I thought about Job all weekend. There is, I’ll admit, a bit of an attraction there. He’s sort of like the diseased, depressed, sackcloth wearing dead guy that got away.

Predictably, I’m drawn to his despair, a unifying isolator that can supersede centuries, nations and ideologies but not the individual. When desolation brings Job to his knees, he says:

“I have no strength left to save myself; there is nowhere I can turn for help.”

Had I been an oppressed B.C. concubine or prophet, Job could have turned to me. I carry other people’s burdens well and identify (monthly) with the absolute collapse of spirit. However, if I had been around would Job have asked me — his new girlfriend — for help? Probably not. His unwillingness to share his feelings may have ended our relationship, but raises a phenomenal question: Why the hell is it so difficult to ask for help?

Is it because we don’t want others to think we’re weak or is it because we don’t know how? For me, it’s both.

Years ago I got a massive cut and eventual raging infection in my shin because I refused to ask my husband to get something from a top shelf (shhh, he doesn’t know about Job). My friend recently threw out her back because she refused to ask someone to help her lift a 40-pound concrete block. Clearly it’s much better to feign strength and end up in a hospital than it is to ask for help and function normally.

My friend and I could have asked for help but chose not to. Unfortunately when Job and I really need help, we don’t even know how to ask for it, let alone refuse it. Job and I just suffer. We tear out our hair, curse life and toss dirt on ourselves, or something like that.

Now if Job was alive and we were friends/friends with benefits, I would ask him for help but only because I know we emote similarly. Unfortunately, Job and I run with a crowd that’s not particularly adept at organization. We do not gather once a week to meet, discuss and share. So, when I’m headed into a Job-like state, I have to look to the grave for help. I have to look to Job, J.D. Salinger and John Kennedy Toole.

Job and I would disagree on his return to God, but I can see why people who don’t know how to ask for help turn to prayer. Prayer is anonymous, saving both parties from the pain and discomfort of expression. Prayer has no physical space. It can be submitted in the middle of a football field or from the deep hollows of a dark room. Prayer is the easiest way to ask for help because it’s the most private, non-intrusive way to do so.

Prayer also brings people to church, a structural access point where people are given the opportunity to meet others that that may relate to a particular woe. It’s like a big self-help group.

I wish Job were here so we could start our own group. Our crowd shies away from structure so we’d have to get a bit more creative, maybe an annual festival like Lollapalooza for the down trodden. We could call it “Whohoo! Suck.” We could have two stages. One for the manic — techno, bright flashing lights, ATM machines, access to on-line shopping, mirages — and one for the depressed — one gigantic bed surrounded by water tower sized boxes of tissues, Radiohead’s “How to Disappear Completely” on repeat, no light.

Radiohead How to Disappear Completely Music Video Kid A

Or, we could orchestrate weepups, monthly gathering for the Twitter depressed to talk about feeling worthless.

The problem, of course, is getting those who would benefit the most from the group, to the gathering.

Stopping Point: Psalms 1-20

Finding Faith

August 25, 2010

Faith. Either you have it or you don’t. Nowhere is this more apparent then the Book of Job, a well-written recollection of a virtuous man who sticks with God after God destroys his family, but turns his back on God after God confiscates his wealth and poisons his health.

Before Job returns to God, he asks the million-dollar question that is the great divide (or at least one of them) between believers and non-believers: Why does God allow the innocent to suffer and the evil prosper?

I realize this question is over simplified and that the idea of unpunished evil and tormented good is a loophole, not a law, but I’ve never found a single person or text capable of giving me a satisfactory answer. Why? Because those providing the answers have faith in God and I don’t.

I have faith in destiny, karma, goodness and people (with the exception of phone-based customer service representatives), but can’t attach it to a mass, a structure, a group, a book, a being or a gathering. It’s just there. I have faith in myself. I don’t know why. I don’t know where it came from, I just wish more people had the confidence to use themselves as a faith agent. I’m not opposed to religion or God, I just can’t understand why some people who listen to God, will not, or cannot hear themselves.

