Now! P. 85-96

Trigger warning: Discussion of prison rape

We last left off with Book!Merikay in jail, having “church” with the other prisoners.

Can I just say that if I were trying to convince a bunch of religious people to convert to a state religion, I wouldn’t lock them up together? If I were an evil person trying to persecute Christians, I’d make damn sure that every single woman ended up in the same cell as a murderer. See how quickly they all convert. I feel like putting all the Adventists in the same cell together is a rookie mistake.

Ahem. Sorry, back to the text.

All day long, the little flock prays and sings. They pepper Merikay with questions, though we never get to hear exactly what those questions are, nor do we get to hear the answers. Book!Merikay says this is because she wasn’t able to tell them much, which is fair enough, but Teenage!Merikay’s strong point seems to be dialogue, so it would be better if we were shown this conversation rather than being told.

I get that this “book” was written in 2 days for a Bible class, but by the time it got published, there was time for loads of editing to happen that didn’t. That’s not Merikay’s fault, so we will merely note it and move on.

We are told that one of the prisoners was the pastor of a small church. A member of his congregation betrayed him.

His face shone as he told of how the men had tried to shoot him, but the guns wouldn’t go off.

Adventists also think this is a thing that’s going to happen.

Tom was the man who had smiled when I entered. He called me “little one” and made me feel right at home.

Tom calls her a pet name from the moment he meets her, and is so charismatic and charming that people feel at ease around him in seconds. All of which are classic signs that this person is Not To Be Trusted.

And yes, I do expect teenage!Merikay to know that, because when I was 17, you’d better damn well believe *I* knew that.

He was different in some way from the others, more friendly or something. No one knew anything about him, and he didn’t mention his background. He had been there 6 days.

Mysterious stranger calls you pet names that are more appropriate for 5 year olds, is charismatic and overly friendly, shadowy and mysterious background.

Ladies, this is a man you should run from.

Though I guess you can’t, in a prison cell.

Spoiler alert: Tom is Merikay’s guardian angel. I know that Teenage!Merikay is writing him as such, but, and this is part really isn’t her fault, she fails. Merikay fails to portray Tom as not creepy because she is a teenager and probably doesn’t have as good of an understanding of the dynamic of abusers and victims.

We get more descriptions of the cell mates, but as we never see them again, I’m skipping that part.

Merikay asks if they ever get fed.

“Oh, yes,” Tom smiled. “Once in a while they give us something.”

I grimaced. Oh well, I thought. You’ve been on diets before, Merikay. This shouldn’t be anything new for you.

I didn’t catch this when I was 17, and looking back, I am surprised that nobody else did either. I hesitate to speculate on this too much, but… if I read that, and I was Teenage!Merikay’s teacher, I would be having a talk with her. This probably is one of those cases where teenage writing is teenage writing. Teenage!Merikay probably doesn’t understand the difference between “diet” and “starvation diet.”

Teenage!Merikay probably wasn’t making a reference to an actual eating disorder… but this part does make me wonder exactly what kind of diets this poor child has been on.

I began to think about my past life. I knew that I must be a saint because of the treatment I was getting, and yet I didn’t see how I could be when I had been so bad.

I’m not sure if this is an Adventist thing or a Christianity thing, but you often hear people talk about how “bad” they were before they found Jesus. Even teenagers who have been raised their whole lives on Planet Adventist and were good kids are encouraged to find something “big and bad” to confess to.

So, for those of you who are wondering what Teenage!Merikay could possibly have done that would be bad enough to keep her out of heaven… the answer could be quite harmless. Adventists believe that no sin is too small to send you to eternal damnation.

I don’t know anything about Teenage!Merikay (and in some ways, I don’t care.) I’m not going to speculate too much on whether she has done something actually bad.

All I will say is that I feel a certain amount of pity for teenage!Merikay. Teenage!Merikay probably felt that she was so bad… honestly, she was probably a good kid who made a few mistakes. Like all teenagers everywhere. She was probably normal. But normal isn’t the goal with Adventists. Perfection is. And when you compare yourself against perfect, you wind up looking horribly horribly bad. 

Book!Merikay goes on for a bit about how she’s not sure if she’s Christ like enough.

I was so afraid that I had forgotten to confess some sin.

Most mainstream Christians, as far as I understand, would reassure you that this is what the blood of Christ is for. Jesus died for you not just so that you could be forgiven for sin you remembered, but for sin you didn’t. It’s up for debate as to whether that’s biblical or not, but these people really believe that you will go to hell and burn if you forget to confess that you stole a candy bar at age 5 and then forgot about it.

And that’s just not a god I could worship, even when I was a Christian.

Book!Merikay turns from worrying about herself to worrying about her family.

Tom came over and sat down beside me. “Don’t get so discouraged, Little One. We can’t know everything right now.” His voice was soft and full of compassion.

How could he know how I felt?

At this point, when my bible teacher read this to the class, I was banging my head against the desk wondering why Book!Merikay hadn’t figured out he was her guardian angel. He was reading her mind, dammit, of course he wasn’t an ordinary man!

Now that I am no longer 17/18, I realize that this all sounds… pretty vague. Yes, he’s addressing exactly the fears she has, but he does so in a way that what he’s saying could apply to anything. I don’t think teenage!Me was really aware of how vague adults can be about things and still sound specific. Perhaps teenage!Merikay was, I don’t know.

He touched my shoulder, where the pain of that morning’s treatment was still quite noticeable. “You’re a good soldier,” he smiled again. His smile made me feel good all over. “And you’re a perfect princess.” He walked to the other side of the cell.

Creeeeeepyyyyyyyyyy!!

How could he do that? How could he know about my being a princess? A strange fear crept over me as I tried to figure out just what kind of a person Tom was.

A creepy rapist, run!

Then he turned and smiled, and I knew he was just a wonderful, wonderful Christian man.

Man with a mysterious past who calls you pet names, doesn’t seems to know what you are thinking, and when you turn to look at him, suddenly, you are sure he’s just a nice Christian man.

This works. This works really well…. in horror novels. When describing the villain.

This accidental characterization of Tom as extremely creepy probably has a lot to do with Merikay’s youth. It can be extremely tricky to write about supernatural beings in a way that doesn’t come across as creepy.

As an teenager, I thought this part made the entire book unreadable. As an adult, yeah, it’s cringe inducing, but I can move on and not let it hamper my enjoyment of the story.

If Merikay had handed me this story to critique, I would have told her to be less heavy handed with Tom. One scene with him “reading her mind” and her wondering who he is is enough. We don’t need 5 paragraphs.

Also, I probably would have told her to cut this particular paragraph. It makes Tom look extremely…. not angelic. Like he’s creepy. More like an evil angel.

I also have an issue with what this says about God. Book!Merikay has clearly figured it out. But then she turns to look at Tom and…. it’s gone. This suggests that Tom is actively concealing himself. He is actively preventing her from figuring out the truth. And don’t we call that lying?

The guards shove more prisoners into the cell, one of whom is a little girl.

The Little girl, Judy, was scared. She cried and wanted her parents, but Tom soon had her smiling.

Shudder.

The guard comes by to give them some soup, then reminds them that there’s only 4 more hours till the death decree goes out.

The guard then tells the little flock that their families are going to be persecuted because of them.

As a kid, I always wondered about this. We weren’t supposed to lie to the men with guns when they asked if we were Christians, but what if the gun wasn’t pointed at you? what if it was pointed at someone else? “Reject Christ, or your friend gets killed.” What were we supposed to do then? I waited and waited for my teachers, pastors, and parents to address this. They never did. In my ten year old mind, I came to the conclusion that God just wouldn’t let that happen. I decided to pretend that I’d never had the question in the first place.

Teenage!Merikay, in this story, introduces that very moral dilemma that ten year old me wondered about. She brings it up, but then doesn’t really address it. Is it ok to lie to the Sunday Police if it means you save  lives?

Teenage!Merikay wouldn’t have seen this as a moral dilemma, because the adults around her didn’t see it as one. The adults in my life kind of had the attitude of “if the person being shot is a Christian, they will go to heaven when Jesus comes. If the person is not a Christian and will not go to heaven, that’s their own fault.”

