Posts Tagged ‘northern ireland’

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…

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“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

The Mission Halls of Ireland

August 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Scotland and Montreal – A Miracle of Prayer – from a booklet by W.A. Weir

July 28, 2014

 

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I recently said farewell, once more, to one of my daughters who is travelling very much these days. Mothers and fathers the world over watch sadly at the last sight of their children waving goodbye to them at airports and indeed some may even wonder if they will ever see them again…

Thankfully, we have many more means of communication in this era but still the parting can take its toll on us. Not long after my daughter’s departure, I found a copy of an old booklet entitled: “Landing Safely” by the late William A. Weir from Northern Ireland who was once a preacher who produced other similar booklets. One true story in this booklet spoke especially to me last week and I feel led to share it at this time. What a miraculous answer to prayer – and the same Lord who answered this mother’s prayer, lives to answer ours today!

“The letters from her son in America ceased entirely, and when his mother wrote anxiously begging for a reply, no answer came. His home in Scotland had been happy, with every advantage that could give contentment. It was a Christian home, but religion was not forced on the children. The mother was a woman of great faith, and saw many remarkable answers to prayer. However her son, whom we will call John, wanted to see the world, and not long after his father’s death he left home and Scotland. He found a good job; all seemed to go well with him, and he wrote by every mail. Then he decided to give up his job, and to travel for a time, and therefore could give no address. No reason was given, and it was at this point the correspondence stopped. The only mention he had made of any place was that he might call at Montreal.

The days of silence lengthened into weeks, and the weeks into months, and the mother became intensely anxious, feeling that she had lost her son for good. She had prayed often for him, but now she cried with intense earnestness for some contact with her son, and above all that his soul might be saved for Eternity. Then early one morning while she was thinking and praying, someone seemed to stand by her side, and a voice said to her: “Write to the Young Men’s Christian Association at Montreal, Canada.” She was quite bewildered. The vision was all so clear, yet so strange. The words sounded in her ears, and she felt it was a voice from Heaven. Resolving to write at once she knelt down and asked God what to say in her letter. With a deep sense of inspiration she wrote to the Montreal Y.M.C.A., giving her son’s full name and description, with all the circumstances of the case. She asked them to call a special meeting for prayer, on a certain day and at a set hour, both of which she named, adding that she would unite with them in prayer at that appointed hour. The letter went off, and she waited, counting the days until an answer would come, as she was convinced the call to write was the voice of God.

At last the answer came with the assurance that her desire would be carried out. The fixed day and hour arrived and a number of people met in the Montreal Y.M.C.A., and a time of earnest prayer followed for this unknown young man. The hour passed and the closing hymn was being sung, when a young man entered the hall, and took a seat next to the leader, as though directed to do so. As the hymn ended the Secretary explained to him that the meeting was over, and he was sorry he had been late. The stranger answered: “I do not know why I am here at all. I had not the slightest intention of coming here when I left the hotel this morning, but something compelled me to come in. I could not pass the door. I tried to pass it, but I could not; and I do not know why I am here.” The secretary asked his name, and he answered at once with the name of the missing son. The miraculous had taken place before their eyes, something which no human being could have planned or brought about. That John should have been urged against his will to come into that room of the Y.M.C.A. at the moment when prayer was made on both sides of the Atlantic, was nothing only the work of an Almighty and loving God, Who hears and answers prayer.

When the amazing facts finally dawned upon him, John’s proud and restless heart melted, and he burst into tears with trembling emotion as he said: “I can’t turn away from love like this.” He knelt down and confessed his sin and his lost condition, crying: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” He realised that all the time he had been running away from God, and that God had been seeking him. It was a time of thanksgiving in that extraordinary meeting, and there was joy in the presence of the angels of God over another sinner repenting.

John wired his mother saying he was coming home with the best news. He returned to Scotland by the next boat and words would fail to tell the depths of joy and thanksgiving in his mother’s heart as they met, and she recognised the great change in him. Her prayers had been answered in a supernatural intervention of the power of God, guiding and controlling and reaching out beyond the seas to bring a wanderer to the Cross of Christ. This true story may be read by someone far from home and God, and may indeed be a voice calling to return again. Many have heard the clear and inescapable voice, and it is urgent and important to respond without delay. “Come NOW, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1v18) Remember it is NOW.”