In a rather dark moment, Job says:

“Human life is like forced army service, like a life of hard manual labor, like a slave longing for cool shade; like a worker waiting for his pay.”

A less dramatic version of this echoes the opinions of many of my friends, colleagues and associates. They’re sort of satisfied with their jobs. They’re sort of satisfied with their personal lives. They wish they had time to do things they enjoy. They wish they had a better work/life balance. They really want to do x for a living. They really want to give y a try. But they lack faith in themselves so instead of changing course, they hide behind mortgages, school districts, 401ks and life.

Since we spend most of our waking hours working, let’s use work as an example. According to Andrew Hewitt and Luc d’Abadie, authors of “The Power of Focus for College Students,” only 5 to 10 percent of people “follow their dreams.” According to a Conference Board research group study, only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their jobs. Satisfied! Not happy. Not content. Satisfied.

Office Space Trailer

These individuals lack micro while I lack macro. However, the concepts overlap. I understand and agree with much of the Book of Job, but rather than relying on God, I use God as a placeholder for personal faith.

Elihu, the smart lad responsible for pulling Job away from his pity party, says:

“Although God speaks again and again, no one pays attention to what he says.”

If they don’t listen, God speaks to them in dreams and visions. If they still don’t listen to his nudging, they get sick. I don’t see God as the agent for this series of events, but I don’t dispute that it happens. Many people don’t listen to themselves. Then they ignore their dreams and then they acquire a sickness, a different kind of sickness, the “I’m 65. I have a nice 401k, but wouldn’t it have been cool if I ran with that idea I had 20 years ago? Oopsie. Guess I’ll just drive around an RV and enjoy my retirement” sickness. This sickness,* in my opinion, is squander and it’s caused by lack of faith. Personal faith.

I understand faith, but my question is, why do people tie it faith to “God?” I don’t think I’ll ever know the answer because it’s a matter of faith. That’s it.

Stopping Point: Psalms

* It’s only a sickness if it results from losing faith in self. For some people, RV life is a dream come true, which is cool.

Queen of the Manor

August 23, 2010

Chris Rock “Kill The Messenger”: What Do Women Want? (HBO)

I’m going to get smacked by the entire women’s movement but let’s face it, women get what they want because they know how to get it. Hard work and patience are all well and good, but knowing how and when to influence is something women have and men learn.

Take the Book of Esther. Here we have King Xerxes, who strips a queen of her crown simply because she refuses to be a party favor at the B.C. equivalent of a boys’ night out. His friends convince him the punishment will keep women in their place and reinforce the idea that “Every husband should be the master of his home and speak with final authority.”

So Xerox starts looking for another queen. He chooses Esther because she’s beautiful. Her intellect isn’t mentioned but is of little consequence because all women — even those with little thought — are capable of getting what they want even if they portend to have everything.

We know two things about Esther. 1. She is beautiful. 2. She doesn’t tell Xerox she’s Jewish.

Xerox’s prime minister, Haman, decides to kill all Jews and gets the king to sign off on the slaughter. When Esther gets word, she calls on her Jewish trump card. First, she invites both men to a banquet and when she appears, Xerox immediately says, “What is it Queen Esther? Tell me what you want, and you shall have it — even if it’s half my empire.”

Building her own empire, Esther turns down the offer and simply asks Xerox and Haman to attend a second banquet. They agree. At the second banquet, the king asks Esther the same question. Esther, ever so polite and conscious of word choice, drops the J-bomb:

“If it pleases Your Majesty to grant my humble request, my wish is that I may live and that my people may live.” (Hello, I’m Jewish. Please change the entire course of history so that I may live with my people.)

Xerox murders Haman and issues an edict allowing Jews to fight and ravage their attackers. After the Jews win, the king again asks Esther what she wants. In all of her femininity, Esther asks Xerox to murder Haman’s sons and he does. Without hesitation.

In the end, Xerox was true to his word. He spoke with authority and, according to his placement in the records of the kings of Persia and Media, was the master of/figurehead of his own home. In fact, his life and “the great and wonderful things” he did, are recorded in the official records of the kings of Persia and Media.