If Teenage!Merikay also had this attitude, we can extend a little forgiveness. We also need to keep in mind that Merikay was writing this for her bible teacher. To express a different idea than what she was taught would have Consequences.

The guard is still talking to the inmates.

“And besides, what gives you the idea that you are so almighty holy? Look, everybody else goes along with this law.

Everyone. The Muslims, the Jews? Well, they caved, because we all know they don’t actually believe what they say they believe. A teenager in 1961 without access to the internet would probably have no reason to doubt this.

Just who do you think you are to say ‘No’ to God?” He shook his head in disgust. “People like you are crazy. When an animal is crazy, it is shot.”

I don’t know much about animals, but I do know a bit about “crazy” humans. When a human has a mental illness (which is what I assume is meant by “Crazy.”) they are not killed. Even by the 1960s we were not that kind of society. Sure, therapy wasn’t the greatest back then, but we still had it. We send “crazy” humans to professionals who can help them. We don’t kill them. Jeez. Teenage!Merikay would have known this.

More prisoners are shoved into the cell, and they inform the little flock that “many mobs are out scouring the streets for sabbath keepers.” Because Sabbath keepers are identifiable just by looking at them, of course.

I tried to sleep, but every 10 or 15 minutes a loud buzzer would sound. Tom told me it was to keep us awake.

Sleep deprivation is a recognized form of torture. Points to Teenage!Merikay for recognizing and using it. Tom tells her that they are trying to break down her will by giving her extreme insomnia.

Here’s a question I’d like to see addressed: If you make the choice to reject Christ when you are literally out of your mind from lack of sleep and starvation, can you really be held accountable for that choice? Can you be held accountable for choices that you are not in your right mind when you make? Especially if you are not the one who made the choice to be mentally incapable of making those choices?

Tom tells Book!Merikay to learn to sleep very deeply for ten to 15 minutes at a time, and I wonder how possible that is. Someone with more knowledge will have to weigh in on that for me. I’m inclined to give Teenage!Merikay a bit of a pass, since internet wasn’t a thing yet, and the library probably wasn’t open on the weekends. At least, our boarding school library wasn’t.

Book!Merikay tells us that she had always wondered what would happen to children of Sabbath keepers at this time. Since Judy is in the cell with her, Merikay has her answer. The children of sabbath keepers will suffer along with everyone else.

I….give teenage!Merikay credit for putting her characters through some shit. I will give teenage!me points for being a bit more humane with my ideas of what exactly will happen to the children. In the story I wrote when I was 16-17ish, I had them put into foster homes and orphanages, to be raised in the new religion. It’s a tossup as to which would be closer to reality.

I’ll stop here for now. Next time, things get really interesting. I actually do give Merikay credit. She’s not afraid to put her characters, even the author insert character, through some shit. Even if she doesn’t resolve these ethical conflicts, she at least brings them up.

These factors alone already make this book way better than other End Times SDA novels I’ve read.

And then stay tuned, because I might decide to start on our next book a bit early. Especially if I don’t manage to register for classes by the deadline.

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Parable Of The Sower Chapter 8 (Final)

I wrote this story as a Sophomore at an SDA boarding Academy. Yes, I know it’s terrible.

This is the last chapter (finally)

I still have not re read this. You’ll have to tell me exactly how terrible it is as I try not to think about it.

8

That night everyone sleeps on the cold concrete floor. There is only one bed.

“Normally we switch off every night.” One of the older girls says to me, “but since your pregnant—“

“I don’t need it, really, I’m fine–”

“Your taking the bed.” Older one says in an authoritative tone that just shouts, “argue with me and you die.”

“Ok.”

The guards wake us all up the next morning right after I have closed my eyes. We are given no food, just march us off too an adjoining factory where they force us to work. I am so hungry I feel I’ll die right there, and the baby needs food too. I feel it kicking inside of me in protest.

Soon, little one, hold on…

I am forced to carry huge and heavy boxes and stack them, which, since I have quite a stomach, is a huge pain.

The guards like to laugh at “The pregnant girl” struggling with the huge heavy boxes. Its embarrassing and demeaning, and there are times when I would march right up to them and say, “let me go! I’m moving in with Matt!”

Matt visits me every day to see if I’ve changed my mind. Sometimes, I want to give in to him so badly. Some of the girls in our cell have already given up and decided to renounce God, which always brought on crying and lamenting in the cell. Soon, Tori, , and I are the only ones left.

But I pray for strength every time I feel that. I will not give in to satan. I’ve tried him, and his way is no good. Its either jail now and heaven later, or heaven now and jail later. I’ve made my choice.

The seventh day soon approaches. It is the sabbath, but it is also the day that Matt will give up on me. Tori, , and I join hands and pray earnestly that the Lord will give me strength to resist. I’m crying. I don’t think I can do this. I’m 8 months pregnant and I’m being forced to lift heavy boxes and I haven’t been fed for the last week except for lunch break and that’s not good for the baby. And I’ve been experiencing some pains in my stomach lately…. Could it be contractions? Am I beginning to go into the early stages of labor? Is it possible that all this physical work has brought on premature labor? My baby is going to be premature?

The door to the cell opens. The guard puts her hand on my shoulder and brings me out of the cell and into the visiting room.

Matt is standing, pacing back and forth around the room. Soon as he sees me he falls to his knees and says, “Holly, please I’m begging you! Give in to them and we can go home! Will you….” He starts sweating, “Marry me?”

Do it… do it… it’ll be so much better

“I’m sorry.” I whisper, tears spilling down my cheeks, “I can’t.”

He gets up, puts his hands behind his back and walks toward the wall.

“You won’t take my offer.”

“No.”

He sighs, then breaks down into tears. “Holly, I love you so much!”

See! He loves you and he loves the baby! Just do this for him! You know you want him.

My heart melts at the site of his tears.

He’s crying! See! He wouldn’t be crying If he didn’t mean it! I mean, come on Holly, do you know how hard it is for a guy to cry?

Jesus! Help me! Immediately I feel something. I can’t quite describe it, but it was like this…. This force surrounding me, telling me I was gonna be ok. Telling me that Jesus still loves me. Telling me that its gonna be over soon. I’m happy.

Matt isn’t. he can feel the force only he doesn’t feel its love. Only its perfection and holiness and his own shame and guilt. He is slumped against the wall, his eyes wide in fear and his mouth open to call for help, but no sound comes out.

The guard feels the same emotions Matt does. She throws herself face down to the ground, “No!” she screams, “No! please! Take me back! I’ll love you! Take me back!” she’s in tears.

And inside I feel such waves of compassion for her and Matt. And I can tell that God is feeling them too, because the force around me has a sadness that I can tell is mixed with love.

And then, as soon as it begins, its over. The Force leaves, and I feel energized. Everyone else feels depressed and depleted. The guard is still weeping her heart out. Matt is still staring in shock and shame. I quietly excuse myself from the room and return myself to my cell, which is locked, of course (duh, what was I thinking!) so I sit outside the door, feeling refreshed and loved.

A passing guard sees me .

“Why are you not in there with the others?!” he jabs his club into my stomach.

The baby kicks in protest.

“The other guard just left me here.” I say.

“And your not escaping?”

I shake my head.

“You Adventist are so stupid!” he snaps, unlocking the door and pushing me into my cell.

I hit the floor hard as he slams the door shut with a loud bang!


To my surprise, Matt hasn’t’ totally given up on me. He visits me once a week to see if I’ve changed my mind,

and each time the answer is still the same. Meanwhile, the contractions are getting closer and closer together. An hour, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, and then, one terrifying day; 10.

“What am I gonna do Case?!” I cry as I clutch my abdomen. “I mean, it doesn’t hurt, but…”

“It doesn’t?”

“No, why is it supposed to?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.”

“Is it bad that it doesn’t?”

“Might be.”

That scares me.

That night in my cell bed I was having them every 7 minutes, then 5.

“Tori, Cass, I think…. I think this baby is coming.”

They didn’t get a chance to respond. Suddenly, the ground starts shaking.

