Lovely Laois – and some Spiritual Analogies

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Laois, that truly beautiful little county in Ireland’s midlands. However, even Laois was looking decidedly miserable under a sullen grey sky and icy cutting wind on Saturday! After a meal in the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel, my husband and I drove on to Durrow, for the opening of the new Faith Mission centre there in the townland of Knockagrally. Crowds of people gathered into the tent which had been erected for the purpose of this opening and dedication service; the centre has not been entirely completed, as a conference meeting room is yet to be built.

Somehow the final hymn of the service spoke to me… “How Great Thou Art!” Especially those words… “Thy power throughout the universe displayed…” The Irish weather has certainly never been dependable, but these days I find it strangely cold for summer. God sends rain, wind, sun and the more extreme versions of all three phenomenons and others as He sees fit. I believe that adverse weather conditions can be God’s judgement upon a nation, including those who profess to know Him.

We stayed overnight at the hotel and on Sunday morning that elusive sun was shining. I looked out of the window to see crowded coaches leaving the hotel. Someone waved to me, as I stared down at them and waved back… those people, I instinctively knew, were making their way to the final meeting of the Eucharistic Congress  in Croke Park. Hurriedly I made my way down to the car park and was relieved to see one remaining coach. As these Cork people made their way onto it, each one accepted a priest’s testimony tract. I thanked the Lord for their response and even for one lady who gave the tract a knowing look and said: “You’re here to create peace, are you?” I was a little taken aback at this, but answered to the affirmative. Yes, I thought… the “peace that passeth all understanding”… but only my Lord can create lasting peace in hearts.

Surely only He can enable us to be content under all circumstances? Certainly, I came away from my tract distribution with the satisfaction of knowing that His Word “would not return unto Him void.”

Sunday proved to be dry with sunny spells and I was pleased to see some lovely scenes as we made our way slowly home… simple things like fluffy clouds reflected in a little window of the old sexton’s house in Abbeyleix, reminding me of that verse: “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11v4)

The tent was gone from the conference centre, reminding me of the transience of life and that nothing ever remains the same on this earth… nevertheless, though people may change, circumstances may change – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day and for ever.” (Hebrews 13v8)

I saw a plaque commemorating the battle of Barnaglitty in 1599, in which Owny MacRory O’More with his small band of followers defeated the great army of the Earl of Essex, reminding me that “the battle is the Lord’s” (1Samuel 17v47)

The old stone arch railway bridge at the hotel reminded me that there is only one Bridge between God and man – the Risen Saviour; the round tower of Timahoe reminded me that He is my strength and “strong tower from the enemy” (Psalm 61v3); the ancient graveyard in Abbeyleix reminded me that I must work… “for the night cometh when no man can work;” (John 9v4); a sparkling river flowing between green banks reminded me that the “Lord is my Shepherd;” a ruined three storey period house reminded me that this life’s possessions are but for a season and the little stone table and seats that are so common in this part of Laois reminded me that “there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” (Hebrews 4v9)

My prayer is that the nature of this ‘rest’ would once again be expounded from the pulpits of Ireland… by souls who have truly experienced it in their own hearts.

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