Posts Tagged ‘richhill’

Remembering Harold Irwin, Recently Called Home – & His Lovely Old Cottage Prayer Meeting

February 10, 2020

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Nestling in the lovely emerald countryside of the Northern Irish countryside, near Richhill in County Armagh, lies a little old cottage beside the former home of the Irwin family. For some reason, I often feel nostalgic about old times and memories on a windy night and this weekend past was no exception. I have lovely memories of sitting in this little cosy cottage which Harold and his wife Evelyn provided for use as a mid-week prayer meeting. Harold piled the logs on the fire and before long everyone would feel the warmth of the little room in more ways than one! There would be a short devotional and then rousing singing of the old hymns, followed by sincere prayer. Those who attended loved this time together, where they felt the true fellowship of fellow believers.
Sadly, Harold and his wife have been suffering from ill health for a number of years and just recently, in his 98th year, Harold fell into a peaceful sleep one night, only to waken the next morning, as his daughter put it, “at home in heaven.” “At Home in Heaven” where my mum and dad (Jack and Ella Hutchinson) and others from those days are rejoicing in the glory of the Lord’s Presence. What a wonderful way to waken up!
We travelled to Harold’s funeral in Richhill last week, where the little church hall was packed to capacity. Meeting old acquaintances that I hadn’t seen in a while was emotionally daunting and I felt moved by the hymns, which touched on some of the experiences in my own life of late. Even before the service started, many of Harold’s favourite old hymns were sung and I felt myself shedding tears as I remembered loved ones who had once attended the little prayer meeting.
Strangely, the old hymn “At Home in Heaven,” had been going through my mind for some time prior to Harold’s death. I discovered the hymn, written as a poem in an antiquarian book “Christian Lyrics Illustrated,” published well over 100 years ago. What I like about this old book, is that it shows many of the hymns printed in full, in their original wording. I think it is terrible when old hymns (no longer under copyright) have been “mutilated,” both in regard to their lyrics and the original music which was set to them. Worse still, is the fact that some modern musicians will claim that they have written those hymns and this is believed by many in today’s generation. Perhaps it would be a good idea for people to research the words and music of these hymns and “songs,” before assuming anything.
“At Home in Heaven,” was written by James Montgomery (1771-1854) who was born in Scotland but spent some years in Ballymena, Northern Ireland and in England. At best, most hymn books show 8 verses of the hymn but there are in fact 22 verses in its original form, as a poem!
Harold loved poetry, particularly of a spiritual nature. The above old photograph of the cottage prayer meeting setting was taken back in 2008, one night just before the prayer meeting, when I was visiting from my former home. As Christians may we never neglect the place of prayer, whatever the setting, until that day when we too are “Forever with the Lord.”
“At Home in Heaven.”
“For ever with the Lord!
Amen; so let it be;
Life from the dead is in that word,
‘Tis immortality.”
Link to this hymn: https://youtu.be/FBRge7RC95M

 

Does Anyone Know The Author Of This Poem: “The Holy Life?”

September 19, 2017

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I recently enjoyed a visit with Mr and Mrs Harold Irwin who are old friends of my parents, Jack and Ella Hutchinson, who are now with the Lord. I noticed while we chatted, that hanging on the wall there was a lovely poem surrounded by flowers in a frame which looked very like one of those my mother would have used for her paintings. As it turned out it was indeed given to the couple as a gift by my mother!

Entitled: “The Holy Life,” the words are rather faint now. I later discovered that my sister, who is good at calligraphy, had printed the poem for Mum but she was unable to remember its source. Upon further investigation I discovered that one source was “Gospel Banner” but the author still unknown.

If anyone knows the author of this poem, I would be delighted to hear from you! By all accounts there are at least two versions of this poem which is what happens, unfortunately, when words are without copyright. Seeing it there touched me and brought back lovely memories of the fellowship my parents once had with Mr and Mrs Irwin and other souls who would gather in to the little cottage prayer meeting in the beautiful countryside near Richhill in Northern Ireland. There, in the warmth of a real log fire, hearts were lifted to the Lord in prayer. How delighted my mother would be to know that, of all their possessions, this gift is still precious to Mr and Mrs Irwin. These are the words on my mother’s version of this lovely poem…

The Holy Life

There is a faith, unmixed with doubt,

A love all free from fear,

A walk with Jesus where is felt

His Presence always near;

There is a rest that God bestows,

Transcending pardon’s peace,

A lowly sweet simplicity,

Where inward conflicts cease.

