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With Stoke Lacy and Brockhampton




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From the Vicar

Are you someone who counts their blessings? I’m writing this on a lovely summer’s evening, looking at a garden full of foxgloves, delphiniums, roses and sweet williams. The air is full of sweet fragrances and swifts are hurtling across the blue sky. Even England is through to the next stage of the World Cup! It’s hard not to count your blessings at such a time. Some people, we say, tend to see the world pretty much as a glass half-full. They are the optimists.

But not every day is like this. We can feel quite the opposite and sometimes with some justification. Instead, it’s easier to count our woes and sorrows: a long list results and it can feel like the proverbial glass is half-empty. Or less. We are the pessimists. Sometimes, what life throws at us is just overwhelming. For example, I heard someone talking on the radio earlier about student suicides. A young relative had taken their life and the speaker described her experience of life now as having got a whole lot worse than before and as a state which would never change for the better. It was heartbreaking to hear the grief.

Which to choose? It reminds me of a much repeated verse in the Bible: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever. These apparently unremarkable words are highly controversial when you stop to think about them . First, it is a command: Give thanks! Not a question, Shall we be thankful? Or even a statement, We are thankful. Hard to heed, perhaps, when we don’t feel very thankful.

Second, it’s a call to give thanks to some-One. That’s hard to do, or even imagine, if you don’t believe in God, let alone the Lord, which is the English translation of the Jewish word, Jehovah, the Name of God revealed in the Bible.

Third, a number of things are claimed about this God: he is good, he is loving and his love is for always. Just pause over each one for a moment. Can you believe these things? Big claims they may be, but imagine if any were not so: that God was not good (well, I certainly could not thank him!). That God was not loving (what would be the point in his being good, if so?). That his love does not endures but somehow peters out (then he wouldn’t be worthy of my worship, trustworthy or reliable. He would be changeable, not the same).

So, I can say these Bible words, big words though they are. Sometimes, it feels as though I am saying through gritted teeth but when I do say them, something shifts inside me. I call it Gratitude.

Gratitude, for me, is about counting my blessings, and they are many. Even if they were few and life was hard, even very hard, I could still find something to be glad about. It’s also about recognizing that, as I count my blessings, I have God to thank for them. They are not accidental but each is a small sign of his goodness, his love, his favour: to me. Gratitude keeps me going. It protects me from bitterness. It changes my outlook, and gives me get-up-and-go-in-life, a sense of purpose and direction. Above all it fills me with hope. So, yes, I do count my blessings and I want to continue to do so. I hope you can say the same.

Clive Evans.