One by one the concrete slabs crumble and break down around us, but surprisingly, none of it lands on us. Everything is dark outside, as dark as the cell, so at first we see no thing, then, a rainbow, shining with glory from the throne of God, spanning the heavens and surrounding us with God’s love.

Suddenly, I feel my pants are wet.

“Guys, I think my water just broke.”

finds her voice, “well shove him back up there! Jesus is coming!”

“I don’t think the baby cares!” I groan. This is not how I pictured meeting Jesus. I did not picture meeting him pregnant.

“I think that’s why he wants to get out in the first place.” Tori starts saying.

We gaze up at the sky, at the bright light surrounding the throne on which sits the Son of God.

Suddenly, I notice that I am rising. We all are. Jesus himself comes over to me, and lies me down on a bed of air. He gently delivers the baby, cutting the umbilical cord. He cradles it gently in his arms as he sings to it a song of love. He is telling it that he loves it, and that it is perfect. Then, he hands me my brand new baby girl.

I’m laughing and crying. I help the baby find her way to my breasts and start feeding her. Jesus smiles, and says, “So, what are you going to name the first child ever to be born perfect?”

“The first one?”

He nods. I feel so special. I can’t believe that God turned something so awful into something so… good!

“Who’s the father?” he asks gently. I bite my lip. I wished that the baby could have a real father. Then I realize something.

You are!” I whisper. He nods.

“Yes, and I’m glad you didn’t give in to Matt. He didn’t really love you, you know that, right?”

I nod.

“Well,” Jesus continues, “Matt was offered a huge sum of money from the government to wrench the child out of your arms.”

I’m stunned.

“Then he would have killed you.”

Tears stream down my cheeks. I’m so glad I listened to God instead of to Matt!

Jesus takes my hand and leads me over to someone. I recognize her… I gasp, “Kahu Anela?” He (she? It? Do angels really have gender?) says, “Welcome home.” Then gently pulls me off to two people who I almost remember but have been transformed. They are wearing red on the hems of their robes

“Mom! Jaimie!” I hand the baby off to Kahu Anela and run and jump into my mother’s arms. She laughs and twirls me around. I’m laughing. She holds me like that for a long time. Jaimie also picks me up and twirls me around.

“See darling, you did make it!” I laugh and nod into her chest.

Then Kahu Anela walks (floats???) over and hands my mom my baby.

I hold my breath. My little girl reaches out her hand and clasps my mom’s Finger. Tears of joy are streaming down my mom’s eyes.

“Oh honey! She’s perfect!”

“Holly.” Kahu Anela speaks softly, “You didn’t answer Jesus’ question. What are you going to name her?”

I think for a moment.

“Her name is Carmen.”

“Carmen.” My mother says. Only the way she says it, it sounds like a caress.”

“Come.” Kahu Anela says. My mom places little Carmen back into my arms, and we rise up to the celestial city, where a table as far as the eye could see is stretched out.

But there is one more surprise for me.

“Wow! She is adorable! What’s her name?” I whirl around,

“Mandy!” I fling myself into her arms, noticing that she too, has red on the hem of her robe.

She laughs, “You named her Mandy? After me? Wow, that was really nice of you.” She jokes.

I laugh, “Carmen. Jesus said she was the first child born perfect!”

“Wow! That is so awesome!”

“Here.” I hold out Carmen. She takes her in her arms. Carmen opens her eyes and laughs, reaches up and yanks Mandy’s hair. I can tell it doesn’t hurt her though.

“She’s adorable!” she says, handing it back to me. I smile.

“So this is the Little One who got you into so much trouble in the jail.”

I turn around. “Hey Case.” I gently hand Carmen over to her. smiles. Tori comes up to have a look at it.

“Is this?”

“Yup!” I smile proudly, “The first perfect child.” Tori gently takes Carmen into her arms and rocks her.

A little girl with long blonde hair, who used to have glasses, runs up to me and hugs me. I pick her up and twirl her around.

“See! I told you God loves you!” she nods. Her sisters with two strange people walk over. Her parents.

Aralyn comes up. “Oh, so this is the baby!” I nod.

All the angels are assembling. Everyone is coming together. Tori hands me back my baby, and we join them in singing their song: Holy Holy Holy, is the Lord almighty. The one who was, and is, and is to come.

And so the end is here, and it turned out happier than I thought. For the longest time I was so sure I was going to hell because of all the things I was doing and that I could never pull out of it and come back to God.

But you know, your heart may be dry and crusty, or it may be moist and soft. But it doesn’t matter to God. He still loves you and he wants you to be with him, and no matter what the soil in your heart is like, Jesus can plant seeds of love, and watch them grow.

Heather, An Adventist Girl Book 3 Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Back To School

Been a while since I’ve done one of these. For some reason I thought I had at least started book 3, but I guess not, cuz I can’t find it.

Chapter 1 starts with Heather and Laura staring the school year in a brand new building.

Mr. Douglas and his workers had finished building a new school on the Avondale campus. It was named College Hall, but inside there were two classrooms for the primary school students.

Here, again, is where I wish like heck the author had included a little section in the back of the book where she talked more about the time period and history. Want to know what would have been even more cool? To show us a picture of what College Hall looked like in the 1890s/1900s. Cameras existed at this point, surely someone must have taken one of a brand new building?

I can’t even find pictures online, or even more than a basic overview of the history of the college that really doesn’t tell me much.

We are told that this classroom has real desks that have room for 2 students each. Heather and Laura are bummed that they don’t get to sit together. In fact, Heather has to sit with…. Ethel Reynolds!

Mrs. Hughes, the teacher, has the older students do the most popular first day of school assignment ever– write an essay about what you did over the summer.

Heather begins her essay, and here the author sees an opportunity to give us the date: March 6, 1899. This is dropped easily within the text and fits.

We are also told that in 9 days, Heather will turn 10. Then she starts writing her essay, which begins, “this summer, I made a new friend. Her name is Addie Hart.” This would have been a good place to recap the events of the last book. It wouldn’t have needed to take more than a paragraph to tell us who Addie Hart is, and that she and Laura have recently been baptized. But that’s where the scene ends.

When we pick up, Heather and Laura are leaving school. Godsdammit author, I wanted a proper school story. Half the fun of reading the American Girl books was learning what school would have been like. If you’re not going to give me a compelling storyline, at least give me more than a snapshot of what school is like for these children.

Emma, Laura’s little sister, comes up to Laura in tears, crying because she tripped. How old is Emma supposed to be? If she’s not badly hurt, she’s way too old to be running around in tears.

Laura takes Emma home, and Heather finds Nathan, who is playing with his friend, James, in Dora creek. Nathan tells Heather he’s going over to James’ house. We get a bit of angst from Heather about having to walk home by herself. Yawn.

It was a bright, sunny afternoon, and Heather walked past the girls’ dormitory, following the path that crisscrossed the campus.

Snap!

Heather turned at the sound of a stick breaking under foot. A scruffy-looking man with a long, scraggly beard stepped out of the woods.

On second thought, maybe I’ve been too hard on Heather. If she had someone else with her, she might feel a little safer.

Heather turned back around quickly and walked a little faster….The man was walking along the path behind her!

Heather….walked as fast as she could, but the footsteps got closer and closer. She….was just about to break into a sudden run when the man caught up to her.

This bit is decently done. For a moment I actually wondered if the author was going to put Heather in some actual danger.

The man politely asks her if she knows where Mr. Gibson lives. He’s been lost, you see. Ok, but he should still know better than to pop out of the forest like that and scare little girls. For lo, little girls know that thou shalt not trust every single strange man you meet.

Aunt Rachel is weeding the flower bed when Heather comes running up. She tells Aunt Rachel that the man is looking for her father. When Mr. Gibson comes out, he recognizes the stranger as Mr. O’Leary. Apparently Mr. O has been reading a book Mr. Gibson gave him. Which book? Well, we don’t get to know. And it’s probably not important…. probably.

Mr. O’Leary apologizes for frightening Heather, saying he didn’t mean to. Heather forgives him, and Mr. O’Leary and Mr. Gibson wander off to discuss books.

