Archive for March, 2018

The Mater Hospital, Dublin – and Thoughts on the Hymns of Mrs C.F. Alexander of Eccles Street

March 31, 2018

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Two members of my family have had occasion to spend many hours just recently at both the Mater and the Mater Private; both hospitals beside each other in Eccles Street, Dublin. One day, in the middle of all those lonely worrying hours spent pacing depressing hospital corridors, I took a breath of fresh air on the street outside and suddenly remembered something which lifted me spiritually. Wasn’t it in Eccles Street that one of Ireland’s best known hymn writers was born? Some say she was born at Ballykean House, Redcross, Co. Wicklow, but either way I believe that this lady had links to both these locations.

It is widely believed that Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander (nee Humphreys) was born to Major John and Mrs Humphreys at 25 Eccles Street, Dublin in early April 1818. In fact this year would be the 200th anniversary of her birth! Best known for the lovely hymns she wrote for children like “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “There is a Green Hill Far Away,” Frances was a prolific writer who wrote verse from a very early age.

As I wondered on that busy troubled street with taxis blaring their horns and ambulance sirens drowning my ears, I passed asylum seekers from troubled parts of the world and homeless people sitting begging on the pavement and I saw a man with one leg wheeling himself swiftly forward…

Two hundred years have passed and the Eccles Street where Frances was born has changed entirely, so much so that 25 Eccles Street, the Humphreys’ old family home, would appear to no longer exist. From what I could see, there was a park there now; a little area of green with a few trees and birds gently singing in the middle of mankind’s mayhem. I remembered Frances’ well known carol “Once in Royal David’s City” and the little hymn about my loving Creator that she used to teach children about creation in her Sunday school…

 

“All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

 

Each little flow’r that opens,

Each little bird that sings,

He made their glowing colours,

He made their tiny wings.”

 

And I remembered that the hands that designed the petals on the spring flowers and the glowing colours on the feathers of the tiny birds were pierced for me – and for you. How He cares for and loves us and our families – and every needy soul in that street where hearts are burdened with poverty, suffering and a load of care. I thank Him for His Presence and His uplifting Spirit as I walk in this world which is not my home. I thank Him for the memory of the old hymn writers and their faith in the risen Saviour; something which is portrayed in Mrs Alexander’s hymn for little children…

 

“There is a green hill far away,

Without a city wall,

Where the dear Lord was crucified,

Who died to save us all.”

 

He died that we might be forgiven,

He died to make us good,

That we might go at last to heaven,

Saved by His precious blood.”

 

I returned to that hospital ward with a spring in my step, remembering that He is with me all the way… gently leading to Eternal Day. May you know the love of Jesus, the risen Saviour, in your heart today.

 

“Jesus calls us over the tumult

Of our life’s wild, restless sea;

Day by day His sweet voice soundeth,

Saying, “Christian, follow me!”

 

In our joys and in our sorrows,

Days of toil and hours of ease,

Still He calls, in cares and pleasures,

“Christian, love Me more than these.”

(C.F. Alexander 1818-1895)

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Speaking at the Ladies Meeting in Kilkeel, County Down – in the Strength of My Redeemer

March 27, 2018

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Many months ago last year, a lady who works in the Faith Mission Bookshop in the lovely coastal town of Kilkeel in Northern Ireland kindly contacted me with regard to speaking about my books at her church. When asked how many ladies normally attend this meeting, she told me that there would be around 100… To be honest, I felt a little nervous at the prospect as (like Moses) I always felt somewhat lacking when it comes to addressing a number of people! In truth I am more a ‘one-to-one’ type of person who is more comfortable writing quietly about experiences which have helped me grow closer to the Lord.

Anyway, I needn’t have worried as I felt the Lord very much with me that evening. The meeting occurred in the midst of other situations in my life and by the time it came around, I felt somehow that it held no concerns for me compared to everything else that was going on! My daughter and I travelled via Newry and then around the lovely Mourne coastline to Warrenpoint and on to Kilkeel.

This area is featured (both in words and photographs) in “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year” and also in my second book “Singing on the Journey Home: True Stories with Favourite Hymns & Photographs.” The idea for the title came from nostalgic early childhood memories of my parents singing hymns on our journeys home from trips to the seaside; the book was written in 2008 to commemorate 30 years since I trusted the Lord to save me. Now, 10 years later, that anniversary will be 40 years on August 28th of this year… and for this I can never thank Him or praise Him enough for keeping me and blessing me through all the weary ways and golden days of life! Linked with each of the 30 autobiographical stories is an appropriate traditional hymn and the interesting short history behind why it was written.

