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In front of me as I speak, is a cup. It’s a silver trophy, four inches tall, inscribed with my name and dated 1965.

I love that cup, but it also conjures up for me very mixed emotions when I look at it.

When I was a wee boy, 7 years old, I took part in Coleraine Feis. It was very exciting. 30 lads, me-tic-u-lously prepared to recite a poem in the Town Hall. One by one we were ushered onto the stage and instructed to stand on a specific spot marked on the floor-boards and when the adjudicator, who sat on a podium in the middle of the hall, rang his counter- bell, you were to begin.

Well, that morning, when the results were announced, guess who had come first! Proudly I was invited back onto the stage to receive the prized trophy, returning to class, happy as a song- bird.

That afternoon, as I was about to get out of school, my Primary 3 teacher; a severe and fearsome woman, parcelled up the cup and placed it in my bag. As I walked home past the Town Hall, I had an uncontrollable desire to unwrap the precious trophy, look at it and hold it in my hand all the way back home ready to show my mum and dad.

Next morning, I was called up to the front of class, but not to be congratulated. The teacher was red with anger! Evidently I had done something terribly wrong! She had seen me holding the cup that she had packaged and I had the temerity to open on the way home from school, and for that gross misconduct I was given a sound thrashing with her cane.

For years, while sensing deep down that that was a gross injustice, something in me felt I must have deserved that abuse, which I hadn’t:- but it has taken me over 50 years to articulate that story.

Maybe you too have a tale from long ago which needs to be told?

I hope you will. Restoration comes slow but I’m hugely comforted to know that God Himself understands, because the Lord Jesus, although totally innocent, was also struck:- and by His stripes we are healed.

Good morning.