A Mountain To Climb Chapter 2 No More Dancing?

One of the ways I think this book really suffers is that it breaks rule #5 of Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 tips on writing.

 

  • Start as close to the end as possible.

I know that not everyone agrees on what is good writing, and not everyone will agree with these 8 writing tips. However, I think this one stands, and I think that is especially true with this particular book. This particular book does not start as close to the end as possible. This book goes all the way back to the beginning. A lot of SDA stories begin this way. For wahtever reason, it is often deemed necessary to include the part of the story where the person came to Jesus and was converted to Adventism. Adventist books (and bad book in general) often think that the best place to include backstory is in the beginning of the novel, most often in an infodump.

There is no reason why this particular book could not have started in chapter 3 when Pearl goes to school. The backstory could be worked in somehow in a way that doesn’t detract from the overall story and plot. Pearl could have been shown making friends with one of the girls, and say, “before I converted, a doctor had me drinking blood!” At which point the girls hearing this story could shudder in unison.

And frankly, the conversion did not need to be worked in at all. Pearl is going to an Adventist college, nervous about being back in school after so long and nervous about fitting into the SDA community. We don’t need an entire chapter explaining why.

This chapter could be summarized into like, a paragraph in chapter 3, and chapter 3 could become chapter 1. Chapter 1 is also not needed.

That is the number 1 reason this chapter does not work.

We’ll get to other reasons.

The chapter starts out with Pearl and her mother still on the boat, talking.

“You know, Mother, I haven’t had any blood since the day we decided to leave Maracaibo,” Pearl said, “and I don’t feel much worse off.”

Well, yeah. No surprises there. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if drinking blood was actually making Pearl more sick.

By the way, that anemia that was talked about so much in the last chapter? The cliffhanger we ended with last week about whether or not Pearl will be healed? Never again mentioned. So, is she healed, or not? We are told she feels better now that she’s no longer drinking blood, and that the fresh air on the voyage did her good…. but we never see this particular bit of healing. I think it gets mentioned in an offhand way in the next chapter, but for a thing that was such a big deal in the first chapter, the fact that it is not mentioned in this one is disappointing.

Pearl and her mother talk a bit about Barbados. Pearl was only 13 when she left, and she wonders if any of her old friends were still around. Pearl’s mother reassures her, and they continue watching the sunset.

This conversation feels very natural to me. It works.

Finally, the boat lands at Barbados, and we are told that Pearl and her mother soon move into their old house.

Pearl found the first few weeks on Barbados rather exciting, but she soon realized that she had nothing in common with her old friends. The interests they had shared in their early teens were quite different from those they had now, and she and her friends soon drifted apart. Life grew dull.

This, mind you, is pre-conversion. I would expect this to happen post conversion. It is interesting that that is not the case.

I mean, I can kinda see it. Even without the religious aspect, there were very few people from high school I care to talk to ever again. You drift apart, it happens.

What I find questionable is that Pearl and her mother don’t also find new friends. I mean, how big is Barbados? Surely if Pearl doesn’t fit in with her old crew, she can find a new one?

Pearl and her mother have just moved to… not exactly a new country for them, but new enough. They’ve moved to a new place where they don’t really have the network they once did. They’re lonely, they’re bored, and they’re emotionally vulnerable.

Naturally, this is when they get involved with the Adventist church.

Mrs. Lindsay shows Pearl a brochure for a series of meetings. They decide to go, because it would get them out of the house and give them something to do.

Anyone familiar with Adventism knows exactly what kind of meetings these are. These are what are known as “Revelation seminars” or “evangelistic series.”

Revelation seminars/evangelistic series/whatever they’re calling them nowadays are a series of meetings that can last… a long time. It might be one night a week for many weeks, or it might be one meeting a night for 2 or 3 weeks. Each night, there is a sermon on one of the fundamental beliefs. Adventists will start out with basic Christian stuff that everyone largely agrees on: authority of scripture, the gospel message, the fact that Jesus is coming again. And then they will gradually move on to the more crazier topics. They eventually end up talking about how Ellen White was a prophet, and that the pope is the anti-Christ, and then they’ll eventually move on to End Times bullshit.

These seminars usually end in baptisms, which is the goal. Of course, for quite some time now Revelation seminars haven’t been able to gradually introduce the crazy. Thanks to the internet, people can google Seventh Day Adventists, find out all sorts of things, and then decide they never want to come back.

But back in Barbados in the 1930s, there was no internet.

And of course, you can clearly tell that whoever wrote this has a serious bias toward Seventh Day Adventists, because everything about Pearl and her mother’s experience is absolutely perfect.

They were greeted at the door by a pleasant young lady. Settling themselves in seats about halfway to the front, they waited….from the moment the young song leader began directing the service until the benediction Pearl sat entranced. She had never heard anything like it…. “Something about the whole service said that those people really know the Lord.” [Said Pearl.]

I’d complain about how much telling vs showing there is in this chapter, but at some point, you can’t show everything. Of course, this is why you could have cut this chapter entirely and had the conversion summed up in chapter one by saying, “Pearl and her mother had been converted by meetings after they moved back to Barbados.”

Pearl and her mother discuss whether or not they’ll come back, and they decide it couldn’t hurt. We are told that they came back “night after night, week after week.” So, these meetings are one night a week for many weeks, I guess?

We are told that Pearl and her mother were “devout protestants” for a long time, and they were very fascinated by the “truths” the preacher talked about.

We aren’t told exactly which truths, but the target audience doesn’t exactly need it spelled out for us. An Adventist audience would already have a general idea, so the author probably felt no need to spell it out.

And that’s a valid point of view. At some point, your story will get bogged down by all the theology if you try and explain it all. So we get vagueness like:

The minister took his message directly from the Bible, and it was different from what they’d always believed.

That’s the thing, though. I will admit that yes, some Adventist doctrines are Biblical. Or at the very least, there are things that the Bible is not clear on that could be interpreted either way. A good example of this is the doctrine of soul sleep. The bible is actually very unclear on what happens after you die: Do you go straight to heaven/hell or do you sleep in the grave till Jesus comes? Different denominations interpret the Bible differently, and no one is going to agree on everything. I can see where Adventists are coming from as to how they interpret the Bible. That’s fine.

But a lot of things the Adventists preach at those seminars? Totally unbiblical. No scriptural justification for it at all… unless you jump around from passage to passage, verse to verse, ripping things out of context and insisting that one lone verse in Ezekiel applies to the entire book of Revelation. And numerology. You have to do math to understand the Bible.

We’re not shown everything, but because the Sabbath is a corner stone of the Adventist faith, we are shown the Lindsays’ reactions to the sermon on the Sabbath commandment.

“How come man could change God’s day of rest?” Pearl wanted to know.

“I don’t know how man could tamper with God’s law, but it sounded like the preacher gave sufficient proof.” [Said Pearl’s mother. I think.]

“You mean, Mother, that you really think Sunday isn’t the Sabbath?”

“I don’t know. I’ll have to do some studying about it.”

It is true that there isn’t a place in the Bible where the day was changed from Saturday to Sunday.

However, there is a passage where Paul holds a religious meeting on the first day of the week. And there is a passage saying that you shouldn’t judge how people observe the Sabbath. We won’t get into that here, as that’s really a topic for another post. What you need to know, for the purpose of the story, is that God himself never specifically said the day was changed. That is why Adventists go to church on Saturday rather than Sunday. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this approach. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going to church on Sunday, either.

Even as a Christian I thought this way. But that’s really another topic for another post.

Pearl asks her mother how the whole world can worship on Sunday when God wants us to worship on Saturday.

“Nothing but the workings of the devil. I can see that plain as day.”

Sigh. Mrs. Lindsay is already thinking like an Adventist.

Mrs. Lindsay tells Pearl that she will be keeping “the proper Sabbath” from now on, and asks if Pearl will join her. She and Pearl respond to an altar call when the minister asks who will keep the Saturday Sabbath.

We are told that the minister holding the meetings is Pastor Oss. I can’t find anything about this guy on google, which probably means nothing.

We are told that Pearl left the meeting that night feeling a little conflicted about the decision. Because apparently keeping the Sabbath also means she has to join the SDA church. I’m not sure about Barbados specifically, but at this present time there are non SDA Christians who keep the Sabbath. Seventh Day Baptists being the most notable.

No more dancing? Going to church on Saturday? Giving up so much? Could it possibly be worth the struggle?

“Do you really think it’s worth it all?” She finally blurted out.

