Posts Tagged ‘county laois’

A Famine for the Words of the Lord

September 7, 2015

D0907

On our recent visit to the village of Timahoe in County Laois, I saw an unusually large old pot used as a container for some lovely flowers. “That’s a famine pot,” a local lady informed us. Apparently there are famine pots throughout the island of Ireland, a reminder of the terrible potato famine which resulted in the deaths of approximately one million people in many parts of the country between 1844 and 1852. These pots were left in a village square or green and filled with food by those who could afford to do so – in order to meet the needs of the starving. Famine… it is difficult to imagine those terrible hunger pangs in our western society, where we have an assortment of food and plenty of it – even freely available when necessary, at certain outlets for those who are not so well off.

Somehow, though, these thoughts on famine led me to think of famine from a spiritual point of view and reminded me of the words of Jesus: “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4v4)

“It is written…” Jesus always used these words before every statement He made to the devil, during that time when He was tempted in the wilderness. Could it be that many who claim to know the Lord today are being tempted and entertained by the devil, but they cannot say “it is written…” because perhaps they have no knowledge of what is actually written.

We are living in days of spiritual blindness and in an era when people have never had so many versions of the Bible available to them – clearly not a good thing, for we see a departing from God’s Word; not only in secular society but in supposedly Christian circles too. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the words of the Lord, and shall not find it.” (Amos 8v11&12)

How wonderful to have access to God’s Word in all its truth and purity! It is there for us to read and appreciate; it is there to guide us, to comfort us and to show us how to live – but it must be applied to our everyday lives. Lack of discernment and spiritual blindness are surely a result of not spending time with the Lord, listening to what He has to say to us through His precious Word and being willing to put Him first in our lives.

God forbid that these words would apply to Christians today: “We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long…” (Psalm 74v9)

To seek the Lord in prayer and ask for His intervention in the things that trouble us is so necessary – but not any less so than studying the Lord’s great letter to us, as contained in the Bible. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2Timothy 3v16&17)

One thing that I have learned just recently for myself is that the longest Psalm (119) talks about God’s Word in nearly every verse. It is referred to amongst other terms as: thy precepts, thy law, thy testimonies, thy way, thy statutes, thy judgements, thy commandments, thine ordinances, thy word…

And these should be the words of every servant of the Lord… “Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea above fine gold. Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119v127&28)

Surely when His servants esteem the Lord’s commandments above gold and when we delight in His law above all else, our hunger for His Word will be satisfied when we accept what He says to us, without trying to make it fit in with the ideas of this world? “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” (Psalm 119v165)

There is no doubt that many changes have occurred in places of worship in the days in which we live. Many old hymns have been discarded for no valid reason; the mode of worship has completely changed in some quarters – often not for the better; while the Word of God has been twisted, often in sinister ways, to give credence to wrongful behaviour in today’s society.

As servants we can say with the psalmist… “I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies.” (Psalm 119v125) How true these words are for today! The blight which caused the potato famine could be likened to a spiritual blight which may result in the famine spoken of in Amos. As Christians we must take a stand on the issues of our day and on the evil laws passed by governments throughout the world, for in the words of the Psalmist: “It is time for thee, Lord to work: for they have made void thy law.”(Psalm 119v126)

Surely the Lord’s will for all men and women (for whom He loved and died) is not that they would be tormented by a spiritual famine but rather that they would repent and that these words would be their portion: “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119v103 -105)

