A Two-Edged Sword

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I had something of a revelation this morning.

After working on the previous post yesterday regarding the inerrancy and efficacy of the scriptures, I was in a conundrum.  There is a particular physical issue I have prayed about over and over for the last two years asking God to heal me.  During that time I had to go back to the scriptures and pray. I really wanted to know what God said about healing. Does God heal today?  Is God not unchanging and without a shadow of turning? Did Jesus ever turn away anyone who came to Him for healing with an “oh it’s not God’s will that you be healed right now”?   After many months I came to the conclusion that I do believe God heals, I am not a cessationist and I know because the scriptures tell me God heals and nowhere does it say that God has stopped healing.  I read many testimonies from various Christians, some from a more extreme Charismatic background and others who were not extreme at all. I even read a testimony from a guy who used to be cessationist but had a friend who believed God healed and gradually changed his mind on the subject simply because his friend was so unflinching in his belief, yet so joyful in his faith.  So in the end, it was the scriptures coupled with the testimony of the saints which caused me to know in my heart that Jesus heals.

But if I did not have the scriptures to give me historical accounts of what Jesus actually did on earth, and what His people experienced and testified to in the years after his ascension, I would have nothing but other people’s stories.  Our testimonies are important, scripture tells us we overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the testimony of the saints (Rev:12:11). But if all we have are subjective stories, you can be tossed too and fro by other people’s contradictory accounts.  One person has prayed and never been healed (like Joni Earekson Tada) others have prayed and been instantly healed, others slowly over time etc. How do you account for such things?  You will never know what God thinks about this subject unless you go the scriptures.  If you don’t believe the scriptures are inerrant and that God’s spirit has inspired the words and that they testify of God, then you have nothing left. I mean literally nothing except feelings and stories, yours and other people’s. There has to be an authoritative source which tells us what God’s nature is, and how He intervenes in people’s lives.  Jesus healed when He was on earth, He heals now. Steve has been to India and spent a number of months on two separate occasions.  He worked with the people there, helping to build an orphanage, and also preaching the gospel. He saw the signs following; salvation, deliverance from demons, physical healings, the same things that happened when Jesus walked the earth.  There were no weird manifestations, nothing different from the biblical account.  Jesus heals.

Yet I was struggling this morning with my faith on this matter of healing despite the fact that God has given me dreams, words from others, words from Scripture and the scriptures themselves testify that God heals.  I was getting panicky and wanting God to give me another sign.  It was an attack of the enemy, but at the time, I was overwhelmed and not thinking straight.  Finally, I sat down in at the coffee table and my eye was caught by the bible in front of me. Of course!  I realised, the bible tells me over and over again that God heals.  His word says he came to heal the brokenhearted.  Jesus said that this was His ministry.  Not only does He heal the broken heart, but he heals the bodies of the brokenhearted and their souls as well.   But He doesn’t change, His word never changes and is sharper than a two-edged sword. I have it here in black and white.  A book of God’s laws and God’s nature and God’s commands.  So if this book is not what Jesus said it was, then Jesus is not who He said He was and it all just implodes.  You have nothing left. So when I am not sure, when I doubt God’s word to me, I go back to the black and white version and I read what Jesus said.

It is one thing to disagree over the meaning of certain scriptures while both parties still believe that the Word of God is in fact God’s word.  However, to cast doubt on the scriptures or to claim that they are not inerrant or even make outrageous claims that what is contained in the Word of God is in fact not true at all in any part, and is all ‘symbolic’ or worse is completely sadistic.  If you don’t believe, keep it to yourself, don’t cause other people’s faith in the Word of God, or in God himself to be shipwrecked simply because you don’t share it or have succumbed to an attack of the enemy yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Resistible Revolutionary

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Shane Claiborne’s understanding of the gospel seems a little skewed.

Here’s a quote of his from his book ‘Irresistible Revolution’.

“For even if the whole world believed in resurrection, little would change until we began to practice it. We can believe in CPR but people will remain dead until someone breathes new life into them. And we can tell the world that there is life after death, but the world really seems to be wondering if there is life before death”.

And another one..

“Sometimes people call folks here at the Simple Way saints. usually they either want to applaud our lives and live vicariously through us, or they want to write us off as superhuman and create a safe distance. One of  my favourite quotes, written on my wall here in bold black marker, is from Dorothy Day: “Don’t call us saints; we don’t want to be dismissed that easily”.

I flicked through “Irresistible Revolution” at our local bookstore the other day. I was going to buy it, but after finding quotes like these on just about every page, I wondered whether it was worth it.  I found Shane’s attitude of superiority off-putting.  Apparently nobody in the church but Shane and his fellow Red Letter Christians are getting it right, and this is never a good place from which to speak to other believers.  I spent a couple of decades in a cult which had the same exclusivity  and taught others to shun the outsiders.  It’s this exclusion of others that gives you a sense that you are right with God. It is so incredibly easy for people to fall into this delusion.  It’s why there are so many churches like that.  But Mr. Claiborne has fallen into the same trap. Unfortunately nobody can tell him that, because he seems superbly at ease with his critics, almost encouraging them. A person who has come to this place of sublime ignorance of his own fallibility is in a  dangerous place.  It is a place where you are so sure you can never be deceived, yet it is almost always the hallmark of those who actually are deceived.  It makes me think of  this quote from the character Sheldon Cooper from TV’s “Big Bang Theory”

“Howard, you know me to be a very smart man. Don’t you think that if I were wrong, I’d know it?”

sheldon

I want to deconstruct the above quotes.  When I left the cult we were part of, I had to look again at the books and literature we had to read, written exclusively by the cult leaders, and understand what they were actually saying, as opposed to what we thought they said.  What I found was actually pretty revealing.  It opened my eyes. So much we took for granted actually wasn’t there.  What was there however was a horrendously boastful and arrogant assumption that not only were the leaders always right but any wrongdoing could simply be determined to be dealt with by themselves.  They were never accountable to anyone, least of all the people they destroyed.   I began to study other writings, such as those of George Orwell.  His “Politics and the English Language” is very good, it shows how words can be used to manipulate people’s minds and emotions.  This kind of language is common in politics, but just as common in advertising, religion, social movements or anywhere where human beings want to influence others.

