Something I read recently caught me by surprise. It was something mentioned in passing, ‘tucked away’ in a much bigger message about a completely different subject. But, in that moment of reading, it was like catching sight of a hidden gem. Here it is:

“You were well aware that the reason I ended up preaching to you was that I was physically broken, and so, prevented from continuing my journey, I was forced to stop with you. That is how I came to preach to you.”

Paul’s writing to the folks in Galatia, in modern-day Turkey, and reminding them how their community first began. (Galatians 4:13; The Message)

It struck me that the amazing stuff which was to happen afterwards, in a way all started with the messy reality of Paul’s physical limitations.

This is a particularly encouraging thought for me today as I reflect on how life tends to confront us with our own limitations. But here’s the thing: these limitations don’t disqualify us from God’s love. In fact, I have a hunch they make us even more eligible –

for divine love, 

for how God would bless others through us, 

for new resources of hope, wisdom, especially of courage.

We don’t have to wait for the moment (the Inevitable Never) when we’re completely ‘fit for service’, or as if God’s love was something we first needed to deserve.

After all, love’s moment is now.

Unpromising, difficult circumstances are sometimes the fertile ground for rich blessings. Seeds of good(even great)-things-to-come can be planted in our limitations, germinated in our very brokenness.

We’re not disqualified by our frailty.

What challenges are you facing? 

Can acknowledging the reality of our limitations, weakness, brokenness, actually open up the way to receiving God’s grace, strength, courage and LOVE?

It’s OK to be Not OK

Several years ago, my Dutch nephew, who lives in the U.K and was studying theology at the time, recommended a book by a Filipino pastor. Intrigued by the title, as well as the route of the recommendation, I got hold of a copy and read it. 

‘It’s OK to be Not OK: The Message of the Lament Psalms’ by Federico (Rico) G. Villanueva is a gem of a book! First published, I think, around 9 years ago, it paved the way, gave us permission perhaps, for Filipino and Dutch and British Christians alike, to be a little bit more honest and a little bit less ‘happy-clappy’. 

The main message I remember from that book is about how, at certain points in our individual and collective lives, lamenting is not an optional extra. 

In some situations, it’s the only legitimate next step.

By the way, lamenting is not just an ‘Old Testament thing’. Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, over the death of his friend Lazarus, in the garden of Gethsemane, on the Cross…

To lament means, for example, to weep, wail, complain, grieve, howl, moan, cry out. 

>> How do we lament?

Very recently, our own pastor in the Philippines talked about ‘The Language of Lament’. 

You can watch it here:

“You’re given permission to sit in your pain and sulk in it and think about how you felt,” he says.

Also collectively, as a community, as a society: “There’s a way lamenting can actually lead to social change.”

Lamenting is sometimes the only appropriate response to a reality check. 

And the only way to move forward: 

to joy, to love, to forgiveness, freedom, 

to action.

As Pastor Bebs asks: 

>> Have we given ourselves the chance to lament?

>> Have we given ourselves permission to use robust language to express what we felt when our world fell apart?

>> It’s not meant to be a permanent exercise, but have we ever gone through the few moments just to admit that something actually hurt? And in that admission, that it would fester less, that we would be able to release it and find healing.

NB. Related to the subjects of collective reality checks and lament, two articles:

Easter 2021: Hope Reflections

Easter 2021 feels like an Easter as no other, doesn’t it? Yes, this time last year we were also in a pandemic, but today I think we are in a very different place than Easter 2020. I don’t mean physically, though that, for some of us, has been precisely the main point of anguish: physically stuck in the same place. I mean we’re in ‘a different place’ in the sense of everything we’ve been through – mentally, emotionally and spiritually – over the last year.

So, here are a few hope reflections for Easter 2021:

1. Hope vs. fear

The first is a point from Matt Krick’s ‘Theology of Ecology’ on how Jesus uses the natural world to tell us not to worry. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says:

“Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.”

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?”