A Bitterly Cold Day in the Workhouse and Thoughts on John Byrne

March 28, 2014

004

002

Some weeks ago we attended the Prayer and Fellowship event at the Faith Mission Centre in Durrow, but before travelling home we spent an interesting time in the Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum, County Laois. Renovations are still being carried out here but I have to say that I found it a most comprehensive and fascinating guided tour, giving an insight into how life must have been for those who were unfortunate enough to have to live there at the time. It was so icy in that gloomy place, to the point that I could imagine very vividly indeed what it must have been like to be confined within its cold grey walls all those years ago. In the mid 19th century, Ireland, like the rest of the British Isles, was dotted all over with these workhouses which supposedly were a superior alternative to starvation on the outside.
In reality terrible hardship and disease awaited those who entered the workhouse. Standing in the infirmary, I looked for a moment at the bars on the windows and suddenly shivered when I thought about how whole families were brought so low. To be ill at all within a workhouse would almost certainly have meant death in those days.
The tour also took in a wide variety of antique agricultural implements from the time when the building was used as a co-operative from the 1920’s – a different era but still there were many hardships for people.
While we were given the tour and commentary about the building in its workhouse era, we had to climb some wooden steps to get to another level where I saw what I thought was a young boy lying on the floor. For a moment I stopped in shock but then realised that this was just a model, showing how the inmates would have gone to sleep on the hard floor at night, on a sack filled with oaten straw. Somehow I suspect that they got little sleep under those overcrowded, cold and uncomfortable conditions.
The Lord never intended that families be segregated like this and that children, especially, should live under such inhumane conditions. If life here offered no dignity, death offered even less. There were many deaths in this particular workhouse – and a communal grave into which bodies were emptied from a cart without ceremony. This great pit is still in evidence today; the person who gave us the tour told us that this grave was to be properly marked, in respect for those who had been buried here.
According to records, one poor soul (John Byrne) who was ‘retarded,’ soiled himself and was subsequently ‘washed’ in a nearby cold river as a punishment, with the result that he ended his days in the infirmary, having caught pneumonia. I can only imagine how he must have felt in those icy cold waters on a February day all those years ago.
In all, three eras are represented within the confines of the great grey buildings: the workhouse era of poverty and famine; the age of the co-operative society, and also the era when it was occupied by British soldiers (the ‘Black and Tans’) during Ireland’s war of independence. Graffiti is still in evidence on the walls from the time it was occupied by the latter.
As I followed our guide (we were his only customers that cold day) I thought about how much misery those cold grey walls had been witness to – and how many injustices had been perpetrated within this terrible place and the heartbreaking stories of the many souls who had lived here. I especially thought again about young John Byrne and how he had suffered so cruelly.
Even in this modern age life can be cruel – very often children and elderly people are the victims of neglect and abuse and other vulnerable sections of our own communities can be open to abuse too. In recent times I have encountered a lack of compassion for those who really need it; many people in this world are self-seeking and self-centred, caring little for the deep troubles of others.
Somehow the lovely hymn “Sing we the King Who is Coming to Reign” came to mind when all these thoughts were going through my mind.
As this world with all its turmoil draws to a conclusion, the people of God should not be surprised to find more and more opposition and hostility towards them especially. Society may have advanced in technological terms but the current state of the world we live in could be described in these words:
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection….” (see: 2Timothy 3v1-5)
Jesus said: “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10v22)
And praise God injustice and cruelty shall be no more for…“Wrong shall be ended when Jesus is King!”
Sing we the King who is coming to reign;
Glory to Jesus the Lamb that was slain;
Life and salvation His empire shall bring,
Joy to the nations, when Jesus is King.

Chorus
Come, let us sing praise to our King,
Jesus, our King, Jesus, our King;
This is our song, who to Jesus belong
Glory to Jesus, to Jesus our King.

Souls shall be saved from the burden of sin,
Doubts shall not darkness the witness within,
Hell hath no terror, and death hath no sting,
Love is victorious when Jesus is King.

All men shall dwell in His marvellous light,
Races long severed His love shall unite,
Justice and truth from His sceptre shall spring,
Wrong shall be ended, when Jesus is King.

Kingdom of Christ, for thy coming we pray;
Hasten, O Father, the dawn of the day,
When this new song Thy creation shall sing
Satan is vanquished, and Jesus is King!

C. Silvester Horne

Links to this hymn: http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/s/i/singking.htm

003

001

005

 

On Visiting Aghaboe Abbey – and some Spiritual Analogies

September 24, 2013

DSCF7914

DSCF7925

During the late summer, when driving in the Durrow/Abbeyleix area, we encountered the ancient “Aghaboe Abbey,” in the tiny hamlet of Agahaboe in County Laois. Founded in around 577AD, the abbey was plundered by Norsemen in AD913 and has seen many other historical dramas over the years.

The blue sky turned a depressing shade of grey over the grey stones of the ruins, the graveyard and the church, but something told me that we should stop there to walk through that graveyard and for some reason I felt that I should bring some tracts with me…

As we walked along the path which led through the graveyard to the church, we noted with interest that all the names on the graves to the left hand side were of Anglo Saxon/Protestant origin, while those on the right were of traditional Irish/Roman Catholic origin.

