Posts Tagged ‘northern ireland’

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

August 9, 2019

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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.

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

March 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Overview of Denominations and Heresies in Ireland

November 30, 2017

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I recently counted the number of different churches in a small village I know well in Northern Ireland. (By the way, this is a predominantly Protestant village and while a few Roman Catholic people might live here, there is no Roman Catholic Church in the village itself.) There are the usual mainline denominations: Church of Ireland, Methodist and quite a large Presbyterian Church. Then there is a small Evangelical Presbyterian Church, an Elim Pentecostal Church and a Quaker Meeting House. Now, these are the six churches I know of; there could well be other groups who meet in private homes and other locations… and I believe there is also a Brethren Gospel Hall situated in the outlying countryside.

Compare this with a village that I also know very well in the Republic of Ireland. This village, although with a population around the same size as its Northern counterpart, contains one church… the Roman Catholic Church. Again, there may be small house groups that I am unaware of, although if there are – they don’t publicize their existence. Of the population in this village in the Irish Republic, I would say that many people would be nominal Roman Catholics. By “nominal” I mean that they would have been baptised in the R.C. church as babies, had their “first communions and confirmations,” and perhaps got married in the church. (However, a sizeable proportion of the population don’t get married at all these days, preferring to cohabit, while a few may opt for civil ceremonies). These “nominal” Catholics (and I believe that a huge chunk of the population in the Republic of Ireland as a whole are nominal Catholics) adhere to all the church’s traditional ceremonies but they rarely, if ever, attend mass, unless on special occasions and funerals. They are referred to by some as “`A La cart Catholics,” choosing to stick with ceremonial traditions and rites but ignoring the beliefs which would interfere with their lifestyle. Very often because of underlying fear and superstition, they will ensure that their children are baptised and have had their first communions and confirmations but really, if they were honest, many have absolutely no interest in spiritual matters.

As I look at these two villages (let us call them “A,” the Protestant village and “B,” the Roman Catholic village) I see in both of them much of this “a la carte” or “pick and choose” mentality. Having said that, I am aware that there are many genuine Christians (those who have been born again of the Spirit of God) residing in “A” and although these individuals may attend a variety of denominations on a Sunday morning, theirs is a daily walk of faith with the Lord and the denomination itself means very little to them. Others in “A” are church going people and they may even be friendly, pleasant and honest people but they have never been truly born again and are relying on their good works to take them to heaven.

However, I know “B” very well; the population has been growing there over the past few years, as more and more people travel out of Dublin city for affordable housing. I see “B” as a challenge but I know that “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19v26) It is true that there are the unsaved in “A” who are every bit as needy as those in “B” but somehow the presence of even a few Christians in a village gives it an entirely different atmosphere….

I feel a terrible darkness in “B” – a spiritually heavy darkness which is almost overwhelming and depressing but again… “with God all things are possible.”

While just a few genuine Christians plan to reach the lost in such villages, the devil, of course, is always waiting in the wings with other false systems of belief. The usual Jehovah’s Witnesses make their way around the houses periodically, taking advantage of most people’s lack of knowledge of scripture. But the spiritually parched ground here is also a breeding ground for other lesser-known falsehoods…

False prophets are making their rounds throughout the world and even small localities may be no exception. People are often mesmerised by the sensational and supernatural; these “prophets” claim to possess healing gifts and the answers to a multitude of problems.

In a world of ill health, depression, stress and physical and spiritual poverty, people will flock to them for hope and a warm “feeling” from someone they think cares about them personally, without realising that repentance and trust in Jesus is simply the answer to our every need.

