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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


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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. 

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. 


CLOSER: Michelangelo’s friend

04 Jun 2017

In the National Gallery in London I can’t help but compare the two of them. For a long time they were friends and inspired each other: Sebastiano learned how to display the great masculine features of Michelangelo’s sculptures, while Michelangelo seemed to be less creative, deep or intuitive. Sebastiano made of Michelangelo’s portrait a shining window of their friendship, yet I’ve never found Michelangelo’s own work very charismatic or sparkling. I have much admiration for his abilities and talents, but after visiting this exhibition my heart lies with Sebastiano. 

What did he do to his famous friend, that their friendship seemed to be lost forever?

Was it the difficult and serious journey which Sebastiano had to travel alongside the pope? Did his colours and his atmosphere perhaps become too serious and too sad for Michelangelo?

What strikes me about Sebastiano, is that he offers what Michelangelo lacks. I deeply believe and encounter his work. It touches my heart. This has already become my conclusion before I enter the final room. As soon as I walk into this room, I cry.

In the last room I see several of Sebastiano’s attempts to picture Elizabeth greeting Mary. Having focussed on Mary’s song (Magnificat) for the new project Closer, I am drawn to this story: like Closer, this story is about different generations.  But throughout his years, it seems to me, that Sebastiano notices less differences age wise between these two women. To me, the age gap has become less relevant.

The last painting was created much later than the first one: Sebastiano had lost a friendship in the meantime, but after several decades he hadn't lost his spiritual, contemplative touch. In fact, the very last painting of this story seems to be out of his world: so beautiful, so different, so abstract - it is more timeless, as eternity settled into the story which first showed to be so much more about time and the differences it creates. 

I cry. I am so deeply moved. I am grateful for a powerful painting, for a painter - whatever journey he had to travel to create this - opening up his heart, the hearts of his subjects, the hearts of those still passing by.

Time is up in the gallery. I leave. I have to. But I leave with the glow of eternity which I saw in front of me.

CLOSER songs between hurt and hope

19 Apr 2017

A creative process can be endless. Just as with anything in life you just don't know where to start. You just start at a certain point and then try to find some sense or purpose on the way. Sometimes ideas and impressions need to settle for a while - as if they need to hide, they refuse to come to the surface. 

That happened to CLOSER, new songs and stories ‘between hurt and hope’. For over a year I was wandering around, carrying some questions and issues within my inner being: What is my hidden hurt? How can I give words to what I am hoping for? How can this world be worthwhile for a new generation? I am not sure if I found the answers, but the journey helped me to deal with chaos and crises on different levels - both personal and worldwide. Meanwhile, these songs and stories have grown and became like friends and fellow companions while walking the side road. Through all sorts of landscapes; through areas filled with much buzz as well as through the lonely places. Yet, where THE GARDEN was about pretty and nostalgic Cornwall, CLOSER is a bit more like an urban journey: a journey which is about living my life as a response to this age and to what is happening around me. Yet, this is my feeling and my journey - yours might be a very different response and so these songs might reflect another journey than yours. 

Whatever you think and feel, it needed time and patience to let these ideas become songs. Now these songs are like children set free - finally these songs will lead their own lives by ways that they will be received … Because songs are like children: children that need to be welcomed; children that need to find their own way in this world. These songs aren't mine. They continue to grow. They grow by the way they are listened to; by the way they are welcomed. And I am very curious to find out how you will receive them.

And that curiosity will help me to let go ….


Prayer: Love beyond words

25 Jul 2016

Prayer can be many things. But how do you know you pray in the right way? How essential is it to pray in much detail? And even, if you try to listen while you pray and hope for The Other to leave you an impression, how can you tell that your part of the prayer or your part of the conversation is ok and sufficient?

Don't you think we need to be careful to discuss the quality of our prayers? To pray short and simple prayers can be preferable sometimes, as well as wordless prayers: sometimes prayer is just ‘being’, being within or being aware of God’s divine presence. Or just a state of mind. 

Whoever belongs to God hear what God says. Something quite extraordinary. But also something that easily provokes judgement, while judgement in these chapters of John’s gospel seems to be discouraged! But how then can we belong to God and know what he says?