“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,

Calling for you and for me;

See, on the portals He is waiting and watching,

Watching for you and for me.

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised,

Promised for you and for me;

Though we have sinned He has mercy and pardon,

Pardon for you and for me.”

 

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Suicide: A Worrying Trend in Ireland

December 31, 2011

It was a depressing foggy winter’s evening as I glanced at my watch, wondering why my husband was so late home from work. Some time later I discovered to my dismay that his train had been delayed because of a fatality on the railway line and it appeared that this was no accident. Unfortunately this has not been an isolated incident over the years and now, as the festive season comes to an end and we enter a new year, I have been reflecting on the statistics which will be released for 2011. A recent report has found that men under the age of 35 accounted for 40% of all suicides, 527 people died by suicide in the Republic of Ireland in 2010 and Northern Irish suicides have risen by a staggering 64% in the last decade. But, horrific statistics aside, I feel dismay at the thought of the mental anguish that each individual soul must be suffering to commit such an act.

I have also been thinking on Biblical examples of the Lord’s servants who went though low times in their lives. David clearly reveals this in many of his psalms and Job is a prime example of someone who has gone through so much that he feels despair for a time – but praise God for His goodness to these two men and His love for all mankind today!

Ultimately David and Job triumphed over their respective situations, because their hope was in the Holy One of Israel. In the words of Job: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:” (Job 19v25&26)

Job faced more tragedy in a short space of time than most people could physically face over a lifetime. While most of his ‘comforters’ became his accusers, God loved Job; he was victorious in the end – and today is rejoicing eternally with his Saviour.

Yes, God loved Job, He loved David and He loves you and I – whatever giant despair threatens to overwhelm us. Surely love is the answer? Bereavement, loss, being diagnosed with a serious illness and many other issues can all contribute to an individual’s depressive feelings but when we know that we are truly loved and cared for, it can change our whole perspective on life.

Today, whoever you are, wherever you are and whatever your problems are, you can be certain of this one fact… God loves you! Although you may feel that no one on this earth loves you – you can be sure of God’s love for you. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3v16)

Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you, my peace give I unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (1John 14v27)

These are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ to all who have repented of their sins and who have put their trust in Him.

Yes, it may be good to talk to a professional counsellor when one is feeling low, but surely the best Counsellor of all is He who loved you enough to give His very life for you? At this moment, if you do not know Him as Saviour, I would urge you to trust in Him for salvation. Your prayer can be a simple one, in your own words… “Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for all sins I have ever committed. Please come into my life and take over my problems – I entrust them all into your care.”

If, however, you do know Jesus as Saviour today and like Job, you are facing some deep waters – ask the Lord to turn this testing time into something positive and wonderful. Whatever happens, be assured of this… “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Hebrews 13v14) Remember too, if you are a Christian to reach out prayerfully in His love to souls around you, for who knows what turmoil your neighbour or that fellow traveller who stands beside you daily on the railway platform is going through…

Lest we Forget!

November 13, 2011

The following is a short extract from the end of one of my stories in “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year.” The story entitled: Wars, Rumours of War, Three Hostages… and the Prayers of the Saints (Matt. 21v22 & Matt. 24v6-8) tells of how a young woman, Annetta Flanagan from the small village of Richhill in Northern Ireland was taken hostage by the Taliban back in 2004. Many Christians in the Richhill area prayed fervently and I thank the Lord that Annetta and her two colleagues were released unharmed some weeks later…

“The dawn of Tuesday 23rd November 2004, brought that release of Annetta and her colleagues – almost a month after they were taken hostage on Thursday 28th October. The details of the release were vague – probably because no one wanted to jeopardise those who could be involved in possible future hostage situations. One of their captors is believed to have been shot dead, but the three victims were safe and well. Only those involved in this traumatic event knew how it was for them, and are able to tell their story. But from the moment that I heard that breaking news, I wanted to tell a story – a story of the great power of our wonderful Saviour, for whom all things are possible, and I wanted that story to have a happy ending. I thank God that it did!

With tears in my eyes, I looked at all types of newspapers on display that week, depicting the smiling face of Annetta as she headed home to be re-united with loved ones. A headline in one Dublin newspaper announced: “Town rejoices as power of prayer brings Annetta home.” (Irish Independent, Wednesday 24th November 2004).  Even the secular world was acknowledging the power of prayer!

