christ’s saying that the first will be last and the last will be first, indicates that we shouldn't operate from our ambitions for power and our sense of superiority. This doesn't only indicate that one should consider the poor and weak, but also shows a deeper strength and impact present in what can be easily labelled as weak and useless. 

In one of the epistles of the New Testament - 2 Corinthians - we can read about freedom and a ‘new creation in Christ’. If in the Christian world this is only reduced to a saved and sinless life, this might be a too shallow approach. This includes also the way that Christ in his own life took responsibility for the poor and the weak, not only in acknowledging them, but also in acknowledging their impact in the (new) world. From an ecological angle, this also encourages me to not only acknowledge that some of the most beautiful and precious animals and species are under threat. I also want to seek how these creatures play their crucial and unmissable parts within the balance of the ecological system we are part of too. How do they play their royal part? How are they essential for the future of the world we live in? How can I honour them in terms of helping to ensure that they will have their facilitating roles in a renewed creation of this world - a world which holds a second chance for us, both weak and strong. 


Dear God 

Help us to stand up for the weak and those unnoticed

Not just for the sake of noticing them

but for the sake of this whole world:

filled with interconnections and hidden interdependence

Help us to see what and whom truly matter

Trust that there is a deeper purpose 

for the other and ourselves, 

for what we find in this world

for a new creation 

of all that finds a new and sacred purpose 

in your own creating being 

Amen





2. TOO FAR AND FAR AWAY



Loss is hard to talk about, simply because bereavement is a very individual process to walk through. No one can process this on behalf of someone else. To talk about it with someone else or within a social setting is dependent on the right time and the right place.

It is terrible when time and place are not synchronised and good support is hard to give. 

This week I experienced the best of friendship times. Sadly, it didn't last very long. But it was at a place in Germany where these times are the best - its locality guarantees a good quality time for us friends. When ‘here and now’ are so well knit together, they can even represent a sense of timelessness, of eternity even - and pressure, the burden of time and discrepancy fade away. The other week however, I also experienced encounters which were out of place. And I had heard about some events so sad, that a good timing and a place of healing and peace had been out of reach completely. Too far.

Not really knowing how to cope with hearing about several sad incidents, I heard myself listening at some point to Beachy Head by Iona, a song covering the difficult subject of suicide:


Here in my head I see an eagle that flies into the sun

Here in my head I say a prayer that you’d save the next one ….

Is there no one to watch over this place. to pray this evil away

Where are the souls, the sea doesn't know, the rocks cannot say 

God only knows how you're feeling today


Some events happen at the wrong place and the wrong time. And you can feel it in the air, you might taste it in your dry mouth and in the saltiness of your tears. 

These last two days I‘ve walked over the old border between West and East Germany. A lot of pain and mistrust is still felt in the air, certainly in one of the border towns we pass through. Even though a monument asks me to ‘control the future’, I know in our current time of covid and riots that we simply cannot control the future. I’ve seen the limitation of humankind. I ‘ve felt it these last few days.

What is there to say, when too often so much which is said seems too much. While processing some of these terrifying and saddening events (if they can be processed) I walked through this old no-man’s-land. With a variety of vegetation: nature had its own way here, where no one walked or talked for many years. Over a stretch of not even 10km I have never seen such a diversity of trees, plants, animals, mushrooms and insects. 

Then - the other night near where I stay I see a kind of eagle, perhaps a falcon or buzzard. This area of varied nature provides room for these creatures to soar majestically. And for me it is enough to hear their sound again and be reminded of where I used to live and the cry of buzzards was frequently heard - so often that it reassured me in those days, that my life was worth living. 

These days I am confronted with too many lives lost - so unnecessary. Devastating, when it seems too late to pray sometimes. Yet in the hands of the Eternal, there might be a sense in saying a prayer which I cannot find myself. And so - right at this moment in time, right on this spot; I say a prayer in complete silence - for evil to run away. To run very far away. 



Dear God - Creator of all life

At times we cannot make sense of what has happened 

It was wrong, out of place and it happened too soon

For a life that is robbed away 

robbed out of our hands, of care and compassion

we pray that you will move us to a time of healing

to a place where our hurt, our emotions are heard, 

where no cry of the heart is dismissed at times

when someone’s departure cannot be faced:

too much a shock and hurt too hurtful to make this emptiness leave

too violent the silence that is sad and dead

our hearts so broken, our inner being so disturbed

Relief us from guilt, anger or despair

Hold this turmoil and hold our brokenness and pain

Collect our tears, bind our wounds  

Know our prayers, when we don't know what to pray

Just be there, when death simply seems to strong

Just be there, be here and now

Just be there, when our words become words too many

Amen

 


3. DON”T GIVE UP: REFRAMING OUR COMMUNICATION


Much of what I do here in Germany is similar to what I do in London: walking. The German countryside however, is more outstretched and desolate. I am aware that this is a luxury: I am mobile (unlike a year ago) and feel secure enough to do this (less so in London). Realising that I cannot take it for granted, I ‘walk and talk’ with friends and family who cannot join me here: because of the distance or because of their health or other circumstances.

While walking and reflecting, I feel I can communicate with some of my friends and loved ones. What is it that creates the right calm and space to do this? Perhaps the breeze, or the way that the air in the woodland still tells me that it rained last night. Or simply the drop in temperature when I feel surrounded by the trees  - a gentle softness wherever I walk here. 

Why can’t we communicate more often at this level of walking together: not the pressure of filling up each moment of silence, not the pressure of being opposite each other - but alongside each other welcoming the cool temperature of the forest and its freshness after the rain has fallen.

Sometimes I think that we miss these circumstances in current debates on race and social distancing. Moments when we don't have to come to the bottom of things as we brush up our history in the heat of the fight, but allow a sense of freshness around us. Or if impossible, at least acknowledge that we miss this ‘breathing space’ in our communication? An awareness of our ‘weather conditions’ and our context when we communicate, in order to safeguard the quality of it. 

Before I left the UK a few weeks ago, I was struck by a simple word in Hosea - that God will appear as sure as the rain (probably more than just a fresh shower). It speaks of a divine, but unusual persistence in communicating after an almost irreconcilable past: yet, in this prophetic book there is a theme of not giving up without denying that grave past. 

How can we still refresh ourselves in our ways of communicating and understanding each other better, without denying what makes our current relationships and communications so difficult and hurtful? I remember the inspiration which was felt throughout the whole theatre while I saw that beautiful play called Oslo. The Oslo accord was established after impossible negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Key in the negotiation process was the atmosphere and the conditions of the back room:  A different tone, a different context, another way of relabelling and reframing. The context showed how meaningful it was to find a fresh way of communicating and building relationships. Another example that shows that it is true: we simply cannot give up on each other. Not in our time. Not now. 


May we find wisdom and may we find grace

when in our anger, our deep convictions 

communications between us become too clouded and too complex 

Help us to find a change of context

to sense the holy breeze of your Spirit 

Helper in our times of troubles

Reminding us of the river of life that flows

Its powerful streams and it sounds of justice

So much that we will become still in our arguments

Be still and know

that your are here 

to redirect our paths

to sharpen our debates in every right way 

to soften our hearts 

for what is true and honourable

(with psalm 46)

Breeze: the sudden sky that holds us all

02 Aug 2020

Nearby where I live is a popular park. It is full of prams and walking sticks The park is for the people, but would I feel at ease to go there? How will I fit in this park culture of young families and ageing people? Initially, asking myself this question made me feel hesitant to go more often. 

Last night however I was forced to go there, rather than to the wide and spacious further down the road. The sky wasn't overly friendly and I felt drops falling on the spot where my freshly cut hair still used to grow. Speaking of ageing…

It was ok. I had to think things through and let them go. I also had to make a phone call. The call was entertaining because we barely could hear each other on a bad line. I started walking around a bit more, and then, all of the sudden: the sky was red and it was red all over.

My arrogant attitude towards the park had changed instantly. After bits of rain had fallen, the sky showed its tender colour of comfort. Not only to me, but to all who were there at dusk: those of different age, nationality and race. Suddenly the sky spoke louder than anyone in the park on any of their phones. And once its colours had blown us all away, it was time for the night to settle in.

It reminded me of a song I wrote years ago:


As we share the colour black

And search for new horizons

Today will once be dead, tomorrow our new home

We all share the colour black 

as sleep is clearly calling

All colours lost and stolen as we share

The colour black


Reading Reni Eddo-Longe’s Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race, I wouldn't dare to apply ‘colour black’ here to the current race debate. Reading this publication, I do not consider myself in the position to even imagine, feel or think what it is like to be black. Yet the song is about equality: at the end of the day all of us need food and sleep, we all need to give in to rest. Like all those different types of trees on the horizon in autumn: holding each other’s leafless hands while the sky darkens and night is calling all of us to rest in the equality of sleep. Despite our division, we hold hands in our basic needs, wether we like it or not ….


Of course, equality is a wonderful aim, but often out of reach. For instance, where I am now, I know I am much more of a stranger, than when I walk around Central London. A self-conscious wanderer here, I know that I am not from here. A constant awareness that this is not where I am from: a stranger I will always be. But suddenly less so last night. We shared the beauty of the sky beyond anything that divides us. We shared the wonder of what we fail to establish ourselves. Though we think we have not much in common, we all shared this moment of being in awe of what we saw. As quick as it came, as quick my sorrows diminished there and then. I left with the uplifting thought that this park had also allowed me to be part of its experience and its grandeur.

Would I have too much hope, to think that equality could be established by something as sudden and filled with wonder? Wouldn't this be the wonder of the lockdown - a catalyst in terms of many of us suddenly meeting each other from countless directions at this lockdown crosspoint, where we face each other in all the challenges we face altogether at the same time: our lack of employment or our freedom to move and socially behave etc. 

A walk in the park can bring us an entire different experience, as the sky commands us to change our perspective, open our minds and activate our senses. Equally in our current social struggles, we can experience a shift and suddenly sense that there is so much more and beyond: more than our little minds wanted to hold until now, in the small corners and frames of where we live.



God of all,

May we rediscover the meaning of hope and trust

in this season of shock, sadness and smaller space

May we find at the forefront of our minds

true openness for opportunities and connections

Rethinking our foundations, socially, spiritually, skilfully …

That somehow, suddenly at our doorstep

wonder and togetherness may be found

As they were always meant to be

Amen

Breeze: winter in July

29 Jul 2020

Though we are in July, many have told me that it feels like winter. I personally don’t mind the winter: ‘winter in July’ sounds rather appealing to me.

Much of this is not what we expect of a good summer. How unusual is this? Or is it just our human nature, longing for our planning to succeed and our expectations to be met? Although I see we suffer from the affects of climate change, I do remember rainy summers in July. Similarly, we go through rather unexpected seasons mentally, socially and/or financially throughout this lockdown or post-lockdown period.  In terms of planning, i sense that much is uncertain. Even unsettling at times. Currently, life can feel like one heavy, uncomfortable grey dark sky. One that hangs above us, right before another shower will be poured out over us.

From where I sit in my ‘new’ lounge, I am actually waiting for the rain to stop. Nevertheless, sitting here is rather stilling. I just opened the window, so that the rain outside is like a friend, helping me to find a specific, still focus to reflect and write this to you.

No, winter in July and our current challenges are not easy to pass through. But in all this, there are treasures reappearing, which I havent really noticed for a long time. Like those long lost books that I revisited while I was unpacking. Like those deep quality moments with friends here or there, that are only here because we are forced to adjust to wait in this season we are in.

Come what may, I take the rain as it is. I listen to its sound. And words are found. Friends are found. Peace is found, despite al these different outcomes in July. I take it as it comes as I travel with you. Because although the destination is rather uncertain this summer, for one reason or another we are given to each other to journey through this together. 


Dear God,

Like once on the road to Emmaus

Signs of life aren't always that clear and colourful

Yet help us to be patient

as well as open to what this season brings

Open to that other opportunity

Open to that other doorway

to a new chapter in our own lives

or that of our friendship or our community

Amen


Breeze: at the kitchen table

22 Jul 2020

Last week was a week of unpacking. Endless unpacking. Life is passing by in multifold ways. Friendships of the past, loved ones of old, reunited with them through items in storage for a number of years …. 

At the end of the evening I can let it all go at the kitchen table. I love writing here. Even more: I love sitting here. Just being still. 

In the stillness I imagine more friends walking in and out, having a place at the table. Already some heart to heart conversations have taken place in my new home. Suddenly between cleaning and clearing things away and sitting down at the kitchen table, I am reminded of the words: ‘whatever you ask’ …. 

They are words from the gospel easily explained as a kind of vending-machine spirituality. That’s not my approach to these words. Quite often I have prayed for things I didn't get, for someone else or for myself. Tell me I do not have faith enough, I can cope with that and maybe this has been true at times. Still I think these words ‘whatever you ask’ (whatever they sounded like in Aramaic) paint a bigger picture. To me they paint a picture of friendship with a deep and special bond. Of understanding, trust and good will. That type of friendship with moments that do not require any words spoken out loud, as well as moments when it is entirely fine for anything to be asked or said. Maybe for this reason, we see in these chapters ‘photographs’ of a God as a loving parent, with backdrops of peace or liveliness. 

When it comes to either silence or the spoken word, we deeply depend on the tone and of the ‘backdrop’, as I believe Jesus didn't speak of a plain text message or online order sent to him. ‘Whatever you ask’ - to me - is deeply about a friendship built by mutual trust and care by spending much time together, like at this kitchen table.

I pray you will find that kind of friendship here.

Dear God

Whatever we make of you

Whenever we turn to you

May our times together

be held by peace and stillness

Whoever needs a chat

or the comfort of a listening companion 

May the tone be one of patient assurance 

of availability, focus and good will

No a word too much, nor any word too less

Just as it is

Just as friends 

living life

truly together

Amen

Breeze: light within and without

22 Jul 2020

A few days ago, I moved house. While unpacking, I try to pitch the atmosphere of the space itself with my own personal touch to all the arrangements. It’s an interesting, explorative process I have not encountered this much. Some things however come ‘from the other side’ - like the way the sun adorns the flat: something I could not have planned nor arranged. I left the doors open as I went to sleep. 

The first thing I noticed the following morning, was the secure sunlight falling into the other room. Much later at the end of the day, it wasn't the sunlight within the room that was so striking - this time it fell on the high treetops at the end of the garden. They were tall enough to catch the deep colours brought to them, far from the other side. Light inside and outside: both morning and evening had revealed to me a radiant surprise. 

It reminded me of how Christ is the ‘light’ in John’s gospel: the light of the world. Or would he have said: the source of all light? Or: the Great Light outside? John the Baptist seems to be called the lamp inside: a shining lamp. As if we need to see the light in human hearts around them before they can see the true light of all time, from all around. 

Light within and without: the light I carry inside and the light outside which inspires me. Both are light making this world shine. It just shows how powerful we can be in togetherness in the darkness. This is the wonder of the first day repeated again and again - it is a gift to hold.


No, these thoughts are not very profound or groundbreaking. The simple reality of it is. In a week when there is not really much time to wander in my heart and mind, I hear myself singing these words from Patrick’s Breastplate as I know it from the Morning Prayer in the Northumbria Community: 


This day be within and without me

Lowly and meek, yet all powerful

Be in the heart of each to whom I speak

In the mouth of each who speaks unto me


In my view, the Light falling into our souls gets even more room, if we seek it to be connected with the world outside: our search for this connection with other stars around us - like in these months of Black Lives Matters - draws us into the light of pure equality and it makes humble hearts shine powerfully.


This little light I bear

May it shine, may it find a connection

with the true Light of all

uncovering beauty and justice

leading us to truth, wonder and purity 

all embracing tender simplicity

going down this path together 

to a world led out of darkness

then covered with the light 

of your love, our love 

Amen

Breeze: Beth-El, House of God

06 Jul 2020

As a child I was already intrigued by the story of Jacob’s ladder and all the angels going up and down in his dream at night. Years later I entered St Paul’s Cathedral and saw Jacob’s enthusiastic conclusion written on the doors: ‘this is a house of God!’

Jacob calls this ‘Beth-El’ - house of God. It is hard to think of Beth-El without remembering Jacob being on the run, entering the dark unknown. He was a fugitive and this fantastic experience takes place when his pillow is a stone. Yet he found God’s home where his own was absent.

How much has the harshness of the last few months given us opportunities to see more in the spiritual realm? Which insights or conclusions have reached us in our lockdown experience? Beth-El speaks of God’s home in a passing place, on the threshold of something new and unknown. Beth-El assures the one running away for himself, that God lives in the epitome of imperfection . 

I lived in a Beth-El, this last year. I wasn't sure at all where things were moving towards: life was a big unknown and despite my insecurity and inability to shape up my life quick enough, I found myself at a passing place of insight - a ‘divine location’ in the sometimes harsh heart of London. Angels were here to show more of the wonder of heaven. And step by step, the view cleared up before me … As if I needed to recognise God’s home, before I would find mine. 

Jesus refers to Jacob’s supernatural experience and mentions that we will see angels ascending and descending on the head of the Son of Men. Perhaps it is his unusual way of saying, that he is the doorway to heaven. Perhaps it’s his way of saying that we are all entitled to find this divine home along the way. Whenever we feel a little lost or unsure, a true house of God can be built beyond the stones and walls of our set ideas and plans: for it might be in our own most trembling inner being, that we suddenly find ourselves hosting the divine presence. 


Dear God,

What can we say about our targets and aspirations 

When so much in our lives have been put on hold

On the run for what might have been proven  

wrong or inadequate

Or not knowing what is beyond this border 

May we open up to a true sense of belonging 

and find our yearning for a home

safely held in the secret, sacred place 

of your divine presence

Amen


Breeze: about listening and knowing

29 Jun 2020

Do you recognise those times when you are in conversation, but actually, the real person you are talking to is yourself. It can be anything: a chat with someone helps to clear my head or it simply gives the opportunity to process something that happens in the day. This is entirely human and there is nothing wrong with it, but it is good to be aware of, though it could prevent me from really listening to what somebody would love to share with me. It is great when a chat is therapeutic from time to time, but on the whole I want to engage and truly ‘see’ the one in front of me. 

From time to time I pick up Theresa of Avila’s Interior Castle. I certainly don't claim that I understand all that she says, but there is wisdom in Theresa’s writing that I love to hold in my heart - if only for a while. Apart from talking about false and true humility, Theresa also covers the value of self-knowledge. But then that kind of self-knowledge that finds it value when it springs from knowing God and divine love: once we look at God, we are truly able to look at ourselves. 

In the last few months I have often turned to Psalm 34 - one written for those hurting. Here are a few verses. And as you may see, I find traces of this theme:


5 Look to him, and be radiant;

    so your faces shall never be ashamed.

6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

    and his ears are open to their cry.

18 the Lord is near to the brokenhearted,

    and saves the crushed in spirit.


Self knowledge and self reflection is all about perspective and relationship: in truly seeking the other, or in approaching the Other, I can often find more truth about myself. As I sincerely open up to the other in conversation, I find more light to fall on my own soul. In the sight of the Other, I dare to look at myself.

If you look at the way Jesus’ friends desert him at his trial, this comes to show. Jesus is well rooted and knows who he is: if they ask if he is Jesus of Nazareth, then he says that ‘he is’. While one of his best friends claims ‘he is not’ his friend. Friendships are breaking down, when people have forgotten who they truly are. 

Between all I do and do not know, when I read Theresa’s words, I read of a God that stands alone - a God who just is. But in that ‘being’, I feel allowed to find mine. And in that knowing, I feel known.

And this is how I love to know you, when we spend time: for who you are in your very self; and hopefully in getting to know you more day by day and chat by chat, you can equally show me more of who I am. 


Give us the grace

to know you, though you may live in unapproachable light

to know our neighbour, to look those we speak to truly in the eye 

to know ourselves, hear honest feedback and find safety to listen

stay true to whom we know, stay true to whom we are 

within our inner being

the diamonds that we all are

with loving hearts that listen and receive 

Breeze: leading the world from the lower places

21 Jun 2020

These weeks I am reading through the story of King David of Israel. Each time I read it, I am so touched by how it starts so small. A shepherd boy, not particularly eligible for bigger tasks like fighting giants and leading twelve tribes. He was ranked far lower than the brothers above him. Yet he was the right one, focussed on his task with integrity of heart. Moving step by step as a person ‘after God’s own heart’. Yet not there instantly, but through seasons of being a fugitive, a stranger, facing journeys marked by mistakes. Human. 

Prophets often wished that future kings proved to be shepherds like him. Not letting their people swim in what is crumbling down because of war, social injustice and unfairness, but those who look after them with great attention and a heart set on justice and hope.

Jeremiah speaks often of the absence of these shepherds. One of my favourite sections speaks of boasting ‘the right way’: one can boast in only one thing, and that is knowing God. Easily mentioned. If I speak just for myself, I believe in a Godhead who wants to be known, but to boast in that …    


‘Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.  (Jer.9:23,24)


I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord (Jer.24:7)’


As a good Christian, I’d love to boast in knowing God, but reading what really bears his delight, I am not sure what I could boast about …. Knowing and doing belong together, finding true ways that show integrity for not only ourselves, but for those around us, where we are placed and follow our journey - ‘to give them a heart to know that I am the Lord’ . 

And so, I am not a good Christian because I happen to read Jeremiah. I don’t like boasting at the moment anyway, for what can I mean and contribute in a time like this? How does my ‘doing’ reflect my ‘knowing’? Whenever I get lost in trains of thoughts like these, I look to Jesus and reflect on what he’d come up with.


He says he is the good Shepherd. Like that one king who knew what he was doing, he, too, started small and very human. And so in times of rebooting - like we all have to as a society - let’s drop our knowledge of what is too big and lofty. Let’s start the human way: smaller and maybe some levels lower, but sharply focussed. Let’s go back to what we truly know that we can do and grasp; to what is doable in terms of justice and togetherness. 