The island of Ireland is currently full of denominations of one sort or another – but the number of people who truly know Him and who daily walk the narrow way with the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour are, I believe, dwindling. Yes, people love the sensational – and the modern. Worshipping “in spirit and in truth” has somehow become rare in this age, with the discarding of traditional hymns and the confusion of an assortment of modern versions of the Bible. Yet, in the midst of all this confusion, this spiritual darkness, these heresies and this craving for sensationalism, the Lord still speaks to those who will hear His “still small voice.” And, in this the Day of Grace, He can still use those who truly know Him as Saviour. Spiritually speaking, these days would appear to be discouraging days to live in but we must remember His words: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor. 12v9)

The battle is the Lord’s – not ours! (1Samuel 17v47) But the Lord also instructs His people that “Light cannot have fellowship with darkness.” (2Cor. 6v14) “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (2Cor. 6v17) I feel that the bottom line for the Christian is that he cannot worship properly in a church where he has not the full assurance that the Pastor, minister or person in charge is, at the very least, a Christian!

The Lord gives us discernment when we lean on Him and He can use just one or two people in the midst of all this darkness if these, His people, are obedient to His will and pliable in His hands.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places…” (Ephesians 6v12)

Remembering My Dad Today, 15th June 2016 – On What Would Have Been His 90th Birthday!

June 15, 2016

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Today my thoughts were filled with memories of my father who was born on 15th June, 1926 and who was called home to be with the Lord on 16th February, 2011. I have lovely memories throughout life of his smiling face, his sense of humour, his generosity, his honesty… and his witness to the many souls he would come in contact with in his daily life. While Mum would sometimes worry, Dad would reassure her… “It will be o.k.” he would say, “the Lord will undertake.” Indeed they both complemented each other very well. As I have said before – theirs was a marriage made in heaven, lasting for the best part of 60 years.

I remember a youthful Dad, chasing me through the waves of the sea on a summer’s day when I was very young. I can still hear the cry of a seagull and feel the sheer happiness of the moment. In later years he would jump out from behind something to scare his many grandchildren – my children and their cousins! They loved his sense of fun and even when he was much older that didn’t change much. But most of all I remember him being a witness to the children as well; he loved them all so much and wanted them to experience the joy that he had found in serving the Lord.

Today I found his very first well-worn old Bible; the one which Mum gave him two years before they were married… “Christmas 1950,” it read, “from Ella… Best Wishes.” In very faint pencil I read something which brought a tear to my eye… “Saved 1949 by the blood of the Crucified One”… in Dad’s handwriting. In another place he had written… “There is a new name written down in glory. I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.” In yet another place the writing is faint… “I’m so happy and here’s the reason why…. The writing tails off and cannot be read. But I know why he was so happy…

Since this would have been Dad’s 90th birthday had he lived, I turned to Psalm 90 today and how apt it is! “The days of our years are threescore and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90v10-12)

Dad must have been around 23 years old when he trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation – a very wise decision which was to set the scene for the rest of his life. “So teach us to number our days…” These days I can hardly believe how time is flying… which they say, is a sign that you are getting quite old! Nowadays many people reach four-score and ten and indeed, to reach 100 is these days not as unusual as it used to be; I have seen many “100th birthday cards” on display. Still, even the longest life is really not so very long and “we spend our years as a tale that is told.” (Psalm 90v9)

Each of “our tales” is so very different. I can look back on a mostly very happy life, with the occasional bleak moments – but no one is immune from them, whatever their profession of faith. How wise to “number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” When we repent of our sins and trust the Lord of my father for salvation, then we will have a Burden-Bearer for those bleak moments. My Dad was never famous or someone who made his mark in history but these days when I hear of the death of a famous person and I listen to all the accolade and tributes from mankind, all I wonder is… “Did that person ever trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation?” Surely nothing else in this world counts. As the little rhyme goes…  “Only one life,’ twill soon be past… only what’s done for Jesus will last.”