I want people to think about what is being said, even if it is coming from a genuinely likeable Christian guy who looks a little groovy and seems to know how to fix the world.

Let me just say that I am aware I am taking these quotes out of a much larger context, but I have  studied Shane Claiborne’s message in other mediums and read exhaustive critiques of the book “Irresistible Revolution” by others. Mr. Claiborne I think has made his message clear.  These snippets are more about decoding language than they are about looking at Shane’s larger works, I think they are good examples of how his language is symbolic of a confusion of theology and a deliberately non-biblical gospel. Shane wants to start a revolution, not preach what has been preached before. He wants to remove landmarks and create new ones, not follow the ways of Paul and the other apostles.

First of all “How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and then ignore one on Monday”.

Let me show you why this language is so powerful.  Like I said, the visual image of Shane is not that of a dangerous person who wants to lead you down a dark path.  He looks like a college kid even though he is now in his forties.  So you are lulled into a sense that here is a guy who knows a thing or too because he is not pretentious, nor is he a stuffy religious leader or pastor. He is not ‘pastor Shane’, he is just Shane. So we listen to Shane speak because not only is he not stuffy and pretentious in a religious way, he has kudos.  He is well known, people want to hear him speak, he must be saying something important.

But let’s look at what he says.  First of all he poses a question.  It is a question which puts people on the back foot because it uses language which nobody connects with church.  Jesus, a homeless man?  Yeah, I suppose he was. So if this statement is true then so must the other one be.  Yeah, we worship a homeless carpenter and then ignore a homeless drunk guy the next day.  You feel humbled, despondent, depressed even.  Boy, I just don’t know how I can call myself a Christian. But look at Shane, he lives with homeless people and the poor, he must know what he is talking about, I should be like Shane.  How could you argue with that?  An appeal to consider the plight of the homeless based on who Jesus was.

But wait…

Actually Jesus was not homeless.  He had lived with his family for 30 years as a carpenter, probably supporting His mother and  younger siblings after Joseph died.  His choice to leave home at 30 and begin his ministry was deliberate, and he did not have a home because the bank foreclosed or because he had been thrown out by his wife or because he could not afford one or because he was a drug addict.  He did not have a permanent home because His ministry was to move amongst the Jewish settlements preaching the gospel. He went and stayed with friends often, or asked to stay with those he talked to. He was not homeless, as in sleeping on the streets.  Everything he did was deliberate and was the will of the Father. I don’t think you can say the same thing about the guy in the street.

Neither was Jesus ‘a  homeless man‘ in the same way the guy in the picture is.  Jesus first of all is the Son of God, not just a man.  Claiborne seems to major on Jesus humanity and forget that He is holy, perfect righteous and just and not just a guy we follow.  So the message that Jesus is the same as the guy on the street is false and misleading.  We don’t worship a man, we worship God, and Jesus himself said to the Pharisees that if you can’t accept that Jesus is the I AM then you can’t be saved.

The question also implies that all Christians ignore homeless people.  This is not true either.  I find Claiborne’s sweeping statements about his brothers and sisters in Christ to be condemnatory.  The amount of emphasis he puts on actually living amongst the poor rather than doing what you can at the local soup kitchen etc is rather dishonest.  Shane can pick and choose how he responds to his own situation in whichever way the Holy Spirit guides him.  I don’t think it is Shane’s role to act as the Holy Spirit in people’s lives and giving others guidance on how to live.  Giving is done in response to the Holy Spirit, not some man who places himself in the position of being the leader of some kind of revolutionary new world religion which is replacing the tired old Christianity which people over 40 preach about.

Shane is taking upon himself a position and an authority that God did not give him. He is nobody’s pastor except those who fellowship with him. Otherwise he is simply a commentator, a guy with an opinion.  Somebody who is connected with others who have a name like Mother Theresa.  Lots of people have worked with Mother Theresa and they don’t all write books and go on speaking tours claiming to be ‘irresistible revolutionaries’. There is no ‘new move’ or ‘revolution’ other than the one that certain people wish to produce. But then this has always been the way with any revolution.  There are the revolutionaries, the agitators, the behind the scenes guys who get a hold of others like the university students (read Tailor of Panama it describes the whole thing) and the young seminary students who are tomorrow’s pastors. And then there are the plebs, the unaware, the moral majority who are just trying to eke out a living. Revolutionaries are rarely the dispossessed, they are the rich elite who agitate the easily manipulated (young idealistic impressionable).  That’s how revolutions start, and they end with bloodshed, always and the reorganisation of the universe. Order out of chaos has always been the method of the revolutionary. Out with the old order, in with the new. But hey, he’s a likable guy, its only the doom merchants who spew bile against likable guys. Nobody else minds, they are just happy to be part of something great.

And last but not least, the question uses the royal ‘we’. He says ‘we’ but he means ‘you’. He says ‘we’ to take the edge off his judgement of apparently all Christians. If he includes himself it means he is a Christian too. If he doesn’t include himself and says ‘you’ he excludes himself from Christianity.  He has to say ‘we’, it confirms the solidarity he has with his audience. However if you look at what he is saying, he can’t possibly include himself in this.  If he accuses himself of worshipping Jesus on Sunday and ignoring homeless people on Monday then he is denying everything else he has told you about himself and his community.  He doesn’t really mean himself or he would have to repent and in humility change the way he does things.  He has already told you he lives amongst the poor.  He already does the things he thinks everyone else should be doing.  So this is not a ‘we’ statement any more than “so where are we going for our holidays” is from a shop assistant who just sold you a suitcase. She is being patronising, so is he.

Shane is in a position of responsibility, being the leader of a community, an author and a teacher.  He is in a position of power and authority especially in the eyes of Christians.  It is also the reason why so many dislike Shane’s approach, and his message.  Shane likes to think that other people just don’t get him, and he encourages his followers to believe this to.  Its not that his critics don’t get him, its that they don’t reflect back to him the image that he wants them to see.  So while Shane is insisting that his way is Jesus’ way, in fact, it is not.  It is simply Shane’s way. It’s why you have to really listen and really read what he has said and not just assume things because he uses scripture intermingled with powerfully emotive language.  Really look at what he is saying.

