Posts Tagged ‘snow’

The “Beast from the East,” Hospital A&E’s … and Strength in the Lord

March 18, 2018

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Ireland, with its temperate climate rarely gets much snow (if any) but the recent severe weather conditions, aptly named “the Beast from the East,” brought storm “Emma” and drifts of 7feet high -perhaps even more in many areas. Even the sea and waterfalls were frozen in some places! For a few days we didn’t venture out, as our local road had high hard-packed snow. All schools, colleges and places of work closed because of the arctic weather conditions. Directly after all of this I was confronted with another type of blizzard – frequent trips to different hospitals with two members of the family. It is at times like this that we really must cast our burdens upon the Lord!

I am very much reminded of an old phrase “the best laid schemes of mice and men,” which has its origin in a verse of Robert Burns’ “To a Mouse” poem written in 1785…

“The best laid schemes of mice and men,

Go often askew,

And leave us nothing

But grief and pain,

For promised joy!”

It is said that the poet was ploughing in the fields and accidentally destroyed a mouse’s nest, which the poor little creature had built for the winter. Robert Burns was so touched by this that his brother claimed that he composed the entire poem while still holding the plough. As I surveyed the fields around our home recently, I felt sorry for any creature trying to survive the blizzards and freezing temperatures and also acknowledged that, really, we cannot make any plans for the future that we can be certain of. The apparent security of the material things we surround ourselves with, like the little field mouse’s nest, can be obliterated in a split second. With all our modern technology, both the weather and many of the circumstances in our lives are beyond our control. We just have no idea what a day will bring forth!

If anyone had told me last year what lay ahead in these first few months of 2018, I would have sighed and said: “You’re not being serious… really?” But the Lord has given me strength and great encouragement in the midst of unpleasant situations.

“Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint: and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40v28-31)

He also deepens our faith and we live from moment to moment in His strength, with the assurance that when our lives belong to Him, He is in control – even through seemingly impossible situations. We “are not out of the woods” yet with regard to health issues but I rest in His unfailing love, remembering the little Bible that my father and mother gave me over 40 years ago. Perhaps she was thinking of the unknown future that night, when the Lord guided my mother to write this lovely verse in that Bible: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41v10) It seemed strange to me at the time, for I was young and had little to concern me, but the passing years have brought many reasons to rest on this unfailing promise.

Her now faded handwriting on the old Bible and the love with which she wrote the verse so long ago live on, spurring me on, challenging me, encouraging me to trust her Saviour and mine, in the knowledge that “…He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121v4)

“Wash Me and I Shall be Whiter than Snow!”

December 16, 2010

I am always struck by the purity of snow, particularly when it is covered by a layer of frost in the early morning sunlight. Everything appears innocent, beautiful, clean and new; in a sense reminiscent of the new-born babe in Christ. David said: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51v7)

These days purity in the human realm is almost sneered at, while sadly, in Christian circles purity is rarely encouraged in the Christian. There seems to be a widespread culture of preaching by which we are told that ‘we are all sinners’ and that ‘we sin in thought, word and deed every day’ – statements which are nowhere to be found in scripture. During the summer I attended a Christian conference where a speaker referred to ‘saved sinners and lost sinners.’ My heart sank at these words and after this I felt that the spirit was not in the meeting. Again, the term ‘saved sinner’ is nowhere to be found in the Bible and those who have been born again by the grace of God are never referred to anywhere in His Word as ‘sinners.’ In Psalm 1v5 we learn that “the ungodly shall not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.”

No, it is not impossible for us to sin as Christians and we learn in 1John 2v1&2 that “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.” Note the use of the word ‘if’ here – not ‘when.’

In Psalm 51v10-13 we learn that a pure heart is a prerequisite to reaching others with the gospel… “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”

Those who talk of ‘saved sinners’ will often quote 1John 1v8: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Yes, if we know that we have sin in our lives, then it must be confessed and repented of. However, we cannot read 1John Chapter 1 in isolation, for Chapter 2v1 emphasises: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” Furthermore this chapter goes on to set the standard for the Christian, with verses like this one: “he that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (Verse 4) Finally, in this chapter we learn that: “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. (Verse 29)

In Chapter 3v3 we read: “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure,” while Verse 3 carries a warning to those who could be deceived by dangerous theology… “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.”