Then I noticed a lady stooped over, vigorously cleaning the marble surrounds on her deceased relatives’ graves until they shone. No one else was in that graveyard but that lady and my husband and I and soon we were engaged in conversation with her. She was a friendly soul and as we talked for just a short time, she thankfully received the literature that I gave her. We talked of the names on the graves and she told us that she was the last person alive to bear her unusual surname in the area in which she lived. I thought of that lady later and I still pray for her.

Sauntering through a narrow entry which led into the ruins of the abbey, I thought, too, on those verses in Matthew 7, verses 13&14: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

On entering the grounds of the ruins, I discovered that many famous people had visited the abbey and their names had been inscribed there to celebrate those special visits… Jakob Mayr, Bishop of Salzburg, 1984; President Mary McAleese, 1998; the Austrian ambassador, Dr. Paul Leifer, 2001…

I thought, too, of its founder, ‘St. Canice’ and the many other famous people who had associations with the abbey and then I thought on that verse in Revelation 20v12… “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” God is no respecter of persons.

He has no interest in how well known you or I may be in this world, or in the origins of our names… His only concern is that those names of ours be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  

I looked again at the graves and the great tombs, some of them hundreds of years old and as I walked, I knew that I was most likely walking on graves which had been hidden and buried over time, for this was a very old graveyard. But as I looked across, beyond the graveyard I saw what looked like an even older burial ground – that mound which is typical of megalithic tombs.

Yes, “one day is with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,” (2Peter 3v8) but one thing is for sure… my Lord is returning soon. Those graves and those tombstones will be opened and “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1Thessalonians 4v16&17

I saw, too, the graves of very young children who would not have reached the age of understanding.

But what of those who do not know the Lord? The terrifying thought that those souls would be condemned to such an unspeakable eternity…

But it is not the Lord’s will that any should perish and it is His will that those who know Him should reach others as long as the Lord gives them life and breath. Even if we have no stamina left and our bodies worn out – we can pray, which is a most essential element of soul winning.

 As we drove away from that ancient place, I noticed huge transformers bearing electricity across the countryside. If one of those transformers were to fail – it would cause enormous problems for the rest and a blackout may ensue. As Christians, we bear the Word of God to hungry souls and like each transformer we have a fearful responsibility to the souls we encounter in each of our unique paths through life.

DSCF7926

DSCF7916

DSCF7928

DSCF7922

DSCF7939

The Faith Mission Convention, Durrow 2013 – and David and Goliath!

September 7, 2013

7910

At the recent Faith Mission Convention in Durrow I was interested to learn that the above models of ‘David and Goliath’ won a prize in a local competition. Goliath, it has been said, was around ten foot tall, while David was just a youth, considerably less in stature. What a formidable sight Goliath would have seemed to the average person! But young David was not an average person, in spiritual terms, for he saw beyond the mere mortal man who stood before him. Boldly he confronted Goliath with these words: “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.” (1Samuel 17v45)

In many ways these are formidable days, too, in which we live. In 1Peter 5v8 we are advised to “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.”

As David resisted Goliath, he did not put his trust in the weapons of this world – but rather his confidence was rooted in deep personal faith in the Lord God of Israel.

At the sight of these models of David and Goliath, I was reminded of a little poem which I wrote a long time ago now. This was based on the words of Moses in Exodus 14v14: “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace;” David’s words in 1Samuel 17v47: “And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord, and he will give you unto our hands;” The words of Jahaziel in 2Chronicles 20v15…”for the battle is not yours, but God’s;” David’s words in Psalm 20v7: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of Lord our God;” in Isaiah 54v17 we learn that “no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgement thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.”

Finally, I base the little verse on these words from 1Corinthians 1v27-31… “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

As we go into battle resisting the wiles of the evil one, we must put on the whole armour of God, (Ephesians 6v13) “that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand…”

Surely the strongest, most seemingly confident person in the world has lost the battle already if he is not clad with the spiritual armour that counts?

 

 

If The Battle Is The Lord’s…?

 

If the battle is the Lord’s

Then what have we to fear?

Cast off thine heavy armour-

He saveth not with sword or spear!