The last time I was ever with Dad, before he took the stroke which left him badly brain-damaged, I was sitting beside him in a little prayer meeting which he had arranged with Christian friends. This little prayer meeting was being held in the very place where he had trusted the Lord in 1949. After that I have one very special memory… One night after he had taken the stroke, I was with him in hospital and stayed with him for a very long time. There were just the two of us that night. He couldn’t speak but he held my hand tightly and the look of love in his eyes for me spoke volumes. I love Dad and I miss him but I know that he has gone to be with Jesus “which is far better.” My prayer on this beautiful June day is…. “Oh Lord, help me to number my days, that I may apply my heart unto wisdom and use the time that you have given me wisely – and to your glory, for life is futile, if it is not a life well lived for the Lord. Thank you Lord for these beautiful memories and for parents who, in their young lives believed, even before I was born.”

Reflections on World Book Day – and the Book that Counts

March 3, 2016

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“World Book Day,” despite the title of the event, is primarily associated with encouraging children to read. I was somehow not surprised by a comment on the site today: “Many children do not have access to books in their homes…” These days technological influences have brought about a situation where books, certainly in their traditional form, are becoming a thing of the past in some homes.

Most modern homes have a massive television and in the evening family members have either their eyes ‘glued’ to its overpowering cinema-like screen or are similarly transfixed to their smart phones etc.

My childhood, lived in a much earlier era, is full of memories of being curled up beside a flickering log fire in our old farmhouse, engrossed in some mystery or adventure book that I may well have purchased in a second-hand book store. Some of my earliest memories revolve around family visits to “Smithfield Markets,” an area of Belfast where old cobble-stone covered walkways were lined with numerous second hand bookstores. Sadly, that area of Belfast was destroyed in Northern Ireland’s recent ‘troubles,’ in the early seventies.

In those early days we would all arrive home with a car boot full of books of every description and I would dive into my armful of books, carrying them straight up to my bedroom, where they would be voraciously ‘devoured’ in the days ahead. In fact I was so fond of reading in those dreamy childhood days that I would actually look forward to having the ‘flu’ and then ‘prolong my recovery’ in order to spend time with my books!

These days, despite the introduction of electronic book-readers like Kindle and others, I have not succumbed to this new technology… even though my bookshelves are bursting! How life has changed since those early days of old books and shared stories around that flickering log fire… The art of good conversation, storytelling and even caring have become rare in this modern age. Certainly, some old stories from local history have a truly moral basis, with a spiritual significance and should never be forgotten. Good and true stories from long ago, like “ancient landmarks” (Proverbs 22v28) should not be removed and discarded.

Try as I might, it is difficult to imagine a world without books… but imagine a world without God’s Word, that massive and magnificent work, the Holy Bible. Above all the books that I have ever read in my life (and there are many) this is one Book which means much more to me than any other possession. I have some antiquarian and rare books… but none of these compare with my precious Bible. Here is a book containing many books: books of historical accounts, books of poetry, adventure, wisdom, the history of our very existence – and prophetic books about future certain happenings on our planet.  Above all it contains a love story; the story of the Lord Jesus Christ who, even if I had been the only one, He still would have died for me.

Many adventures, miracles and wonders that Jesus wrought can be read in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and yet, even these do not tell it all, for in John 21v25 we read: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”

Oh that today’s children and adults would search within and prayerfully read this most victorious of all books, which contains the answer to life’s dilemmas, comfort in life’s heartaches, the cure for sin in this life – and the key to a life of eternal joy!

 

Delivering Books to Monaghan, Lisnaskea and Enniskillen through Ireland’s Border Villages

