A Mini-Novel With a Massive Message
All names are as fake as Sunday Churchianity
A sharp pain stabbed Sylvia’s rib
cage. Must be a cold settling in my chest,
Sylvia wouldn’t go to a doctor. All they ever gave her was bad news. Once
the 60-year-old widowed mom of six had been misdiagnosed for a stomach complaint and given the wrong prescription, resulting
in splitting headaches which lasted for weeks on end. Not to mention the runaway pulse and dry mouth which had made eating
and sleeping next to impossible. No, not this time, thought Sylvia. A brandy
tonic. Now that just might kill those nasty cold germs, and the more, the better.
Sanctimonious Sylvia had a sad little
secret: Her best friend wasn’t Jesus, it was some other spirit she kept on the shelf behind the baked beans, hidden
from the prying eyes of her church pals.
Betrayed by the only man she’d
ever loved, Sylvia never recovered from the damage done to her self-worth. Sure, the other woman had been forty pounds lighter
and thirty years younger. But Randy had been a real rat to cheat on her, after
all the love and devotion she’d dumped on him for so long. Fat Randy had
never been much to look at either. Even in his teens he’d been a butterball. Before he got killed in a car wreck he’d ballooned close to 400 pounds and had
just lost his junior management job at Prestolex. Some attractive female employee had reported Randy to the Labor Board for
workplace bullying, allegedly committed because he’d tried to hit on her and she’d told him to back off. To get
even Randy had reportedly infected her files with Computer HIV. An internal investigation
concluded Randy’s mischief had lost a vital contract for Prestolex. The
head honcho had given Randy a good roasting before firing him. Now that Randy
was assuredly roasting in hell for what he’d done to Sylvia, she was enjoying his juicy life insurance checks and the
house he’d left behind. And that slut he’d shacked up with had died
with him in the wreck.
‘em right for doing me dirty, thought Sylvia. The Lord always punishes the wicked in the end.
Why had she ever married that monster,
Sylvia reflected as she mixed brandy with Coke. Maybe it was because they shared the same likes and dislikes, so she’d
glossed over some of his flaws. She squeezed some lime juice into her tall drink. Forgive
me, dear God, I need this, she thought. At least my church friends think I’m
The bracing brew tickled her innards. Sylvia didn’t stop with one. She
fixed herself a second and drank it as fast as she could to enjoy the scalding sensation going down her throat. Then she sashayed down to the den, flicked on her Fatbuster video and started hopping like crazy on her
trampoline. Must get the old heart pumping to sweat the virus out.
As her feet pounded the trampoline she
pretended it was Randy. She would never ruin her Christian testimony by telling
anyone how happy she was that Randy was doing his own workout down in hell shoveling coal.
The kids, especially, must never know how bitterly she hated the memory of their dad. Her secrets must remain her own.
“Whee!” she giggled, tipsy and lost in her own world. The wilder the
video music, the higher and faster she jumped and swerved. So what if her pulse was pumping hard and fast in her throat? So
what if she was getting nauseated and she was unaware her complexion was going grey?
Gotta push it to the max and make it burn. Faster, faster, then…
The door bell! Must be her oldest daughter
coming by to take her out to dinner today. Sylvia knew she was a sweaty
mess but she had to jump down. Inebriated,
she lost her balance, hit her head on a glass tabletop and was out like a light. As
blackness overtook her Sylvia heard still more buzzing from the doorbell. Her
car was still parked in the driveway and the video was playing real loud, so Regina must know her mother was home.
After a lifetime of fretting about her
weight, Sylvia felt lighter than air. She felt herself floating toward the staircase leading up to the living room when she
felt herself whisked upward. Before she knew it Sylvia found herself staring
at what looked like a locked gate made of translucent pearl, against a backdrop of softly diffused rainbow light. Powerful light beams escaped from the top of a wall so high she couldn’t see where the radiance ended
and the bluish blackness of space began.
Before she could recover from the awesome
spectacle, another image appeared before her: a gigantic flatscreen video monitor. The
screen was purest white, and blank, just like a sheet of paper that never had been written on or smudged with mistakes. Out
the corner of her eye Sylvia glimpsed a filmy creature with trailing wings. Fearfully
she turned to look at his face. It was not very friendly, but why? Hadn’t
he flown her up here?
Trembling, she asked, “What’s
“I am not permitted to tell you
my real name,” said the tall, majestic being of light. “You can just
call me Angel.”
“You are here for your post-mortem
judgment,” said Angel. “It is written in the Word of God that it
is appointed unto mortals once to die, and after that comes their judgment. See
this tiny device I hold in my hand? It’s far superior to any technology
yet perfected on earth. It transmits scenes from our vast heavenly data bank
which stores untold trillions of terabytes of data about each individual who ever inhabited planet earth. Our God has access to even the deepest ulterior motives behind each action ever performed by man. Right
here and now we shall determine your worthiness to enter through these sacred portals which admit pilgrims into the Paradise
With the flick of a button a giant 3-D
hologram appeared before Sylvia, who gasped at how vast the picture was.
“A baby being born. Now it’s crying. Who is it?” she gasped.
“You, of course,” said Angel. I don’t suppose you remember that far back, do you?”
“No, Angel,” Sylvia said. “My earliest memory was when I was about four.
I threw a fit because Mama wouldn’t buy me any candy. My mama took
me outside and wore me out real good.”
Angel’s face sobered. “Sylvia,
for now we’ll leave behind these early scenes of your life and explore those portions of your lifetime where you were
in possession of a fuller knowledge of right and wrong. Before I continue I want
to repeat a crucial question: Why should God admit you into heaven?”
Sylvia answered as if it had been drilled
into her, “Because Jesus died to pay the price of my sins and once saved, always saved.”
Angel didn’t dare dispute the Atonement
of Christ for sinners. But he did ask Sylvia, “Do you seriously believe God turns a blind eye to deliberate, willful
sin, Sylvia? Do you think God would rapture a man to heaven if Christ caught
him partying in a whorehouse when He returned to take His people home?
Sylvia muttered that some sins were worse
than others, and she didn’t think a real Christian was capable of anything that bad.
A Haven Of Hypocrisy
Angel wasn’t in the mood to argue
with her on that point. He fast-forwarded the vision to somewhere beyond Sylvia’s
eleventh birthday. She was sitting in church with her family. A preacher pleaded
for sinners to come forward and confess Christ as Savior.
“I remember that moment as if it
was yesterday,” said Sylvia. “How clean I felt when I prayed for
Jesus to forgive my sins and come into my heart. Why, I was so happy I wanted
Angel sighed. “For the first few days after that experience you and your family rejoiced and could speak of little
else. But the church you attended did little to teach you what to do after you
entered the gates of salvation. Their focus was strictly on getting as many folks
as possible saved to increase church membership. After salvation, the new convert
was simply taught to go out and try to win more souls to Christ, so they wouldn’t
go to hell. Not much was taught at your church about how to get the victory over
sin and overcome temptations which could cause people to fall away from faith in Christ. Not much was taught about letting
the love of Christ shine through you to bring glory to God. Oddly enough, young
people at your church were recruited to train for the mission field so they could go to Africa
to live among black folks and save their souls from hell. But these same ‘fine
Christians’ despised the black people who lived in their own nation and made their lives hell. Don’t you think
that’s being hypocritical, Sylvia?”
“Well, thanks to the blacks, white
Yankees started the Civil War so they could set all the slaves free. The Yankees destroyed our way of life, burnt our plantations…”
“There were ulterior motives involved
even in freeing those poor slaves,” Angel said. “But the crass hypocrisy
of your church is beyond belief. And their concept of what constitutes holiness
was so shallow that it offended God.
