Burdens to carry

Paul writes, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2). Then a few verses later he writes, “each one should carry their own load.” (Gal 6:5)

A paradox. Something to ponder, as we approach Pentecost and contemplate what a difference the Holy Spirit makes in carrying one another’s burdens and in carrying our own.

A prayer

God, our Heavenly Father, we draw near to thee with thankful hearts because of all thy great love for us. We thank thee most of all for the gift of thy dear Son, in whom alone we may be one. We are different one from another in race and language, in material things, in gifts, in opportunities, but each of us has a human heart, knowing joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. We are one in our need of thy forgiveness, thy strength, thy love; make us one in our common response to thee, that bound by a common love and freed from selfish aims we may work for the good of all and the advancement of thy kingdom. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

by Queen Salote of Tonga (1900-1965)
from 2000 Years of Prayer compiled by Michael Counsell, p. 456

From the blog
The Gift booklet
a 12-part series of readings and prayer poems on the Holy Spirit – originally created for Pentecost 2017.

A quiet act of kindness


A small but monumental gesture

There’s a vegetarian takeaway place in Brighton called Infinity, where I would eat sometimes. I went there the first time I’d gone out in public after Arthur* had died. There was a woman who worked there and I was always friendly with her, just the normal pleasantries, but I liked her. I was standing in the queue and she asked me what I wanted and it felt a little strange, because there was no acknowledgement of anything. She treated me like anyone else, matter-of-factly, professionally. She gave me my food and I gave her the money … As she gave me back my change, she squeezed my hand. Purposefully.

It was such a quiet act of kindness. The simplest and most articulate of gestures, but, at the same time, it meant more than all that anybody had tried to tell me … because of the failure of language in the face of catastrophe. She wished the best for me, in that moment. There was something truly moving to me about that simple, wordless act of compassion … I’ll never forget that. In difficult times I often go back to that feeling she gave me. Human beings are remarkable, really. Such nuanced, subtle creatures.

* Nick’s son
from Faith, Hope and Carnage by Nick Cave, quoted on themarginalian.org

The Beatitudes

(see Luke 6:20-22, Matthew 5:3-12)

The poor, and those in solidarity with them –
God is on your side.

Those who mourn and feel grief about the state of the world –
God is on your side.

The non-violent, gentle and humble –
God is on your side.

Those who hunger and thirst for the common good –
God is on your side.

The merciful and compassionate –
God is on your side.

Those characterized by sincerity, kindness and generosity –
God is on your side.

Those who work for peace and reconciliation –
God is on your side.

Those who keep seeking justice –
God is on your side.

Those who stand for justice and truth as the prophets did,
who refuse to be quiet even when slandered,
misrepresented, threatened, imprisoned or harmed –
God is on your side!

~ by Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, posted on re:worship

In quietness and trust is your strength


This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”

(Isaiah 30:15)

A creed

We believe in God the Father, creator of heaven and earth.
The one who is full of patience,
who is not afraid of silence,
who does not need to fill each moment with activity and noise.
The one who is beyond bluster and flurry,
and who does not jostle for attention.

We believe in God the Son, Saviour of creation,
who slipped into Bethlehem one night, mostly unnoticed,
who lived thirty years without headlines or hurry,
who frequently took time alone with his patient Father,
who waited for the right time to become the suffering servant,
who stood quietly before the noise of his accusers,
whose silence overpowered their words,
who died, then rose again on a quiet Sunday morning.

We believe in God the Holy Spirit,
who strengthens, empowers, renews and refreshes,
sometimes arriving with obvious power,
sometimes with the quiet breath of a whisper.

We believe in one God
who patiently waits for us,
and who longs for us to do the same.

~ by Dave Hopwood, posted on engageworship.org

From the blog
Pilgrims together
Germinate and grow
Pause for breath …

Perfect balance of grace and truth

Spotted in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam  (Photo: Irene Bom)


The Voice took on flesh and became human and chose to live alongside us. We have seen Him, enveloped in undeniable splendor — the one true Son of the Father — evidenced in the perfect balance of grace and truth.


John 1:14, The Voice


Commentary (from the Introduction to John 1, The Voice translation)

John’s use of logos is unique and has often been rendered as “Word.” While this is a useful translation, even a casual understanding demonstrates that “Word” reflects only part of its meaning. Most readers will interpret “word” as a unit of language—a combination of sounds generally spoken but also written—that carries meaning. To understand what John means, readers need something more than their cultural understanding of “word”; they need a new way of thinking about it. This is why we have chosen to offer another rendering, an interpretive, poetic translation, of what may be one of the most theologically loaded words in Scripture. Since logos essentially refers to the act of speaking or bringing thoughts to expression, we have decided to use the word “voice” to capture that reality. John declares that truth has culminated in the person of Jesus. No single word captures the complete meaning of logos, but “voice” has a number of advantages …

To find out more, click here.

