Should you ask for a miracle when you’ve been given a brain?


Let me set the scene for you: The church service has finished, and people are shuffling their chairs into small circles, ready to take communion. There are small round tables in strategic positions, and someone is quietly walking around, placing silver dishes of bread and small glass cups of wine on each one. (Actually, to be strictly factual, I believe the small glass cups are cocktail dishes, designed for jellies or ice-cream sundaes. And the ‘wine’ is indefinable fruit juice, because this is a Baptist church and they don’t have alcoholic wine for communion.) The bread is gluten free, so that everyone can share from the same loaf.

I sit, in my circle, and look at the other people. This is a mistake—perhaps my head should be bowed in prayer, and I should be oblivious to the people I am about to share a cup with, but I’m not. I notice that at least four people in my group have colds, one lady is stuffing a tissue up her sleeve while we wait, others have red noses and watery eyes and hoarse coughs. I find this stimulates me to pray, but again, not perhaps the prayer I should be praying. I am not praying for my fellow worshippers, not asking God to heal their illnesses, to give them comfort from the sore noses and uncomfortable throats. Nope, I am asking for a miracle. I am asking that could I please, please, be protected from the germs that are about to be shared along with the indefinable fruit juice in the glass cup/jelly dish. Because I have a really busy week coming up, with a book sale, and three different occasions when we’re having a number of people for dinner and I need to cook, and a rather nice event with my family which I don’t want to miss, so please God, please protect me from the cold germs and the flu virus, and anything else that is about to be consumed in the indefinable fruit juice.

Then, as I prayed (my rather selfish prayer) I realised that God had given me a brain and a dollop of common sense. My brain told me that sharing a cup (of indefinable fruit juice) with a bunch of people who were clearly suffering from one lurgy or another, was plain stupid; especially at the start of a particularly busy week. I did not need a miracle (ie to be protected from the germs which I would certainly consume with the drink) I needed instead to use my brain, and not drink it. Perhaps being given a brain was the miracle (brains are after all rather wonderful, with their grey sludge and electrical currents that control every part of us).

And so, dear reader, I did not share the communion cup. I truly hope that I didn’t offend anyone by passing it along the line, I hope that no one felt I was being aloof, or setting myself apart, because I wasn’t. I simply decided to use my brain and not risk catching a germ that I don’t have time to fight.

What, I wonder, would you have done?

Thank you for reading.
anneethompson.com
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I wrote this several months ago, before I was even aware of Coronavirus. I didn’t post it at the time, thinking I would save it for later. It now seems so poignant, I decided to share it.

Is Steve Chalke a Heretic?


Steve Chalke

When I was a teenager, a young trainee pastor at Bible college came to lead a youth weekend at our church. The main thing that I remember is that he talked about sex, and it was one of the few youth weekends I attended that was not boring. His name was Steve Chalke.

Several years later, I heard of Steve Chalke again when he set up a charity, aimed at helping homeless people, which morphed (the charity, not the homeless people) into Oasis Trust. I was therefore interested when recently, during dinner with a friend, they mentioned that Steve Chalke had been ‘thrown out’ of the Evangelical Alliance. Was such a thing even possible? I had (wrongly) assumed that the Evangelical Alliance was a union for anyone who called themselves a Christian, a place to share ideas and resources, and which organised events which might prove helpful to said Christians. I had not realised it was possible to either ‘belong’ or be ‘thrown out’. What, I wondered, had SC done which merited being thrown out of this esteemed organisation? Had he murdered someone, eaten babies, kicked a dog? No! He had, apparently, become a heretic.

I heard a few whispers about the apparent downfall of SC. I heard that he had turned his back on evangelical Christianity, that he questioned the crucifixion, and even went as far as to call the death of Jesus “child abuse”. I wondered if I was hearing things properly. Searches online were varied, and it was hard to find the truth. I decided to buy his book, The Lost Message of Paul, and decide for myself.

The book is, to be honest, challenging. It begins with an introduction, when SC explains that he is rethinking his faith, and says he is hoping for an informed debate. It seems somewhat ironic to me that the reaction of established Christianity is simply to rebrand Chalke as a heretic and to exclude him from the Evangelical Alliance—but perhaps the debate happened before I was aware of this, and there were other reasons for his exclusion. I again checked online, but he is still the pastor of a church, still working amongst some of the neediest people in our society. I listened to an online interview, and he was still saying that he believes in one God, still believes in the death and resurrection of Jesus, so what is the reason for his exclusion? Maybe he really did eat a baby.

The book gave some insight as to why people find his ideas difficult—I find them difficult myself. The book basically gives good insight into the culture in which the Bible books were first written, and then questions whether we have properly interpreted what the words are saying. My understanding is that SC now questions whether the idea of ‘original sin’ is correct (the idea that when man sinned in the story of Genesis, that sin was then passed down to every person in every generation that followed, hence separating them from God). He makes the point that Genesis is a Jewish book, written in Hebrew, and yet Christians never ask Jews today what their understanding is, we never think about what the words would have meant in Hebrew.

Much of his explanations are very interesting—did you know that in Hebrew, you cannot have a word for an emotion? So, when it talks about God’s anger, it actually talks about God’s nose, because when you’re angry you snort through your nose? But that word could also be translated as passion, or fury, or great sadness?