Pearl’s question is a good one. Dancing is something Pearl really enjoys, and going to church on Saturday is probably vastly different from what they’re used to.

“Girl,” the mother spoke softly, “anything God asks us to do is worth everything.”

That’s…. not an answer to the question.

During the next few days they made many changes in their home, changes in diet, in worship and Bibles study, changes in dress-but Pearl and her mother were happy.

Adventists are particularly fond of the notion that following the rules will make you happy. Giving up dancing and meat eating and jewelry and drinking may be hard, but ultimately, you will be happier for doing so.

And I do acknowledge that Pearl and her mother probably are happier than they were. Before, they were basically strangers in a country they were no longer used to living in, they had very few friends, and no real community. Seventh Day Adventism would have absolutely given them a community to be a part of, people would have befriended them, and they would have things to do in the evenings.

Sure Pearl had to give up dancing, but she also no longer had friends to dance with.

Of course Pearl and her mother are happy. Humans are social creatures, and they have found their pack.

Then we come to the paragraph that’s really important, because this is basically the backstory for the next 17 or so chapters.

The preacher at Pearl’s church talks to her about going to school. We are told he brings it up constantly, week after week, but Pearl keeps dismissing the idea. One evening, however, the pastor comes to the Lindsay home to try and sell Pearl on the idea of going to college.

And he is absolutely selling. I guarantee you, this pastor was receiving some kind of compensation for recruiting students to Adventist schools.  It may not necessarily be anything financial, but there is absolutely a reason the pastor is doing this.

That’s not to say he doesn’t care about Pearl as an individual and think school would be good for her, mind you. I think it could possibly be a little bit of both.

Anyway, Pearl protests and says that, at 23, she’s too old to go back to school.

Wasn’t she 21 a chapter ago? This chapter covers a 2 year period?

The pastor says that people much older than her have gone back to school and succeeded. Which is true, I mean, even back then 23 wasn’t that old.

“I’m not sure God wants me in school. Mother and I are happy here just as we are.”

We haven’t been told the Lindsay’s financial situation. If Pearl is able to make a decent living without going to college, why is the pastor pushing this so hard? This is never explained. I’m not saying that that’s a reason she shouldn’t go, because education is rarely ever a complete waste of money. But college is expensive. Adventist colleges especially are expensive. Yes an education would do Pearl good, but why shill out tons of money for an education she doesn’t really need?

The minister tells Pearl that she has many talents that God wants her to cultivate, and that she could be such a blessing if she went to school to prepare herself. This is extremely vague. We are not told what these talents are, exactly. All I see is the minister twisting Pearl’s arm to go to a school for a degree she doesn’t seem to need.

Just as Pearl wonders where she would go to get this education, the pastor pulls out a brochure and an application for Caribbean Training College in Trinidad (now Caribbean Union College.)

A quick google search shows that as of 2006, it is called “University of the Southern Caribbean.”

This pastor is totally a recruiter. He does not present her with different options, he presents her with one option and tells her to think it over.

After the Pastor’s visit, Mrs. Lindsay and Pearl decide that Pearl should absolutely go to school, and they fill out the application.

“I’ll write a letter of recommendation to the principal,” the pastor promised as he put the application blank in his pocket. “I’ll carry this with me so you can’t change your mind.”

Your mileage may vary, this strikes me as very manipulative.

The chapter ends with Pearl gazing anxiously out the window, wondering what exactly all of this could mean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Parable of the Sower Critique: Chapter 2

This was written by me when I was 15 or 16 at an SDA boarding school. It is terrible, and I am having a hard time doing this sober. But, as I am apparently incomprehensible when drunk, this post is brought to you by really strong coffee.

That Monday, I wake up with a soar throat, headache, and stuffy nose. My sister comes in before she goes off to her SDA school (mainly just to make sure I’m not just faking it like I normally do) she gives me a hug, tells me she’s praying for me, and leaves.

Wow, I really need to learn how to spell. Or proofread.

It’s not explicitly mentioned in the text until later, but Holly managed to convince her mom to send her to a public school.

If Holly is actually sick, why is Jaimie giving her a hug? Does she want to get sick too? Oh never mind. Then Holly’s mom comes in to talk to her. What are they talking about? We don’t get to know. Come on teenage!me, don’t do this. Why even have the mom on screen (on page?) if you’re not going to develop the characters?

Sometimes, I feel awful. My mom is so nice, so loving, and I treat her like crap. I feel awful.

“I feel awful” is repeated too many times. Set that aside.

I was about to make a note about teeange!me doing a lot of telling but no showing, but then I read this:

As soon as I hear my mom’s car in the driveway, however, I get out of bed, get dressed in baggy clothes, and head out. First stop: mom’s room. $40 is now missing from her purse. Then I leave the house.

Ok, now teenage!me is showing something. Good job, teenage!self.

As Holly is shoplifting, she runs into her boyfriend, Matt. Please don’t ask me why Holly is shoplifting when she just stole money from her mother. I don’t even know.

At the time I wrote this, I had never even had so much as a desire for a boyfriend. I didn’t really know why people even had them. All I knew is that boyfriends and girlfriends had sex, but that they weren’t supposed to. Oh and they kissed and held hands and generally acted like idiots when they were together.

So it is only natural that this part of the story be completely and utterly cringe worthy. God I wish I could be drinking.

“Wanna come to my house for a while?? My parents aren’t home.” He puts his arm around me and whispers in my ear, “we can do whatever we want!”

This is totally how I thought guys convinced their girlfriends to have sex with them.

Embarrassingly enough, I still have no idea how flirting actually works.

Fun fact: By the time I was a senior in high school, I coerced someone else to write the romantic scenes.

I hesitate, not knowing weather or not I want to do what I know he is asking me to do. Not knowing weather I’m ready for this. I mean, it is a big step…. the bible…

This is badly written. The Bible is not being used as a “big step,” although it could be, it’s thick enough.

then I look into his gorgeous eyes, and remember that he’s the only one who really understands me. The only one who won’t condemn me for what I’ve done.

Um…. ok? We are shown exactly none of that. Ever.

Teenage!me also needed to learn the difference between “weather” and “whether.” Teenage!me didn’t really care.

He slips his hand into mine and says, “don’t worry, I’ll be protected, it’ll be fun. You’ll be alright.” He kisses me on the cheek, “trust me.” He gently pulls me towards his car, and I do not resist.

I kinda wish I had paid someone else to write these scenes. Someone who had actually had a boyfriend. “We’ll use condoms” is totally a good pickup line….right?

There’s a section break, after which we see Holly head home to act like she’s totally been there all day. Her sister’s school must be like, a block away, because it only takes Jaimie ten minutes to walk home. This is unrealistic but sure, whatever.

Jaimie is having none of Holly’s “I’ve been here all day” nonsense. She grills Holly, who refuses to answer.

She sighs, “Holly, I’ll still love you. I’m not gonna yell at you.”

Holly doesn’t believe her, and reading this as an adult, I’m not sure I do either. Even though this is actually something real!Jaimie would have said. Whether or not it was true is something up for debate.

Book!Jaimie tells Holly that she is still praying for her.

Don’t waste your breath you pathetic fool! I want to shout it out so bad, but I can’t because tears are falling out of my eyes and my throat is getting tight. I bury my face in the pillow. I won’t let her see me cry.

Holly realizes that this is Jaimie’s way of reassuring Holly that she still loves her, and Holly accepts it for what it is. She is touched, but doesn’t want Jaimie to see that.

Jaimie gets up and walks out of the room. I feel so dirty, so unclean. So worthless and lost. Yet at the same time, a perverted kind of happiness, a feverish delight. But mainly, I feel like taking a gun and–

This is how I thought all girls who had sex felt like. Was teenage!me actually suicidal? Maybe. I don’t honestly recall. I could go look it up in my journals, but I don’t feel like doing that, so we will move on.

Over the next few weeks, my life grows worse. I continue stealing, skipping school, and hanging out with my boyfriend, though we haven’t been alone together since that one special afternoon!

You know, typical stock stuff rebellious teenagers do. Rebellious teenagers never go to school, and they never get caught for this because….. I don’t know. Oh and they have boyfriends. And they steal things. These are the things rebellious teenagers do.

God, Teenage!me was a rebellious teenager, and she still didn’t know how to write rebellious teenagers.

Teenage!me, what the FUCK is wrong with you?!

