The touch of the master’s hand

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A story by Austen Alexander, one of the convenors of the Northfield Bible Fortnight, 9-23 July 2017.

Pennwood Forge Mill (Forgie) was, and remains, one of Britain’s best-loved international showjumpers.

He was sold in Ballina as a little brown gelding, but his wayward streak proved to be hard to tame. So he was put on to a trailer in the South of Ireland and headed for the knacker’s yard. He jumped out of the trailer and bore a scar on his shoulder for the rest of his life. Perhaps his potential was spotted, for he was spared and bought by Fred Harthill of Pennwood, Wolverhampton.

No one ever knew his breeding, but there undoubtedly was Irish Draught blood and he had a distinctive, almost roman-nosed, head.

He was teamed with Paddy McMahon. At the start Forgie was difficult, but in the hands of the master he began to be a successful showjumper. After only a few shows they were chosen for the British squad in Belgium, where they won the Grand Prix and jumped clear for the team. Victories followed all over the world. In 1978 they helped to win the Nations Cup in London, the European Championships and the King George V Gold Cup. A book has been written about Forgie’s interesting career.

Being brought up myself by a father who loved horses, some of them quite famous in their day, when I first heard the story of Forgie I thought of the potential there is, not only in horses but in you and me - if only we are under the right management. Let me share a poem with you, written by Myra B. Welch.

The Touch of the Master’s Hand

‘Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while

To waste much time on the old violin, but held it up with a smile.

‘What am I bidden, good folks,’ he cried, ‘Who’ll start the bidding for me?

A dollar, a dollar. Then two! Only two? Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?’

‘Three dollars once; three dollars twice; Going for three …’ But no,

From the room, far back, a grey-haired man came forward and picked up the bow.

Then wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening the loosened strings,

He played a melody pure and sweet as a carolling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer, with a voice that was quiet and low,

Said, ‘What am I bid for the old violin?’ And he held it up with the bow.

‘A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two? Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?

Three thousand once; three thousand twice. Going and gone,’ said he.

The people cheered, but some of them cried, ‘We do not quite understand—

What changed its worth?’ Swift came the reply, ‘The touch of the Master’s hand.’

And many a man with life out of tune, and battered and scarred with sin,

Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, much like the old violin.

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine, a game—and he travels on.

He is going once, and going twice. He’s going and almost gone.

But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand

The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand.

So, whether you are a young person, full of enthusiasm and life, or older and have taken more than a few knocks in life, the One who made us knows all about us. David, the shepherd boy who was elevated to the throne, could say, ‘I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knows very well’ (Psalm 139:14). The One who made us sent His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to pay the price for our redemption at Calvary, so that we might be saved and not lost. He says: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me’ (Revelation 3:20). The Master wants to touch your life today. Perhaps you have heard his voice many times—why not open the door, the handle is on the inside!

So do plan to leave the farm for a night or two, or three, and come to Northfield, near the Burrendale Hotel, Newcastle 9-23 July (DV). You will be assured of a hearty welcome.

Northfield Bible Weeks, Rockmount Farm, Newcastle, 9-23 July: Weeknights 8 pm, Sundays 8.20pm