In the Gloria!

A quote from the poet – Emily Barret Browning (1806-1861) Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; And only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries“.

Lang zal hij/ze leven, (Long may he/she live!)
Lang zal hij/ze leven, (Long may he/she live!)
Lang zal hij/ze leven, (Long may he/she live!)
In de gloria,
In de gloria,
In de gloria,
Hip, hip, hip, (hieperdepiep) hoera!
Hip, hip, hip, (hieperdepiep) hoera!
Hip, hip, hip, (hieperdepiep) hoera!

This is an old Dutch song that is sung when someone has a birthday or other significant celebratory event in their life. Notice each phrase is repeated three times for special emphasis. The GLORIA has a special mention here, I think it means as long as life lasts and from then on and into an eternal different plain, FOREVER. Usually the person so honored would then distribute an edible gift to those present. (at school, everyone in the class would be offered a candy, or a piece of cake or cookie)

This year is a special year of celebrations for me. Not only is it my 80th birthday but also it will be exactly a year ago that I had my by-pass surgery. I received a miracle, I have healed and life is good!

There is so much in our lives to be thankful about. The recent events (July 2021) in the world, (floods in Europe and tornadoes in Barrie, ON, so close to home) made me realize again that the edge of despair is always close by. I am more aware of my most blessed position and residence, now that I will become an octogenarian, than ever before in my life.

In my father’s generation there are only a few who lived to be this old. My mother Trientje Oosterveld was 80 when she died; my dad, Derk was 78; my father’s mother, Oma Titia (Grasdijk) was 87, (she was a strong woman); my Opa Jan was 74; my Great-Opa Jan was 73; my dad’s older sister was 97, (she was still biking in her 80s) his one brother died at 56; the other brother was 80. On my mother’s side most of (her brothers and sisters) my aunts and uncles, died in their 70s or early 80s.

It has become a habit for me to note the obituaries in the Hamilton Spectator especially on Saturdays morning when there seems to be a long list of persons who have passed away during the previous week. I read that many are in the 80s and 90s and I am taking note!

Life is good! Longevity is what everyone wants and seeks for in their life. Medical advances, access to care, prescriptions or herbal additions are abundant in every pharmacy and the discovery and promotion of drugs and health products continue to be produced and manufactured everyday that have helped many persons manage and recover from health issues and concerns that killed people 100 years or even 50 years ago. Treatments and cures of every kind can be obtained and purchased. Some of these are extremely expensive as they are produced in small limited batches for exceptional diseases that only the rich or the well insured can afford. The promos for health products knows no end. Hospital medical surgery techniques now are wonderful and almost magical. (See the Covid treatments and vaccines development recently) Thank God for the Canadian Health Care benefits that we as citizens enjoy in this country.

But besides all of these wonders there is also much disappointment in that the obituaries, which do not cease, eloquently continue to describe and record the griefs and sorrows for the passing of a loved one. There is no end. It is what life is.

But life still also has its great “I’m alive” moments.

One of the greatest pleasures for me is to sit quietly outside in the early morning in a garden, a camping spot or place of restfulness somewhere, and just listen to your surroundings. The sound of a summer breeze in the trees, the song of a bird, the fluttering of a bee, busy already with the early morning light doing what bees do, busily gathering honey and spreading life’s fertility from plant to plant, water in a crystal clear lake lapping at the edge of a sandy beach, the sight of an ant carrying to its nest food for winter, the occasional tweet of the cardinal and the majestic posture of a blue heron in a misty sunlit pond and the bright yellow petals of the sunflower standing tall among its garden companions.

How sweet it all is. This then is a time to give thanks. A time for a soul to remember the goodness of life. A time to give thanks and say a prayer to the Giver of Life, to feel humbled by the created world we see, touch, smell and hear. Go ahead take a breath and smell aura of the garden. Doesn’t that give you a crisp new feeling of new hope, new starts, and the joy of ‘just being alive’ satisfaction?

And if you listen closely with you heart and soul, you will hear the whisper of God in the breeze, echoing in your resting soul stillness.