May I boast in new steps of knowing what is true and bears integrity - like a sheep knowing that good Shepherd’s voice for a life that displays true care and true consideration for those walking alongside me. Coming out of this lockdown, entering a new space on the path of justice and hope. Good hearts listening for good guidance. So if there comes a time when I could boast - knowing this - then i’d love to boast together with you, as we recognise love, justice and righteousness in a new chapter of our collective lives. 


Dear God

When we have to dig deeper for goodness to find

While living lives in togetherness and hope is challenging

May we have hearts hearing that Shepherd’s voice

longing for justice, true love and integrity

Help us to recognise our starting places

knowing we are human, perhaps not highly ranked

but equipped with a sharp focus and great qualities 

to enter a better chapter

for building a better word

that reflects the love and beauty 

of the desires of your own Heart of Love

Amen

Breeze: with wider hearts for a wider world

15 Jun 2020

Though I speak four languages, I wouldn't be able to impress you. I am only fluent in two. All of them are spoken with an accent: I speak English with a Dutch accent and nowadays people in the Netherlands can detect that I live abroad. In Frisian and in German I need to borrow too many Dutch and English words to make myself clear enough, though I think I could get by. I rarely hear Frisian these days, though its melody is wonderful and its vowels woolly and rich. In March, only just before the lockdown started, I got hold of the national annual book gift in both Dutch and Frisian. My lockdown challenge therefore has been to brush up my Frisian speech and understanding. I hope the neighbours downstairs haven't been too disturbed by it. 

You might think that this is all charming and ‘nice’, but it also reminds me of the fact, that all my life I have been judged by my speech: At school, my Dutch was too upper class for many fluent in Frisian; later at university down in Utrecht, my Dutch was then too northern and farmer-like. And in the UK, my English pronunciation always kept its foreign edge to it. No wonder that I find ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ complicated concepts. 

The national book gift called ‘Leon and Juliette’ seemed utterly relevant: it is a mixed race love story from the 19th century about their marriage and family life in Charleston, right before the American Civil War - and meanwhile ‘Black Lives Matters’ has made itself known.


Language and the colour of our skins: they show much about our identity, or the confusion that comes along with it. Is this why I have hungered for both eccentricity and empathy? Eccentricity: to find myself a comfortable spot at a distance - not to be hurt too much, not to be too different. Empathy: to come close and be able to find a level of understanding with those who struggle finding their path in life. Language and the colour of our skin lay bare the differences between us. Do they matter? ‘From a distance you look like my friend, even though we are at war’… And ‘God is watching us from a distance’: we, living in time prove how without enough distance our judgement is distorted, our biases too shortsighted. As it shows, we need distance from our own history to see our views and judgements refreshed by a healthier perspective. 

Somewhere down the line in our smaller and bigger histories, we all have been hurt by the prejudice of others and still seem biased ourselves, somewhere deep inside  … What is there to learn today? In times like these, I wonder what Christ has to say: closer than any other, yet with his ‘distant’ perspective. He desired to draw all people to himself, while his world and his imagination were wider and bigger than ours. Like in that story of the centurion who is concerned about his ill servant. With what accent did this centurion speak to Christ? What made him feel uncomfortable or unworthy: him representing the oppressor or maybe his ‘different’ relationship with his servant? I can only guess, yet what strikes me, is Christ’s welcoming and ‘widening’ perspective and reply, that ‘many will come from the East and the West’, ready to eat in the Kingdom of heaven.

 

All I see in this story, is similar to what I read in that of Leon and Juliette: East and West are pushed out a little further, boundaries are set a little wider. Bit by bit our worlds become bigger, richer and more multi-coloured, no matter how much we also try to keep our world small and our languages and colours ‘pure’ and ‘unmixed’. Now our world wants to make sure that ‘Black Lives Matter’, may we reflect on our own experience, our own biases and our own involvement, as we push out our East and West a little further. A wider world for us all. 


God of all,

Make us wise in times like these

Please reveal to us and to the world

a fresh and wider perspective 

Help us to travel further East and further West

in our community, in society, as well as in our hearts

knowing you have never been selective 

in who you want to draw to your own self

May we never hinder you but serve you instead

with wider hearts for a wider world

Searching harder for those most worthy 

at the ends of the earth, beyond our own horizons

Amen

Breeze & the Trinity: Family Moments

07 Jun 2020

Romans 8 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Today is Trinity Sunday. Traditionally, a Sunday when in many churches we usually look together at Rublev’s icon of the Trinity/Abraham’s guests: so much we can imagine and reflect on, when it comes to understanding the Trinity. As if we all could be like Abraham, waiting underneath our trees for the Divine Presence to arrive. 

How is this translated to our everyday life? How could I reflect on this in terms of my current urban setting? Today for instance the rain is welcome, but waiting here makes me feel cold and wet. A life filled with waiting for solutions, improvement and freedom to move and wander around. Waiting for a reality of being visited by the Holy Three to lift me up in this period when too much for too many seems unclear and unknown. 

On a Sunday like this, I keep coming back to the Celtic Saints. Their spirituality is so deeply trinitarian that its impact is still with us. In fact, I remember coming to the British Isles partly because of this deep influence. Many traces of Celtic saints remaining not only in historical sign posts, but also in the ways many people reminded me of the reality it had brought them: Time again and again, I was told by people how in various holy landmarks, cathedrals and churches I could expect to find God’s presence there.

Many holy places to find - I still hold them in my heart. A revelation of the Divine Presence wherever I could walk and talk with God or wait for his presence from under a tree. To increase the awareness of this Divine Presence, this same Celtic spirituality left us also their ‘Breastplate’ prayers. They are simple, yet powerful: The more we repeat them, the more we become aware of the presence of the Trinity right with and within us - and ultimately real. Am I the only one who so often forgets to sit with this and take it in more deeply? For example, from Iona’s Encircling


The Mighty Three, my protection be

Encircling me, You are around

My life, my home, encircling me

O sacred Three


Every day starts so much better, if a prayer like this is sung or said, repeated even: this increases the awareness of the Mighty Three helping me recognise that there is no person nor power that can come between me and this Divine Presence. Sadly, to me, this is so simple and real, that it is too easy to forget. If I read Romans 8, I can see how trinitarian this chapter is. ‘God’, ‘Christ’ and ‘Spirit’ are all interconnected, as all three are used. All is culminating  in the last powerful verses about this immense, Divine love. We are not only inseparable from this love. We are also part of this great Family we can as well label as the ‘Trinity Family’. This is how close I have come to God my ‘Dad’, my brother Christ and the indwelling Spirit. And please oh please, may I remember  this from under my tree: this simple, surrounding reality of the Divine presence of love.

Family moments to notice and to treasure in this urban world and reality of mine.


Trinity of Love - Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Surround me this day with your life and your love

Your presence divine, dwelling within my heart

My heart here - a home for your presence 

most holy, most divine, most loving

Fear and uncertainty be gone

Nothing to come between me 

and this your presence: Shelter most sacred

Trinity of Love - Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Wherever you find me today

Please find me waiting for you 


Pentecost: The promise of so much more

31 May 2020

His life may make thee gold …


O let thy Spirit bear a part

And make up our defects in his sweet art


George Herbert


Today is Pentecost Sunday. Throughout this season of lockdown I have seen much work and many duties from a relatively small space, not always knowing how to manage or feeling equipped enough to deal with all of it accordingly. And yet the story of Pentecost was such as this: the less educated, non-privileged who had been waiting in a small space, appointed to be the first to see wind and fire turning their world around, reality repositioning itself to as it should be. 

Apart from the ‘Other’ perspective on ‘small’ and ‘strong’, there is also the focus on what is unexpected or beyond our own ability or thought. Life where it is absent. Existence in the void. Our attention drawn to where we naturally wouldn't tread or travel towards. 


Pentecost is the open door to ‘greater things’: greater than what we have known or encountered this far. In my current lockdown life, do I find this openness which suits an attitude of expectancy? This Pentecostal ‘culture’ of being able to let go of what I have cultivated too much and might as well leave behind in what is ahead of me? How much do I expect a simple comeback to the world as it was in terms of my life, my approach and my planning? 

How much would I like to wait now for what is beyond my personal imagination? How much am I prepared to see a void or a blind spot in my experience of the world I live in? And what can this lockdown period reveal to me, or in what way could it open up an inner sight or hearing more clear?


The promise of the Spirit is not solely a promise of what I cannot do, cannot understand or cannot plan. That wouldn't do justice to the promise of ‘so much more’ or ‘beyond’. It is the promise of turnaround of perspective. It’s a turnaround of what I do not yet know. A promise I cannot yet comprehend. So why would I fill it all in in advance? Of course I can phrase, plan, imagine and work hard, but the waiting is not for my words or magic spell doing the trick. Then I still trust in ‘struggling for my part’, as George Herbert puts it in his Easter poem. The waiting is for what I read in Herbert’s call for the Spirit’s ‘sweet art’:  knowing the limits of the part I play, the art I deliver, I now wait for his sweet art. But then a life-giving, creative expression beyond my simple defects. That, which makes a tree grow and come to full fruition. That which instead of a mathematical outcome, is an outburst of pure essence and a reality of life renewed which ‘makes thee gold’. Or as clearly put as in that psalm when the Spirit is sent forth - and the face of the earth renewed ….


Dear Spirt, Breath of Life, Wind of Freedom 

Come to us in ways most life-giving, most essential, most mind blowing

Come to us where we do not expect it, stuck in what leads to dead ends

Come to us, reshape and refill, repair and reboot,

Renew this reality of ours

For this - please - bring us our Christ,

To where he has been forgotten or neglected 

For his gold to be uncovered, to shine in a dusty, waiting world

Come to us, surprise us with beauty and life’s essence 

Please come and turn our world around 

Lead us into our most thriving positions

For all the good you bear and bring to us

For more good you would like us to bear inside

Do come and breathe your life within us

Breeze: Where waters flow ...

24 May 2020

Some countries get far too much rain, while others like the UK not nearly get enough. Last week I watched ‘The boy who harassed the wind’, based on a true story set in Malawi. With covid and lockdown being so prominent in the news, suddenly climate change and global poverty seem to be of lesser concern.

Journeying from Ascension Day to Pentecost I am in search of freshness in dry land. The promise of the Spirit was not just one of a spiritual ‘high’. It was a pour-out of spaciousness in a room behind locked doors; of freedom in small and oppressed places. I cannot read Jesus’ roaring promise of living waters out of the believers’ hearts (John 7) without thinking of that water rushing into the lowest and driest parts. Nor can I read it without John’s vision in Revelation of healing streams of water promised for those thirsty and sad - even for nations to be healed. What does connect the high heavenly places with the dry places I see around me: places of hurt, injustice, sadness, deep pain and worry … 

What keeps ringing in my head are other words of comfort:’I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble of spirit’ … (Isaiah 57). To mend my brokenness and dryness down here, a high name is coming closer to me: Jesus coming into the smallest room locked out of great fear for what is outside. And in that low and inner place he breathes this Breath of Life over those small and scared. The lowest lands are the areas to be watered and refreshed par excellence.

And yes, you may know how much I love the beauty of love and life, as portrayed in John’s gospel: A portrait of Christ drawn by his closest friend. And in that story Love comes down to the low and dry land within me. In that story I receive water that speaks of life that is endless. I just cannot believe it will end! But how to find it when the path is dry, the soil is showing cracks and the season is too hot? Rather then finding it myself, would the Spirit not show how water will flow down to the broken and the lowly? May I just be observant, sense it - expect it, even. Not a spiritual experience of ecstasy and of trend and fashion, but one of  refreshing, healing water brought to the lips of those thirsty on the lower tracks of life. Words and signs of wisdom pointing to restorative, lasting ways of life. Where a path seems to end, or it seems to continue in unhelpful circles, the path of life will be shown. 

Just in that same beautiful film, where wind and water were observed and ways were found to let hope and justice spring up with new life for the low land of Malawi. Seeing life brought to the lower places. In the lowest parts, sadness can be brought to a halt. Healing can stretch itself out over impossible plains.

It is nearly Pentecost. I watch and wait with anticipation - to hear, to drink, to follow …


Make my eyes watch the sky for rain to fall where it is needed the most

Open my hearing for water to drop and be poured in lasting, life-giving streams

Healing the lowly, the broken with true life and all its beauty

Restoring the thirsty in the world you've made with such care

Knowing you cared so much, that you had come down yourself: all the way, lowered yourself

Will you please come down again, as we receive you, make room for you and hold you dear, 

Dear Spirit of love and life - to show us a path we will follow: that path of life for us all

Breeze: Ascension Day 2020

21 May 2020

Today is a such highlight! Ascension Day: The Promise of a New Day when the glow of heaven will cover the whole land and no space will be left for anything wrong or hurtful.

On this day Christ joined the heavens: back to the place of his belonging, the Home where we will be. 

And heaven and earth will be one in offering praises to Him. Even from the lowest parts and the furthest ends of the earth …(Isaiah 24:14-16)


Dear Lord, dear Jesus

Now you are back to where you belong

You prepare us all a place in your eternal home

Back to where we belong - to live with you forever

Here and now, we already join all heaven and earth

to praise your mighty name 

Dear Jesus, you take your throne


In the lowest and darkest parts of your creation

You bent down and let healing waters flow over dry and barren land

From where you are, your heart is with those lowly, hurting, lonely, forgotten and in despair.

We lift them up to you. For none of your children you leave behind like orphans.

Dear Jesus, you take your throne


As we follow your holy commission, may we find in you, o Lord,

the reason to live and lift our voices in praise

As they shout from the west over the majesty of the Lord

In the east give glory to the Lord

in the coastlands of the sea glorify the name of the Lord

From the ends of the earth your songs of praises will be heard!

Dear Jesus, you take your throne


Praising your name we join in with all who went before us,

with all creation in heaven and on earth, forever and ever 

Dear Jesus, our Christ, our Lord

You take your throne

Amen


Breeze: 'I have no silver or gold ...'

17 May 2020

Between the loving and the hatred, between the here and there

Between my absence and your presence, you phrase a perfect prayer

Between the clouds and the rainfall and the soil on which I walk

I see you footprints, I feel the sunshine, I hear a song of love


And in your noble appearance you find a throne

Counting these treasures, you're building a home in my heart


King of my Heart (2012)


As far as I can see, the British press seems to be silent: today is International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia. Silence can be strong in many ways. To mark this day, I read another chapter from late Lyra McKee’s Lost, Found, Remembered. She intriguingly described how throughout the Troubles many moral standards were overthrown and left behind and how in the aftermath in both camps the same terrible battles of processing grief and trauma were fought at night, in silence. 

Whatever fights you have come across in your life, perhaps you agree with me today, that both love and hatred can have many faces. We all face various journeys that rip us apart, then mend us again. Over the years, I’ve been able to face my battles with tools brought to me in music and in silence. And even more so than music I embraced the quiet, but yet: silence can hold many evil faces, too. Today I remember the silent faces of disgust and disapproval, as I only realised much later in life how loud and quiet evil are inseparable: when we hold on to silent negativity, we also hold on to hateful deeds. Sadly, dead silence and an active plea for death penalty are in line with each other. How painful to realise, the pain I’ve caused just by keeping my own silence.

Throughout the hurt, it has been hard and tearful to find paths to a silence which is life-giving. A journey to that inner place of peace, freedom and love of God, the other and myself. Throughout last night and in the early morning one phrase was ringing through my head: ‘I have no silver or gold…’. These words are treasures shared by Jesus’ friends after Pentecost. They have empty hands, but carry with them complicated issues and histories. Yet they found a way. No strategy, nor any plan to overthrow their people’s oppressors or their friend’s murderers. Empty hands, yet hearts filled with the good Spirit pointing to ways that show true life and love. 

I have no silver or gold, and I am so glad I don’t. Because what I have learned to hold on to, is the Love that has found me through it all. And that Love has a hold on me. Wherever I go, wherever I am, through whatever I hear, mishear or miss out on. To speak with Estelle White: this Love is the essence, of all that I love here on earth - gentle as silence … And the Love in this gentle silence I’d love to share. Like those first friends, who walked out of battle onto paths of divine peace. Then my tears have not turned into an armour. Instead, I hope they hold a door. A door to be opened to many - to that inner place of Love and Life, most essential and divine.


Please help us to pass on that Love 

so gentle, calming and life-giving

more worth than any silver or gold

Love that bears your name

throughout the hurt and wrong, 

done to us or the other

You who laid down your life

please show us this love 

travelling to the end of all ends

that in your footsteps, 

we, too, travel to those same ends

where hurt and pain have crossed 

too many boundaries, gone far too far

And once we’ve reached those evil grounds

give us grace to open up to all and share

your treasury filled with fundamental Love

received from your own wounded hands

Breeze: the space we find

13 May 2020

Most mornings I read from St John’s gospel. - for over twenty years now. Such deep and tender words of life and love - so mysterious, beyond my understanding and yet so clear. So to the point, but always new. So honest, how Christ speaks of his Father’s heart as well as ours. As if we can live in this Heart and our love can grow, while it is hidden within the safety of this Love. 

From time to time it happens, that I read these words, while I am also reading from Deuteronomy. I find it much harder to relate to that book. Still, when I read it together. I often feel it is meant to be read at the same time. 

Why? Because both speak - at least in the NRSV - of God’s heart and of God’s choice for us to be his. In Deuteronomy God’s heart is set upon leading his people to a place where they may live life well. Not because they have been great and perfect. Rather the opposite! The only reason that I would be led into the best space for me, is that his choice and his heart are so precisely set on getting me there. In John 15 Jesus says something similar: that we are his friends by choice. The overflow of love I find in the heart of God isn't established by my initiative. This flow has first reached me and I response with love to Love. 

In this time of lockdown the world is scaled down and feels more cramped. Yet, the journey into the heart of God is one which widens: there always seem to be more chambers to explore in the House of God’s Heart. And while held safe by this Heart ‘set on me’ - choosing me - I read on and I see more room appear for new travels within my own heart.

Room for the world around me: the trees that grow, unknown fellow travellers, people in need of space. This spaciousness I find in this generous Heart, could it be discovered within me?  

A space within our hearts like a promised land full of room: for trees and vegetation, for community, for foreigners and those lonely and hurt… A land so wide and outstretched. No small room or restricting favouritism, but the freedom of Love spread out over all the land. 

This is pretty big for my small mind. And so for the moment, I just stick with that picture of a strong tree in a park I met on my walking way to work. Somewhere close to where I am, right now. Somewhere closer to home, that I can see, even touch. A simple, strong tree. And I think of all the life that it is interconnected with - birds building their nests, squirrels hiding their treasures, people enjoying the shade. And around the tree there is space for life - and as it grows itself, so does the space around it with rich interactions and colours of life. 

Thank you for your choice

to find a friend in me

Your invitation to meet in you

the love most pure

May I make room for your Love

which will make room for me in this world

and I see more room appear

for life and love around me

A land of promise and of hope to share

A land flowing with true love  

A land shown, where we can live life well

sheltered by your Love


Breeze: A supper in peaceful stillness

03 May 2020

Some of us find having supper alone very easy. It’s not been anything new to me - in a way, it creates some space in between duties and phone calls to reflect and be prayerful. Today I came back to the story of the Last Supper. Encouraged by watchingThe Medici on Netflix (featuring Leonardo da Vinci) as well as reading parts of St John’s gospel, chapters 13 and 14. 

In John’s gospel, these chapters at the Last Supper are utterly meaningful. To me, they belong to the most beautiful words ever heard. Right in between confusion, envy and betrayal a scene is pictured of true love and community. How do I see this today, when emotionally and mentally speaking we find ourselves in equal whirlwinds? Can we find a sense of meaning and hope beyond the messiness and complexity of this lockdown?

Earlier this year I saw A Last Supper by Lorna May Wadsworth, while I was roaming through the city of Sheffield. In that painting lots is going on - a chaotic, unsettling vibe around one outstanding, still figure: Christ - stillness in the storm. Standing above all the panic, fear and disagreement, Christ seems to get ready to speak about the beauty and deep pigment of his love. Not top-down, but in the midst of us all and with an invitation to follow this solid path of love.

Many more inspiring thoughts come to the surface. PreparingBreeze and all it may mean for the future, I come back to Henri Nouwen’s writings regarding God’s heart of unconditional love. The way love will not push nor pull, but leaves us with an invitation to a more gentle and calm expression of care and recognition. And in that painting? I see that one friend who knows what Love is - leaning towards his Friend, lending his ear to that great Heart of Love. He was the one to pass on the essence and the sound of a Heart still beating today. May I hear its beat today, may I know the stillness of its deeper value and greater care. Nothing too disturbing. nothing too overwhelming - all held by this Love: after all, a supper in peaceful stillness. 


While we find ourselves in whirlwinds of emotions.

Somehow lost in the complexity of this season,

Help us find that inner peace that you bring

That point of stillness in the storm

Within chaos, oppression and distraction

Let us lean into your Heart of Love

Its beat so secure, so consistent 

Your love so pure, without condition

Please reach further than any disturbance 

Right within unsettling noise of fears and failures,

Will you speak louder by your deep love 

Still our storms and draw our attention to that sound

of a beat so gentle - beating for us too

Here, tenderly close to your Heart of endless Love

Breeze: From Hideaway to Holy Place

26 Apr 2020

I have to go back thirty years, to 1990. It was in this year that I learned one of the most beautiful words in the English language: ‘sanctuary’. It was sung by Kim Hill in her song ‘Testimony’.


You are my lifeline, You are my sanctuary

You are my torchlight, this is my testimony


A simple song showing me a glimpse of what I would understand in more detail by Twila Paris’ reflections on her project Sanctuary. On my spiritual journey of discovery I was looking for shelter, and found out how this shelter could also be a sacred place - both captured in this term ‘sanctuary’. In a growing passion for worship and spirituality, I was soon inspired by the change of perspective repeatedly granted on this journey into the sacred place: the amazement is still fresh, when I enter a shelter and it reveals itself again as a sacred place. 


Where I live now and find my way through the lockdown, I found a shelter. Here is my hideaway. Here I can stay till the worst of it has passed. But on my inner journey entering the lockdown, I recognised in a whisper I heard before, that this hideaway would also become a holy place. 