From the blog
Word study: Shema
I hear you
Tree of life

God is our help (Psalm 46)

For some years now I’ve taken part in various editions of the 12-song challenge, a songwriting initiative hosted by resoundworship.org. The challenges and the supportive songwriting community have kept me writing at least one song a month. even during busy and trying times like vacancies and the pandemic.

This month the assignment was to write Assembly Bangers:

assembly – gathered, collective worship in schools, supposed to be daily and of a broadly Christian character. Though not so common throughout the school experience as it once was, it remains a staple of many children’s experience in primary school (ages 4 to 11)

bangers – a British colloquial terms for great song that make you want to get up and dance

songs that:
– are repetitive and hooky
– have a simple structure
– are easy to play and lead on piano (or guitar)
– have an accessible vocal range
– have words that children can read/memorise/understand

To start with I revamped an existing song called “God is my refuge”, also based on Psalm 46. Slowly but surely the revamp evolved into a song in its own right, including a new verse that references war and peace and a bridge based on “Be still, and know that I am God” (v.10).

I don’t know if I hit the brief exactly. Perhaps the song is too confessional and belongs in the church, more than the school assembly. Time will tell.


God is our help in times of distress
God is our refuge and strength
God is with us always
No need feel afraid
for God will keep us safe.

Even if the earth starts to tremble
and mountains start to slip and slide
even if the waves start to roar like lions
God is by our side


One day God will stop all the fighting
All weapons will be scrapped and burnt
One day God will reign over all the nations
Peace will come on earth


Be still and know God is on the throne
Be still and know, God is in control.


From the blog
Big strong tree
Prayer poem: Not forsaken
Circle me, Lord


Our theme for January is HELP.

By way of introduction, a brief comment on the gutsy word “help” in the English language.

English has a rich vocabulary, due – in part – to the so-called Latin borrowings, introducing Latin-based alternatives for common English words. “Aid” as a posh alternative for the Old English word, “help”, for example.

In a real-life crisis all that posh language goes out the window, though. “Aid! Aid me!” somehow doesn’t have the same sense of urgency as “Help! Help me!”.

Fortunately God hears and understands us, however we express our distress.


God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.


A prayer

I call upon your Name,
      for You are with me.
I am never alone,
      never without help,
      never without a friend,
      for I dwell in You and You in me!
‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
      I will fear no evil;
      for You are with me.’

by David Adam
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #122

King of saints

“Light in the darkness” Advent 2022 banner, Scots International Church Rotterdam, designed and made by members of the congregation


Great and marvelous are your deeds,
      Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
      King of the nations.
Who will not fear you, Lord,
      and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
      and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.

I was working on some lyrics based on this passage from Revelation 15:3-4 when I discovered something curious.

The phrase “King of the nations” in verse 3 is sometimes translated as “King of the ages” or alternatively as “King of saints”.

As we cross the threshold of another year, what a comfort to know God is King – of the nations, of the ages, of the saints.


A prayer

Lift up our hearts, O Christ,
above the false shows of things,
above laziness and fear,
above selfishness and covetousness,
above whim and fashion,
up to the everlasting Truth that you are;
that we may life joyfully and freely,
in the faith that you are our King and our Saviour,
our Example and our Judge,
and so long as we are loyal to you,
all will ultimately be well.

by Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #136

From the blog
3 Prayers for endings and beginnings
On the threshold of tomorrow
On writing prayer poems

God’s glory revealed


And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
      and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.



My local congregation in Rotterdam has adopted the theme, “Light in the darkness”, for Advent 2022. In addition to Sunday morning services, there are Bible study materials, a team working on a cloth banner in stages with the design fully realized by week 4, and evening services where we can further explore the theme, also with candles.

A busy season for me, no doubt for you too. Hopefully, through it all, we will grow closer to God and to one another, as we look forward to celebrating the birth of “the true light that gives light to everyone” (John 1:9) and seek to live more faithfully in the light of his coming again.


Advent Prayer: Maranatha

Come, Lord Jesus, come soon.

The glory of God shall be revealed
and all flesh shall see it together

Come, Lord Jesus, come soon!

Sing aloud, waste places of Jerusalem!
Sing to the God who gives courage and strength.

Come, Lord Jesus, come soon!

You who are unsure of what you believe,
or whether you believe at all: listen!

You who are weighed down by thoughts of failure,
or feelings of grief: listen!

You whose hearts are heavy,
whose problems seem insurmountable: listen!

Soon God’s salvation will come;
God’s deliverance will be revealed.

For a woman shall conceive and bear a son
and shall call his name Emmanuel: God with us

Come, Lord Jesus, come soon!

From re:worship

From the blog
3 Prayers for Advent
In the darkness
On the threshold of tomorrow