“For you my child, I made all this, come, enjoy, work and be joyful; till in the GLORIA.”

Hymn: Praise You Lord

July 18, 2021 (on being 80 years young) JS

July 1, 2021 – O Canada!

1763 – A Proclamation by King George 3rd of England

the 1982 – Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

are they still in effect and effective for all CANADIANS?

June 11, 2008 Prime Minister Harper apologized to the Native community. Where are we now?

Still blind to our HISTORY?

the main featured picture was taken by JS – Listening to History (Bill Woodrow) – in Meijers Gardens, Grand Rapids, Mich. 2004 (click on link for info and a better picture)

July 2, 2021 JS

That second shot – 30%

The fear that gripped me (affecting us all) last March 2020 when it was ‘breaking news’ that a deadly virus was present in my neighbourhood, was removed for me this week-end by getting that 2nd shot of the Pfizer vaccine. It promises good protection from the virus and will give much needed reassurance in all of us moving slowly back to our normal way of life.

Halleluiah! Yes, literally ‘Praise God’ for the vaccines.

I know many would not express it that way as they would say: Science and good research and facilities operated by excellent minds made this happen. I appreciate and understand that praise for the efforts and smarts of the laboratorial medical men & women with the pharmaceutical enterprises ( and government funded vaccines) are to be commended and thanked, but hey- without the gifts of ‘earthly materials’ it would not be possible. These are the essence of the created world, with its unlimited resources, creatures and human beings and along with its many other wonders (wonderful) are a surely a God-like thing!

At a Mega-Clinic event, over 26,000 arms took the shot on Sunday, at the Toronto Scotia Bank Arena, a North American and perhaps a world record for vaccinations in one day at one location. Only in Canada you say?

Now 30% plus of Canadians have had 2 shots of these amazing vaccines for protection against the Covid-19 virus. May God be praised! and many protected from this deadly virus.

‘There is so much here (in the world), O Eternal One, so much You have made.
    By the wise way in which You create, riches and creatures fill the earth.’

Book of Psalms 104 verse 24 translation The Voice

June 29, 2021 JS

Lord, hear our cry!

Since writing about the Kamloops Residential School news and the whole issue of misguided leadership of church and state, I came across a news piece written by Reinder Smith a journalist (verslaggever) with RTV Noord. (a TV radio station in the province of Groningen, The Netherlands) He writes about an anniversary and a ship called ‘De Leusden’.

‘De Leusden’, a ship in which the City of Groningen, The Netherlands and the local Chamber of Commerce had a 1/9th ownership, sailed with the fleet of ships that the Dutch commercial traders had setup in 1621 known as the ‘De West-Indische Compagnie (WIC). This company profited much from the slave-trade-commerce, so prevalent in 1600s to early 1800s. This year (2021) will be the 400th Anniversary since that inaugural beginning. Reinder Smith remarks that he had not noticed any references to this 400th event in the present local news. Perhaps that is due to all the thoughts, questions and negative re-actions that we have noted (some call it our ‘woke’) in the last year or so about remembering and honoring historic figures and events. (Think statues, names on buildings, sport clubs and educational centers etc.)

‘De Leusden’ sailed for the Gold Coast (Ghana) to the fort called ‘Le Mina’ (built by the Portugese in 1482) on March 1, 1737 from the island Texel to facilitate the transport of persons (read – slaves) from there to the Dutch colony of Suriname (Paramaribo) to be sold for do slave-work on the sugar plantations. The sugar plantations were very prosperous for the Dutch. (see – ‘Hoe duur was de suiker’ – a book in Dutch by Cynthia McLeod and produced as a movie in 2013)

On November 19,1737 at ‘Le Mina’, they loaded onboard; 680 slave prison persons, a substantial load, thus promising great profitability even though the records of other slavery trade transports indicated that many would not survive the voyage across the Atlantic. (on a previous voyage ‘De Leusden’ had taken in 687 slaves and only 280 reached Suriname alive)

As the ship approached land, on January 1, 1738, the weather turned bad and Outtjes, the captain, sailed up the wrong river, the un-navigable Marowijne river instead of the usual Suriname river, causing the ship to hit a sandbank, flounder and capsize. The crew then proceeded to nail shut all the exits to the hold were the 680 slaves were housed, less the crew be in danger of being over-run, as space on the life boats were sufficient for the 73 sailors only.

