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My Unlikely Christmas Eve

December 25th, 2017

Eight Kids, Five Adults, Two Rib Roasts, and One Elderly Chihuahua

I hope everyone who reads this is having a great Christmas.

Yesterday I nearly killed myself and 12 other people with food. My friend Amanda showed up with her sons, and my friends and fellow Miami refugees Alonzo and Teri showed up with their 5 children. I made two standing rib roasts, a cheesecake, and brownies. I recruited Amanda to make Caesar salad from scratch, and I also made Texas trash, which is a snack made from Chex cereal and seasonings.

When I moved up here, I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing. I knew I hated Miami. I knew I would get out sooner or later, but I wondered if I was taking the right path at the right time. Maybe God wanted me to suffer a bit longer. I didn’t know if I’d have friends or anything to do. Ever since I’ve been here, friends have been showing up and helping me out. I have not lacked for a social life, and the people I’ve associated with have been good for me, unlike toxic South Florida riff-raff.

We had a real Christmas Eve dinner, and the house was full of kids running around and making noise. Some presents were opened. Alonzo’s kids ran around carrying Pumpkin, their new 12-year-old Chihuahua. It was much better than what I expected: two old men, watching TV in different rooms.

Alonzo and Teri used to go to Trinity Church in Miami, and when we all got disgusted with the pastors’ greedy slavemaster mentalities, we all moved to another church. I’ve been writing about a former pastor who got jailed for child molestation. He ran the second church.

I never saw anything weird about the man, but last night I learned that he had done something strange for one of Alonzo’s daughters. The daughter is the same age as the niece he is accused of abusing. At some point, the pastor gave Alonzo’s daughter a red Christmas ornament. The story is that he told her how pretty she was and that the ornament made him think of her. How about that? Terri says that when she heard about his arrest, they grabbed the ornament and threw it out.

The ornament story was disturbing, but it makes me very happy to know that Alonzo’s daughter was spared. She’s a terrific young lady. She started talking to me yesterday about her experiences as a high school freshman and her ideas for her future. This kid is going to be all right. Other girls her age are sending disturbing texts and pictures to boys all day, or sulking and whining. This one has a college picked out, and she’s trying to decide on a career.

I tried to give her whatever helpful tips I could. You never know when something you say will make a big difference in someone’s life. I am not great with kids, and being reasonably normal, I don’t want to hang out with them for long periods, but I see the need to make an effort once in a while. Dealing with kids for 2 or 3 hours can be rewarding. After that, I need to do something else.

I hate to think about how things would have played out, had this girl become a victim. I should be more disturbed about the niece. I can’t explain why I’m not. I feel more empathy for people I’m close to. I suppose that’s a flaw.

Maybe God is showing me I should not feel as badly as I do for the pastor. I feel sympathy for him, and his punishment makes me think about the sins in my past, but my strong impression, as it has been for a couple of years, is that God does not want me to spend time praying for him. Some people just aren’t good investments. He knows who can be helped and who can’t.

The reason God does not have me praying for him is not that his sins are worse than mine. The reason is that he is too stubborn to let God or anyone else change him. If you will listen, your sins can be worked with. If not, they will pull you under.

There are people who can’t be helped, because they won’t listen. That’s important for me to keep in mind, with regard to my own walk. When I was young, people thought I was a good kid, but in some important ways, I was a useless punk. That’s to be expected, when you’re fatherless. My dad didn’t make any effort to teach me anything, and I learned to think for myself. I relied on my own disastrous conclusions. By my teens, I was a hard person to counsel. When you’re used to getting no advice or stupid advice, you try to figure things out on your own, and you may develop a reflexive hostility toward other people’s suggestions. For the most part, the kids who were here yesterday are teachable. They are better off than I was. I’m old, and I behaved stupidly for decades, so now I’m like a tree that grew in the wrong direction. Reshaping me is a huge job only God can do.

I’m very glad I’m not beyond hope. The Bible compares stubborn people, including the damned, to clay jars that have been fired so their necks are stiff. You can’t change pottery once it’s fired. In ancient Jerusalem, they took misshapen pottery and threw it in the Potter’s Field, which was part of the city dump. That’s a picture of hell. My neck got pretty stiff, but I didn’t reach the point of no return. I’m not sure how close I came, but I think it was pretty close.

I don’t know why God started visiting me and calling to me when I was in my twenties. I never heard from him before that. Why he decided to make contact after I was an adult is a mystery. I didn’t do anything to merit a sudden change. I’m sure there are a lot of people in hell who have sinned much less than I have, and there are surely people who have done more good.

The church with the scandal was very messed up. We had a false prophet who got up and yelled for long periods, predicting things that never came true, and he was never held accountable no matter how often he was wrong. The pastors loved him and honored him because he always told them they were great, they were going to be rich, and that the church was going to grow. The pastors paid no attention to people who told the truth, i.e. that the prosperity gospel is a farce and that internal change is what God wants.

The pastors were odd people. They refused to eat non-starchy vegetables. They said they took vitamins instead. But they were happy to eat rice, bread, sugar, pork fat, and salt. Their attitude toward God was just like their attitude toward food. They only wanted the things that were pleasant on the way down.

When I turned back to God, I was mainly interested in the starch and sugar. I wanted to feel better, fast. He helped me understand that I needed the broccoli and and carrots even more. I don’t have a church now, but that’s a good thing. I don’t have people shoving plates full of Twizzlers and Moon Pies in my face when I show up asking for greens. Instead of a poisonous feel-good church, God gives me private sessions in which he helps me feel bad and clear the air with him. I would rather feel bad here with God than bounce up and down and snort glitter at a church full of boneheads hooked on false prophecy and fake joy.

Christmas Eve was great, and God is helping me be honest with him, so I expect the coming year to be much better than this one. I hope God gets in touch with every one of you and teaches you a thousand times as much as he has taught me.

6 Responses to “My Unlikely Christmas Eve”

  1. JPatterson Says:

    Merry Christmas, Steve!

  2. Monty James Says:

    Merry Christmas.

  3. Sharkman Says:

    A very Merry Christmas to you and your Father, Steve.

  4. Nick Says:

    Merry Christmas Steve. And in about a day, happy new year.

    I swear this article a few minutes ago and realized you might have ruined this guy’s day a few years back: https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5a47cf97e4b0b0e5a7a6e121

  5. Nick Says:

    That should have read “saw” this article, now “swear” this article. Smartphone keyboards are not made for normal sized white man hands.

  6. Scott P Says:

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, all. Here’s to more faith, freedom, and friends in 2018.