“The church people thought that
so long as you didn’t curse, smoke, drink or watch immoral movies, you would turn out just fine as a teenager. You didn’t
read your Bible much, did you, Sylvia?”
“Well, I couldn’t make heads
nor tails of it, Angel. I left that part up to the preacher. Besides, we paid
Brother Beason real good to study the Bible so he could share its messages with us.”
“Your preacher preached on what
was profitable to him,” Angel said with a look of disgust. “Generally
Brother Beason preached what the people wanted to hear instead of what they needed
to hear. He was what the Bible refers to as a hireling who doesn’t really care about the sheep, just the wages he receives.
Getting souls saved and on fire for Jesus resulted in more tithe-payers out in the pews.
So there was something in it for him, not just for the Lord.”
“Nobody I knew ever saw it that
way,” Sylvia mumbled.
“And once you lured the sheep into
those pews, you had to watch what you said so you wouldn’t drive your own cash cows away. Brother Beason, like most
preachers in your area, spent the majority of his time preaching on false traditions like tithing on paychecks, a doctrine
found nowhere in Scripture. Or, he would preach gimmicky sermons on light, inoffensive
topics, using lots of anecdotes to keep the people entertained. Whenever sin
was mentioned, it was airbrushed away as a human fault. Only at ‘revival
time’ would he get serious about winning souls to Christ.
“As you well remember, Sylvia,
church revivals were popular in the deep South of the 60’s. Regularly scheduled
revival meetings were pre-orchestrated and would be carried out whether God was present or not. They were cleverly staged community social events which would draw crowds and attract publicity. Yet even if the preacher’s motives weren’t always the purest, a few souls might be won just
from responding to the Good News that Christ died for sinners. But once those
souls were won, they were thrown in a sheep pen of tradition by the pastor and left unfed.”
Sylvia drew a sigh of relief. “So if I’ve committed any sins I can’t be held responsible because it’s the pastor’s
The angel frowned. “Willful ignorance is no excuse. Were you able to read,
“Sure, Angel, most everybody could
read, except for the dumbest kids."
“Sylvia, as I recall, every day
you went to junior high school, each morning a child took turns reading a scripture passage of his or her choice. Here you are reading yours.” Another vision unfolded.
“That’s me when I was about
twelve,” Sylvia gasped. “I’m standing in Mrs. Harley’s
home room class. I’m opening the Bible at random. Wait, I’ve found something, but what is it?”
“Listen to young Sylvia read,”
Angel said. “This is extremely important now.”
Mark 12: 28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard
them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength:
this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
There is none other commandment greater than these.
“Now, Sylvia, earlier you told
me you couldn’t make heads nor tails of the Bible. What’s so difficult
about the passage you just read? What was it you couldn’t understand about
“Oh, I understood everything about
it, Angel. ‘Love thy neighbor’ was preached at my church on a regular
The angel raised his eyebrows. “Really and truly?”
A Heart Of Hate
The video recording of Sylvia’s
life resumed. People were milling about in the sanctuary of Landview Community Church,
discussing the wonderful sermon they’d just heard. Young Sylvia was chatting with some pals from Sunday School.
A giggling girl jabbed Sylvia playfully. “Is he for real, Sylvia? I mean,
do we have to love everybody? Even colored folks?”
“He just said we had to love our
neighbor, Debbie. We don’t have colored people in our neighborhoods, or at
least I don’t. Do you?”
A third girl piped up. “If they moved next door to us I’d just die!”
“I sure am glad Jesus was white,”
Sylvia said. “See? There’s a picture of him on the wall.” Sylvia pointed at a white-robed Jesus
sitting on a rock, shepherd’s crook in hand. This Jesus had flowing golden
hair. He was pale as buttermilk. That
fragile figure didn’t look rugged enough to work at an outdoor occupation.
Dreamily he watched over a few snow white, fluffy sheep in a green pasture.
“Do you seriously think Jesus looks
like that, Sylvia?” Angel asked.
“Sure, doesn’t everyone?
Will I get to see him?”
“That’s up to God, Sylvia. The REAL Savior said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ Are you pure in heart or did you harbor
hatred toward your neighbors who wanted to live in peace?”
Sylvia blinked. “Hatred? Me? Why
“But you did, Sylvia. Not just a one-off incident, but you and your snobby friends waged
a protracted campaign of abuse against one poor lonely girl in particular, Trina Conway.”
Sylvia snorted. “Now I see what your agenda is, Angel. You’ve got an ax to grind with me so you yanked me up
here to hang a guilt trip on me. After all these years God couldn’t just
let bygones be bygones. What’s wrong? Didn’t I pay enough tithes
and offerings to my church? I served on every single committee of every single
church I ever went to. The way I see it, I paid through the nose for my ticket to heaven. That’s gratitude for you.”
“But Sylvia,” chided the
angel, “didn’t you just tell me you trusted in the atonement of Christ to get you through these Pearly Gates?”
“Yeah, I did say that. But why would God drag up that * * * *after so many years that I served him?”
Angel gave her a hard stare. “Mind
your wicked tongue, Sylvia! What you’re about to experience runs far deeper
than any external images you could view on a monitor. Now you shall KNOW what killed your early faith in Christ and made a
mockery of your religion.”
In her vision Sylvia found herself dressed
in her glee club uniform, the tacky red jumper and white blouse that made her
look like Santa Claus on estrogen. She recalled how after she graduated junior
high, she’d donated the dress to the Salvation Army, feeling a bit guilty because her mother had to make the ugly thing. But now she was proudly standing on a riser, singing with other glee club members
who’d ridden the bus 200 miles on this field trip to sing for wannabe bigwigs at the state university.
“Notice anybody who’s not
in the group, Sylvia?” Angel asked.
“That stupid Trina Conway,”
she snickered. “There she is at a little table with another girl keeping
her company so she won’t feel so bad. Rumor has it the teacher was ordered
by school officials to keep Trina out of the concert…to avoid embarrassing our school.”
“Was she that bad of a singer,
Sylvia?” Angel asked. “Tell the truth now.”
Grudgingly Sylvia admitted Trina was
no worse than anybody else.
“Trina practiced hard,” the
angel said. “She had a beautiful voice too. It was just prejudice against
her because others made this poor lonely girl a conspicuous target of abuse. Throughout her school year Trina was unjustly
blamed and censured for being the peer group’s designated victim. That’s
just as sinful as punishing a woman for being a rape victim, saying it must be her fault for attracting the attack. When you punish the victim for being a victim, you reopen raw wounds before they get the chance to heal.”
“But all the other kids can’t
be wrong while that one girl was right,” Sylvia said.
“God doesn’t run a democracy, Sylvia. Matters of right and wrong aren’t decided in His court through majority opinion. Noah took only seven other people with him on the Ark. The rest of the world laughed at him and his God, but God didn’t say Noah was
wrong because he was outvoted and outnumbered. God sent the flood to destroy
them all even though sinners were in the majority. Every authority figure who
unjustly blamed Trina for being a victim is an abomination to God. Proverbs 17:15
says that whoever acquits the wicked, and condemns the innocent is an abomination
to the LORD. That would include every teacher who turned a blind eye to what was done to Trina, and every teacher who heaped
shame and humiliation on her for being a victim. These wicked people were enablers who allowed this outrage to go on, just to avoid having to confront the kids
and their parents. They reasoned that one can’t be right while all the
rest are wrong. But God doesn’t see it that way. You can’t dismiss
a raped woman’s complaint on the basis that a thousand satisfied men can’t be wrong.”