As well as sharing my experiences in writing these books, I read some poetry written over the years and shared my testimony. I felt my Lord and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ very present with me, helping me and blessing me with every word spoken. On the previous evening I had been feeling so weary after the events of the past weeks that I had felt like cancelling my attendance at this meeting as my husband was due to go into hospital on our return, but the Lord was my strength throughout. It was good to have been there and it was an encouragement to me in many ways. I would also hope that the Lord used my presence to bless and help at least one person there too.

There are many spiritual analogies to be drawn from the scenes we see and capture on camera throughout our lives and I was able to display these on a slideshow. Everything from our recent snow storms, local scenery, derelict houses, a lighthouse and the sea; my travels in the Greek islands and other places – and the old farmhouse surrounded by green fields where my life began, were used as a background to the poetry and Biblical parallels quoted.

It was darkest night by the time we had started on our “journey home” but praise the Lord, my heart was singing on that journey and will continue to sing even when my voice fails me – until that day when He calls, or returns to take me to my Heavenly Home. How could I not sing of or speak for my blessed Redeemer – who has given me the victory over sin and death and hell? I am reminded of the second true story from “Singing on the Journey Home” which linked with the hymn “I will sing of my Redeemer,” by P.P. Bliss ((1838-1876)

On December 29th 1876 Philip P. Bliss and his wife were killed in America’s worst train disaster up to that point in history. Ninety-two people lost their lives and most of the others were seriously injured. Initially Philip had escaped with his life, having been flung out of the carriage. However, when he climbed back into that terrible inferno to save his wife, he died with her. Amongst the luggage of the young couple which had been rescued from the flaming carriage after that horrific crash, were the words of Philip’s latest hymn: “I will sing of My Redeemer,” a hymn which was sung by my Mum and Dad many years ago on their journeys. I am always reminded of those days every time we take a trip to the lovely Mourne coastal route where Kilkeel is situated! As a shy teenager still outside of grace I would never have thought that someday my Redeemer would be with me as I spoke of these experiences and gave my testimony at a meeting there…

Link to this hymn: https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/305

Dear Peggy O’Neill (Former Nun, Born 1921) Was Called Home on 10th March 2018

March 19, 2018

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Just recently I learned that the lovely lady, Peggy O’Neill that I had met in May 2017 had passed away, aged 97. My visit with her is described in my blog on May 13th, 2017, which can be read here:

https://readywriterpublications.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/a-wonderful-meeting-with-peggy-oneill-who-found-the-truth-after-fifty-years-as-a-nun/

How glad I am to have met her in person and to have read and prayed with her!

I Praise the Lord for Peggy’s testimony of how she came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ at age 70, after 50 years of practising as a nun. Of her early life she says: “I used to light a candle before the statue of St. Therese of Lisieux, and then I knelt down and prayed to her. Later I went to the local convent school where many teachers were nuns. I grew up with the idea that nuns were very special people before God, and their kind of life was the highest calling for any woman.”

Eventually Peggy left home to begin her training with an order which was dedicated to education and Peggy then worked as a schoolteacher in England for many years. “Before and after school, there were long periods given to prayer and religious exercises, and mass every morning in the convent chapel,” she says in her tract.

To anyone looking on, it would appear an impossible situation, that someone so entrenched in Roman Catholicism would ever dream of questioning her beliefs – but Peggy did so when she saw her nephew with what she termed “an interest in the Bible!” Praise God, as time went on, in her own words she “realised that the Catholic Church had a false gospel – one that is the exact opposite of the gospel revealed in the Bible.”

Peggy says in her tract… “After 50 years of serving as a nun in the Catholic Church I came to this profound realisation, and put my whole faith and trust in the saving work of Christ. For me there is only One Saviour and One Mediator, The Lord Jesus Christ.”

I recall some of Peggy’s final words on her testimony tract… “I thank my Father who loved me so much that He sent His only beloved Son Jesus to save me. I thank my dear Redeemer who even now is interceding for me as my High Priest, and who will soon return to take me Home to Heaven where I will shine like the sun and praise Him for all eternity.”

I love the glorious sunsets in the west of Ireland, where Peggy’s life began. As the sun has now set on Peggy’s earthly life, I praise and thank the Lord for saving her. Today as you may look in despair at a seemingly unresponsive loved one, remind yourself that with God all things are possible. Keep sharing with them, loving them and praying for them, for He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance! (2Peter3v9)

The “Beast from the East,” Hospital A&E’s … and Strength in the Lord

March 18, 2018

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Ireland, with its temperate climate rarely gets much snow (if any) but the recent severe weather conditions, aptly named “the Beast from the East,” brought storm “Emma” and drifts of 7feet high -perhaps even more in many areas. Even the sea and waterfalls were frozen in some places! For a few days we didn’t venture out, as our local road had high hard-packed snow. All schools, colleges and places of work closed because of the arctic weather conditions. Directly after all of this I was confronted with another type of blizzard – frequent trips to different hospitals with two members of the family. It is at times like this that we really must cast our burdens upon the Lord!