(Matthew 6:26 & 30 The Message)

Consider the birds, consider the flowers. Can they teach us something? Can we let God use them to lead us out of any worried or anxious state we may be in – into hope?

2. Hope: I am seen, I am loved

If you have a moment, watch Station 13 from the online series ‘The Stations of the Cross and Table’. It’s about how Mary is the one who is first to witness Jesus’ resurrection. Here it is:

Easter is about the Cross. And what it means. Consider the love God has for us. Let it sink in deeper than perhaps we’ve ever let it sink in before…

3. Hope: our future

Easter is also about Resurrection Sunday, and the mind-blowing ultimate hope we have because of Jesus: death does NOT have the last word. Trying to describe how resurrection will work in each of our lives, Paul writes (also using the natural world):

“We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a ‘dead’ seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike…”

“You will notice that the variety of bodies is stunning. Just as there are different kinds of seeds, there are different kinds of bodies—humans, animals, birds, fish—each unprecedented in its form. You get a hint at the diversity of resurrection glory by looking at the diversity of bodies not only on earth but in the skies—sun, moon, stars—all these varieties of beauty and brightness. And we’re only looking at pre-resurrection ‘seeds’—who can imagine what the resurrection ‘plants’ will be like!”

(1 Corinthians 15:35-41 The Message)

Consider the ‘seed versus plant’ idea and what this may be hinting at about the differences between our pre- and post-resurrection selves?

Consider the diversity of beauty we see on this planet, in the skies, in the universe and the clues this may be giving us about the future “diversity of resurrection glory”.



My mother’s phone call had just brought the news: My father had suffered a severe heart attack and was in hospital recovering. Emergency over, my mother had reassured me. Despite my repeated offers to come over, she insisted there was no need to make the trip from Amsterdam to Newcastle. It would be a waste of time.


But that had always been my mother: no fuss, no bother, no worries. Once I had told my son, Joshua, about his grandfather, he said, “It’s your father! Go!”


For a moment I was motionless and speechless with received revelation.


Then, “Josh, yes! You’re right!”


I was off like a racehorse, unboxed from my uncertainty. Riderless, free.


The following week was spent accompanying my mother on daily trips to the hospital to visit my father. I had never had a week like it. He was a changed man. The wall around his soul, which had been there my entire life, was gone. Our separation evaporated. There in that ward we talked as we had never talked before. At the age of 42, I finally recognized something of myself – not in my mother, but in my father – for the first time.


The day after I returned home to the Netherlands, my mother phoned.


“He’s gone.”


And through grief and shock rose gratefulness for the intervention of a thirteen-year-old.



First published in ‘Ruminate’:



picblog april13

New York’s experience may well be a warning to us all – of what is to come in our different parts of the world: The pandemic is the ‘Great Exposer’ of the grim reality of our inequalities…


Currently journalists have the crucial role of doing what good writers always do: they stop us in our tracks with truth we instinctively already know, but hadn’t been able to quite put into words.


And then you have the specialists, the academics, who are also writers. How we need them now! They tell us truths we may have already guessed at (or have no clue about), but their words expose the dark undercurrents. Their words solidify the abstract into living prophesies.


As societies, we ignore them at our peril.


For example, there is Kent Sepkowitz, an infectious-disease specialist in New York City. He writes a powerful article on why his city has been hit so hard by COVID-19, and finishes with these words:


“Hopefully, the Covid-19 pandemic will force us to reckon honestly with the many shortfalls that have been exposed and build a fair, forward-thinking approach that allows doctors and nurses to care for people in need. Failure to do this will only further darken the memory of those who have died and the hearts of those who remain.”

– Kent Sepkowitz


Please read his article here:



Photo impression: Overlooking Manila, the Philippines; another city destined to be exposed by the virus?

poetry in motion: Lines


erupting into
focus innermost
inner most innermost
parallel universes out there
flipsiding see imploding
effervescence layers
of essence worlds
awaiting in


‘Lines’ reflects on the wonder of the physical universe: as beautiful as it is in its immensity, how incredible it is in the minuscule, and hints at the journey within – to an endless universe.