May 15, 2015

0141 Just recently our car was recalled for some software updates at a garage in the Monaghan area, so I took the opportunity to visit some of my old haunts, including Val Irvine’s ‘Oasis’ bookshop in Lisnaskea – and also to visit the I.E.B. “Real Life” Christian bookshop in Enniskillen for the very first time. (My books have been sold in both outlets since 2008.) After work was completed on the car at a place near ‘Annayalla,’ we drove on to Monaghan town where I braved the (really!) cold weather to deliver books to the Monaghan town library. I was also interested to visit, for the first time, the Christian bookshop there in Monaghan which is run by Mrs. Elsie Moynan. We both discussed the fact that there were once Christian bookshops in Drogheda and Dundalk but unfortunately these have been closed down for a long time now. En route from Monaghan to Lisnaskea, we stopped to have our packed lunch in the small village of Rosslea which is just over the border into County Fermanagh. Wikopedia tells me that Rosslea or Roslea, (from the Irish Ros Liath) meaning grey grove/wood is a small village in County Fermanagh near the border with Co. Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland. In the census of 2001 it had a population of 554 people. At that time 97.5% were from a Roman Catholic background and 2% were from a Protestant background. I wondered, as I read this information, about the 0.5%! These little villages which nestle closely to the Irish border interest me, in that they have a strange air about them; you have this feeling that you are in ‘no man’s land’ and yet they do have a character all of their own. Some very negative facts emanate from ‘the troubles’ though; sadly many people were killed in these regions over those years, including members of the security forces. However, there were many more victims that had no connection at all with any organisation, legal or illegal. One of these was Douglas Deering, the last Protestant shopkeeper in Rosslea. Married with three children, he attended a Gospel hall in Clones. Thirty-eight years ago on May 12th 1977, Mr. Deering (52) was shot dead in his shop, which had already been bombed four times by the time of his murder. I felt a sad air about Rosslea as we passed through it on the return journey. The rain was now falling more persistently as I got out of the car to take a photograph of a bridge on the grey river. Somehow bridges always remind me of that allegory that Jesus is the only bridge between God and mankind. “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) There is only one effective bridge over the troubled waters of this life… the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. Stories of human tragedy abound where the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland are concerned, many individuals still suffering physically and emotionally as a result of the violence and many more lie in unmarked graves… awaiting the day. And that day is surely coming… “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are within shall be burned up.” (2Peter 3v10) “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) As I also took a photograph of the little Gospel hall on the edge of Rosslea, I thought about the residents of this and other villages throughout Ireland. Whether the history of these communities is peaceful or otherwise, each and every soul within them needs to repent and to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, if they have not already done so. I pray for those evangelical organisations, Christian fellowships and churches which are presently reaching out to communities in rural and urban areas throughout the island of Ireland. And I pray that individuals, like me, will be empowered to reach precious souls as the Lord leads. There are places we may never pass through again, quiet villages and little hamlets…. We need to love and reach those souls, for who knows what tomorrow holds? (Matthew 24v36) 0139

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

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Lay up Treasure in Abundant Measure… for the Great Accounting Day

February 11, 2015

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Just recently I discovered a very interesting old book: “Ways to Wealth – the Cust Family of Eighteenth Century Armagh,” by L.A. Clarkson & E.M. Crawford. The back page of the book declares: “This book gives a unique insight into the lifestyle and activities of an eighteenth century county family. It centres round Miss Annaritta Cust of Market Street, Armagh who died in 1797 aged well over eighty.” Apparently Miss Cust “left behind a house filled with an extraordinary collection of clutter ranging from valuable silver, elegant furniture, clothes in profusion and books in abundance, to useless scraps of rags and rubbish!” A list was drawn up by the executors of every single item possessed by this lady – what a nightmare to have to go through this lot!

I find the book interesting, from spiritual point of view, given that I have experienced the loss of two loved ones in recent years and have known something of the nature of the personal effects that they have left behind.  Certainly I have been especially touched by their little hand-written notes of a spiritual nature. My mother, by little notes she has written has made it clear that she loves me very much and I was moved to tears on reading these; it means so much to me to know in whom she had put her trust, when I read her references to her Lord and Saviour. In the end she was closer to Him than she ever had been in the rest of her life.

To hold my father’s Bible, studying the pieces of scripture that he had underlined and his handwritten references to how certain verses had touched him personally also means so much to me.

Being something of a sentimental hoarder I suppose that my personal effects could be a bit of a nightmare to go through too – so perhaps I should start tidying up now! However, I sincerely do want to leave behind those things which touch the hearts of those who find them.