Like mosts nights, I will light a small candle here tonight. For friends in need and at risk. For a society in need of justice and reviewing her values. In this darkness we are facing - surrounded by restrictions - I found this place to connect with the divine and with the world around me.


Such a tender blessing, how despite the overflow of pressure and devastation around me, this turns out to be true once more: how all rests in Hands bigger than mine. That resting there, the perspective shifts to a vision of life filled with loving opportunities, with goodness and with wonder. 



Breeze: opening windows

19 Apr 2020

Window of our time, the years fly

Flying with the wind

Do I keep it shut, or give the bird her way 

To gently enter in

A faithful breeze, letting me see


This is a verse I wrote a year ago for a project called ‘True’. A song inspired by the life of Ambrose of Milan - a man of integrity and wisdom, who encouraged his people to sing in trying times.

Now the pressure is on in this lockdown period, I have come back to this song and to what Breeze stands for. 


Breeze is meant to be about finding stillness in the urban wilderness: right where we are. Right here - where we can feel restricted and find ourselves in trying times, like those of Ambrose. Not necessarily able to travel or escape into the countryside. Instead we hope for a sense of freshness - a trace of the Spirit moving -  in moments of reflection around the corner from where we live. How can we be still and reflect, right here?


We are in a lockdown period of great limitation, and I hear how many find this experience hard to live through. In recent weeks I have managed to find a rhythm and system to cope with all this. But does that mean, that in my persistence to control a situation, I have simply moved from one set routine into the next? Or is there enough openness within me to what this season may try to tell me? Does this daily rhythm encourage me to be attentive to any new wisdom coming to the surface? How can I sense a Breeze in these circumstances? How can I open a window in this restricted context, and find a breath of fresh air entering this limited place?


Breeze is for a time like this: to encourage each other to find quiet reflection and a sense of softheartedness right now, in these circumstances. And may the Breeze of the Spirit find us: refreshment for body, soul and mind. Peace for today and hope for tomorrow. A healing balm in trying times. 

‘The Lord of every nation’: old words sound like new

13 Apr 2020

O sacred head, surrounded by crown of piercing thorn

O bleeding head, so wounded, reviled and put to scorn

Our sins have marred the glory of thy most holy face

Yet angel hosts adore thee and tremble as they gaze


The Lord of every nation was hung upon the tree

His death was our salvation; our sins, his agony 

O Jesus, by thy passion thy life in us increase

Thy death for us did fashion our pardon and our peace


This year in Lent we couldn't of course attend any of Bach’s passions, still I could listen to the Innocence Mission performing this well known hymn. Though traditional, it is not a translation I am really used to listen or sing to.

Christ’s death and resurrection belong together in what was traditionally commemorated last week. Still this year round, death and darkness seem to be more at the forefront of our experience worldwide.

This is why the phrase ‘the Lord of every nation’ in verse two stood out for me this week. The hymn expresses much about Christ’s suffering, yet in this verse it speaks of his lordship over every nation. While every nation around the globe is hit by the corona virus, there is also a place for every nation in Christ’s way of dealing with the suffering of the world. While going through this, the burden of each nation matters to him.


So often I’ve listened to this rendition of the Innocence Mission, yet only this year, 2020, I have come to realise, that the resurrection is already shown on the horizon - in the second verse. 

Just as its third line also speaks of the Lord’s death making his ‘life in us increase’; preparing the way for a clean peace in this world. 


I truly appreciate this new insight embedded in a song that deeply acknowledges the face of suffering in all its painfulness. There will be much suffering that we will have to face in our communities  nationwide and worldwide. 

Yet I hope that we can follow Christ: following him in his concern for the whole world. Following him in remembering that his life in and among us will increase - that death hasn't got the final say.


Let’s be hopeful, prayerful and Christlike in the time ahead.  

Now death's face is not unknown around us, I hear the call of life

05 Apr 2020

As many of us around the world are in lockdown at the moment, we suddenly face that life isn't as lasting as we think. We have to admit that we are not in control. Our lives are not without end. We cannot escape the reality that we all might die, even sooner than we think. 

The various ways of planning our lives to such a high extent have been reduced significantly. And how do I respond?

I suddenly realise that many of my ‘heroes’(not that I like that label, but I don't know another word that I can use) lived their lives short-lived: George Herbert, Vincent van Gogh, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Rich Mullins, Thomas Merton, Jesus … Some didn't even make it to my age (not unusual in times gone past). So what then do I leave behind, when I reflect on these life stories, all with voices bringing the world inspiration and motivation; some still still speak, way beyond their death - sometimes for centuries even.… What about their restrictions and their dark clouds of time hanging above them?

So now my life's end is much more visible on the horizon, what would I want to do differently? Is there anything I could do, now we are so restricted in our expressions from day to day? Would I like to sing better, would I like to write more, would I like to learn new skills? 

All I know at the moment, is that I don't want my days in hiding waste away. Yes, they require focus on what needs doing and whom to look out for. But in all this there is a call that I hear: What needs to be released in my life, what is craving for attention, who can I be to the world throughout this heavy chapter? How can I be more alive? Or does this show by being faithful to the light that has always shone through despite my lack of focus or shortcomings? Hoe can I make the most of life in this season we are in?

And so as we are still in Lent and approach Holy Week, I decide to go back to these ‘heroes’. I wonder how with death closer around their corners, they were more attentive to the essence of life. I wonder, if there is more openness right now within myself to listen to what they still have to say in times like these ..

March 2020: Musings from a small room ...

25 Mar 2020

THE MOON

Have I been ever this late - walking around the ancient chapel of Aalsum? Have I ever noticed so deeply the words on my grandparents’ gravestone? About fighting the good fight, about running the race? Have I ever encountered such a big moon - confident, sending away covering clouds. 

As if we are working towards a climax. And the anti-climax of sitting at home forever. These days I realise we aren't as strong and divine as we think we are. Tonight the moon is strong - and tonight it makes me see in my heart, that there is a place for us in the mind and considerations of our Maker.


THOSE TRAVELLING TONES

There is no faithful dog to warn me when it is the hour of walking. More than twice however, I manage to be on time, and at the right spot! Have I walked there ever since, at that time in the evening, when the old bell tower brings its evening tune, before the town will turn to rest? Its audience can hear the space over the peaceful canal being filled. Those travelling, uplifting tones which remind hearts of their own beating within: even the grandeur of Big Ben cannot match this experience.

THE GLORY OF SPRING

I missed one of my favourite trees. The magnolia tree in front of Kenwood House needs to be seen in spring. Just before setting off to The Netherlands, I find a window - finally - but alas, the rain is too heavy and I sense this year is not the year to go. Did I need it? I saw its mighty beauty so often reflected in the blossoms of magnolia trees in various neighbourhoods. The privilege of spring. 

THE WRONG TRAIN NOW THE RIGHT TRAIN

I missed the train. Travelling to Utrecht has become more complicated. In recent years I never got used to changing in Zwolle and so I didn't notice this necessity being announced. But have I ever been so happy on the wrong train? Last time I passed the Oostvaardersplassen, I thought the spectacle was far off at the other side. This time when I look out through the window, it has become a window of surprise: in the wild horses near the track I see an intense beauty, as I am overlooking the wilderness before me. Being on the wrong train had turned into being where I had to be at that moment in time. 

AHEAD OF US

There is a welcome. Coffee is made. Even a separate plate for a fried egg. There is a bakery. We still mark this season of Lent by buying Easter Bunnies. Is it possible, that better memories are still ahead of us? These moments make me forget, that originally other things were planned.

In days following, much is cancelled due to the corona virus, but there is a sense of fulness in memories we make. Memories we carry with us: gifts we will hold on to in darker months ahead of us. 

TODAY IS RIVER THAMES

My Monday will show me River Thames. The spring sky looks so careless. I feel blessed to see it on my weekly stroll to the supermarket. A different reality, where as the blue sky is the same. And the same river is looking peaceful, both day and night. The river is a friend, even in times like these.

Perhaps that’s why I need to come closer to the river today, to be reminded of birdsong and a soft wind over the path I take. To know that today is the day of the river. And what will be tomorrow, I do not yet know. But this is today …


In woods of old (once my medieval backyard) 18/02

23 Mar 2020

Change I see. Change I feel. What do you expect, after twenty years? The path is hardened towards the end of the golf course. Before, there was no tarmac near the birches, where I stayed with God in music and in the dark and lonely hours. Near where the old tiny dog accompanied an even older man, who had his home there for almost his whole life. Just a little further from the care home of the thin tall dog leading the even thinner, taller older lady, whom I bumped into every day. 

All these memories - they fill the landscape, that I have seen under snow and under an immaculate blue sky. Even the home of an owl late at night: My own medieval backyard for a year or two. These many memories of Ruislip Woods - even the cars on the drive are still so fast  - make me almost forget the landscape of the time: the landscape which was one of a man of sorrows. 


I have left the tarmac at the end and have recognised my favourite footpath-view. On my way back, a voice inside reminds me of all I went through those years. Of all which wasn't there yet, but had to find its shape in life - seeds waiting to become vegetation. Could it be, that this season of emptiness, was a season of receptiveness? Emptiness, with only a few monkey nuts for consumption and two warm meals sent straight from the heavens. Emptiness, with vage ambition and planning. 


I remember William Dyce depicting a simple, prayerful Christ as the Man of Sorrows in the Scottish Highlands: the Man of Sorrows had embedded himself in my landscape too. For he appeared as gently as birdsong. And he stayed with me through wind and rain in the darkest hour of the night. And we bonded and filled what was a wholesome world of memories. Over the years he made me shape the land, and sometimes I wonder if I should call it mine or his. But the woodland of my life has found shape, with all its sacred paths and tricky, darker corners.


Returning to this particular woodland walk made me remember, how the inner woodland walk of my life had taken its twists and turns:  how in this season of emptiness sense of my belonging had slowly become so pure, intense and wide. 

The woods look dull today and is waiting for rain to come. But I see within me how the land found its shape. For what is ahead - for what seems empty now, I recognise that this new sense of emptiness can become a gift. To give back into hands holy, all that has grown and found freshness. And to be open to what older hands now will be able to hold.  Hands that will help my heart to wait for new life, new trees, new flowers to grow.

Dark clouds: The Mass was unsaid

22 Mar 2020

Was there ever a time that we couldn't worship on a Sunday morning? After roughly thirty years of church musicianship, I can’t remember entering a period of not playing or singing on a Sunday.

I didn't know why, but I was impelled to listen to ‘Beloved one’, by John Michael Talbot. Also 30 years old, I believe that the words of the song are words by Theresa of Avila or another mystic.  It says that the Mass was unsaid and the Living Word still unwritten - and Jesus embraced us as children. …


The Mass is unsaid today: to me, the holy sign of Christ’s presence with us. Please don't tell me he is gone, in this time of discomfort and uncertainty. Don’t tell me he is not there in our darkness and tension ...

Mothering Sunday, in the UK, right in the heart of the season of Lent. Yesterday I received a picture of John and Jesus’ mother Mary at the foot of the cross: A dark background with two figures silenced by their sadness. Yet right in those dark and painful hours they were given to each other as relatives, as mother and son. May we know in these weeks of darkness coming over us, the embrace of the Christ: arms wide open, bearing our pain. Christ, who knows what darkness is, who gives us to each other to stick together. While knowing the pain, also knowing his embrace. 


With wishes of a deeper sense of community, of safety and peace to us all ...

Norfolk: The in-between track

09 Feb 2020

It’s more than windy, more than stormy today. 

It’s coming down when I try to change in Cambridge. Should I go back to London? All over Europe Ciara makes the headlines, dangerous as she is. 


The train was slow - too slow to get in time in in-the-middle-of-almost-nowhere-Norfolk. I will surely need a taxi to find my destination. But in between the stress of waiting in London and the stress to get a taxi in Norfolk, there is an in-between track.

The in-between track reminds me of an in-between province in The Netherlands: Overijssel. Flat, but, with interesting and unexpected patches of countryside. Crisp reminders and revelations of the utter beauty of life. On the in-between track I feel relaxed. Relaxed enough to make a call. On the phone with my parents I even see the bright colour blue which had hidden itself behind the thick clouds of today.


And then in the meaninglessness of being in-between, the sky falls open like one big birthday party surprise. The deer glow dashingly in the evening light. The setting sun pushes all clouds away. The trees sway proudly like Hawaiian dancers performing their last swings in the amber afternoon light.

Code amber means something very different here.


I am so privileged to be part of this - to be right in the in-between on a simple sidetrack in a lost corner of the world.

Because this moment of passing through is right in what creation wants to show me: the explosiveness of the fulness of life.

Its simple striking beauty doesn't bother to stay awake and has moved contently into its sleep, once I find a taxi that fits like a Postman Pat into this setting. While the massive full moon fully spreads its gentle light over the blanket fields of grass and barley, I see that even trees are welcomed to join into this dark night painting.


I bet Vincent would have loved to get the brush out and let it all shine in his full colour way. 

How I love trains and taxis. 


Which is my favourite tree?

03 Feb 2020

Hampton Court Palace: there is so much to see. Centuries of pictures and woodwork pass me by.  I am so compelled by this walk through history. But in this wave of impressions, it is hard to do justice to all the artistic wealth that I find here. For instance, the ancient tapestries depicting the life of Abraham I only pay proper attention to when I go through the apartments a second time. 

Before doing this, I see some smaller, less noticeable paintings, in a corridor somewhere seemingly tucked away - I can’t even remember where it was. For a few moments I pause before Van Heemskerck’s Jonah under his Gourd. A branch rests like a shield above the prophet. All in all, I find it a captivating composition. It is still in the back of my mind, when I take the tour round the Great Hall - the famous and far more glorious Abraham tapestries. For one of them I have to look somewhere else, in the William and Mary apartments. There it is - out of context - in the corner: another tree. Under the oaks of Mamre, Abraham receives his godly guests with a bow. Where in one, the prophet tensely waits for what happens, the patriarch in the other displays a more open and humble attitude. In the same picture he even lets his guests have the table under the tree.

And here I feel confronted with what happens within me: I compare. Within my deeper self, there is a vast urge to compare and compete; to situate someone opposite me. A self-protective, yet destructive default setting which excludes and divides. Why do I not invite the Godhead to join me underneath my tree, where I can wait with a humble and open mind instead. Even though I might have the prophetic truth at my side, I cannot do it justice, if I cut off the patriarchal mindset which is more open. I am reminded of the acknowledgement of the youngest and most perceptive of the Pevensie children in The Narnia Chronicles: Lucy’s openness of mind embraces a new season and - in Aslan - a presence more profound and truthful. 


Why do I so often sit under my tree and wait in my self-righteous ways, when distances and differences can be much better resolved around a round table? Why do I forget that even if I bear the truth, my inner self can be too cold without the encircling presence of the Three visiting me, spending time with me. 

If the trees could speak, they ‘d disclose some selfish and competitive reflections of mine. Yet there is hope, when I think of how a tree grows, even if the leaves need falling at times - moving with the wind that blows.

HMD: Stories have to be told

27 Jan 2020

Anne Frank: Parallel Stories


There is not very much I can express. I leave with silence, with a void - like I often do, when I am hurt or deeply touched. I can’t even cry - so devastating. As the later generations mentioned: all this has the greatest affect by hearing very personal stories of those nearby.


I cry, once I think of the traumas of those who once were close to me. Sometimes I was too young to hear the stories. Sometimes I was too young to understand the stories I heard.


My grandmother. When I was a child, telling us each Thursday evening how she was strong when her husband was imprisoned.


Another lady. Closer to me in my teenage years, whose deep family traumas I understood a little more much later. (For that, reading Edith Eger’s The Choice directed me to a more careful understanding) This week I realise how in the trauma of not knowing what’s happening and where her own father was, she kept building hope by protecting the life of one dear child - as if it was her own.


Another man. Wise, strong, full of impact. I heard him speak about the fear. Even he was fearful still.


Every Thursday evening when we had simple bread and milk, we kept asking our granny to repeat the stories we had heard, although she had told them the week before. Like youtube clips and sketches you compulsively watch over again and again.

Because they had to be told.


Next to an empty room of horror. A stage for stories to remain. In this film the stage is set for the new generation to repeat the stories hard to hear. For they are part of who we are now.


They have to be told. How can I take the stage and tell those stories which are part of me?

Joy to the world! And the wonders of his love ...

16 Jan 2020


Joy to the World! Such a well known tune sung by a choir in the mall or learned on the piano in the key of C.

I wonder how many Baroque tunes are this famous; I also wonder if we own the words as well as we recall the tune everywhere in shops and tube stations. 

‘Let earth receive her King’: creation more than ever so widely harmed, is encouraged to receive her King. Joining in with heaven and earth: that same harmed creation adding music to the invitation sent to that King, preparing him room. The hunger, but also the need for room to be prepared for what’s true and just for the world we live in. A world harmed by war, violence, abuse and pollution …

While preparing room for the King and singing those familiar tunes, do our familiar ways of living life in this world allow fields, floods, ricks, hills and plains to repeat that sounding joy sufficiently? How much do we let heaven and earth join in with that tune we know so well by heart?

Or do our hearts need more softness and compassion to facilitate all creation to resonate limitless with our songs of joy? 

Is this a song to invite creation into sharing our deep joy? Or even better: does it help us to hear creation’s song to join in with them?

More of the beauty of all life, more of her wonder, more Royal love reflected  ….


In 2020 I would love to join in more purposely with all the wonders of his love. Would you join and help me to?

Christmas: inspiration and invitation

06 Jan 2020

Christmas is a proper Christmas when old and new join hands. New is not out of the blue, but longed for by the old. 

This year, ‘Welcome to our world’ by Chris Rice is my ‘old’, as it once healed me by expressing hope towards my deep wounds and vulnerability. Healing by vulnerability clearly and closely seen in the gift of the Christ Child: healing by looking into what almost is a mirror, but then a more tender and fragile face. This year my ‘old’ was responded to by the ‘new’ of an artist who shared the face of her own appearance: addressing poverty and loss, so very honest and vulnerable.


Käthe Kollwitz. I never heard of her before. She was ‘dis-arted’ as a communist and pacifist. She seems so clear and personal in what she created. Where as the messy and superficial Weimar Republic speaks to me as a time of nothing, of dubious moral and no compass, of no responsibility for the poor, she stood up for justice, ideals and the deeper human expression of her very own self.

Where have we gone ourselves in the world we live in now? Has it become as flat and non-inspirational as in this context of the interbellum? Where have we, too, lost a welcome to the vulnerable and the hopeful, the true life changers, not the life gainers?

We, too, live in a time where we long for a steadfast compass, for direction, for moral standards that invite us non-selectively to the profound celebrations of all life. Long for that same mirror, seeing ourselves in each other - and may it be, even in the better versions of ourselves to encourage to grow and move on together into the new. 


To all, all the way

A star in the night 

A stable of hope and welcome

Vulnerability welcomed

A child welcomed 

Sharing common ground 

Where we stand in a circle

None on stage nor off stage

All in a circle. All welcome. All heard.

All poor, all vulnerable - each in our own way  

We hear each other say: 

Come, o come, all ye faithful, all ye inspired

All put in motion, yes, you, you, too

All ye worthy to live a life that is true  

All life stories of value and encouragement, 

Come, come and be heard

Come and know joy and triumph here

Come and adore the child, the king

Of hope and meaning. Of honesty and guidance

Of strength for the poor and depressed

Of welcome and generosity towards all life.

In whose reign each heartbeat is heard from afar.

Faith! Joy! Triumph!

A star in the night, showing us the way

To all, the Way

To all, all the way

Be still and know ... and move

30 Oct 2019

I certainly don’t mean to criticise those who are not focussed much on their spirituality. We are all different. For some of us spirituality is something to pass by now and then, and for some of us it is in the centre of our lives. For some of us it is a hiding place in the storm, for others it is our drive for activism and achievement.  

Sometimes life is so busy or overwhelming that it is hard to notice our foundations or our cores. And that is just the way it is. 

I still think of that rediscovered line by The Innocence Mission: ’Our self-importance grows so dazzling we can’t see You’. 

In the flow or the rush of things I can lose track of my rootedness or what life really is about.

Focussing on the inner being, helps to focus on what truly matters, or as I prefer to say: on whom really matters. It is like an inner space, that can expand and help my sense of security and rootedness.  It grows and covers more and more areas of my life - holding it together, creating a sense of integrity over my life. 

This is what inspires me: that in my own searching in life, there is a Godhead searching along with me. He moved with his looked-after-ones in the desert, the nomads-without-homes. On that journey a tent was good enough for him - he didn't require a house made by stone while his people lived in tents also. He also moved with the movers when he decided to ‘pitch his tent’ himself (according to John 1) among us in flesh and blood in the human Christ. And this helped me to believe that he moved with me this year, when I moved three times in one year. Moving around, made me realise that I follow a moving God and vice versa: togetherness in moving around and finding a growing space to move.

Spiritual moments of focus make me aware that these are not sitting in a corner space of my life, but they move along with me wherever I go. And coming back to the song; in the everyday changes my ‘Breeze’ discipline should reflect a growing awareness of God’s moving presence with me. 

And those inner moves, those divine moves are like signposts which bring spaciousness on the journey. They help to be still, they help to move - they help to ‘move, live and find my being’ (Acts 17):28….

Every Hour Here: once a teenager’s favourite

30 Oct 2019

As a teenager I felt stuck somehow. The wideness of Friesland was like the desert plain: at the time, the fields were still filled with Frisians and life felt as if it was always behind, always slow, always waiting for the real stuff. But there was one gorgeous secret, one precious gem which I kept for myself - something I could not yet share at the time: I listened to The Innocence Mission. Listening to the Innocence Mission meant opening up to something unknown and alternative, something out of the box, something to look up to and to reach out for. Listening to the Innocence Mission stood for a safety to cherish, as well as for an artistic life to stretch out for. Their songs so often about youth and memories - about past and about treasure keeping - pointed me towards new insights, new musical lanes, new aspirations. 