“Sometimes people call folks here at the Simple Way saints. usually they either want to applaud our lives and live vicariously through us, or they want to write us off as superhuman and create a safe distance. One of  my favourite quotes, written on my wall here in bold black marker, is from Dorothy Day: “Don’t call us saints; we don’t want to be dismissed that easily”. (my emphases)

Here Mr. Claiborne is making sweeping statements again.  “Usually”, meaning all the time, it is the normal thing, other people who see his community and want to applaud them and apparently live vicariously through them.  Even if he does say so himself.

This is a hugely narcissistic statement. Shane is saying that ‘people want to be me’ because they think I am superhuman. Really? So there are not just people who walk through and go ‘good for you guys like what you are doing’ and walk away and forget about them? Apparently others also want to live vicariously through them.  This is another extreme statement. How do you know that is the case?  And if so, why is it the case?  Only cults have these kinds of extreme reactions.  Nobody wants to ‘be’ the pastor down the road at the local Baptist church even if he is a great guy who helps people.  Nobody wants to ‘live vicariously’ through Christians they know even if those people are Christ-like.   Paul said ‘imitate me as I imitate Christ’ but not even Paul wanted others to be him, as he said later when he castigated those who were ‘of Paul’ or ‘of Apollos’.  Shane doesn’t actually say in this paragraph that living vicariously through them is a bad thing.  He has an almost ‘aw shucks’ response to these statements.  Yet even his rebuttal of these attitudes in the last sentence of the quote “don’t call us saints” is weird.  Dorothy Day was another political and social activist and journalist and became a Catholic. Her understanding of the word ‘saint’ is not what the Bible teaches. We ARE saints, the bible calls us saints.  It’s just a word meaning believers.  We are all saints.  And saints or not, nobody is dismissing anyone.  There is a really strong contradiction going on here.  One minute Shane is saying people want to be us, next minute he is saying don’t dismiss us. Nobody is dismissing Shane Claiborne and his works however he wants to skew this.  They are very definitely making a huge fuss about him as he has already stated.

There are some serious concerns in even these two simple quotes.  I haven’t touched on the other quote I mentioned. Shane states that even if the whole world believed in resurrection, nothing would change until you practiced it. OK, resurrection isn’t practised it just is.  One minute you are dead, the next you are alive.  You don’t have to do anything for somebody to realise something has changed.  When Lazarus was raised from the dead, people knew about it. Its why we know about the story two thousand years later.  When Jesus was raised by the Holy Spirit, His resurrection was reality changing.  We are raised to new life and we are called to walk in the Spirit, to put off the flesh and to walk in the Spirit.  The believers at Pentecost were immediately empowered by the Spirit and Peter in particular preached a powerful life changing sermon and thousands were saved in one day!  THAT is the power of the gospel.  Its Jesus who does the changing and its Jesus who gives the increase. It wasn’t Peter who was trying hard to be something, he simply changed. We don’t have to ‘do’ anything in order to prove that there has been a massive change in us.

I am reminded of a guy I knew at my church when I was a teenager.  He used to be a career criminal, a biker, a drug dealer, a vicious thug and generally nasty piece of work.  When he got saved, he had to be extradited back to Melbourne for trial.  The judge took one look at this guy, Terry his name was, and said ‘you’ve changed’. This judge knew Terry as he had come before him many times previously. Yet the judge could see straight away that something was different about Terry. So much had Terry changed that his very short stint in jail ended up seeing dozens of hardened criminals saved. These were all men who knew Terry.  They knew what kind of person he was.  When he got saved, his face changed, his nature changed, his habits changed, he was a new creation.  That whole prison was changed because of Terry and he continued going back to prison to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now Terry runs a church which helps the poor, the druggies and the down and outs.  He has set up a service which provides free food.  Not just for ‘the poor’ but anyone who needs a helping hand including the white middle class that Shane Claiborne seems to enjoy deriding. Nobody sees Terry’s work as being  useless or pointless or ‘not enough’.  Yet to Shane Claiborne, this kind of things is not acceptable.  I could go on and quote a number of things Shane has said in his books and speeches, but the heart of it is that he wants to condemn his fellow Christians because in his eyes, we are not doing what we should be doing.

One last thing about Terry.  He is well respected and recognised, but he is an old campaigner.  He is a conservative evangelical.  He got saved in the Assemblies of God church in Brisbane, and people in Australia have seen his face a few times in the media as they all seem to like him and treat him as the real deal Christian.  Yet, strangely, nobody tells Terry that he is a superman. When people look at Terry, they see Jesus, because Terry still looks like a scary biker.  He is a big teddy bear and a very genuine Christian.  But nobody wants to ‘be’ Terry or live vicariously through him. So what’s the difference between a man who loves Jesus and reaches out to the community in love and is seen by unsaved people as an actual Christian, and a man who has to convince others by teaching and writing books that he is a totally radical revolutionary for God.  What is wrong with just being an unassuming person whose life was changed by Jesus. Maybe Shane hasn’t met enough Terrys to realise that THIS is what it means to be saved.  Jesus already changed the world, and they don’t want to know Him.  What Jesus does is change people’s hearts and then through those changed hearts, other people are changed.  Not much has changed or is going to change because of the efforts of people who don’t really know what they believe and are trying desperately to get others to believe they are special.

I don’t think Shane Claiborne understands the gospel. It makes me tired.  I don’t think he knows Jesus as well as he thinks he does. I don’t think anyone can talk the way he can about the church if they love it with their whole heart the way Jesus told us to.  “Love the Lord your God and your neighbour as yourself”.  Loving your neighbour doesn’t just mean the poor.  If your neighbour happens to be poor then you can help them. But giving people stuff doesn’t mean you are a great Christian or that you have been transformed by the power of the blood of Jesus.  Genuine transformation is its own advertisement.  It always has been, for centuries before Shane was born and will be again until Jesus returns.  I don’t need somebody like Shane to tell me how to live, and I don’t like, even from a cursory glance what Shane preaches.  I don’t believe he has been transformed or that he understands the new life of Christ or he wouldn’t say these things.

