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:



2020 Benediction Prayer


May God empower us, free us and humble us

To be His hands and feet

To be a blessing

Wherever we go

Wherever we are

Whether the world is watching or not.


Indeed may God deliver us from the need to be seen and applauded

So we might grow in the realization of a new freedom

To enter the hidden pastures and wide open spaces of His pleasure


May we enjoy the blessing of each other’s company as never before.

May each of us also enjoy our own company

In rich moments of reflection and silence and blissful aloneness

Soaking in the Companionship of our Savior.


May we take increasingly bold steps together

Challenging the frontiers of our comfort zones

Discovering divine courage and wisdom in our leaps of faith

As we protect the vulnerable and give voice to the voiceless.


And together may we taste more and more of His unity

So that, by His unfathomable grace,

We might be living evidence of His love.


First shared @church_arc:


poem: Elephantine


For those being killed in the Philippines’ ‘War on Drugs’


Let’s call it out

that fluorescently scarlet

elephant in the room



the elected tool

of preference


Sweep away those

we don’t understand,

don’t want to deal with


Obscene reversal

not caring for the poor,

we cull them


Burst that elephantine balloon

blood stains across

our faces, our hands



and come to our senses



First published in ‘Orbis, Quarterly International Literary Journal’

poem: Dawn

Dawn sky


lark fills hollow halls 

of vastness, uncontainable 

sweet echoes of loneliness


Clouds scud the sky

impervious to my meanderings


Nature rebukes my quibbling

with the beauty of her ignoring


Yet embracing



this unknown inclusivity


I am

the alien

immigrant, refugee





First published in Orbis; Quarterly International Literary Journal