To remember and to hold can be difficult in an environment of change - change we chase and long for or change coming over us. Yet structure and change depend on each other. All my life there has been a deep hankering to settle down in the quiet stillness of the countryside, still the vibrant city life stretches me and makes me move. Still, the countryside can leave a sense of being stuck, and the city life can bring so many stimuli that I could get lost in it. 

Like furniture needs to change or leave, I hold on to old structures despite my hunger for the new. I still want to sit on a chair or sleep on a mattress. I still like familiar chord sequences while searching for new songs to sing … Old and new belong together. Rhythm helps creativity … 

After many years, an old song like ‘Every Hour Here’ is part of my ‘interior’, yet it can still offer a new perspective. I have listened to it over and over and over again. I thought about it when I have seen cinema tickets in my coat or bag, or when I pass a simple cross on the wall. 

In this time of reaching out for what is new about Breeze, I cherish this precious song for something new that I found: it speaks of our self-importance dazzling our sight of the Divine. How God’s presence is there, but unnoticed … Change and the despair or the desire for it, can distract us  greatly from what is simply there, Who is simply there. The greed for change, our various dissatisfactions or our distorted opinions of what we need can easily trouble our sight ….

I look forward to sharing this gem of a song with you on 9th November - as we carry the old, include the new.

Breeze: old & new

25 Sep 2019

In some ways we always want the new: new career choices, new clothes, new contacts, new achievements …. Our commercial, capitalist perspective and our success driven culture almost demand a constant search for what is new: new serves our interest, our status and our hunger for affirmation. 

In other ways we cling to the old: our systems, our behavioural patterns, our expectations and traditions. 

Maybe it is just me, but isn't it the trick to know ourselves well enough and have a sufficient level of self-reflection - balancing our choice for the old with our desire for the new. Am I aware of my stuck and stubborn ways? Should I sometimes leave a certain habit, train of thought or perspective behind  ? Or - am I too driven and do I desire too much, losing touch with my stability and well being regarding myself and the world around me?

According to some old wise men, Jeremiah and Isaiah, both can be wise, both can be destructive: the old and the new. 

Stand at the crossroads and look;

    ask for the ancient paths,

ask where the good way is, and walk in it,

    and you will find rest for your souls.

Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare

Breeze - hopefully - will be about rhythm and treasuring wisdom and loving truth of old. It is also my hope that it leaves space for new insights and for receiving fresh words of wisdom and affirmations of freedom and peace. Breeze: for the Spirit to move among us, flying on the wings of both structure and spontaneity. 

Perhaps just like that house interior - our room full of furniture: thriving on the variety and on the mix of what is old and precious and what is vibrant and new. Both help each other to stand out and call for a special atmosphere to live our lives well. 

Breeze: like building a home

21 Sep 2019
We all use our furniture - by some more consciously brought together than by others. Some of it old, some of it new or replaced... But how much does the place where we live reflect our personalities? I always find acquainting myself with new vocal pieces an interesting journey: It can take quite a while until I get to know them, and then it can take even longer to make them my own and know them off by heart. Instead of enjoying music like furniture at a public or neighbouring place, I take the furniture inside: some songs gain their own place within the 'home' of my voice. They sit there, are part of a  daily routine, they help to make the 'living' of a voice easier and enjoyable. They have a place: they give the interior of the voice richness, history and joy... If prayer is about rhythm, about helping me 'live' and 'own' the inner being - then rhythm and ongoing prayer can, too, be the furniture which helps me organising the home of the inner being. To remind me of the beauty of life and of the journey throughout many years: it is the interior that helps prayerful conversation to be an integral part of a life as it is meant to be lived. It becomes like furniture that makes my life an inviting and open home to the best Guest to arrive and stay. 

Breeze: the bubbles of our lives

17 Sep 2019 Maybe you remember two films a few years ago: 'A streetcat named Bob 'and 'I, Daniel Blake'. Both addressed homelessness or being on the fringe of it - its spectrum, if you like ... This week - after I finished the books of the Shefs - I watched two films about drug abuse:  'A Million Little Pieces' and 'The Souvenir'. Both made me think.  It is hard to see films with happy endings. Of course we want these, but is that life as we know it? 'The Souvenir' shows at one hand, that there are no bubbles, no walls to hide behind. Drug abuse happens in every layer of society - it doesn't belong to just those within the margins, or those with limited opportunities in life. Such is life: we are all equal when it comes to struggles such as these. While I watched 'The Souvenir', I noticed a level of disconnection in the upper class 'bubble'. This is not a criticism, but I wondered if this was why I also find it hard to connect with the story on an emotional level. I also noticed, that the mother of the main character loves to disappear in an opera aria (I think); we don't always find the harshness of life in the bubble of our art-intake. As if enjoying the arts is like being in a bubble, an escape from our reality - not a reflection of life's multi-sidedness. This is why I appreciate 'The Souvenir' finishing off with a poem that reflects life's drama in a way that it can channel hurt and bereavement. Although the film shows us, that art does not need to end at the bubble experience, I was still struggling with its ending. I struggle with it, because as an artist, I see the limitation of the impact of the arts: so often we don't get to its meaning, to its voice, nor to its comfort. What can I do with all those life stories that I know of, for which art is a bridge far too far? Still I am grateful for artistic expressions like these, that make me pause and reflect on its values as well as on its limitations. It is good to stay in bubbles, as long as we are aware that they are bubbles, and that they are not within reach of everyone around us. 



Breeze: rhythm and rest when there is rage

12 Sep 2019

Sometimes anger is crazy and irrational. Sometimes it is justified and needed. Sometimes it is personal. Sometimes it is nation-wide.

What can you do, when you feel your anger is justified, but you can't put it anywhere? Of all things, it is always best to be honest about it, instead of hiding it - especially not from our own selves. 

What about our rhythm in the madness? Our resting times to reflect. Moments that are not affected by the strong wind of our circumstances. Moments that we can check our shaking levels of madness.

Many feel angry in our days - with what is going on in- and outside: and it is not easy to put down somewhere. 'In quiet and in trust your strength'? Where and when? It takes an effort to find them, or rather to reach out for them and to receive them, even if we see them available. 

I just watched 'A million little pieces', how drugs can kill our lives. I read 'A beautiful boy' and 'Tweak' by father and son Shef. I hear from friends how a disease like this can eat us in every corner of our society. 

We don't even need today's B-word to be angry, desperate or sad. And we all have our various battles to fight. Right in the madness and in the rage, let's keep on meeting each other in those moments, in those spaces where there is quiet and honest reflection. Not to escape, but to find perspective. To find trust. And to find it together. 

    

Breeze: knowing where to stand

11 Sep 2019

Have you ever found yourself in urban wasteland and wilderness? City life can be overwhelming and its pace can make you feel numb for what life really is about. Or, its challenges whipes you out and you just forget about the beauty of silence and the love of peace.

Living a life in the city at its highs and lows can be a lifelong jigsaw puzzle. Often we want to solve our questions outside the city: the countryside, just like a wide and glorious playground before us. But sometimes that city escape can't help us, nor can we always get there.

What about this: you stand in a packed tube in summer and find it hard to breathe and not to boil. Then you realise that if you station yourself near a window at the side of the carriage you can actually get that flow of air: that which almost feels like a breeze.

Breeze is not about going away. Breeze is facing the urban wilderness right where you are. It is finding a shelter in the storm. It is knowing where to stand; knowing the calm within the challenge. 


Ascension Day 2019 - Romans 8:31-39

30 May 2019

The highlight of the year: Christ positioning himself, drawing all things in heaven and earth to himself - all people drawn to him. 

Today I read Romans 8 - how Christ is at the right hand of God, interceding for us. I think of Handel’s Messiah. He is actively paying intercession for us. That movement of drawing us into that integration process of moving heaven and earth into one: we have a place in this, we also are integrated in that mega process. 


His throne is not made of iron, nor of a thousand blades. It is a throne of his great glory and of his great love. Nothing can separate us from his love means in other words: nothing can disintegrate us from his desire to wrap us up in his ways of bringing heaven and earth together. 

We are part of this integrating process.

We belong with him who now heaven and earth are united in him, while seated on his very own throne.

Praise be to Christ - King of Endless glory.

Lent Reflections 2019 (part 2)

29 May 2019

MONDAY 2  Ben is Back 

There is a ongoing tension in the air: will the prodigal son  - home again for christmas - relapse and fall back into his pattern addiction? 

The film with a convincing Julia Roberts is more slick than Beautiful Boy - ut its authenticity makes it one more film which doesn't leave you quickly once you've seen it. The story-line of Ben is Back itself might be less gripping, the tempo and the tension make you want to be there with it, and at the same time you really don't want to find out what’s happening next. And the ending i right: it doesn't really end there, it is ongoing ….

TUESDAY 3 - Concert Talk

Preparing concerts this week: Looking at the Lamb, Looking towards Love.

I think of the Lamb not just as a sad painting by Zurbaran. The Lamb: the one choosing to be our own level friend . Not only laying down its life, but also showing love that goes all the way to the very end (John 13: Jesus loved them till the end and he told them about laying down your life for your friends. 

Not duty, nor fate, but love made it to the end. Love was the motivation. Love was the answer. 

Endless love  (Looking at the Lamb)

Endless so frail so young

tell me where your love began

Whiter than snow can be

you went your way

and looked at me  

Endless love, now here abounding

Everlastings arms surrounding

Frail appearance

Small but strong to save

Soft solid embrace

WEDNESDAY 3: Philip Britts 

In The Wheels of Our Belonging at the Culture Café I sing from Schumann’s Liederkreis in which nature provokes feeling and thought about being and belonging. Philip Britts was close to the earth, was like earth while around him the world was a time bomb. He decides to give up all comfort zones and travel to Paraguay to save fellow members of the Bruderhof from imprisonment because of their German nationality. The peace he longs for is also wider than comfort and interest. His poetry about nature and the earth is not about escape: it is being in touch with where he was coming from. It is about being close to what is real and what is deeply responsible. 

THURSDAY 3  

I speak to a friend who has forgotten about Lent. 

Abroad Lent can be less culturally present.

it is good to be aware of this. Why am I doing this?

The answer might come a bit later - the wilderness doesn't speak straight away.

It’s too wild for that sometimes!

FRIDAY 3

Philip Britts was close to the earth: He bent down low to touch the soil.

Christ became the Lamb of God: like us, close to us, close enough to know it all, close enough to be known. 

The intimate interaction with the earth reveals an intimate path to becoming less. This is close. This is Christ. This is silence.This is tangible piece - authentic, lasting. 

SATURDAY 3: tears gone 

I keep on looking at the Lamb of God

Tearfully I keep looking at my friend.

I looked for him - where was he hidden.

I now hold on to him and don't want to let him go.

And thought I did say it to him many times before

As much as I meant it then

This much I mean it now

It means the world to me

These verses repeating

His love ongoing, unending.

Tears gone.

Revelation 7

They are before the throne of God,

    and worship him day and night within his temple,

    and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.

They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;

    the sun will not strike them,

    nor any scorching heat;

for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,

    and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Song of Songs 3

Upon my bed at night

    I sought him whom my soul loves;

I sought him, but found him not;

    I called him, but he gave no answer

I held him, and would not let him go

SUNDAY 3   The Two Trees

Yeats wrote of two trees - I think of one. The beauty of spring reminds us of who we can become. Lent and spring belong together; waiting for the beauty and strength of new life to show.

Reflecting on the environment these weeks, this poem of two trees reminds me of the two trees in paradise - and singing this poem I ask myself: where did it go wrong?

Beloved gaze in thine own heart

the holy tree is growing there

From joy the holy branches start

And all the trembling flowers they bear

The changing colours of its fruit

have dowered the stars with metro light

The surety of its hidden roots

Has planted quiet in the night

The shaking of its leafy head

Has given the waves their melody 

Remembering all the shaken hair

And how the winged sandals dart

Thine eyes grow full of tender care

Beloved gaze in thin own heart 

MONDAY 3    Derwent Water: a beautiful nothing is there

With the dog I walk around Derwent Water. I am not the only one, as it is a beautiful day.

There is one beach, before we set off for Ashness Bridge and there is nothing, no-one. There is a stillness of spring that I can hold for just a while. The dog at my side. The water quiet. The sun playing with glistening strokes over the water. The hills tell us it is a wonderful day.

Nothing that is needed, not wanted. 

This is the beach of the beautiful nothing.

Being alone with You. Completely alone.

An emptiness filled by only You.

Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten

Those who seek God shall never go wanting

Only God fills us

Nada de turbe - Theresa de Avila 

 

TUESDAY 3     A memory and a sermon  

On a walk to Grasmere - more well known - the dog knows where to go. She remembers the track, the bench, the hill, the car park … 

In Rydal I think back to that one time years ago, when deer were crossing the water, towards the small island in the lake. It was a wide blue winter sky in February, and my memory is still fresh, 14 years later. How could I forget? I cherished the memory and I enjoyed it on my own. But little did I know - young as I was - that these moments only occur once in a lifetime. So glad I embraced it fully: Though sometimes subconsciously, the moment is with me each time I am walking around Rydal Water. 

I contemplate a sermon for April. The story of a woman whose brother had died but was alive again: pre-echoing Easter she owned a memory of what was ahead. And that was how she worshipped Jesus with the most expensive of presents. She had seen the window open: and she knew he was going to fly away to let us be able to join the flight.  A deep understanding, found in all those friendship times of teaching and of sitting in his wise company. This wisdom and understanding means: standing at the window and wait  - not directly worried of what is about to happen. Resting in that pre-echo of Easter and of the life of heaven.

I remember the first song I heard of the Innocence Mission: 

The Wonder of Birds … the windows we will fly through …. grace will be ours  …. wait for a while and we will go with love … The Wonder of Birds 

WEDNESDAY 4   Deuteronomy & John

I suddenly see that there is a link.

In both Deuteronomy and St John’s Gospel God is a Fighter. God is also the Chooser - the one who encourages us, assures us it all in control.

THURSDAY 4  

Psalm 126   A Harvest of Joy

A Song of Ascents.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,

    we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

    and our tongue with shouts of joy;

then it was said among the nations,

    “The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us,

    and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,

    like the watercourses in the Negeb.

May those who sow in tears

    reap with shouts of joy.

Those who go out weeping,

    bearing the seed for sowing,

shall come home with shouts of joy,

    carrying their sheaves.

FRIDAY 4    Psalm 126: sowing with tears …. life sprouting from our wounds

Sowing with tears, reaping with joy … Who doesn't know tears of sorrow, loneliness and pain?

Sowing with tears means: not living in a dream, but appreciating life as we hope it will develop in the future - our brokenness and tears may help others to find life in greater fulness. Our brokenness will help others to journey on. 

As we sow our seeds of love with tears of our wounds, we help others to heal and to dream.

No bitter and harsh soil, but soil watered by our life experience. Instead of shutting down, helping others to find growth towards the Sun.

I ‘ascend’ with this Song of Ascents. In these days of walking with this ‘song for the pilgrim’ I meet a fellow pilgrim and I address how we should not cover our wounds, but help others to heal by our wounds. 

What resonates most are the words of this psalm. These words help to follow the cross bearing Christ.

It was a warm and pleasant spring morning. Was it a useless, unproductive one, while we did nothing else but walking and talking?

No: there was fruit as we shared the depth of life. No envy for what we have to go through, but joy for how seeds have fallen with rain, evoking growth towards the shining sun. Winter is gone …. 

Winter helped to know we root deeply, spring helps to dream of green and growth. 

This morning was like a dream - and scorching hot as life in the desert can be: there were streams for us in the desert, as we shared and drank from the water of Life. 

A walk and a talk helping us to dream again.

SATURDAY 4   Again and again ….

In my own words: In After Edward I notice a resonance with how the bullying, the pressure of performing and the shame that came with indroctination so often need a place to hide. Hide behind frustration, presentation,  achievement and as Edward said: how it still wants to hide behind love and how love is used to hide my broken parts behind. Not an intrinsic way for love  

What exactly is hiding behind my love for You and my neighbour, I wonder … What is the true motor of my love ... Isn't it life and love for life from You that sparked my love for being… Simply being - and nothing and no-one matters. No manipulation or performance count … Simply being. Being held by the love and the truth in You that set me free. Again and again….

SUNDAY 4 healing and holding me

Mothering Sunday. The reading is about the Prodigal Son. Rembrandt’s painting at the Hermitage appears in White Crow, I will find out tomorrow. 

The deepest sense of love and beloning in Eternal Arms. Sinking in the Love that is new every morning. Shame need no hiding - it is placed before a Throne of Grace, of Concern and Understanding. And it is placed aside somewhere I don't always know. For he wants me to look at Him, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world - full of Marcy and Peace. 

Shame, regret and disability - all that is broken - I can hold before him.

His hands will carry, and on his shoulders I lay.

I rest in safety and peace is holding me. Love healing and holding me.

The Beloved of the Lord rests in safety 

The High God surrounds him all day longing

The Beloved of the Lord rests between his shoulders

The High God surrounds her all day long

Dt 33:12

MONDAY 4: responsibility and togetherness

For various projects I am reflecting on the environment: the challenges we face and all we can come up with to respond to this.

A new home needs new systems. Better not to use too much stuff anyway - easier said than done.

The words response and responsible stick with  me for a while. Responsibility is a word which in its simplicity implies a mutual involvement. The word itself asks for togetherness. Me being responsive to you. Me being responsive to the earth and the state it is in. Me being responsive to my true and inner self. Us being responsive to each other.

I say to You in the quiet: my life is a response to You, creating me, recreating me, giving me a place in this world I have been given a responsibility for to preserve and keep it … Like in the old story of Adam who responds to all creatures around him. All he is interconnected with - his response to each of the relationships between all creatures called into being. What a wonder that with creation, responsibility was created too: creation implied interconnection and interaction- and we are all embraced in this chain of relating, recreating and responding.

Thank You for making me. Thank You for making me meant to be responsive and responsible.

May I thrive in giving expression to this gift and show a better level of ownership and a deeper longing to choose to take part in this song of call and response, a more original sound to the music score of creation.

Thank You for making and re-making me and for inviting me, too, to be part of something full of response. 

TUESDAY 4

Listening to God is to know him. The one belonging to him, hears what he says (John 8) 

To find his heart and search its beat and find the same in mine

WEDNESDAY 5

Carrying the cross - a responsibility bearing the load together 

‘I bear the load’ 

THURSDAY 5

Betrayal - Two trees

There is a scene in Pinter’s Betrayal which mentions reading Yeats. While Christ is finding his way to the cross we can identify with levels of betrayal and denial. 

Betrayal works backwards. Where did it go wrong? It’s coming closer to Yeats’ Two Trees. A reminder of the trees in Paradise. two trees to choose from. Going backwards we find the moment of our own choice in Paradise. 

FRIDAY 5

Dusk is about to spread its wings,

The trees now shudder and stir,

Clouds drift by like oppressive dreams—

What can this dusk and dread imply?

If you have a fawn you favour,

Do not let her graze alone,

Hunters sound their horns through the forest,

Voices wander to and fro.

If here on earth you have a friend,

Do not trust him at this hour,

Though his eyes and lips be smiling,

In treacherous peace he’s scheming war.

That which wearily sets today,

Will rise tomorrow, newly born.

Much can go lost in the night—

Be wary, watchful, on your guard!

SATURDAY 5    Miracle maker & Insistent lawyer 

Jesus hopped the A train 

A reconstruction of a case, but I find it hard to stay awake. 

The best was the lawyer. And interesting: how humbling it is to look back on what we do in life. 

Jesus sometimes saves us miraculously by hopping the A train, but in honesty he also is unmatched

As well as pleading for our most embarrassing cases.

Glad to have him as lawyer-intercessor

SUNDAY  5 Story teller

In the homily I am re-telling a story which was meant to be retold around the world: John 12 starts with Mary anointing Jesus’ feet. In other gospels it is almost commanded by Jesus to retold. Because it is seemingly  irrational, but spot on. As if we work and judge too much with our minds only. Our minds that can be twisted by so many motivations and negativity: the sensible thing is not only ruled by our mindset. 

In the introduction to ‘Storytelling for a Greener World’ it shows how much story telling need to be drawn from experience to help us to be more involved with our whole beings and our whole lives and as we tell, we also listen actively to our audience -David Orr is quoted saying - The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people But it does desperately need more peacemakers healers restorers storytellers and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places

THURSDAY 6

Psalm 37

FRIDAY 6

O Lord of Light (recorded by The Innocence Mission on Christ is my Hope)

O Lord of light, who made the stars 

O Dawn by whom we see the way 

O Christ redeemer of us all 

Make haste to listen as we pray 

In lowliness you came on earth 

To rescue us from Satan's snares 

O wondrous love that healed our wounds 

By taking up our mortal cares 

To God the Father and the Son 

For ages of eternal days 

Together with the spirit be 

All glory, honor, might and praise

SATURDAY 6

Concert

PALM SUNDAY 

Morning star, so radiant and holy

Shine on me in my great hour of need

Jesus Christ so beautiful and lovely

Shine over me

The Innocence Mission

HOLY WEEK - MONDAY

Matteus Passion, Bach - King’s College, Cambridge.

This was probably one of the best performances I heard live - King’s is like a recording studio, it is so wonderful to be inside.

Gilchrist’s performance and those of others are of a high standard. Something about this however, is very special: it feels like whole, convincing and genuine. How the words are sung one never knows, but here a story is told very affectively. 

I am taken to the story of the Passion. I feel I meet Him there.

HOLY WEEK - TUESDAY

Now it is time for my more favourite piece, the passion according to St John’s. This time it is in Westminster Abbey. The solos are shared by all. Though it is my favourite piece I engage less with the performance this time, perhaps because of the acoustics. 

Ar the end of the last song I wonder: would I have sung it with as much power this year?

HOLY WEEK - WEDNESDAY


MAUNDY THURSDAY


GOOD FRIDAY 

The unexpected: we are spending an hour underneath the cross of Christ. Some friends of mine who I invited turn up unexpectedly, and by their own appearance they tell me that  I don’t have to  feel alone: they reveal to me how much I am granted a place there, underneath the cross.. grateful. And so we all can be there, we all find a place here. 