If people are wondering if there is life before death  they need to see the new life of Jesus Christ.  Not in your works, but in the actual difference in your face.  There is a difference in people who know Jesus because the Holy Spirit has made them a new creation. I can testify to this for myself and others I know who have been changed by Jesus. I have seen and heard many testimonies from brothers and sisters who were miraculously saved and changed.  It is this change which makes others know and see the powerful reality of Jesus Christ. If you have changed, then you will do things differently. But the change comes first, then the actions.  People like Shane have always tried to make it the other way around, and all they do is lay heavy burdens on believers who try and get it right in order to impress others. The key to all of this is understanding your sin and the cross.  We don’t worship the cross, we worship Jesus. We just understand the substitutionary atonement of the cross in that Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary to take away the sin of the world. I don’t think Shane understands this at all, not in a personal way, because I don’t think he knows Jesus.

I have seen men who have this kind of power before.  Plenty of people want to follow and imitate charismatic men who manipulate and shame others in subtle and clever ways. The followers almost NEVER blame the leader for making them think they have to do stuff to be saved, they mostly blame themselves.  They try real hard to get it right, to impress the leader and to look good to others, but in the end they are dead spiritually because they have put the leader in the place of the Holy Spirit and their faith in Jesus, and Jesus alone has been eroded. People who follow Shane seem to do so with utter devotion. Shane can do nothing wrong, nobody is allowed to criticise Shane because if you do then you are part of the fundamentalist traditional church who just want to shut him up because they ‘just don’t get it’.  That too is dismissive and trite.

I don’t see Shane Claiborne preaching the gospel to people and seeing them saved.  I see Mr. Claiborne trying to get in the way and tell everyone else in the church not just how to ‘do church’ but how to ‘do life’.  I don’t find this either revolutionary or irresistible, in fact I find it rude and abusive.

Is Donald Trump a Christian?

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“Though you untie the winds and let them fight against the churches..”

Macbeth to the ‘weird sisters’ (Macbeth Act 4 Scene 1)

So what do Macbeth and US President Donald Trump have in common?  Apparently witches hate both of them. Both kings, one like Saul who went to a coven of witches to find out his fate, the other who seems to have raised the ire of many witches who are apparently publicly asking other witches to gather and cast spells today against Trump to bring about his destruction. See this site for details.

I am not so much concerned about this broadly documented news item today as I am about the reaction of a number of Christian sites encouraging Christians to pray against the witches in order to protect Trump. I have no problem praying against spells and demonic attacks.  I am just concerned that these prayers are being prayed under a false assumption.

My concern is, is Trump actually a Christian, or is he just adhering to the Christian religion as most of his predecessors have done regardless of whether they actually act like a born-again believer or not.  I don’t care how many of these men have gone to church or claim to be believers, it is their actions which prove whether they are actual believers or not.

According to James Dobson of Focus on The Family, Trump has actually made a decision for Christ. Yet religionnews.com has reported as of June 25 last year that Trump has not personally spoken of a born-again experience or a personal relationship with Christ.

Trump recently accepted a relationship with Jesus Christ as his Savior, making him a “baby Christian,” Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said in an interview posted Friday (June 24) to Michael Anthony’s website, Godfactor. Dobson and Anthony, pastor of Grace Fellowship in York, Pa., spoke after the candidate’s meeting Tuesday in New York City with nearly 1,000 evangelicals.

“He did accept a relationship with Christ. I know the person who led him to Christ, and that’s fairly recent. … I believe he really made a commitment, but he’s a baby Christian,” Dobson said………

Dobson told Anthony that Trump “doesn’t know our language,” noting the candidate spoke during the meeting about “religion,” but not “faith” and “belief.” Other words the candidate never used, according to transcripts: “Jesus,” “pray,” “Christ” and “Bible.”

“You gotta cut him some slack. He didn’t grow up like we did,” Dobson said.

I am inclined to think more on the lines of this article by Michael Horton regarding Donald Trump’s theology.

Horton points out the following:

Let me suggest that the slender thread connecting Trump to the church is his occasional holiday appearances at Marble Collegiate Church, made famous by its pastor for 52 years, Norman Vincent Peale. Blending pop-psychology and spirituality, Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) remained on The New York Times bestsellers list for 186 weeks. Nicknamed “God’s Salesman,” Peale was criticized for trivializing Christianity. Reinhold Niebuhr said that he “corrupts the gospel,” and that he helps people “feel good, while they are evading the real issues of life.”

In the 1952 election, Peale declared presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson unfit because he was divorced. For his part, Stevenson quipped, “Speaking as a Christian, I find Paul appealing and Peale appalling.” During the Kennedy-Nixon campaign, which began his long relationship with the Nixon White House, Peale declared, “Faced with the election of a Catholic, our culture is at stake.”

Trump’s parents attended Peale’s sermons each week with the family in tow, and Donald often recalls the impact on his life. He and his sisters were married by Peale.

A more recent exponent of a feel-good gospel, Joel Osteen, has called Donald Trump “a friend of our ministry” and “a good man.” Trump has previously tweeted, “Being associated with Joel is my great honor—he’s a fantastic man!”

So when in recent months, it has appeared that Trump appeals to a sizable group of evangelicals, it may be less surprising than all the hoopla suggests. Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. hailed him as “one of the greatest visionaries of our time” and a wonderful Christian brother “who reminds me of my dad.” The redoubtable Pat Robertson gushed in an interview with the empire-builder, “You inspire us all.” Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, who has introduced Trump at rallies, says, “We need a strong leader and a problem-solver, hence many Christians are open to a more secular candidate.”

Based on this evidence alone, ie the people who support him and the church he attends, that his understanding of biblical Christianity is going to be something less than biblical and a little more emerging church.

Having said that, Rachel Held Evans, an emerging blogger and author has this to say about Trump’s apparent conversion in a tweet dated 27 June 2016 –

“Oh, give me a break. Donald Trump hasn’t been born again. The Religious Right has simply sold out. James 2 folks.”

And another one a few hours later

“What must I do to inherit eternal life? Become the Republican nominee for president apparently.”