The scene shifted to the cafeteria where
the glee club went for supper that evening. Before Trina sat down at her lonely
little table, Sylvia felt herself sucked into Trina’s skin. Now Sylvia was viewing the world through Trina’s eyes.
“The only girl sitting alone,”
the angel said with disgust. “What crime did Trina commit to deserve this
harsh treatment? There, you see two girls Trina knew in sixth grade. Girls who had never been mean to her then. But now that they
were in seventh grade, they had turned into vicious big time operators.
“Fish good, Trina?” the blond
girl sneered, looking at her friend for approval.
Sylvia felt her cheeks burn. Her throat tightened. Tension knotted up her gut. She felt like a lone fish in a bowl being eyed hungrily by
a gang of cats. A primal, choking fear gripped her, sending her adrenalin rushing. She felt the weight of a hard stare coming
at her from across the little room…from herself!
Sylvia glared with precalculated malice
and whispered ugly things loud enough for Trina to hear. The blond girl said
to her friend, “There’s your girl friend. To which the second girl
replied, “She’s not my
A mixture of profound sadness and bitter
hatred boiled up in Trina’s heart, which she dare not show. She hid her
face and choked down her meal in silence, silently damning herself for not playing sick and staying home that day.
“You and those other evil vipers
turned Trina’s fun day out into a bad day,” said Angel. “Those
other two girls will receive the full reward of their iniquity within a few short years.
Their religion, like yours, is only a sham which they go through to keep up a respectable image in their respectable
“Trina began to be bullied the
same way other children began to be bullied, by making an unfavorable first impression through no fault of their own,”
said Angel. The first day of class the teacher singled Trina out and began to
ask her stupid personal questions she didn’t have ready answers for. Trina
felt self-conscious and a panic attack swept over her, causing tears to seep out her eyes against her will. She could barely
breathe. The whole class laughed. The teacher threatened to tell on Trina to
her father, which she did, and it only made matters worse. That first day of
abuse was like a tiny rock slipping over the edge of a snowy slope. It could
not be stopped. Momentum built up, and Trina’s disgrace, so undeserved,
increased in a snowballing cycle of bullying, resentment, anger, and escalation of the bullying.
“Sinful human beings are full of
malice, always looking for at least one victim to crucify for their own pleasure, Sylvia, as you well know. Once someone makes one tiny social gaffe or shows the slightest bit of weakness, that individual is forever
designated as the scapegoat against whom all sorts of abuse is aimed. Children
bully just because they can. Ecclesiastes 8:11 comments on how sinners are very eager to do evil just because there is no
immediate danger of being punished for sin.
“Sinners show no grace or mercy
toward those they view as ‘different’. Even if they eventually tire
of their cruelty and offer to build bridges of reconciliation with the victim, the damage has already been done to that person’s
soul. The victim has been rendered unable to trust that the persecutors’ intentions are good. Prolonged abuse by bullies
has pounded fear and mistrust so deeply into the victim’s soul that he fears the bridge will have be made of rotting
planks which will collapse from crossing it, and thus provide more amusement for the victim’s tormentors.”
A Painful Point Of View
Sylvia found herself in a classroom once again, laughing as her pal Randy called Trina a “spastic”. But this time Sylvia was hearing the insults through Trina’s ears.
She felt the sharp pain in Trina’s instep, caused by blobby Randy stomping on her foot. It wasn’t much
fun for Sylvia to see, hear and feel the world standing in someone else’s shoes.
Sylvia heard Trina making a complaint to Mrs. Harley about kids giving her a hard time.
Resentment flooded through her as the teacher said, “I’m tired of this, Trina, and I’m not going
to protect you anymore.” Somebody else’s bitterness over being blamed for her own problem hit Sylvia in the gut. She wished she could exit the other girl’s nervous system and once again keep her
distance from somebody else’s pain.
“There I go down the hall, laughing
with my friends,” Sylvia muttered. “But I’m trapped in Trina’s
skin. There we are, as Trina sits all by herself in the library, guarded by mean
old Mrs. Spindle, who threatens to paddle her if she makes one false move. Not
that she didn’t deserve it after ratting on us to the teachers.”
“Day after day she sat there, staring
into space, trying to shut the nasty world out,” Angel said. “Trina’s grades were already awful because
she couldn’t concentrate, but now she was afraid her parents would find out that she’d been banned from most of
her classes, as if she were a violent criminal. Trina figures she just has to
take life one day at a time and try not to think about the future. What a pity you didn’t think about your own future,
An after-school scene showed Trina hurrying
down the sidewalk, only to be confronted by Randy and Sylvia. Someone else’s mind-numbing sadness and anger swept through Sylvia as she watched herself being mean
to a helpless, friendless girl. Randy and Sylvia had the ugliest grins on their
faces. They grabbed Trina’s books and played catch with them before throwing
them into the street. Trina could only scream her hate and resentment helplessly.
“Was that the behavior of a true
believer in Christ?” Angel asked, seething.
The scene shifted to Sunday School where
Mrs. Minton taught the Intermediate Girls’ Class.
The bespectacled lady was teaching from
Psalms 132. Sylvia stared at her quarterly, barely there and daydreaming about
her upcoming horseback riding competition.
The final verse of Psalms 132 read: His enemies will I clothe
with shame: but upon himself shall his crown flourish.
“In that verse God promises to
highly exalt David and make him a successful king,” Mrs. Minton said. “But
all his enemies who tried to kill him will be covered in shame and humiliation. Many
times it looks like the bad guy is winning, but when God comes on the scene he turns the tables on the wicked and makes them
suffer for all the evil they’ve done. But those who trust in the Lord always come out on top.”
Sylvia barely looked up from her lap. She was squirming and anxious to get out of that Sunday School class.
“You didn’t take that lesson
home and apply it to your life, did you, Sylvia?” Angel asked reproachfully.
“Well, Trina never did come out
on top, so that verse can’t be true,” Sylvia retorted. “That
“You didn’t even know what
a communist was back then, Sylvia,” Angel said. “That was just a
handy catchall insult to make others feel like social outcasts. And you’re
the reason Trina never made her peace with God. YOU!”
Satan’s Cheering Squad
The vision shifted to a sunny afternoon
in November, 1963. Sylvia and her multitude of friends weren’t bothering Trina today as they usually did when school
turned out. They’d found someone else to pick on, someone they didn’t even know personally but hated with all
their rotten hearts. Once again Sylvia felt her consciousness return to her own body as she joined in a happy crowd spilling
down the front steps of the school, cheering that JFK had just been shot dead in Dallas.
“Serves him right,” some
said, “the way he helped those _ _ _ _ _ _ _ instead of acting like a decent white man.”
“God always punishes communists,”
“You and all the rest of those
wicked kids went home to equally bigoted parents who gave God thanks for someone else’s death. Maybe the man didn’t
go to your church, but his family wept over him when this outrage happened. How
would you have felt if your daddy had been gunned down in Dallas, Sylvia? How would you have felt if you knew others
were laughing and cheering about it?”
“Mad, I guess,” Sylvia mumbled.
“Where in Scripture does Jesus
ever teach Christians to act like you did that evil day?” Angel asked.
“Well, white people are better,” Sylvia shrugged. “At least people used to
think so before liberal Yankee politicians changed the South into a multicultural society and turned the Confederate flag
into a symbol of evil.”
The angel looked irritated. “Did Jesus die to save the honor of a flag? Does god owe you thanks for the color of your skin? Does that earn you points with Him or whitewash your ugly sins? Our Creator is not blind. Nor is He stupid.”