Does it mean that when I belong to God, I hear his voice? I don't want to contest that, but I also know that often God’s voice is being confused for ours. If I remember correctly, it was one of the Church Fathers who focussed more on how God’s voice was heard: the tone of his voice, the state of his heart. In our time we are so content and knowledge driven that we often forget about the non-verbal part of our communication. So how much do we consider in ‘hearing God’ the holiness, the purity and simplicity in our non-verbal communication with Him and with the world we live in. Isn’t this worth reflecting on? 

And how is our praying helpful for our ways of communicating non-verbally with God, the world and ourselves?

Belonging to God. It is a beautiful concept, but what does it imply? To me, at this moment in time - as I write - ‘belonging’ and ‘belonging to him’ recalls searching God’s heart and knowing him. This is one of the reasons to walk daily with John’s gospel. It invites me to walk and to write and compile this prayer book: writing it helps me staying on the path of knowing the one who made me, the one I pray to. More than knowing what is exactly perfectly right to say and to listen to, it is about knowing in a deeper way the one I pray to; and in that I may know myself and the world more deeply… And in this I feel such a deep sense of belonging, even in a week of horrible events around the world. A deep sense of belonging that my heart can be safe in the Heart of all hearts, something no one can take away.

Whoever belongs to God hear what God says. When I read Jesus’ phrase I think of that song sung by Eva Cassidy: I know you by heart. The walking, the talking, things you don't even have to say because the other person already knows…  Prayer in the context of belonging to God can imply: just knowing the Presence, just knowing the ease of hanging out together, just living in the reality of spending time in divine company: aware of the connection and the mutual understanding, hearing the love, feeling the love…. And you know and live by heart together, no extra word is needed. Because you just know: you can hear the love beyond words.



A prayer book: Walking beside Him

15 Jul 2016


How would you describe prayer? Prayer is so many things. It is peace and perspective. It is power and change. It is silence, it is speech, it is walking…  A prayer said in a sacred place. A prayer whispered at a zebra crossing. A prayer easily forgotten, a prayer written down… 

But why would you write and collect prayers and self-publish a prayer book?


I love tradition and I love words. To me, they are helpful to find prayer beyond rhythm and words. In both I find tools to reflect on different seasons and events. At times though, deep changes in life make me go silent and doubt the meaning of tradition. 

For over a decade I walked and prayed with St John’s Gospel. Sometimes traditionally, sometimes secretly, sometimes silently. This prayer book reflects that walk of prayer. The first set of prayers is more structured than the second one - somewhere in between I  found myself lost for words to describe the changes in my world. 

Didn’t something similar happen to John, the gospel-writer? John’s gospel was the only one written after a very, very traumatic event in history. After the destruction of the Temple the core of the Jewish world view was lost and gone: their tradition, their reference point, their connection with a past that was better… A gospel written within a world feeling destroyed. Still he holds the past as he writes about the future. 


This week I saw an icon of John in the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in Helsinki. I saw how his deep gaze was filled with a strong focus and a distant longing. I saw his pen and his prayer flowing into each other: memories, friendship, heartbeats filled with love … John’s gospel pictures Christ as his close friend. Still, the deep friendship is not an exclusive experience: it shows how the whole world - much loved - is becoming one again in Christ. John’s own walk of prayer and friendship is an integral part of the world as a whole. And this inspires me as I pray and write with his writings. It invites me to sense the loving heart of God. It makes me dream of heaven and look around on earth more carefully and lovingly. An invitation into a holy conversation of God with his creation. So maybe in your way of walking and praying, prayers like these encourage you to feel part of that conversation, too.


John’s gospel shows me that there is fruit in walking with Christ, both on my own and in togetherness. Walking with him makes me walk with the world and see love within and around me in colours more hopeful, deep and strong.


You're most welcome to rest while 'walking' and join Kerst for the book launch of Walking Beside Him on 11th September, 1.30pm

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.

Easter: Today - see the man!

07 Apr 2016

Good Friday: Absence. Easter: Presence. The Easter weekend was almost a fortnight ago… What did remain? Stories of a doubting Thomas, a confusing walk to Emmaus, a shy Peter - a confronted Saul…. What did remain indeed?