First published in
Genre: Urban Arts

Words : Ann Wijgerden
Pictures : @LuisDanielTabuena
#SpokenWordArc #Quarantine2020



Big Picture Confidence


There’s a lot of fear around. Understandably so. Fear holds us back from harm, fear waves its arms frantically in front of our faces, so we don’t walk into danger. We stay at home because we’re afraid of getting sick, of spreading the virus. We make sensible decisions, considering the circumstances.


But have you noticed another kind of fear inside yourself, a deeper fear, a core fear? Forgive me for naming the elephant in the room here… We’re talking about the fear of death. It stops us in our tracks because it cripples us. It threatens to trip us up whichever way we turn, whatever we try to decide. In the coming weeks and months, though we may well need our healthy fears to guide us, I think it could be crucial that we walk free – profoundly free – from the fear of death.


Soaking in some truth, as written by Michelle Ruetschle, is helping me take the first steps. May it help you too! (Shared with permission.)


“God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

–       1 John 4:16-18


Perfect love casts out fear. This phrase has become a platitude among Christians, used to exhort and admonish us around every fear. We are made to understand that if we love God and know his love, we should not experience fear of any kind. The bar seems impossibly high, and for many of us, John’s comforting words have the opposite effect. We mentally slink away from them, accompanied by an uneasy sense of shame.


We miss that John is addressing a specific fear. He is speaking of the day of judgment, of that grand moment when our entire lives come under the holy gaze of a perfect God. John is talking here about our big picture fears, about death and eternity. As we read his words, we would do well to take our telescopes off of our smaller fears and widen our lens. We are looking now at the entirety of our existence; not just our earthly lives but our eternal destinies. We are assured that we can look at the big picture with confidence.


Now the words come into focus. God sees us in our mortality as if we were Christ. Christ, having absorbed every sin, eliminates the need for our judgment. In that final moment, we stand before God cloaked in Jesus’ righteousness, whose sole motivation is love. It is an ostentatious image, an extravagant vision of love that engulfs our earthly lives in a far richer, greater eternal destiny. It is a love that stretches on forever, guaranteed to us no matter what we’ve done, no matter how soon or how late we’ve come. The thief on the cross and the faithful disciple receive the same excellent gift.


The fearlessness we are given about our eternal selves, can and does give us courage in this life. It allowed Paul to sing in a jail cell, and Stephen to brave a death by stoning. It is what motivates us to run the race. Hebrews 11 commends those of great faith because they “longed for a better country, a heavenly one”. That was the hope that kept them going, despite overwhelming fears and failures. It is this grand assurance that puts our smaller fears into perspective.


Toward the end of his letter, John tells us that he wrote these things, “so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Take a minute to imagine what it will be like to live eternally in perfect love. It is your certain destiny, no matter how you’ve engaged with today. Your worries, your failures, your selfishness, your lack of trust are engulfed in a never-ending, wave upon wave, perpetual, timeless, light-giving love that no fear or condemnation or darkness of any kind can ever penetrate. Hallelujah.


We cannot thank you enough, loving Father, for this extravagant gift: your perfect love through Christ.  Thank you that we do not have to fear death or punishment, no matter who we are or what we’ve done.  These have been completely eliminated by you.  Help us widen our lens today and draw courage from that eternal perspective, to taste your perfect love that never ends.  May it satisfy our hunger and quench our thirst.  We are amazed and grateful.  Amen.”

Know Thine Enemy (insomuch as is possible)

blog photo covid

It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice: Never in its history has social medial been so deluged with one topic! With apologies for adding to the ‘noise’, but in the interests of education and knowing your enemy, may I just say, please watch this video: Coronavirus Is Our Future | Alanna Shaikh | TEDxSMU

short story: Sanctum

Blog. sanctum photo

The growl of morning traffic could just be heard on the town’s main road to Manchester. Heavy glass doors made the Roman columned foyer an effective noise barrier for the carpeted inner sanctum, where Lucy sat on her squat stool, facing the last row of 800s. She checked her watch. Another ten minutes before counter duty started: enough time to finish the non-fiction.