“You were a coward, Sylvia. Had Trina been able to defend herself, you never would have done this to her. You gave her not a moment’s rest as long as she went to that damnable school. She couldn’t even walk home in peace.”
Sylvia felt herself sucked into Trina’s
consciousness again. She had just left school and was passing the parking lot
when she heard a voice coming from a pickup truck: “There she is!” Sylvia
saw herself pointing at Trina, felt Trina’s helpless rage and frustration.
“Hi!” the grinning driver called cheerfully, as if apologizing for staring at her.
“You made Trina feel like a zoo
animal. You just never got enough of torturing that poor girl. This is the damage you did to Trina as you tore her down for so many months:
“Although Trina was naturally bright,
she had trouble learning because she had to concentrate on surviving, not thriving, in that hostile prison called ‘school’. Daily she suffered depression, thoughts of suicide and deep resentment that she couldn’t
flee that torture chamber. Teachers sided with you bullies because it was the
easy thing to do, not the righteous thing to do.
They blamed her when she complained about the protracted emotional abuse. Just
so they wouldn’t have to address the bullying problem and could save class time, they isolated her in the library where
she sat alone most of the day. She sat all alone in that chair for long stretches
of time, daydreaming of the day she could escape school and be free. She felt
numb and detached from reality, as if her soul faculties were shutting down. That’s
the beginning of death, Sylvia!
DAILY you and your buddies injected death
into Trina’s soul like a slow drip of rat poison.
“One day Trina’s home room
class talked about her as if she wasn’t even present. By now Trina had
been so badly traumatized by the long campaign of hatred against her, she couldn’t love or trust anybody anymore, not
even her closest relatives. Her public humiliation, the sabotage of her education and isolation in the library had broken her spirit to the point where she couldn’t
have cared even if they’d laid flowers at her feet. Others had bound Trina with a spirit of shame and worthlessness. Thanks to the satanic influence of unholy churchgoers, Trina was unable to forgive
bullies who just might turn on her again once the teacher wasn’t looking. She was angry because thanks to them, she
was bound to fail that year while the rest of them passed. Any little overture
of friendliness was too little too late, and suspected of being a trick to play perverse games with her battered emotions.
Satan had done his dirty work thoroughly, through so-called churchgoers who read out of the Holy Bible every single morning. After seven long months of hatred and humiliation, mistrust and cynicism was now deeply
embedded in Trina’s character and the innocence of childhood had been destroyed.”
Out For Blood
Sylvia felt the full force of Trina’s
last memory on earth. She felt Trina’s terror as she ran a gauntlet of
laughing, jeering kids who pointed and harassed her as she fled down the front steps of the school. Trina felt like everyone on earth was against her and life wasn’t worth living. Sylvia felt the black blanket of despair choking the life out of her soul.
Trina, blinded by tears, ran as hard
as she could to get away from the howling mob, those same bigoted kids who had cheered when President Kennedy was murdered
“Let me out!” Sylvia begged
the angel, clutching at her throat. “I can’t stand this feeling,
I’m smothering to death! I’m scared!
Please let me out of her!”
“No, not yet,” Angel said.
“Not till we’re finished with this part of your life review.”
Trina ran wildly, cursing the churchgoing
bullies who had hurt her and were still pursuing her, trying to grab her book satchel, clawing at her, shoving her. They cheered when Trina ran blindly in front of a blue pickup truck and died instantly.
“NO!” Sylvia screamed, as she felt Trina’s death terror.
Angel whirled round. Fire blazed in his eyes. “God holds YOU and your vile friends guilty of first-degree murder for the death of someone he had plans to save! God
had a purpose for that girl’s life, but you decided for her that her life wasn’t worth living.
“But I always said my prayers before
bedtime and asked God to forgive me if I’d done anything wrong,” Sylvia sniveled.
“I was such a faithful churchgoer too.”
“That doesn’t count with
God,” said the angel. “Before we wrap up these proceedings let’s
examine your weak excuse anyway.”
Sylvia saw herself, about age forty,
lingering in the foyer, chatting with the pastor’s wife after a morning service.
A pleasant woman with a kind voice, she asked Sylvia what she thought of the sermon.
“Beautiful, absolutely beautiful,”
Sylvia said with a sunny smile. “Oh, yes, I loved that part about God casting
away our sins as far as the east is from the west and remembering them no more.”
“And I just know you’ve truly
repented of all your sins and are at peace with God,” the other woman said.
“I sure have. I’ve repented from the bottom of my heart and I feel clean as a whistle inside,” Sylvia replied. “You and the pastor are such a
blessing to this church, Sister Johnson.”
Sylvia cringed when the next images appeared. She saw herself lounging out in the back yard with Randy and a few church friends
who’d come over for a cookout. They were stretched out on lawn chairs, sipping iced tea. The hot sun glistened on their
already reddened skins. Randy swatted flies away from the charcoal grill where burgers and steaks sizzled.
Randy grinned. He was enjoying the conversation. Sylvia was laughing and bragging about all the dirty things she and Randy
once did to Trina, allegedly the dumbest, ugliest girl they’d ever known. Randy said he wished Trina hadn’t got bumped off before the end of that school
year, he was just getting warmed up.
“You going to that church spaghetti
supper, Sylvia?” Debbie lazily yawned when they got tired of yakking about Trina.
“We’ll be holding a raffle to raise money for foreign missions. The
winner gets an abstract painting of Jesus, done by Brother Ed’s wife. You
know how good she is.”
“Count me in,” said Sylvia. “I love collecting other people’s art.
Tell me, is it true the pastor’s wife was seen boogeying with the deacon down at the Brave Bull? The shameless hussy. Our pastor deserves better than her.”
“You spent the rest of that afternoon
back-stabbing the pastor’s wife,” Angel said. “By the time
that story made the rounds of your personal ‘prayer chain’, you had the pastor’s wife shacked up with the
deacon at the Holiday Inn. Let’s see what happens next.”
Sylvia arrived at the evening service,
dragging Randy along, who grumbled about the ball game he was missing on TV. She
faked a cheesy smile and approached the pastor’s wife, who was greeting newcomers.
“Sister Johnson,” Sylvia
gushed, “so nice to see you again this evening. I brought you a big piece
of my fresh-baked apple cake.” She handed her the container.
“Thank you, Sylvia,” Sister
Johnson said. “Too bad I’m on a diet, but perhaps I’ll share
it with my grandchildren.”
With a catty stare Sylvia said, “I
really do admire you, Sister Johnson. A woman must keep her figure…for her husband,
that is.” She laughed nervously.
“Men do appreciate the effort you make.”
Fat Randy approached from behind. Never a tactful individual, he blurted out, “Deacon Davis likes older women
with plenty of meat in all the right places, or at least that’s what I heard. And he likes to take ‘em out to
the Brave Bull Saloon.”
The color drained from Sister Johnson’s
face. “So that’s what you think! It just so happens I joined Deacon
Davis and his wife at the Bolero
Bravo Mexican Restaurant last week for lunch, to discuss plans for renovating the church sanctuary. One of your spies must have spotted us while Sister Davis was in the powder room. Shame on you both, and no, Sylvia, I will not accept your peace
offering. No wonder people have been staring at me so funny all day. Just wait till I tell my husband.” She started to cry.
“What’s the matter, Sister
Johnson?” Sylvia guffawed nervously. “Can’t you take a joke,
or don’t you have a tough enough hide? You flea-brain fool!” she shoved Randy.
When Randy shoved Sylvia back she fell
against a pew, When he made a crude comment, she stomped out the front door crying.
“You could dish it out but it appears
you couldn’t take it,” Angel said. “I rest my case. You lose, Sylvia.”