The 664 persons in the hold of the ship died a terrible cruel death. There were 16 slaves that survived as they happened to be on deck when the ship sank and these were sold in Paramaribo (Suriname’s capital) for 4,140 guilders.

A trunk containing 23 kilos of gold however was rescued from the ship before it sank. The gold rescuers insisted they be paid for its salvage, which they eventually received.

Leo Balai‘s book – ‘Slave Ship Leusden: A Story of Mutiny, Shipwreck and Murder’ published in 2014 has pulled this story out of the forgotten history of The Netherlands.

At the time of the tragedy there is a record of letters concerning payment for the gold salvage, but shockingly no words or indications of regret and sorrow over the lives of 664 persons who died and drowned mercilessly on the ‘De Leusden’s’ final voyage. This was the worst loss of lives for a sea-ship tragedy in the history of seafaring for The Netherlands.

For sometime after there were conversations about raising a monument on the bank of the Marwijne river commemorating this event, however the project just faded away.

Where are we today? We have shut the door on many of these historic instances, trying hard to forget?, all these lessons we should have learned from. Many wrongs have been instigated by our collective ‘I think its OK’ culture, but on closer examination lacked any kind of compassion, justice or peace.

Think about it! Do something about it! Be part of the solution! To those who are able: Can you at least apologize and say ‘you are sorry?’

The Christian Reformed Church of North America CRCNA Contemporary testimony # 53 states:  

“We call on all governments (individuals and persons) to do public justice and to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals, groups, and institutions so that each may do their tasks.
We urge governments and pledge ourselves to safeguard children and the elderly
from abuse and exploitation, to bring justice to the poor and oppressed,
and to promote the freedom to speak, work, worship, and associate.”

Picture taken from: Loopnews Emancipation Monuments of the Caribbean

The deaths of the children

Two hundred and fifteen remains of children have been located in unmarked burial sites at the Kamloops Indian Residential School (Roman Catholic Church administered) in British Columbia province, which was closed in 1977. There were 139 of these Government schools identified of which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Report said were established “primarily to break their link (the native children) to their culture and identity”. Estimates of unreported deaths of indigenous children at all residential schools is believed to be as high as 6,000. There is a registry of listed deaths at the University of Manitoba and was created and is maintained by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). An example of structural racism. A road full of tears and cries unspeakable!

Who were they and who were their parents and where did they come from; what were their ages; why did they die?

It is shocking to know or not know who buried these children and who made the decision to dispose of them in an unmarked and unknown graves. It is even more shocking to learn that the last of these schools were closed in the 1990s and that recommended actions to tell the truth about these institutions have been documented and agreed to but not acted on for a long time already. Maybe the ‘don’t talk about it’ would make it go away? Or too many people have a guilty conscience? (the teachers, principals, administrators, church officials and government officers)

This is just part of our past here in Canada but what about the rest of the world. Just now the USA remembers with reluctance, the 1921 Tulsa Black Wall Massacre, incited by city officials and the white community; where 35 blocks of Black neighbourhoods were destroyed and up to 300 people died, hundreds were injured and over 10,000 people lost their homes. A race riot. Again a place of unmarked mass graves.

What about other events going back in the recorded history of the world. To name a few unknowns: The massacre of people in the Congo by the King of Belgium (King Leopold the ll) forcing the local natives into slave labour (with punshment) for the harvesting of natural rubber. (think Dunlop tires) Prompting a Belgian expression of regret to the Congo government in 2020. What about the genocidal events perpetrated on the Herero and Namaqua tribes in Namibia by German colonization. Estimates are that 100,000 Namibians (reports from Missionaries) were killed as they revolted again the colonizers taking over their land. (in recent news of May 2021 the German government agreed to pay 1.1 billion Euros over 30 years – a mere pittance!)