Now, I find myself agreeing with Rachel on a number of blog posts lately, and this isn’t a bad thing.  You can disagree with some people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time.

So if Trump is not a Christian should Christians be praying for him to be spared the ravages of the powerful spirits which these witches will be calling upon to bring down his presidency?  We are called to pray for our leaders, that is true.  But this is fairly specific.  I do believe that witches engage demonic entities and that their practice is cursed by God in scripture.

Assuming Trump is not saved is it right for us to pray against these spiteful curses from witches?  The Bible tells us to pray for leaders, but not necessarily in this way.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1 Timothy 2:1-15)

God obviously wants Trump to be saved, and he is kind of somewhat going in that direction despite the fact that he clearly has no understanding of the gospel.  He is reported as saying that he doesn’t have to ask God for forgiveness because he doesn’t need to, he doesn’t do bad things.  Scripture says that if we say we have no sin we call God a liar.  So Trump hasn’t been getting a true picture of the gospel.  Admittedly this was before his reputed conversion experience despite the fact that this was a second hand account from Dobson, not an actual confession from the lips of the president.  For my money, you would have to have Trump standing up in a press conference preaching the gospel of repentance and forgiveness, speaking about being washed in the blood of Jesus and talking about being saved by faith from his sins.  We haven’t had that, and frankly I doubt we will.

That being so, we still need to consider whether the reactions of many evangelical Christians about the so called witchcraft warfare going on today is worth paying attention to.

Here’s another verse to consider:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. …  (Romans 13:1-14)

Witches by definition reject God and His Son Jesus Christ and are in rebellion against Him and also obviously the governing authorities.  Their curses and spells are nothing to a Christian who is walking in obedience to Jesus Christ, and loves the Lord with all of his heart and mind and soul and strength.  We can pray against them, and have done, and seen those attacks stopped. Satan is not going to go away though, so we will, as I said in my last post need to remember that ‘there is no demilitarized zone for Christians’.  For non-Christians, or men who think they are Christians when they are not, I would urge a consideration of the verses in Acts 19 where imposters such as the sons of Sceva tried to come against devils and were torn apart physically and ran away in terror.  Remember also Simon the magician who tried to buy the Holy Spirit and whom Paul cursed.  If Trump is trying to align himself with evangelical believers as many have suggested in order to buy votes and support then he is not going to automatically be spared demonic attacks.  Let’s face it, any president whether supported by the church or not is going to face demonic attacks, its just that this one is a little more public than most.

Frankly, I am more than a little skeptical that a bunch of witches who claim to have the ability to cast spells, and commune with Satan have to use facebook in order to gather their brothers and sisters in wickedness to unite against Uncle Sam. On commenter on this site wants to know ‘will it be televised’.  I mean, come on, this smacks more of media hype than anything else. When in doubt make a shocking announcement.  What bothers me is that there are a fair number of my brothers and sisters in Christ who are using a little less discernment than they should be using in this matter.  Why are we being emotionally manipulated by the media?  Come on, that is exactly what they want, and this attack would be against us as well.

I have no doubt that evil in this present day is coming out loud and proud, witches, warlocks, Satanists and the rest will probably be having their own occult pride march down your main street in a couple of years.  There are enough millennial generation still reading the Potter books and watching the movies now to make your head spin (excuse the pun) and many of them are Christians.  So let’s not get too excited about this.  Far more important that we pay attention to our own spiritual walk and make sure that those in our families and our churches are not being drawn away by occult practices, games, movies and tv shows.

I think Americans will still pray for Trump and there is nothing but good in that. I just believe we need to hold our ground and not be swayed by media releases or even a bunch of weird sisters who want to make a name for themselves as the people who brought down Trump.  When you think about it this is what they are really vying for, publicity, not truth.

We can pray against curses and demonic attacks for sure, but I believe the only genuine protection we can have is if we are born again, and since Donald Trump, is not, in my opinion genuinely born again since I have not seen or heard this from his own lips, then I don’t think he is going to be any more protected from evil than any other unsaved leader.

But as I said, it won’t hurt him for Christians to pray against these attacks, just please my friends don’t do it in fear or anguish and begin worrying that Trump will be killed or attacked in some way.  God is still in control, and He is greater than any concerted efforts by a bunch of weird sisters and their satan worshipping buddies.

“With Him are wisdom and strength,
He has counsel and understanding.
14 If He breaks a thing down, it cannot be rebuilt;
If He imprisons a man, there can be no release.
15 If He withholds the waters, they dry up;
If He sends them out, they overwhelm the earth.
16 With Him are strength and prudence.
The deceived and the deceiver are His.
17 He leads counselors away plundered,
And makes fools of the judges.
18 He loosens the bonds of kings,
And binds their waist with a belt.
19 He leads princesb]”>[b] away plundered,
And overthrows the mighty.
20 He deprives the trusted ones of speech,
And takes away the discernment of the elders.
21 He pours contempt on princes,
And disarms the mighty.
22 He uncovers deep things out of darkness,
And brings the shadow of death to light.
23 He makes nations great, and destroys them;
He enlarges nations, and guides them.
24 He takes away the understandingc]”>[c] of the chiefs of the people of the earth,
And makes them wander in a pathless wilderness.
25 They grope in the dark without light,
And He makes them stagger like a drunken man.

Job 12:13-25

 

A Dissenting Life

sock puppet
Sock puppets don’t talk back

1 John 4:4-6New King James Version (NKJV)

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error

I have spent most of the last twelve years immersed in dissent or at least it seems that way.  But most of this is a correction to the previous decades wherein I rarely spoke up about anything, did not have an opinion and went out of my way to be tractable and agreeable even when what was going on went against everything I personally held dear. I used to think this was what Christians did.  Since then I have been learning the value of critical thinking, which despite what it seems, is not about criticising everything all the time. It is about testing what you hear against what you know to be true. It is about following those gut feelings that something is wrong and doing the necessary research.   It’s not a comfortable life, but the world is falling apart as you read. You can no longer assume that there are any safe places.  And as one musician whose name escapes me once said ‘There are no de-militarised zones in the Christian life’.  We are in a battle for souls and it seems also for truth.