With these thoughts in mind, I was recently reminded of the little choruses which were sung at the start of the Sunday night meeting in Sleepy Valley Mission Hall near Richhill; little choruses in the old “Songs of Victory” book, such as this one…

“Lay up treasure in Heaven,

Life will pass away;

Lay up treasure in abundant measure,

For the great accounting day;

Lay up treasure in Heaven!

Though men count thee poor,

Thou shalt reign with the sons of God

For evermore.”

William Drake Pennick (1884-1944)

We live in an incredibly materialistic world – materialism which would make the personal effects of Miss Cust pale into insignificance. Sadly there are many who appear totally oblivious to that fact that someday they will leave their possessions behind for others to sift through. We sojourn here for just a very little while.

Jesus said: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6v19&20)

What gladdens my heart most? The knowledge that someone has given me gold or silver – or the knowledge that a soul has repented and put his trust in the Lord for salvation? The joy that I have inherited gold and silver would be immediately robbed from me if I returned home to find those material things had been stolen. But no one can rob me of the incomparable joy that I would feel on hearing that a soul had put his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6v24)

“Today,” the book tells me “the Custs are forgotten in Armagh, the name unpreserved even as the name of a street, as in the case of their contemporaries, Ogle or Jenny or Dobbin.” “The ‘great house’ has been totally obliterated.”

And so it will be one day with our own homes, if this world continues. Our material possessions will some day pass away – but those unseen attributes: that love for our fellowmen, that burning desire to see souls saved and our love, witness and work for the Lord will endure for ever. These are the only treasures which should hold any meaning for those who serve Him and these treasures can only be the inheritance of those who have denied themselves and taken up the cross to follow Him. (Mark 10v21)

 

Loving Memories of Mrs. Ella Hutchinson – A Lovely Lady Who Will be missed by many

January 31, 2015

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Below is a little obituary article in respect of my mum, Mrs. Ella Hutchinson, who went to be with the Lord in December 2014. Really, this is just a short synopsis of a life that was lived to the full; even in ill health and pain my mother was creative, as is evidenced by all the wonderful paintings which now hang in our home! The robin (above) which she painted once for my daughter appears in my first book: “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year.” Words are somehow inadequate when it comes to trying to describe how much she loved her children and grandchildren, but most of all I would wish her testimony (see the link to this below) to continue to challenge, encourage or convict those who read. Submitted to the Ulster Gazette newspaper in Armagh; the following was kindly published by them in the edition dated Thursday 22nd January, 2015…

“Saturday 13th December last saw the passing of a beloved mother and grandmother, Mrs. Ella Hutchinson from the Woodview, Portadown Road area.

Dearly loved and missed by each of her four children, Elizabeth, George, Grace and Christine, their spouses and her 12 grandchildren; Ella was also loved by many in her local community, including those in the health sector who cared for her.

Born ‘Margaret Isabella Turkington,’ to parents Richard and Anna, Ella had one sister Betty who is now deceased. She grew up in the Bannfoot and Portadown town areas of County Armagh and in 1952 married a young farmer Jack Hutchinson from near Richhill; the close couple were together for almost 59 years when Jack passed away in February 2011.

Ella had many unique characteristics and gifts for which she was widely known; as a homemaker and as an artist with an appreciation of nature, she painted many beautiful scenes in water-colour and oils which now grace the homes of loved ones and friends to whom she was always so generous.

Her hospitability, warmth, motherly and caring nature, deep interest in many aspects of life and sense of humour were also known to many, despite the fact that in later years she suffered from ill health, was disabled and endured much pain.

It must be said that Ella’s patience in the midst of trials, suffering and many hospital procedures can only be attributed to her personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, a journey which began many years ago, just before her marriage to Jack who also came to put his trust in the Lord for salvation.

