Posts Tagged ‘durrow’

“Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.” (St. Luke 11v35)

August 27, 2015

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Having recently attended the annual Faith Mission Conference near Durrow in County Laois, I was reflecting today on all the different types of people that we’d met – both at the conference and around that locality. Somehow we found ourselves seated beside someone who had never attended the conference before. He had travelled a distance – out of curiosity. The fact that this person had sat beside us, I felt, was no accident because of the conversation which ensued after the meeting. How good it is to be able to witness to those we come in contact with in this way; I felt a great sense of the Lord’s Presence while we were conversing with this man and also a sense that he was genuinely seeking something more in his life.

There are others who may attend a meeting where the gospel is preached for many years but for some reason it never touches their hearts. Often I pray quietly within my own heart while a sermon is being preached, in the knowledge that there may be someone present who needs to be awakened to see his own need.

Others, still, perhaps young people, have just gone along to please someone – or even under duress. They are ‘anti’ everything that is said and bored with it all… and they show it!

There may also be deceivers; they mingle with Christians and they use the same terminology as Christians, but they have never been truly born again of the Spirit of God; I believe that the Lord gives discernment in this regard too.

Deceivers populate much of the ‘religious’ world. Not only do they deceive – but they are deceived. Very often of deceivers who are deceived it may be said that they are… “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2Timothy 3v7)

We stayed on after the conference, to visit the round tower and the relatively new heritage centre in the picturesque village of Timahoe. Situated in an old Church of Ireland, we discovered much of historical interest in this heritage centre, where we were kindly shown around by a lady who lives in the area.

Models of several austere looking monks caught my eye – but especially one who sat at a writing desk. On viewing the photograph later, somehow that “ever learning” verse came to mind.

Surely “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)

“For 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&6)

He gave Himself a ransom for all: seeking souls shall find Him if they seek for Him with all their hearts; the scorner will be forgiven and the backslider restored if they truly repent – and even the deceiver can break through, when he allows the Lord to show him that the light that he thought he had is but darkness.

Ultimately we can only serve one Master, whose will is that our eye is “single.” Friendship with the world is surely enmity with God. (James 4v4) It is totally His will that our eyes are focussed on Him alone and on the eternal values that count.

In the lovely words of Jesus: “The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.” (Luke 11v34-36)

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

March 28, 2014

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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

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On Visiting Aghaboe Abbey – and some Spiritual Analogies

September 24, 2013

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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.

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

September 7, 2013

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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.

 

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The Faith Mission Midlands Convention – Sunshine & Encouragement!

August 24, 2012

On the weekend of 17th – 19th August last I received much personal encouragement on attending the 30th Annual Faith Mission Irish Midlands Convention, held for the first time in the lovely Durrow area. Sometimes our private conversations with other souls attending such conventions can be every bit as challenging and encouraging as the words we hear from the pulpit and I can honestly say that I was touched by both on this occasion.

It was impressed upon me more than ever that I am not the only person in the world with problems (health or otherwise) and it is good to know that there are those who pray for us and who genuinely care for both our spiritual and physical welfare.

I discovered another source of encouragement when we visited the public library in the little town of Abbeyleix. On climbing a winding staircase I viewed copies of my books: “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year” and “Singing on the Journey Home” on the shelves and was pleased to see that both books had been borrowed multiple times. This discovery, I believe, came from the Lord to give me encouragement at a time when I most needed it. In that little library, on a sunny Saturday morning I could see clearly that my work and distribution had not been in vain and that the Lord’s Word would not return unto Him void.

The Lord was reminding me that seeking souls in little libraries in many Irish towns and villages and in the larger libraries in Dublin city may be reached in this way. Many libraries have previously purchased books from me, but unfortunately libraries are also now victims of our lingering ‘economic downturn.’ Yet, despite this, I believe that the Lord will provide as I now endeavour to donate books to libraries which no longer have funding.

How good it is to know that the words He instructs us to write can live on to inspire, convict, challenge or comfort others with His love long after we have been called Home!

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.

The Last Faith Mission Convention in Stradbally, Co. Laois – and Memories of the Rock of Dunamase

August 23, 2011

The Stradbally area will always hold special memories for me, since it was the evocative beauty of the scenery here which inspired the covers for my first two books: “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year” and “Singing on the Journey Home.” It was with a sense of anticipation tinged with a little sadness that we set out on our last journey to this area where the convention has been held for the last twenty-eight years.

Last weekend I recalled the bright August morning on which we first discovered the ‘Rock of Dunamase’ – ancient castle ruins dating back to AD 432, which the Stradbally area is famous for. This rock, if it could speak, would tell of many battles. In the 9th century it was plundered by the Vikings, in the 13th century it became a Norman stronghold, while in the 17th century it was destroyed by Cromwellian guns. Throughout Ireland’s turbulent history the Rock of Dunamase remained a strategic base, even through constant violent attacks. Amazingly the rock was recorded by the Greek geographer, Ptolemy, in his map of AD140!

Little did I know when I first photographed the “Rock Church” from high amongst the ruins of the Rock of Dunamase, that it would be on the cover of my first book and that a view of a lovely little Laois farmhouse would provide the cover for the second.

As we drove along the narrow country lanes, I gazed with interest at golden crops just waiting to be harvested. Yes, they were “white unto the harvest” but would there be enough help available to get those crops safely gathered in before the dark days of rain which had been forecast? There were numerous “tares amongst wheat” and regrettably some “wheat amongst the tares.”

And so I pray for the Faith Mission workers as they move to a new location; that they will stand true to the principles on which they were founded; that souls will be touched like never before and that the Lord will use this new centre in Durrow to His glory. I thank God that He gave ordinary people like me the opportunity to reach souls in the Stradbally area, while attending the convention there over the years and I pray that some day I will meet those souls in heaven.

It was good to meet with old acquaintances and to receive and give spiritual encouragement last weekend and I pray that those who attended will be met at the point of their spiritual needs, for how we need the Lord in these times.      

I thought about the spiritual condition of many who claim to follow the Lord, both in this county and others and sadly the words of Revelation 3v2 came to mind: “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” Yet, recalling how I reflectively touched the ancient remains of the Rock of Dunamase years previously, I cannot but think of the words of Jesus to Peter, in Matthew 16v18… “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

That “Rock” was surely Christ, as is evidenced by the words of 1Cor. 10v4… “for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.”

If a great remnant of the earthly Rock of Dunamase still remains, despite the fierce battles of two hundred decades; how much more shall we withstand the gates of hell if we are strengthened and made pure by faith… in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal “Rock of Ages?” Praise His Name.