We must not let men deceive us into thinking that the term ‘saved sinner’ is an acceptable definition for those who have been born again by the grace of God.  Sin should be regarded as a disease – something alien in the life of the Christian, and once found it must be confessed to the Great Physician and repented of immediately.

If there is something in our lives which needs to be dealt with, or if we feel that we fall short of that “perfect love” referred to in 1John 4v17&18, we have need of His touch.

Of course we cannot live a life that is pleasing to God in our own strength but surely with God all things are possible?  If we can trust Him to do it, He can cleanse, fill and empower us… for the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ washes whiter than snow!

Link to the hymn: “Whiter than snow:” http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/w/h/i/whiterts.htm

Homeless in the Bitter Cold of an Irish Winter

December 9, 2010

Last night I heard a pitiful “Meow” and glanced out to see the most beautiful ginger and white cat, his green eyes shining in the icy darkness. I left some food out for him and closed the door again, watching from the kitchen window to see that he licked the plate completely clean. This beautiful cat is wild, clearly homeless and ravenously hungry – still hungry after four plates of food.

At that point I started to think about homeless people. For such a small country, Ireland has more than its fair share of them and I was shocked to hear some news at the weekend about homeless people who are actually sleeping outdoors in this weather. Some of those who were interviewed said that they were afraid to stay in hostels which were run by charities because they have been attacked and their limited possessions stolen in such places. One young man said that his mother had thrown him out because of his drug addiction. How terrible!

How many needy souls there are in our own communities! There is a world of work for the Christian to do in this world; we can pray for the immediate needs of those around us but if we have the opportunity to help in a practical way we should do so. Homelessness may not be the fault of the victims of it and I don’t believe that it is God’s will for my fellow human beings to live under these circumstances. Drugs, alcohol and poverty abound – but His grace is greater. I remember hearing the story of a young woman from the Ukraine who was homeless in Northern Ireland. One night she suffered from severe frostbite and as a result had to have her lower legs amputated. The town where this happened was, I am told, full of Christians. Did anyone see her alone in a cold doorway, as they passed by? If only she had known; there was no need for this terrible thing to happen, because if she had even gone to the police, they would have made sure that she was properly accommodated. And if only those who are in need right now would realise that there is a God in heaven who cares deeply about their situation and wants to give them good living conditions and a life that is pleasing to Him.

“I wonder where that cat sleeps at night?” I asked my daughter. “I wish that we could tame him and give him a home.”

“In that old deserted farmhouse at the end of the lane I think,” she said.

If the Lord can provide for His creation in such a manner, it is surely His will that men, women, boys and girls for whom He sent His Son to die, would have all their basic needs met in this life – and above all that they would possess those spiritual gifts of joy and contentment which only the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, can impart to human hearts. Surely…“my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4v19) is His promise to those who come to Him by faith for all their needs, whether spiritual or material!

Footprints in the Snow

December 2, 2010

Before the advent of television, story telling was a wonderful tradition in Irish homesteads. Particularly during the long winter evenings, neighbours would gather in around a roaring log or turf fire to recount their old tales. There is a little story (possibly true) which I heard many years ago that somehow made a lasting impression on me, and I never fail to think of it when I see the ground covered in pure white snow…  

One evening a man, having made his journey on foot through deep snow, sat at a bar drinking pint after pint. After some time he looked through the blur of cigarette smoke and was shocked to see his young son standing there. “How on earth did you know where I was son?” He asked with concern.

“Dad,” replied the little boy, “I saw you slipping out of the house, and then I noticed your footprints in the snow. I couldn’t keep up with you, but your footprints were my guide!  Placing my feet in each footprint, I walked on and on through the cold night… and eventually I found you here.” 