I am very much reminded of an old phrase “the best laid schemes of mice and men,” which has its origin in a verse of Robert Burns’ “To a Mouse” poem written in 1785…

“The best laid schemes of mice and men,

Go often askew,

And leave us nothing

But grief and pain,

For promised joy!”

It is said that the poet was ploughing in the fields and accidentally destroyed a mouse’s nest, which the poor little creature had built for the winter. Robert Burns was so touched by this that his brother claimed that he composed the entire poem while still holding the plough. As I surveyed the fields around our home recently, I felt sorry for any creature trying to survive the blizzards and freezing temperatures and also acknowledged that, really, we cannot make any plans for the future that we can be certain of. The apparent security of the material things we surround ourselves with, like the little field mouse’s nest, can be obliterated in a split second. With all our modern technology, both the weather and many of the circumstances in our lives are beyond our control. We just have no idea what a day will bring forth!

If anyone had told me last year what lay ahead in these first few months of 2018, I would have sighed and said: “You’re not being serious… really?” But the Lord has given me strength and great encouragement in the midst of unpleasant situations.

“Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint: and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40v28-31)

He also deepens our faith and we live from moment to moment in His strength, with the assurance that when our lives belong to Him, He is in control – even through seemingly impossible situations. We “are not out of the woods” yet with regard to health issues but I rest in His unfailing love, remembering the little Bible that my father and mother gave me over 40 years ago. Perhaps she was thinking of the unknown future that night, when the Lord guided my mother to write this lovely verse in that Bible: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41v10) It seemed strange to me at the time, for I was young and had little to concern me, but the passing years have brought many reasons to rest on this unfailing promise.

Her now faded handwriting on the old Bible and the love with which she wrote the verse so long ago live on, spurring me on, challenging me, encouraging me to trust her Saviour and mine, in the knowledge that “…He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121v4)

My Lord Knows The Way Through The Wilderness!

March 1, 2018

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The tune to this lovely little children’s hymn has been going incessantly through my head for the last two weeks, perhaps because I have been going through a really hard time! With many discouraging events and ill health in the family, I was trying to make sense of it all but at the same time just looking to the Lord for strength and faith for today and tomorrow. Very often when we pray about certain situations in our lives and in the lives of our families, hard times come upon us – so that His perfect will is done.

My daily reading was coincidentally in Exodus 13 where we read of Israel’s initial exodus from Egypt. “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” (Verses 21&22)

Israel’s exodus and journey reminded me of this little tune that my Dad would sing, as he went about his work and somehow I had a tear in my eye as I thought about him recently, on the seventh anniversary of his passing. It was as if he was singing to me from Heaven…

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness,

All I have to do is follow;

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness,

All I have to do is follow.

Faith for today is mine all the way

And all I need for tomorrow

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness;

All I have to do is follow.

 

In our lives too, when we trust Him, as His children He leads us all the way – through life’s darkest, most challenging moments. I have found myself sitting in places that I just did not want to be last week: places like a dismal hospital waiting room and behind the steering wheel of a car in heavy city traffic – and next week, I will be in the same situation when my husband has an operation, weather permitting us to travel!

I know that all of this, if I approach it with the right attitude, can be for good, that I might “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2Peter 3v18) It is interesting to note that, at the beginning of the children of Israel’s journey “that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt.” (Exodus 13v17) This may have been the short way but the Lord knew that His people, in a journey just begun, would be easily discouraged by the threat of a war-torn terrain. The Lord knows and can gauge just how much we can take on our journey with Him! Life’s afflictions fall upon us all, regardless of our spiritual standing – but those who are walking by faith, have a comforting Guide who goes before, whether the day is bright and pleasant – or the night is dark and dreary. The following verse, which I wrote many years ago, was later included in my book: “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year…”

In days of old His children fled,

Through the Red Sea’s dried-up bed.

The Guide who lit all Israel’s way,

By fire at night, and cloud by day,

Ever lives for all who journey Home,

Where streets of gold, not earthly dust,

Their lovely feet shall roam.

Like the children of Israel who were strangers to the hardships of the wilderness, we are strangers and sojourners upon the earth. And He, our Saviour, praise His Name, is our sure and certain Guide to the golden streets of Home…