Leaning forward, stretching upward, plucking from here, deftly inserting there, chopping, patting the bindings until all were aligned and standing to attention. Lucy polished off the section, setting the stragglers upright and in order. Then, picking up her plastic seat, she leapfrogged her sitting colleague Jane, and got to work on the 920s, the hallowed corner of biographies. This was where particular focus was required. The temptation to let a glance linger, until it devolved into submersion, deep in the details of another’s life, would only be kept at bay by the clock, in this instance.

“Marlowe’s here,” Jane announced in Lucy’s ear as they started their counter shift together.

Quickly noticing his constant, sleuth-like presence, the staff had baptized him Marlowe. He always either stood with one knee bent, lower legs crossed, leaning against a shelf support, or sat in one of the lone armchairs in the reference section. Whatever his favoured spot of the day, his head was inevitably bowed over a book clasped in his hands or cradled in his arms.

Yet his stillness was an illusion. They had watched over that shifting of feet, an infinitesimal tilting of head, twitching of hands, grimacing; then the short, sudden exhaling through the nose, with a barely perceptible quake of the shoulders.

Soon after his first appearance, Jane had commented on his resemblance to a hired killer, disguised as a homeless drunk. However, as the weeks had gone by, Marlowe was a shadow that inspired no fear, only quiet curiosity.

Lucy could see him from her position behind the checking out counter, as usual lost to the reality around him, wrapped up in a memoir. She understood that about him at least. Otherwise he was secrecy personified.


Tapping his fingers on the counter while he waited, the man known as Marlowe suddenly broke off, furious at himself for running the risk of attracting attention. What people thought of him, was beyond his reckoning; his was the horror they thought of him at all.

“Can I help you, young man?”

The trace of irritation in Lucy’s voice startled him. He tried to control his dismay as he watched this short but fierce-looking librarian approach him from behind the counter.

“Ah, yes, sorry. Ah-hmm.”

Marlowe silently cursed his drumming fingers for potentially initiating hostilities with a desperately needed ally.

“You aren’t closed for the holidays, are you?”

He could not keep the tremor from his voice, and hated himself all the more.

“Oh, no, we’re open all next week. No worries!”

Lucy was melting in smiles. His vulnerability cued an instinctive softening.

“Normal schedule, my dear!”

“Thank you!”

Straightening up, he was re-humiliated by the realization he had been hunched up in semi-fetal position over the counter.

He also became aware of the eyes of several other staff upon him; one seated at the nearby enquiry desk, and two more behind Lucy, as they paused in their shelving duty.

Marlow quelled panic by allowing an underground river to rise to the surface: a rush of gratefulness. Would this gathering of late-middle-aged women ever understand how they presided over the sanctuary of his soul? Could this sisterhood of priestesses truly fathom his lostness, this salvation?


Lucy saw his hesitation, sensed a battle. Although Marlowe was half her age, she was abruptly reminded of her father, a man tormented by a past, by circumstances beyond his control. He had made it through a World War, only to lose his mental health, and subsequently, his first family.

Marlowe needed an escape, and Lucy would find him one.

“Here you are, love: some of the latest biographies just come in.”

Lucy brought three books from a lower shelf and placed them in front of Marlowe.

“Have a peruse, and see if any take your fancy,” she said, nodding in the direction of the reference section.

Marlowe needed no more prompting. Scooping the books off the counter, he headed for the refuge of a beloved armchair.



First published in The Sunlight Press:


Poem: Garden Path Revisited


Gold on green

Sunlight kisses sway

Freshness, affinity

Absorb into my bones, yet

Layered in the undergrowth

A waiting



You perplexing burden

Heavy hypnotising snake


Unfolding and unleashing

Years upon seasons


This torrent vanishing all

I know


Caught in the current


We are

I am


But not lost



First published in enclave: