Posts Tagged ‘county down’

Bicentenary Celebration of the Birth of Joseph Scriven – Author of “What a Friend we have in Jesus”

August 28, 2019

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On 10th September next it will be 200 years since the birth of hymn writer Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1819-1886) and I hope to use the occasion to distribute tracts, based on the title of his beautiful hymn. On Saturday 14th September free hourly bus tours of sites connected with the hymn writer will take place in Banbridge, County Down and these can be booked through the Visitor Information centre in the town. I have a lovely early memory of discovering Corbett Lake; near Banbridge and pictured in the old photograph above, it reminds me that Joseph Scriven’s formative years were spent in this area. Joseph did write other hymns and poetry but I believe that “What a Friend we have in Jesus” is sung universally and has been translated into multiple languages.
I have one very personal and poignant memory of the singing of this hymn. One hot Sabbath summer morning far away on the Greek island of Crete, I was feeling downcast as we tried to find an International Evangelical church in a certain town there. Then somewhere on that street, carried on the warm breeze I heard the sweet strains of music and singing in my own language… “What a Friend we have in Jesus…” In that instant I felt the singing of that familiar hymn and the beautiful name “Jesus” touching my very soul and it brought tears to my eyes; I felt the Lord’s Presence very strongly at that moment.
Indeed the singing of the hymn has touched many a troubled heart over the centuries. Little did Joseph Scriven know when he sat down in his little room to pen a few comforting words to his mother who was going through a time of great sorrow, that in years to come those words would touch hearts all across the world. When a Christian neighbour (who helped Joseph in his later years) discovered the manuscript, he asked him who had written these beautiful words, to which Joseph replied… “I wrote it. The Lord and I did it between us.”
Life’s journey, along with happy times, inevitably also brings trials, temptations, grief and trouble but praise God, Jesus our Saviour is a certain Refuge for all who put their trust in Him. Not everyone wants to know about our sorrows but there is “a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18v24) Unlike earthly friends and acquaintances who may indeed “despise, forsake thee,” this Friend is faithful, loving and caring throughout life’s most troubled and sorrowful moments – and He is but a prayer away.
The Bible tells us that “there is One God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1Timothy 2v5) Do you know this Friend today? He gave His life for you, so that you may have abundant life now – and eternal life in His Presence in the next.
“For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14v11&12) It is better, surely, to repent of your sin now and ask Him into your heart, while on this side of eternity – than to face Him as Judge on that Day when the small and great stand before Him.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7v21) His will is that you repent, commit your life to Him today, obey His Word and trust Him for all your tomorrows.
What a Friend you will have in Him as Saviour – a Friend and Confidant who will all “your sorrows share,” and a Friend who will “take and shield thee” throughout life. Only in His arms will you find the great “solace” for which you seek.

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged:
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness:
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge:
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Advertisements

Reflections on Greencastle: a Royal Medieval Castle – and Mankind’s Need through the Centuries

August 9, 2019

DSCF1589

I have felt led to produce some tracts on themes of historical interest to give out in the areas where they are situated. The following, written about the lovely ancient Greencastle in Co. Down, is one of those…
Greencastle, like most ancient castles and fortifications throughout Ireland has a colourful history spanning the centuries. Built in the 13th century by Hugh de Lacy in the 1230’s, it guarded the entrance to Carlingford Lough in medieval times. Lying close to the tiny village of Greencastle which now hosts a ferry transporting visitors to and from Greenore in the Republic of Ireland, many famous names in history are associated with it. Hugh de Lacey, John de Courcey, Edward Bruce, Sir Nicholas Bagnall and Oliver Cromwell are just some of those names.
Today the little hamlet of Greencastle, the green pastures and the familiar sight of the castle are somehow comforting to me in a world that is changing too quickly… and not always for the better.
The familiar coastline here and the nostalgic scene of Greencastle surrounded by green pastures, reminds me of childhood days and carefree walks along the sandy shore from Cranfield to visit this beautiful old castle. I am reminded of shared experiences with loved ones who are long since gone…
What stories the stones of Greencastle could tell me if they could speak and yet the ancient battles and human drama associated with it have long since faded into the misty oblivion of historical records. But of course not all historical records can be trusted because of the very nature of mankind…
Yes, famous people down through the centuries of Greencastle’s existence have come and gone. It has been said that human nature is the same in every era. Indeed it is true to say that…. “there is no new thing under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1v9)
Mankind’s need of a Saviour is the same today as it was in 1230. Well over a thousand years before the first stone was laid in Greencastle, the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to give His life for you and me and every other person who was ever born into this world. “And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1John 2v2)
Some day, as His Word says, He will return. “Surely I come quickly,” the last recorded words of Jesus tell us in Revelation 22v20. Are you ready for His return – or for the moment when you will depart this life? The Bible assures us that we can be ready – and that we can know that we are ready. We cannot have this assurance in our hearts because of all the good works that we have accomplished. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2v8&9) It is after we trust Him as Saviour that our good works are evidence of a new life begun in Him.
We must firstly acknowledge our sin, repent of it and put our trust in the all atoning sacrifice, once for all, of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary, for He has paid the price for our sins. “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10v17&18)
God is no respecter of persons and the famous people connected with Greencastle, like all of mankind had to die and face judgement: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9v27&28)
Even the ancient solid stones of Greencastle will some day be no more for the Bible tells us that this old world will soon pass away and that there will be “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21v1).
But repentance and simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’s shed blood at Calvary will stand the test of time and eternity. He longs for you to put your trust in Him alone today, so that you may be ready for that great Accounting Day when the “small and great” (Revelation 20v12) stand before God. May you know the wonderful joy, peace and assurance in your heart of the knowledge of sins forgiven and the promise of a Home in Heaven.

At the Faith Mission Convention in Bangor, Co. Down – and Old Memories of the “Stewart Memorial”

April 14, 2015

0064 Recently my husband and I drove up to County Down for the Faith Mission Easter Convention. This was a nostalgic visit for me, as we had not been there for some years and I had also so many emotional memories of attending the convention with my mum and dad who have passed away in recent years. We stayed there for two nights, returning home on Tuesday afternoon, after hearing a fascinating account of the work and recent experiences of Maud Kells in the Congo. An especially nostalgic visit awaited me on the Tuesday morning, when we took a walk around the shore to the place where I once worked, more than 30 years ago now. Some of my experiences as a result of working in the Stewart Memorial School for disabled children are recorded in my second book, “Singing on the Journey Home.” As we walked along by the sea, I stopped to talk to a lady who was sitting on a park bench. After affirming that she was a local, I asked her about the school, which I knew had closed down a long time ago. “Expect to find many changes,” she added, as I was about to walk on after our conversation. It is a truly beautiful area in any season and now, with daffodils waving by the shore and a distant ship on the horizon, I couldn’t help but remember the events in my life all those years ago, as I sat on a little bench by the sea, praying that the Lord would guide me in my life, after having had an interview for a job at the “Stewart Memorial.” Memories of a little girl, “Emma,” that I had known returned to me as we climbed up from the sea side to the now unfamiliar environs of the building where I once worked. The following is an extract from my story “Over the River Faces I See…” which is recounted in “Singing on the Journey Home:” “Little Emma was a sensitive child too and I was aware that she disliked returning to the home after a weekend with loving parents. She would often weep on those Sunday nights and I, in turn, would give her a reassuring hug. I believe that it was little Emma who first ‘brought out the mother in me.’ How I came to love all those children! In a sense it was a landmark in my life, revealing to me my own inadequacies as well.” A later extract reads:       “I had only been there for a short time when those rumours circulated that the establishment was to close down. Later, when this happened, it was a very emotional time as everyone said their ‘goodbyes.’ Each and every child in that home had made a deep impression on me; I shall never forget them and the time that I spent there. Somehow the Lord had used this short time in my life to mould me as a Christian, and even in those days I had a strange feeling that some day I would put the experience into words.       Some years later I was sleeping one night in my old home, when I was wakened by a beautiful dream. This dream was so real and lives on with me, even to this day. In the dream I could see Emma, who was running and jumping and smiling with happiness. As she looked my way, she waved to me with a delightful smile and with that I wakened. I recall sharing the experience of this dream with my mother at the time. Then, not long after that I learned from an extract in a local paper, that little Emma had died around that time. As I read the article, I recalled that vivid dream. In the dream I could see clearly that it was Emma, but everything about her was perfect and healthy. She was so full of joy and happiness, basking in God’s light, more glorious than the sunlight of the brightest day. When I think of this little girl and my subsequent dream, I cannot but recall Judson Wheeler Van De Venter’s hymn, “Looking this Way.”        This hymn reminds me that there are billions of little ones in glory today, since circumstances in their lives prevented them from ever reaching those years of spiritual understanding and so they were not held accountable. Oh that mothers and fathers would see the simplicity and depth of these words in Acts 16v31… “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” In obeying this command, they will most certainly be re-united with those little ones in a land where tears never fall”. Today it is the “Stewart Memorial House” which is threatened with closure. I was informed of this by one of the staff who very kindly showed me around the building – and the lady on the bench was so right! I remembered very little of it… so many changes had taken place. This beautiful place, which is currently home to around 30 adults of all ages with disabilities (not children as it was in my time) is no longer “financially viable” according to the “powers that be.” I felt an air of sadness about it, just talking to some of the staff, who have naturally no wish for it to close either. I was introduced to a lovely elderly lady, May, who was in her nineties. Strangely as I entered her little room, I suddenly felt very emotional. She looked like my own mother and all her walls were covered in paintings which she had accomplished over time. One alcove was full of little personal ornaments which she had collected. She even talked like mum and had a similar sense of humour… I bit my lower lip and quickly composed myself as I didn’t want to be in tears in front of this dear lady. I know that it will be a terrible upheaval for this lady and others if they are uprooted from their familiar surroundings and the people who work with them. I also know from experience that it is not such a good idea for really elderly people to have to move to another location at that stage in their lives. Expect to find many changes… Yes, indeed, how circumstances change, institutions change and people change… but “He never changes.” (Malachi 3v6) My “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today and for ever.”(Hebrews 13v8) Nothing is “set in stone” with regard to the affairs of this life. Well over thirty years have flown by in my life as I recall scenes and experiences like they had only happened yesterday. Dramatic changes have taken place in my own life within just three or four years but… “He changeth not.” I thank Him for His love, His mercy and His abundant grace – and I thank Him for guiding me this far. I now pray for relationships and situations where closure seems inevitable – but if it is at all possible I pray that this home can be saved. Yet I also pray that the staff and patients of Stewart Memorial House will come to know His abiding Presence in their lives, and may they have a heartfelt experience of the truth of these words: “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Hebrews 13v14) This morning I discovered a lovely hymn by Fanny Crosby: “On Joyful Wings.” This hymn truly echoes the truth that we are indeed just “passing though,” but for those whose trust is in the Lord, what joy to know that we are passing to our real home, the home “where He, our Saviour dwells.” Link to this hymn:   http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/o/n/j/onjoyful.htm

On joyful wings our raptured souls

Would mount and spread their flight

And from Mount Pisgah’s top behold

The land of pure delight.

Refrain

Above the clouds, above the stars,

That heavenly region fair,

Where He, our Lord and Saviour dwells

Our home, our home is there.

Sweet visions oft His love reveals,

Of that divine abode;

And with His kind, protecting hand

He leads us on the road.

Refrain

Oh blessed hope that bears us up,

And stills each throb of care!

The night will pass, the morn will come,

And we shall soon be there.

Refrain

0059

Will Your Anchor Hold in the Storms of Life?

October 18, 2014

F9374

9194

As I write, I hear a storm raging in the darkness of the night. The leaves are blowing from our trees, which only some weeks ago were resplendent in thick-leafed foliage. That Indian summer sun seems but a memory now as blustery October gales reduce the trees to stark silhouettes. Sometimes we have no wish to dwell upon the stark realities of life either, but as sure as autumn follows summer; storms and dark waters in life are something which we will all have to face at some time or another.

A short distance from where I live is the sea and I know that the wind there will be even wilder with high foaming tides and as the hymn describes it so vividly: “the billows roll.”

As I listen to the wind tonight, my mind travels back to summer when I saw a boat named “Steadfast” in the little town of Kilkeel in County Down. The boat rested in gentle lapping waters, safely anchored in a peaceful harbour. Oh how I long at this moment for that… “harbour bright where we shall anchor fast by the heavenly shore, with the storms all past for evermore!”

But for those who know Him, we must endure the high seas of life for another little while. What is your anchor this day in the storms of life which shall surely come? Is it a philosophy, a certain denomination or a theory that you cling to? This night as dark waters of depressing thoughts and discomfort would seek to drown me, “the cables passed from His heart to mine” and I have an “Anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.”

Oh that all who read would have that glorious assurance of knowing that their “hopes abide within the veil.”

“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Mel-chis-ed-ec.” (Hebrews 6v19&20)

Link to the hymn “We have an Anchor:”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQQO8v-0VBo

 

 

The Mission Halls of Ireland

August 12, 2014

F9326

9368

9369

On a recent visit to the Mourne Mountains in County Down, Northern Ireland, I discovered a little mission hall on a quiet country road, not far from the Silent Valley Reservoir. Somehow this brought back to mind thoughts that I previously had about discovering the mission halls of Ireland.

From time to time I hope to research and accumulate information about mission halls throughout Ireland, inserting this into a new category in my blog. I hope to discover how often they are used and include details of the times of meetings, as well as historical information on how each mission hall had its beginning and, if possible, the contact details of those who are currently responsible for the meetings.

In the past many of these small non-denominational places of worship have been a wonderful blessing to local Christians and, at the same time, an essential local lifeline to the unsaved. Mission halls fulfilled a great need in the communities in which they started up; it cannot be denied that many of those who occupied the pulpits of mainstream churches had not been faithful in their proclamation of the gospel, often because they too were unsaved! Unfortunately, although nothing has changed in this regard, the mission halls are used much less frequently in these days.

Above all the mission hall has a tradition of transcending denominationalism and bringing souls together in a spirit of love and unity. They were once a ‘reservoir’ in the spiritual sense; many having had their roots in the 1859 Revival.

Sadly the mission hall would appear to be a dying phenomenon, even though the faithful witness which once emanated from within their humble walls is as essential today as it was in bygone days. My personal memories of mission halls are very positive ones; it was within mission halls rather than churches that I would have felt convicted, challenged and experienced that great sense of the Lord’s Presence. And it was within mission halls that I would have heard many stirring and challenging testimonies.

Mission halls exist mostly in Northern Ireland but there are some, too, in the border counties as well as in the midlands of Ireland. If anyone reading this has information about a Mission Hall they know well, I would be delighted to hear from them!

 

Snow on the mountains – and a Song within My Heart!

November 29, 2010

On Friday last (26th November) I travelled up for the carol service in the Disabled Christian Fellowship Centre, in Newcastle County Down, Northern Ireland. ‘Early for a carol service,’ one might say and I suppose it was, but in carols such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” by Charles Wesley, there are words which are joyfully relevant at any time of the year…

“Christ, by highest heaven adored,

Christ, the everlasting Lord,

Late in time behold Him come,

Offspring of a virgin’s womb!