Poor little Esther, who was forced to lived under her husband’s thumb, got a small mention in a scroll confirming the rules for Purim (the holiday celebrating this whole ordeal). She also changed the course of history.

Stopping Point: Job

The Wall That Family Built

August 18, 2010

When I get emotionally overwhelmed, the plates under my left shoulder cross. This causes great pain and prohibits me from looking left, an awkward conversational disability and extreme danger to those driving in my blind spot.

I’ve been locked up for three days now and it’s because I choose to bear the emotional weight of others, particularly family. This last Bible reading (Ezra and Nehemiah) brings all exiles back to Judah and Jerusalem, the cities of their ancestors, reuniting them with long lost relatives. Apparently exile erases memory because these individuals appear to be excited by the prospect of getting back together. Excited.

I have been living in exile from large portions of my family for 29 years. If we were all thrown back together, my plate problem would likely accelerate into full-fledged physical and mental paralysis. The decline would go something like this:

One grandmother eating over easy eggs, the other wearing lacy negligees: Eye sight destroyed.

Full contact with hillbilly hygiene: Audios olfactory.

Grandpa Number One’s encouragement that I, as well as my siblings, should enjoy killing as much as he does: Morals eviscerated.

Aunt M’s aggressive motor scooter maneuvering: Bye-bye toes.

Uncle J’s fascination with drinking and tree trimming: Peace out limbs.

Grandpa Number Two’s conviction that the shit brown spot on his arm is an “angel kiss”: Appetite out, nutritious tube in.

Aunt P explaining the pizza delivery boy’s role in her eight month stint as a homeless woman; Uncle J reliving how his life as a counter boy brought down not one, but three corporate fast food chains; Cousin T and his three children Sofa, Essence and Pillow; and Uncle L’s invisible friend: Nice knowing you mental stability.

Aunt T’s moonshine: Shaved taste buds.

Quantity of Aunt T’s moonshine necessary to survive the return: Cheers to liver disease.

Cousin Z the Pyro, his disregard for property and his investment in kerosene: Hair — poof.

Sheer volume of high school dropouts discussing politics, religion and the WIC program: Audio silenced.

I would love to read an unabridged book about this great return to family B.C. Wrath, donkeys, concubines, sacrifices, fiery balls and magic walking sticks would certainly stir up old rivalries and provoke unstable units. Unfortunately, this momentous occasion is practically documented. This clan went here. This one went there. This one guarded the tent.

Perhaps I just have to read between the lines. The people have to build a wall around the city and in doing so, they say:

“We grow weak carrying burdens; there’s so much rubble to take away. How can we build the wall today?”

Burden, rubble, walls. Sounds like family to me. Then again, one man’s rubble is another man’s religion.

Stopping Point: The Book of Esther

God’s Work or Masochism?

August 16, 2010

I will be posting late today/early tomorrow. My husband and I are out-of-state interviewing for something some might consider God’s work. Others may view it as a tortuous insight into federal bureaucracy.

Will get to yesterday’s reading as soon as possible. Thanks for checking in!

Gerber Kings

August 11, 2010

Before Christ, people often lived into their 100s, 200s, 300s or 400s but for some reason, children ruled the land. Every single king in the second chunk of The Second Book of Chronicles rose to power before his 30th birthday. Several hadn’t even hit puberty!

Who has world experience at 7? 8? 18? If I’d been put in charge of civilization at 20, for example, it would have been a debacle. Think female version of Animal House. In keeping with B.C. tradition, I would have employed giggilos, which are actually better than concubines because they can’t bear bastard children. But would I have upheld God’s law or advanced society? No way.

I’m nearing 30 and have yet to employ some of life’s basic principles. Those I’ve adapted have been slow in coming. Let’s review:

1.  Don’t get in cars with strangers.

Year of Recognition: 2004, aka., my mountain dweller/hitchhiking phase. After riding in the back of a pickup where I was forced to sit on a pile of full, black trash bags while listening to the driver’s wife discuss menstruation, I decided to go ahead and adapt this one.

