Oh how I hate Top 10 lists. That being said, I absolutely must share the most interesting Google queries that have led people to a ThumpMe entry. Below are the Top 13 search engine terms that have driven people to ThumpMe:

1. sexy nine (this happened multiple times, likely queried by grammatically challenged, sexually depraved souls)

2. why schizophrenia people stare

3. porn links to send to people (I had several queries like this but this is my fav)

4. i really want to lose weight in 2011

5. i like married white females

6. what the hell, ill have the venison joke

7. easiest way to levite tissue (I’m assuming this is the correct page? Really want to meet this person…)

8. ivy hughes lansing pretty (I have no idea which entry this led to, but it’s obviously my favorite search combo)

9. politically correct term for dwarf (um?)

10. women get what they want

11. bee skin disease

12. luc d’abadie (what does this mean?)

13. medical marijuana prescription lansing

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Revelation.

December 27, 2010

Six months ago I played a damaging, ingenious trick on myself. I decided to write fiction. No more articles. No more journalism. Fiction. But fiction isn’t a career. It’s a lifestyle with no immediate returns. It’s founded on failure and takes incredible dedication, which is precisely why my intestines immediately inverted, I stopped sleeping and my heart retreated.

When I started writing, really writing and stripped myself of measurable success, which is single-minded and safe, the identity I created for myself when I was a child — pushing to grow up, get to college, make money, excel at everything — treading a path I thought would lead me to life, but exhausted me into oblivion, I didn’t find anything. 29 and hollow.

I decided not to read Revelation because I no longer want to see what’s coming. I’ll catch it when it comes.

Everyone holds onto something — religion, relationships, careers, wealth — because can’t imagine letting go. Latching on is the easiest means to an end.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m no longer going to will myself to choose a direction. I’m doing something. Will be doing something. I just don’t know what it is yet and for me, that’s enough.

It’s daunting. It’s freeing. It’s paralyzing, but it just…is.

I deconstructed myself yet in some way I don’t yet understand, the Bible kept me honest, prevented me from vanishing into a familiar shadow.

I have faith in not knowing. I have faith in love, fear, newness, memory, pain, happiness, simplicity, loyalty. The faith I have in myself is new and I remind myself of that every hour, every minute of every day, but I know that some day, it will just be.

How many misunderstandings, fights and broken relationships can be attributed to big mouths, angry emails and thoughtless or misunderstood Facebook posts?

I’ve done all three multiple times in 2010 and I’m an alleged communicator. There was the colossal Facebook fight with my sister; a few pissy emails (I’m not yet accustomed to hitting “draft,” thinking, then hitting “send”) to various people; and, as for the big mouth…in order to choose an example I’d have to pick a genre and who has time for that?

I cannot differentiate between passion and judgment. When I’m pissed at someone, I’m pissed. I yell, occasionally say things I shouldn’t and then it’s over. No grudge. No remaining judgment. When I’m observing people I plan to write about, I pour over everything — hair, facial movements, socks, language, scent — compartmentalizing them until I put them together the way I want them to be (judgment) and write about them (passion). While doing this I think things like, “This man has a mullet AND a rattail and his wife is wearing ski boots in the city.”

These are judgments, but I don’t mean to be cruel. I genuinely think people, such as the two listed above, are amazing. But technically I’m judging them. Right?

James is very keen on the tongue, which is out-of-control, the nucleus of boasting, pride, judgment, pain and sin.

He says: “…but no one has ever been able to tame the tongue.” Fire, yes. Tongue, no.

But now we have electronic, wicked fast tongues in Facebook, Twitter and email. What are we to do with those?

We are to be slow to speak, to listen but man is that hard when “return” and “enter” are a pinky finger away.

This is James and I love it: “Who do you think you are, to judge your fellow man?”

I, admittedly, am the last person on earth to judge another and I don’t judge people by the clothes they wear, social status, physical appearance or profession. I look at the whole. I’m a writer, that’s what I do. Paul was a writer, so was Thomas. How did they write without judgment?

Stopping Point: The First Letter From Peter

Revelations On Hold

December 25, 2010

OK. Haven’t had my revelation yet. I still have a few books to read — Peter included — but will have those books up by the end of the day.

I’m going to sit on Revelations for a minute. I will be in a pew tomorrow. Pray it doesn’t go up in flames.

Merry Christmas, Happy H., etc.

