Tag Archives: Farming

You cannot put the clock back

Image credit: Soil-Net Library via Wikimedia

Image credit: Soil-Net Library via Wikimedia

On the week before my fourteenth birthday I went to spend the school summer holidays on the farm of friends, where I was to work for the next two and a half years. On a Sunday afternoon stroll with my father I told him I did not want to go to secondary school and intended to remain on the farm. My father’s reaction took me by surprise – it was not what I anticipated and dreaded. He wasn’t angry and he didn’t try to dissuade me. Instead he told me that, if that was what I wanted, all right, but I must not complain, or blame anyone but myself if there came a time when I regretted it. I was reminded of this recently when I walked over the actual spot where I confronted my father with my life-changing decision. I have never forgotten.

The Revd Dr Howard Watkin-Jones, presiding at my final interview as a candidate for ordained ministry, asked me if and how I thought my farming experience might be useful to me and to the church in ministry. In my reply I suggested I might have a useful ministry in a rural set-up (I did) and possibly someday retire in the country (I didn’t). Dr Howard Watkin-Jones (later to teach me in Church History) assured me that if God had a plan for me in ministry, my time in the country could be part of the shaping of my future ministry; he was right!

I have never complained but on occasions I do regret not having continued at school. Looking back, I can see those things which might have been different – things I would want to change if I were to live my life again. Wishful thinking and a pointless exercise. I can’t put the clock back! When I find myself singing the words of the song I wish I were a little bit younger and know what I know now I’m asking the impossible. To be younger, I would forfeit all the lessons that life has taught me. In spite of failure, mistakes, disappointments, when I count my blessings I cannot dismiss the providence of God. Perhaps there was no other way for me to take but to travel the road I’ve followed and to come to the place where I am now.

In everything God works for good with those who love Him. Romans 8:28

Contrary to what may be said of it – not an easy text.


“Give thanks to the Eternal – he is good, his kindness never fails.” Psalm 106: 1 (Moffatt Translation)

On a glorious September morning some years ago, travelling by road in a beautiful part of North East Scotland, the Moray Firth, with scarcely a cloud in the sky, the sun, pleasantly warm, shone brightly. There was a wonderful calm and the North Sea, a deep rich blue, lay mirror still (it could be very boisterous at times). On the one side, the inshore fishermen were busy with the harvest of the sea. On the other side, farmers were making the most of it, bringing the last of the harvest home.

I recall seeing the scene with new eyes. My mind went back to earlier days, my time on the farm, on a rainy morning, chopping firewood and cleaning out sheds, waiting for the hay to be dry and ready for cutting. I began to appreciate a sight with which I was becoming familiar, of crews pacing the quarter-deck of a fleet storm bound in harbour. There was still a reasonable number of fishing vessels based on Buckie and the other ports up and down the coast – it is very different now.

A farmer cannot get on with the harvest, hay, corn and wheat, until the crop is ripe. A fisherman cannot put to sea until the storm abates. For their bread and butter, the farmer and the fisherman depend on nature being kind.

God “has not left you without some clue to his nature in the benefits he bestows: he sends you rain from heaven and the crops in their season, and gives you food in plenty and keeps you in good heart.” (Acts 14: 17, Revised English Version).

It is not that God’s promised benevolence has dried up and is the cause of the appalling and sinful fact that millions of those “created in his image” go to bed night after night with empty bellies; with death the one assured certainty. Poverty (and its consequences) is today’s cardinal sin. We cannot get off the hook by labelling God the “Sinner”. How his heart must grieve!