Thinking about all of this will take us back to the Slave trade of the 1600s where the Dutch and English traders, owners and sailors (upstanding people in their home communities) of the ships that were used to transport captive native tribes people (many sold by their own people) from Africa to North America. And what about the whole aspect of colonization. So many sharp edges on the getting of wealth and man’s unbridled thirst for more and more.

The Charter Rights (Doctrine of Discovery) of the explorers as they ‘discovered’ new lands in their journeys of discovery (?) claimed possession and jurisdiction to new found lands and continents with the Pope’s blessing. As a 12 year old Aboriginal boy from Australia has said: ‘What did they (white explorers) think happened; we have always been here. This is our land, our home.’

How many of these domination actions can you name? I have listed a few. Think not just of racism against the African people but count the atrocities of wars; against Jews, Christians, Natives, black, yellow or white, religious and patriotic and all for the glory of god and the Emperors.

A stream of never ending assaults! Unbelievable! Unbearable! Unrepayable! Embarrassing, cruel and wrong!

All of us, even the ‘unreligious or un-spiritualistic’ person will find within their ‘souls’ the inkling bothersome conscious awareness that all of this is not right, not the way it should be. Not following the ‘golden rule’.

Why do we have this notion of feeling that the earthly human bus, full of ‘souls’ has left the road and is in the ditch? Do we have the ‘towing’ capacity to put it back where it should be, on the road?

The biblical command: Love God and your neighbour as yourself or the words of an old African-American man: ‘Love God and be kind to your neighbour!’ Sums it all up. How easy and how difficult!

Book of Proverbs 3: 9 – Make no plans that could result in injury to your neighbourafter all, he should be more secure because he lives near you. translation: the Voice

May you be blessed with: ‘Sterkte’

JS June 2, 2021

Related song: The prayer of the children by Kurt Bestor

Like squeezing a camel through the eye of a needle…*

May 4, 2021 – We are in the last stretch……..

Over 30% of Canadians have now received their first shot. The medical people tell us that when we get to 60% to 75% the virus should start to disappear and with that many vaccinated persons the chances of catching a severe case of Covid sickness should be limited to like a mild flu. The experts say we can get back to normal maybe in the later part of this year’s 2021 summer. It all depends on vaccine availability and the population’s desire to get vaccinated.

The information about blood-clotting for the Johnson & Johnson and the Astra-Zeneca vaccines complicates the administration of the sparse supply of the vaccines now on hand. Many people who have obtained an inoculation appointment are now changing their minds and asking for another vaccine. This will slow down the volume of those inoculated and will make it longer to obtain crowd immunity.

We have been promised (emphasis is on the word ‘promised’) millions of Pfizer and Moderna supplies coming each week in the month of May 2021 which hopefully will increase the volume of people with at least one shot driving us toward the where the sickness caused by the virus will not be so severe and only be mild. This will eventually result in the eradication of the virus altogether.

We are tired and languishing. But yes, we are seeing the end of the tunnel. The darkness is turning to more hopeful signs of normalcy.

However, for now the numbers are still bad (Ontario has over 900 people in ICU) we are encouraged by the forward striving of Health care for Covid patients and the ‘promises’ of more vaccines.

The ‘anti-vaxxers’ are still loud and strong. It is tough to convince them (like squeezing a camel through the eye of a needle) that the Covid restrictions** are not about personal and civil rights but about defeating the virus. And even though there are many stories of people who had loved-ones affected by the Covid and strongly advise others to take care; get vaccinated; this virus is brutal, no kidding!

Do not let your guard down, use common sense, be safe, protect yourself; protect your neighbour.

Together we can get there.

JS – May 5, 2021 –

  • * Gospel of Matthew the nineteenth chapter
  • ** we admit some restrictions are not perfect and make a lot of us more anxious and even sad.