As with her husband Jack, Ella would want sorrowing loved ones and friends to know that although she is “absent from the body” she is joyfully “present with the Lord” (2Cor. 5v8) in a realm where there is “no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, or pain for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21v4)

She would also want it known that for all who put their trust in her Saviour and lifelong Friend, there is this sure promise: “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30v5)

Finally, as with Jack, Ella would also desire that her testimony should live on to speak to others, long after her passing. Her testimony can be viewed here:

https://readywriterpublications.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/the-testimony-of-my-mother-ella-hutchinson-nee-turkington-27th-may-1929-13th-december-2014/

Copies are freely available from her daughter Elizabeth. (Email: readywriterpublications@gmail.com)

 

 

The Testimony of my mother Ella Hutchinson (née Turkington) (27th May 1929 – 13th December 2014)

December 29, 2014

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Wouldn’t it be wonderful if even our very demeanour and presence would make such a deep impression on people that it would lead to their trusting the Lord as Saviour? Mary Cordner, the Faith Mission pilgrim who led my father to the Lord, made such an impression on my mother, that she was later to pen this poem about her…

 

I met a soul so full of grace

And as I gazed upon her face,

I found it was not hard to see

Where she would spend eternity.

And sadly I did leave her there

But in her love for God did share,

And prayed that I might be like she –

So full of grace and charity.

 

 

For me it was an enormous privilege to have been brought up by parents who came to know the Lord as Saviour before their marriage. I shall always remember my mother’s generosity and hospitality to the many visitors to our home and to all the people who came to help my father on the farm and her goodness to one ill and elderly man in particular, as she washed sheets for him by hand and made meals for him. In fact my mother made such an impression on me in this respect, that I penned a poem about her for Mother’s Day once. References to all the lovely things she accomplished, as well as her talent for art are included in the poem which is inspired by the words of Proverbs 31v10-31. I have printed it as a tribute to her at the end of her testimony. This is my mother’s testimony, as related to me one evening in 2012…

___________________________________________________________________________________

 

“I was brought up in the town of Portadown, County Armagh, in a loving home where Sunday was respected as the Lord’s Day and where my only sister and I were sent to Church and Sunday school, but it was not from the church pulpit that I found a witness or any words ever spoken to convict me of sin; rather this was to come from many a faithful witness of the Lord over the years.

I remember once when I was very young my family and I were on holidays for a week in Warrenpoint, a picturesque little coastal town in County Down. We were staying in one of those lovely old guesthouses along by the seafront and I shall never forget the meaningful question of the elderly man of that house… “Do you love the Lord Jesus?” These simple words touched me and made an impression on me at the time, filling my child’s mind with conviction. I remember turning and running back upstairs again to my room, where I knelt by the little bedstead and prayed to the Lord, as best as I knew how at the time. This special moment in my life has stayed with me over the years and I feel that it was then that the stirrings of conviction had begun in my heart.

The years passed with all their ups and downs for even children have these times in life and often I would have had thoughts of eternity. What would happen to me when I died? I was filled with dread at the thought of this. When I was around nine years old I took a disease called rheumatic fever which attacked me badly, leaving a legacy of ill health which still affects me today. I recall walking home from school holding onto the railings and then my mother kept me at home from school to nurse me back to health. I was nearly a year missing from school and I shall never forget my return there; I had missed so much and the teacher had no sympathy with me whatsoever, even under these circumstances. School became something of a nightmare for me, as I was never helped to catch up on everything that I had missed. When I think on those years now, how good it is to have a Saviour to lean on – and how miserable the lives of men, women and children who shoulder these burdens alone!

World War Two broke out in 1939 when we were in Newcastle, County Down on holidays at the end of the summer and I worried about my father being taken away from us to fight in the war against the Germans. I remember wondering whether we should we hide him in the attic! My father was an insurance agent in those days and worked very hard, cycling around the country to sell insurance. My mother worked hard too, as she looked after both her own mother and her mother-in-law until they passed away.

Another incident stands out in my mind; a simple event which was to fill me with conviction. I was around eleven or twelve when a tent mission came to the Seagoe area, just down the road from where I lived. I remember curiously cycling close to it and hearing the lovely singing of the opening hymn. A man called to me from the tent opening… “Won’t you come in?”