Aunt Rachel tells Heather that Mrs. Gibson is feeling much better. So much better, in fact, that she’s making lunch. Mrs. Gibson, if you recall, has a Mystery Illness. Ellen White gave her the advice to get more sunshine. Which…. probably isn’t going to hurt, but it’s also probably not the miracle cure this book is making it out to be.

Heather is happy her mom is feeling better, and so is Aunt Rachel.

“Because it gives me more time to do fun things with you.”

Heather’s eyes lit up. “Like what?” She asked.

“Embroidery,” Aunt Rachel said, a mischievous grin on her face.

Heather frowned. “That’s not fun!” Heather answered. “In fact, I don’t like it at all.”

Aunt Rachel is That Person. You know the type, that one lady at church who thinks she’s good with the children, but isn’t. Aunt Rachel already knows Heather hates embroidery, but when she says she and Heather are going to do something fun, she pulls up the very thing she knows Heather hates.

That sort of person is extremely annoying to children.

At this point, Heather is probably wishing her mom was a helluva lot sicker.

Aunt Rachel pinched Heather’s nose playfully.

Most kids over the age of 4 HATE it when you do that.

Aunt Rachel says she knows Heather hates embroidery, but that Heather is a woman and embroidery is a thing women do.

Honest question: Even in 1899, wasn’t it becoming kinda unnecessary for women to do complicated embroidery? Weren’t women, by this time, also doing things besides embroidery?

Instead of arguing, Heather acts like no child ever. Unless said child is being sarcastic.

“Alright,” she answered. “But only because you are the best aunt in the whole world.”

She just told you you were gonna do something fun, then did the exact opposite. Best. Aunt. Ever.

Aunt Rachel tickled her ankles

How is that even possible I don’t–nevermind. Let me just say I hated it when grownups tickled me. Anyone vying for the title of Best Aunt Ever knew better than to tickle me. Ever.

“I’m the only aunt you have who isn’t on the other side of the Pacific Ocean,” she said laughing.

Still wouldn’t make you the favorite aunt by default.

“Now, run inside and get that stitching.”

Heather laughed. “Yes, bestest aunt.”

That’s where the chapter ends, and I’m not really sure what the point of the exchange was? Probably to show the bond that exists between Aunt Rachel and Heather? That could have worked–if the section weren’t cringe worthy and didn’t make Aunt Rachel look like a big dick.

The Logistics Of Sunday Laws

I’m mostly doing this post so I can link to it every time I need to talk about the logistics of Sunday laws. Save myself typing next time I do an end times review. Which I hope I get a break from for a while, because I want to do something different.

 

 

I got to thinking the other day as I was thinking about Now!, Project Sunlight, and Eleventh Hour. In these books, the characters all break the Sunday laws with relative ease, at least for a while. At first I thought this made the book boring (well, this is still valid) but then I realized that it kinda makes sense for there to be some time in between when a mandatory Sunday Worship law is announced and the implementation thereof.

I mean, can you imagine the logistics of it all? You’d have to form an entire committee just to figure out the sheer enormity of the task of taking attendance at the churches. Will it be split up into districts, like schools? Do we declare every person has to go to the nearest church in their neighborhood, or do we allow church of choice? Once we map out the districts, we need to place at least one person per church (but possibly more in larger churches) who is in charge of taking attendance.

Then we need to take a census to figure out who all lives in the districts and what church they should be going to. If they’re going to be lenient and allow church of choice, they could make sure that everyone in a neighborhood registers themselves in a church they will pledge to attend.

Then you need to assign people to enforce these Sunday Laws. You’ll need people to go door to door making sure people aren’t home. You’d need to assign people to be responsible for punishing these people.

You also need someone to check over the attendance sheets at the churches and make sure they’re filled out.

Then you would need to assign people to guard the back door to prevent people from leaving as soon as they’ve signed the attendance sheet. In fact, larger churches with multiple entrances would need multiple guards. In other churches, you’d need guards for windows also, and what about what happens in case of a fire? You could have guards who don’t know about the fire forcing people back into the building. What are you gonna do then? I get that modern churches have loud fire alarms, but the older ones might not.

If people are too sick to attend church, you’d need a way to factor that in, too. How many sick days is a person allowed? To whom should a person report if they are too sick to go to church? Should sick people be forced to go to church anyway, and sit in a quarantine room? What about chronically disabled people who have issues with leaving the house? Do they get special permits to not attend church, or do you send official church vans out after them? Or worse, do you just shoot them once the death decree goes out?

I mean, on a national level, this type of Sunday Law would be extremely difficult to enforce. It’s one thing to declare that no liquor be sold on Sunday before noon in certain counties. You can send secret shoppers every Sunday morning to check those and fine any liquor store for being open that early.

In fact, I could even maybe see Sunday Worship Laws being enforceable within small counties. After all, the Puritans did it.  But something like that on a nation wide level, no, a world wide level like Adventists think will happen? It would be a logistical nightmare. Especially in rural areas in other countries where there might not be any actual churches. You’d have to go build some, or find some other way of enforcing this.

Then you have to figure out what to do with home churches. Are they allowed? Because I mean, if anyone can make a home church, then they could be doing some very not churchey stuff. I could totally see a group of men getting together going, “fuck this, let’s start our own “church” where we watch football on Sunday mornings. Go Blue!”

I don’t write this post to say that Sunday Worship Laws are impossible to enforce. I mean, similar laws are in place to make sure all children go to school, although you do get quite a few students who fall through the cracks, (especially since the homeschooling laws in some states are ridiculously lax).

They’re not impossible, they’re just very very difficult and it would take some wrangling. And I kind of wish more end times SDA writers would think about this.

In writing my end times story, I can’t remember if I wrote about any of this stuff or not. I did think about it quite a bit, but I can’t quite remember if I actually found a way to work it into the story. See, I wanted Parable Of The Sower to tell a story, not get bogged down by logistics.

But the logistics of such stories are kind of important, so I wish teenage me would have written more about it.

I did, however, have a slightly nicer version of what happens to the children of Sabbath keepers who refuse to obey Sunday laws. In Parable of the Sower, I had all children under 18 sent to foster homes for re education. (This in and of itself presents a logistical nightmare, but never mind.) In other end times stories, these children are just shot and killed, to punish the parents.

So, Sunday Laws are probably enforceable, but it would take some time to put systems in place, and you’d always have a few people that fall through the cracks. You would also have to completely change the cultural landscape of every single country on the entire planet, and there’d need to be a radical change in the way people think.

Are Sunday Laws probable? Even though the religious right grows scarier by the day, I honestly don’t think we’re at the point where they’d propose such a thing. And if they did, I know Adventists wouldn’t be the only ones complaining. The Jews? The Muslims? The atheists? The liberal Christians who believe in separation of church and state? Yeah, they wouldn’t be too happy either. Contrary to what Adventists believe, the rest of us are just as attached to our beliefs as SDAs are to theirs, so in reality, if Sunday Laws were to ever be a thing (which in and of itself is highly doubtful), there would be plenty of resisters.

 

 

 

What Could Have Been

December 23, 2016

You hear a lot in Adventism about what could have been. “I had a football scholarship,” one of my Adventist friends said. “But I gave it up for God, because he wouldn’t want me to play football on the Sabbath.” Just as my friend was about to achieve his dream of going to college, he found God, and had to give it up.

Stories such as his are common. Rarely ever do you hear stories such as mine.

4 years ago, it was 2012. 4 years ago, I had a secret. A secret I only shared with one person (Hi Callie! I know you still read this.)  I told her that I wanted to be a CAMPUS missionary.

Yes, really. Can you imagine? Me? A CAMPUS missionary?

Yeah, me neither.

Maybe I should back up a bit. Even the Adventists who are reading this might not have heard of CAMPUS. CAMPUS is an acronym: Center for Adventist Ministry to Public University Students. It was started by the general conference because they felt the need to reach out to students in public universities. It is unclear, at the time of its inception, if they originally were meant to minister to Adventist students in public universities, or to try and win converts from the public universities. Perhaps a little bit of both.

CAMPUS has what they call a Missionary Training Program (MTP). Each year, up to 6 boys and 6 girls (give or take a few) take a year off from going to school, and come take classes at the CAMPUS house.