One day, my bubble is burst. I wake up, run into the bathroom, and start puking. A horrible thought occurs to me, but I shake it off. No, its the flu. Its been going around school…. but I haven’t been at school enough to… no, I can still catch it.

Sigh. I thought this was so subtle. I was saving the “big reveal” for the end of the chapter. If I roll my eyes any harder, my contacts are gonna fall out.

Every morning for the next week I continue to throw up every morning, and mom no longer believes that I’m sick, and I can see that I’m also beginning to loose her trust, which in itself makes me feel sick, but at the moment theres (sic) nothing I can do about it.

Is the parent in this story dense? If Holly is throwing up every morning, how has her mom not walked in on her at some point? Set that aside. If I thought my teenage daughter was faking an illness for an entire week, it would at least be time to threaten to take the daughter to a doctor in the hopes that she would confess.

At lunchtime, I sneak out of school and run to the nearest drug store. I find what I am looking for and slip it into my coat pocket. Then I buy some cough drops just to make it look like I came in there for something so I don’t look as suspicious.

This is why they keep pregnancy test kits behind the counter. This, right here. Also, totally not plagiarized from Saved.

“NO!!!!! God, no!!!!” I throw down the test strip and kick the wall. I burst into tears. I’m pregnant.

Couldn’t have seen that coming.

 

This chapter is BAD. And not in a good way. This is bad in an “oh god make it stop!” way. This, right here, is why teenage writing is usually not good. Teenagers aren’t really known for having a whole lot of life experience. Teenage!me hadn’t had her first boyfriend, had never had sex, and hadn’t actually been around a pregnant woman. Teenage!me did know how to use google, but wasn’t always even aware that she would need to google things.

Even as an adult, I would have trouble writing about a boyfriend. However, I think I know enough now that I could at least have a man and a woman develop a convincing enough platonic relationship. Which would probably still be shy of the mark, but at least it would be better than this cardboard cutout boyfriend that Holly has. Really, his only function in this story is to impregnate her. Teenage!me didn’t know what else you’d do with a boyfriend, so neither does Matt.

Matt, by the way, is the only character in this story who doesn’t have a real life counterpart. Make of that what you will.

This story makes me want to go to back in time and bash teenage!me’s head into a brick wall.

Up next, tune in to read about one of the most cringe worthy conversion scenes in all of SDA literature. It’s a conversion scene written by someone who’s never actually experienced a conversion, even though by this point I had left God at least twice and come back. So this time, there’s no excuse for the godawful writing we’re about to experience.

 

 

 

Now! P.130-The End

I meant to start this post earlier….but I got a little side tracked. I want to finish this book soon so we can get to the next one. Even though I’m enjoying Now!, I’m tired of being nice. So, we’re gonna play through the last few pages all in one post.

We left off with Book!Merikay in jail, being questioned by the Sunday Police. Book!Merikay is stubbornly holding onto her beliefs, but we don’t get to see why. We don’t even get to hear what questions they are asking her. I’ll chalk that one up to not wanting the story to get bogged down in theologies and move on.

Mostly.

They kept talking and asking questions and answering them and talking. It is terribly frustrating to be asked a question and not be allowed to answer.

I can see where that would be frustrating… honestly, I would treat this situation like I treated any other situation where a pastor started asking me questions: kept my head down and waited to see if he would answer himself. Usually he did quite often, and I figured if I didn’t have to talk, maybe they’d hurry up and pray with me in time to go to bed at a decent hour.

I kind of think Book!Merikay’s best defense in this situation would be just zoning out and refusing to answer. After all, if probation is closed, why bother answering? These people are already lost.

Book!Merikay says that what bothered her more than the questions were the fact that Elders Brown, Jenkins, and her mother aren’t trying to defend her.

Finally, Elder Jenkins comes up to Book!Merikay and tells her he thinks he knows where she made her mistake. Now, when I was a Christian, if someone told me they thought I was wrong about how I’d interpreted the Bible, I thought it was my Christian duty to hear them out with an open mind rather than stubbornly cling to things. But when I was a teenager, I’m pretty sure I’d have written the scene exactly as it is here, so, let’s move on.

“It’s hard to believe, I know… but when we have been shown new light…, and we have. We have had visions. I, myself, have had some. In these visions Jesus Himself has told me that the plan has been changed. He is going to perfect everyone here by means of the Sunday Law. And then no one, not one person, will be lost.”

Huh. Yanno, this actually makes God sound almost like the good guy. At least Jenkins’ God is trying to save everybody instead of sending a lot of them to hell.

Set that aside. It’s not important. What is important is that Teenage!Merikay, like all other End Times writers, is working from an end times prophecy check list. One of the things Adventists believe is on that check list is that lots of people will start having visions.

Here’s the relevent Bible Verse.

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.

Joel 2:28

Most believe Ellen White is the fulfillment of this particular end time check list item, and in Ellen White’s day it probably made a certain amount of sense for this to be on the end times checklist. In Ellen White’s day, date setting for the 2nd coming was pretty rampant. And what they don’t tell you in SDA history class is there were a lot of people having visions in Ellen White’s time period.

So that is why Elder Jenkins is having visions wherein God speaks to him.

Wow, typing all that out really makes me realize how crazy it all sounds. This sounds like one of those shitty stories I write at work and then leave lying around for people to laugh at.

Book!Merikay hears that Jenkins is having visions, and her heart breaks.

He believed it. He actually believed what he was saying.

I think this, here, is an important realization for teenagers everywhere. I think most of us, especially those raised Adventist, seem to think that all non Adventists don’t actually believe what they say. Everyone else knows in their hearts they’re wrong, after all.

I don’t want to speculate too heavily on Teenage!Merikay’s thought process, but I like to think that here, she showed that she understood that other people believe their non SDA beliefs with the same sincerity she believes in hers.

Anyway, Mr. Jenkins tells Book!Merikay that she is the one holding up the process.

“You are stopping Jesus from saving us all.”

Jenkins’ logic is that Sabbath Keepers are preventing Jesus from saving everyone because… I’m confused. If Sabbath Keepers don’t go to church on Sunday, then God has to send people to hell? I don’t think I was meant to read into this too closely. We’re not supposed to try to understand the other side’s logic…

I’m gonna chalk it up to the fact that this story was written in 2 days, and the last part probably didn’t get thought about nearly as well as the first. My own writing certainly suffers the same, so we will move on.

Next, Elder Brown gets up to speak. Book!Merikay wishes she were back at the other jail, where she could at least wonder if these 3 people were saved. Poor Book!Merikay. This is every SDA child’s worst nightmare.

His cold, empty stare was not kind. It was full of hate and meanness.

I included this here just so you could understand how black and white SDA teenagers tend to be. Adventists are kind and loving. Non Adventists, especially in the last days, are/will be mean and full of hate.

Elder Brown tells Book!Merikay that, while he can’t say for sure whether or not book!Merikay is saved, he knows she can’t be saved if she doesn’t change.

My God. He sounds like an Adventist!

This next paragraph is something only Academy students will understand. So, at Merikay and my Academy (we sort of went to the same school but not really.), there were designated days where you could walk to the nearby town. For us, I think it was that Girls could go to town on odd numbered days, and boys had the even numbers. Or something, I don’t really remember because there was nothing ever interesting in town, so I never really wanted to go.

(Also I found out a registered sex offender was living near the school along the route I took, and that pretty much ended my off campus excursions.)

Elder Brown tries to reason with Book!Merikay, saying that Book!Merikay probably believes she’s right about the whole Sabbath thing, but is actually wrong.

“Do you remember in school, the many times you got into trouble? Remember the time you went to town on boy’s day? You thought it was girl’s town day. You were positive you were right, remember? But when you were taken back to the dorm, you found out that you were all wrong. And you were punished. That’s the same way it is now. You think you are right, but really you are all wrong, and you will be punished someday very soon, if you don’t straighten up.”

I don’t know for sure if this incident actually happened. I could see it happening, but I could also see Teenage!Merikay making it.

(If you are wondering why boys and girls couldn’t go to town on the same day, ummm I honestly don’t have an answer to this one. Because sex could happen? I guess? At like, the taco bell?)

Elder Brown goes on to tell Book!Merikay that, in fact, Jesus has already made an appearance on our little planet. We know it wasn’t a fake Jesus because, instead of coming to a big city where lots of people would see him, he came to Grand Ledge Academy.