I, in turn made some excuse about not having a hat and he answered that this didn’t matter. I believe now that the man just wanted me to hear the gospel but I made my excuse because I knew instinctively, even then, that this meeting could mean that I had to greatly change my life in some way.

Some time later a clergyman called to the house one day to see whether I would like to be confirmed.  My mother opened the door to the gentleman in question and as soon as she did so I ran out the back door! Other young people may have viewed confirmation as just another ordinance of the church, but I sincerely felt that I could not go through with such a ceremony, unless I had truly made a commitment to the Lord. I honestly felt that to be confirmed would be wrong at the time and so I never was.

Eventually, at age fourteen I left school and started an apprenticeship with a hairdresser in Portadown. As I grew into a young woman, I would go out to the cinema occasionally on a Saturday, but apart from this, I didn’t socialise much. After some years, when I was just nineteen in the year 1948, I met a young man who was from the country near Armagh, whose name was ‘Jack Hutchinson.’ In those days the bridge over the River Bann was a favourite meeting place for young people and it was here that I was amused one evening to see Jack throwing a box of matches in the air. I think that perhaps he was trying to impress me but as it happened he dropped them!

Unknown to me, this young man had spotted me on other occasions too – once at a sports event when I was much younger and another time at some amusements. I was a bit of a ‘loner’ in those days and Jack told me later that he had noticed that I was standing alone, away from the crowds. Now that I had met Jack we would both go out together to the ‘Regal’ cinema on a Saturday night. I enjoyed his company very much but then something happened which was the start of a great change in Jack’s life. In the early summer of 1950 he started to go to a mission which was being run by an organisation known as the Faith Mission, in a little hall at Cloughan near Armagh. Jack had always attended his church faithfully, but now he told me that he knew that there was something missing in his life and one day he told me that he felt that he would like to have the assurance of being ‘saved.’ I was very curious about this mission and wanted to know what he meant, so I too went along with him one evening.

There I met Miss Cordner, the Faith Mission pilgrim who was later to lead Jack to the Lord and I have to say that this lady made a very deep impression on me, for she seemed so pure and full of goodness. This encounter awakened a yearning in me; I wanted, as the poem which I wrote about Miss Cordner goes, to ‘be like she… so full of grace and charity.’ Soon, one day Jack told me that he had been back to this mission again and that he had trusted the Lord to save him. Right then I knew that my life would need to change too if our relationship was to continue. I had been trying to read the Bible in those days, but starting in the Old Testament I found many things so difficult to accept and yet I knew that this was God’s Word and I wanted to be right with Him.

Conviction of sin lay heavily upon me in those days following Jack’s conversion. I remember praying and pleading with the Lord to make me right with Him. The conviction upon me was so deep that I would pray aloud in anguish, so much so that my sister Betty heard me. Seeing how disturbed I was, she gave me some advice… “Perhaps if you pray, meaning every word, it will work,” I recall her saying to me.

Then one night my parents and sister were not there and I was alone praying and pleading again in our living room. That evening I was kneeling at the left hand side of the fireplace and I cried unto the Lord: “Lord save me!” And praise God that evening I knew that something marvellous had happened; I had broken through to Him this time… He had answered my prayer and He had saved me and what is more, this time I believed that He had saved me! “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10v13)

How I thank the Lord for that wonderful evening which was to set the scene for the rest of my life! In those days we didn’t know to write down the date of when we came to know the Saviour. I know that it was just a very short time after Jack’s salvation experience but I am uncertain as to exactly when. But I know where it happened and praise God, I know that He answered me when I cried out to Him that evening and I began to know His lovely Presence in my life. It makes me smile now when I think about how Jack and I were such an enthusiastic young couple, anxiously wanting to work for the Lord wherever He would lead us.