The CAMPUS missionaries did a lot. They had various Bible classes (Like regular school, only every single class is a Bible class), they gave Bible studies to those who were interested, and they held group Bible studies on various campuses. they also were responsible for CAMPUS church which was held at one of the buildings in the Local College.

What Callie did not know when I told her this is that I had already tried to go to a Bible College. SDA bible colleges aren’t like regular colleges. They’re special colleges that train people to be Bible workers or missionaries. Not pastors, mind you. Those people go to a proper seminary at an SDA college that still has regular classes. Google Immanuel Institute* and you’ll see what I mean.

In….I think this would have been the summer of 2011, I was attending a sermon at Campmeeting (I’ll explain that in a different post. For now, just think “church in tents.”) when I believed I felt that God was calling me to go to one of these Bible schools.

I applied to…. I think 5 different Bible colleges. I prayed that God would let me be accepted by the right one. My parents were against the idea at first. I had to persuade them that this was what I both wanted and needed. So they gave me the money to apply and said they’d pay for it if I went.

Weeks passed. I didn’t hear from anyone. Not an acceptance letter, not a rejection letter, nothing. I tried calling and emailing the schools. 2 of them just never even responded. One looked like it was for sure going to work out…. and then it didn’t. One by one the rejection letters came. Except for that one school out in Oregon, even though I called them like 5 times, they never answered the phone nor returned my calls.

What Callie didn’t know all those years ago was that the summer before I went to Local College, I had been rejected from all 5 Bible colleges. That summer, I developed mega bad depression. I stopped eating. I looked down at the scale one day and saw that I weighed 80 pounds. I thought for sure the scale was broken. I had to start wearing 2 layers of shirts, because my parents were noticing how thin I was. I just couldn’t eat. I felt so sick. I felt like I had gone out on a limb for God, and the branch broke. He had told me to do something, and I had gone forth and done everything I could, only for everything to fall through. It was like God had reached down and slapped me across the face.

God had rejected me.

I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about this. After all, most of my SDA friends had attended one of these Bible schools. God had chosen them. God had thought they were good enough.

What if god isn’t real?  Then this would all make sense.

I brushed that thought aside. Of course God existed. The problem was me. I wasn’t good enough. He didn’t want me.

It is hard to describe, in words, now, how painful all of this felt at the time.

So I went to a real college, and I made sure it was one with a CAMPUS program. Maybe I couldn’t be a missionary, but I could be with the missionaries and pretend I was one of them.

And I did. I stayed weekends at the CAMPUS house, I took every opportunity to help give a Bible study. Secretly, I wanted what the missionaries had. I wanted to be trusted to give Bible studies, to preach sermons. I wanted God to let me serve Him.

All this I kept a secret. I was scared to tell anybody I wanted that, for fear that they too would reject me. I was scared they’d think I only wanted these things for the wrong reasons. In fact, listening to everyone else’s stories, it almost seemed like a requirement that you don’t want to be a Bible worker in order to be a Bible worker. There were so many people who hadn’t wanted to go to those schools, but felt they had to anyway, because God. Why couldn’t I be one of them?

That summer, I applied to go canvassing. That’s when you go door to door selling religious books. A summer of canvassing is a requirement for MTP, but also, I was hoping that it would help me draw closer to God, that I would learn to really love Jesus. So I put aside my reservations (and boy did I have my reservations) and joined canvassing.

And that’s when it all went to shit.

At the end of the summer, God told me that I should never be involved in ministry. And I accepted that decision. I understood, then, why he had rejected me. I was nowhere near ready. I was nowhere near dedicated. And I was no longer sure if any of this was real. Hindsight being what it is, I realize now that the end of that summer was when I became an agnostic. But I didn’t know that, not then. I just knew that I wasn’t supposed to be a Bible worker or a missionary.

But I must have been really good at hiding it, because one of the canvassing leaders, we’ll call him J1, was really excited about me. He thought my summer in canvassing had been a great experience, and that I was now ready to take up the mantle of leadership. First, he decided, I was going to get rebaptized. (I had no idea why he felt I needed to do that.) Then I was gonna start giving Bible studies. I was also going to use my writing talents more, J1 said. J1 said that he was going to have it arranged for me to speak twice that semester at Bible study. Maybe I could even preach a sermon.

I was finally going to have it all. Everything I’d wanted since that summer of 2011. God had finally chosen me.

Unfortunately, that’s when it all really went to shit. My depression took a turn for the worst. I started using drugs again.  I stopped attending classes. I picked up a drinking habit after being sober for  2 years. I overdosed on my anti depressants. I wasn’t sure if I was even trying to kill myself. I just wanted to not feel so bad.

I preached a sermon once that semester. Everyone said I needed to speak more often. Everyone said that I had had good content and been a blessing. I should have felt happy that I was achieving my dream. Instead I felt empty and shallow.

By the time I was supposed to give the second sermon, I was too depressed. I could barely even function.

I could have avoided all this. I could have just shoved aside the questions I had that couldn’t be answered. I had what I wanted in my grasp, all I had to do was reach out and take it.

Maybe I should have. Maybe I should have stopped trying to figure it out and just given the bible studies, preached the sermons, offered to pray with people. Faked it until I could make it.

But I knew I couldn’t do that. I had opened Pandora’s box, and it was impossible to shut.

You hear a lot, in Adventism, about what could have been. People will say that just as they were about to get that promotion, just as they were about to get that football scholarship, just as they were about to have “it all,” they discovered God’s truth, and gave it all up.

Rarely ever do you hear the opposite. Rarely ever do you hear stories such as mine: Just as I was about to be able to finally do ministry, I found out that Christianity and Adventism are both utter bullshit.

I knew that one day this wouldn’t be so painful. I knew that one day I would look back on the summer of 2011 and not feel intense pain.

Unfortunately, that day is still not today. That experience hurt. Losing my faith hurt. Even though I now know that there is no God who did or didn’t choose me, what I went through still hurt.

But I am at a place where I can talk about it. I am at a place where enough time and distance and healing have occurred that I no longer do drugs habitually, I don’t really drink much, and I take anti depressants at a normal dosage. Atheism gave me a freedom that Christianity never could. Atheism gave me the freedom to say, “God never rejected nor chose me.” That’s not a reason I’m an atheist, mind you. That is merely one of the benefits of being an atheist. I have the freedom to say, “nothing was wrong with me.”

Truly, Jesus spoke the truth when he said, in John 8:32 “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

Christians know that freedom has a cost. They tend to think, though, that the cost will be worldly gains like promotions and scholarships and shit. They never knew that freedom would cost me my Jesus.

And that I’m so thankful it did.

 

*Spelling error made on purpose in the hopes that search engines won’t find me.

Parable Of The Sower Chapter 7 (Oh my god you mean there’s MORE?!)

I wrote this story my sophomore year at boarding academy. It was my friends’ Christmas present.

 

7

The next day, Aralyn’s alarm clock goes off early. “we have to go to church.” she tells me, “and after that, training sessions!”

“I’m not going.” I mumble and roll over.

“Holly,you have to! Otherwise you’ll go to jail!”

“Tell ’em to send the cops.” I mumble into my pillow.

Aralyn sighs and puts on a dress, then heads downstairs to breakfast. I lay back down and try to fall back asleep. A few minutes later, Mrs. Gladstone throws open the door, marches up to my bed and yanks the blankets off.

“Get up! You are going to church! Now!” she tosses the blankets aside and grabs my arm and yanks me up. “Get dressed!”

“No!”

“Now!”

I jerk my arm away from her. “I’ll get dressed, but I will not go to church with you.”

“Oh yeah. Thats right, you don’t like church. Well ya know what? Tough luck! Its church, or jail?” She leers at me, “whats it gonna be?”

“Jail.”

“Excuse me?”

“Jail!”

“You insubordinate ungrateful brat!”she yells at me.

Silence. I think she expects me to sarcastically say thanks, yell back, or at least argue. When I remain silent. She slaps me across the face. Hard. Then she pushes me back onto the bed.