Here’s the thing.  We spent 15 years in a religious cult.  Women in particular were oppressed and marginalised.  Everything that went wrong was their fault.  Either they were not obeying the elders or they were not obeying their husbands, and the word ‘obey’ was not used loosely. This covered everything from what you believed to what you made for morning tea.  It was like living with Hitler’s S.S.  People were driven to nervous breakdowns and families were destroyed.  I think you can gather why we left.

It took a very long time to understand what had happened to us, not the least because our brains had been sucked out of our skulls with high pressure religious vac-blowers.  We had to learn to think objectively all over again.  In fact, what we realised over time was that we had not even been able to think objectively before that because we had been trained by dysfunctional parenting not to question anything and to see ourselves as useless, helpless idiots with no skills and no hope for a successful future.  That was for the star kids in the family were chosen at birth to be everything we could not be. Anyone raised by narcissists will know to which I refer. Anyone not familiar with this term, please google it, there is a lot of research and testimony to be read.  So joining a cult was the natural outworking of being raised in one, and again, I am not using the word ‘cult’ loosely.

So all of this finally produced people who were very wary but also produced an extreme sensitivity to false doctrines of any stripe. When you have seen what false doctrines do in practice to people’s lives, you take them very personally and seriously.  You also gain a deep understanding of the power of the gospel.  When something is not gospel but being treated as such, it will have no power.  Hence the scripture “a form of godliness but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). In the final analysis we have become your ‘canary in a coal-mine’.  But it is impossible to convey this to anyone in person, it sounds like you are bragging.  It’s not, its the simple truth.

Many ex-cult survivors have done very little to work out what happened to them, they have simply gone their way and ‘recovered’ as best they can and live lives that are comfortable to them.  To be fair to them, they are often too traumatised to do much else. Eventually though, you must do a thorough investigation of how it was that you were able to spend the majority of your adulthood in a ‘church’ which treated people like this or you are going to miss out on all that God has for you. Not only that but I must reiterate that old adage about learning from history or repeating history. I am afraid that in our observation, if you don’t understand what true doctrine actually is, you will make the same mistake of following false doctrines over and over. Get your spiritual herescope working before you go join another church.  There are far too many ‘normal’ looking churches out there which have either imported false doctrines or manufactured their own.

Its important to know why you didn’t sense danger, why you didn’t recognise false teaching and why you were so susceptible to the love bombing which inevitably encompasses first time visitors to abusive churches.

Some members of our family recently visited a church and stayed for a couple of months and noticed some marginally disturbing trends amongst the young adults there, then started to pick up that the leadership were not doing anything about the problems, and in fact were contributing to the problems.  They had to make a decision, which for one person was not that difficult, but for the other was extremely difficult. Nobody likes to think that their fellow Christians are not walking in the light, but in these last days, scripture tells us that there will be many whose love for the truth will grow cold.  Added to this, a quick survey of individuals soon proved that there were those who simply will not brook any dissent or questioning even if that questioning comes from a genuine desire to know why things are the way they are.  One young adult got very hot under the collar because they were questioned about whether the leaders were aware of what was happening amongst the young people. Not only that but it appeared from that same line of questioning that there was a concerning trend towards the old ‘shepherding movement’ culture of confession and ‘mentoring’. This did not look good.

The only way you are going to find out if your initial concerns are warranted is by asking questions.  Most congregation members do not question either because they don’t pick up that there is anything wrong, or because they don’t want to rock the boat especially that early in the piece.  My advice is – ASK.  If you don’t ask early on, you will end up becoming more and more emotionally and probably fiscally enmeshed with the group and you will find it harder to be objective when it comes to making decisions when you finally do find out that this is not a good place to be.  On the other hand, if you ask questions you may discover much to your delight that this is a church where questions are welcomed and the answers not only prove the leaders are mature and gracious but that they themselves ask questions in order to safeguard the community from false teaching.

So, yes, we are a pain in the neck to church leaders.  We not only ask questions, we ask questions.  If you get my meaning.  It’s one thing to simply find out what kind of worship service they have – smoke machines and strobe lights verses hymns and pianos for example – but you need to ask the really uncomfortable questions. What are their eschatological beliefs for example. That’s bible college geek speak for ‘end times stuff’. You might think that this makes very little difference because it is not what is termed an ‘essential’ doctrine.  This term is taken from a quote much used by reformed scholars “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity” and has been attributed to Augustine, but there is no actual evidence for this.

I don’t believe this maxim does scripture credit.  All of the gospel is important.  If we can’t find unity on these things, it is because we don’t have the mind of Christ.  If we don’t have the mind of Christ, it is because we are still worldly in some measure, and of course we all are to some extent, who should not be to any extent. Christ is one with the Father and Spirit, therefore we, as His body, need to be of one mind regarding any and every doctrine whether others deem them essential or not. Unfortunately, for as many who deem one doctrine essential there will be others who do not agree. Disagreement is not the hallmark of lack of faith, or heretical failings.  Disagreement is in fact a sign that people are thinking for themselves, and vocalising their dissent. You have to search to find, you have to ask to know, you have to take it all to the Lord in prayer, and sometimes you just have to come down on one side of the fence or the other. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. We ought to know. There is no virtue in ‘havering’ when it comes to matters of doctrine and faith.  We need to be workmen in scripture, and we need to test the spirits. Its a work of both intellectual and spiritual design, and God approves of those who seek after the Kingdom of God. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Let me say this again with clarity. Dissent is NOT a sign that you are a heretic or trying to rock the boat, or are judgemental or have ‘issues’ with leadership or authority.  Leaders who imply that there is something wrong with you because you are asking questions are simply proving their own fleshly irritation with needing to provide answers to those with whom they would rather not have to deal.  They may be short of time, in the middle of some problem which they are struggling with or some other reason, but there really is no excuse to dismiss a seeker’s questions, especially if they are presented reasonably and respectfully. They may also be heretics themselves, and refusal to discuss  heresy with others is often the first sign you are dealing with a ‘spirit of error’.