SATURDAY
The biggest in between day of the year. Let’s watch a few films: Red Joan, Wild Rose, Mid90’s. All films speak about forgiveness and redemption - about the burden of close family relationship 

EASTER SUNDAY

Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:8 

EASTER MONDAY

Isaiah 1:4 I will quietly look from my dwelling like clear heat in the sunshine; like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest

Isaiah 33: 17 Your eyes shall see the king in his beauty

they will behold a land that stretches far away


Lent Diary and Thoughts

17 Mar 2019

ASH WEDNESDAY: a Friend is staying


To thee, great Lord, the One in Three,

All praise for evermore ascend;

O grant us in our home to see

The heavenly life that knows no end.


An unknown hymn at the end of an Ash Wednesday service. These days I am easing into Lent by entering a new home. While I am packing my things, my clothes and some belongings, I think of the space in my new home. How much does it reflect the space in my heart? Will my heart discover more life and spaciousness in this year’s Lent? After all life, freedom and space go together.

I hope that Lent will be exactly that: that in finding so much space in a new home, I will learn a new melody to sing. That with a new garden with one picturesque tree, birds will teach me the song of heaven.

In the evening I carry a suitcase and a rucksack into this new home of mine. I can lay it down and leave it there until I will stay over for the first time, a couple of nights later. Just before I want to leave, my heart finds a new melody; one with a short phrase, which says that although I will not yet stay at home tonight ‘A Friend is staying there’. May my heart find space, offering him the best of rooms. I am proud to soon live in a new home with not much furniture. I am proud because it will have space. I am proud and humbled at the same time: because in all that space I have a Friend staying there.

And Lent has begun.



THURSDAY 1: Intimately knowing this wonderful world


At the Union Chapel we reflect this Lent on creation: its beauty and its decline. At Blend (Living Well’s creative café in Penge) we were reflecting on it too, while we have been singing ‘Wonderful World’. 

This world is wonderful. But as much as we have abused it and decide not to stand up for its healing and recovery, we are walking away from our responsibility. At Living Well we sing it in the midst of facing cruelty of this world: the injustice, the hurt, our shortcomings. Yet in the midst of problems we intimately see the beauty and value of life in each other. We see the beauty of a community life in which we can be real with each other. Somehow it strikes strong chords when we sing of hope and of a new generation:


I hear babies crying, watch them grow 

They know much more than I‘ll ever know

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.


The next generation is crying out. And some of the cries are of those families homeless in South London. It is devastating. So is the madness in Venezuela. So is the madness in British Parliament. Yet we must look towards a new generation as we look at measurements preventing climate change. 


In the car I am moving more of my stuff. My friend who drives is a mother of two. We speak about plans of going for walks together with the whole family. My conclusion is, that we learn together with the new generation that this world is wonderful indeed, if we are truly in touch with it: woodland, trees, the community of creation enjoying a walk through nature after a Sunday lunch. In order to look after it properly, we need to know our world intimately. 

I suddenly mind less all those people around me on Hampstead Heath. I hear babies crying and watch them grow.

And collectively in the silence of the wind, we know: this is a wonderful world indeed. 



FRIDAY 1: Of life and of love


Lent is about getting it right: the love for life, not the love for law. In that sense it is totally not about getting it right. I read the added chapter to the gospel of Mark. One doubts it was originally part of the gospel, but something is very friendship like about it: Christ and the disciples stayed very close despite one being in heaven and the others on earth. They were co-working despite the two different dimensions. Those dimensions were united in Christ. And the togetherness was something very very deep beyond dimensions. Distance in time and space had become something least relevant.

The mission to save the world was based on these strong relationships. The togetherness saved the world.

Let’s stick together and save this world. And from an ecological perspective: let’s stick together and save the planet given to us.  

Saving the planet will not happen if we can’t find the love, neither for the world around us, nor for each other. Saving the world wont happen if we only love ourselves. 



SATURDAY 1: During a Quiet Day


For a long time I thought Lent stood for asceticism. Making it hard for yourself, beating yourself up, setting aside the lovely things in life. Gradually, I see more and more that Lent helps to ‘strip off towards simplicity. It helps to take off unhelpful shells. Simple love, single focus, silent heart. I prayed with Anselm today:

Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you: you are gentle with us as a mother with her children; Often you weep over our sins and our pride: tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement. You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds: in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us. Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life: by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy. Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness: through your gentleness we find comfort in fear. Your warmth gives life to the dead: your touch makes sinners righteous. Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us: in your love and tenderness remake us. In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness: for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us 

Preface to the Proslogion, by Anselm of Canterbury, (1033-1109)

SUNDAY 1: White Magnolia of Hampstead


Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,

    for in you my soul takes refuge;

in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,

    until the destroying storms pass by

Psalm 57


This year, Lent is late. This year, spring is early. Now I live and work closer to Hampstead I choose to keep a spring tradition. Or is it a Lent tradition? Anyhow, today this tradition is part of the same choice and experience.


There is a white magnolia. It dances in the spring storm, right for a white manor house. 

Old Ducth Masters live inside, people wander there in wonder.

And while the city sees this magnolia tree, I am thankful for a spot of bright blue sky,

For white and bright blue can be a long lost combination. White combined with blue: constant reminder of heaven. 

I am in awe of this tree: Standing there, year after year, not loosing its roots in that high green space.

The city tree is strong and telling. It is solid in the storm.

The whitest of blossoms this year wave at me with joy against the backdrop of the heavenly sky.

I feel I am led back to Anselm: for the beauty of heaven, may your love prepare us. 

Your love for the world. The world you have made.


New heaven, new earth come closer each day. A future arrival with strength and great joy. 

And each day I come closer to Care and Love. For this world I live in.  

And for its newness in preparation.



MONDAY 1

Oh Lord, all my longing is known to you

Psalm 38:9




TUESDAY 1


Started Margaret Drabble’s The Dark Flood Rises. About death. Good for Lent. 



WEDNESDAY 2


Ephphatha! Be opened!

Mark 7:34

Lord, may I hear you more clearly.



THURSDAY 2: Richard II today in THIS England 


British politics is very messy, has it ever been worse?

I sit at the Wanamaker Playhouse. A 400 year old monologue by Shakespeare could have been written for Parliament today:


This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise

This fortress built by Nature for herself …

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,

this nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings 

Feared by their breed and famous for their birth

Renowned for their deeds as far from home

For Christians and true chivalry …

This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land

Dear for her reputation through the world

Is now leashed - I die pronouncing it - 

England, bound in with the triumphant sea

Like to a tenement or pelting farm.

England bound in with the triumphant sea

Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege

Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame

With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds

That England that was wont to conquer others 

Hath made a shameful conquest of itself. 



FRIDAY 2   Everlasting arms around never-ending issues


Lent is for the difficult issues which seem hard to resolve. Will they ever? Won’t they come back next year? Those battles, those hurts, those cracks in our lives… those non-loves, those nasty neighbours, those bad tastes … 

But in prayer I see again that beyond my understanding and beyond my heart there are everlasting arms that hold them.

And in those arms they are safe to be battled with, to be faced with and then to be discovered with that they are smaller than they seem. 



SATURDAY 2    Day-pray


I have decided to day-pray. It is crossing day-dreaming with prayer. Think, dream and pray away. I allow myself one time a day to drift off in a day dream and turn it into a prayer.

It makes prayer very dreamful, and Lent very happy


SUNDAY 2    St Patrick’s Day and world wide prayer


I had forgotten about St Patrick’s Day. How lovely to sing Be Thou My Vision: a hymn which captures his Breastplate prayer.

Difficult to sing, when contemplating the Christchurch horror in New Zeeland. 

How good it is to know that prayer is rising and uniting people from all over the world, with so many different backgrounds. 


Light in the Darkness 5: at the enlightening cradle

31 Dec 2018

Have you ever seen Rembrandt’s nativity scene? It tells us how the light has appeared into the dark world - radiating so simply yet powerfully from the child in the cradle. It is the light bulb in the picture …

It also shows there is far more room, where there seemed to be no room: pushed away by society, right there, where the light shows it appearance there seems to be more room for us than we thought we could give to ourselves. Where God came to be the ever-abiding Emmanuel, we are called into the light of his presence - shepherds on the fringe, parents pushed into the stable … In the margins the cradle stands, and from here the world is opened up by the beams of light from the Christchild - the one pushed away pushes back with love’s purest light. 


Coming back to Ecclesiastes, I remember how the writer throughout observing senseless and meaninglessness, comes back to keeping the tradition of his religious law and all it stood for. But it seems to be more than just carrying on, it is an anchor which speaks of rhythm, sense and meaning, when sense and meaning seem to far off at home and in the world. The Light brought sense and meaning back into the world and into our lives. Powerfully simple it still shines. And so how do I carry on this Christmas and into the new year, carolling still those same songs through times of challenge and change?

It is not my private tradition in order to escape the world filled with war, pain and struggle. Of course, we may find joy and lightness of heart, but these songs remind us of that the light which starts shining at the darkest and lowest place. This is where the light pushes back the darkness. This is where I am reminded every year again, that the light is already shining - how dark our times may be. And so I keep on carolling these song of old as a reminder of that deep and unending source of Light in the darkness. Carolling in togetherness around the world means: singing a string of songs which bring us back again to this enlightening cradle of Life and Love. A place of light where we too may stand around the cradle, while the light shows us that there is room for many more to join us in carolling and celebrating the birth. This is the rightful place of Christ’s birth of Bethlehem: it is just a start from where the child will grow and mature. The light will grow, and room will grow in that spacious place the stable provides. In its weakness and vulnerability it shows more strength, more space and more joy for us all. More than we sense in our own strength.


To sing with Gerhardt and Bach: and let my heart our cradle be, this season of Christmas and in the new year: source of such gentle growing, guiding light, strength-giving joy, also in these our times. 

I lay still in death’s deepest night,

Till Thou, my Sun, arising,
Didst bring joy, pleasure, life, and light,
My wakened soul surprising.

O Sun, who dost so graciously

Cause faith’s good light to dawn in me,

How lovely is Thy radiance!


One thing I bid Thee grant to me,

My Savior, ne’er deny me,
That I may evermore have Thee,
Within and on and by me.

And let my heart Thy cradle be,

Come, come and lay Thee down in me,

With all Thy joys and treasures!


lyrics Paul Gerhardt, music J.S Bach


Light in the Darkness 4: our own eye level - meditating with Mantegna & Bellini

30 Dec 2018

It was a busy week somewhere in December. I was grateful for a brief visit to the National Gallery. The exhibition let us roam within the world of Mantegna and Bellini; their world was an oasis, but not only that: though my visit didn't even last an hour, I felt that some of these moments of peaceful reflection were captured somewhere out of time. This world of theirs felt like an unusual spacious place to me. Many of these works showed the explosive creativity of the Renaissance: it was new, it was alive. Yet there was more to that. It was emotive and passionate. Why? In their own ways Mantegna and Bellini displayed new techniques of perspective, light and human emotions. Though these two artists were related, worked together, and showed an impact on each other, each of them also showed their own personality and approach in this season of crucial cultural  development and adventurous exploration. I was already familiar with Bellini: his mystery and capability; now I also met Mantegna, who liked to show off with his big elaborate backgrounds and perspectives as if we see Canary Wharf as a backdrop to the garden of Gethsemane; and not to forget, he showed us the immediacy of raw human emotion, whereas Bellini moves us into a peaceful, yet moving and vibrant sense of contemplation.


I was in awe not only of their own signature works and personal styles, but also of how they could inspire and influence each other. Still, it was the room before last that hit me particularly. In this room there were two memorable versions of the Adoration of the Christchild. Of course, thematically it felt out of sync to see the Doge of Venice in between them.  Still I could see the point. Curated this way I stood right in front of all these figures: the deep sense of reality was enforced by the way these paintings were all placed at the same eye level. I faced St Katharine, Mary and Mary Magdalene at one side and the Magi at the other side in such a way that I could join in with both scenes of the Adoration. As a spectator I felt invited to come and stand with them in a circle and become a participant. I, too, was standing around Christ’s cradle.

This was the Cradle Room. It was such an engaging experience. And then I met that one moment of beautiful confusion: seeing the few Madonnas at the other side of the room, it seemed as if Bellini and Mantegna had swapped identity. Mantegna shared the most endearing and sensitive touch to the cheek-to-cheek portrait of the Virgin and Child. So gentle and pure, so protective and whole. There was such an integrity in the Simon Madonna, that even the cloth wrapped around the Virgin showed a sense of shelter and protection. The child itself was the shelter-to-be in this serene scene, saying: ‘All will be well’.

Mantegna seemed to have painted a Bellini, while Bellini was showing Mantegna’s way of depicting emotion and human reality. Bellini, the softhearted contemplative, showed a more ‘immediate’ and tangible approach to one of his Madonnas here: she comes towards us as the real ‘every day woman’. And the Christchild? Like in other works by Bellini we see him touching the Virgin - pinching her here with his tiny fingers, just to show us that God is tangible and real - that he touched to be touched, that he saw to be seen. 


These moments of careful meditation and observation in the Gallery, helped me to underline the tangible aspect of Christ coming to the earth. He wanted to touch the world he had wrapped around him. Especially those broken and crushed in spirit he wanted to touch and heal, he wanted to make a living with those who needed a saviour and a healer. 

He himself so vulnerable in the tender arms of the Virgin became a refugee when he was a child; he was homeless when he was a man; he faced our tears and illnesses to let them once be gone forever. He truly engaged with those who needed a cup of water and a bed to stay for the night. And with those lost, broken or troubled he still wants to live and walk alongside them.   

This is our God: touching the world by the pinch of his own fingers so small. And the world could touch him, interact with him, engage with him. The Christchild so near was in bare vulnerability held by the cloths of compassion, protection and hope: the treasure of heaven was the treasure among us, even within us; the vulnerable divine love was tangible to heal and save at our very own eye level: so that we who are so tenderly seen, can also see and engage with God from where we stand. At our own eye level of brokenness and pain. This is our tender, tangible God. This is where Heaven resides.

This is our eye-level God. Still pinching us. Still showing us life and love where we are.

Close to the broken, close to the tears

Close to the hungry, those in fear

Fearfully waiting for a new dawn

Tearfully knowing that you are not far

Living with sadness, living with grief

Living with sorrows - the dark and deep

With your deep love you bring a new dawn

and show us that heaven is not very far

Treasure of heaven shining in me

High from your heaven you came to see

See what I touch, touch what I see

Treasure of heaven 

Treasure in me

Kerst, November 2018


Light in the Darkness 3: a light burning within the void

29 Dec 2018

This December was a very political month: both in the UK and in The Netherlands Theresa May and her Brexit deal filled the news on television and the papers. My own political opinion aside, I can admire her for taking up a job nobody wants to do and barely anybody wants to appreciate. Theresa May is a sad figure in between two chapters of recent British history, so it seems. 

Curiously, I had to think of another sad figure in history: John the Baptist. I feel for him. Though his cousin Jesus appreciated him much and he did once gather a crowd, his life ended in a very undesirable way after a personal feud with the royal family. On one hand, he wasn't part of the old band of prophets, nor the old establishment of priests. And on the other hand, he didn't take part in the exciting new movement of Jesus of Nazareth.

John was a sad figure in between old and new - he evaluated the old and he announced the new, yet his path was a rough journey like it can be in the December rain, while it is cold and pitch black outside without a streetlight on the way. How frustrating, depressing or lonely it must have been not to see the fruit of your work, while he himself had utter faith in inviting people to join him on his journey and showing the right path before them. This exactly summed up his life: not to be old, nor to be knew. Yet it was said that he was a burning lamp - in that dark time he was a light. However, he wasn't the light that people wanted him to be - he didn't follow the political establishment, nor did he answer the needs of the crowd in simplified populism. He faithfully did the job and prepared the way for what he thought was the greater good. He was ahead of the crowd and paved them a saving way of wisdom, purity and freedom. Once ahead of them, he also stepped away from the stage to give it to his cousin Jesus. He shone a light in the deeper darkness of his times. Yet he was a man - once he was finished - dying without wealth and fame. 

Crazy times come and go - and many of us sense them now. Some of them are known, some of them are suffered in silence. The political storms were rough two thousand years ago, and so they are still in many places. And do we then mirror the worldwide political chaos and party-pollitcal madness by a similarly turbulent reaction? Or do we dare to risk the dark void of what is unknown? Don't get me wrong - of course there is room for a political response, but may it be rooted in a deeper courage for the common good and those not able to attain it themselves, in a love more profound for the well being of all people and finally with a respect more pure - capturing also a welcome to the least of our favourites. 

Let's shine a light in the deeper darkness of our times. The risk of such a response can be that we miss out on the popular vote, but what if our less obvious response could reach out to those starving and homeless who don't fill our headlines? What if we ‘waste’ our attention to those less interesting to show our care to? The cost could well involve choosing the void of the unpopular and the unknown: like tonight in the dark of December, cold and wet and with nothing to look forward to, but knowing that the end of the journey is where we should be and where others may want to follow and be truly safe. 

Light in the Darkness 2: one with God, one with each other

28 Dec 2018

It must have been because of my protestant upbringing, that I barely noticed any nativity while I was younger. But nowadays I find nativity scenes all over: in people’s homes, as if they are private chapels, and in churches or at nativity plays… 

Whether they turn up in traditional places or elsewhere unexpectedly, still each time when the season comes round again, I think of St Francis. How he put the emphasis on the Birth of the Christchild, not for its romance and commerce, but for its humility and tangibility.

His spirituality was so real that we could touch it: the social and the spiritual join hands in Francis’ legacy. Francis knew the reality of the ‘God-with-us’ Emmanuel in the depth of his mediation, but he also found the divine presence alongside - even inside - the stranger and the beggar, those on the side of the road. The spiritual and the social were part of the same deal. Being mystically one with God and being one with our neighbour and our environment were held together. 

And may that be so in our current celebrations. Christmas is full of traditions, but sometimes singing carols and doing our Christmassy things become an escape, while we avoid the sorrows of the world around us. A new tradition is that many of us help the homeless and lonely around Christmas time. It is a terrific gesture: what is traditional in the Christchild (so well captured by by the franciscan spirituality) is the ‘stepping-down’ at Christmas and at the same time the ‘looking-up’ to those who don't have any shells or ‘social cloths’ to wrap around them. Then it is not just our noble character displaying Christ at Christmas; moreover, we have an opportunity to see him revealed in those we come alongside to: we find a glimpse of how Christ comes to us in weakness. Our neighbour here, showing us life in all its raw authenticity - but all of us see how real it is.

I choose white, but with 

Red on it, like the snow

In winter with its few

Holly berries and the one

Robin, that is a fire

To warm by and like Christ

Comes to us in his weakness,

But with sharp song. 

R.S.Thomas


If you ever want to see and experience who we are and what we do at Living Well (mostly Thursday evenings and Fridays at lunchtime), then please feel most welcome to check us out:

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Light in the Darkness 1: to see the world, to be the world

27 Dec 2018

Years ago I was intrigued by William Dyce’s Man of Sorrows: no reference to the slaughtered lamb of Isaiah 53, but here I saw Christ depicted as a troubled man in the Scottish wilderness. Christ: troubled, or perhaps lonely, despised, rejected … Not showing off with grand pious gestures. An intimate body language with hands simply folded together. Nothing is too far fetched in here. He could be anyone around the British Isles, apart from the more traditional traditional ‘Jesus’ garments. 

This is not the triumphant Son of God, but this is the Son of Men familiar with all that we are familiar with: sadness, negativity, challenge. This is Christ the Man as much as you can find him. The one who knows the test. Who knows grief and shame. I was reminded several times of this painting when I journeyed through Advent this year and in particular last week, when I listened to He was despised in Handel’s Messiah.

This is the One coming to the world clothed with every aspect of humanity. In fact, when I keep looking at the painting, I sense more than just feeling sad or moved. I feel more human than I have ever done before. I am encouraged to reach that soft and tender place within my inner self that is perhaps shaky and lonely but which is at the same time the utter core of who I am.

And this is Advent: That he came to see the world and that he came to be the world within her inner core. Since this summer I have reflected much alongside the Book of Ecclesiastes, not in the least in connection with Advent: like the wisest and richest king, Salomon, Christ looked at the world and took in all that suffering and all that was wrong, meaningless and in vain - in order to know and experience in full what needed mending. He fully engaged with the inner yearning for wholeness. Weary of observing the world, Christ - like the writer of Ecclesiastes - knew he was part of it yet he decided not to stay away from it. After observing all this, he decided to be immersed in all he saw: the good, the bad, the high, the low. He decided to take on the fullness of humanity.

It must have been a burden: seeing all that was senseless surrounding him. But this is how he came to us and made it his own. And to me, this has been an inspiration this year: in a maddening world and in a senseless time, I wish not to walk away from it, but I insist to fully take it in and to be part of it in a fresh way. A desire to be light that follows Light in the darkness of chaos, hurt, unfairness, greed and meaninglessness. I stay put and be that world I am living in to be a Light bearer shaking off darkness - following the true one who came in the world, saw the world, conquered the world.

Remembrance. Revolution. Response.

05 Nov 2018

This August I was in Leipzig, walking in the footsteps of Johann Sebastian Bach. After so many years of playing his organ music, I had the urge to spend some moments at the church where he played and presented many of his pieces. After all these years my days of playing the organ had come to an end, so to ‘meet the master’ was marking a long season of music and meditation. 

To be in the Nicholaikirche (St Nicholas Church) was more significant than I thought. Though this was not Bach’s own Thomaskirche, it was indeed where the St John’s Passion was performed for the very first time. An exceptional piece at an exceptional place. 

But I guess this is very personal.


I stayed in this church for a long time. It seemed a thin and prayerful space, not only for me but for many visitors it left an impression. There and then I suddenly remembered: as I visited the exhibition in one of the side rooms, I was reminded how here the Peace Prayer ‘die Friedensgebete’ had built the foundation for the non-violent revolution in the late eighties. 