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;

Hail the incarnate Deity!

Pleased as man with men to dwell,

Jesus, our Immanuel.”

 

What truths are proclaimed in this carol! The virgin birth, the Deity of Christ and then in the third verse – His death and resurrection, whereby mankind can be born again to an inheritance incorruptible!

That night after the carol service I travelled back through the ice and snow to the mountain house where we would stay the night. I hate driving in this weather, but the Lord took care of us throughout the entire journey. During the night we were wakened by a thunder storm, followed by hailstones pounding off the roof and windows but the fury of the weather during the night was replaced by a beautiful and peaceful scene next morning, as I looked out to see white capped mountains glistening in the sun.

This heralded a most encouraging and interesting day when I was able to visit little towns and villages that were new to me. We stopped briefly at the St. Patrick’s Centre in Downpatrick which provides an outlet for my first book “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year” and then we moved on to the small town of Killyleagh. Here we spotted the fascinating 12th century Killyleagh Castle, complete with turrets and believed to be the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland. Strolling up to its great doors we discovered that there was a craft fair being held there that day.

Our next ‘port of call’ was the small town of Comber, home to “Revive Books,” a Christian Book and coffee shop in Castle Street. Along the journey I could not help but wonder at the diversity of Ireland as a whole. How the Lord loves its citizens – from the glens of Antrim to the rocks of Mizen Head. From the families who live in ancient Castles and ancestral homes – to the families who live in crowded conditions in the cities of Limerick, Dublin or Belfast. He is no respecter of persons and it is His will that all souls would put their trust in Him as Saviour, whatever their backgrounds. How He loves the souls of Ireland in their rural and urban communities, with all their differing customs, dialects and denominations!

At last we arrived in the much larger town of Newtownards, home to around 30,000 people and also home to another Christian Bookshop: Ards Evangelical Bookshop, Crimond House, in Frances Street. Both of the Christian Bookshops listed kindly facilitate copies of “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year,” “Singing on the Journey Home,” and “God Made You, God Loves You, God Saves You.”

We started the terrifying journey home from the mountain house that night. I say “terrifying” because of the weather conditions that prevailed close to our home in County Meath. I prayed before the journey, I prayed during the journey – and then I prayed, giving thanks to the Lord for His protection when finally we slipped through the entrance to our home. It was a short but memorable trip – and one that increased my resolve to serve the Lord by distributing the words that He gives me throughout the spiritually needy land of Ireland with its diverse cultures.         

Link to this hymn: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/h/h/a/hhangels.htm

“How Great Thou Art!”

September 7, 2010

My sister has a lovely holiday cottage in the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland, in a small isolated development known as “Wuthering Heights.” A few days ago I brought my daughters there for a break before they return to college. I love this area, evocative of the sentiments described in that hymn “How Great Thou Art.” Here are some of my impressions on this visit…

The walk this morning was, as always, beautiful, with cattle and sheep all grazing peacefully in the mountain pastures; the sun shining, the birds singing and the colour of the wildflowers all contributed to my feelings of happiness about this place. Here I feel close to nature; I feel that I can breathe fresh, ethereal air and relax and unwind from the stress that would daily press upon me. I love this place and I always will. In a sense it reminds me of the simplicity and wonder of my childhood; the quiet walks that I undertook alone in the foothills of the mountains and how my imagination would be inspired by this world of forests, fields and waterfalls.

There is an inexplicable wonder about the Mourne landscape which lies silent and unchanging in this changing world. Only the sounds of nature fill the morning air; very few cars travel along this road and so we walked on, inspired by the beauty that surrounded us. We found to our delight, a sparkling mountain stream where fish were jumping. Further along up a little track towards the mountain known as “Wee Binnion” lies a tiny whitewashed cottage where I was amazed to find someone living. It was something from another era; that little homestead with its minute windows. I remember someone telling me once that there used to be a “glass tax” in the old days, which is why so many ordinary folk could not afford to have big windows. There have been some unjust taxes down the years but to tax people for the ‘luxury’ of daylight surely beats them all!