“Fine! Get yourself arrested! I don’t care. I’m only trying to help.” she leaves the room muttering to herself.

I get up, grab the blankets, pull them back over me and fall back asleep.

But again, I am only to be woken up. Someone is banging on the door. I awake with a start, my imagination running like a train. Police! Police! God! Don’t let them take me away! Then I realize that it is probably just Tall-Girl.

But she won’t be coming– not after what happened yesterday. I stumble down the stairs in my pajamas to the front door and peak through the peep hole. She’s here! Waves of shame wash over me, but I open the door anyway and step aside to let her in.

“Holly, I have to talk to you.” I nod and close the front door, making sure to lock it.

I lead her upstairs to my room, and show her the tree which I can escape from. She sits down on Aralyn’s bed.

“No, the other one.”

She sits on my bed. I stare out the window.

“Holly–”

“Look, I’m really sorry about what happened yesterday, yes it was totally my fault and… I don’t know why I did it and… well… I’m… um… I’m sorry.” I still don’t turn around to look at her.

“Holly–”

“Please! Don’t hate me!”

she laughs, “Holly! I don’t hate you at all! I still love you.”

I’m silent.

“And I forgive you.”

I still don’t look at her.

She sighs, walks over and puts her arms around me, “and you need to learn to forgive yourself.”

I just nod.

“Now what do you want to do?”

“Well.” I say slowly, “when I used to sneak out of church I’d go to the mall and then–”

“Mall’s closed.”

“Oh. Thats right. Everything else is closed too, isn’t it?”

She nods, “we can’t stay here either; Mrs. Gladstone might come back at any moment and we wouldn’t know exactly when.”

“I thought you said you and Mrs. Gladstone were good friends?”

“I said used to be. Come one, lets at least get into the car and I’ll drive you around.”

Tall-Girl drives me around for a while. We drive till we get to town, making sure not to drive past the church.

“Wait! Pull over!”

She looks at me funny but does what I say. I roll down the window. “Aralyn!” I shout. She turns around and looks at me, frightened at first, then relaxes. I motion for her to get into the car. She takes off running. She jumps in and slams the door. It is then that I notice for the first time that she has taken off her skirt and has been wearing pants underneath!

Tall girl drove away, trying not to look like she’d just picked up a renegade adventist. She brings us to a small white house in the middle of the woods. We get out of the car and into the house.

“Is this your house?” I ask in a whisper.

“Yes.” she says, “and theres no need to whisper, I’m the only one who lives here. We can speak freely.”

“Oh. Did your parents –”

“I moved out.”

“Oh.”

“Well, I’m 18. why not?”

Aralyn finds her voice, “Who are you?”

Suddenly, it strikes me for the first time that I do not know Tall-Girl’s name.

“Yes,” I turn to face you, “who are you exactly?”

She laughs, “You mean you’ve been hanging out with me for a week and a half and you don’t even know my first name?”

I shook my head, “I don’t know your last name either.”

“I’m Mandy Green.” turning to Aralyn, she says, “I’m a senior at her school.”

“Oh.” Aralyn is silent. The rest of the afternoon is spent doing a bible study. We head back around at about 11:50.

We haven’t been back hardly 10 minutes before Mrs. Gladstone comes storming in demanding to know where Aralyn was and why she’d left.

“Holly and I had a bible study…”

“See Holly!” Mrs.Gladstone explodes at me, “Aralyn’s following your example! Your not only bringing down yourself, your destroying your friends!”

Mrs. Gladstone stomps out of the room. Aralyn and I breath a sigh of relief.

“I’m sorry I got you in trouble.” Aralyn says, after a moment. I laugh, “trouble? You call this trouble? Let’s see… I’m haven’t gotten arrested, thrown in jail, killed, brought home by the police…. nope. You didn’t do anything to me.”

“No, but I got you yelled at –”

“Aralyn, no, you didn’t, and even if you did, thats what satan wants. He’s trying to make you feel guilty for it and from what I can see, its working.”

She falls silent.

“Pray about it.” I say. And then we all have to go downstairs for lunch.


I can’t count the weeks that go by, but my stomach continues to bulge out more. One day Aralyn wakes up, looks at me, and asks, “Are you pregnant?”

“Took you long enough.” I snap. She looks hurt.

“Sorry.”

Silence. She stares at me. For a while before she finally asks, “so, whats it like?”

“To be pregnant?”

She nods.

“Well, its weird when it kicks….its like, I feel it, but it doesn’t hurt.”

“Is it a girl or a boy?”

“I didn’t have time to find out.” I speak quietly.”

“Oh.”

I sigh, I guess she wants more information than that. “At first sometimes you get sick in the morning, this is called morning sickness. That’s awful, but, usually that tends to go away after a while. I’m extremely clumsy because I’m so big, and, that’s pretty much it.”

“Wow.” Aralyn says, looking at me with a look of shock on her face. I grab my backpack and head out the door. The day is Sabbath, and Whenever I think about that, I can’t help but be excited, especially because Aralyn’s been coming to the Sabbath morning church meetings with us! I throw on my backpack and we slip out the window. Aralyn swings down the tree with ease, but I take longer because of my enlarged stomach.

“Hurry up!” she kids me, “you used to be able to do this faster than I do!”

“Did I look like this 4 months ago?” I say, shaking my belly. Aralyn turns and runs toward Mandy’s car, which is waiting for us in the driveway, as usual. Only this time, so is Mrs. Gladstone.

She has her hands on her hips and is frowning at us. Mandy slowly gets out of the car and walks up to her, staring her straight in the eye. “Girls, get in the car. Now.” I hesitate. “Go ahead, it’ll be alright.”

I open the door of the front seat as Mandy and Mrs. Gladstone go inside the house.

“Aralyn, stay here?”

“where are you going?”

“I have to go use the bathroom.”

“why didn’t you go before we left.”

“Hey, I’m pregnant, ok, and frequent urination is a symptom.”

Aralyn shrugs and opens her bible.

I quietly open the front door and ease my way over to the living room. I hear sobbing. I put my ear to the door.

“Oh Mandy! I didn’t mean to be a stumbling block to all these kids when I started this! It just… I’ve made a mistake and I think its too late! The last plagues are being carried out even as we speak!” I nod silently. Its true.

Mandy says something so low I can’t hear it, and Mrs. Gladstone starts crying harder. Mandy is speaking again. She is praying with her. I quietly ease out towards the front door and run out to the car, stunned. I feel sorry for Mrs. Gladstone. Its sad, but there is nothing anybody can do at this point. People have made their choices. For good, or evil.

Moments later, Mandy comes out and, without saying anything, drives us to “Church.”

We are just singing “There Is A Treasure” we are just singing the chorus (….And I would rather die than live one day without you….) When suddenly, we hear the front door burst open and footsteps rapidly approaching the trap door. We hear the table being smashed against the wall, then the trap door being thrown open..

There is a momentary pause of shock, we hear footsteps pounding down the stairs. I’m scared, but I keep singing, “Because your love is better than life…” Everyone joins me. As police officers thunder into the room and order us to shut up, we just sing louder. The police cuff me and all the other members and, with much violence, (which I won’t get into because I want this to be G-rated)

And throw us into the police cars. We are still all singing at the top of our lungs, which only infuriates the officers, who spray us with pepper spray. It stings like the devil himself, but it just makes us sing louder, stronger, and with a passion.

I am thrown into a car with 4 other strange women. I keep singing, but on the inside, I’m screaming out for Mandy and Aralyn. Where are they?

We arrive at the police station, where we are booked (yes, we stop singing then) then tossed into a dark prison cell that is totally dark. I mean, no light whatsoever. Dark as in, a Darkroom in a photography lab. I took a few courses in photography once, and there can be no light whatsoever because it ruins the film, and I remember searching around the room, longing to find some source of light. I longed to turn on the indigleo button on my watch just to see some light!

Well, that’s the way it is spiritually in our world today, so dark, that you search for light and you just long for some spiritual light. (just a little analygo that I had to throw in there. Anyway, back to our story). And that is the way it is now in our prison cell. Joy. I am thrown into a small 5×5 cell with about 8 people crammed into it. I can feel them, but I can’t see them. I’m scared. God, I’m so scared! Help me!