How different from ‘Emilia’, the play about Shakespeare’s Dark Lady. Visiting that a few weeks later, I saw how revolution was all about fire and breaking the house down (the roof can’t be blown off in the Globe)


What sense does a peaceful revolution make in our time? How can peace be a response in a time of mad world leaders and useless negotiators? Surely there is more to say to this, but here is a path of silence to find: instead of loud re-actions, a search for wisdom and an attentiveness to a purer sound. 

It is so much harder to notice a quiet melody when other noise is overtaking. 


Even in uncertainty regarding work, home and housing, I find myself so easily slotting into a noisy mode of re-action. I hope that somehow in the centre of all that is unknown, dark and sometimes depressing I can be brave enough to pray in peace and make way for silent music and meditation. I hope to continue the wheel of prayer in the heart of it all: unshaking, attentive and with a mission to change through silent prayer and praise. A way of response, rooted in my inner myself, rather than a wild reaction that just follows the same guideline of presidents and offensive egos.

A place of St Nicholas Church inside the urban wilderness: Its history helps to response from a deeper well of peace.The almost impossible power is stillness when everything else is shaking - there is a golden thread of a silent shelter, reaching out wisely and solidly for what will be worked out next. 

It may be unusual, but it shows that reaching for revolution by reflection is an option too. Response from inner reflection. The thin and thoughtful place as a reference point and compass in the noisy times we live in.  

The first chestnut: the same story, another place.

05 Nov 2018

While walking in different parts of London I was waiting for the first chestnut in autumn. This year I looked for it very actively but couldn't find it. I wondered if some of the trees were ill. I was looking for it and just didn't find it. Was I too early?

Not that I was as appreciative of it when I was a child. As a child finding chestnuts on our walks together as a family didn't impress me, underneath that canopy of autumn leaves. The lane wasn't nearly as pretty and mesmerising as in other countries. Also, as a child I found walking very boring, especially on Sunday afternoons. 

Not that I knew then that those same walks became a memory capturing the main experience for  every autumn in my life. 

The first chestnut of every year of my life became a reoccurring story out of a childhood memory. When, I don't know. 

And this year? Was the story lost? No it wasn’t. Completely unexpected I found a chestnut last weekend. It was at Wandsworth Common, where i had never walked before. Not one of the familiar places where I looked my eyeballs out, full of anticipation.

This story which I have carried with me all those years, reoccured at an unfamiliar spot.

Little did I know the value then of such a chestnut story.

Stories come and go. Netflix stories are full of tempo, and BBC dramas follow one another. What happened to those stories of old: the stories of where we came from, the stories that made us into whom we have become here and now. The stories that repeat themselves throughout the changes in our lives.

I knew of a story collector of my own region: Friesland. He collected many Frisian stories in its same language. My own father told me that this story collector had passed away a few weeks ago. I mourn his loss and with him the loss of many stories that will not be held in our collective memory.

Not too long ago my own father also pointed out, how stories like these were memorised at the local lamp post in the village. It shows that much of the Frisian language and its traditional expressions were transferred orally.

Many of these stories are unknown. The depth of (hi)stories have to give in to the swift and superficial trending topics of today. No more will we remind each other of many of the stories at the local lamp post. And at some point no one will know the beauty of the first chestnut to be chased.

But till then I will celebrate autumn. Also this year, with this chestnut. It is resting in the pocket of my jacket as I will open the book of stories of old. For as long as I can I choose to stand in line with those telling the same stories - I will open this book, this collection of stories and cherish the chestnut as I imagine myself listening.

As I read, I will stop and listen at the lamppost - while the colours change, the leaves will leave and the nights get darker. How much we will need those posts on the corner of our streets …

Early autumn 2018

Precioso: uncovering treasures (1)

03 May 2018

At times we feel too crushed to contribute or we feel too embarrassed to expose ourselves. ‘Precioso’ is a new set of songs to be performed on 12th of May in Penge: ‘Precioso’ is about noticing unexpected treasures around us and within us.How can we focus on what is precious to us when life is full of challenges? What is the point of making the most of it when so much seems in the way and our world seems a blur of dark and grey boredom or uphill battle?

In John 21 we see a very ‘human’ chapter. The initial excitement over Easter seems to have gone and the disciples get back to what they did three years ago: they go back to their daily job of fishing. And they aren't even that successful. Somehow through feelings of being lost, of being embarrassed and perhaps bored and disorientated Christ steps straight into this situation of grey nothingness. 

He shows himself to his friends, just like a few years ago, but then not as human as he did before: this time he is the Risen One. The one who is showing Life, stepping into the place (almost a void) where all excitement and beauty seems to have gone. Simon walks to him, maybe as shameful and embarrassed as Adam in the garden. He covers himself with his garment, He knows he has been wrong betraying his Friend. He knows his Friend came back to him,  while he just can’t find the way back to his ‘uncovered’ and free self, even in this familiar setting of where he was born and bred. 

Christ sees the struggle of Peter’s world and his cover of shame.  Christ steps into it without denying this challenging situation. By chatting to Peter with love he breaks through the wall Peter built around himself. Christ’s presence is a treasure: he breaks through the walls of this cramped reality of Peter and co, by lovingly conversing his way through these brick walls of insecurity and failed self-defense. Just as he once appeared for the first time through walls of wrong, of oppression and brokeness, he once again breaks through these walls with love. While Peter placed himself outside, he is drawn into Life by Christ showing Love. 

Let’s follow that path of true Life and Love. Shall we not break through these walls together, uncovering the treasures we hide by our discomfort and shame. I’m in, if you are!


From around the world, sailing back into the world

10 Oct 2017

I am from Friesland. It is an ancient part of the Netherlands - at least, that’s what I like to believe. At the moment I find it interesting to look into my historical and cultural background, since I am working on the new series of Eye to Eye: Looking into Immigration and identity together. I am not really fluent in speaking the language; if I ever was, then not anymore. Still I remember some songs. Right now, I set myself a goal this season to look more into the traditional story telling and I would like to resurrect some of those songs I still know from my childhood. And who knows, I might find some new ones!


But why do I bring this up? Because it is surprising me, after all those years. Luit van der Tuuk states in De Friezen, that after the Roman times there is a short time that no one really occupies my region. It is a region where occupants continually fight the water and simultaneously use or ‘befriend’ the water for trade around the North Sea. The new inhabitants are from everywhere and nowhere. It is only because Frisians were living there in Roman times, that they are called Frisians by others: their identity was connected to a past which wasn't theirs. And they were not a homogenous collective; in fact, they were not interconnected at all: all in all this is not a great glorious past. These were immigrants shaping up a country which was left behind. Each year the water washed over the fields of Friesland. Each season was a new start. Yet the world in that time gathered people there together to give them home and a shelter to live. And their neighbours gathered them together by giving them one name, despite their diversity. And gathered from all around the world, they then sailed back to other worlds to bring colour and diversity by taking the lead in terms of the world trade of the time, something which has even become one of the strongest Dutch traits in history.  

My culture is not a boring, dying and dusty part of the world. The world brought her into being and gave her a name. She brightened the world up with its presence - then she filled that same world with a diverse and exciting interaction. I am a child of this culture, as well as this world I live in!


It shows to me, that in my past over the centuries a rich tapestry of cultures and backgrounds has come into play. I still learn from surprise to surprise, how everything shaped up from far and wide to what it has become this day. And so I expect each person will walk into the new workshops of Eye to Eye with a story and a surprise - an inspiration for us all. 

Sometimes my best friends can surprise me when they mention something new about their life story and background. Even my own dad surprised me this week by sharing something new: for there was a streetlight corner in his old Frisian village, where people gathered and shared stories. Many known stories of old shared by their collective memory, some stories new and made up on the spot. 

I am looking forward to hearing yours. 

HMD: Stories have to be told

27 Jan 2020

Anne Frank: Parallel Stories


There is not very much I can express. I leave with silence, with a void - like I often do, when I am hurt or deeply touched. I can’t even cry - so devastating. As the later generations mentioned: all this has the greatest affect by hearing very personal stories of those nearby.


I cry, once I think of the traumas of those who once were close to me. Sometimes I was too young to hear the stories. Sometimes I was too young to understand the stories I heard.


My grandmother. When I was a child, telling us each Thursday evening how she was strong when her husband was imprisoned.


Another lady. Closer to me in my teenage years, whose deep family traumas I understood a little more much later. (For that, reading Edith Eger’s The Choice directed me to a more careful understanding) This week I realise how in the trauma of not knowing what’s happening and where her own father was, she kept building hope by protecting the life of one dear child - as if it was her own.


Another man. Wise, strong, full of impact. I heard him speak about the fear. Even he was fearful still.


Every Thursday evening when we had simple bread and milk, we kept asking our granny to repeat the stories we had heard, although she had told them the week before. Like youtube clips and sketches you compulsively watch over again and again.

Because they had to be told.


Next to an empty room of horror. A stage for stories to remain. In this film the stage is set for the new generation to repeat the stories hard to hear. For they are part of who we are now.


They have to be told. How can I take the stage and tell those stories which are part of me?

From around the world, sailing back into the world

10 Oct 2017

I am from Friesland. It is an ancient part of the Netherlands - at least, that’s what I like to believe. At the moment I find it interesting to look into my historical and cultural background, since I am working on the new series of Eye to Eye: Looking into Immigration and identity together. I am not really fluent in speaking the language; if I ever was, then not anymore. Still I remember some songs. Right now, I set myself a goal this season to look more into the traditional story telling and I would like to resurrect some of those songs I still know from my childhood. And who knows, I might find some new ones!


But why do I bring this up? Because it is surprising me, after all those years. Luit van der Tuuk states in De Friezen, that after the Roman times there is a short time that no one really occupies my region. It is a region where occupants continually fight the water and simultaneously use or ‘befriend’ the water for trade around the North Sea. The new inhabitants are from everywhere and nowhere. It is only because Frisians were living there in Roman times, that they are called Frisians by others: their identity was connected to a past which wasn't theirs. And they were not a homogenous collective; in fact, they were not interconnected at all: all in all this is not a great glorious past. These were immigrants shaping up a country which was left behind. Each year the water washed over the fields of Friesland. Each season was a new start. Yet the world in that time gathered people there together to give them home and a shelter to live. And their neighbours gathered them together by giving them one name, despite their diversity. And gathered from all around the world, they then sailed back to other worlds to bring colour and diversity by taking the lead in terms of the world trade of the time, something which has even become one of the strongest Dutch traits in history.  

My culture is not a boring, dying and dusty part of the world. The world brought her into being and gave her a name. She brightened the world up with its presence - then she filled that same world with a diverse and exciting interaction. I am a child of this culture, as well as this world I live in!


It shows to me, that in my past over the centuries a rich tapestry of cultures and backgrounds has come into play. I still learn from surprise to surprise, how everything shaped up from far and wide to what it has become this day. And so I expect each person will walk into the new workshops of Eye to Eye with a story and a surprise - an inspiration for us all. 

Sometimes my best friends can surprise me when they mention something new about their life story and background. Even my own dad surprised me this week by sharing something new: for there was a streetlight corner in his old Frisian village, where people gathered and shared stories. Many known stories of old shared by their collective memory, some stories new and made up on the spot. 

I am looking forward to hearing yours. 

Ebb and flow - between savage and civilised

10 Oct 2017

21 September. Today I watched Boudica at the Globe. The writer didn’t try to give meaning to history and he didn't implement in the story some battles of our times just to make sense of history. To me, in this play our current history with our own struggles was retold: just as war and peace follow each other, so do ebb and flow. Time is the tide, and it repeats itself. 

It was perhaps too obvious altogether, but there is a point there: also in ancient times people from abroad had settled here and like many ‘second generation’ children, Roman children didn't have another home but here. This was where they belonged: stuck in the midst of war seeking rulers, kings and their racist indigenous subjects.  And so we see polarising and peace building forces right there at the same time. Just as our own times are messy and just as we see ‘savage’ politicians among us, we still have to notice those who keep trying the best for us. Those who may be more on the quiet side. Those who may not been understood because they try hard for the good, but rather backstage and seemingly Christlike: above or outside time. While war is loud and in your face; while polarisation can draw our collective attention, bridge building can be a slow and lonely road. I felt for Allona. The Guardian calls it a ‘remain play’ in terms of Brexit and (as I conclude) the way that Brexit is written into this historical play. 

But beyond that it just shows who we are anyway: victims of war - one way or the other. Those who all have wandered around the globe, immigrants from anywhere on one stage in our collective or ancient family history. We all roam sometimes. And wars and oppressors come and go. So however awfully unique our time may be, we are not alone through the course of time. We have a lot in common with other times and with other places. The ebb and flow of our savage and civilised ways. Welcome to our world. Welcome to war. Welcome to peace making. Which one do we choose today?


Time to stick together

23 Jul 2017

The times are changing. The world is burning. We seem less in control. We are more clever than ever with outstanding and sophisticated forms of communication. We travel more than ever around the world. Our opportunities are countless; so much, that they confuse us in our choices from day to day. So much, that we are told, if not commanded, to make use of these opportunities in the same way which we can copy form each other. While our world becomes smaller and we think we get bigger, our vulnerability seems to catch up with us and despite our ever improving technology this vulnerability seems to become like an overgrowing tree over our solid house of life.

What can we do? Where can we go? What can we do together? And heading to Brexit: why would we not just split up and do our own thing according to our separate individual origins?


As much as we are not aimless, we are also not helpless. We can be strong where we are. We become strong when we are aware of our vulnerability. We become strong when we see that we are not those big and independent individuals whom certain systems of communication want us to believe we are. Media may tell us we are like all knowing and all able gods on this earth, but in our hearts and our inner beings we know that the way we survive in this world is by learning how to find and show care and respect. We grow by giving a place to each other and honour the diversity we see even in the smallest communities. Community is what carries us in times of change, turmoil and uncertainty, even when recent developments want to divert us from building communities. When we dare to hurt and step down and when we dare to be soft heartened, we can be rich where we are:  As much as we aren’t robots, we are also not altogether clones with the similar features and characteristics. We all bring colours to this world and we all bring a flavour to where we are now, to where we work and live.


And so Eye to Eye celebrates once more the beauty of diversity in our time; the richness of our histories that meet together; the inspiration we can provide to one another. Surrounded by fear, confusion or uncertainty we can be listening to each other, understanding each other and walk together. Give each other both a stage and a shelter in these times of change. Give each other time to be ourselves and to be there for one another. 


It is the weekend. While I am learning to sing ‘Vincent’, this reminds me of Don MacLean taking time to listen to Vincent van Gogh and see the beauty in the drama of a life so other than his own. And yet with finding understanding, didn't he find an unexpected, profound kind of togetherness?

Let me try to let me know you, hear you, and let you paint your picture on the wall.


Eye to eye starts on Tuesday 12th September in The Yurt @ St Katharine’s Limehouse. Find out more on the WALKABOUT page with future events. 


House of my Heart: See my different faces

16 Jun 2016

Many cities have many different faces. It makes a place more interesting, when you see people with various professional backgrounds or from different origins. Sometimes I crave for a beautiful historical museum and other times I yearn to find myself in a more urban and ‘lived in’ quarter. 

It takes a while sometimes, to find another side to a pretty place. Take Bruges, for instance, the Venice of the North. Like Venice, its high level postcard outlook is fantastic, but it also seems very much a Barbie doll location, when you find it hard to find a true connection with a day to day reality. 

In such a place, it takes some perseverance to find a local with his dog (another French bull dog) 


Sometimes I feel I have two different faces. Or more. And it frustrates me when conditions are set in one particular way, that it seems that people only seem to see my ‘Bruges outlook’. I’d love to show in such circumstances that I am more than my stage artistry, or more than a big smile on my face. To be true and honest is like fighting a battle sometimes. Or more positively, is like going for a long long walk on a sightseeing tour. 


That’s what I have found so nice about Airbnb or about staying with a person you know well in a city you want to get to know. It helps you to feel at home. It helps you to see a more real, more multi-sided picture. This is ‘House of my Heart’ to me: that one is not so easily put in a box with one photograph or one postcard. We are stories with various chapters and character developments. Our hearts are vast places with different quarters and neighbourhoods: with ‘top ten highlights’ for the world to see, as well as with rough parts that need much work, investment and subsidising from  outside. 


I’m off to Helsinki in a few weeks time. To see the sights is a mediocre experience. To live there as a house guest a true treasure.


My wish for the upcoming concert in Helsinki is therefore, that the heart will speak beyond the music and the poetry: showing various layers, inviting to verbalise a range of responses. Like deep conversations of unknown hearts. Person to person. Heart to heart. Like we should live life: to the full and in togetherness. Celebrating our various faces…


Kerst is singing on Friday 1st July in the German Church in Helsinki. Free entry, 7pm start.

Brexit: Two candles

03 Jun 2016


Tomorrow I will sing ‘Candle’ again, after not singing it for quite a while. Most of the times, when I was rehearsing it for the recording of ‘House of my Heart’ I sang it for the people of Syria. As the refugee crisis progressed, I sang it for people on the run.

Tomorrow I will be selfish and sing it for myself. I know the Brexit-referendum is a complicated issue. As I mentioned before, in what I read and hear about it, I often miss a level of solidarity. 


There was a time when European nations were grateful for any help from the outside. Re-building the nation was a joined effort with other nations. Prosperity arrived on the back of sticking with each other. As we removed the ruins of war, we remembered those who had liberated our lands and we soon made peace with those who were our neighbours. It was a time that living together was not only built on economic ideals. 

Later, we became so spoiled and individualistic that we forgot about this road of solidarity that had led us to the highway of prosperity. Although we have arrived to another chapter full of fear and of hiding together for agressors from the East and the Middle East (or from the West, depending on who will be the next US president), we seem to prefer to live for ourselves and for our own economical interest. What if the end is in sight and we will face another chapter of war instead of peace - then please let us be known for sticking together and not living for ourselves. 


Tomorrow I will sing for the country I left and for the country I hope to stay. Both countries have changed. One is slowly closing in, when it comes down to immigrants and refugees. The other shows more and more scepticism and harshness. If I fear, than I fear for our tolerance, compassion and selflessness. 


Two candles: In the midst of it all, I light a ‘Candle’ for both countries - remembering that so often throughout the centuries, they had to stick together. 

Two candles: for two wonderful Greek friends I spoke with this week. Such luxury that I got to know both!! 

The referendum: let's walk together

01 Jun 2016

Brexit: the referendum. I don't know what you make of it all. If you can, what will you vote? 

I don't have a vote. I don't have a British passport. Nowadays I cannot obtain a British passport without handing in my Dutch one. Although I don't have to worry directly about staying in the UK, a vote for leaving brings me closer to a choice forced upon me - the one to be either Dutch or English. 

Does it bother me? Not so much yet, but I wonder how many voters bring their vote to a very personal and individual level. I hope voters realise how much they vote about the future of many. People are afraid of change, but change has always been part of our lives. We are interacting people, interacting countries and although some of our interaction leave negative and vague consequences, there is much that we have loved and adored about a wide world of diversity and opportunity. 

What can we learn from our histories? Ironically, the Celts left these British isles to conquer vast parts of Europe for their Christ. And with that many lands were transformed in dark times - braving wild waves they shared the arts and their insights and built new communities. 

Centuries later, the young Dutch Republic was helpt by many immigrants to become a naval power and a leading country (young as it was) in the arts. Even these isles were to enjoy their portraits and winter scenes … 

Examples like these show that a strong local or national identity can open up opportunities for a wider world. It tells us about a noticeable and fruitful impact, when cultures cross each other.

Back to the referendum: what bothers me, how much does history play a part in all this?  We are so much influenced by voices which prefer stimulating fear and dispute to building solidarity. I think that’s dangerous and restrictive. It discourages empathy, while it encourages cynicism and cynicism doesn't stand  so much in line with love and solidarity. Without understanding the full picture (at all!) I see two important questions: In which case will we become more limited, playing our part in this part of the world, if not worldwide? Will we lose an opportunity to play our part and improve the systems which are now in place internationally? 

Speaking about the protection, the safety and security of these wonderful British isles, let’s at least remember two things at this important point in time: firstly, we can never go back to the past; secondly, the future is never in our own hands. 

Whatever is decided, let’s not be afraid, but walk into the future together.

Identity in a Foreign Land

16 Feb 2016


FINDING A HOME FROM HOME


Oxford. It’s the end of January. I realise once more how much this is a country of story telling. Here in The Eagle & Child the stories are so tangible: Lord of the Rings, Narnia - and that after I was already warmed up by a visit to the Ashmolean Museum full of stories from all around the world...


Sometimes stories in a foreign land can help us to be aware of my own past and identity... It is like finding Dutch Masters on the walls in a museum abroad. For me, it was the music: in the Songs of Travel Vaughan Williams worked with Stevenson’s words in such a way that its British melancholy helped me to give a deeper expression to my own journey of finding a “home from home”. Not just because I fell in love with the English country side. Not just because the music helped me to find my voice and my musical identity in English songs and German Lieder. While working on these songs a mirror of my past was held before me. The words and melodies helped me to give a place to past experiences and old treasures of my youth in a new and foreign country. By finding my past in these songs, I felt that a home was given to me here in the UK. I love walking and I love music. And although much of my past has now disappeared, I found a way to remember it and to bring it with me wherever I go.....


“Song tuneful song, built a palace in the wild”


Somewhere down the line the music provided a house and a home, in which I rediscovered what once was my own old home. Years later, much of my youth has disappeared: the school, the church, the hospital and many friends are gone- but the melancholy of these songs make me remember them and by remembering them they are still a part of me. 



House of my Heart: The Writings (I) - 'Candle'

12 Nov 2015

The story behind Candle (from The Winter Queen Trilogy)

November. We remembered our histories this week: Even from the other end of the North Sea I heard how dignified the broadcasted service was last Sunday. Yet war is with us again. The war written on the faces of those roaming across our continent. Wars come and go. They keep filling the chapters of history ... How do we respond?