Two weekends ago it stood out to me personally, how heaven and earth are joined together in Christ. He who abides in the perfect heavens is present on earth - still loving it so dearly. He is not just a heavenly Super Hero Ruler with fantastic attributes. He is still deeply human. Today. In him today’s earth and today’s heaven are joined together. He was so fully human, so tested, so perfectly aware of everything around him  - and of him it was said: Ecco homo, see the man! This is still the man in heaven, this is the man ruling the world…

I could do with a lengthly Lent: Easter was so early that it hit me completely. A long Lent - not for its penitence and fasting. A long Lent to see more of what humankind is and should be. What we were meant to be like when we were created… A time to look at him and see that this is humankind in the absolute fullest way we can behold and be inspired by.

And so may this have been our Lent this year: that it brought us more of his heaven on our earth; more of that man who dwelt nearby that Syrian sea; more of eternity, if time is pressing us. 

Maybe we have the honour of seeing fruit.  It could be all of the sudden in the quiet - in the unknown place - that people around us may say: See the man! See the woman. And that his Easter presence may be shown fully alive through us.

Good Friday: Absence

07 Apr 2016

I am ashamed to say that it only occurs to me now a friend died very recently: Jesus had not only decided to give up his own nature of being God. He also decided to cease to exist for a couple of days. 

As I arrived to church today for the Good Friday meditation someone recalled the loss of a close relative. “A void” she said “It’s a void”. And that’s what it feels like. It is as simple as that. And that is Good Friday and Silent Saturday: a sense of a void of Christ not being there - gone. It is this great loss, this absence that shows that a crucial part of the world is missing.

That’s what I’ve felt this week. That’s what I’ve felt this evening. Even when I wonder through beautiful woodland, leaving the sun behind and finding the soft spring night like a blanket spread out over the grass. It is wrapped around my shoulders - telling me it is still cold, leaving me a headache when I find my way back onto the streets. It was a beautiful evening this Good Friday, like I saw it fourteen years back in the Lake District. But something is lacking. Something is absent. 

A loud void on a calm and silent evening in spring. 

The Passion: What language can I borrow?

07 Apr 2016

…. To thank you dearest Friend. Of all the songs around Christ’s passion I find these words from O sacred Head now wounded the most profound. Every year I long to sing them, and every year the lyrics tell me something about my own emotions towards my walk with Christ - right where I am, right at this point in time. To be clear: I don't claim that the state of our spiritual walk and the quality of it is ours to know, let alone to judge. Christ knows better than we do. Still singing this verse gives me a slight indication of the current state of this walk. The words wake me, they question me, they force me to pause….

Of course I think of the failures and of the ways I have crowned him king with thorns. How I’ve shown traces of betrayal, fear and envy - of misunderstanding and disappointment. Yet, each time I hear or sing these words they bring me closer to him who crossed that long distance of mixed emotions and confusing reflections.

Sometimes I sing and find that this question is a rhetorical one: for there is no real answer, when any gratitude is too imperfect to respond to his perfect sacrifice. Other times the answer is very holy and heavenly - when I truly don't know from which language I am borrowing - not my own one,  not one I have learned. A language of heaven and love: borrowing this language  fills me with even more love and gratitude. Then the song of love and its response seems infinite…. 

This year another dimension was given to this answer: I borrowed a language I would love to learn. Learning love that is taught by others who show love to love. They who lent me the language to love, in which the language of the King of Thorns is fully present. Through them he lends me a language with deeper resonance and a wider range of vowels. In those nearby he offers a song in a language unknown: to borrow, to repeat, to make me cherish and share the pure language that love is.

if it is French, Frisian, English, German or Dutch - pure as the heart he draws near in the love that he taught us - in the love he reveals to us in this point in time. 


Maundy Thursday: Love bows down

07 Apr 2016

He bowed down with love. He went a way no-one else could go. And yet till the very end he decided to show his attentive love… Aware of all the tensions, all the fear and all the emotions he decided to embrace them all with love - till the end… Love is patient, love is kind, is not self-seeking, holds up the truth. 

Love bows down. He bowed down with love to wash our feet. Love bows down to heal, to comfort. In the water we can see his reflection: in the water we can see love’s likeness and who we may become one day: to be like the love that loved us. Till the end. 