“Hello?” I squeak.

“Holly?”

How’d you-”

Arms are thrown around me briefly, then, “Don’t you remember me?”

No, its not possibly, could it be… no, I can’t say it, I’ll get it wrong and I’ll embarrass myself…

Tori?”

“Yes!” she exclaims, “Holly, I’m so glad you’re here! I mean—“ she breaks off, realizing that that is the stupidest comment to make to a fellow inmate. Take my advice; if you should EVER go to jail (and lets hope that you don’t, unless its for religious persecution) never ever ever ever ever EVER say that you are glad to see someone there. (at least, not to an inmate anyway)

“Wow!” I exclaim, shocked, “its been what… a year? Two years?”

“Three years. Whoa.” I step back, “Have you changed much?”

“I got a hair cut, but other than that no I really haven’t, what about you?”

“I… umm… well…if you could see me…. You’d know….” I break off, ashamed.

“I’d know what?”

“I’m pregnant.” I whisper. She’s silent for a moment.

“I still love you.”

“Thanks.” I manage to squeak back.

One of the other girls moves toward me and pipes up, “how far along are you?”

“8 months.”

“Uh-oh.”

“what.. I don’t like the sound of, ‘uh-oh’”

“I hope your baby isn’t born in jail.”

“that WOULD be awful!”

“that,” she says slowly, “and the fact that the guards are going to rip it out of your grasp as soon as it is born and raise it in the New World Religion.”

I gasp, “No!” I scream, “No! I would rather it be still-born then be born and never know Jesus!” I start crying. I’m scared. And I don’t wanna kill my baby, but neither do I want it to be lost…. Invisible girl puts an arm around me.

“Relax, Holly, I don’t think God’ll let that happen.”

I can’t respond.

“God has a plan Holly, just trust him.”

“Who are you?” I whisper.

“I’m . Black.”

I just nod.

Suddenly the cell door creeks open. In the dim light I can see expressions of terror on the other girls’ faces. The guard pokes his head in and calls out my name.

“What do you want?”

“You have a visitor.”

I can’t have a visitor! Who would be visiting me!

I slowly follow walk out of the cell and follow the guard down a long hallway to the visitation room. The guard opens the door and pushes me in before closing it behind me.

I blink as my eyes take a moment to get used to the bright light. At first I can only make out one guard standing uninterested in the corner of the room. Then a table, and sitting at the table is —

“Matt?”

“Holly!” he walks over to me and hugs me tightly. I slap his face and shove him away.

“Your pregnant!” he gasps.

I nod, remembering suddenly that 9 out of 10 boys dump the girl once she gets pregnant.

He stares at me in shock.

I look away.

“Holly.” He says softly, “I can’t believe it! That’s amazing!”

“Really?”

He nods enthusiastically.

Now it is my turn to stare at him in shock!

“What are we having?”

We? He said, we?

“A human.” I respond.

“You don’t have a clue, do you.”

I shake my head.

“wanna find out?”

I consider that for a moment, then shake my head, “no, I want it to be a surprise when it pops out!”

He grins, “hey, yeah! That’s cool! How’d you like to get out of here, move in with me, and we could live together to raise the baby!”

I smile, “well… that would be.. you would do that? I mean, I thought you hated children?”

“Yeah!” he beams at me, taking my hands in his, “but that was before I found out that we were gonna have a baby!”

We stare into each other’s eyes like that for a moment, then.

“Oh yeah, there is a… uh… slight catch.”

I tense up. “Yes?”

He starts sweating, “um….well… you just….. sign these papers.” He thrusts the documents into my hand. I start reading them.

I the undersigned do hereby renounce my beliefs as an SDA and pledge to conform to the New World Religion…

I don’t need to read any farther. I slap the papers down on the desk, look Matt straight in the eye and declare, “No!”

He glares at me. “Holly, I am offering you a chance of life! Of freedom! I’m offering you a chance to keep your baby from being snatched out of your arms and your….refusing me??”

I nod. “Yes.”

He turned around abruptly, his face turning red with rage. “You have seven days to change your mind.” He snaps. He waves his hand at the guard to indicate that he is through with me, and the guard hauls me off by the elbow back to my cell and throws me in.

Immediately my knees buckle, and I slump against the wall, tears flowing freely down my cheeks.

Holly! You could have the life you’ve always wanted! A life with a loving husband! A father for your child! Isn’t that what you’ve been praying for?

Yes, but at what cost?

I tell my cell-mates what has happened. They congratulate and encourage me that I have done the right thing, and I feel much better. But things are only beginning. I should have figured out that from here everything gets much worse.

Now! P. 64-85

We last left off with Book!Merikay asking herself if she’s read for Jesus to come, because he is coming very very soon. The people who published this, and probably teenage!Merikay at that point, also believed that Jesus was coming within a few short years. Book!Merikay’s anxiety is our anxiety, and book!Merikay’s fear of hell is our fear of hell.

Merikay and Pat finally reach “the hills.” The hide in some woods, walk for a while, and finally find a place to rest.

The ground felt like a Sealy’s Posturepedic mattress after the hours of walking. We both fell into a deep sleep.

Authors out there, just be aware of how stuff like this can really date your work. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing that’s going to break the book, but it is something that you need to be aware of.

Actually, I looked this up. Sealy’s Posturepedic mattresses still exist, and can be purchased for the low price of $599. It’s no longer something I’d know off the top of my head, but they do still exist. Maybe not so dated after all.

Pat and Merikay sleep for a long time, then wake up and eat an apple, and go back to sleep. Then they wake up again when the sun is setting, and read the bible.

Merikay reads Psalms 27, which just so happens to be the very words she needs to hear.

How could things like this happen? How could I just open the Bible and have the very verses I need come jumping out at me? For a moment my heart went out in love to God.

Like I said in the last post, Adventists are particular believers in “The Lord will guide you to exactly the verses you need to read.”

As a teenager being read to in Bible class, I think this passage was so cringe inducing that I rolled my eyes out loud. Book!Merikay knew about the whole “read a verse and wow it will apply to your life because God” thing. So why was she saying this? In teenage!me’s mind, she should have known better.

Re reading this as an adult…here’s the thing. Psalm 27 is a particularly popular passage. You might not be able to quote it from memory, but once you start reading it, you’ll probably recognize it. Let’s take a look at the verses Merikay is reading:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?…. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion;…… when my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

These verses are particularly broad. They could apply to lots of different people in lots of situations. Adventists refer to the end times persecution as “the time of trouble,” but in the context of this psalm, it looks like the writer is talking about being pursued by enemies.

Book!Merikay tells us these verses were already underlined. Sometimes we remember things unconsciously even if we can’t quite bring them to mind.

I’m saying that it’s possible that book!Merikay led herself to those verses because she knew, in some corner of her mind, that they were relevant.

I’m not saying God still couldn’t use these verses to speak to her. (In the context of this story, God exists, so I am treating God as real, in context.)

I’m saying that even if God had used those verses to speak to her, this wouldn’t exactly be something remarkable.

But, Teenage!Merikay was writing this for a bible class, and probably needed a way to shoehorn this in, and it was written in a weekend so I’m cutting it some slack.

Merikay then decides to play a little game, one that book!Merikay seems to think is original.

In the game I held the Bible closed, with only the binding resting in my lap. Then I’d let it fall open to whatever it would, and the first verse I saw I’d read and try to get a lesson out of it.

Fun fact: every single Adventist has, at some point, done this. In fact, probably ever Christian has, at some point, done this.

Fun Fact #2, try finding a way to get a lesson out of such verses as

She lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. Ezekiel 23:20 NIV

But of course, if Merikay put something like that in there she’d get an F, so the Bible opens to 1 John 3.

Behold what manner of love the father has given unto us that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”

Raise your hand if you sang the first two lines out of habit. My hand is up, at any rate.

Merikay thinks about being a daughter of God. She gushes for a bit about how princesses are supposed to act.

