Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.
Nobody in Northern Ireland is too far off the land.
Some of my happiest memories are from the early 1960s on Granny Turtle’s farm in Rathkenny, County Antrim. Free range chickens clucking round the yard, the dog always ready for something new, the cats lazing in the sun.
I loved searching for frogs and then poking them to see them leap, springing myself on the piles of grain in the shed and then being scolded for spoiling them. Memories of playing among the hay bales and making secret passages and slithery slides, taking squealing pigs to market and occasionally getting a ride on the trailer! I remember the shudders and greasy smells, as well as the bed sheets out bleaching on the hedgerows and primroses peeping out from below their white embroidered covers.
Nothing was better than to be called into the house for freshly made pancakes and sodas, just off the griddle and dusted by a goose wing. I remember staring in wonder at a chicken having its neck wrung, yet running around the yard until dropping dead before being plucked in hot water then roasted by lunchtime with piles of flowery spuds and plenty of butter.
Then there was the day I fell into the midden. Looking back I think I could have died. I had gone out to the yard, clomping around in a big pair of black borrowed shoes. The muck felt good to step into at first, then I began to sink deeper. The stinking gloop came up and over those good leather boots. I was stuck and couldn’t get out, “Granny! Granny!”
I slumped lower and the sludge got higher. I’ve never seen an elderly plump woman race round the corner like my mother’s mum did. I was sure I’d get into terrible bother, but no, all I knew was her frantic efforts to pull me out and to thank God that I was safe and sound, before being stripped down and plumped into the bath for a good long soak.
Many people know something like that awful sinking feeling. Jonah the reluctant Old Testament prophet, for example. He ran away from the Lord going his own way, but only got into deep trouble and started to sink down into a pit of destruction. But praise God, in Jonah 2:9, it says “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help and He listened to my cry.”
Jesus is the One who rescues those who cry out to Him from the midden of fear and sin, for “Salvation comes from the LORD”.
Dr. Sellar is minister of Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in east Belfast and for another three weeks, having taken office in June last year, is Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
If you would like to talk to someone about this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.