I felt that SC’s views here (if I was understanding them correctly) were flawed. I never taught any of my children to do wrong, and yet they all did, so my experience suggests that people are born ‘sinful’ and the rest of the Bible seems to support this. If we are all ‘sinful’ then how can we approach God, who has no sin? Surely before we can approach, we need to be washed, there needs to be some kind of repentance? But his argument is persuasive, it cannot easily be dismissed, and gives pause for thought. (Or, of course, you could just chuck him out of your club.)

SC also builds a case for refuting Hell, or that people will be eternally damned. He says that this idea was first introduced by the Renaissance poets and artists (like Dante) and were not based on the Bible at all. SC does think that there will be judgement, but that it will not be an eternal suffering, more of a refining fire that will prepare us for our eternity with God. One example is when Jesus talks about Hell, and the gnashing of teeth, which SC says should never have been translated at all, as the word Jesus used (translated as ‘Hell’) was an actual place, used as a rubbish tip, where wild dogs lived (and gnashed their teeth) and that Jesus is asking, would you rather live with God, or in that place?

There is too much in the book for me to cover everything here, and I found many of the ideas troubling, though also that many fitted with my understanding of God. One of the main points made by SC was that God does not create people for eternal suffering, in other words: Hell, as usually defined, is a human invention and does not exist in the form we imagine. SC says he cannot accept that God, who is defined as Love, could create people knowing that they will eventually be destined for eternal suffering.

SC makes the point that if you asked Paul, or any of the early apostles, how they knew that they were saved, they would look at you blankly, and reply: “Because I am a Jew.” The Jews believed that, simply because they were Jewish, they were chosen, they were ‘saved’. SC argues that when Jesus died and rose again, this grace of God, was automatically extended to non-Jews, in short, that all people were now ‘chosen’ and therefore ‘saved’. He points out that when Paul writes that ‘through one man, all have sinned,’ we have no problem accepting that this means that due to the actions of Adam, who represents the first human, all people now sin. However, when, in the same passage, Paul then says that through the actions of Jesus, all are now saved, we start to add caveats. We say things like, ‘but it only applies if people have faith’ or ‘but people have to believe in the New Testament, and ask God into their lives, otherwise it doesn’t count.’ But that is not what is written. It is written as an equation—Adam sinned, so all sin: Jesus rose, so all are saved. It is, I feel, a compelling argument.

I find that I am left with a lot of questions after reading this book. SC has written a second book, and I will read that and see if it offers some clarity. There are things I disagree with, but some I find it difficult to define quite why I disagree. There are other points which I would like, very much, to be correct, but have not yet decided if it is wishful thinking or true. SC is undoubtedly a talented speaker/persuader, but that does not necessarily mean that he is correct.

Would I recommend this book? Well, that rather depends on who you are. If you don’t feel that you know everything about God, and that there is more to faith than perhaps you have discovered, then you might find this interesting. However, if you think you have faith and God pretty much ‘sorted’, and really you want to read things that backup rather than challenge your views, then perhaps you should avoid this book. SC writes that he hopes his book will start a discussion. My feeling is that it probably will (I for one am bursting to discuss his views with other people!) but unfortunately for SC, I suspect that he will not be part of those discussions. He has stated his views, people will now either agree or disagree with them, but as with most leaders, I expect the only feedback he receives will be negative. It is also quite likely to be voiced by people who have not read his book and have simply heard vague quotes. I do not know whether what SC wrote is correct, but I’m glad he wrote it because I think it’s good to sometimes question what we believe and explore other ideas. None of us knows all there is to know about God, he is beyond our understanding; but we can strive to understand a little more. What do you think?

Thank you for reading.
anneethompson.com
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If you prefer to read a slightly lighter book, then have a look at my latest novel, Ploughing Through Rainbows.

A feel-good family saga, set on a farm, the story explores how parenthood never ends. It’s a lovely book to relax with, or to buy for a friend. Available as both a Kindle book, or as a paperback, from an Amazon near you. Don’t forget to have a look, UK link below:

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A hilarious family saga set on a farm. Being a parent has no end-date, as Susan discovers when her adult sons begin to make unexpected choices in life.
A warm-hearted, feel good novel that will make you smile.

How We Use the Bible…


Hello, thanks for popping back to read this post, which continues from yesterday’s post about how the Bible was compiled. As we saw, the Bible was assembled gradually, and it was relatively recently that the Bible we have today came into existence (even though the books were written thousands of years previously).

Firstly, I find it interesting that our holy book was assembled using logical criteria. This is the way that God chose for people to learn about him, and it was put together logically. I think that sometimes today, churches rely too much on ‘supernatural’ inspiration —we want God to show us things miraculously. Yet the Bible was put together by a group of people making sensible decisions. When we read the Bible, we find this is consistent with how God often led his people, in both the Old and New Testaments. People tended to win wars/save nations, mainly by logical strategy, and less by miracles. We want God to “zap the answer to us” and yet, it seems, God has given us brains and he expects us to use them. Should we move house/rebuild the church/go and preach in darkest Peru? Perhaps, after prayer, we should think about all the pros and cons, and then make a sensible decision. You might see writing in the sky telling you the way, but that would be rare.

