With pensioner bus pass in my wallet and Big ‘6-Oh Help Ma Boab!’ birthday clocked, I don’t look a day over 59. As someone said, “Age is mind over matter, if you don’t mind it doesn’t matter!” But it is good to mark one’s age with gratitude. My late father died in his early 30’s, as did Jesus, and I’ve conducted the funerals of many who never reached their 60th. I don’t take for granted the Grace, Love & Mercy, which have carried me thus far.
Thanks to all who wished me well on reaching 3 score years on 29th April! Fuelled by a full Scottish breakfast on my birthday I enjoyed a fantastic cycle from Crieff to Blairgowrie and from The Spittal of Glenshee to Crathie, where we stayed overnight with friends; Dorothy lifted me from Blairgowrie to the Spittal to make it more manageable. My total cycling mileage serendipitously reached 60!
I popped into the wee kirk at Fowlis Wester, where I was humbled to view a beautiful stained-glass window in memory of Rev Thomas Hardy who served as minister there for 58 years. This set my 33 years in Fullarton, and 60 years on planet earth, in a helpfully humbling context. At a junction I asked a group of 8 lady cyclists for directions. They were impressed at my light rucksack for such a long cycle. I assured them that I had the best rescue service in Scotland on stand-by should I need extra help. They asked for her number!
As I went under and alongside the dreaded A9 road that has taken the lives of many, I gratefully reflected on times when I’ve dodged death and been spared to live and cycle another day. Grinding up through Glenshee, I fondly remembered annual visits by our Largs Academy school SU group to the Compass Christian Outdoor Centre (Glenshee Lodge), where, at the tender age of ten, I committed my life to Christ. The grind up the steep slope to Glenshee’s Ski Centre was sapping and 40 mpg wheech down Deeside exhilarating. I vlogged a message to social media friends from beneath The Tiger ski-slope, thanking them for all their good wishes. Mind you I mixed up my resorts and called this most challenging Glenshee run The White Lady (fog of old age?).
At Crathie Dorothy & I enjoyed the excellent company of the Emslie-Smiths & MacKenzies, grateful for the gift of so many wonderful friendships through the years. We arrived back in Irvine just after 11pm and were up early on Sunday for morning worship. A little cream-crackered, I took the service and the congregation sneakily sang happy birthday to me. As I preached and encouraged everyone to practise the discipline of ‘beauty’ appreciation, I was so encouraged to hear people give me examples of when ‘beauty’ has halted them in their tracks to a wrong route and spurred them on towards love and good deeds.
Prior to the morning service I felt least like a Rev, but by the Grace of God and God’s People I was reminded of how blessed I am to have lived this long, enjoying the love of Family, Friend & Community, and the privilege of a dream job, where I get to share the Good News of God’s Love and help people take steps closer to Jesus. As the extra birthday song puts it,
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, take Christ as your Saviour, and then you’ll have two!” Hallelujah!