Princesses must not only show by their acts and words that their government and king are the best, but also during war, must suffer the keenest persecution along with the rest of the royal family.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but let that pass. The main thing to note here is that the king isn’t the one enduring persecution. Where’s God in this story? Up in heaven, doing God things. You could argue that Jesus was persecuted like 2,000 years ago and that Jesus is God, so therefore God is persecuted just not at the same time you were…. but that seems like an exhausting bit of mental gymnastics to me, and I’m not sure if I can agree with that. God in this story just seems kinda like a dick who is making everyone else suffer while he sits up there in heaven doing… whatever it is that God does up in heaven nowadays.

Merikay thinks so much about being a princess that her legs and feet stop hurting. She and Pat read till it’s dark, then pray for hours.

You couldn’t rest the day before when you were running, but now you have ample time to sit and pray for hours? Get up and pray as you are running again toward the mountains. You’re still not safe.

They get up to start walking again. They get about two feet before they realize it’s Friday night and therefore Sabbath, and decide to stop and have vespers. Even though they just had prayer and a Bible study.

Question: Does God think it’s ok to run for the hills on the Sabbath?

Anyway, Merikay and Pat go find someplace where they feel safe, and start singing. Which just seems like a great way to draw attention to yourself and shouldn’t you be pressing on toward the mountains?

They sing, and then they pray…

We had nothing now but prayer. Prayer and running.

And they have each other, and they have their bibles, and they seem to have food whenever they need it….

I know that prayer can be a hard thing to write about, because it is so personal. However, one bit of advice I’d have given Teenage!Merikay is that if you’re going to talk about prayer and how important it is to you, you need to do more than just tell me what you prayed about. I need to see you doing it.

After their official vespers service, they decide they’d better get a move on. They’re not traveling by a road, so they don’t have to stop, drop and hide every ten minutes.

Just 24 hours stood between us and the enforcement of the death decree.

This is good. I like this. In fact, there should have been a countdown in Book!Merikay’s head every time she thought about this. It creates tension and drama and a real sense of urgency.

Pat wonders out loud if they caught the Coopers.

I wondered too. I wondered what was going on back home, whether my family was running or chasing, whether my friends were like us or like those who were trying to catch us.

Teenage!Merikay probably didn’t know this, but most people in Nazi Germany were neither Nazis nor people who hid Jews. Most people in Nazi Germany were ordinary people just trying to live their lives.

Adventists, however, don’t believe that this will be the case in the end times. They believe that there is no middle ground, and so Merikay doesn’t believe in a middle ground, either. There will be runners, and there will be chasers. Nobody’s out there just trying to live a normal life where people water their lawns or wash their cars or let their children laugh and play outside.

But above all I wondered if I was saved.

I’m not sure what to think about this. In some ways this feels real to me, but on the other hand, I feel like this should have been resolved in some way by this point.

I like, though, that Teenage!Merikay is doing a nice bit of foreshadowing. I’m not sure if she’s aware that that’s what she’s doing, but it is. We do get to know the answer to this before Jesus comes, and I like that.

We were in the mountains now. The ground wasn’t too different from that of the hills, except for the steep grade.

So, the Smoky mountains are surrounded by hills? I’m terrible at geography, so let’s just move on.

Pat and Merikay see the sun rise from the mountain, and kneel down to pray. As they get up, they see “two men with rifles and a dog.”

“Hey you! What are you doing?” The voices were hard.

They’re 2 teenagers praying on a mountain. They’re either on acid, or they’re Sabbath keepers. What other option is there?

Pat and Merikay split up, each picking a direction.

The 2 men and the dog decide to follow Merikay rather than Pat. The men start shooting at her, but they miss. At this range, they must be some seriously bad shots. Or perhaps they’ve had a liiiiitle too much fireball whiskey. Who am I kidding? It’s God, of course, deflecting the bullets.

Merikay falls, and the dog jumps on her. That’s it, they’ve got her.

As [the two men] came up, the dog backed off. I lay, looking at their hard faces. For a brief moment I wondered if my hair looked all right.

Because she left behind the rollers and pins, get it?

I didn’t pick up on this part as a teen, but as an adult I am shuddering as I read this. Two men, alone on a mountain, and a girl….

Book!Merikay should be a bit more worried, is all I’m saying. And not about her hair.

One of the men raises his rifle, takes aim, and just as Merikay is praying that Jesus forgive her for any sins she might have forgotten to ask forgiveness for, the other man stops Man1 from shooting, because “the law don’t go into effect ’til tomorrow.”

“Aw, so what’s the dif, we kill her now or later?”

I’m torn on what to feel about the way these men talk. On the one hand, it can be ok to portray accents in writing. In context, however, I feel like teenage!Merikay is trying to make these guys seem as bad as possible. They’re probably meant to be something like the redneck types who are, of course, mean, nasty, and stupid. I don’t like the juxtaposition of “talks differently” with “bad as possible.” Because it seems like it is being implied that people who talk like they are “uneducated” are also evil. It’s a common stereotype, and it’s really not cool.

Honestly, I’m just wondering why the law is stopping these guys. If things have escalated this quickly, and everyone is evil all the time, what is stopping them from killing her, waiting a day, and then saying, “oh look officer, we shot her this morning.” I highly doubt that, with the massive amounts of cases the new Sunday Police have to deal with, that anyone is going to look into it too closely. These 2 men would absolutely get away with it.

Second honest question: Why is it legal for them to shoot Book!Merikay? Even in states that still have the death penalty, we don’t let just anyone carry out the sentence. We take the condemned person to the proper authorities and make them do it.

The men drop their accents long enough to decide to do just that. They are hoping that there is a reward for her (there is, incidentally) and they reassure themselves that they will have plenty of hunting to do the next day when the death decree goes out.

Again, why is it legal for vigilantes to kill people? Even in states with death penalties, this is not a thing.

One of the men laments that Pat got away from them, which is a good way to let us know as well, so 10 points to Merikay for finding a way to somehow drop that.

Merikay thanks the Lord for answering her prayer, even though he….didn’t. Earlier as she was running, Merikay was praying for the two men not to catch her. Then she prayed that Jesus would forgive her for any sins she forgot to confess before she was murdered. At no point did I see her pray that Pat would make it.

The dog was mean, but kept away when the men were near. They were terrible, acting as though they had never known how to be good. They pushed me down, laughing, and jerked me up with cruel remarks.

If that is all that they are doing to you, then I have a hard time believing they are so bad as all that. I’m just saying, there are worse things 2 men could do to a girl they captured. As to the dog, don’t be mad at it. It’s just doing what it’s been trained to do all its life.

The men take Merikay to jail, where she is taken to a cell in the basement. We are told she is questioned a lot, but we don’t get to see what questions are asked or how Merikay answers them. This….could have been expanded on a bit. I imagine at some point, though, Teenage!Merikay just needed to finish this. The first part of the book looks like it’s thought out and written decently well, and then the last part feels like it’s a bit rushed. She wrote this in a weekend, so I could excuse it in a first draft.

Again, most of my issues with this book have to do with the editor, who should have known better.

There are 4 other people in the cell with Merikay, one of whom is a woman. The cell is 12×12 feet, which seems rather large for a prison cell. I think my incarcerated friend said his cell was like, 6×6 or less. I could be misremembering and Teenage!Merikay probably didn’t have an incarcerated penpal, so nevermind.

As I entered, they all looked up.

“Welcome, Little One,” one of the men smiled.

This right here is why I am going to hell in a handbasket. I don’t care if I’m the youngest, anyone who calls me “little one” is going to get a face full of fist.

“Have a seat,” another offered, pointing to the floor. “We’re just having church.”

Even in prison, you can not get away from church.

I could tell, being here only a few minutes, that this was a wonderful place.

Yes, prisons are known for that.

The people were kind.

People in prison are known for that too….

They joke that Merikay can be their visitor that Sabbath. I can roll with it.

Their “church,” we are told, is super simple: All they do is sing. And then they pray, and the guard whines that all they have been doing that morning is praying. No, they were just singing. Didn’t you hear them? Singing can be praying, but very technically they’re not the same thing. (That’s an area we don’t get into, for the sake of time.)

Alright, I’ve run out of steam. We’ll pick up later, in the next post.