When we are disputing something, we need to be careful about saying: “It’s clearly written in the Bible that…” In my experience, people only say this when someone else has obviously NOT seen something as “clearly written” and has formed a different belief. If it was CLEARLY written, then there would be no differing of views amongst people who claim to believe the Bible. We should remember that the Bible was written originally in Hebrew and Greek, we are probably reading a translation, we will certainly be reading it in a different age and culture. Meanings can get lost, we can misunderstand things. A little humility when discussing the Bible would be good.

The Bible does not claim to be infallible. Some religions, such as Islam, believe that their holy book was dictated by God, so it cannot reliably be translated into other languages (because you always change the meaning slightly when translating things). However, the Bible was not dictated word-for-word by God. There are seeming anomalies between some of the books. This in my mind makes the Bible more authentic, because if people were going to sit down and write a ‘holy book’ they would make sure it had no mistakes! The Bible, however, was written by people who had witnessed God working, and they wrote their accounts, and they remembered some details differently—which doesn’t make the account untrue, it simply shows they were real people, writing what they honestly remembered.

What about the books which were rejected? Is only the Protestant Bible correct? This is tricky. I recently listened to a sermon about the book of Jude (which is included in the Bible). Jude refers to ancient Hebrew books, which we have since lost, but which Jude himself obviously regarded as ‘scripture’. Jude was a brother of Jesus—you would think he might know what was ‘holy’ and what wasn’t. Personally, I have no idea.

And that’s the thing really, the point of why I am writing this. We want everything to be sorted, we want God to be nicely tied up, to be sure we see the whole picture, know everything there is to know. But we don’t. God has not chosen to tell us everything. The Bible is, I believe, inspired by God—but we should be careful how we use it. Those early Christians were, absolutely, followers of God—they died for their beliefs. But they had a slightly different Bible to us. They relied on God, not texts, and God used their belief to explain the texts they had, so they could come to him.

Can we believe the Bible? It is the book which I believe God has given to people, to help us to know him. It is not an absolute, definitive, set of rules; we should be careful when we are applying it to others —people have used the Bible in the past to justify slavery and wars and all sorts of injustices. Be careful when you quote bits of it. Almost anything can be justified using selective editing of key verses:
Do I believe in reincarnation? No! (Can I find Bible verses which seem to support reincarnation? Yes.)
Do I believe some people were created to be slaves? No! (Can I find verses which seem to support slavery? Yes.)
Do I think we should be dishonest and scheming? No! (Can I find verses which seem to support gaining things through cheating? Yes.)

But if we read the Bible, honestly searching for God, then we will find him. I did, and I know other people who have…why not read it and decide for yourself?

Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
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Who Compiled the Bible?


I was challenged recently when I quoted a bit of the Bible, and someone asked me when it was written, and when it was included in the Bible. I had absolutely no idea, so did a little research. If you know more than me, and can correct any of the following, then please do—otherwise, this is where the Bible came from:

The first 5 books of the Bible were thought to have been written by Moses, and are called The Pentateuch. They were probably established as ‘scripture’ by Ezra and Nehemiah, and they are what the Jews today still mean when they refer to the Torah. (These books were in existence way before Ezra and Nehemiah, but the early Jews pretty much ignored them until the prophets reminded them they were important.)

Then, about 200BC, the writings of the prophets were added. Later, the book of Psalms was also included as ‘scripture’.

Now we come to the time of Jesus’ birth (about 5BC —historians have discovered things since we set our calendar dates!) It was very important at this time for the Jews to have a clear understanding of what their holy books were. Jews were beginning to move away from Palestine, and they wanted to know exactly what defined them as a race, what their core beliefs were. So, in Palestine, when Jesus was alive and referred to ‘Scripture’ he would mean the 39 books we now have in our Old Testament. (Though the Jews combine some of the books, so I think they have 24–but they’re the same content.)

However, further afield, other Jews included other books as part of their scripture. The further away from Palestine they lived, the more books they seemed to include (some had as many as 15 extra books in their ‘scripture’). Books translated in Egypt make up the Septuagint, and this contains hidden books (known as Apocrypha which means ‘hidden’). Some of these books have since disappeared, and we don’t know what was in them.

So, what about the New Testament? Well, after Jesus left, the people who believed in him, began to separate from the Jews into a new religion. They still regarded the 39 books to be scripture, their holy books, and when in the New Testament letters they refer to ‘scripture’, this is what they meant. However, gradually, people began to write other things. People who had seen and listened to Jesus began to write accounts of his life and teaching. Later, other people interviewed them, and wrote their own accounts. The early church began to decide what it believed (such as whether non-Jews could be Christians) and the leaders of the early church wrote letters, teaching the church. Letters were called ‘epistles’. People within the church basically chose which of these letters and writings they regarded as sacred. So, there were the letters written by Paul, as well as letters written by Thomas…and the ‘Shepherd of Hermas’ …and the ‘Apocalpse of Peter’ …and the ‘Epistle of Barnabus’…and so on. Some of these writings contradicted what Jesus had taught, and some had a definite bias. Gradually, over several years, the early church began to accept some writing as being from God, and disregard other writing.

Then, in AD325 (so rather a long time later!) the church decided to state, once and for all, which books should be included as ‘scripture’. They formed a committee (because churches, it seems, have always liked committees) called the Council of Nicea. As far as I can tell from my research, they didn’t actually decide very much.