Wait a second…. seriously? How long has this Sunday Law been in effect? Months, right? In a country where Sunday Worship is mandatory, Saturday Worship punishable by death, and Seventh Day Adventism in and of itself illegal WHY WOULD GRAND LEDGE ACADEMY STILL BE OPEN? Why would anyone be there? If Jesus did show up, the place would be abandoned, because Adventism is illegal now, so the boarding schools would likely be shut down.

But wait just another second…. it’s summer. Early fall at the absolute latest. Was Grand Ledge Academy even open in the summer? Because, um, my Academy was only open for like, 2 or 3 events during the summer.

I’m just saying, Jesus picked a poor time and place to show up. There might be some year round staff for him to talk to…. but in a world where Adventism is illegal, the smartest of these will have gone underground.

But, you know, this isn’t necessarily Teenage!Merikay’s fault. A lot of end times writers struggle with keeping a consistent timeline. See also: Left Behind. And ok, my book wasn’t really much better.

Also, with the whole “every eye shall see him” requirement, wouldn’t it make more sense for a real Jesus to come to a large city?

In any case, “Jesus” came to GLA to congratulate all the teachers for having taught students the truth. Fake Jesus said GLA was a holy spot on planet earth….

Even Book!Merikay thinks this sounds crazy. She wonders how “Jenkins” could be so senseless.

We get a few more paragraphs of Book!Merikay being disappointed in her 2 mentors, before this happens.

It is debatable how well Teenage!Merikay handled what comes next. I give her a lot of points for even bringing it up.

Mother walked over to me…. with a mean, hate filled look, she hurled the words at me. “They killed your father last week. They killed him because of you and your crazy ideas…You’re a crazy fanatic. You killed your father. You are the one, just as surely as those men who shot him.” For a moment she just stood there, quivering with rage.

Wow. I mean, how do you even react to something like that?

We can forgive Book!Merikay because this has happened off screen and she didn’t know about it. No one has told Book!Merikay, “convert or we’ll shoot your father.” She didn’t have a chance to think about it, which, when writing a story, is probably the best choice you could have made if you had to bring it up at all.

So, points to Teenage!Merikay, that part is handled well.

This does bring up the question: What do you do if you the Sunday Police point the gun at someone else? Maybe teenage!Merikay really didn’t know how to answer that question, so she took the safest route by having it already happen. By avoiding having her main character not have to make that choice, by having it already made for her, teenage!Merikay dodged having to answer.

Which, when you consider the audience, was probably for the best.

Now, do I think Book!Merikay’s Book!Mom’s anger is justified? No. The ridiculous Sunday Police are responsible for her husband’s death.

However, if someone pointed a gun at my child and said, “deny Jesus or I’ll shoot?” It is my moral obligation to say whatever it takes to make him point that thing somewhere else. Jesus, if he exists, would understand. (I am aware that Gun Toting Idiot would probably shoot anyway, but at least you could say you tried.)

Book!Merikay cries for a bit about all the people who are going to be lost. I feel some sympathy here. It’s hard to find out your loved ones are doomed to perish in a lake of fire. Even if it’s not true, you’re likely to believe it is if you were raised in this environment.

The judge glares at Book!Merikay. He tells her they’ve given her way more time to de-convert than necessary. He says he has evidence that Book!Merikay has spoken out against the government.

He read off several of the charges as well as statements I had made against the government. I was surprised at all the things I had said, but even more surprised at the way people could remember what I had said.

It’s not clear here if Book!Merikay actually ever said the things the judge says she said, or if her book!friends just made shit up.

The judge says he is willing to let Book!Merikay go if she confesses and promises “to go straight after this.”

Which makes me snicker.

“Elder Brown” offers book!Merikay a scholarship to a Bible college, the exact courses she wants, a position on the church’s officer club (whatever that is) and the opportunity to go on various mission trips.

Book!Merikay responds thusly:

“I am happy to say that I cannot agree to abide by any law which is not sanctioned or upheld by the truths of the Bible.” I looked at him unafraid.

Fun fact: Real!Merikay did actually go on to challenge laws. Some even believed the laws she challenged are upheld by the Bible. I may choose to discuss that book on here, but frankly I just get really stabby every time I read about the case.*

“But I told you the Bible is no longer in effect!” Elder Jenkins yelled. “Can’t you see what you’re doing, you little fool? You’re stopping Jesus from saving us all.”

Book!Merikay goes on to say that Jesus never changes, and is sentenced to death by electric chair. I actually looked up popular execution methods in the 1960s. It seems that the electric chair was just as popular as the gas chamber. Lethal injections weren’t legalized for at least another decade.

As they leave the room, Elders Jenkins and Brown say something nasty, and Book!Merikay’s Book!Mom “flashed hate” as she tells her daughter she deserves the death penalty.

Book!Merikay is taken to a holding cell, and she frets more over whether or not she has some sin she forgot to confess to. I’ve already talked about how some debate how biblical this is (or isn’t), and how we all experienced this anxiety at some point.

Was it my fault that Father had been killed? Was I responsible?

Book!Merikay brings this up, then never answers the question. I can forgive her, because teenage!Merikay probably didn’t want to think about it too much. Remember, Teenage!Merikay knew she was writing fiction, but she also thought she was writing historical fiction. Future fiction? We need a new word for “people who write about future events as though they were history.”

Death wouldn’t be half so terrifying if I could be sure that I was prepared to meet my Lord.

I am an atheist, and I still feel like this. Does the fear of hell ever really go away?

Book!Merikay is taken to the execution chamber, fastened into the chair, and has electrodes placed on her head. The man puts his hand on the kill switch.

Wait, they let the dying see who’s pulling the switch?

Book!Merikay understandably freaks out. Then the person pulling the switch does something I’m pretty sure was never allowed: He speaks to Book!Merikay. He tells her he will give her one final chance to convert to the Sunday Religion.

And then Jesus comes.

Seriously S, what did you think was going to happen in the end?

A low rumble–and suddenly there was a terrific shaking. The lights went out. Everyone was screaming. the building reeled back and forth. The floor raised and lowered. the straps holding me broke. I ran from the chair. Windows were breaking. Thunder, terrible thunder, was cracking all around us.

I’m afraid of thunder too. It’s a thing, even though it’s an irrational thing.

“The End of the world! The end of the world!” People screamed. “We are all going to be killed! We’re lost! Lost! Lost!”

Cringe.

Suddenly, Book!Merikay’s anxiety about being saved is gone.

Everywhere people were running, trampling one another, killing each other–anything to escape the light. The beautiful light!

End times prophecy checklist item: check.

In any case, people are killing themselves, there’s earthquakes, fire and chaos, bla bla bla. The main point is, Jesus is here, and Book!Merikay is ecstatic, to the point where she can’t remember all her previous hardships. She is going home. To her real home, that is.

And then Jesus raises the dead, and there’s a bunch of angels, and it’s revealed that Tom is Book!Merikay’s guardian angel (no shit). And there’s Book!Pat and the Coopers and Book!Merikay and Teenage!Merikay’s excitement are one and the same.

Jesus looked at us as we came to Him. He looked at me with the most wonderful, love filled look I had ever received. And then He smiled. His smile was so beautiful, so glorious. He had come, and I was happy–happy everything had happened…. NOW!

Closing thoughts:

When I was 17, I thought this book was terrible, horrible, and had absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. But hey, as long as chaplain Buttbone was reading it to us, it meant we didn’t have to do any actual work, so, thanks Merikay!

As an adult who has read a lot of other terrible books over the years, this one’s actually not so bad.

For what it was originally: a story written for Merikay’s bible teacher to demonstrate what she had learned, this is fantastic. Merikay shows some real talent here.

Does that mean I think this book should have been published? No. It’s a great piece of teenage writing, but it’s still not great writing. At the very least, this book should have gone through an extremely rigorous editing process. I know it was edited before publication, and I know that the edition I have now is not the edited one. However, it really does sound like all the editors ever did to this book was shorten it. And that alone wouldn’t make this book a better story.

There is an afterward in the kindle edition, where Adult!Merikay talks about how she came to write this book and why. I know I touched on it briefly when I compared backstories, but I’d like to go over it a bit again now. Or at least, I’d like to pull out some things I found interesting:

My lifelong best friend, Name, was a Roman Catholic. It always hurt me deeply when Adventists bad mouthed Catholics (Which was almost all the time). Because I knew and loved Name and her family, I knew that the cruel, judgmental statements made about Catholics were wrong.