“Hold your horses, buster!” Sylvia cried. “I’ve still
got that ace up my sleeve: ‘Once saved, always saved. No matter how I acted
or what I did, Jesus died to pay for all my so-called sins, so you can’t
hold me liable for any! Now get of my way!
I’m going through those Pearly Gates come hell or high water, and you aren’t man enough to stop me!”
Sylvia’s Sins Judged By The Bible
With the lightest touch Angel pulled
Sylvia away from the gates. “NO!”
We don’t want you here, and I’m going to show you why, right out of God’s own Book.”
Angle clicked some buttons on his remote,
then pointed to his first scripture reference, displayed on his widescreen monitor:
Psalms 5:5: The foolish shall not stand
in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.
“Sylvia, this verse out of Psalms
clearly says that God hates ALL workers of wickedness,” said Angel.
“But that’s out of the Old
Testament,” Sylvia argued.
“Well then, let’s substantiate
it with words spoken by the Savior.”
Matt.7:21: Not every one that saith unto
me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord,
Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them,
I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Sylvia cringed in terror. Angel boldly confronted her with the truths of the passage shining against the backdrop of the heavenlies. “Sylvia, many who once named the Name of Christ with malice and evil in their
hearts will come to Christ in the Day of Judgment, begging Him to admit them to the Paradise of God based on former works
performed in His Name. But works you do are tainted with sin unless they are
done through His enablement and in the spirit of His love. Your own works could
not save you, nor could your so-called good works cancel out the horrible sins you deliberately committed when you sided with
satan and his crowd at school.”
Sylvia raised her chin defiantly. “You need to show me more before I’ll even begin to think there’s no such thing as once
saved, always saved,” she said, as calmly as she could.
“Okay, I’ll show you a bunch more, Sylvia, but
you sure won’t like it.”
Luke 3:9: And now also the axe is laid unto the root
of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats,
let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
12 Then came also publicans to
be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?
13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which
is appointed you.
14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them,
Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.
“This passage clearly shows what good fruit is,”
Angel said, “and it warns of the terrible penalty for failure to bear that good fruit.
Good fruit is God’s love in action. Be kind and fair in your dealings
with others and share with the needy. And: DO VIOLENCE TO NO MAN. Every day you beat up on Trina’s
soul. All you ever shared with Trina was hatred, and your fruit was deadly poison
to her. Here’s more on what constitutes good fruit or bad fruit in a Christian’s
Gal.5:22: Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are
these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations,
wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I
tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections
“Instead of exercising love, gentleness and goodness
toward Trina you committed hatred and murder against her. Instead of crucifying the old flesh nature, you emotionally crucified
Trina. In using fear tactics against her daily, you and your evil friends conspired to control her moods and destroy her health
and peace. That is a type of witchcraft, a collusion with satan himself in his
ministry of ‘steal, kill and destroy’, mentioned by Jesus Himself in John 10:10.
The Lord Jesus Christ came to give abundant life to all His creatures who would trust in Him. For a short season you rejoiced in your Savior. But you denied Trina that same opportunity to receive abundant
life from the Savior. That’s fine gratitude to Him for saving your reprobate
soul!” The angel scowled Now what else did Jesus say about evildoers? This is a very long passage, so I’ll slowly scroll through it and read it out
loud so you’ll have time to digest the full impact of it:
John 8:31: Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on
him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall
make you free.
33 They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou,
Ye shall be made free?
34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant
35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
36 If the Son therefore
shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
37 I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because
my word hath no place in you.
38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have
seen with your father.
39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were
Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the
truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.
41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him,
We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye
would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
43 Why do ye not
understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your
father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When
he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
“Now, Sylvia, you’ll remember this passage began
by stating that Jesus was addressing those Jews that believed on Him. That’s
important because this passage strongly indicates a condition of double-mindedness in these listeners. When the discourse began, they were described as believing on Him,
which indicates they were not hostile toward Christ, yet. But the minute Jesus
told them they had to continue in His Word in order to continue being His disciples, and the minute He told them they needed
to be set free from personal bondages to sin, they started throwing up defenses and justifying themselves on the basis of
their ancestry. Just like you’ve always justified yourself before God on
the basis of being white, and a respectable churchgoer who was loyal to fine Southern traditions inherited from your forebears.
“Those wicked people said, ‘Abraham was our ancestor,
that makes us better than others.’ But Jesus told these people that if
they really were the children of Abraham, they would do the works of Abraham. Now
you claim to be a child of God entitled to enter these gates, on the basis of a one-time encounter with Christ, Who you repudiated
in your daily life once you came under intense peer pressure to conform to sin. Jesus said in this passage that if you commit
sin you’re the slave of sin, not His slave. The people stopped listening
to Christ and developed a murderous hatred of Him because His Word had no place in their hearts. You hated Trina because you needed a handy toilet to deposit your spiritual filth in. An eternity in hell, God’s garbage dump for sinners, awaits you.”
The Rotten Fruit Of Sin
Sylvia gnashed her teeth in rage. “How dare you! A real angel would never say anything
“Oh, yeah?” Angel retorted. “Let’s read this particular passage about what God says about how He will treat sinners when
He comes to punish the earth for its sin:
Jer.25:31: noise shall come even to the ends of the earth;
for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword,
saith the LORD.
32 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind
shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.
33 And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of
the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung
upon the ground.
“Look at verse 33 again,” Sylvia. “Do you know what ‘dung’ means?”
“Sure I do, it’s manure, something I have to shovel
out of our horse barn.”
“What would your teacher have done if you’d read
that particular verse?”
“Sent me to the principal’s office, I guess.”
“But it was God Himself Who flat-out said that He is
going to turn vile unrepentant sinners into a dung heap.”
“Now back to the other passage in John chapter 8.”
Angel flashed it back onto the monitor. “The rebellious Jews in the crowd
got real mean and said, ‘Well, at least we weren’t born of fornication.’
Some of them remembered that there had been lots of gossip about why Joseph hurried up and quietly married Mary before
the end of their betrothal period. In effect, they were accusing Christ of being
a bastard, someone without a legitimate father. Jesus had an excellent answer
for them. He told them their own father was satan because they did the works
of satan. You, Sylvia, a former convert to Christ, turned your back on Him and
did the will of the devil, so you’re his child too.”
“That’s a lie!” Sylvia yelled.
“It’s the truth!” Angel scolded. “Do you think the Heavenly Father inspired those sins you committed against Trina?”
She glared at him. “Oh,
I guess not!”
“Well, that hatred and abuse didn’t just appear
out of nowhere. Every evil act starts with a thought that was authored by satan’s
kingdom of darkness. The devil filled your heart with malice toward Trina. Instead of going to the Savior and asking Him to deliver you from the power of that
temptation to abuse Trina, you gave in to it over and over and over again, and laughed about it all your life before you came
“Well,” Sylvia huffed, “at least give me
credit if I didn’t do anything worse than laugh at some girl.”
“Sylvia, the worst sin you committed wasn’t against
Trina. It was committed against the Savior Himself. Read this passage:
Heb.6:4: For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened,
and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5 And have tasted the good word
of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing
they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
7 For the earth which drinketh in
the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
“You did not bear good fruit unto your Savior, Sylvia,”
Angel said ruefully. “Instead you bore rotten fruit which brought reproach
to His Name. You painted yourself as Christ’s representative as you bragged about your churchgoing. You put the Lord Jesus to shame. You brought forth thorns
and briars which brought pain and misery to other people’s lives. Thorns
and briars have no place in this heavenly kingdom. The only use for thorns is
to be burned.”
screamed. “Hey, wait! I did
produce good fruit in my life! What about my six fine kids?”