There is a service God inspired,

A zeal that tireless grows,

Where self is crucified with Christ

And joy unceasing flows.

There is a being ‘right with God,’

That yields to His commands,

Unswerving true fidelity,

A loyalty that stands.

There is a meekness free from pride,

That feels no anger rise,

At slights, or hate or ridicule,

But counts the cross a prize.

There is a patience that endures,

Without a fret or care,

But joyful sings ‘His will be done,

My Lord’s sweet grace I share’.

There is a purity of heart,

A cleanness of desire

Wrought by the Holy Comforter,

With sanctifying fire.

There is a glory that awaits

Each blood-washed soul on high,

When Christ returns to take His Bride;

With Him beyond the sky.

Thy Welcome Call… Avails for All!

February 16, 2017

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I have always admired the voices of a Welsh choir… particularly when they sing some of the lovely old hymns like “Gwahoddiad,” which is Welsh for “Welcome.” The words and music of this beautiful hymn (“I am coming Lord” or “I hear thy welcome voice”) were written by Lewis Hartsough (1828-1919) who composed it at a revival meeting in Iowa and it was subsequently published in “Guide to Holiness.” There are many stories of how it went on to be used in revival meetings and how it blessed many souls and brought many more to a place of repentance.

 

So, why am I thinking of this hymn today? Well, today is the anniversary of when my Dad (who prayed much for revival) was called Home to be with the Lord. Above is a little hall (Ballytyrone) where he used to pray with friends. I recently put a memoriam notice in the local newspaper, in remembrance of him, followed by a little verse which I composed just last week. The Lord gave me the words in an instant one morning, just after I had woken up.

 

Hutchinson, Jack, Called Home 16th February, 2011.

 

Lovingly remembered by Elizabeth, George, Grace, Christine and their families.

 

 Oh, the arms outstretched to all

 

Who gladly hear Thy welcome call!

 

Oh the joy on heaven’s shore,

 

That greets Thy saints forevermore!

 

© Elizabeth Burke

 

All sorts of people read newspapers (even local newspapers) which are left in all sorts of places and waiting rooms and somehow I believe that some simple words which we have been led to write may strike a chord with someone somewhere and will be used of the Lord to, at the very least, inspire them to think upon eternity and spiritual matters.

 

His arms are indeed still outstretched to all in this the Day of Grace; He died for all (“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1John 2v2) and it is not His will that any should perish. (2Peter 3v9)

 

Today I sing along to the words of this lovely old hymn which has blessed thousands the world over. I don’t recall Dad referring to this hymn but I know he would love it… I quote the first and last verses and chorus and share the link as a tribute to him.

 

Link to this hymn:  https://youtu.be/TlR1ot4QzP0

“I hear thy welcome voice,

 

That calls me, Lord, to Thee,

 

For cleansing in Thy precious blood

 

That flowed from Calvary.

 

I am coming, Lord,

 

Coming now to Thee:

 

Wash me, cleanse me in the blood

 

That flowed on Calvary.

 

 

All hail, atoning blood!

 

All hail, redeeming grace!

 

All hail, the gift of Christ, our Lord,

 

Our strength and righteousness!

 

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.”

“Little Children, let no man deceive you…”

February 16, 2016

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I wakened to the sound of a cold blustery wind this morning and pulling the curtains to my little bedroom window, viewed the effects of this invisible wind as it bent the ivy-covered trees in the garden. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3v8) Praise God for sending His only begotten Son into this world, that this world through Him might be saved…

As the grey morning drew on I was remembering what I was doing around five years ago. Unlike this cold and wintry day, it was a beautiful day with sunshine and a blue sky. As I write, I recall how I tearfully followed my Dad’s funeral cortege as it made its final journey down the avenue from the old country home; it was in this very dwelling place that I had trusted the Lord to save me many years previously.

This week, in order to honour his memory, I inserted a little memorial notice with a verse of scripture in the local newspaper of that area – the Ulster Gazette… “Hutchinson, Jack, called Home 16th February, 2011. Lovingly remembered by his children, Elizabeth, George, Grace, Christine and their families. Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1Corinthians 15:57.”