Adventists bad mouth Catholics for a lot of reasons. The short version is that the Catholics are going to be responsible, somehow, for Sunday Laws. It is interesting to me that, even as Teenage!Merikay was writing this story, she knew that most Catholics aren’t bad guys.

Adult!Merikay talks about how it felt to go to Academy, how she had a sense of belonging there that I barely experienced. In Bible class her 2nd year of Academy, The Great Controversy was apparently the only book that class discussed throughout the entire semester.

Yikes. I don’t think I ever had anything that intense. Maybe if I had, I would have been able to accept it.

Adult!Merikay breaks from the description of bible class to tell us that she learned about writing by reading the normal books her family had. In particular she mentions the Little House Books, Lucy M Montgomery, and some other authors I don’t recognize. Basically, teenage!Merikay could only write as well as she did because she was allowed to read real books growing up.

Teenage!Merikay and I have something in common.

Adult!Merikay then goes on to describe the hype she got caught up in as her Bible Class studied the GC. Adult!Merikay tells us that this was on her teenage mind a lot. Another thing she and I had in common.

One Bible class period near the end of the semester, our teacher said, “we’re nearing the end of the events leading up to Christ’s Second Advent.”

It is unclear whether the teacher was talking about what they were reading in The Great Controversy, or whether he actually thought that, in 1964, the end time events were happening right now. The wording isn’t clear, and it could be taken either way.

“Now I want you to take what you know and write a story about the end of time. It must be realistic, based on our class studies, and I want you to put yourself in it.”

I have a non SDA friend who reads these posts, on occasion. You should hear her opinion on just how realistic the plots of Now! and Parable of the Sower are.

Teenage!Merikay and I have in common that we are the protagonists of our own stories. Though in her case that was at least required. My excuse was that I honestly didn’t (and still don’t) know how to write characters who aren’t me.

Adult!Merikay tells us that Now! was 40 pages typed. Mine ended up being 50, and not double spaced.

Adult Merikay tells us that her bible teacher liked her story so much, he read it to the school, and the kids loved it.

I have to confess to a small point of jealousy here. No one at academy noticed anything *I* wrote. Of course looking back that’s arguably a good thing.

Adult!Merikay tells us that her teenage self was thrilled with the attention–and who wouldn’t be? And let’s be honest. Imperfect as Now! was, it’s loads better than a lot of Adventist books I’ve read by grown ass women.

I was thrilled that people liked my story….  And, like all good stories, when all was lost and the girl was about to be killed, the hero of the tale–Jesus Christ–saved the day, giving “NOW!” its happy ending.

This is how Adventists think a good story ends. The rest of the world, at least at this time, tends to like stories about characters who can problem solve on their own, rather than wait and rely on some God to do it for them. Adult!Merikay’s note here is indicative of the way she and the other adults of her time period thought. It’s possible they all still think this way, I don’t know.

Adult!Merikay goes on to talk about how an evangelist who’s name I don’t recognize noticed it, and asked her to edit it for publication.

He asked me to condense “Now!” due to budget constraints. So I spent a couple of weeks condensing the story and changing the names of the characters.

I am nearly positive that the pamphlet Chaplain Buttbone read to us in Bible class had the original names. I don’t think we were read the condensed version, but I could be wrong.

Either way, a couple of weeks isn’t really enough editing to make that story publishable, and I think it’s actually kind of odd that they would ask her to shorten it when most novels are much longer than 40 typed pages.

That first draft….fresh and complete (no editing at all), is the same story that is published here.

Noted.

I hope you find it both entertaining and inspiring.

Well, it certainly has been a good book to blog about. Yes, I mainly read it for the snark factor, but except for certain parts that fortunately were few and far between, I didn’t hate this book. It also brought up the opportunity to have some discussions, not just with my secret underground group of X SDAs (Hi guys!) but with my secular friend (Hi, S.) I think it’s helped my secular friend understand a little more about how totally fucked up my childhood was. (I tried to explain it to her, but I was very very drunk at the time and she probably thought I was just telling weird stories.)

In conclusion, I found Now!…. readable.

That’s the closest thing you’re gonna get to a compliment from me, Merikay, if you’re reading this. You’re welcome.

 

 

 

*https://www.amazon.com/Betrayal-Shattering-Discrimination-Publishing-Association/dp/0961423005/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483494290&sr=8-1&keywords=Merikay+Silver

Let me know if you’d be interested in reading about it.

 

 

 

Wacky White Wensday #3: The Death and Resurrection of Moses

Yes, you read that right. No, it was not an error. I really am writing about Moses. Seventh Day Adventists believe that, after God killed Moses, he resurrected him.

This is because of  a combination of factors, but the one we’re going to discuss today is Ellen White’s writings.

I quote here from Patriarchs and Prophets chapter 43.

God has just told Moses to go up to Mt. Nebo, because that is where God has decided he is going to kill Moses. Moses, if you recall, is not allowed to enter the promised land with the Israelites because there was an incident in the desert a while back involving a rock and a stick.

So he’s on top of Mt. Nebo, looking out at the land he won’t be allowed to enter.

And then God grants him a vision:

I have bolded the parts I think are relevant, however, I did not want to present them without any context. I probably quoted more than I needed to, but meh.

And now a panoramic view of the Land of Promise was presented to him. Every part of the country was spread out before him, not faint and uncertain in the dim distance, but standing out clear, distinct, and beautiful to his delighted vision. In this scene it was presented, not as it then appeared, but as it would become, with God’s blessing upon it, in the possession of Israel. He seemed to be looking upon a second Eden. …. It was indeed such a land as Moses, inspired by the Spirit of God, had described to Israel: “Blessed.”

……..

 

Moses saw the chosen people established in Canaan, each of the tribes in its own possession. He had a view of their history after the settlement of the Promised Land; the long, sad story of their apostasy and its punishment was spread out before him. He saw them, because of their sins, dispersed among the heathen, the glory departed from Israel, her beautiful city in ruins, and her people captives in strange lands. He saw them restored to the land of their fathers, and at last brought under the dominion of Rome.

He was permitted to look down the stream of time and behold the first advent of our Saviour. He saw Jesus as a babe in Bethlehem. He heard the voices of the angelic host break forth in the glad song of praise to God and peace on earth. He beheld in the heavens the star guiding the Wise Men of the East to Jesus, and a great light flooded his mind as he called those prophetic words, “There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel.” Numbers 24:17. He beheld Christ’s humble life in Nazareth, His ministry of love and sympathy and healing, His rejection by a proud, unbelieving nation. Amazed he listened to their boastful exaltation of the law of God, while they despised and rejected Him by whom the law was given. He saw Jesus upon Olivet as with weeping He bade farewell to the city of His love. As Moses beheld the final rejection of that people so highly blessed of Heaven–that people for whom he had toiled and prayed and sacrificed, for whom he had been willing that his own name should be blotted from the book of life; as he listened to those fearful words, “Behold your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:38), his heart was wrung with anguish, and bitter tears fell from his eyes, in sympathy with the sorrow of the Son of God.

He followed the Saviour to Gethsemane, and beheld the agony in the garden, the betrayal, the mockery and scourging–the crucifixion. Moses saw that as he had lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of God must be lifted up, that whosoever would believe on Him “should not perish, but have eternal

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life.” John 3:15. Grief, indignation, and horror filled the heart of Moses as he viewed the hypocrisy and satanic hatred manifested by the Jewish nation against their Redeemer, the mighty Angel who had gone before their fathers. He heard Christ’s agonizing cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34. He saw Him lying in Joseph’s new tomb. The darkness of hopeless despair seemed to enshroud the world. But he looked again, and beheld Him coming forth a conqueror, and ascending to heaven escorted by adoring angels and leading a multitude of captives. He saw the shining gates open to receive Him, and the host of heaven with songs of triumph welcoming their Commander. And it was there revealed to him that he himself would be one who should attend the Saviour, and open to Him the everlasting gates. As he looked upon the scene, his countenance shone with a holy radiance. How small appeared the trials and sacrifices of his life when compared with those of the Son of God! how light in contrast with the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”! 2 Corinthians 4:17. He rejoiced that he had been permitted, even in a small measure, to be a partaker in the sufferings of Christ.