The angel wrinkled his nose.
“I really don’t want to delve into their personal histories right now.
Unless they repent, they’ll have to endure their own judgment soon enough.
It was nauseating enough to take a peek into your life, Sylvia. But why
don’t we examine their present activities?”
The vision shifted to present-day earth. Sylvia’s front door, formerly locked, was a mess of
splinters and broken door jambs. It had been broken down by the fire department
after Sylvia’s daughter Regina called them because she
knew her mom’s history of heart problems.
“Did they…find me?” Sylvia choked.
“Your body got carted off to the morgue as soon as it
was discovered and you were confirmed dead,” Angel said, coolly.
“At least Regina
showed a little concern by calling the fire department,” Sylvia said. “Such
a darling daughter, and ever since she found out I had heart trouble she’s treated me like a queen. The best in the
bunch. If only I’d made out a will, I would have left her a sizable chunk
of what I had left. Oh, well…”
“You say your children were the good fruit of your life,
especially. So now we’ll find out how good they really are.”
Horrible And Heartless
Sylvia gasped in shock as she watched Regina, Stroup, Garvin, Stacy and Jeff roaming through her house, ransacking it, probably
looking for loose change. They rifled through drawers, flipped over couch cushions,
rummaged through cupboards and boxes, argued with each other over what heirlooms
dear sweet Mama had left behind. Lonnie, a shy 35-year old bachelor, sat downstairs
by himself in the living room, softly sobbing and looking through a picture album. He
examined one photo of the family at Dollywood, grinning and lining up to get on the scary rides he loved.
Regina was a tall, broad shouldered redhead. She had the same hard face
and piercing eyes as her mother. She jerked open her mother’s closet and
picked through dresses, skirts and tops. Any items she disliked or thought she
couldn’t sell were contemptuously flung on the floor. Anything particularly
nice was tossed onto the bed for later sorting. Stacy helped her dig through
their mother’s shoes and accessories.
“Hey, I found something!” petite Stacy called. “C’mere, everybody!”
“If it’s a wad of cash, give us our share, you
pig!” bearded Jeff called, coming into the cluttered master bedroom from the upstairs hallway.
“Shut up, you airhead!” Stacy shrieked. She threw a tennis shoe his way. She held a notebook up to
light seeping in through the window blinds and messed up her mother’s perfect grammar as she read the cover: ‘Don’t
NOBODY open this thing, never!’ Well, I’m a-gonna read this here
thing right here and now and see what that old biddy had to say. Sorry, Mama,
but you’re dead and gone and it can’t bother you no more nohow.”
Everybody roared when big, beefy Stroup held up Sylvia’s
supersized bra against his chest and did a silly dance.
Stacy coughed as she flipped through her mama’s scribbled
diary. “My word, Jeff, you never read such filth in your life. So this is what Mama thought of Daddy. Poor sweet Daddy, how’d
he ever stand that woman! Wonder what the last page says.
“How in hell have I ever lived with that stupid tub
of lard for so long? I’m ashamed to sit in the same pew with him at church. After I got out of the shower he stomped on my foot and said I looked like an old
sack of potatoes without my clothes on. Then there’s that trashy woman
he’s been…cough! Come read it yourself, everybody, or I’ll
have to wash my mouth out with soap. All I can say ‘bout that is, if Daddy
really done it, Mama must’a drove him to it.”
The other four treasure hunters were speechless as they craned
their necks to read the notebook. “If she hated Daddy, she sure did
a good job hiding it,” Stacy commented.
“Here’s something else I found in a book satchel!” Jeff yelped. “Man, you won’t
believe this!” Leering, he showed the canvas to the whole gang.
“Well, I’ll be!” Regina gasped. “She drew our daddy with a hog head! What a mean thing to do! Well, we won’t get no money for that one, just as well to throw it in the trash, I guess.”
“Give it here,” smart ass Stroup grinned. “I wanna keep it to remember the old witch by.”
“Could hang out Mama’s picture on the porch at
Halloween to scare all the kids off!” Jeff cackled.
Just then Lonnie walked into the bedroom. “What’d I hear you say about our mama, Jeff?”
“Mind your own damn business,” Jeff snarled. “This don’t concern you, and you ain’t gettin’ a penny of
Mama’s money…if we can find any, that is.”
“God wouldn’t want you to treat her like that,”
Lonnie sniffled, his face screwing up and his throat tightening. “She’s
away up there with Jesus now.”
“Shove off, you stupid dope!” Regina shrieked. “She told me once she wished she’d’a drowned you when you were born, ‘cause you
don’t act like a real man!”
Lonnie For Lunch
Lonnie refused to listen to any more. Crestfallen, he left the house, looking wounded as his siblings laughed behind his back.
Up in the invisible heavenly places, Sylvia looked down, gnashing
her teeth. “That girl needs a good slap, and so does Jeff, picking on poor
Lonnie! At least he’s showing respect for his own mama!”
“Unlike the others, Lonnie is not far from the Kingdom,”
Angel said. “Jesus promised heaven only to those who are childlike enough
to humble themselves to receive His grace and mercy. Lonnie’s heart, unlike that of his brothers and sisters, has not
yet hardened like concrete. And the
irony doesn’t escape me, Sylvia. This is the first time ever that you’ve
sided with the lonely outcast instead of the crowd which persecutes him.”
When Sylvia couldn’t think of any reply to that, Angel
persisted: “Is it true what Regina said about your making
that particular remark?”
“I don’t know,” Sylvia muttered.
A new scene flashed on the monitor. Sylvia was making a big fuss about a birthday present Regina presented to her over one of their “girls’
day out” lunches.
“Just look at this gorgeous teardrop pendant, and these
dainty earrings!” Sylvia gushed. “Is this real jade jewelry?”
“Sure is, ordered it online from China. It’s
pretty, ain’t it, Mama? It matches your eyes.”
“I’ve always wanted jade jewelry! I swear, you’re the best in the bunch!”
Regina’s private thought, hidden behind her greasy grin: Well, I’d
better be, Mama. Once your ticker gives out I expect something back from you.
Sylvia blubbered, getting no consolation from Angel.
“As much as this?” he cried, pointing at the following
Regina patted her mother’s hand. “You’ll always be precious
to me, Mama. What else you gonna get for your birthday?”
“Not much, I guess.
The others are coming over to my house for a pizza party after work. Lonnie
said he was building a bird house for me. Oh, I guess that’s better than
nothing. You do know Lonnie quit his job because a few kids hassled the hell
out of him. One of ‘em set
off a stink bomb in the rear end of the bus.”
Sylvia cackled. “I just love the way you tell a story!”
“Well, anyhow, Lonnie gets up and goes to the back of
the bus but can’t find any evidence of what set the smell off, so he gives ‘em the benefit of the doubt. And so the next day it got worse. Those
stupid kids pasted stickers all over the windows when he wasn’t looking. And
then Lonnie catches one guy in the act and tells him to scrape it off. The fellow
was twice as big as Lonnie and threatened to put him off the bus if he didn’t
stop hassling him about defacing government property.
“What then, Mama?”
“Some kid made a wisecrack about Lonnie which was pretty
personal, and got the whole bus to laughing. Then they started shooting a few tiny paper wads his way. Lonnie stood up and yelled that they could get in a big wreck if they didn’t stop distracting him.
I swear, Regina, if it wasn’t frogs turned loose in
the aisles, or flashing supersonic laser lights on his windshield, it was some unearthly racket downloaded on somebody’s
cell phone. But from that day on Lonnie never looked forward to going to his
job. His nerves got so bad he quit, and now he’s on medication and unemployment. All because of a few feisty kids that were only having a bit of fun.