Recently Steve and I had a conversation with a church leader who seemed very reasonable and mature at first. However, it became clear throughout the conversation that he was not used to talking to women like myself who have researched and read widely and ask questions when they want information. While both Steve and I talked roughly the same amount, Steve sat quietly while I spoke and did not interrupt or correct me as he used to do while in the cult.  We were presenting as equals and this seemed not to be to the liking of the pastor.  I think he preferred the demure Christian wife who sat silently and nodded enthusiastically while her husband talked unless she was being addressed by the Pastor. When  I asked him if he was a dispensationalist, he sat looking at me momentarily and then growled in a rather refractory tone “I don’t know what that word means”.  Now this was a mature man of retiring age who had presumably been a Christian for a long time. There was no reason to assume he did not know what this term meant or that he would not have heard the term before.  I was taken aback at his response, and while I stopped to try and work out how to explain it, he then proceeded to prove that he knew exactly what I was talking about “If you mean do I believe in the rapture, then yes I do”.

Later I tried to talk to him about something and he interrupted with a remark which made absolutely no sense. In my former ‘demure’ life I would have simply let it pass, but this time I asked him what he meant by that. His response was equally ludicrous. At this point even his wife was wanting to know what he was on about.  The conversation carried on however until we got to the point where he said in no uncertain terms that women in his church were not allowed to speak. In his words he wanted me to know so there were no ‘nasty surprises’. Why did this pastor assume that it would be a ‘nasty surprise’?  Surely he was again telling us who he was and what he expected from us if we came to his church.  He didn’t say that women did not preach at his church, he said they weren’t allowed to speak which implies oppression. We didn’t want to jump to conclusions but after our conversation (which on the whole had been civil despite the things I mentioned) the pastor got up from his chair without saying goodbye and walked away. He did not even bother to see us to the door. He was telling us we were not acceptable. Here is a clear case of ascertaining the true nature of a man and his work by asking questions.

Pastors like this are not the rule fortunately. Its actually amazing how many times Steve and I have come across them though. Sometimes it feels like they come out of the woodwork whenever we are around. Give people some opportunity to prove themselves. Bad seeds will always make themselves known and if you do enough bible study and internet searching  and prayer God will show you the truth you are looking for.  I should like to provide my own version of the above much flung about maxim…

In testing the Spirits, wisdom, In asking questions, love, In leaving the church, much prayer, in finding another one, much patience.

Anita Brady

Absolute Truth ?…. Absolutely

bell-and-winfrey
Swamis Winfrey and Bell deep in private emergent conversation being broadcast to millions

‘Two men say they’re Jesus – one of ‘em must be wrong’ – Mark Knopfler

Those who say there is no such thing as absolute truth will be the first to be outraged at somebody else’s lies about them. When people say there is no such thing as absolute truth it is a subjective statement. There is no absolute truth to them. Which is fine. Except the proponents of this idea rarely keep it to themselves, they want to ensure everyone else believes it too. What disturbs many Christians is that the people asking these questions about absolute truth often identify as Christians.  Are they deluded? Or are they not born again?  Either way, they do not have the truth, so they don’t recognise the truth.  We are being taught as a church not to question the post modernist emerging church preachers and writers, because if we do, we are to be dismissed as hopelessly traditional.  This is a loveless doctrine, a cruel message to those who believe they are brothers and sisters.  Don’t discard other believers, but don’t kid yourself either. There are such things as false brethren. Scriptures tell us there will be many whose love of God will grow cold towards the end.  If you change the goal posts however, and insist that the Bible is no longer an authority and God’s word is what they believe it to be, they can say whatever they like. In their own churches. Just don’t expect everyone else to simply fall in line, or accept the insult that you are ‘not relevant’.

Much Emerging Church theology,  is imbued with this version of ‘truth’. It is in fact the foundation stone upon which further false teaching is raised.The Bible no longer retains its God ordained place as the inerrant Word of God except for those who want to use the parts of the inerrant truth that apply to their personal agendas. To them,  Jesus’ words  are important, but only some of them. Jesus’ words are also more important than other parts of the Bible, and from what I have read of the origin of this phrase ‘Red Letter Christians’ by Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, the concept of ditching the bits which are not ‘relevant’ is not a problem. In fact it’s kind of hip, cool and radical. And relevant. Relevant is important.

Mostly, emerging church ideas have appealed to those disaffected by traditional church.  I know how these people feel, I spent 15 years in a religious cult and when we came out, we were extremely disaffected.  We have spent many years since rebuilding our faith from the ground up; the ground of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, not the ground of heretical theology or eisegesis.  I am sorry but there is no other way around this.  You can’t have subjective theology.  We spent 15 years being immersed in one man’s subjective theology. Coupled with intense brainwashing techniques and the daily threat of losing one’s salvation, we came to view the Bible as prison bars, and did not partake of the wondrous gospel of freedom and salvation.  After we exited the cult, we found it too easy to move towards emerging church theology. It sounded so different to the equally heretical authoritarian savagery we were used to. After about 12 months however we began to smell a rat.  We have since learned to study the Bible, research the ideas and not just accept them, and compare them to what the Bible actually says.  It’s hard work, but at the cost of your spiritual walk, you tread carefully.  We have wasted too much time assuming a pastor actually knows what he is talking about, or the printed page would never contain error because the writer is a ‘christian’.  We have since learned there is a huge difference between a follower of Jesus and a man who is born again.  There has to be a change, a transformation.  If that man’s life does not add up, if his words sound great but his actions speak volumes which contradict the words, these are red flags.  Attend to them, they are important.

For many Emerging church authors there is an overemphasis on ‘living as Jesus did’, yet there is also a terrible lack of genuine understanding of theology. Apparently Bible study is only for people who know what they are talking about, like many of these pastors and authors.  They actually present post modern gnosticism.  You have to come to them to understand the truth because they know stuff you don’t know.  This is the lure of the cult.  They will always give themselves away by majoring on minors, thinking they are offering you something new and different.  All they are doing is offering you something different to the actual gospel. Selling everything you have to give to the poor is good. Repenting of your sin not so much.   Did Jesus tell everyone to sell everything and give to the poor, or only that rich guy? Funny how some emerging church preachers take the alleged giving to the poor mandate and forget the ‘don’t do your good works before men’ mandate. It kind of casts aspersions on the speaking tours and authoring books thing not to mention the mega-star status in certain churches that some preachers have, and Tony Carpool (drat autocorrect – you know I am going to leave it there)  in particular is probably one of the most well known Christians on the planet. Especially to Bill Clinton for whom Tony was the ‘go-to’ guy for moral dilemmas.  Which is kind of embarrassing I would have thought. Its a shame most politicians and high profile religious leaders don’t have the normal level of sensitivity to embarrassment the rest of us have.