Moses beheld the disciples of Jesus as they went forth to carry His gospel to the world. He saw that though the people of Israel “according to the flesh” had failed of the high destiny to which God had called them, in their unbelief had failed to become the light of the world, though they had despised God’s mercy and forfeited their blessings as His chosen people–yet God had not cast off the seed of Abraham; the glorious purposes which He had undertaken to accomplish through Israel were to be fulfilled. All who through Christ should become the children of faith were to be counted as Abraham’s seed; they were inheritors of the covenant promises; like Abraham, they were called to guard and to make known to the world the law of God and the gospel of His Son. Moses saw the light of the gospel shining out through the disciples of Jesus to them “which sat in darkness” (Matthew 4:16), and thousands from the lands of the Gentiles flocking to the brightness of its rising. And beholding, he rejoiced in the increase and prosperity of Israel.

And now another scene passed before him. He had been shown the work of Satan in leading the Jews to reject Christ, while they professed to honor His Father’s law. He now saw the

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Christian world under a similar deception in professing to accept Christ while they rejected God’s law. He had heard from the priests and elders the frenzied cry, “Away with Him!” “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” and now he heard from professedly Christian teachers the cry, “Away with the law!” He saw the Sabbath trodden under foot, and a spurious institution established in its place. Again Moses was filled with astonishment and horror. How could those who believed in Christ reject the law spoken by His own voice upon the sacred mount? How could any that feared God set aside the law which is the foundation of His government in heaven and earth? With joy Moses saw the law of God still honored and exalted by a faithful few. He saw the last great struggle of earthly powers to destroy those who keep God’s law. He looked forward to the time when God shall arise to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and those who have feared His name shall be covered and hid in the day of His anger. He heard God’s covenant of peace with those who have kept His law, as He utters His voice from His holy habitation and the heavens and the earth do shake. He saw the second coming of Christ in glory, the righteous dead raised to immortal life, and the living saints translated without seeing death, and together ascending with songs of gladness to the City of God.

Still another scene opens to his view–the earth freed from the curse, lovelier than the fair Land of Promise so lately spread out before him. There is no sin, and death cannot enter. There the nations of the saved find their eternal home. With joy unutterable Moses looks upon the scene–the fulfillment of a more glorious deliverance than his brightest hopes have ever pictured. Their earthly wanderings forever past, the Israel of God have at last entered the goodly land.

Again the vision faded, and his eyes rested upon the land of Canaan as it spread out in the distance. Then, like a tired warrior, he lay down to rest. “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulcher.” Many who had been unwilling to heed the counsels of Moses while he was with them would have been in danger of committing idolatry

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over his dead body had they known the place of his burial. For this reason it was concealed from men. But angels of God buried the body of His faithful servant and watched over the lonely grave.

……….

Had not the life of Moses been marred with that one sin, in failing to give God the glory of bringing water from the rock at Kadesh, he would have entered the Promised Land, and would have been translated to heaven without seeing death. But he was not long to remain in the tomb. Christ Himself, with the angels who had buried Moses, came down from heaven to call forth the sleeping saint. Satan had exulted at his success in causing Moses to sin against God, and thus come under the dominion of death. The great adversary declared that the divine sentence–“Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19)–gave him possession of the dead. The power of the grave had never been broken, and all who were in the tomb he claimed as his captives, never to be released from his dark prison house.

For the first time Christ was about to give life to the dead. As the Prince of life and the shining ones approached the grave, Satan was alarmed for his supremacy. With his evil angels he stood to dispute an invasion of the territory that he claimed as his own. He boasted that the servant of God had become his prisoner. He declared that even Moses was not able to keep the law of God; that he had taken to himself the glory due to Jehovah–the very sin which had caused Satan’s banishment from heaven–and by transgression had come under the dominion of Satan. The archtraitor reiterated the original charges that he had made against the divine government, and repeated his complaints of God’s injustice toward him.

Christ did not stoop to enter into controversy with Satan. He might have brought against him the cruel work which his deceptions had wrought in heaven, causing the ruin of a vast number of its inhabitants. He might have pointed to the falsehoods told

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in Eden, that had led to Adam’s sin and brought death upon the human race. He might have reminded Satan that it was his own work in tempting Israel to murmuring and rebellion, which had wearied the long-suffering patience of their leader, and in an unguarded moment had surprised him into the sin for which he had fallen under the power of death. But Christ referred all to His Father, saying, “The Lord rebuke thee.” Jude 9. The Saviour entered into no dispute with His adversary, but He then and there began His work of breaking the power of the fallen foe, and bringing the dead to life. Here was an evidence that Satan could not controvert, of the supremacy of the Son of God. The resurrection was forever made certain. Satan was despoiled of his prey; the righteous dead would live again.

In consequence of sin Moses had come under the power of Satan. In his own merits he was death’s lawful captive; but he was raised to immortal life, holding his title in the name of the Redeemer. Moses came forth from the tomb glorified, and ascended with his Deliverer to the City of God.

Never, till exemplified in the sacrifice of Christ, were the justice and the love of God more strikingly displayed than in His dealings with Moses. God shut Moses out of Canaan, to teach a lesson which should never be forgotten–that He requires exact obedience, and that men are to beware of taking to themselves the glory which is due to their Maker. He could not grant the prayer of Moses that he might share the inheritance of Israel, but He did not forget or forsake His servant. The God of heaven understood the suffering that Moses had endured; He had noted every act of faithful service through those long years of conflict and trial. On the top of Pisgah, God called Moses to an inheritance infinitely more glorious than the earthly Canaan.

 

In Which I Am Angry

June 19, 2012

If the Lord ever calls me back to canvassing (and he better not, because I still REALLY dislike this) he’d better find an adults only program because I am SICK TO DEATH of being treated like a fuckin child. I am 23 for God’s sake. I worked hard to GET to 23. Do ya’ll know how hard I worked to live this long? Do ya’ll know how hard it was just for me to make it to adulthood? Do any of you know how many times I tried to kill myself?

Do any of you know that I wish sometimes all the time that I had succeeded?

No worries, I’m not going to try again now, because that would piss off God, and a pissed off God doesn’t let the pisser offer into heaven. so.

***

This was written 5 years ago. Part of me is surprised I’ve had the blog this long. It’s funny. I thought I was so grown up at 23. I still don’t think it was right of them to treat me like a child, but god, I was still a baby.

I post this mostly to get it out of my drafts folder, but also to show how angry I was during the canvassing program. I didn’t dare post this because I was afraid the leaders would read it and get the wrong idea. I was not, at this time, actually suicidal.

It’s been 5 years since I wrote this. 5 short years and nearly everything has changed.

The way I was treated in the canvassing program wasn’t the only reason I was angry. Part of the reason was that I was losing my faith, and I didn’t really realize that that was what was happening.

Fortunately (sort of) for me, they kept us so busy in the canvassing program that I didn’t have time to think. (That was another reason I was angry, btw. I never had any alone time, no “me” time.) Once I did start to think at the end of the canvassing program…..whoooooooo boy, that was the end.

This has been our blast from the past. Tune in next time for….nothing, because this was the only sober post in my drafts folder.

 

A Mountain To Climb Intro and Chapter 1

Generously donated by a Redditor, our new book is called A Mountain To Climb.

This book was written by Eva Maxson. A thorough google search shows that she was a missionary in South America at some point. Maxson wrote a letter to the editor stating that even though the Review often came late, it was still relevant. She is listed as being from Honduras. Maxson also wrote a little devotional story in These Times, October 1952. It’s not particularly relevant, but those 2 things are the only things I’ve been able to find out about her.

This book is supposed to be a true story. I could believe that it is based on one, at the very least.

There’s a little disclaimer in the front that I’d like to point out:

This book is part of the Pacific Press Heritage Project, a plan to republish classic books from our historical archives and to make valuable books available once more. The content of this book is presented as it was originally published and should be read with its original publication date in mind.

A little below that are the words:

Originally published in 1976.

You know what, fair enough.

I spent a lot of time complaining about OBAM and OBAW being republished with a new publication date slapped on it without any disclaimer that this might be outdated information. You will not see me complain about that here, because the disclaimer exists.

However, despite the fact that this was originally published in 1976, the story itself actually takes place in the 1930s. The year 1937 is mentioned, but we don’t get to find that out until 3/4 of the way through the book, and so I will take the disclaimer at its word and judge it from the perspective of the 1970s.

That being said, the 1970s had their problems, and we will be pointing them out. The book does not get a free pass just because it’s “historical.” Frankly, I’m not even sure why this book got republished. Was this one particularly popular? If it was, why have I only just now heard of it? Can’t they write new books?