It is interesting to note that during their time in captivity, three Afghan women offered to take the place of the three hostages! What a noble gesture – and yet on hearing of this I was immediately struck by the words of Romans 5v7… “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” No doubt the Afghan ladies saw the injustice in threatening to kill people who were merely helping with democratic elections. However, who would offer his or her life for someone whom, in his or her view, was evil and even deserved death? Nevertheless we read… “But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5v8) The righteous Son of God laid down His life for all (1Tim. 2v5&6) in the knowledge that nothing less than this enormous sacrifice could ever redeem the human race. 

Valiant soldiers through the ages gave their lives, so that democracy would overcome the tyrants of this world.  Annually we remember the dead of two World Wars, and the sacrifices that were made. How much more then, should we acknowledge and honour Jesus, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9v6) who gave His life for the billions of souls throughout the ages, to redeem them to Himself? I have no doubt that he has spoken to souls through this and other traumatic events, and that He will continue to speak to them in the days that lie ahead – so that they may trust Him for eternity, escaping a worse situation than they have been involved in, upon this earth. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55v8&9). A short time after the event, I wrote to a local newspaper wishing the released hostages a full recovery after their horrific ordeal. My letter concluded with the words of Ephesians 3v20&21, which I feel is an apt conclusion to a story that must give God the glory. Perhaps, too, it may have even more joyful implications than we would ever have dreamed possible… “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, Amen.”

Morning, noon and night our whispered anxious prayers,

Rose in silent anguish to the throne of He who cares.

Oh blessed Lord, we thank thee now, for thou hast said: “Believe…

For if ye are my servants… ye shall indeed receive!”

Fond Memories of my father, Jack Hutchinson (15th June 1926 – 16th February 2011)

March 15, 2011

The following is a little article which I submitted to the Ulster Gazette newspaper in Armagh; it was kindly published by them just recently…

“Wednesday 16th February last saw the passing of Jack Hutchinson, a local farmer and fruit-grower from the Portadown Road/Armagh area, close to the village of Richhill. Well known and loved in his own community and further afield, Jack will be sadly missed by his wife Ella (née Turkington), children Elizabeth, George, Grace and Christine and Jack’s younger sister Ella, who is his only remaining sibling. Jack was loved dearly by each and every one of his 11 grandchildren for his fun-loving personality and will also be sadly missed by his daughter-in-law Jackie and sons-in-law Martin, Bruce and Colin, in addition to his sisters-in-law Rena and Freda, brother-in-law George and his many nephews, nieces and others in the extended family circle.

Friends, neighbours and acquaintances will also miss Jack, an unassuming man who encouraged others and whose life was characterised by honesty, integrity, hard work and love for his fellowman. He and his wife Ella were married for almost 59 years and their united faith and devotion to their Saviour and each other was exemplary, mirroring their commitment to the Lord in the early 1950’s. Jack came to put his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ in June 1950 and had a later experience of sanctification in December 1955. Prayer was of the utmost importance to him throughout the years; both his own personal prayer and the prayer meetings which he attended with others, while his well-studied Bible was his constant companion on the armchair beside him.

Above all, Jack would want sorrowing loved ones and close friends to know that although he is “absent from the body,” he is joyfully “present with the Lord” (2Cor. 5v8) and that for all who put their trust in his Saviour and lifelong Friend, there is this sure promise… “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30v5)

Finally, Jack would also desire that his testimony should live on to speak to others, long after his passing. Jack’s testimony can be viewed and printed from this website:

https://readywriterpublications.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/jack-hutchinson-%e2%80%93-%e2%80%9cyou-can-be-saved-%e2%80%93-and-know-it%e2%80%9d-by-his-daughter-elizabeth-burke-nee-hutchinson/

Copies are also available from his daughter, Elizabeth. (Email: readywriterpublications@gmail.com)

The Significance of Names – & a Beacon on the Hill

September 13, 2010

Very recently some members of my family in Northern Ireland decided to commemorate the 400th anniversary of their arrival in Ireland. It must be said that the Plantation of Ulster can be a divisive and sensitive subject on which to dwell and so I will not do so. However, the Lord has led me to look at it from a spiritual point of view, using the occasion to reach many with the truth of His Word. Here is a tiny bit about the history…

My surname before I was married was “Hutchinson;” John Hutchinson and his son William were the first to arrive from Staffordshire in England, in 1610, to the area of Mullaghbane, just outside the city of Armagh. William had a son called Andrew, known in later life as “old Andrew.” The latter had a son called Samuel who in turn had a son called Andrew… and so on…! Of course I realize that only those with an interest in (or a connection with) the Hutchinsons from this area of County Armagh would be interested in the entire family tree! By the way, should someone who is reading this require the information, please feel free to contact me.