I was thinking earlier… now how best can I honour my father’s memory today? What good memories he left behind… above is a text which he painted on one of his sheds. I know for sure that he would love me to quote the verses and uphold the great truths that he held dear, as he walked through this scene of time.

I recently attended a meeting where the sermon was based upon the words of first John chapter 1. I quote verses 8-10 in this chapter… “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

I have absolutely no problem with these verses, even taken in isolation. The truth is plain and simple… if I have sin in my life, I cannot deceive myself by saying otherwise and if this is my state… then I would be a liar to say that I have not sinned. However, “He is faithful and just” – not only to forgive me my sins, but to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. To deny that this can truly happen in an instant is to deny His infinite power.

How good it is to read on… “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1John 2v1-4)

What victory over sin and death and hell is offered to us through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ! Victory – not only in the next life, but in this transient and potentially troublesome one too! Note the important little word ‘if’ in 1John 2v1. The philosophy that those who have trusted the Lord to save them must then be weighed down by the chains of habitual sin for the rest of their lives is a highly dangerous one and those who preach it bear a fearful responsibility.

“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” (1John 4v6&7)

These were the verses (and there are many many more!) that my Dad loved.

Today as I think of him, I know in my heart that he would want me to continue to propagate that which he took a stand on in this life. Above all he would desire that loved ones and acquaintances would apply it to their own lives. For all who trust the Lord Jesus Christ to save them to the uttermost and to keep them in the narrow way in their daily walk with Him, there are these promises:

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortality must put on immortality.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortality shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory?

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The final verse of this chapter, I believe, would be Dad’s message to brothers and sisters still walking in this scene of time… “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, umoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for inasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15v51-58)

Praise God!

 

 

Easter Book Launch of Novel: “Ricky the Runaway”

March 19, 2015

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Lord willing I hope to launch my fourth book “Ricky the Runaway,” which centres on the adventures of a twelve-year-old boy who runs away from home because of a well-known problem in our society: bullying at school.  The introduction to the novel reads…

“Set in the early twenty-first century, this is a story of how fervent prayer can create the winds of change in lives, blowing them safely to rest in that harbour which is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Each short chapter leaves the reader in suspense as the story moves from one situation to another, exposing many problems which are well known in our world: bullying, the exploitation of migrant workers, parents who are not listening to their children and children who have become a danger to society because of neglect and lack of love, guidance and discipline.

Ricky runs from one danger to another, revealing how ‘running away’ from situations at home, work or school is rarely the answer to our pressing problems. Meanwhile, not one person in his family is left untouched by the power of prayer in the lives of ageing distant grandparents who have become estranged from the family. Even anonymous souls, like a nurse in a hospital corridor, are affected by what is happening in the lives of the family. Written against an Easter background, “Ricky the Runaway” is about finding “that which was lost” and discovering love, forgiveness and lives made new by the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The venue for the launch, which will take place between 3.15pm and around 5.15pm on Monday 30th March, will be Richhill Recreation Centre, in the large committee room. (Disabled access) Parents, children and all interested parties are welcome to drop in anytime (and for as long as they wish) between those hours. Simultaneously I hope to have an Easter bookmark-making craft for anyone interested. (All materials free) Light refreshments are available for all – as well as small Easter eggs for the children while stocks last!

Normally retailing at £6.99, the book will be on special offer of £5 at the launch.

The dedication reads:

“This novel is dedicated to the memory of my beloved parents, Jack Hutchinson (1926-2011) and Ella Hutchinson (1929-2014) of Woodview, near Armagh in Northern Ireland. As parents and grandparents in a million, their gifts of love and encouragement to me are still so real, reaching even beyond the bounds of this life. I feel in my heart that they would have been overjoyed with the knowledge that young people, for whom they had a special affinity, would have been reached in this special way with the love of their Master.”

Acknowledgment: I wish to thank my daughter, Sarah, for her wonderful artwork on the covers of “Ricky the Runaway.”

May the Lord bless the proceedings on Monday 30th March next. I look forward very much, to meeting old friends – and greeting new ones!

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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…

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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

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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