 

Chapter 1

Not A Drop More

Right off the bat we come to some weird ass shit:

The sun was just streaming over the Maracai-boan hills when Pearl Lindsay’s mother entered the bedroom, carrying a glass of warm blood.

“Pearl,” she called a bit sharply, “here’s your morning cocktail.”

Whoa whoa whoa whoa wait. Slow down. Blood? The author of this book is aware that it’s the Bloody Mary that is a morning cocktail, right? Not actual blood?

Pearl drinks the blood (bloody Mary?), and afterwards her mother says she thinks she and Pearl should leave. Pearl asks her mother if she’s gone mad, but her mother is serious. Pearl’s mother refers to her as “child.”

It irked Pearl to be called a child when she was all of 21.

I like this. It tells us Pearl’s age in a way that doesn’t feel clunky and forced. If the author of this book had not grown up Adventist, she probably would have made at least a half decent writer.

“Now look, Pearl, you know you aren’t getting much better. After all this horrible blood you’ve been drinking every morning, your anemia has barely improved. I think we should go back to Barbados.”

So, it is confirmed that it is actual blood Pearl is drinking, not just a Bloody Mary.

Here’s the thing. I googled this shit. I can not find anything about anyone prescribing a glass of blood every day for anemia. Not in the 1930s and not even in the 1930s in South America. Certainly it would not have been a think in 1976 when this was published.

Now, that might not mean much. There might be something I’m just not finding… but I think whoever Pearl and her mother saw was a quack, even by 1930s standards.

Pearl’s mother tells her that her health is the most important thing, and being here, wherever here is, isn’t helping. She leaves the room, and Pearl thinks about it.

Leave Maracaibo! Leave her job as a bilingual secretary? Leave the boss who was so kind to her?….

Is there a reason Pearl has to leave Maracaibo? I mean, yes, she needs to stop drinking blood, but is there a particular reason that in order to do so she has to leave Maracaibo? She has a decent job, a good boss, and lots of friends.

She thought of the good times she and the other girls had had, especially the dances in this very house where they would roll up the carpet, turn on the gramophone, and dance until they were all danced out.

Ouch. Poor Pearl. She is going to have to give that up if she converts.

The lovely clothes she had been able to buy with her ample salary…

If Pearl has such an ample salary, can’t she just like, stop drinking blood and go to a real doctor, all without leaving Maracaibo?

I mean, these are all very good reasons not to leave.

She hated that medicine. She didn’t want to swallow another drop ever. She remembered how horrified she had been when the doctor ordered her to drink a glass of warm blood from a freshly killed animal every morning.

Well, that answered my other burning question about the, er, morning cocktail.

Pearl decides that her mother is right, but isn’t sure they should go to Barbados. It’s where she and her mother used to live, and she reminisces a bit about her old home. I like this. It tells us where Pearl is from and it’s not too horribly clunky. If the rest of this book wasn’t so shitty, I’d think of filing this in the “not so bad” category.

Pearl puts on clothes and goes down to breakfast. She sees her mother cooking, ponders for a bit about how good her mother is, and then asks her mother when they leave.

“Just as soon as we can make proper arrangements,” her mother said.

And with Alwilda Lindsay’s efficiency, arrangements were soon made. 2 weeks later, as the boat pulled out of the harbor, Pearl and her mother stood side by side on the deck.

“It’s been a happy 8 years, hasn’t it?”

This….isn’t too bad. It tells us that they have been in Maracaibo for 8 years… but holy heck, Pearl’s been drinking blood every day for the last 8 years??? It took them that long to notice she wasn’t getting better?

We still do not get an explanation of why it was necessary for Pearl and her mother to move to Barbados in order to stop drinking blood.

I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.

Pearl’s mother says she’ll miss her friends, “especially those of the church.” This is clunky, and I’m not sure what it means exactly. Which church? I thought at first it must be an Adventist church, but Pearl and her mom don’t meet up with the Adventists until much much later.

Pearl and her mother talk a little bit about how God has always taken care of them, and only he knows what lies ahead.

“One thing I’m sure of,” says Pearl’s mother.  “You’ll get over this anemia.”

Which isn’t a terrible place to end a chapter. I mean, this is sort of a cliffhanger. Will Pearl find a competent doctor who can prescribe some kind of iron for her? Will Pearl and her mother fit back in in their Barbados home?

We’ll find out next time.

 

Parable of the Sower: Explanation and Chapter 1

January 14, 2016

Alright. I have decided to critique my own story. Without alcohol. Deity help me, let’s see how this goes. Please forgive me for any mistakes I may have made. It is hard enough to do this sober, so I really don’t want to do a whole lot of editing.

With all the other authors I talk about on here, I have the slight disadvantage of not being able to read their minds. I don’t necessarily know what was going through their head when they wrote their books, and can only guess.

The advantage of critiquing my own story is that, to an extent, I do know what was going through my head when I wrote it. However, this was written many years ago, and I may not remember things perfectly.

I’m pretty sure this is going to come up, so I’d like to address it now. Some may ask, “what’s up with the Satanism? Was that what teenage!You thought non Christians did? Did you just think all non Christians were Satanists?”

The short answer: No…. but yes.

Allow me a longer explanation.

You see, Adventist children are told that everyone not actively worshiping God is worshiping Satan. Not overtly, but unknowingly. Because everyone has to worship someone, and if you do not choose Christ, you automatically choose Satan, even if you don’t think you do. That is what Adventist children, and possibly mainstream Christian children, are told.

I reasoned that I was not going to be like the majority of people, who worshiped Satan unknowingly, thinking they worshiped no one. I was not going to deceive myself. If I ever decided to not worship God, I was going to go worship Satan. Because Satan was my only other choice, and if I was going to do it, I was going to do it overtly and honestly.

And so I researched Satanism. I wanted to know what the alternative to God was. When people asked, I told them it was for a story I was writing. That was my excuse for practically everything I read, if anybody asked me any questions. I thought it was very clever of me.

That is what was going through my head at the time I made the main character a Satanist.

My Academy years (High School) are hard to forget, not that that’s stopped me from trying. One of the ways Academy was a defining period in my life is that this was the time I was learning what it really meant to be an Adventist.

Because, despite the fact that I’d gone to Adventist schools all my life, I managed to remain blissfully unaware that there were huge differences between Adventism and the rest of Christianity. I had some idea that we were different, of course, because the Sabbath is kinda hard to miss. But things like State of the Dead, the exact nature of end time events, and exactly what is the meaning of the number 666 were still sources of confusion to me.

All that came to a screeching halt my freshman year of Academy. Learning that going to church on Sunday was the mark of the beast was something so traumatic that I can remember exactly where I was, who I was talking to, and what I was wearing.

Immediately, I set about researching the mark of the beast. This couldn’t possibly be right. Could it?

And thus, Parable of the Sower was born. It was my excuse to myself for needing to ask these questions. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand, I told people. I just needed to know for a story I was writing.

Teenage!Merikay wrote Now! to demonstrate what she’d learned. I wrote Parable of the Sower in a vain attempt to convince myself that all of this was true.

In the end, I did not succeed. In the end, I needed a present for people, and here the book was. I included the bits about Satanism because I always kind of figured that that was just what I would do if I ever turned away from Christianity.

Academy was a real struggle as far as my faith was concerned.

I shared this story with my friends, most of whom loved it. One friend even shared it with her father, to my horror. Her father said it was well done and that I was a good writer.

That’s right folks: A grown ass man looked at this story and decided it was good writing. Out of respect for my ex best friend, in case she is still reading this, I will not speculate as to why.

With that out of the way (for now), let us begin our analysis.

The story begins with the main character, Holly, sneaking out of church to go to the mall, a scenario I used to imagine quite frequently despite the fact that, of all the SDA churches I’ve ever been to, only one is actually close to a mall.

It isn’t easy to run in 3 inches of snow, not to mention the thick coat, boots, backpack, but I have to run. I have to get there. I reach the ally behind the church and duck behind a statue of Jesus on the cross. I open my backpack, yank out a long black velvet skirt and shove it on over my baggy black cargo pants. I drag out a pair of heels from the backpack, zip it up, and, running barefoot through the icy snow, shove the backpack in the trunk of the car, run up the steps to the church, stopping briefly at the door to put on the heels, open the door and head for the bathroom. I take a few minutes to catch my breath, then I open the stall door –only to bump into Jaimie, my sister.

I thought this was so cool when I wrote it. Bad girl changing to Good girl in 5 seconds flat. This was what I aspired to be… except Holly isn’t slick. She gets caught by her sister, Jaimie.