The event was to be celebrated with a large bonfire on a high hill, somehow reminding me of the “warning beacons” which were lit in Elizabethan times to warn of the coming Spanish Armada. As I thought about the forthcoming glow of the great fire, all sorts of thoughts were going though my head… the preservation of family names through the ages; the handing down of land from one generation to another; old wars and disputed territory; the origin and meaning of our names; and the fascinating gene pool that makes us the individuals we are today, with all our personality traits and physical appearance. Clearly we are very much victims of circumstance, having no control over our origins.

“You’re not related to Burke (Hare’s body snatching accomplice), are you?” I have been jokingly asked, to which I vehemently deny that I have any connection. “Oh no,” I say, “I’m married to a Burke.” Then I think, ‘well, really you know, we are all related from Adam and Eve, so in the great view of the origins of mankind – then, yes, I am related to everyone, including those infamous characters in history.’ So – what is in a name? In this part of the world surnames were often derived from the trade that a person was engaged in, e.g. ‘Thatcher,’ ‘Butler,’ or ‘Farmer,’ or from the area that the family came from, e.g. Moore, Marsh or Woods, or the names of cities or towns; while ‘good’ and ‘bad’ names alike have a certain history associated with them. In the Celtic realm, ‘Mac’ and ‘O’ preceding a name means ‘son of.’ The Bible tells us that “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” (Prov.22v1) A good name and reputation can take a lifetime to establish – but a good name can also be tarnished within a very short time indeed.

Names are very significant in many societies throughout the world, revealing everything from the origin of the person to his political standing and perhaps even his class or caste. In this life there are great, and often unjust, divisions between the classes in some societies but how is this all viewed in the light of eternity?

Some day we will stand before the Judge of all mankind, devoid of all the trappings of this life because God is no respecter of persons. We cannot present Him with our respectable family name and although we may have worked hard all our lives, we cannot come to Him with our diligence. We may be viewed as a “pillar of society” but this means nothing to Him, while our affluence and education (or lack of these) is also irrelevant to Him. No, when I stand before God, I will be judged on what I have done with the Name that is above every Name, (Phil. 2v9): the Name of the precious Lord Jesus Christ. “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2v10&11)

For those who did not acknowledge Him as Saviour in this life, nor recognized that “here we have no continuing city” (Heb.13v14) it will be too late. The Bible speaks of those whose “inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.” (Psalm 49v11) But the day will surely come when this entire earth (and all our lands and possessions) will be no more. “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isaiah 65v17)

Therefore, in the light of these great truths, we must be sure that we are right with God. Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? We cannot be responsible for the decisions and lives of our forebearers – but God has given to each one of us the opportunity to get right with Him in this life. Praise God, if you do so, you will be given a new name in Heaven. (Rev. 3v12)

If you have trusted in that Name that is above every name, remember His words in Revelation 3v11: “Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” When I thought about the great bonfire on the hill, I was reminded of these words: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” (Matthew 5v14) Like the great beacons on the hills in bygone days which burned brightly to warn of the advancing danger of the Spanish Armada, the Christian’s life must burn brightly for the Lord Jesus Christ who is returning again to judge the world. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5v16)

Have you never trusted Him as Saviour? Remember that eternity lies before you. Which will it be – an eternity of intense pain and great darkness, with no comforting Presence of the Saviour – or a joyful eternity in Heaven with the Lord and all who love Him? The latter is God’s will for you, whoever you are! Repent of your sin; ask Him to forgive you for all that previous life lived outside His Presence and ask Him to come into your life and make you a new person, for he has said: “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37) Only trust Him now in the quietness of your heart.

Yes, “a good name is rather to be had than silver or gold,” but only God can give us a good (and a new) name that counts for eternity, when we trust in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, for salvation.

I love Charles Austin Miles’ hymn: “A New Name in Glory.” May yours be one of those names today!

Link to this hymn: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/n/e/newnamei.htm

“How Great Thou Art!”

September 7, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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