In 381, the church had another try. They formed the First Council of Constantinople and set out clear criteria for which books to accept, and which to reject. The criteria for inclusion was:

*The book was written by a first-hand witness of Jesus, or someone who had interviewed witnesses (such as Luke).
*The book was written within 100 years of Jesus (which meant, if it had been wrong, people alive at the time would have said so).
*The book should be consistent with the other books of the Bible.

This Council decided which books should be part of the Bible. They chose the books we have today, including the books of the Apocrypha.

In AD 400, St. Jerome assembled the books of the Bible, in Latin. It was called ‘The Vulgate’.

In the 16th century, a man called Martin Luther was studying the Bible, and trying to discern what it meant. He decided that actually, the Apocrypha should not be included as Scripture. The church formed another committee (the Council of Trent) who decided that Luther was wrong. This is why today, the Catholic Bible contains different books to the Protestant Bible.

Okay, that’s the end of the history lesson (interesting, huh?) So, what are the implications? This is getting too long, and I want to talk about it properly, so I will write another post tomorrow.

Bye for now. Take care.
Love, Anne x

 

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and non-fiction books. You can find her work in bookshops and Amazon.
Why not sign up to follow her blog today?
anneethompson.com

Nahum


Nahum is one of those little books which you sort of know is in the Bible, but can never find when you want to, and always end up looking in the Contents page. It comes between Micah and Habakkuk – not that this represents when the books were written. It is all about the fall of Nineveh (which you will have heard of from the story of Jonah).

Scenes on walls, in the city of Nineveh – found when the ruins of the city were discovered.

Nahum was apparently originally written as a poem – possible as an acrostic poem (each line beginning with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet). This has been somewhat lost in our modern translations, though some of the descriptions do read more like poetry than history. It is thought to have been written either just before the downfall of Assyria (making it a prophetic book) or just after (making it a history book) – so dated about 615/612 BC. Most people seem to think it was written after the fall of Thebes (which was 663 BC) and before the fall of Nineveh, and it certainly sounds like a warning to me, rather than a poem about what has already happened.

It seems that although the people of Nineveh had listened to Jonah and changed their ways, about 100 years later, they were back where they started, ignoring God and oppressing people and generally being bad. Nahum says they are going to be destroyed, and sometimes the descriptions are shockingly graphic (again, not something we ever studied in Sunday School – I would have remembered!)

The basic message, for today as much as then, is that God is holy, and will not tolerate evil forever. He is slow to anger, and he wants people to change and return to him, but he is a just God, and if people continue to ignore him, he will destroy them. God loves justice, and everyone will be judged. Sometimes, when we watch the news, it feels like God has gone to sleep, that awful things are happening and there is no justice. I especially felt this when I saw photographs of the children in Syria being torn apart by the war. However, this book reassures us, that God will act, when the time is right.

Art from Nineveh.
The art was discovered in the remains of the destroyed city, and are now in the British Museum.

Next week I’ll tell you all about a trip to ‘Spoons and the Tate. Why not sign up to follow my blog, so you don’t miss it?

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Micah – A New Year’s Resolution


Did you make a new year’s resolution for 2019? Do you plan/hope to improve something? It’s good to pause and take stock sometimes, to check how we’re living is how we want to live.

Micah is a book which I have often heard quoted, though have never read from start to finish before. It was written about the same time as 1 Kings, which is a history book, whereas this is a prophecy. It tells the people what will happen – that they will be taken into captivity – though it doesn’t say when. They were later taken captive by the Babylonians, and remained captives for much longer than they expected. There is also a snippet in Chapter 5, which foretells the birth of Jesus, and is often quoted (fairly randomly and out of context in my opinion!) at Christmas carol services.

However, for me, the most beautiful part of the book is chapter 6 and verse 8. This tells the people – and us – what God requires. Being a Christian, deciding to follow God, is not about rules or religion or rituals. Micah writes:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

This should be our code of conduct. Not grabbing what we can from the world, but being fair; not judging other people, but being kind; not declaring that we understand the Bible and other people are wrong, but being humble and following where God leads us. I think this is a good principle to try and live by this year, as we take stock and look forwards. It reminds me of something my cousin recently shared on Facebook, which I felt says it all, really. I will share it with you (I don’t know who originally wrote it, so I can’t credit them).

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motive.
Be kind anyway,
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

I hope your new year is happy, and that you live it well.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and non-fiction books. You can find her work in bookshops and Amazon.
Why not sign up to follow her blog today?
anneethompson.com

Bible Blog – Jonah


Reading through the Bible is taking way longer than expected! This is partly because there is more there than I realised, and partly because I often don’t understand what I’m reading, and have to spend time doing a little research. There are stories which I knew well, others which I’m sure I’ve never read, and some which leave me with this huge “What???” feeling.

The book of Jonah, however, is one which I felt I knew well. When I was a child, aged about 12, a man called Mr Goss did a series of five sermons on Jonah at our church. They are the first sermons I ever really listened to, and I still remember some of the things he said. (On a different note, I heard recently that Mr Goss’s life went wrong after this, he made some bad decisions, ended up in prison, and died young. I hope the people who knew him remember that he was also a gifted preacher, and some of what he did with his life was good and worthwhile. This is an especially poignant thought when reading Jonah, which is all about people making good and bad decisions – because we all do both. Yet God is bigger than our mistakes.)