I recently read this blog post from Rachel Held Evans (an emerging writer) who laments how difficult it is to try and be Shane Claiborne (an emerging leader who set up a ‘new monastic community’) whose big push is focused on living with and ministering to ‘the poor’.   She tried and she tried and it didn’t work.  I think there might be a message here for people like Shane, an author and popular speaker who seems to attract young people like Rachel because Shane appears to be living in such a ‘radical’ way. So she follows men and finds that following human beings makes you crazy, because inevitably, man-made teachings and communities will fail. Sure you can learn a thing or two from these guys, but as Rachel admits, its more than that, she is wasting her life in a repeating spiral continually trying to hoist herself up with being ‘of’ somebody else rather than simply being a daughter of the most High. She is not living a life supplied by the Truth, Life and Way called Jesus Christ, she is following a man who kind of seems like Jesus, but who manifestly isn’t, especially as a Red Letter Christian who denies that the word of God is Truth.

We don’t subscribe to sweeping prescriptions from people who claim to be Christians but actually mock and deride genuine believers because we believe in Hell, Judgement, Salvation by the blood of Jesus and Repentance from Sin. According to Rob Bell we are irrelevant.   John Macarthur, the epitome of a conservative fundamentalist mega-church pastor with similar enviable credentials to Mr. Carpool and friends,  claims we are also irrelevant because we are not of the Reformed tribe.  Or more specifically the Reformed variety who believe John Macarthur to be the epitome etc.  You can’t please all of the people all of the time. .

In fact it’s kind of ironic.  John MacArthur is a creditable nominee for the position of Emerging Church Anti-Matter Man. Yet his position on relevancy is the equivalent of Rob Bell’s.  They keep using that word.  I don’t think it means what they think it means.  Relevant to what or who?  To God?  It would take a massive amount of arrogance to reject more than half of the body of Christ simply because they don’t accept John Calvin’s flower power theology, especially when Calvin himself would be taken for a pathological homicidal maniac if he killed 50 people just because they didn’t agree with him in today’s paradigm (another emerging hip word).

Those who claim there is no absolute truth clearly know nothing about mathematics, physics or geometry. If the truths contained within these sciences are not absolute and unchangeable, we would not be able to build skyscrapers, fly planes, make computers or heal sick people.  Sure we get it wrong, which means that we don’t know all the truth there is to know about those things.  It still proves that there are a lot of absolute truths we can work with, with absolute certainty.  Ask Oprah, who while still cheerleading for apostate ‘progressive’ pretend Christian leaders (like Rob Bell and Karl ‘leather’ Lentz), maintains that there are some things that she knows for sure.  Oprah, my friend, that’s absolute truth.  You need to work out whose side you are on.

 

There are absolute facts which are true which do not change and will never change. Like God’s word (Isaiah40:8). Therefore there is absolute truth. All of life is based on rules and laws which are based on absolute truth. Killing another human being is wrong. Those who do so are arrested, tried in a court of law and sentenced. This is just one of the absolute truths which govern our society. If we had no absolute truth, society itself would devolve into The Lord of The Flies with nukes. More importantly, the police do their work based on the innate understanding that human nature, left to itself will devolve to its lowest common denominator in Judges 21:25 “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” without the rider of “as long as nobody else gets hurt”. We know from personal experience that there are a LOT of people out there who will hurt other people because they enjoy seeing other people’s pain.

As far as I can see, there are only two reasons why a human being would come to the conclusion that there is no absolute truth: because it suits them, or because they are nihilists. To become  a nihilist, they have become so disillusioned with life that they believe there is no structure, no authority, no dream and no ideal which can inspire or inform their decisions.  Life to them is a jungle, or more accurately an illusion, in which no man alive can tell another what to do because nothing is real. In essence, nihilism is really just a storm in a mental teacup.  And I have seen some mental teacups.  Here’s one for starters.

mental tea cup.png

Whatever a human being defines reality as being, they still have to live in the world.  The world runs according to  universal rules – water finds its own level, night follows day, MacDonald’s hamburgers taste the same wherever you are, cats always want out as soon as you let them in.  You can claim there are no absolute truths and therefore that only parts of the bible are accurate and not others, but you will face God at the end of your life if not before and have to give an account for your thoughts and actions.  I would want to be pretty darn sure of what I believe regardless of what that is if I were you.  And the best way to know what God thinks is to look in the Bible, because it is our litmus test of false doctrine. Get rid of that and you no longer have false doctrine.  Easy peasy….and broad is the way.

 

Theodore and Isabella

theo-and-bella

Lilting underwater sway
With undulating tail
Each footfall fluid and faultless
Easy and serene.
They purr and thrum and bombinate with very satisfaction.
They thrive and croon
Smooch and spoon and serenade,
Supplicate and woo,
Coax, cajole and captivate
And soon
All that is beheld with tawny eyes
Becomes their own.

Two shadows
Following a foot behind
Or choosing then to sprint ahead
And claim the bed.
Not just one cat sized piece
But the whole.
Sprawling deliciously,
Blinking artlessly,
Quick with consolation
For taking your side.
Cold wet nose pressed
With affection against your cheek.

Late night scraps.
Up and down the hallways,
In and out the doorways,
Underneath the table legs
And up the front flyscreen.
Each too nimble to hurt or hinder
One another
And growls and grumblings all a romp
Til zest and zeal is spent.

Endless curiosity
Staring unblinking out the windows
And following a careless insect
Into corners hitherto unexplored
Or explored again.
The unstoppable determination
To win the right
To household domination
And claim the rubbish bin’s delights.
The invisible elastic
That draws them to you
Sitting close by
Or finding space where none exists
Just to be in your presence.

 

Anita Brady © 2017