Regina gave her a catty smile. “So poor Lonnie’s broke and can’t
buy you a decent present? Poor people have to be creative, don’t they? I
just don’t know why Lonnie can’t roll with the punches and take life like a man. It’s a good thing he didn’t
get married and have kids of his own, they’d have driven him crazy. Look at me, I’m a dental assistant with two
sweet children and all kinds of job benefits.”
“And I’m proud of you, honey. Lonnie’s always
been sort of slow, never reached for the stars. He’s as bashful as a bat
in a church house,” Sylvia cackled. “I’ll never know where
he got it from, either. Not from me. If only he’d take the bull by the horns and apply himself, he could amount to something. He doesn’t even try to ask a girl out on a date.”
Regina smirked. “Oh well, Mama.
In this world you’ve got the winners and the losers. Do you think
there’s something wrong with Lonnie, Mama? Is that why he doesn’t
act like the rest of us?”
“This is a cruel world and a hard one to live in,”
Sylvia said. “When I think of all the times Lonnie embarrassed me and his
daddy by coming home crying about all the boys at school picking on him. A real
man fights back. He doesn’t go crying to his mama and daddy. I remember Randy tried to teach Lonnie how to box. Bought
him a punching bag and taught him some fancy footwork. Well, one day Randy accidentally
shoved skinny Lonnie into the punching bag. Lonnie got a nosebleed from it and
from that day on, he never tried to box again. Lonnie kept coming home with bruises
and black eyes till Randy went to school and hollered at the principal and threatened to take the whole school district to
court over it. At least my other three boys are masculine and never had
“Well, no wonder nobody bothers them, Mama, they’re
as big as a house.”
Sylvia clasped Regina’s
hand. “Lonnie’s different than his brothers. They go hunting, but Lonnie loves animals and birds. He never
showed much interest in football or any other manly activity. He’d rather
be in the kitchen cooking, or out in the garden growing things. You don’t
think he’s, well you know…”
Regina blushed. “I hope not, Mama. For his sake I hope not.”
Picking at her salad, Sylvia lamented, “If that’s
true, he would have been better off if he’d died right after I had him. He’ll
end up drowning in his own tears. Any man who doesn’t like football must
be warped deep down in his soul.”
“You seem to have enjoyed eating other people for lunch,
Sylvia,” Angel said with a frosty stare. “And your concept of masculinity was
what was warped in that scenario. Lonnie was forced from that employment
because no one backed up his authority as bus driver and because everyone he
complained to laughed about sin instead of punishing it. Let us now see what your other children are doing this very moment.”
“Hey, I found me fifty bucks in this old purse!”
Garvin called, standing next to Sylvia’s vanity, where she’d spent hours doctoring up her wrinkles before logging
onto dating sites where she got only a few nibbles.
Regina scowled. “Waste of time coming over here. Barely enough cash to pay our gas. Even her jewelry’s
a pile of junk.”
“Guess we could take all her _ _ _ _down to that flea
market in Athens,” Jeff muttered, taking a swig of Mountain
Dew. “I could load up the best of the furniture in my pickup, along with
all her best clothes. Just give the rest of this _ _ _ _ to the Goodwill Store. Later,
I could haul her old horse to the Humane Society, no sense selling it. I doubt anybody’d want to ride the fleabitten
“Could see it to a dog food factory,” Stroup howled.
“I get her Dell Laptop!” Jeff yelled, pulling
it out from under a TV table.
Stacy squealed frantically. “I ain’t even got one and you
got two already!”
The tiny woman leaped from the bed onto Jeff’s back
and wrestled with him, trying to take the computer. Garvin goosed Jeff’s neck with his fat fist and tried to yank Stacy
off his back. After a long three-way tussle the laptop flew out of Jeff’s
hands, crashed into a bedroom window, and broke it.
“Now see what y’all done, idiots!” Jeff yelled. “I bet the damn thing’s
all broke now! And if we keep smashin’ up this house nobody in their right
mind’ll buy it off of us!”
“I was gonna rip up the floorboards to try and find
Mama’s secret nest egg,” Garvin called.
“You better not, or I’ll whack you upside the
head!” Jeff hollered back. “If
we turn this joint into a hog pen, we won’t be able to give it away to the realtor!”
“I get all the jewelry money!” Stacy cried.
“Not on your life!” Stroup barked. “Mama’s moonstone cameo, if we
ever find it, must be worth at least two grand.”
“I’m the oldest and I say we just sell all this _ _ _ _and
split the dough up five ways. We don’t have to be selfish like Mama.”
The others grumbled it was okay with them.
“Hey, I’m starved!” Garvin called, patting his broad belly. “Let’s
go get some food. Then we’ll get Sam and Pete to bring their pickups over
so we can clear this house out before Mama’s long-lost relatives come by and hog everything.”
“Know what?” Regina
said. “Since that old bitch was so mean to Daddy, and to all of us when
we were kids, I don’t want nothin’ to do with her funeral arrangements. We’ll let the county take care of her carcass, ‘cause she never did buy
no burial insurance.”
Stroup grinned evilly. “That’ll save us a wad
of cash. Of course, Uncle Lonnie
or Aunt May could buy Mama a grave marker if they want to.”
“No way,” Stacy laughed. “Mama had one hell of a falling out with all her relatives after Granny died and left a few dollars. They all fought like cats and
dogs over every stick of furniture Granny had, and all Mama’s kinfolk ended up hating Mama worse than we did.”
“Let’s go,” Garvin said. “I’m caving in, I’m so hungry.”
“Yeah, I gotta go,” Regina yawned, shoving one of Sylvia’s pearl necklaces in her tote bag. “Rosco and the kids are waiting in the car. They’re
all hungry for dinner too.”
“Speakin’ of cars, Garvin drawled, “wonder
if there’ll be a legal tussle to get the title of her car transferred over so we can squeeze twenty grand out of it.”
Jeff guffawed, fiddling with his baseball cap. “That old wreck ain’t
worth two grand. It’s ugly as sin and no one in their right mind would
be seen drivin’ it!”
Stroup scowled. “I
worked on that old junk wagon just the other day. Mama was so selfish, she drove
up the mileage so much it ain’t worth a can of beans.””
After a big hubbub of belly laughs, Sylvia’s ‘precious
children’ filed out the door and piled into their own cars to head off for Bubba’s Barbecue Barn to celebrate
From her high vantage point Sylvia’s departed soul felt
the crushing weight of rejection and betrayal.
Destined For Dishonor
“Not a one of ‘em loved me!” Sylvia wailed. “And did ya hear what those money-hungry
vultures said about me? How could anybody treat a human being like that when
they can’t do nothing about it?”
Angel shrugged. “Well,
Sylvia, didn’t you do the same to Trina?”
“Well, that’s different.”
“How’s it different?”
“Trina wasn’t my kin so I could treat her any
way I wanted to.”
“God didn’t see it that way, Sylvia. You robbed Trina of her life. But more importantly, you robbed
Christ of the chance to be her Savior. And you robbed God of the chance to fulfill
His purposes in her life.”
Sylvia’s face hardened in spiritual blindness. “Well,
if Trina was so all-fired important to God why didn’t He step in to stop us from hassling her?”
“That is His concern.
Angels don’t know everything,” Angel replied. “But this
scripture passage might provide a clue for at least part of the answer:
Rom.9:22: Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the
same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath,
and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
“We’ll pause to ask this question, Sylvia. Do you know what a vessel is?”