The book of Jonah was written about the same time as 2 Kings (a history book) and Nahum (another prophet) so roughly 615BC. Both Jonah and Nahum are about Nineveh, a city which was part of the Assyrian empire (and today would be part of Mosul, in Iraq). You probably know the story:

Jonah is told by God to go to Nineveh, to tell them they are evil and God is going to destroy them. Jonah decides to run away, and goes on a boat in the opposite direction, towards Tarshish. There is a big storm, Jonah is thrown overboard, and swallowed by a big fish. The fish vomits him out on dry land, and Jonah goes to Nineveh. The people repent, God doesn’t destroy them, Jonah is angry.

I have a few thoughts about the story. Firstly, why did Jonah try to run away? Did he fear the people of Nineveh, or was he frightened he would look silly? I can relate to both of those feelings. Then later, when he’s in the belly of the fish, and life is looking hopeless, he cries out to God. This still happens today; very often people wait until everything is going wrong, there is no hope, before they cry out to God. He is often our last resort.

The book of Jonah is all about second chances. Jonah tries to run away from what he knows God wants him to do, and yet later, after the fish vomits him out, we read that God spoke to him a second time, telling him to go to Nineveh – he gets another chance to do what he should have done in the first place. Later, the people of Nineveh, after they have listened to Jonah, turn back to God and God doesn’t destroy them – he gives them another chance. I think this reflects so much of what I have read in the other books of the Bible, about a God who always sees the wrong that people are doing, and yet he gives them another chance. God wants people to change and come to him, he doesn’t want to destroy them.

I find the character of Jonah to be very interesting. He was clearly a very passionate man, someone who acted on impulse, very hot-headed. Even so, God chose to use him. Perhaps it was that passion, that depth of feeling, which made him an excellent speaker (because whatever it was that he said to the people of Nineveh, it was enough to change a whole city including the King). Being passionate was both Jonah’s greatest strength and his biggest weakness. We all have weaknesses (some more than others). If we let God help us, he can turn those weaknesses into strengths, which is pretty amazing really.

Caster Oil Plant
This is probably the plant which Jonah sat under.

The book of Jonah doesn’t really finish (in my opinion) it just sort of stops. After the city is saved, Jonah goes off in a sulk, and builds a shelter, which a plant grows over, shading him from the sun. Then the plant dies, and Jonah is livid. God says that Jonah has no right to be angry about the plant, which Jonah did nothing to create, and compares it to the whole city of souls which God wanted to save. Then it stops. We have no idea if Jonah realised he was wrong, or simply stomped home again. I have never really understood the bit about the plant – it just shows that Jonah was a pretty awful person (in my opinion). But perhaps he changed.

I will continue reading through the rest of the Old Testament – near the end now.

Thank you for reading.

Have a good week.
Take care,
Love, Anne

“Oh, you shouldn’t have…”


“You shouldn’t have…”

I have been watching people receive gifts recently (we all have, I suspect) and I have noticed that some people are exceptionally good at receiving gifts—and others aren’t. There are those people, who simply make you feel that what you have given them is the best thing ever, and has made their day. They seem to smile with their whole face, and look genuinely delighted with those slippers or that mug or those earrings. Other people (and I’m afraid that I might be one of these) struggle to appear pleased, even if they are. I am always aware that I’m being watched, that my reaction matters, and so it all goes to pot and even when I am excited by the gift, I’m not sure that I show it very well.

The thing is, I think that receiving is very important, and there are lots of us who find it difficult. This Christmas, I have heard lots of people say things like: “Oh, you shouldn’t have,” and they mean it. They absolutely do not really want to be given anything. They don’t want gifts, and (perhaps even more) they don’t want help. If they need to be driven somewhere, they would rather pay for a taxi than accept the offer of a lift from a friend. They will grind themselves into the ground with exhaustion rather than let someone help them.

Of course, this isn’t true of everyone, and there are a few people who ONLY ever take from others. They will stand by and let others do all the work, ask for favours but never do any in return, and generally are a drain on those around them—but I’m not talking about those people. I want to consider the others, the people who dislike accepting, because I think it’s important.

We talk sometimes about relationships being “Give and Take” and yet we are so loathe to “take”. This makes relationships unbalanced. I find I feel much closer to those people who will let me help them, who are not completely self-sufficient.

If you believe the Bible, there is lots there to show we should accept help. Right back in Genesis, Man was created to need a helper, so Woman was created. Man didn’t say,”Oh, no thanks, I can manage on my own.” Man needed Woman. And later, the absolute example has to be God himself, who came as a completely vulnerable human baby in order to reach us. Many times during Jesus’ life, from the very first time he needed to be fed by Mary, to the times he asked for a drink of water, or for other people to organise things or find things, or provide things, he asked for help. And his needs were genuine—when he asked a woman at a well for a drink, he really was thirsty and needed a drink and didn’t have a pot to collect water.

This is a lesson that I learnt painfully, when I had brain surgery. I changed from an independent person who didn’t need (or want) much help, to someone who suddenly needed lots. It was a tough lesson to learn.

So please, think about it this week. If people offer to help, perhaps you will deepen your relationship with them if you accept. It’s probably good for us, makes us humble, to realise that we all need other people, we can’t manage to do it all on our own. We were created like that.