When I see my face I am such a frail reflection of this face I saw in the bowl with water. Yet this Holy Week I hope I see his face still looking at me from the water of cleansing love. I see him looking at me. I imagine myself to be like the rich young ruler who he met before: the ruler who knows it all, but who doesn’t know how to do love. Who doesn’t know how love bows down. Now, as my feet are washed, Jesus looks at me. Maybe I am a traitor or a coward. One who knows him too. One, whose fear is more overpowering than his love bowing down… Still Jesus’ gaze is one of love. Still his reflection is in the water.

Love bows down - love shown, enabling me to love. On the road of suffering Jesus’ enduring love is an example in the way he takes his next to kin in consideration, his best friends - this is the wonderful mind of Christ. To see the other, even when the road leads to less than nothing. When bowing down is the choice we make - love is putting the other first. Love is a reflection that reminds us of softened hearts. Reminding us that we can bow down too, with love. And love rules as we see each other - not from the high and prestigious places. Now we show each the face of love with those faces reflected in the water. As our faces find Love’s home in a bowl of water… Love so tender - the treasure of love is below us. From below, the best beauty of love will then smile to us when we want to see it and receive it….



Palm Sunday: Just himself

07 Apr 2016

Crowds. I find them difficult. Palm Sunday shows a crowd of revolution and change. The same familiar crowd - just look at Bernie Saunders’ success. Opposite to them the scribes, the Donald Trumps: blocking any change as long as they could. While after a few decades everything changed drastically anyway…

We are not in control of our direction. I try to learn from the Palm Easter King: his entry was one of confidence, yet of humility… He knew where he was going: realistic, determined, and filled with compassion. He was supposed to ride in with a voice of hope to ‘make our hands strong’ - as the prophet once said. He made my hands strong to reach out like palm branches for this King. Reaching out for his otherness of love, peace and compassion. Reaching out with the psalms and prayers of my heart. Reaching out to the who is always the same. Reaching out to another kind of change…

In the psalms we read of a range of emotion and reflective journeys that are as rich as all that we experience and desire in our hearts. This King knew the pressure, the desire and the shame, the threat… So much beyond the politics of that day, he still enters in with that same otherness: but never ignoring, never dismissing and always listening…

He just had his way of ‘non-campaigning’, which I find so appealing: Instead of seeking the popular vote he stunned, perhaps even appalled  the crowd by aiming for a tax collector named Zaccheus. In the same chapter the crowd is his, a few chapters later he’s the focus of mocking and disgust. The crowd was changing sides just like the wind…Despite its indecisiveness he just went his way and his glory was his immense focus through it all. And with that focus he chose life and he secured life for his friends and followers as well as for that same crowd which couldn’t make up its mind. Isn’t that comforting. The way he copes with what we carry inside and with the mess we make: authoritative yet gentle. Above all: strong as a king. Equal to us: vulnerable as a lamb. Other - just himself. Other -but alike.


Lent 2

07 Apr 2016

In simple trust like theirs, who heard beside the Syrian sea - the gracious calling of the Lord...

One of the first hymns to sing in Lent is Dear Lord and Father of mankind. I know how much some of my friends cherish precious memories when they sing this hymn... Words of peace and calm and ordered lives... So often i thought this was a hymn for our own personal life and spiritual walk. For me, this Lent this too well known hymn has been given a bigger stage: For nearby the Syrian sea life is all but ordered, nor simple - as we encounter it in the news from day to day. 

It shows how Lent is not an individual journey. Lent is about the world we live in. It is about what should be transformed for the good and how we all try to find a way to play our part in that change.The journey to the cross is one we make together with aspects to our collective lives which we can’t control, nor order, nor make sense of. This is why we walk nearer to the cross in these weeks before Easter. None of us perfectly sorted (that’s why we all need Lent), but in togetherness. 

As we walk side by side we hear a gracious calling. Thank God we don’t have to do this alone. Thank God there is a Saviour. This Lent I am glad I don’t have to make the journey by myself, and that his calling still goes out into a world full of chaos and violence. Lent points us to the soft calling of a Saviour who was never afraid to step down in the chaos - to lead us on that road out of the utmost darkness towards the light of the cross. 

In the midst of all the hurt that I hear and see I still believe it is true: the cross of hope and peaceful balm.

