Happy Birthday, Hilary


Without revealing your age…. Thank-you for nearly 43 years as my wife. Whatever little bits of this blog are commendable, are down to your influence. What a muddled and confused late developer you married. Fortunately for me, you were young enough not to know better. As mother and grand-mother, your family salutes you. The light shining from your face… not a line on it!

Proverbs 31 does not do you justice, neither does the Song of Songs – “show me your face, let me hear your voice! for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely…”

Less than week ago, we were able to visit together the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands, where in the sculpture garden, we found this set into the grass, and the sun reflected back from it onto you. The words inscribed onto it, only partly describe how your family thinks of you. Have a great birthday.




One comment, after Sunderland Football Club’s Easter Monday 4-0 victory against Cardiff City, was: “Maybe miracles really do happen.”  Admittedly it only lifted Sunderland out fractionally out of the relegation zone of the U.K. Premier League, with three matches to play (on Saturday, they travel to Man United) so they are not out of trouble.  But hopes in my old parish of Newbottle (near Sunderland) many ex-youthclub members some in their 50’s now, will have lifted.  I am glad for them.  (May 11th postscript – they did win the next two matches and are out of trouble!!!  Today’s final match against Swansea at their home Stadium of Light – named not long after Billy Graham had been preaching at their old Roker Park ground – should be a great party).

Few miracles today though, in Baghdad, Kabul, or Kiev.  Hope is extinguished now for the South Korean children still missing from a ferry disaster there, or the passengers and crew of a vanished Malaysian airliner.  Frustration builds in Nigeria with no news of 200+ abducted girls from a school in Bornu province.

And yet… Eugene Girardet pictured St Luke’s account of two disciples of Jesus on the Emmaus road, the first Easter Day evening, with Jesus walking with them.  Luke records that they only recognised Jesus, in the breaking of bread when they had reached their destination, he disappears and the two run (?) back to Jerusalem to the other disciples in the Upper Room, Jesus reappears there, and shows that his resurrection body is as real, more real, than theirs.

Not so far from Newbottle is Trimdon Grange, where in 1882 an explosion in the coalmine killed 75 men and boys.  The Bishop of Durham, mounting the steps of the pulpit at their memorial service feeling his prepared words were quite inadequate, dropped a bookmark from his Bible, “God is Love,” on the back just a tangle of threads.  “On this side of eternity” said the Bishop, “life may sometimes seem incomprehensible, but on the other side, God’s victorious love will become clear.”  Here, an embroidered birthday card recently received illustrates….  (thank you, Gwyneth, and no, I am not sorry that the Bentley is not the real thing – it would need gallons of leaded petrol  to travel only a few miles)



I was persuaded that Jesus had broken death’s power, when as an 18-year old in Nigeria, I lived with both indigenous and ex-patriate Christians, sharing such joyful, fulfilled lives, claiming (the one) God’s Holy Spirit as their constant inspiration and guide.  Life at or near the top of the scale.  Times since then of doubt? – of course, but then Easter comes.  Jesus’ grave was not just empty, but he had risen to new life, Shalom/Salaam, experienced in this world by billions of people, – Before Christ (B.C.) and since, and in today’s world – in far darker places than I am likely to know.  And then, the promise that this world is only the shadow for what is to come.

When doubts come, remember the testimony of lives transformed, lives at the top of the scale, from disciples on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus 2000 years ago, to Canon Andrew White struggling with his M.S. but still ministering to his huge Baghdad congregation – few of whom have not lost loved ones.  For Sunderland supporters (whatever happens on Saturday), and for those suffering serious pain and/or loss:  “Peace be with you, my peace I leave with you.”