Thanks for reading, have a good week.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and non-fiction books. You can find her work in bookshops and Amazon.
Why not sign up to follow her blog today?
anneethompson.com

Diary of a Harvest Festival


Diary of a Harvest Festival

You might remember, if you follow my blog, that way back in March, I wrote a post about an idea I had for harvest, and I promised to let you know what happened. Here is a brief diary of events:

March: I read about the origins of our harvest festival in Leviticus, and was challenged by my apathy towards the festival. Had a clear idea of how the weekend might be planned. Decided to wait and see if idea faded or grew.

Next Sunday: As I sat in my church, I could clearly see how it might be decorated and arranged for a large family supper. Began to feel rather excited. My idea/vision was not fading.

Few Weeks later: A Missions Team Meeting – I shared my idea with the rest of the team, and was given permission from Rev P to start planning the event. He said he would arrange the Sunday bit. (This caused me some angst – what if he got the Sunday bit wrong? I am a control-freak.)

April: I chatted to J and C in church, and they agreed to help me plan the event. We met one evening, and I splurged out my ideas. They then discussed what they thought would work, and what should be dropped, and generally improved on my basic thoughts.

One idea which they modified was my “Thank you table,” which they thought had too much potential for precious items being lost/spoiled. They suggested instead a “thank you tree,” where people could write their thanks on autumn leaves, and attach them to the tree.

They also said there was too much for one evening, and they didn’t think my ‘sacrifice table’ would work, so we dropped that idea.

May/June: We met a few times. C planned some attractive fliers, which we could use to advertise the event. She also booked the church rooms for the evenings we needed them, and managed to book DJ to do the demonstration (which was brilliant news).

Rev P let us know that all the families I’d hoped would return had accepted the invitation. Very exciting!

We split the event, so each of us was leading a specific area: C would arrange the flower arranging demo on the Thursday evening. J would head-up a team to decorate the sanctuary ready for the meal/service. I would organise the catering.

July: We finalised the design for the fliers, setting the times for when we thought the most people would be able to attend (needed to juggle people who work on Saturdays with those families who are on an early clock). J told us the ‘thank you tree’ was under control, and she had ordered some rather smart autumn leaves. We discussed whether to have a flower demo followed by a workshop, or whether to split that over two evenings. We then realised we were suggesting people came Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to harvest events, and this might be too much for most people. Decided to drop the Friday workshop, and instead decorate the church Saturday morning.

We started to announce our plans in church, giving people advance notice. Husband told me my announcements were mainly confusing (always get very honest feedback from family).

We spent an evening at the church measuring tables and rooms, deciding on the layout of the tables. We would have the demo in the back hall, and use the sanctuary (which is a lovely space) for the meal, arranging the tables as for a banquet – trying to give the impression of one big table (like a big family meal), even though the space only allowed for 3 separate tables.

The supper is a ‘Bring and Share’ supper. People will arrive, and sit at the table with their dish, which they will eat, and share with those around them. This means people with allergies/food preferences won’t worry about the food. It also eliminates the long queue of people waiting to go to the food table (and the need for there to be space for people carrying plates of food). It also means that people who have spent 3 hours cooking something delicious don’t arrive at the table to find only a cold burger and a hard baked-potato.

August: We all went on holiday and thought no more about it.

September: Returned from holidays, life became very busy with work/ill parents/health/start of all the church groups, and I began to wonder if harvest was all a big mistake. Very stressed. This was made even worse by reaching the part in my book where there is a barn dance, so I was also planning that (even though it wasn’t real). My head was full of how much a band costs (not real), how many people we could seat in the church (real), what food to serve (both real and not real). All got very confusing.

(Note: You may wonder, why— when I was busy planning an event— was I also trying to plan a virtual event for a book? The thing is, if authors are not disciplined, and keep writing, even when life ‘gets in the way’, then books are never finished. As in, never. I meet so many people who have been writing a book for about 25 years, and never finished it. To write a book, you have to write; you cannot wait until there is a ‘good time’ because there never is.)

Fliers were printed and distributed. Friends were invited. J arranged a team to help decorate. I tried to find people to help me cater, and printed off a quiz, so people who felt shy/bored had something to do at the tables.

The team has grown. We have someone who will wash all the white cloths we use at Lunch Club and return them to church for the Saturday. People setting up games in the hall for the children/young people to use during the meal. Someone collecting and returning wine glasses (borrowed from Waitrose). Someone sourcing some autumnal napkins. A team who will help decorate. People who will help set up tables and move furniture before and after the meal, and so on. I am beginning to feel excited.

One Week Before: Ordered food from Morrisons (15 stick loaves and 6 gammons) and bought drinks. I also cooked some dishes, and froze them, ready for next week. Other people in the church began to plan/buy/cook what they would bring.

Wednesday, day before the flower demo: C phoned to say our demonstrator had pulled out and could no longer come. I was flummoxed. Now what? We couldn’t even let most people know the event was cancelled, as we didn’t know who would have seen our advertising.

Son suggested I went to local florists and tried to find a replacement.

Chatted to C and we decided that I would pray, she could contact DJ and try to persuade him to still come. I wasn’t sure what to do if this failed.

Wednesday afternoon: C phoned and said DJ had agreed to still come (I think there had been a misunderstanding, which C had now sorted). Phew!