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. 



Lent 1: Giving up, going up

13 Feb 2016

Ash Wednesday 2015, St Paul’s Cathedral. It is early in the afternoon and the sky is bright and winter-beautiful. Easter is early this year. So early, that I haven’t really thought about what I could give up for Lent. Should I do that anyway?

In interaction with the bright sky the winter sun brings in some most interesting rays of light. H ere in the buildinghey capture a ball shaped cloud of dancing, playful incense... Isn’t this almost something too beautiful to watch at a solemn occasion like this Ash Wednesday service? I am intrigued how the ‘ball’ of incense slowly rises upward...

Giving up. Going up. Lent: shackles fall off our wrists and ankels. Shackles fall down as our souls are lifted up. The scent of sent sacrificestowards heaven, great and small. Sacrifices: sometimes they hurt and require time for us to heal, while they find their way heavenwards. During Lent giving up and going up meet each other: Easter is far away, but in the end we will go upward. That is what it is about - as we learn to send our best upward, we will be lfited up as well - like incense playfully reaching the sky - captured and held by the light of life. This is Lent: living sacrifices like you and me, finding their way heaven-home. Following the one who through his sufferings founded our Easter joy...

Is 53:11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied

Advent 1: Eyes wide open

12 Dec 2015

ALERT RATHER THAN ANXIOUS

Hope: It’s a short word.  It’s a big concept. What is it? What does it mean today? Christmas is full of drama this year: You can’t get soaked  in the commercial business without thinking of the refugee crisis, the recent events in Paris, and the high security level in Brussels. 

Where does hope leave us in times of threat, panic and fear? 

Advent: a season of waiting and reflecting.  Does it fit the context we live in?

Violence. It’s a scary word. In the weekend after Remembrance Day the world around us is in a shock. Other parts of the world seem to have their own local violence to be worried about: Lebanon, Nigeria... 

It makes me feel and think: so many things are unclear on what is happening that Friday night. The closer we are located to events like these, the more we feel affected. Just like on the day in July in London, now more then ten years ago. I still remember thinking how this felt like war. Exactly this was to be discussed, even in Dutch political circles. Exactly this was written on the faces of French friends of mine.

Advent 2015. Does it fit the context we live in? I think it does. To me, the most interesting quote after ‘Paris’ is not one of great prose or heroic courage. It is a comment by Ebe Brons, of the Centre for Safety and Development -regarding what to do when you find yourself in circumstances of a terrorist attack: He pleads for a short moment of considering what the options are... For example, within a hall, restaurant or public place, he advices to be aware of where the emergency exits are placed. Then, if we find ourselves in a disastrous situation, a short moment of eyes wide open - of immediate reflection - can give clarity in what to do or how to respond in the madness of the situation. 

I wonder of course how realistic this is. Is it not culturally related to think certain things through (Northern Europe) or to let passion and feeling lead us instead (Southern Europe)? Never mind our differences in terms of our personalities or ways of upbringing...

Still (reflective as I can be), Advent seems to be like one long moment of consideration. Advent is being on the watch with eyes wide open. A moment of considering where we are heading to, as we stop, wait and watch what the options are. Whar are we heading towards? What is the purpose of all this? How can we see light in the darkness? Advent: ‘eyes wide open’.

Like that medieval hymn O come o come Emmanuel.  For centuries it’s been a carol at the start of the new church calender year.... Throughout wars and times of peace we have sung the words... Disperse the gloomy clouds of night... And again, it is the prayer of those who take the effort to consider and watch the wind of times; who are more alert than that they are anxious in the dark. 


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. 



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 

Time to listen and be real

01 Oct 2015

The current climate is one of action! Of course it is - but it is also one of confusion. One moment the borders are opened, the other they are closed. One country is flood with refugees, the other has a less humanitatian approach.

The current climate is also one of being moved. Moved by photographs, by news facts, by what you see yourself. I never forget walking through Keleti Station in Budapest just one or two days before things got tense around there. I felt sadness for those having to stay there: making a home for themsleves for the time being. I sensed the smell of those on the run. I saw the small child we had with us: one ‘of our own’ who I felt protective about... No, I don’t want to forget....

