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Sheila writes ...                         

Years ago, soon after I became a Licensed Lay Minister, someone from the congregation offered me advice.  He said that the best sermons are ones that ‘come naturally - straight from the heart'. Although I think for some people that may be the case but it is not for me.  I need to prepare well in advance ... even if it doesn't necessarily sound like that when I am in the pulpit.

To give you a taste of my wandering thoughts and about speaking ‘naturally and straight from the heart' I offer these thoughts.  You have been warned.

During Lent I tried to follow the Christian Aid ‘Count your blessings'   fund raiser.  For various reasons I was not doing a house to house collection this year so I wanted to donate as much as I could.   Was that due to a guilty conscience?  Yes probably.   Suffice to say, I didn't manage to complete all the suggestions on the ‘Count your blessings' hit list but I did think about counting some of my own blessings.  How things have changed. 

Over 30 years ago, I belonged to Ethel Woolford's choir.  She gave me singing lessons when I was eleven and continued to do so for a very long time.  Some of you may have known her but if you didn't, this lovely woman was a treasure and a member of our congregation.  Her choir used to sing a song called ‘Count your blessings one by one'.  Although I was very fond of Ethel, this song was not a favourite of mine.

I was by far, the youngest member of her choir and although I happily sung music from a bygone era I struggled to like this song and found it sickly sweet.  Did the sentiments jar with someone of my age?

Anyway, how things have changed.  Now I do count my blessings.  I no longer think it is a soppy old fashioned thing to do!  Is it retirement that has given me time to think about the joys of life?  Actually no.  Or maybe yes! 

One of my joys is gardening and this time of year is the most exciting as the garden bursts into flower.   June is about to burst all over.

My husband has an allotment and obviously loves growing fruit and vegetables.  It is a big commitment, requiring  time and energy but   most of the year we have fresh things to eat.  Monty Don hasn't said this recently but I don't think you can beat the taste and quality of home grown runner beans.  

A pleasing by-product of the allotment means at times we have an over abundance of fruit and veg.  Picking it all is time consuming and can bring on back ache; also about half the food we harvest from the allotment is more than we can manage to eat or freeze.  So we give it away and are happy to do so because wasting what we grow seems wrong. 

The fact that we can do that is an indulgence and a joy!  Not enjoyed by people in the countries Christian Aid supports.

The climate here, which we moan about so often and sometimes rush to escape, provides us with beautiful things to grow, countryside to enjoy and an enviable lifestyle, if we have eyes to see and the gift to recognise them.

Christian Aid ... count your blessings ... yes ,we are so fortunate.

There!  I said that preaching straight from the heart should come with a health warning or, better still, a verse from a much loved hymn which pops into my head at this time of year.

‘All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above; then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all his love.'

Happy summer!