Friday, November 29, 2013

another year

Ryan Giggs is 40. Amazing. And still playing at the highest level, as he showed in leading the charge in this week's 5-0 victory by United over Leverkusen. Goalies last that long, but midfielders die young. Unless they are Ryan Giggs.

Another birthday boy, CS Lewis, had a memorial stone placed in Westminster Abbey last week on the 50th anniversary of his death. It was a great occasion - and I felt privileged to be there. I had a ticket amongst the general populace in the South Aisle but as I arrived I saw my old friend Spud, who had organised the whole thing, and he gave me that most precious of things - a 'friend, come up higher' moment. He decided to find me a 'better seat', which turned out to be on the front row at the east end of the choir. The royal family seats. 'What was my connection with CS Lewis?' I kept being asked. 'We share a birthday,' didn't quite feel like the right answer...

The sound of CS Lewis' voice from a BBC recording during the service was a beautiful moment; as was a new anthem on one of his poems.

And me?

On my birthday this year I am in a grateful frame of mind.

A year ago, I was beginning to ponder a return to full time ordained ministry after my time in Leeds, and now I have a new home and role, the three parishes are just great, and I am back in Oxfordshire amongst the dearest of friends.

I've received all sorts of gifts this week. At that CS Lewis service, someone I haven't seen for ages told me they follow this blog, and have found it a real help from time to time. Well, that encouragement blessed me. Thank you. Meeting a young couple to discuss a baptism, one of them told me that they had heard me preach a couple of times and found things I said to be surprisingly understandable(!): would I speak that way about the baptism? They had even found they had changed something about the way they lived after one of my sermons. I tell you - any preacher who hears that said to them genuinely feels like they are walking on air!

And the photo at the top is from a couple of nights ago, as Clare & David MacInnes invited me over for supper to celebrate my birthday, and Clare & John Hayns were there too. One of the deepest gifts - these friends who mean the world, and now I'm just down the road from them.

Life will have its ups and downs; there were a couple of moments in the last year when I got a bit stressed! There will be a few of those moments in the year ahead, I don't doubt... But this year's birthday is not about accruing new gifts; simply being very, very thankful for the very, very many good gifts that have already come my way.

One extra thought.

In Pontypridd, it was a running joke - and sometimes, to be honest, it did get me down a bit - that I somehow ended up celebrating my birthday each year either by taking a funeral or by sitting at the bedside of someone who was dying.
You will all be glad to know I am not taking a funeral today!

I did take one yesterday, though...

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