I. Not I but Christ
You have only to glance at his round red face and his twinkling blue eyes to guess the place of his birth. And when he smiles and says, "Guid marnin'", there is no doubt left. Tom Haire is Irish.
Tom is not just somewhat Irish; he is so completely identified with the looks and ways and speech of the Emerald Isle that nothing on earth can ever change him. His soft, thick, almost fuzzy brogue reminds you of every Pat-and-Mike story you have ever heard, and the happy upside-down construction that often comes out when he talks sounds like the best of John M. Synge. It would take a keener ear than mine and greater literary skill than I possess to hear and reproduce in print the delightful if sometimes confusing dialect which is the only language Tom knows and in which he clothes his deeply spiritual and penetrating observations. So, except for an occasional Hibernicism in word or phrase which I consider too good to pass up, I shall make no attempt to copy his Irish speech. For the purposes of this sketch I shall let Tom speak in ordinary American English, though I admit we may lose something by so doing.
It is not with Tom Haire the Irishman that we are concerned here, however, but with Brother Tom Haire, the servant of Christ. So fully has he lost himself in God that the text "Not I, but Christ," actually seems to be a reality in his life. I think I have never heard him quote the text, but his whole being is a living exemplification of it. He appears to live the text each moment of each day.
After two years of growing acquaintance with and increasing appreciation of this man of faith I concluded that I owed it to the Christian public to share with them some of the good things God has given me through His servant Tom Haire. I have long felt and still feel that the practice of writing up living men and spreading them before the public is questionable. Especially is it bad when new converts are seized upon as gospel propaganda and paraded before the world as evidences of the truth of the Christian religion. Converted cowboys, opera stars and such have so completely captured the attention of the Christian public that it has become increasingly difficult to hold a sober view of the faith of our fathers. I do not want to contribute to this delinquency in any form, but I felt that a man who has been praying for fifty years as Tom has, and whose long godly life has been open to critical examination for that time, was safe material for a brief write-up. And besides, Tom is just a plumber, not a celebrity, so any interest he may arouse among Christians is bound to be spiritual.
After Tom is gone someone will undoubtedly write a book about him. In the meantime, there are thousands of persons who might profit by knowing something of his life and teachings now. So low has the level of spirituality fallen among the churches that it is imperative that every effort possible be made to raise it; and one effective way to inspire Christians to press onward into the deep things of God is to show them that there are a few saintly souls among us even now, that the complexities and iniquities of the twentieth century have not wholly destroyed the art of prayer and spiritual communion of a Biblical quality. This knowledge may easily do more to encourage men and women in the pursuit of God than a thousand sermons could do.
When we consider how quick Christ and His apostles were to focus attention upon persons who were spiritually worthy, and that we are admonished in the Scriptures to emulate those who have risen to a place of unusual faith and godliness, there would seem to be no valid reason to withhold this sketch any longer. Tom will not see what is written until it appears in print; and if I know him as well as I believe I do he will not read it afterwards. Tom is like that.
After I had become convinced that something should be written about Tom, the next problem was to persuade him to agree to it. And that was not easy. When I broached the subject to him he demurred immediately. "They wanted to send reporters out to talk to me," he said, "but I wouldn't let them. I am only a plumber. All I have is from God and I don't want to let any man elevate me in any way." Then his red face became redder still, his eyes filled with tears and his voice got husky. "I'm afraid of losing me power with God," he whispered.
After I had explained to him that I felt he owed a debt to other Christians to let them know how good the Lord had been to him, and had promised that I would be careful to give him no glory or credit at all, Tom felt better about the matter and agreed to talk to me. Especially was he touched by the argument that he owed something to his fellow Christians. Tom loves God's people with a wonderful, radiant affection and is willing to do anything to bring a blessing to them.
Tom Haire was born sixty-six years ago in County Down, North Ireland ("Protestant Ireland," as Tom always carefully explains), and apart from two visits to the United States has lived all his life there. He is a member of the Episcopal Church of Ireland, the "disestablished" wing of the Episcopal Church whose worship is much simpler and less ornate than that of the Anglicans and which is evangelical in belief and evangelistic in spirit. He is a lay preacher and evangelist, but until recently stayed very close to Lisburn, his home, where his plumbing business is located. He was so busy with his business and his evangelistic work, he says with a twinkle, that he did not get around to finding a wife till he was thirty-nine years old. He has a married daughter, Margaret, whose husband now looks after Tom's business affairs. His wife has been dead for thirteen years.
The two characteristics that mark Tom Haire as unusual are his utter devotion to prayer and his amazing spiritual penetration. (And are not the two always closely associated?) Three months after his conversion, when he was sixteen years old, he formed the habit of praying four hours each day. This practice he followed faithfully for many years. Later he added one all-night prayer session each week. In 1930 these weekly all-night prayer times were increased to two, and in 1948 he settled down to the habit of praying three nights of every week. He gets along on very little sleep. In addition to the three nights each week that he stays awake to pray he is frequently awakened in the night seasons by a passage of Scripture or a burden of prayer that will not let him rest. "And almost always," he says, "the Lord wakens me early in the morning to pray."
From THE PRAYING PLUMBER OF LISBURN - A Sketch of God's Dealings with Thomas Haire by A. W. TOZER. Published in 1954 in The Alliance Weekly magazine. It has been explicitly authorized by the Alliance Life editors to be made available free online. The only stipulations are: 1) The work may only be made available for FREE. 2) The following citation must appear: Originally published in the Alliance Weekly (now Alliance Life) January 6, 13, and 20, 1954. Used by permission. Creative Commons license: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0.
Insights of the past for the present
Plumber of Lisburn - A.W. Tozer
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.