Jaimie is a real person. Of course that is not her real name. Nobody in this story has a real name. Half the fun of writing this was that people got to try and figure out who the fuck they were.

Jaimie confronts Holly about skipping church, and tells her she won’t tell her what the sermon was about. I forgot to work this in, but it is important for Holly to know what the sermon was about because this is what her mom will ask her about later in order to find out if Holly has been a good little Adventist and paid attention.

This was never my real life experience. I was quite open with my parents, and told them exactly how I felt having to sit through long, boring sermons. Sabbath School was ok, but most children aren’t too fond of just sitting there listening to one person monologue for 45 minutes. Or longer….

Holly quickly finds her trusty friend Renee, who informs Holly that the sermon was about the Parable of the Sower. Here’s the relevant chapter from the Bible.

“The parable of the sower, darling. The soil in the story represents the soil in our hearts, and the seeds represent the gospel. The seeds land in our hearts, and no matter how hard and crusty the soil is, if we let him, Jesus can make him grow.” Renee looks at me piercingly.

I don’t particularly recall, this might have been something that someone actually preached at some point. Or maybe something I read about in a book, or a student talked about in a devotional….

I did not come up with this by myself.

Spanish music CDs, French and German learning CDs, books on new age, and, of course, a satanic bible!!!! I continue pulling out junk until I see my sister come out. I quickly shove my backpack under the seat and yank down my skirt.

I never did actually have the courage to shoplift….any of that, actually. But I do have a copy of the Satanic Bible. It’s… actually not that bad. Maybe we’ll analyze it on the blog someday.

“Holly.” I still won’t look at her. “I still love you.” I sigh. Unbidden, a tear falls down my cheek. I wipe my eye and force the rest of them down. I will not let these Adventists win me back. I will never forgive them for what they’ve done to me. And I will never forgive my sister for abandoning me.

What am I referring to? I have no idea. I have the feeling that I was trying to create some backstory for Holly…and then I never did. I may have had some clue what this was about when I was 16, but I don’t anymore.

I think I was referring to a (very brief) point Sophomore year when, upon learning that I was questioning Adventism, I suddenly found out I had a lot less friends than I used to.

I have since gone back and talked to the person referred to in this story as “Renee.” She shared with me that the reason she didn’t speak much to me at that time had nothing to do with me personally, but with some personal stuff she was going through at the time.

Obviously that is only one person out of like 5. However, it does indicate that it may not have been that my friends suddenly stopped speaking to me because I was questioning Adventism. It may have just been really sucky timing. But teenage!Me didn’t know that. I think Teenage!Me was still a little hurt when she wrote that.

Anyway, Holly and “Jaimie” have a cringe inducing conversation about how Jesus still loves her and so does Jaimie. Holly refuses to believe either one of these statements, and clams up.

“Holly, how about this; I’ll listen to you about…. whatever you believe, and I won’t interrupt and contradict with what I believe or argue with you.”

“Whats the catch?”

Yeah, I wouldn’t believe that either.

Jaimie silently prays as she speaks, “if you’ll do the same for me.”

One of the things I needed to learn as a writer was that, when writing in first person, you don’t get to be able to say things like this. The narrator can be omniscient, you can not.

Teenage!Me enjoyed first person, because she felt it was necessary to get to know her characters. Teenage!Me did this even though she clearly wanted the narrator to know stuff Holly has no way of knowing.

In any case, I don’t see why Holly would need to hear from Jaimie. They’re sisters. They’ve both been raised in the same religion. Holly would have grown up already knowing the things Jaimie is going to say.

Well, maybe not. Because somehow I managed to miss this stuff, despite having had Bible studies before I was baptized, sooooo maybe it’s not so unrealistic.

Don’t do it. Don’t do it. She doesn’t really love you. She just wants you to be a Seventh day Adventist!

My teenage self was a shitty writer, but teenage!me was kind of intelligent. Because this is spot on. Not because the real “Jaimie” was like this. I think the real life “Jaimie” did love me, in her own way. But a lot of SDAs do think like this.

In any case, Holly agrees to this clearly rigged deal, and the mom comes up, and conversation ceases.

In case anyone was wondering, no. The mother in this story is not based on my real mom. In my tiny little teenage mind, I thought my mother did not love me, and so I did not put her in this story. I now realize that this is complete and utter bullshit. My mom has different ways of showing her love than teenage!me would have liked, but she did and does love me.

But I love my sister! And she wouldn’t do this for me if she didn’t really love me, right?

Love, in my tiny little teenage mind, meant forcing Christianity down my throat.

Yes, Holly, someone would do that for you even if they didn’t love you. Because when they stand before God in the day of judgement, they have to at least tell him that they tried. It’s not just your soul that’s in danger, it’s theirs. If God doesn’t feel you tried hard enough to convert people, he will hold you personally responsible for their damnation.

I’m not kidding. That is how some Adventists see things.

After a section break, Holly empties her backpack, full of stolen crap. How does she steal all this and not get caught? No idea. Teenage!me had, at this point, never shoplifted and had only read about it in books.

Teenage!me pretty much believed nearly everything she read.

I spend the rest of the afternoon listening to the CDs I’ve stolen, answering email, and, of course, looking at any other websites I can think of that mom would kill me for even knowing about. Today I make it a point to learn about how to tell different Pine trees apart.

This is where teenage!me could have used some writing advice. She did not mean to say that her mother would be upset at her for learning how to differentiate between different types of pine trees.

What was going through teenage!me’s head is that Holly was looking at websites like http://www.churchofsatan.com, a favorite website of rebellious teenagers everywhere.

Then Holly blathers on and on about how she likes to educate herself on various topics, because she likes to feel smart. She tells us she likes the attention she gets from knowing things, however, we never actually see this happening, and, unless I’m remembering wrong, Holly doesn’t exactly try to be the center of attention very much.

At sundown, Holly struggles to stay awake for worship, after which she and Jaimie go to town to rent a movie.

There’s another cringe inducing conversation that makes me want to beat teenage!me’s head against the wall.

“ I hate God!”

“Holly, please, give him a chance…. what happened?”

What did happen? I’d also like to know, because I sure as shit can’t remember.

Silence.

“You used to love God, Holly, you were one of the most spiritual people I knew. Now, you hate God and don’t want anything to do with him, why?”

I shrug.

Teenage!Me will never bring this up again. We’re set up to think something big bad and terrible happened…. and then nothing. Nothing is ever explained.

I’m not sure if this is just bad writing, or if teenage!me simply knew that her friends were reading this and she needed to keep certain things out.

Here’s what happened with teenage!me: Teenage!me read Ellen White and realized she’d been taught a bunch of bullshit her whole life. Teenage!me also began to realize just how badly her parents had fucked her over, and she was mad at God because he was all powerful, and he didn’t prevent her from being raised Adventist, and he didn’t prevent her from being emotionally and verbally abused by her father.

Teenage!me was angry, and it only makes sense for the anger to be directed at the one who had the power to make it all go away but didn’t.

But Holly couldn’t have been given a reason in text without pissing off a lot of my friends. Holly also had to convert later, so if Teeange!me had given Holly a legitimate reason to be angry, teenage!me would have had to resolve that in a few chapters. And teenage!me probably didn’t know how to deal with that. Teenage!me asked the hard questions, but never got them answered. Teenage!me had seen other authors handle such situations badly, and was afraid of making the same mistake. So teenage!me probably decided she didn’t want to deal with it.

At least, I think that was what teenage!me was thinking. I honestly don’t remember.

The movie Jaimie and Holly watch is Saved.

This book is in no way shape or form plagiarizing the movie. That was sarcasm, in case you missed it. This book is absolutely plagiarizing that movie.  And this book.

Points to teenage!Merikay, at least her story was original.

It is at times like this when I can relax. It Is at times like this when I can almost imagine that I can go back to being a Seventh Day Adventist. Almost. But I know I can never go back, I’ve gone too far. I am rejecting God, and He won’t care about me anymore.

I hope you weren’t curious exactly why it is Holly feels she can’t go back…. we don’t get to know. I’m not sure I remember, either. I think Holly feels that, since she’s worshiped Satan, neither God nor anyone else will ever love her.

That is my best guess as to what was running through my tiny teenage brain.

That’s the end of the chapter. Tune in next time where teenage!me attempts to write about romance and sex. Teenage!me has never experienced romance and sex, so this outta be awful.