Soft clouds had formed on the mountain top, as we began our walk home to Wuthering Heights and a mist was coming in from the sea but there was still warmth in the sun. On either side of us lay tiny pockets of land, surrounded by drystone walls and filled with purple heather. As we walked along that road we picked deliciously ripe blackberries and ate them. Here and there my daughter would gather some wildflowers and when we arrived back at the cottage, she made one of the most beautiful arrangements I have ever seen!

Soon I must return to the ‘real’ world; the world of passport renewal, credit cards, college accommodation in a big city, bills, concerns about my children’s futures and work… But meanwhile I will imagine for a moment that I am a ‘mountain dweller.’ I dwell simply in the heart of the mountains, I have no mortgage on my little cottage, I eat my own home grown vegetables, I drink fresh mountain water, I make my own bread from wholemeal grain and I eat wild blackberries for desert. “Like Paradise,” you may say and yet I know that Paradise does not exist on this earth; we battle with the weeds of life whatever they consist of – a legacy from ancient Eden.

Yet, it is true that a little bit of ‘heaven on earth’ can be ours when we fully trust in Jesus as Saviour, whether we walk the mountain tracks or the busy city streets of life. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him.” (Col.1v16) The wonder of creation is surpassed only by the glory of the Redeemer’s love for all mankind. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:” (Col. 1v14&15) These verses bring to mind one of the most beautiful hymns, translated into English and many other languages.

“How Great Thou Art” was first written by Carl Boberg (1859-1940) as a poem in 1885. Inspired by his experience of being caught in a thunderstorm in his native Sweden, the young Christian wrote the original nine verse poem “O Store Gud” (“O Great God”). This original poem was translated into many languages over the years and today, in English, it has evolved into the beautiful hymn “How Great Thou Art.” The fascinating story of how the hymn developed touches Estonia, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Romania and England; while all across the world today, souls are touched by its words in their own language. How can I not help humming its tune as I walk amongst the beautiful Mountains of Mourne in my own native Ireland?

 Link for lyrics and music to this hymn: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/h/o/w/how_great_Thou_art.htm

Just as I am – Without One Plea

June 27, 2010

Sitting on the promenade wall I watched the ebb and flow of the tide washing in over the sand. High up in the summer sky the seagulls cried as they floated on the drift of the wind, while in the distance the beautiful Mountains of Mourne stood timelessly and quietly against the horizon. I had always taken comfort in mountains; they were like permanent, solid and reliable old friends in a world that was changing too quickly. Tomorrow, perhaps, I would climb to their rushing waterfalls and we would picnic close to those cascading waters. The day was beautiful and I was young and healthy, but something was disturbing me. Was it that small group of Christians who were having an open-air meeting by the promenade? How many times in my young life had I been convicted by a little group of people like this? Over the years I had watched them, the faithful ones, singing and preaching in villages or cities and distributing tracts. Even the sound of their voices made me feel uncomfortable, but no, I would not commit myself to the life they were singing and speaking about. Perhaps some day…

What delightful childhood memories I have of trips to the seaside with my father, mother, brother and two sisters! In those days we did not fly off to exotic locations, but those trips to Warrenpoint or Sunday school excursions to Newcastle, Bangor or Portrush engendered just as much excitement. In the intervening years I have travelled to many distant places but to this day, perhaps one of my favourite spots in the whole world is “where the Mountains of Mourne roll down to the sea.” My aunt once had a caravan parked at the very edge of the beach in an area known as ‘Cranfield.’ I recall many days of sunshine there when we would splash in the sea or take long walks along the blue flag beach to the castle at Greencastle. At night the old lighthouse would throw out circling beams of light across the dark rippling waves. Even bad weather was enjoyable, creating its own special atmosphere. How I loved the sound of that foghorn, as the rain pelted against the windows and the tide surged in only yards from where we slept!