2.  Treat others as you want to be treated.

Year of Recognition: This is a work in progress but achievement is unlikely. I don’t think I’ll ever find the value in being nice to people I don’t like.

3. Good things come to those who wait.

Year of Recognition: Seriously?

4. Keep your hands to yourself.

Year of Recognition: 2000. After being hunted down by revenge seeking Greeks who wanted to lay me out for obliterating a powder-puff opponent’s nose, I decided pockets might be a good idea.

5. Respect your elders.

Year of Recognition: 1999, a change prompted by administrative trouble regarding an unsolicited face-to-face evaluation of the yearbook teacher, her life choices and teaching qualifications.

6. Money can’t buy happiness.

Year of Recognition: 2005, the year we moved to Michigan. I now find happiness in community gardens, Dicker & Deal and canned domestic beer.

7. Follow your dreams.

Year of Recognition: 2001. Following a small crisis of sanity, I changed majors from business to journalism, officially flushing my plans to “not have any fun in school,” “graduate in three years” and, following graduation, “start crushing heads while climbing the corporate ladder.”

8. Think before you speak.

Year of Recognition: Ha!

9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Year of Recognition: Work in progress.

10. Careful what you wish for.

Year of Recognition: 2005. Turns out that being trapped in a hurricane for three days without food, water and electricity is NOT fun, especially when you’re on your honeymoon and the only source of entertainment is Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage” and Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.”

11. Sharing makes everything more enjoyable.

Year of Recognition: This is a lie.

12. Everyone is responsible for his or her own actions.

Year of Recognition: 2002. Mug shots. Enough said.

I’m 29. These are basic principles and it’s taken me years to embrace just a few. Am I ready to rule an entire nation? No. Was I ready when I was seven? No.

Why then, would 200-year-olds agree to let seven-year-olds take the reigns? Lineage. Hm. Now that’s something to think about.

Stopping Point: The Book of Ezra

Dusting Off the Pew

August 9, 2010

I’m bored as a boot with this whole Bible project and continually find myself fighting thinkos.

I’m a total dork for trying to wend these cool words into old fogie syntax, but I’m about 99 percent sure no young person will ever read Thumpme. I’m not cool and have no idea how to relate to the new generation of the eternally oppressed. This disconnect, more or less, is how I’m starting to feel about the Bible.

My interest in the Bible is waning for a couple of reasons. One, I’m reading too much too fast. It’s like eating an entire pizza in five minutes — difficult. Two, I’m definitely 21C so when valuable life lessons are few and far between, they pass through my eyes and tumble out of my ears.

I have a “youth leaving church” Google Alert, which leads me to various blogs, articles, etc. about kids avoiding and/or leaving the church as related to steepled religion. I never left the church so I can’t relate there, but I don’t see myself sitting pew side anytime soon either. According to my Google Alert research, these are the most common reasons we younger (being generous here) people avoid or leave “the church.”

1. Faith without religion, a preference for spiritual connection outside of structure.

2. High schools teach evolution. (This article suggests these teachings single out Christians. I’m not sure about this, but it’s a nice segue to No. 3).

3. Extremism. Squeaky wheels are not only irritating, they attract attention.

4. Too restrictive.

5. This trend doesn’t really exist. Teenagers are just fearful of sharing their faith.

6. Teenagers are sinners. (I can’t even validate this with a link because I feel so sorry for the author).

7. They’re Bored Again Christians.

When I was a teenager I went to a “new age” youth church for a few weeks. This church, like many of today’s churches, banked on technology and grungy looking musicians to pull us in. Obviously it didn’t work and as far as I can tell these “relation” efforts continue to fail.

Teenagers are tricky. Not only do you have to speak to them in the right language, you have speak correctly or you’re screwed. Example. My ninth grade history teacher tried to identify with us through language and candy, which was cool. However, when he dolled out Jolly Ranchers to award correct answers, he enthusiastically tossed us “jollies,” an obvious miss and endless form of entertainment.