I was moved during the summer concert in Lokoshaza, near the Romanian border. It moved me how we truly  met each other even though we didn’t understand each other’s language. There was so much left to listen to, so much more to understand about the other part of Europe... 

When I came back in London I met many friends who were moved in these summer months. Some wanted to take in refugees, others wanted to express their concern about the future. I heard left and right, I heard right and wrong. And I realised.... how hard it is to get a grip on what is happening, both emotionally and in my thinking. I meet those being overwhelmed by compassion, while I also meet academics who know much about the complexities. 

These are hard times - times of action and confusion. These are also times to listen carefully and live from a deep awareness that we have to be together in this. These are times to seize the opportunities to be real with each other.

Let me be mindful. Let me have a heart to listen. Let me feel. And if I don’t, please remind me that I really want to.



For never was a story of more woe

22 Sep 2015

...than this of Juliet and her Romeo

This year I am trying to attend most productions at the Globe Theatre. I love going there. Standing in the yard easily changes my mood: the way the actors involve us as an audience can be very compelling, as well as challenging; tragedies come so close to you that it is right before your eyes and in your face. When a tragedy is so tangible, you simply believe that there was ‘never such woe’ than this of Juliet and her Romeo...

The tragedy of The Winter King and Queen in the 17th century was no fiction. They were refugees of their time and despite their riches and fame they had to run while Europe turned into a ruin due to her religious disputes. While writing The Winter Queen Trilogy for House of my Heart I tried to imagine what they went through when they didn’t know who would take them in... Did they remember this story of Romeo and Juliet, when they were on the run? They might have done, since Shakespeare had payed them a visit in Heidelberg - the ruins  of the castle still show a theatre similar to the globe. They might have watched the play from their royal box and - later in life - identified themselves with Romeo and Juliet. They were known for their warm and true love, but in a world of war there wasn’t much room for a love story such as theirs, 

A lot of today’s tragedies are right in your face - they are drawing closer and closer to us with refugees walking towards us from all over Europe. I wonder: how many stories of true love do we see right in our faces which are broken, injured and affected by cruelty and uncertainty?

Many love affairs have followed and been as tragic as that of Romeo and Juliet. Reason enough to use the story again and again by any art form. In the 60s the story was put to film music. On a cold evening in London, not too long ago, I suddenly heard a violin playing its scores in Covent Garden, not too far from where The Winter Queen herself spent the last days of her life restfully:

‘A time for us, some day there’ll be a new world - a world of shining hope for you and me....’

I keep going to the Shakespeare’s globe: to be closely confronted with the tragic emotions and intrigues of our world. And I keep looking at my screen, encountering more tearing stories of the Romeos and Juliets of our time; all Winter Kings and Queens: Those on the run roaming through Europe, searching for a place in this world where they are finally free to live. In faith that they will see a world of shining hope for the stories of their love.

Eurostar to Brussels 21st September

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. 



Time to listen and be real

01 Oct 2015

The current climate is one of action! Of course it is - but it is also one of confusion. One moment the borders are opened, the other they are closed. One country is flood with refugees, the other has a less humanitatian approach.

The current climate is also one of being moved. Moved by photographs, by news facts, by what you see yourself. I never forget walking through Keleti Station in Budapest just one or two days before things got tense around there. I felt sadness for those having to stay there: making a home for themsleves for the time being. I sensed the smell of those on the run. I saw the small child we had with us: one ‘of our own’ who I felt protective about... No, I don’t want to forget....

I was moved during the summer concert in Lokoshaza, near the Romanian border. It moved me how we truly  met each other even though we didn’t understand each other’s language. There was so much left to listen to, so much more to understand about the other part of Europe... 

When I came back in London I met many friends who were moved in these summer months. Some wanted to take in refugees, others wanted to express their concern about the future. I heard left and right, I heard right and wrong. And I realised.... how hard it is to get a grip on what is happening, both emotionally and in my thinking. I meet those being overwhelmed by compassion, while I also meet academics who know much about the complexities. 

These are hard times - times of action and confusion. These are also times to listen carefully and live from a deep awareness that we have to be together in this. These are times to seize the opportunities to be real with each other.

Let me be mindful. Let me have a heart to listen. Let me feel. And if I don’t, please remind me that I really want to.



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


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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