Thursday 6pm: Arrived at church, just as C and DJ were leaving, having set up his display tables. J arrived, and we set up chairs, refreshments, a place where I could give a 3 minute Tearfund talk (we were collecting donations for Tearfund at all 3 events). J had made mini chocolate brownies, sausages coated with herbs and honey, and tiny feta and olive pastries. I brought wine and soft drinks, J brought glasses.

Thursday 7–9pm: DJ gave a brilliant talk and flower demo. About 20 people attended (which was disappointing, as I’d hoped for more). The evening seemed a happy one. We raised about £35 for Tearfund.

Friday: Lunch Club. A last chance to advertise the event. Afterwards, on my way home, I bought food, so there would be enough at the meal for our guests (17 people, who were invited to come but who wouldn’t be bringing food as they were travelling a distance). When I got home, I picked some flowers and fruit for the display.

Friday evening: Popped into church to check: kitchen was clean, there was a supply of toilet rolls, I filled freezer with ice-creams. The stage was heaped with beautiful flowers and vegetables which people had grown and donated.

Saturday morning: I arrived at church to help decorate. People were already there, making the sanctuary look beautiful. Someone had also set up the back hall, with games for teenagers and toys for children. It looked fabulous already!
We set up tables (there was some discussion, as to whether to change the planned design, but eventually they were set up as planned, with a sort of ‘mini top-table’ to visually link the tables – wasn’t sure who would feel comfortable sitting there though). We had 85 people signed up to come, and finding enough cutlery/water glasses/serving spoons was a challenge. We ran out of knives, and had to use plastic ones. (I should’ve counted all the cutlery beforehand.)

The church began to look beautiful. Inspired by the Thursday demo, I decided to have a go at an arrangement with the stuff I’d brought. The last flower arrangement I attempted, my mum rearranged when she saw it. People were very polite about my attempts (but I could see in their eyes that they were lying). Then D, who is so sweet, said I had started a really lovely shape, and she had some flowers left over, how would I feel if she added to my arrangement? She then added flowers and foliage, and made it look amazing. I decided I would tell my family I had done it. Sent them a photo.

Left the church about 1pm. All looks exactly how I’d hoped. Very excited. Went home, sorted the animals, cooked lots of gammons, finished planning what I would do with the children on Sunday.

Saturday 6–8pm. People arrived (about 80 people) & everyone seemed to have enough to eat, the atmosphere was happy. I was busy, checking people had what they needed, washing up, passing wine, etc. At one point I glanced into the hall, and it was full of young people playing snooker and table-football and having a laugh. That warmed my heart. Another special thing was the ‘top table’, which I’d worried might remain empty, was full of little girls, who were clearly having a party!

Rev P did an entertaining and poignant talk, which fitted perfectly.

Cleared up. Lots of people helped, which was great. I got really tired, and at one point needed to rest my brain from all the noise, so sat in the car for a few minutes. Felt seriously exhausted – in the end decided to leave some of the washing up and do it on Sunday. Went home.

Sunday: When I went into the church kitchen, to sort out the dirty dishes I’d left, someone had already done them, and everything was clean and tidy.

Church was nicely full, and looked lovely.

D and I took the older children during the service. We had 13 young people, ranging from 7yrs old to 15yrs, in a fairly small room. It was a great hour. Many of them knew each other from before they’d moved away, so they were happy just to be there. At one point, one of them stared at the 7 year old, and said: “Is she the baby who used to smile at everyone?” (She was!) It was so nice to be there, in a sort of slightly disorganised family atmosphere. I did a short talk, then we played a variety of Pictionary/Jenga/Consequences games, the kids in teams of mixed ages. Happy morning.

Went downstairs after the service ended (a few minutes late, as the young people wanted to finish what we were doing). The atmosphere was very happy, people smiling, hugging, chatting. I tried to chat, but I was very tired, so I’m not sure I made much sense.

So, was it worth it? Well, yes, I think so. Afterwards, several people have contacted me, and although their comments aren’t intended for a public blog, I know that God did bless the events, he did speak to people. (Plus we raised about £1,500 for Tearfund.)

Harvest is about remembering what God has done in the past, what he has given to us, so that we don’t forget when times are tough. I think we managed to do this, our church was reminded that God has blessed us, that church is still a family and a good place to be. The work before and after was actually a crucial part of this – a group of people sitting together and making table decorations was as essential as the words said from the front. Church is God’s family, and I am happy to belong.

#

Have a great week, and I’ll write again next week (I want to tell you about an old book, written in 1600s – I bet they didn’t have trouble with publishers in those days!)

Love, Anne x

Thank you for reading.

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
You can follow her blog at:
anneethompson.com
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If you want to read my post, written way back in March, the link is below:

https://anneethompson.com/2018/03/26/harvest-thoughts-yep-i-do-know-its-only-march/

When you are useless…


Do you ever feel that everyone else is more capable than you are? They seem to have more friends, more purpose, to achieve more—and you feel as if you’re playing ‘catch-up’ the whole time? I think we’ve all felt like that at some time. The trouble is, we tend to evaluate ourselves in comparison to everyone else, we see what they’re achieving, and we feel less able, less capable; a bit useless really. In 2014, I really was, utterly useless. Let me explain.