The one religion-based site I’ve come across that speaks to youth without preaching or posing (do kids still use that word?) is stuffchristianslike.net. Written by Atlanta-based “preacher’s kid/copywriter” Jonathan Acuff, the writing is spot on and is the only reason I put something together today. Well, that and this damn commitment.

Among other things, he uses the word “epic” — though this is losing its stronghold among the verbally advent-garde, for many it’s still the new awesome — he also relates this muddy historical stuff to pop culture. In the latest post, he cites TMZ and relates Mel Gibson’s rant to Solomon.

Here’s an excerpt from “Quietly distancing ourselves from Mel Gibson”:

Every day that he’s in heaven, Solomon better literally thank God that TMZ and paparazzi didn’t exist when he was doing his nonsense.

I know some horrible Mel Gibson audiotapes were recently released, but can you imagine the audio from Solomon?

“Hey, I’m thinking about marrying 10 more wives. Probably going to get some of those ladies that are into child sacrifice and establish some high places where we can tape some epic episodes of ‘Girls Gone Wild.’”

I’m not sure which came first — stuffwhitepeoplelike.com or stuffchristianslike.net — but both make social commentary palatable for younger audiences. I may not be young, but when it comes to the Bible I’m a complete novice and very much appreciate these thoughtful, funny, relative links.

I need a little more humor because right now I’m reading desert text. Stuffchristianslike.net and this site, which was suggested by a reader, are about the only things keeping me going. So if you have some suggestions for jazzing up this lengthy history, please send me an email or leave a comment.

I’m waiting for Jesus. He’s younger and hopefully more entertaining.

Stopping Point: Second Book of Chronicles, Part 2

You’re not reading this blog, you’re multi-tasking it just like I multi-tasked its construction.

While reading the 40 pages of the First Book of Chronicles, I also: committed to something I know I can’t do; g-chatted with three people; answered three phones calls; answered several emails; made dumb comments on my personal and thumpme Twitter accounts; kept a close eye on the blinking light on my Blackberry (I have messages, can’t check them); Facebook chatted with one person; Facebook stalked another; scanned a Google doc logging literary contests; listened to Pandora; scanned an article about the gubernatorial primary results; added 12 more ‘to-dos’ to my seven-page (not a joke) list; stubbed and blooded my toe; and watched four YouTube videos.

The first video, “Vlog 1: Attention Deficit Disorder,” speaks directly to the hummingbird flitting around my brain.

As does this one, which I got sucked into after deciding “Vlog 1: Attention Deficit Disorder” would be the only video in today’s post.

How to Clean a Bowling Ball

Head spinning yet?

It gets better. While reading, I also wondered why my parents have such a liberal door locking policy; when the health department will condemn my house; how I can add value to my blog; at what point my stomach muscles will turn to mush; the chance of my neighbor’s dog destroying my sanity; whether my blood is thinning; if my dentist is screwing me over; why rotten strawberries are in my refrigerator; how many of my friends are happy; if I want to honor my husband’s request to ban cucumber-melon body wash from the house; gum; which of three proposed life changes my husband and I will choose; if Gad is a biblical character or typo; the chances of the Isle Royale moose surviving tic infestations; how I’ll survive a weekend at the cottage without my computer; why the hell I have eight pair-less socks; whether I’ll have dreads by the time I schedule a haircut; why the majority of my friends are first born Leos; why I chose to pierce my own bellybutton (it was ripped out and then infected); read a press release titled “Freezing, preserving sperm vital to saving snot otter salamanders”; what pittance I’ll earn this month; and, most importantly, how long until I have a heart attack.

Some call this ADD. I call it 21C. 21st Century. When I realized The First Book of Chronicles summarized about four previous books, I was pretty irritated. As I mentioned in “The Lord has Heard Your Whining” and “Touchdown!”, I find the details in the Bible painfully unnecessary. Or I did.

Monday’s bee sting distraction, today’s overstimulation and The First Book of Chronicles made me revisit focus, detail and the idea of doing a few things well instead of a lot of things poorly.