400 years ago Elizabeth the Winter Queen was on the run. Europe was in one big crisis even then, fighting a war of thirty years over religious conflicts.  When she fled Prague there was no where to go and winter was bitter and cold. In the end, she 'd finally find refuge in the small country of The Netherlands. 

Imagine her in a chapel uttering some of the phrases in this next song before setting off into the great unknown.... What about her loss, her status, her family and friends? What went through her mind?  

Remember: For those on the run. For those who travel far to nowhere and leave family and loved ones behind. For those on the run...

A candle is burning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9n4s8Fiq1eA



Understanding colours

26 Oct 2015

I’ve always adored Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s work. His Lake View captures the mystic, joyful experience of walking through the Lake District. The Boy with a Crow’ holds a stillness and luring sense of anticipation of what comes next. I saw many of his works some years ago in the Groninger Museum. What I came across in The Ateneum in Helsinki was another - darker - side to his work. 

How could I validate this, being so full of his work, yet feeling so much more distance to this darker tone?

Don’t get me wrong - I think there is room for darker tones and shades in artistic expressions- it just was a surprise. I think that it is easily done to create a ‘set picture’ in one’s frame of mind. There was more to Picasso than cubism. there is more to Kerst than singing/songwriting... One should be careful to reduce an artist or musican’s port-folio too one single, significant impression. I learnt from this encounter with the artist’s darker side: this is probably how people look at me and capture me in what was either a good or bad experience for them. 

Still, it bothered me for a while. How then should I Iook at this painter - one of my favourites... I held this question up in the air for a day or two. Then my friend took me to Tarvaspää, to Gallen-Kallela’s studio. This was where I felt I really met the painter. Again I found some works which I had seen in Groningen. This time I saw Ad astra in Finland - and this time it occured to me that the artist had made this for his own children’s baptism: the way the figure rose from the brokeness of this world... His own desciription moved me deeply.

In the top of the building I realised I had walked through the whole building too quickly - I hadn’t read carefully. Here I met a man who worked for a client on a deep,deep level of empathy: He too had lost a child. This child had drawn tender pictures, left in here for the world to see... Drawings like our four year olds pass on to us.

This room where drawings were made, was like a monk cell to me, with the seats carved by the man himself; the texture of the woodwork still to be touched; drawings drawing us closer to the artist’s father heart of love; the light so slow; that the world could never break these profound moments left to us: moments in a space of tranquility and thoughtfulness. 

Once outside, the waterside revealed a sunny display of similar lakeviews and a natural, spacious freedom. I left with a deeper understanding of this artist’s emotive world - and more space in my heart for his way of coping with grief. On this sunny morning Lemminkainen’s mother became a pieta to me. For isn’t it often so that in that Mother’s Suffering so much of our suffering has found a reference point? As I left I felt I was engaging much more with the range of his work  and the deeper pigment of its ‘colours’. And like so often, art helped me understand true colours of my own.

A few days later my four year old host handed over a vital piece of his own art work: his drawing as my leaving present. 



Breeze no. 21: True anger, because we love

10 Oct 2020

Often people think I am peaceful and nice. Most of the time I may be so. Right now, I am really angry with myself - I wanted to take the time to write something and manage to forget it completely.  While I am cross with myself, I am also irritated by all those people gathering in pubs without enough distance, causing many of us a problem for future months. Being tired, I am easily annoyed by neighbours and by friends .… 


How can I find a better response? ’Rejoice!’ The wise man said. Make your gentleness known wherever you go… and the peace that passes all understanding will guard your heart and mind ….


You know what? I will go for a walk, and maybe what I wanted to say to you earlier, turns out to be important enough to come back to me. And while I walk, the true and just anger may remain: those things that are truly meant to cause anger, because we care from within our inner being. True anger, because we love. 


If we can, we might want to take up walking and find healing for our body and soul. And in the freshness, may stillness and insight come to the surface. A sense of being, of ‘seeing’ what is truly worth our attention. 


In our humble attempt to change the world

and in our frail response towards change - unwanted

Help us, dear Spirit, to respond with soft hearts and pure minds

Trusting in your strength and peace, Spirit of true life and love

Enabling us to let go what is unhelpful

to shine in what is utterly relevant and what needs to be addressed

to find growing holiness within and among us

just as we walk and breathe, somewhere along the road


Breeze no. 20: simple as it is

04 Oct 2020

I love reading St John’s gospel. I simply do. This was proven once more when I happened to be in Goslar a few weeks ago. There I walked into the town museum and found the Goslar Gospels: a unique piece of art from medieval times.  

Of each of the gospels one page was shown with stories told by some great pictures. The story of the feeding of the 5000 couldn't be more simple: it showed the Christ drawing so close to the crowd, that they - sitting down - received food from (what seems to me) his own feeding hand. There was something so close and generous about this picture. Not the dramatic distant godhead, but a man drawing close to those he cares for. 

This story we find in John 6, just after an interesting theme of the gospel starts to be explained in the previous chapter: that Christ knows many precious and ‘great things’ made known to him by the Father in heaven. And from chapter 6 it is shown that he doesn't keep it to himself: he wants to pass it on. The same applies to the water of life in the following chapter etc …

The theme of ‘passing on’ is a great concept in this gospel: that Christ knows the most intimate depth of love and the deep value of life as the Son of God but also, that he wants to pass it on with great generosity. To me, this life-giving example of Christ is the core inspiration of the gospel.

And somehow its appeal was renewed by the simplicity of that medieval picture: a Christ who cares, draws near the hungry crowd and gives out in abundance and perfection what is first given as a perhaps small but authentic gift to himself.

In Goslar the ‘great things’ of Christ’s life story is captured simply, yet powerfully. It encourages me here and now, in a time of restriction and search for meaning that I can start small, with what I have: seemingly small, it might grow if it is given with a heart as generous and expectant. 


In these days of decline and insecurity 

may we not only hold on to what we have

but hungry as we all are for true life and love

may we share what we have been given

and reach for divine love multiplied in our midst

simple as it is, but shining with all that is true

Breeze no. 20: simple as it is

19 Sep 2020

I love reading St John’s gospel. I simply do. This was proven once more when I happened to be in Goslar a few weeks ago. There I walked into the town museum and found the Goslar Gospels: a unique piece of art from medieval times.  

Of each of the gospels one page was shown with stories told by some great pictures. The story of the feeding of the 5000 couldn't be more simple: it showed the Christ drawing so close to the crowd, that they - sitting down - received food from (what seems to me) his own feeding hand. There was something so close and generous about this picture. Not the dramatic distant godhead, but a man drawing close to those he cares for. 

This story we find in John 6, just after an interesting theme of the gospel starts to be explained in the previous chapter: that Christ knows many precious and ‘great things’ made known to him by the Father in heaven. And from chapter 6 it is shown that he doesn't keep it to himself: he wants to pass it on. The same applies to the water of life in the following chapter etc …

The theme of ‘passing on’ is a great concept in this gospel: that Christ knows the most intimate depth of love and the deep value of life as the Son of God but also, that he wants to pass it on with great generosity. To me, this life-giving example of Christ is the core inspiration of the gospel.

And somehow its appeal was renewed by the simplicity of that medieval picture: a Christ who cares, draws near the hungry crowd and gives out in abundance and perfection what is first given as a perhaps small but authentic gift to himself.

In Goslar the ‘great things’ of Christ’s life story is captured simply, yet powerfully. It encourages me here and now, in a time of restriction and search for meaning that I can start small, with what I have: seemingly small, it might grow if it is given with a heart as generous and expectant. 


In these days of decline and insecurity 

may we not only hold on to what we have

but hungry as we all are for true life and love

may we share what we have been given

and reach for divine love multiplied in our midst

simple as it is, but shining with all that is true

Breeze:tryptich on the theme of walking

07 Sep 2020


1. LOOKING AFTER THE STRONG



One of the results of the lockdown period has been, that I walk more. All in all it has been an interesting experience to see all these different neighbourhoods and hideaways in London, which I had never explored so much without this period. One walk I discovered leads from Bow over Mile End cemetery to St Katharine’s in Limehouse. You could walk all the way to St Dustan’s, though this is a small detour. Between the cemetery and this ancient church there is a section which might be boring, but once you know where to go you see some great street art. 

The ‘graffiti’ is a cry to humankind to look after endangered species: it simply refers to our responsibility in this. One whale looks very colourful. The pictures make these vulnerable creatures look strong, very royal and futuristic. If possible, I’d love to bring you along and have a look and reflect on what you see. 

Too long we have approached our existence and our life on this planet with a survival of the fittest mentality. Aren't we as horrific as the survivors in Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’? I’ve started reading Peter Wohlleben’s ‘The hidden life of trees’. I was intrigued by his comment, that the stronger trees will not survive their challenging seasons, if they lack the support of their weaker neighbours. 

Christ’s saying that the first will be last and the last will be first, indicates that we shouldn't operate from our ambitions for power and our sense of superiority. This doesn't only indicate that one should consider the poor and weak, but also shows a deeper strength and impact present in what can be easily labelled as weak and useless. 

In one of the epistles of the New Testament - 2 Corinthians - we can read about freedom and a ‘new creation in Christ’. If in the Christian world this is only reduced to a saved and sinless life, this might be a too shallow approach. This includes also the way that Christ in his own life took responsibility for the poor and the weak, not only in acknowledging them, but also in acknowledging their impact in the (new) world. From an ecological angle, this also encourages me to not only acknowledge that some of the most beautiful and precious animals and species are under threat. I also want to seek how these creatures play their crucial and unmissable parts within the balance of the ecological system we are part of too. How do they play their royal part? How are they essential for the future of the world we live in? How can I honour them in terms of helping to ensure that they will have their facilitating roles in a renewed creation of this world - a world which holds a second chance for us, both weak and strong. 


Dear God 

Help us to stand up for the weak and those unnoticed

Not just for the sake of noticing them

but for the sake of this whole world:

filled with interconnections and hidden interdependence

Help us to see what and whom truly matter

Trust that there is a deeper purpose 

for the other and ourselves, 

for what we find in this world

for a new creation 

of all that finds a new and sacred purpose 

in your own creating being 

Amen





2. TOO FAR AND FAR AWAY



Loss is hard to talk about, simply because bereavement is a very individual process to walk through. No one can process this on behalf of someone else. To talk about it with someone else or within a social setting is dependent on the right time and the right place.

It is terrible when time and place are not synchronised and good support is hard to give. 

This week I experienced the best of friendship times. Sadly, it didn't last very long. But it was at a place in Germany where these times are the best - its locality guarantees a good quality time for us friends. When ‘here and now’ are so well knit together, they can even represent a sense of timelessness, of eternity even - and pressure, the burden of time and discrepancy fade away. The other week however, I also experienced encounters which were out of place. And I had heard about some events so sad, that a good timing and a place of healing and peace had been out of reach completely. Too far.

Not really knowing how to cope with hearing about several sad incidents, I heard myself listening at some point to Beachy Head by Iona, a song covering the difficult subject of suicide:


Here in my head I see an eagle that flies into the sun

Here in my head I say a prayer that you’d save the next one ….

Is there no one to watch over this place. to pray this evil away

Where are the souls, the sea doesn't know, the rocks cannot say 

God only knows how you're feeling today


Some events happen at the wrong place and the wrong time. And you can feel it in the air, you might taste it in your dry mouth and in the saltiness of your tears. 

These last two days I‘ve walked over the old border between West and East Germany. A lot of pain and mistrust is still felt in the air, certainly in one of the border towns we pass through. Even though a monument asks me to ‘control the future’, I know in our current time of covid and riots that we simply cannot control the future. I’ve seen the limitation of humankind. I ‘ve felt it these last few days.

What is there to say, when too often so much which is said seems too much. While processing some of these terrifying and saddening events (if they can be processed) I walked through this old no-man’s-land. With a variety of vegetation: nature had its own way here, where no one walked or talked for many years. Over a stretch of not even 10km I have never seen such a diversity of trees, plants, animals, mushrooms and insects. 

Then - the other night near where I stay I see a kind of eagle, perhaps a falcon or buzzard. This area of varied nature provides room for these creatures to soar majestically. And for me it is enough to hear their sound again and be reminded of where I used to live and the cry of buzzards was frequently heard - so often that it reassured me in those days, that my life was worth living. 

These days I am confronted with too many lives lost - so unnecessary. Devastating, when it seems too late to pray sometimes. Yet in the hands of the Eternal, there might be a sense in saying a prayer which I cannot find myself. And so - right at this moment in time, right on this spot; I say a prayer in complete silence - for evil to run away. To run very far away. 



Dear God - Creator of all life

At times we cannot make sense of what has happened 

It was wrong, out of place and it happened too soon

For a life that is robbed away 

robbed out of our hands, of care and compassion

we pray that you will move us to a time of healing

to a place where our hurt, our emotions are heard, 

where no cry of the heart is dismissed at times

when someone’s departure cannot be faced:

too much a shock and hurt too hurtful to make this emptiness leave

too violent the silence that is sad and dead

our hearts so broken, our inner being so disturbed

Relief us from guilt, anger or despair

Hold this turmoil and hold our brokenness and pain

Collect our tears, bind our wounds  

Know our prayers, when we don't know what to pray

Just be there, when death simply seems to strong

Just be there, be here and now

Just be there, when our words become words too many

Amen

 


3. DON”T GIVE UP: REFRAMING OUR COMMUNICATION


Much of what I do here in Germany is similar to what I do in London: walking. The German countryside however, is more outstretched and desolate. I am aware that this is a luxury: I am mobile (unlike a year ago) and feel secure enough to do this (less so in London). Realising that I cannot take it for granted, I ‘walk and talk’ with friends and family who cannot join me here: because of the distance or because of their health or other circumstances.

While walking and reflecting, I feel I can communicate with some of my friends and loved ones. What is it that creates the right calm and space to do this? Perhaps the breeze, or the way that the air in the woodland still tells me that it rained last night. Or simply the drop in temperature when I feel surrounded by the trees  - a gentle softness wherever I walk here. 

Why can’t we communicate more often at this level of walking together: not the pressure of filling up each moment of silence, not the pressure of being opposite each other - but alongside each other welcoming the cool temperature of the forest and its freshness after the rain has fallen.

Sometimes I think that we miss these circumstances in current debates on race and social distancing. Moments when we don't have to come to the bottom of things as we brush up our history in the heat of the fight, but allow a sense of freshness around us. Or if impossible, at least acknowledge that we miss this ‘breathing space’ in our communication? An awareness of our ‘weather conditions’ and our context when we communicate, in order to safeguard the quality of it. 

Before I left the UK a few weeks ago, I was struck by a simple word in Hosea - that God will appear as sure as the rain (probably more than just a fresh shower). It speaks of a divine, but unusual persistence in communicating after an almost irreconcilable past: yet, in this prophetic book there is a theme of not giving up without denying that grave past. 

How can we still refresh ourselves in our ways of communicating and understanding each other better, without denying what makes our current relationships and communications so difficult and hurtful? I remember the inspiration which was felt throughout the whole theatre while I saw that beautiful play called Oslo. The Oslo accord was established after impossible negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Key in the negotiation process was the atmosphere and the conditions of the back room:  A different tone, a different context, another way of relabelling and reframing. The context showed how meaningful it was to find a fresh way of communicating and building relationships. Another example that shows that it is true: we simply cannot give up on each other. Not in our time. Not now. 


May we find wisdom and may we find grace

when in our anger, our deep convictions 

communications between us become too clouded and too complex 

Help us to find a change of context

to sense the holy breeze of your Spirit 

Helper in our times of troubles

Reminding us of the river of life that flows

Its powerful streams and it sounds of justice

So much that we will become still in our arguments

Be still and know

that your are here 

to redirect our paths

to sharpen our debates in every right way 

to soften our hearts 

for what is true and honourable

(with psalm 46)

Breeze: winter in July

29 Jul 2020

Though we are in July, many have told me that it feels like winter. I personally don’t mind the winter: ‘winter in July’ sounds rather appealing to me.

Much of this is not what we expect of a good summer. How unusual is this? Or is it just our human nature, longing for our planning to succeed and our expectations to be met? Although I see we suffer from the affects of climate change, I do remember rainy summers in July. Similarly, we go through rather unexpected seasons mentally, socially and/or financially throughout this lockdown or post-lockdown period.  In terms of planning, i sense that much is uncertain. Even unsettling at times. Currently, life can feel like one heavy, uncomfortable grey dark sky. One that hangs above us, right before another shower will be poured out over us.

From where I sit in my ‘new’ lounge, I am actually waiting for the rain to stop. Nevertheless, sitting here is rather stilling. I just opened the window, so that the rain outside is like a friend, helping me to find a specific, still focus to reflect and write this to you.

No, winter in July and our current challenges are not easy to pass through. But in all this, there are treasures reappearing, which I havent really noticed for a long time. Like those long lost books that I revisited while I was unpacking. Like those deep quality moments with friends here or there, that are only here because we are forced to adjust to wait in this season we are in.

Come what may, I take the rain as it is. I listen to its sound. And words are found. Friends are found. Peace is found, despite al these different outcomes in July. I take it as it comes as I travel with you. Because although the destination is rather uncertain this summer, for one reason or another we are given to each other to journey through this together. 


Dear God,

Like once on the road to Emmaus

Signs of life aren't always that clear and colourful

Yet help us to be patient

as well as open to what this season brings

Open to that other opportunity

Open to that other doorway

to a new chapter in our own lives

or that of our friendship or our community

Amen


Breeze: at the kitchen table

22 Jul 2020

Last week was a week of unpacking. Endless unpacking. Life is passing by in multifold ways. Friendships of the past, loved ones of old, reunited with them through items in storage for a number of years …. 

At the end of the evening I can let it all go at the kitchen table. I love writing here. Even more: I love sitting here. Just being still. 

In the stillness I imagine more friends walking in and out, having a place at the table. Already some heart to heart conversations have taken place in my new home. Suddenly between cleaning and clearing things away and sitting down at the kitchen table, I am reminded of the words: ‘whatever you ask’ …. 

They are words from the gospel easily explained as a kind of vending-machine spirituality. That’s not my approach to these words. Quite often I have prayed for things I didn't get, for someone else or for myself. Tell me I do not have faith enough, I can cope with that and maybe this has been true at times. Still I think these words ‘whatever you ask’ (whatever they sounded like in Aramaic) paint a bigger picture. To me they paint a picture of friendship with a deep and special bond. Of understanding, trust and good will. That type of friendship with moments that do not require any words spoken out loud, as well as moments when it is entirely fine for anything to be asked or said. Maybe for this reason, we see in these chapters ‘photographs’ of a God as a loving parent, with backdrops of peace or liveliness. 

When it comes to either silence or the spoken word, we deeply depend on the tone and of the ‘backdrop’, as I believe Jesus didn't speak of a plain text message or online order sent to him. ‘Whatever you ask’ - to me - is deeply about a friendship built by mutual trust and care by spending much time together, like at this kitchen table.

I pray you will find that kind of friendship here.

Dear God

Whatever we make of you

Whenever we turn to you

May our times together

be held by peace and stillness

Whoever needs a chat

or the comfort of a listening companion 

May the tone be one of patient assurance 

of availability, focus and good will

No a word too much, nor any word too less

Just as it is

Just as friends 

living life

truly together

Amen

Breeze: light within and without

22 Jul 2020

A few days ago, I moved house. While unpacking, I try to pitch the atmosphere of the space itself with my own personal touch to all the arrangements. It’s an interesting, explorative process I have not encountered this much. Some things however come ‘from the other side’ - like the way the sun adorns the flat: something I could not have planned nor arranged. I left the doors open as I went to sleep. 

The first thing I noticed the following morning, was the secure sunlight falling into the other room. Much later at the end of the day, it wasn't the sunlight within the room that was so striking - this time it fell on the high treetops at the end of the garden. They were tall enough to catch the deep colours brought to them, far from the other side. Light inside and outside: both morning and evening had revealed to me a radiant surprise. 

It reminded me of how Christ is the ‘light’ in John’s gospel: the light of the world. Or would he have said: the source of all light? Or: the Great Light outside? John the Baptist seems to be called the lamp inside: a shining lamp. As if we need to see the light in human hearts around them before they can see the true light of all time, from all around. 

Light within and without: the light I carry inside and the light outside which inspires me. Both are light making this world shine. It just shows how powerful we can be in togetherness in the darkness. This is the wonder of the first day repeated again and again - it is a gift to hold.


No, these thoughts are not very profound or groundbreaking. The simple reality of it is. In a week when there is not really much time to wander in my heart and mind, I hear myself singing these words from Patrick’s Breastplate as I know it from the Morning Prayer in the Northumbria Community: 


This day be within and without me

Lowly and meek, yet all powerful

Be in the heart of each to whom I speak

In the mouth of each who speaks unto me


In my view, the Light falling into our souls gets even more room, if we seek it to be connected with the world outside: our search for this connection with other stars around us - like in these months of Black Lives Matters - draws us into the light of pure equality and it makes humble hearts shine powerfully.


This little light I bear

May it shine, may it find a connection

with the true Light of all

uncovering beauty and justice

leading us to truth, wonder and purity 

all embracing tender simplicity

going down this path together 

to a world led out of darkness

then covered with the light 

of your love, our love 

Amen

Breeze: Beth-El, House of God

06 Jul 2020

As a child I was already intrigued by the story of Jacob’s ladder and all the angels going up and down in his dream at night. Years later I entered St Paul’s Cathedral and saw Jacob’s enthusiastic conclusion written on the doors: ‘this is a house of God!’

Jacob calls this ‘Beth-El’ - house of God. It is hard to think of Beth-El without remembering Jacob being on the run, entering the dark unknown. He was a fugitive and this fantastic experience takes place when his pillow is a stone. Yet he found God’s home where his own was absent.

How much has the harshness of the last few months given us opportunities to see more in the spiritual realm? Which insights or conclusions have reached us in our lockdown experience? Beth-El speaks of God’s home in a passing place, on the threshold of something new and unknown. Beth-El assures the one running away for himself, that God lives in the epitome of imperfection . 

