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56 today! Unbelievable. I remember looking back at my 50th birthday and thinking how fast, how packed in and how full my life has been. It hasn’t slowed down. I do feel not as fit to keep up but then I’ve also lost weight, gained weight and got my running up and going again. Need to get back on the roads again. Test the old knees. I hope my 57th year will see more miles than the last one! Wouldn't be tricky! 

For the last six years or so I have lived with an over riding mantra. 10:10! It is of course the date of my birthday. I love seeing my birthday decorating Fitzroy Youth Sweatshirts! Of course it is not for my birthday but for John chapter 10 verse 10. Jesus says, “I have come that you might have life in all its fullness.” 

That is what I want to be about in my own life and in the lives I get to influence in Fitzroy and beyond. There's a school in Uganda that chants my birthday and John 10:10 at me every day I am there - "10:10, 10:10 Amen!"

Two moments in my life helped me to live this 10:10 life! I am open to major hits of the Holy Spirit but not in an everyday Sunday service party piece way. In my life there have been two real prophetic moments. Ken Newell would not even remember the moments, almost throwaway comments, but they made me who I am and what I live for at 56.

The first moment was as he got up to leave a meeting with David Montgomery and I in Belfast’s best takeaway, Spuds in Shaftesbury Square, way back in 1991. In his goodbye he said, “I have been reading your poetry book and it is very good but they are not going to like what you are saying. You will probably find yourself in a wilderness but if you hang in for ten years or so you’ll find a voice in our Church again.” 

I was speechless and very confused if delighted that he liked my book! I at the time was in no wilderness but within a year the green dried up and I started seeing the parched lands of that very terrain. The colleagues who had previously been friends began to shun me and I was suddenly not invited to speak in the places I had been before. It is a longer more painful journey than that expresses but Ken’s words were manna through the wilderness.

A few year later I had become Chaplain at Queen’s University and as Ken was minister of a Church in the area he invited me up to his Manse for a quick coffee. In the twenty minutes of that coffee Ken said, “Steve, when you get to fifty make sure you know who you are. Many of my colleagues have looked over their shoulders and are now confused about who they are and what people think they are. Be yourself.” 

I was thirty five then and it is not lost on me that twenty years later I am now living in the very Manse where Ken shared that coffee and advice with me. I became his successor as minister of Fitzroy and could never have been vocationally able to do so had he not spoke into my life. It is quite a “coincidence” when you think about it.

So, 56 today. I had an amazing day with my girls. I surmised where I have come from, where I am and where I am heading towards. I feel utterly blessed to be minister of a vibrant Church, involved in a relevant festival (4 Corners), engaged in some interesting reconciliation work, building an educational hopefulness in Arua, Uganda, doing some radio stuff, writing a regular a column in the Irish News, dabbling in the arts and having people like yourself reading my blog surmises (thank you for indulging me). With Fr Martin Magill I was awarded the 2016 Civic Leader of the Year by the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, for goodness sake! I call it lavish and ridiculous grace! It is indeed 10:10!

It is all with the audacious intention of contributing to a better world. It’s what Jesus talked about and as one of my very favourite quotations from Douglas Coupland puts it, “If you're not spending every waking moment of your life radically rethinking the nature of the world - if you're not plotting every moment boiling the carcass of the old order - then you're wasting your day.”

No wasting days here! 10:10 Amen!


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