How our lives changed! “Behold, all things are become new.” (2Cor. 5v17) Instead of going to the Regal on a Saturday night, we started to go to the young people’s meeting in Edenderry Presbyterian Church Hall in Portadown. Now, on the bus to work I felt that I should read the Bible openly as a witness to my fellow passengers. However, I remember a neighbour asking me a question about the Book of Revelation which I was unable to answer as I had only just started to read the Bible! On one occasion Jack and I were invited to give our testimonies in a mission hall in Tandragee and I remember that Jack took such a long time speaking that the person behind him on the platform pulled on his jacket! Those were good days – and although we were to have many ups and downs in the years that lay ahead, the Lord was faithful and kept us faithful to each other and to Him.

On May 27th 1952 (which was my 23rd birthday!) Jack and I were married, but returning from our honeymoon in Scotland I found quite a challenge awaited me! Here was I, a young woman of just twenty-three from an urban background going to live in an old house on a little farm at the end of a long winding country lane! But somehow the Lord undertook and I learned to lean on Him throughout it all. I was to learn that the only safe place is to be leaning on the Lord for all the negative situations that hit me in life.

One lovely memory stays with me to this day… I remember one day that I was hanging washing on the line at this first old country house we used to live in when suddenly I heard heavenly singing – like a chorus, or a choir of angels coming from the old Armagh Road. To this day I have no idea as to the source of the singing, but it is a beautiful and very special experience which I still share with loved ones today.

In our years in that old farm at Liskeyborough, before we eventually moved to Woodview, Jack and I had four healthy children: Elizabeth, George, Grace and Christine; each one of them is so special to me in their own unique way and I pray for my daughters and their husbands and my son and his wife, and all my grandchildren, that each soul will truly know the gracious Presence of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ in their daily lives.

Throughout the years the Lord has been my faithful Friend – a never failing Friend whose love for me has given me strength to face tomorrow, whatever it may hold. I recall especially how the Lord undertook for me during my heart operation which occurred over twenty years ago. After a ‘touch and go operation’ a leaking heart valve was successfully replaced and the Lord wonderfully gave me many more years to be with my family and to see all of my grandchildren. On another occasion I had a serious hernia operation, after being in considerable pain and in recent years I have been in and out of hospital with bouts of pneumonia and have even been diagnosed with heart failure but my Saviour has been my strength and refuge throughout life’s battles. With my brothers and sisters in the Lord I can say… “For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” (Psalm 48v14)

How He has been with me and strengthened me through my own personal illnesses, pain and serious operations over a whole lifetime; through the illnesses of loved ones and through the recent loss of my dear Jack to whom I was married for nearly 60 years, when he passed away in February 2011. But I praise Him that after life’s short day, it is not the end! One day recently I looked up into the beauty of the sky and I thought… “Heaven is up there… that is where the dear Lord is, that is where Jack is – and that is where I am going!” Once when I was searching for words of reassurance for the Lord’s sanctifying power in my life, He gave me these words: “I am with you and shall be in you.”

Today I claim those words afresh as I look to Jesus, who gave His life that I might go to be where He is, when He calls to take me Home – Home where God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes and where there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying nor pain. (Revelation 21v4) “My Jesus if ever I loved thee, tis now!

 

For My Mum

(Proverbs 31v10-31)

Born in the lovely month of May

Yours was always the blossom…

Apple, Hawthorne and Cherry

Gracing Ireland’s hedgerows and trees,

Just as you graced every house

You ever lived in, making it home –

Home for the labourer, the rambler,

 The loved one.

Your food gathered from near and far

Fed so many mouths.

Your hands, baking bread,

Clicking needles, loving gifts for all –

Or giving beauty life on canvas.

Your voice, singing choruses of praise,

Speaking words of comfort

To another soul across the ward…

And once, so long ago,

You heard a choir of angels sing,

As you wearied not in well doing –

His promise that some day you would reap

The blossom you have sown.

Many daughters have done virtuously,

But you have excelled them all.

Elizabeth Burke