In the First Book of Chronicles, everyone is assigned ONE task. Those assigned to spice mixing ONLY mix spices. Those asked to strum a harp ONLY strum a harp. I am ONLY a writer, but I ONLY use 50 percent of my workweek to write.

I started the First Book of Chronicles with a bad attitude. Another summary? Are you kidding me? Then I asked the book to please offer a phrase to calm my racing heart. I may have glazed over 20 life lessons — maybe 100 — but because I was so busy g-chatting etc., everything was lost until the end, when King David assuaged Solomon’s anxiety concerning the construction of the Lord’s Temple. He said:

“Be confident and determined. Start the work and don’t let anything stop you.”

And that is the difference between “Please God, Short Version Only,” and “Please Gad, Shirt Venison Only.”

Stopping Point: Second Book of Chronicles

I’m a heretic and a liar. I said I’d finish the Second Book of Kings Friday and then post. Instead, I finished writing a love story about a dead sexual deviant. I’m still on track to finish the Bible by Christmas so I forgive myself.

I planned to write a political piece today — “all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” wealthy parents shouldn’t gift stupid offspring political office, etc. — but I’m entirely focused on is this giant red welt on my shoulder so it’s time to explore the dreaded skin disease.

The dreaded skin disease plaguing the Bible is leprosy (now known as the less threatening Hansen’s disease). It was used as a fear agent to prevent people from sinning. Many got it and those who didn’t feared it. In the Second Book of Kings, it appears that most kings feared dreaded skin disease above all else, including being burned alive.

Interestingly, leprosy isn’t a big deal. It isn’t very contagious and about 95 percent of humans are immune to it. I find this fascinating because even though we’ve released leprosy as a fear agent, we continue reacting to health-related fear agents delivered by governing bodies. Remember the West Nile panic? Only 1,263 U.S. deaths. Dengue fever?  53 total deaths, 0 in the U.S. Avian flu? 298 total deaths, 0 in the U.S. SARS?  774 total deaths, 0 in the U.S. Swine flu? 11,700 U.S. deaths.* Comparatively, swine flu looks like a big deal but according to this NYT article, “In a typical year, 36,000 people die of seasonal flu, the C.D.C. estimates.” Hm.

*These numbers are based on the most recent data I could find. They may have changed.

Until 1873, people feared leprosy because they thought it was caused by sin, not bacteria. They lacked medical resources regarding the dreaded skin disease. We have plenty of medical resources yet we freak out when things like SARS hit the news.

This takes me back to the red mass on my shoulder. When I woke up this morning I wasn’t thinking about the oil spill in Kalamazoo, the national deficit or the hobos I bike past every morning. I was thinking about my own dreaded skin diseases, ie., the bee sting on my shoulder.

The incident occurred last Friday. I was biking, the bee was flying and when we collided, I squealed, nearly fell of my bike, exercised one of my favorite curse words and scared the shit out of a cute little family.

Unfortunately, I do not have this on film. However, I found a fantastic fill-in that very aptly represents my experience. Youtube was moving a bit slowly this morning, but this video is so worth it. Promise.

“Bee Sting Bike Ride”

Thankfully, I am not suffering from the dreaded skin disease. I’m overreacting to a very painful bee sting that is now a softball sized mess. It’s itchy. It hurts and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason I feel nauseous. I used to just be a complainer, but thanks to WebMD and unlimited access to medical information, I’m now a hypochondriac.

I suppose this is no different than the leprosy fallacy. With or without access to information, humans spend a great deal of time focusing on and worrying about the wrong things. I’m more likely to get hit by a car on my way home than die by bee sting. But, I’m focused on the sting. I even took a photo of it. Actually, I took three.

According to WebMD and my sting timeline, there’s a slight chance this sucker could put me in the hospital by Friday and if that hypothetical visit were sours, I could die. If you’ll excuse me, I need to text my husband and let him know he could be a widower by Saturday.

Stopping Point: The First Book of Chronicles

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