The lesson is clear – our children can follow in our footsteps, and so we must be careful where those footsteps lead! Sadly I am reminded of the amount of alcohol that is consumed around the Christmas season in Ireland and the fact that many families have been adversely affected by the over-consumption of alcohol at all times of the year.

The Bible does not tell us when Jesus was born but we know why He was born… “To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet unto the way of peace.” (Luke 1v79)

Surely there can be no peace when an addiction of any type has us in its clutches? Jesus said: “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) If someone reading this has a problem with alcohol or any other drug, remember that the Lord Jesus Christ loves you and wants to heal you… to set you free, for “if the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8v36) Why not ask Him to forgive you and to heal you now, for it is His will that you would get the best out of this life – and be with Him forever in the next life.

Having heard the stories of former addicts, how encouraging it is to know that their lives now give testimony to the fact that “with God all things are possible!” (Luke 1v37)

Praise God that He can place our footsteps “on the path of the just” which “is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Proverbs 4v18) This is a path which we will want our children to follow us in!

 

Snow on the mountains – and a Song within My Heart!

November 29, 2010

On Friday last (26th November) I travelled up for the carol service in the Disabled Christian Fellowship Centre, in Newcastle County Down, Northern Ireland. ‘Early for a carol service,’ one might say and I suppose it was, but in carols such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” by Charles Wesley, there are words which are joyfully relevant at any time of the year…

“Christ, by highest heaven adored,

Christ, the everlasting Lord,

Late in time behold Him come,

Offspring of a virgin’s womb!

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;

Hail the incarnate Deity!

Pleased as man with men to dwell,

Jesus, our Immanuel.”

 

What truths are proclaimed in this carol! The virgin birth, the Deity of Christ and then in the third verse – His death and resurrection, whereby mankind can be born again to an inheritance incorruptible!

That night after the carol service I travelled back through the ice and snow to the mountain house where we would stay the night. I hate driving in this weather, but the Lord took care of us throughout the entire journey. During the night we were wakened by a thunder storm, followed by hailstones pounding off the roof and windows but the fury of the weather during the night was replaced by a beautiful and peaceful scene next morning, as I looked out to see white capped mountains glistening in the sun.

This heralded a most encouraging and interesting day when I was able to visit little towns and villages that were new to me. We stopped briefly at the St. Patrick’s Centre in Downpatrick which provides an outlet for my first book “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year” and then we moved on to the small town of Killyleagh. Here we spotted the fascinating 12th century Killyleagh Castle, complete with turrets and believed to be the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland. Strolling up to its great doors we discovered that there was a craft fair being held there that day.

Our next ‘port of call’ was the small town of Comber, home to “Revive Books,” a Christian Book and coffee shop in Castle Street. Along the journey I could not help but wonder at the diversity of Ireland as a whole. How the Lord loves its citizens – from the glens of Antrim to the rocks of Mizen Head. From the families who live in ancient Castles and ancestral homes – to the families who live in crowded conditions in the cities of Limerick, Dublin or Belfast. He is no respecter of persons and it is His will that all souls would put their trust in Him as Saviour, whatever their backgrounds. How He loves the souls of Ireland in their rural and urban communities, with all their differing customs, dialects and denominations!

At last we arrived in the much larger town of Newtownards, home to around 30,000 people and also home to another Christian Bookshop: Ards Evangelical Bookshop, Crimond House, in Frances Street. Both of the Christian Bookshops listed kindly facilitate copies of “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year,” “Singing on the Journey Home,” and “God Made You, God Loves You, God Saves You.”

We started the terrifying journey home from the mountain house that night. I say “terrifying” because of the weather conditions that prevailed close to our home in County Meath. I prayed before the journey, I prayed during the journey – and then I prayed, giving thanks to the Lord for His protection when finally we slipped through the entrance to our home. It was a short but memorable trip – and one that increased my resolve to serve the Lord by distributing the words that He gives me throughout the spiritually needy land of Ireland with its diverse cultures.         

Link to this hymn: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/h/h/a/hhangels.htm