Of course, as the cliché goes ‘all good things come to an end,’ and whether it had been a day trip or a week-long holiday we knew that we must return home. Regrettably the ‘holiday’ had perhaps not been so idyllic for my mother as she had a great deal more work to do; in bygone days holiday cottages and caravans did not have the modern conveniences that they do today! As for those ‘return journeys,’ they are filled with special memories for me, for I recall that my parents very often would “sing on the journey home,” and always these songs would relate to their Christian experience. In those days their songs did not appeal to me – in fact I often felt irritated and convicted by them. Admittedly, my parents’ voices blended beautifully as they sang choruses and hymns on the journey home. Yet, underlying my feelings of conviction, I experienced a certain reassurance and inner peace in the knowledge that my parents loved each other and their Saviour, who was glorified in the words they sang.

So it came to be that as the years passed, I was to be convicted many times by the singing of God’s servants. There is something about joyful singing to the Lord that speaks to the heart – and even brings a tear to the eye! Then, one August Sunday morning in the year 1978, I was walking alone in a narrow cobbled street in Ostend, Belgium, when I heard joyful singing coming from somewhere on high. These were I believed, Christians who were singing hymns in the Flemish language but where were they? I looked up at the windows of tall narrow houses and I searched doorways for access but I could not find those singers, no matter how much I searched for them. Sadly I returned to the hotel where I was staying, feeling very empty spiritually. On the return journey I was terrified that the ship would sink or the train would crash for I knew that I was not ready to meet God.

After my return home, that deep conviction continued in my heart with intensity. Just hours later, on the bank holiday evening of Monday 28th August, 1978, a fierce spiritual battle ensued while I was alone in my bedroom. I have never felt anything like it in my life, either before or since. One power was telling me that I was ‘not that bad,’ and that I had my whole life in front of me; another was telling me to ask the Lord into my heart now for tomorrow may be too late. After much turmoil and struggle, I can only describe what happened next as ‘repenting of my sin and crossing that great divide from darkness into light.’ I felt a peace in my heart that only the Lord can put there – my journey to my real Home had only just begun! The years ahead were to be the happiest ones of my life for He had “put a new song in my mouth.” (Psalm 40v3). All my old ‘haunts’ began to lose their attraction and soon God’s Word and the joyful singing of His servants brought me more joy than anything in this world ever could. Now I had put my trust in the “Rock of Ages,” who is even more dependable than solid mountains, for even they shall some day be removed! And now with my mother and father I could sing the words of many lovely hymns, because they were so relevant to my new life begun in faith.

There is a hymn which always filled me with conviction in those days of my early childhood and youth. This hymn was often sung after appeals were made in missions or other meetings and I grew to dread the singing of it, because it made me feel so uncomfortable.  “Just as I am” describes accurately the experience I went through on that evening when I trusted the Saviour. Charlotte Elliott, the writer of this lovely hymn had a similar experience when she came to the Lord, for she was “tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt… fightings and fears, within, without…” I thank God that this lady was able to give words to her experience – words which have touched many a soul since the year it was written, in 1834. For me, the second last line of this hymn, “Here for a season, then above,” seriously highlights the brevity of my earthly life against the awesomeness of eternity.

Today I love that hymn because the Saviour did rid my soul of that “one dark blot.” I thank Him for His cleansing power in that instant when I trusted in His shed blood at Calvary. My prayer is that He will continue to work in my life and in the lives of other fellow Christians who have trusted Him to “cleanse each spot,” with the desire to be “His, and His alone.” Now I can claim this wonderful promise which was given by Paul to his fellow saints, as my own…  “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1v6)

(See also: My Testimony page) https://readywriterpublications.wordpress.com/my-testimony/

http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/j/u/justasam.htm