“Sure I do. It’s
veins and arteries that carry blood, isn’t it?”
“Vessels contain blood, true. But ‘vessel’ is old terminology to signify any type of container. In this context ‘vessel’ refers to a cup which receives the pouring out of something, which
in this case means the terrible wrath of God. This scripture correlates with
God’s warning in Romans not to be a vessel of wrath, or a cup into which God pours His wrath.
Rev.14:9: And the third angel followed them, saying with a
loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and
he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
“In this passage, those who worship
the Antichrist are useful to God only as receptacles of His fierce wrath,” said Angel. “Those who defy God to
serve the devil end up bringing glory to God in the wrong way. In the future
fulfilment of this prophetic passage, Christians who were unjustly murdered by persecutors will glorify God for His perfect
justice in pouring out His wrath upon sinful mankind. Jesus Himself says to His
enemies in Matthew 23:32: Fill ye then up the measure of your fathers. Also,
in Genesis 15:16 God tells Abraham that He will not yet punish the Amorites because their iniquity was not yet full. These wicked sinners had yet to fully manifest the depravity of their evil human natures.
In Ezekiel 38:16 God declares to Gog, another wicked nation, that he would be sanctified, or seen as holy, through their destruction.
“Trina existed at your school
as a target for you to exert your wickedness on, so that in time to come God would prove Himself to be utterly holy and just
in pouring out His wrath into you, a vessel of wrath prepared for destruction. You
would not allow God to use you as a vessel of honor in showing forth His love. So
God will be glorified in pouring out punishments upon you to demonstrate that He, the Judge of all the earth, is altogether
righteous in His dealings with mankind.
“The most important question you ought to have asked
yourself is this, Sylvia: “Why you didn’t do your Lord’s will and love your neighbor after hearing this
commandment of Christ preached from the pulpit untold thousands of times? Those
who knew their Lord’s will and did it not will be beaten much more severely than those who didn’t know any better.
Read this passage which is just now appearing on the monitor:
Rom. 11:22: Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
22 Behold therefore
the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness:
otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
“Where in this passage does Paul teach unconditional
eternal security for those who come to Christ and then desert Him?” Angel asked.
Sylvia’s teeth were rattling. She clutched her head, struggling for composure. She wished she could wake up from
this awful dream.
Angel continued, “Despite all your busy church activities, Sylvia, the fact remains you broke the heart of God’s law, the ONE
commandment upon which everything else taught by Christ hinges: Love one another. Romans
13:8 states that if you love one another, you’ve fulfilled the law of Christ.
If you love your neighbor, you won’t want to hurt him in any way, but will ever seek his good. You broke that law, Sylvia, when you reasoned in your wicked heart that your day of judgment was a very
long way off, if it ever came at all, so you would abuse anyone you felt like hurting. You disobeyed Paul’s warning
that you must continue in God’s goodness or else you’ll be cut off.
This warning is confirmed by Christ Himself. Turn your head to the monitor and
look, Sylvia, if you dare.”
John 15:4: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot
bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are
the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and
they are burned.
“Did your pastor ever preach this passage, Sylvia?”
She looked dumbly at the angel. “Not that I know of. He believed in uplifting, positive
“Do you know the meaning of that passage, Sylvia?”
Feigning ignorance, she shook her head.
“What about this one?”
Matt.7: 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather
grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but
a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can
a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down,
and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
“You did not abide in Christ, Sylvia. If you had, the sweet sap of His love and life would have permeated your own life. You would have born sweet fruit unto God as you spread His love all around you. Instead, you brought forth
thorns which injured others. You were a rotten tree who bore rotten fruit to
poison other people’s lives. Here is another example of failure to bear good fruit:
Jeremiah 29:17: 17 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold,
I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten,
they are so evil.
18 And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will
deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach,
among all the nations whither I have driven them:
19 Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD,
which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD.
“Because of their wicked ways, these people were rotten
fruit which angered the Lord greatly,” Angel said. “They were nasty figs which couldn’t be eaten. In modern terminology, they left a bad taste in God’s mouth, and He was about to clobber these unrepentant
Sylvia’s Last Stand
“You’re bad fruit, Sylvia. That’s the reason
you can’t go through those gates.”
“But I got saved…” Sylvia sputtered angrily. “And every night I whispered a bedtime prayer for forgiveness for anything I
might have done wrong during the day.”
“We have just viewed conclusive proof there was no true
repentance in your wretched life for the way you treated others, Sylvia. You don’t mouth an insincere prayer for God’s
forgiveness and then turn around the next minute and giggle with your pals about the same sin you supposedly repented of. To repent means you turn around and forsake the paths of sin to go home to the Father’s
House. You’ve heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son preached before, I’m sure.”
“Sure I did, Angel.
Every time we held a revival that was one of our favorite Bible stories to get people to come forward to get saved.”
“Your pastor overlooked one vital point, Sylvia. The man who came to his senses and returned home to His father was already a son. He was already a member of the Father’s family. Unconverted sinners are not yet part of
the Father’s family. Instead, James 4:4 says that whoever is a friend of
the world is God’s ENEMY! The Prodigal Son was seeking reconciliation with his Father through repentance, to return
to fellowship he’d already enjoyed with the Father before leaving home. And as for being God’s enemy, you renounced Christ by choosing sides with wicked
people who hurt the weak and defenseless. YOU REPENTED OF YOUR REPENTANCE AND
BECAME A FRIEND OF THE WORLD, THUS BECOMING GOD’S ENEMY!!” the furious angel shouted.
“You treated your one-time profession of faith in Christ
like a convenient, quickie vaccination against going to hell. Just go up front
to fetch your free fire insurance policy and forget about everything else Christ taught,” Angel said. “Well, it doesn’t work that way, Sylvia. You can’t cut out the one or two verses you
love and throw out the rest of the Bible. Those who misled you about this will share in the same punishment you must now receive. It is written in Galatians 6:8, For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh
reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
“You sowed to your fallen flesh nature, Sylvia. The flesh craves excitement. The flesh
takes pleasure in the pain of other people. The ancient Romans gathered to see bloody spectacles in the Colosseum. Do you
think they shed a single tear of compassion as they watched people being torn apart by wild beasts?”
“I guess not,” Sylvia said vacantly. “But Angel, can’t God give me a second chance?”
“While Trina didn’t even get a first chance, thanks to you?” Angel said roughly.
“Well, couldn’t Trina open her own Bible and read
what was in it?” Sylvia blubbered.
“Your cruel treatment of Trina drove her away from God
because you claimed to represent Him!” Angel said roughly. “If you
upset Trina so badly she could barely understand her school books, how much harder would it have been for her to understand
the King James Bible! You and other professing believers were the ONLY Bible Trina ever read.
You and your evil friends willfully and maliciously destroyed another soul made in the image of God. God is a fair Paymaster, and He’s just signed, sealed and delivered your paycheck. But you can’t
spend it up here. Go join your friends down in hell and see if they’re
able to save you from the awful horrors you shall reap from the seeds you planted in the lives of those you abused. Sow mean
seeds and reap an eternal whirlwind of meanness and cruelty Even if you join
like-minded souls in hell you will be unable to enjoy their company because everyone there hates and mistrusts everyone else,
and looks for ways to express that bitter enmity. No love exists in hell, only
hate in a thousand bitter forms. There you will spend a bitter eternity without
the Love of God you rejected in your daily life.”
Sylvia muttered. “whose
company will I be in? Oh, Angel, please don’t send me down to the same
hell Randy’s in! Don’t do that to me!”
“Why shouldn’t I, Sylvia? You’re the stumbling block who put him there.”