I lived in a Beth-El, this last year. I wasn't sure at all where things were moving towards: life was a big unknown and despite my insecurity and inability to shape up my life quick enough, I found myself at a passing place of insight - a ‘divine location’ in the sometimes harsh heart of London. Angels were here to show more of the wonder of heaven. And step by step, the view cleared up before me … As if I needed to recognise God’s home, before I would find mine. 

Jesus refers to Jacob’s supernatural experience and mentions that we will see angels ascending and descending on the head of the Son of Men. Perhaps it is his unusual way of saying, that he is the doorway to heaven. Perhaps it’s his way of saying that we are all entitled to find this divine home along the way. Whenever we feel a little lost or unsure, a true house of God can be built beyond the stones and walls of our set ideas and plans: for it might be in our own most trembling inner being, that we suddenly find ourselves hosting the divine presence. 


Dear God,

What can we say about our targets and aspirations 

When so much in our lives have been put on hold

On the run for what might have been proven  

wrong or inadequate

Or not knowing what is beyond this border 

May we open up to a true sense of belonging 

and find our yearning for a home

safely held in the secret, sacred place 

of your divine presence

Amen


Breeze: about listening and knowing

29 Jun 2020

Do you recognise those times when you are in conversation, but actually, the real person you are talking to is yourself. It can be anything: a chat with someone helps to clear my head or it simply gives the opportunity to process something that happens in the day. This is entirely human and there is nothing wrong with it, but it is good to be aware of, though it could prevent me from really listening to what somebody would love to share with me. It is great when a chat is therapeutic from time to time, but on the whole I want to engage and truly ‘see’ the one in front of me. 

From time to time I pick up Theresa of Avila’s Interior Castle. I certainly don't claim that I understand all that she says, but there is wisdom in Theresa’s writing that I love to hold in my heart - if only for a while. Apart from talking about false and true humility, Theresa also covers the value of self-knowledge. But then that kind of self-knowledge that finds it value when it springs from knowing God and divine love: once we look at God, we are truly able to look at ourselves. 

In the last few months I have often turned to Psalm 34 - one written for those hurting. Here are a few verses. And as you may see, I find traces of this theme:


5 Look to him, and be radiant;

    so your faces shall never be ashamed.

6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

    and his ears are open to their cry.

18 the Lord is near to the brokenhearted,

    and saves the crushed in spirit.


Self knowledge and self reflection is all about perspective and relationship: in truly seeking the other, or in approaching the Other, I can often find more truth about myself. As I sincerely open up to the other in conversation, I find more light to fall on my own soul. In the sight of the Other, I dare to look at myself.

If you look at the way Jesus’ friends desert him at his trial, this comes to show. Jesus is well rooted and knows who he is: if they ask if he is Jesus of Nazareth, then he says that ‘he is’. While one of his best friends claims ‘he is not’ his friend. Friendships are breaking down, when people have forgotten who they truly are. 

Between all I do and do not know, when I read Theresa’s words, I read of a God that stands alone - a God who just is. But in that ‘being’, I feel allowed to find mine. And in that knowing, I feel known.

And this is how I love to know you, when we spend time: for who you are in your very self; and hopefully in getting to know you more day by day and chat by chat, you can equally show me more of who I am. 


Give us the grace

to know you, though you may live in unapproachable light

to know our neighbour, to look those we speak to truly in the eye 

to know ourselves, hear honest feedback and find safety to listen

stay true to whom we know, stay true to whom we are 

within our inner being

the diamonds that we all are

with loving hearts that listen and receive 

Breeze: leading the world from the lower places

21 Jun 2020

These weeks I am reading through the story of King David of Israel. Each time I read it, I am so touched by how it starts so small. A shepherd boy, not particularly eligible for bigger tasks like fighting giants and leading twelve tribes. He was ranked far lower than the brothers above him. Yet he was the right one, focussed on his task with integrity of heart. Moving step by step as a person ‘after God’s own heart’. Yet not there instantly, but through seasons of being a fugitive, a stranger, facing journeys marked by mistakes. Human. 

Prophets often wished that future kings proved to be shepherds like him. Not letting their people swim in what is crumbling down because of war, social injustice and unfairness, but those who look after them with great attention and a heart set on justice and hope.

Jeremiah speaks often of the absence of these shepherds. One of my favourite sections speaks of boasting ‘the right way’: one can boast in only one thing, and that is knowing God. Easily mentioned. If I speak just for myself, I believe in a Godhead who wants to be known, but to boast in that …    


‘Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.  (Jer.9:23,24)


I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord (Jer.24:7)’


As a good Christian, I’d love to boast in knowing God, but reading what really bears his delight, I am not sure what I could boast about …. Knowing and doing belong together, finding true ways that show integrity for not only ourselves, but for those around us, where we are placed and follow our journey - ‘to give them a heart to know that I am the Lord’ . 

And so, I am not a good Christian because I happen to read Jeremiah. I don’t like boasting at the moment anyway, for what can I mean and contribute in a time like this? How does my ‘doing’ reflect my ‘knowing’? Whenever I get lost in trains of thoughts like these, I look to Jesus and reflect on what he’d come up with.


He says he is the good Shepherd. Like that one king who knew what he was doing, he, too, started small and very human. And so in times of rebooting - like we all have to as a society - let’s drop our knowledge of what is too big and lofty. Let’s start the human way: smaller and maybe some levels lower, but sharply focussed. Let’s go back to what we truly know that we can do and grasp; to what is doable in terms of justice and togetherness. 

May I boast in new steps of knowing what is true and bears integrity - like a sheep knowing that good Shepherd’s voice for a life that displays true care and true consideration for those walking alongside me. Coming out of this lockdown, entering a new space on the path of justice and hope. Good hearts listening for good guidance. So if there comes a time when I could boast - knowing this - then i’d love to boast together with you, as we recognise love, justice and righteousness in a new chapter of our collective lives. 


Dear God

When we have to dig deeper for goodness to find

While living lives in togetherness and hope is challenging

May we have hearts hearing that Shepherd’s voice

longing for justice, true love and integrity

Help us to recognise our starting places

knowing we are human, perhaps not highly ranked

but equipped with a sharp focus and great qualities 

to enter a better chapter

for building a better word

that reflects the love and beauty 

of the desires of your own Heart of Love

Amen

Breeze: the sudden sky that holds us all

02 Aug 2020

Nearby where I live is a popular park. It is full of prams and walking sticks The park is for the people, but would I feel at ease to go there? How will I fit in this park culture of young families and ageing people? Initially, asking myself this question made me feel hesitant to go more often. 

Last night however I was forced to go there, rather than to the wide and spacious further down the road. The sky wasn't overly friendly and I felt drops falling on the spot where my freshly cut hair still used to grow. Speaking of ageing…

It was ok. I had to think things through and let them go. I also had to make a phone call. The call was entertaining because we barely could hear each other on a bad line. I started walking around a bit more, and then, all of the sudden: the sky was red and it was red all over.

My arrogant attitude towards the park had changed instantly. After bits of rain had fallen, the sky showed its tender colour of comfort. Not only to me, but to all who were there at dusk: those of different age, nationality and race. Suddenly the sky spoke louder than anyone in the park on any of their phones. And once its colours had blown us all away, it was time for the night to settle in.

It reminded me of a song I wrote years ago:


As we share the colour black

And search for new horizons

Today will once be dead, tomorrow our new home

We all share the colour black 

as sleep is clearly calling

All colours lost and stolen as we share

The colour black


Reading Reni Eddo-Longe’s Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race, I wouldn't dare to apply ‘colour black’ here to the current race debate. Reading this publication, I do not consider myself in the position to even imagine, feel or think what it is like to be black. Yet the song is about equality: at the end of the day all of us need food and sleep, we all need to give in to rest. Like all those different types of trees on the horizon in autumn: holding each other’s leafless hands while the sky darkens and night is calling all of us to rest in the equality of sleep. Despite our division, we hold hands in our basic needs, wether we like it or not ….


Of course, equality is a wonderful aim, but often out of reach. For instance, where I am now, I know I am much more of a stranger, than when I walk around Central London. A self-conscious wanderer here, I know that I am not from here. A constant awareness that this is not where I am from: a stranger I will always be. But suddenly less so last night. We shared the beauty of the sky beyond anything that divides us. We shared the wonder of what we fail to establish ourselves. Though we think we have not much in common, we all shared this moment of being in awe of what we saw. As quick as it came, as quick my sorrows diminished there and then. I left with the uplifting thought that this park had also allowed me to be part of its experience and its grandeur.

Would I have too much hope, to think that equality could be established by something as sudden and filled with wonder? Wouldn't this be the wonder of the lockdown - a catalyst in terms of many of us suddenly meeting each other from countless directions at this lockdown crosspoint, where we face each other in all the challenges we face altogether at the same time: our lack of employment or our freedom to move and socially behave etc. 

A walk in the park can bring us an entire different experience, as the sky commands us to change our perspective, open our minds and activate our senses. Equally in our current social struggles, we can experience a shift and suddenly sense that there is so much more and beyond: more than our little minds wanted to hold until now, in the small corners and frames of where we live.



God of all,

May we rediscover the meaning of hope and trust

in this season of shock, sadness and smaller space

May we find at the forefront of our minds

true openness for opportunities and connections

Rethinking our foundations, socially, spiritually, skilfully …

That somehow, suddenly at our doorstep

wonder and togetherness may be found

As they were always meant to be

Amen

March 2020: Musings from a small room ...

25 Mar 2020

THE MOON

Have I been ever this late - walking around the ancient chapel of Aalsum? Have I ever noticed so deeply the words on my grandparents’ gravestone? About fighting the good fight, about running the race? Have I ever encountered such a big moon - confident, sending away covering clouds. 

As if we are working towards a climax. And the anti-climax of sitting at home forever. These days I realise we aren't as strong and divine as we think we are. Tonight the moon is strong - and tonight it makes me see in my heart, that there is a place for us in the mind and considerations of our Maker.


THOSE TRAVELLING TONES

There is no faithful dog to warn me when it is the hour of walking. More than twice however, I manage to be on time, and at the right spot! Have I walked there ever since, at that time in the evening, when the old bell tower brings its evening tune, before the town will turn to rest? Its audience can hear the space over the peaceful canal being filled. Those travelling, uplifting tones which remind hearts of their own beating within: even the grandeur of Big Ben cannot match this experience.

THE GLORY OF SPRING

I missed one of my favourite trees. The magnolia tree in front of Kenwood House needs to be seen in spring. Just before setting off to The Netherlands, I find a window - finally - but alas, the rain is too heavy and I sense this year is not the year to go. Did I need it? I saw its mighty beauty so often reflected in the blossoms of magnolia trees in various neighbourhoods. The privilege of spring. 

THE WRONG TRAIN NOW THE RIGHT TRAIN

I missed the train. Travelling to Utrecht has become more complicated. In recent years I never got used to changing in Zwolle and so I didn't notice this necessity being announced. But have I ever been so happy on the wrong train? Last time I passed the Oostvaardersplassen, I thought the spectacle was far off at the other side. This time when I look out through the window, it has become a window of surprise: in the wild horses near the track I see an intense beauty, as I am overlooking the wilderness before me. Being on the wrong train had turned into being where I had to be at that moment in time. 

AHEAD OF US

There is a welcome. Coffee is made. Even a separate plate for a fried egg. There is a bakery. We still mark this season of Lent by buying Easter Bunnies. Is it possible, that better memories are still ahead of us? These moments make me forget, that originally other things were planned.

In days following, much is cancelled due to the corona virus, but there is a sense of fulness in memories we make. Memories we carry with us: gifts we will hold on to in darker months ahead of us. 

TODAY IS RIVER THAMES

My Monday will show me River Thames. The spring sky looks so careless. I feel blessed to see it on my weekly stroll to the supermarket. A different reality, where as the blue sky is the same. And the same river is looking peaceful, both day and night. The river is a friend, even in times like these.

Perhaps that’s why I need to come closer to the river today, to be reminded of birdsong and a soft wind over the path I take. To know that today is the day of the river. And what will be tomorrow, I do not yet know. But this is today …


In woods of old (once my medieval backyard) 18/02

23 Mar 2020

Change I see. Change I feel. What do you expect, after twenty years? The path is hardened towards the end of the golf course. Before, there was no tarmac near the birches, where I stayed with God in music and in the dark and lonely hours. Near where the old tiny dog accompanied an even older man, who had his home there for almost his whole life. Just a little further from the care home of the thin tall dog leading the even thinner, taller older lady, whom I bumped into every day. 

All these memories - they fill the landscape, that I have seen under snow and under an immaculate blue sky. Even the home of an owl late at night: My own medieval backyard for a year or two. These many memories of Ruislip Woods - even the cars on the drive are still so fast  - make me almost forget the landscape of the time: the landscape which was one of a man of sorrows. 


I have left the tarmac at the end and have recognised my favourite footpath-view. On my way back, a voice inside reminds me of all I went through those years. Of all which wasn't there yet, but had to find its shape in life - seeds waiting to become vegetation. Could it be, that this season of emptiness, was a season of receptiveness? Emptiness, with only a few monkey nuts for consumption and two warm meals sent straight from the heavens. Emptiness, with vage ambition and planning. 


I remember William Dyce depicting a simple, prayerful Christ as the Man of Sorrows in the Scottish Highlands: the Man of Sorrows had embedded himself in my landscape too. For he appeared as gently as birdsong. And he stayed with me through wind and rain in the darkest hour of the night. And we bonded and filled what was a wholesome world of memories. Over the years he made me shape the land, and sometimes I wonder if I should call it mine or his. But the woodland of my life has found shape, with all its sacred paths and tricky, darker corners.


Returning to this particular woodland walk made me remember, how the inner woodland walk of my life had taken its twists and turns:  how in this season of emptiness sense of my belonging had slowly become so pure, intense and wide. 

The woods look dull today and is waiting for rain to come. But I see within me how the land found its shape. For what is ahead - for what seems empty now, I recognise that this new sense of emptiness can become a gift. To give back into hands holy, all that has grown and found freshness. And to be open to what older hands now will be able to hold.  Hands that will help my heart to wait for new life, new trees, new flowers to grow.

Norfolk: The in-between track

09 Feb 2020

It’s more than windy, more than stormy today. 

It’s coming down when I try to change in Cambridge. Should I go back to London? All over Europe Ciara makes the headlines, dangerous as she is. 


The train was slow - too slow to get in time in in-the-middle-of-almost-nowhere-Norfolk. I will surely need a taxi to find my destination. But in between the stress of waiting in London and the stress to get a taxi in Norfolk, there is an in-between track.

The in-between track reminds me of an in-between province in The Netherlands: Overijssel. Flat, but, with interesting and unexpected patches of countryside. Crisp reminders and revelations of the utter beauty of life. On the in-between track I feel relaxed. Relaxed enough to make a call. On the phone with my parents I even see the bright colour blue which had hidden itself behind the thick clouds of today.


And then in the meaninglessness of being in-between, the sky falls open like one big birthday party surprise. The deer glow dashingly in the evening light. The setting sun pushes all clouds away. The trees sway proudly like Hawaiian dancers performing their last swings in the amber afternoon light.

Code amber means something very different here.


I am so privileged to be part of this - to be right in the in-between on a simple sidetrack in a lost corner of the world.

Because this moment of passing through is right in what creation wants to show me: the explosiveness of the fulness of life.

Its simple striking beauty doesn't bother to stay awake and has moved contently into its sleep, once I find a taxi that fits like a Postman Pat into this setting. While the massive full moon fully spreads its gentle light over the blanket fields of grass and barley, I see that even trees are welcomed to join into this dark night painting.


I bet Vincent would have loved to get the brush out and let it all shine in his full colour way. 

How I love trains and taxis. 


Which is my favourite tree?

03 Feb 2020

Hampton Court Palace: there is so much to see. Centuries of pictures and woodwork pass me by.  I am so compelled by this walk through history. But in this wave of impressions, it is hard to do justice to all the artistic wealth that I find here. For instance, the ancient tapestries depicting the life of Abraham I only pay proper attention to when I go through the apartments a second time. 

Before doing this, I see some smaller, less noticeable paintings, in a corridor somewhere seemingly tucked away - I can’t even remember where it was. For a few moments I pause before Van Heemskerck’s Jonah under his Gourd. A branch rests like a shield above the prophet. All in all, I find it a captivating composition. It is still in the back of my mind, when I take the tour round the Great Hall - the famous and far more glorious Abraham tapestries. For one of them I have to look somewhere else, in the William and Mary apartments. There it is - out of context - in the corner: another tree. Under the oaks of Mamre, Abraham receives his godly guests with a bow. Where in one, the prophet tensely waits for what happens, the patriarch in the other displays a more open and humble attitude. In the same picture he even lets his guests have the table under the tree.

And here I feel confronted with what happens within me: I compare. Within my deeper self, there is a vast urge to compare and compete; to situate someone opposite me. A self-protective, yet destructive default setting which excludes and divides. Why do I not invite the Godhead to join me underneath my tree, where I can wait with a humble and open mind instead. Even though I might have the prophetic truth at my side, I cannot do it justice, if I cut off the patriarchal mindset which is more open. I am reminded of the acknowledgement of the youngest and most perceptive of the Pevensie children in The Narnia Chronicles: Lucy’s openness of mind embraces a new season and - in Aslan - a presence more profound and truthful. 


Why do I so often sit under my tree and wait in my self-righteous ways, when distances and differences can be much better resolved around a round table? Why do I forget that even if I bear the truth, my inner self can be too cold without the encircling presence of the Three visiting me, spending time with me. 

If the trees could speak, they ‘d disclose some selfish and competitive reflections of mine. Yet there is hope, when I think of how a tree grows, even if the leaves need falling at times - moving with the wind that blows.

The first chestnut: the same story, another place.

05 Nov 2018

While walking in different parts of London I was waiting for the first chestnut in autumn. This year I looked for it very actively but couldn't find it. I wondered if some of the trees were ill. I was looking for it and just didn't find it. Was I too early?

Not that I was as appreciative of it when I was a child. As a child finding chestnuts on our walks together as a family didn't impress me, underneath that canopy of autumn leaves. The lane wasn't nearly as pretty and mesmerising as in other countries. Also, as a child I found walking very boring, especially on Sunday afternoons. 

Not that I knew then that those same walks became a memory capturing the main experience for  every autumn in my life. 

The first chestnut of every year of my life became a reoccurring story out of a childhood memory. When, I don't know. 

And this year? Was the story lost? No it wasn’t. Completely unexpected I found a chestnut last weekend. It was at Wandsworth Common, where i had never walked before. Not one of the familiar places where I looked my eyeballs out, full of anticipation.

This story which I have carried with me all those years, reoccured at an unfamiliar spot.

Little did I know the value then of such a chestnut story.

Stories come and go. Netflix stories are full of tempo, and BBC dramas follow one another. What happened to those stories of old: the stories of where we came from, the stories that made us into whom we have become here and now. The stories that repeat themselves throughout the changes in our lives.

I knew of a story collector of my own region: Friesland. He collected many Frisian stories in its same language. My own father told me that this story collector had passed away a few weeks ago. I mourn his loss and with him the loss of many stories that will not be held in our collective memory.

Not too long ago my own father also pointed out, how stories like these were memorised at the local lamp post in the village. It shows that much of the Frisian language and its traditional expressions were transferred orally.

Many of these stories are unknown. The depth of (hi)stories have to give in to the swift and superficial trending topics of today. No more will we remind each other of many of the stories at the local lamp post. And at some point no one will know the beauty of the first chestnut to be chased.

But till then I will celebrate autumn. Also this year, with this chestnut. It is resting in the pocket of my jacket as I will open the book of stories of old. For as long as I can I choose to stand in line with those telling the same stories - I will open this book, this collection of stories and cherish the chestnut as I imagine myself listening.

As I read, I will stop and listen at the lamppost - while the colours change, the leaves will leave and the nights get darker. How much we will need those posts on the corner of our streets …

Early autumn 2018

Like leaves we let go

08 Oct 2015



WALKING ON THE WIND OF HISTORY


I love walking. Embracing all the nature around me. Passing historical sites. It’s so refreshing. It reminds me of who I am. I wind down. It helps to reflect. I contemplate the history as I encounter it on my way.  

I remember old stories and new songs.

I often think of one particular track of Clannad’s Landmarks album - a song about autumn leaves painting the scene of the past with an atmospheric tone... Somehow this song stayed with me and helped me to reflect on other stories, for example that one of the Winter Queen. I often find the song ringing in my head when I pass some castle windows or impressive trees....

I love to take people on a walk through London, called the ‘Favourite Trees Walk’. It passes my own landmarks and resting places. Places in the park where the seasons have a home. Places of the past which help me to reflect on the time we live in now. Decisions, sentiments, desires, reflections, memories.... they all deserve a place. Walking through London’s quiet and meaningful places make the days feel a bit longer. They help me to reflect on who I am; on what I can do and contribute today.


Today? Leaves have started to fall around us. Let‘s embrace their falling beauty - their fall is a quiet one on the wind. Focus on that ancient existence of trees around us. Follow the wind and let go. Not to be restricted and suppressed by the past, but to learn from it, to leave the branches, to find the wind of history. Like leaves we let go and find our course. Like on this particular walk, let’s “leave freely” and remember where we are coming from historically as a continent. Let’s look into the years of the Thirty Years’ War, 400 years ago. 

It was an age when the world was shamed by war. People were on the run.

It was an age when immigration build new nations. 

It was an age of insecurity and of harm, yet of gold and of new hope. 


An age worth remembering - as a mirror for our own time. As we walk through over four centuries, we embrace the wind of history and of our change. And autumn is with us as we walk with the changes. See our hearts calm down on that same wind.

Today? Let’s pass beautiful nature and let’s be reminded of the history in our hearts and the hope we carry with us still. That also is: “House of my Heart”

Favourite Trees Walk; do you want to walk along? Check out the events calendar on Kerst’s Walkabout 

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