In 2009, I was a working Mum, teaching in the local school, preaching occasionally in local churches. We had returned from a few years in New Jersey, the husband’s career was developing nicely, and all seemed good. It wasn’t, but it seemed good.

But then things started to unravel for me. I started waking each morning with headaches that lasted all day. I was forgetting things, and I felt, very slightly, as if I wasn’t quite coping. Teaching seemed more about politics and pleasing parents, and less about the pupils. Preaching felt more ‘head-knowledge’ than true. The family and house and animals all seemed slightly too much. I put all this down to stress, cut down on teaching, stopped preaching, and tried to get the home bit right.

Then one day, while emptying the tumble-dryer, I came up under the work-surface and knocked myself out (as you do). The next day I had an awful headache, so went to Casualty, where they did a CT scan. They told me that I had a small benign tumour, right in the centre of my brain. When I got home, I did some online research, and found this was very rare, often undetected, and sometimes caused “sudden instant death”. So not hugely reassuring.

I then started a whole era of brain surgeons, MRI scans, and frequent migraines. For five years, I lived in this rather tense bubble, because the medics said removing the tumour would damage the brain, so it was better left where it was and monitored. My migraines meant I was too unreliable to teach or preach, so I felt a bit useless. Except, God still had a plan for me. Because however incapable we might feel, God can use us, and life can be good and full of meaning (which is the point of this article).

Being ill is mainly boring—so I decided to learn Mandarin. I practised by teaching English in the local Take-Away restaurants, and I made some very special friends amongst the Chinese community. I often hurt too much to talk, but I learnt to listen.

In 2014, the tumour changed and became dangerous, so my surgeon took it out via a craniotomy. He cut through the right side of my brain, right to the middle, and patched me up with bits of metal. There I was, a middle-aged woman, with half my head shaved, an impressive scar, and a terrible memory. Pretty useless really. Plus, as they cut through the part of the brain that controls anxiety, I also became anxious about really daft things—like leaving the house to have coffee with my mum. (And although my mum’s coffee is pretty awful, it’s not something normal people become anxious over.) My rather dodgy maths became even worse, so counting or having any awareness of time became very hard. As the brain was having to make new, less efficient pathways, I grew tired very easily, and found too much stimulation (noise, lights) exhausting.

As a scarred brain doesn’t really heal, it just finds new ways of doing things, all those things, to some extent, are still true today.

However, the left side of my brain was undamaged, and my language was intact, and this became very important. Gradually, I grew more confident. I found that people didn’t mind the over-emotional woman with the terrible memory—in fact, some people preferred her. Leaving the house is still a bit scary, but I have learnt to force myself, to pray very hard (and to carry Immodium at all times!) The more I do, the more God enables me to do, the more I realise that I can trust him. It started with tiny steps, the “Please God can I have coffee with my mum without having a panic-attack” sort of prayer.

Since then, I have travelled the world, in fact last year I was walking through the slums of India talking to people, researching a book. Because now, I write books. When I was at the “leaving the house is too scary” stage, I started to write a blog. This developed into longer articles, and finally books. All the stories I have always had in my head, are now forming themselves into words, and I find I can write them down. Excitingly, people are buying my books, and liking them enough to buy the next one. Gosh!

So the next time you feel useless, are tempted to think that everyone else is doing rather better than you, remember this: You were created for a reason, and whatever happens, however weak, and dependent, and incapable you may become, if you lean on the God who created you, you will never be useless. Because there is a plan. We simply have to learn how to follow it.

xxx

These are my books. They’re available from book shops and Amazon. Please will you buy one to read this summer?

Following my diagnosis, I began to learn about how the brain works, and am fascinated by how controlled we are by our brains. I then began to explore other illnesses and disorders, focussing on psychopathy. Psychopathy is a mental disorder, not an illness, and it causes certain personality traits – most psychopaths are not violent, or ever convicted of any crime – but the way their brains function mean they have certain behavioural characteristics. As I studied psychopathy, reading books by neurologists, listening to psychopaths as they talked, and even finding two mothers of psychopaths who were prepared to talk to me about raising a psychopathic child, I realised that most people have no idea how a psychopath thinks, why they behave as they do. In response to this, I wrote two novels: JOANNA and CLARA. Both show how people are affected by the way their brain processes information—and the impact on people around them. (When selling these books, I am often asked by people if any US Presidents are psychopaths. I think if people read CLARA, they will be able to decide for themselves!)

Thank you for reading.
Anne E. Thompson

 

The latest, and best book (in my opinion). An exciting novel written in the first person, which shows how a psychopath views the world. The story encompasses the world of women trafficked in India, and shows how someone very bad, can be used to achieve something amazing.

This tells all the things I wish I had known when first diagnosed. A helpful book for anyone with a potentially terminal illness. It shows how to find a surgeon, how to cope with other people’s fears, how to not be defined by an illness. It also has a few funny anecdotes – because even when you’re ill, it’s good to laugh.
Available from Amazon (you can get it free if you have a Kindle).

A hilarious romance for when you want to relax.

A gritty thriller, which shows what it means to be a psychopath, and how it would feel if someone in your family did something awful. (Because every psychopath has a mother.)

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson.
An easy read, feel good novel, set in an infant school. An ideal gift, this is a book to make you smile.

An exciting novel, set in the near future. One family shows how they cope with driverless cars, new laws, and schools run by computers.