 

The Lord shall fight for you,

And ye shall hold your peace,

Though chariots pursue

And enemies increase!

 

For He hath chosen the weak,

And that which men despise,

To bring to naught the mighty,

To confound the great and wise!

 

© Elizabeth Burke.

 

7950

Lovely Laois – and some Spiritual Analogies

June 19, 2012

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.

Reflections on the Life of Thomas Kelly – “Ireland’s Most Prolific Hymn Writer” (Born July 13th 1769 – Died May 14th 1855)

July 10, 2010

 

As we read through the gospels which are dedicated to the wonderful life of Jesus here on earth, it is interesting to note that “the common people heard him gladly.” (Mark 12v37) On the other hand the scribes and Pharisees were constantly “laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.” (Luke 11v54) When He healed on the Sabbath day, or when He taught in the synagogue, immediately they were His accusers. “By what authority doest thou these things? Or who is he that gave thee this authority?” they asked. (Luke 20v2) In Mark 15v1 we read that it was the chief priests and scribes who “bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.”

Today, as then, we have our scribes, Pharisees and lawyers – and today, as then, they “love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats at synagogues (or churches) And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” (Matthew 23v6&7) Jesus said: “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are as graves which appear not and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.” (Luke 11v44)

Of course it was the same in Thomas Kelly’s day. Thomas Kelly was the only son of a judge, Thomas Kelly of Kellyville, Co. Laois – which was then known as ‘Queen’s County.’ His father wanted Thomas to follow in his footsteps, which he did for a time, for he graduated from Trinity College Dublin and moved to London to further his career. It was there that he came under conviction of sin and subsequently put his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.

After this life-changing experience he left his original choice of career to return to Ireland, where he was ordained a minister in the established church. However, because his heart was in the right place, Thomas could not but preach the truth in all its fullness, which in turn made him unpopular with the hierarchy of the church. In those days he suffered immense persecution from his superiors in the church but it was perhaps the opposition from his own family which hurt him the most.

Eventually, having been cast out from the church and barred from all ‘consecrated buildings,’ he found his place amongst the ordinary people, relentless in his preaching of the gospel to hungry souls. Those were days of both spiritual and physical hunger, with the result that Thomas was greatly loved by the poor of Ireland, especially during the potato famine of the 1840’s.

And so, we can see that just as many of the common people heard Jesus gladly, very often they will hear His followers gladly. Those who come to know the Saviour may find that their greatest enemies are those of their own households, while the hierarchy that they once held in esteem within the established churches are not so sympathetic to the simple message of the gospel either.

But Jesus loved those scribes and Pharisees! Although He could see their faults and hypocrisies, He loved them enough to die for them and some of them were even won by Him. Nicodemus, a man of the Pharisees, (St. John 3) could see clearly that “no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” (Verse2) And Nicodemus came to love Jesus, for we read how he came to take care of His body after the crucifixion, along with Joseph of Arimathaea. (John 19v39) Therefore if we are followers of Christ, let us in the words of 1John 3v18… “not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”

In Hebrews 11v24-26, we read: “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.” Moses could have chosen to remain in the Egyptian royal family – but what of his eternal welfare? If Thomas Kelly had remained within the established church, diluting his sermons to please the hierarchy and if he had put his family before God, surely we would have been denied the rich legacy of his hymns today? Such lovely compositions clearly stemmed from Thomas’s own personal sufferings. Above all, if Jesus had called on the angels to deliver Him from the cross, what hope would there be for humanity today?

In Romans 8v18 we read: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Today, I believe that Thomas Kelly is rejoicing in glory with many brothers and sisters in Christ who “esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt…” If you have never fully trusted the Saviour for salvation, remember that the pleasures of sin are indeed but “for a season.” Just as Moses “by faith forsook Egypt,” you can by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, forsake sin. John the Baptist said: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of world.” (John 1v29) He came, not to give us a licence to sin, but to take away our sin. “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” (1John 3v7) Whatever our spiritual standing – He knows us better than we know ourselves. Why not come to Him today, just as you are, and in the quietness of your heart trust Him to meet you at the point of your need?

Remember the words of Mark 8v36&37: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (1Pet.1v7)  Praise His Name.

Link to Thomas Kelly’s hymns: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/s/t/stricken.htm

© Elizabeth Burke 2007