For some twisted reason, people think writing is a glamorous, well paying, prestigious profession. If you don’t mind insomnia, chaos, insanity, heart pain, stomach pain, angst, turmoil, hemorrhoids, seclusion and failure, it’s a real riot.

As Hemingway said:

There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

True, only today that dripping blood short-circuits Mac keyboards.

I wanted to share this great clip, “Marcel Proust Was a Total Loser,” because it depicts writers and their morose, self-serving, whiny, entitled attitude toward depression and suffering. However this clip is considered “mature” so you can’t get in without a password. Apparently a mature rating means, “requires thought” because I can get on tons of porn sites without a password.

Anyway, this clips is from “Little Miss Sunshine.” Steve Carell’s character devotes his life to studying Proust and when a hated colleague becomes the Proust expert, Carell’s character tries to kill himself.

Honoring Nietzsche, Carell’s nephew takes a vow of silence. He breaks it when his parents tell him he can’t be a pilot because he’s color-blind. The kid freaks out, says he wants to sleep until he’s 18, which pulls Carell out of his I’m an academic and a writer therefore I’m tortured mindset and tells the kid Proust was a total loser because while he was doing his whole “woe is me I’m a writer bit” he missed the great things in life.

We all suffer. Writers just do it in slippers and worn out sweatshirts — loudly — so everyone knows they have the market on suffering. Unfortunately, many writers are mentally ill and end up killing themselves.

The Letter to the Hebrews says:

“Indeed, according to the Law almost everything is purified by blood, and sins are forgiven only if blood is poured out.”

Since writers are bleeders and suicide is a sin, does God forgive writers that have committed suicide?

Stopping Point: The Letter from James

Around and Around We Go

December 24, 2010

As if I needed another hurricane swelling between my ears…here comes Paul — again — and some dude named Timothy. They’ve trapped me between second and third. I’m in another freaking pickle.

Do I head toward the evil physical world or unattainable immortality?

A quiet life or a preachy one?

Listen to my conscious and lose my way or follow a road to…?

Stand up for something I believe in or avoid foolish arguments?

This back-and-forth has created so much dust I can’t tell if Paul or Timothy pegged me in the back with ball and glove but I know I’m out.

I’m starting to feel like a dog that’s getting trained by a college student and a professor. One says do this, the other that. It appears as if they’re saying the same thing, but deviation in syntax and life experience creates a cacophony of noise that makes inference impossible. Who or what am I supposed to follow?

Dispensing advice is easy, but putting the right pieces together is like playing hopscotch on a merry-go-round.

I suppose if the Bible conveyed a clear message Jesus wouldn’t exist because, technically, if a man is to love his child and family, he wouldn’t sacrifice his son. Would he?

Stopping Point: The Letter to the Hebrews

*I’ll be cranking out the remaining books tomorrow via chairlift and Blackberry. Revelations will be my Christmas present. It better be good.

Merry $mas

December 22, 2010

Among other things, the Bible is all about refraining from idol worship. Ask fourth graders about their idols. Football players. Pop stars. Cartoons. Some anorexic chick on the front of Seventeen magazine.

How many would name Jesus as their idol? A few I suppose. You know, those poor Catholic school kids haunted by raised rulers and swirling wrath.

Who else? How many of you adults consider Jesus an idol? Is that your only one? What about those miraculous Spanx keeping you smooth in your Christmas dress?

I’m in a cafe listening to these materialistic but entertaining women discuss their diamond rings, their bags, etc. This isn’t anything new especially in an affluent part of the country (this isn’t as big of an issue in Mid-Michigan), but it’s hilarious because many of these women are the type of women who claim Christianity because it too is a symbol.

These women will park their Land Rovers in a church lot Friday or Saturday, walk their little designer boots (type varies according to region) into the lobby — excuse me,  first their husband or some other obligated man will open the door for them so as not to disturb the tall skinny latte in their right hands or the behemoth bags resting on their left forearms — rush into the prayer room or whatever it is, daydream during the service while sipping said latte and get the hell out before the dreadful “meet your neighbor moment.”

Perhaps I’m projecting myself on others but, according to the Washington Post, retail revenues are up 5.5 percent from 2009 this Christmas season and, at least where I come from, this revenue is supporting other idols — clothes, cars, engagement rings, vacations. Anything but Jesus.

I’m having a really hard time getting through the rest of the Bible so I need to grab hold of randomness like idol worship. The girl sitting across from me has on Nike with a big swoosh, a Mountain Hardwear fleece, a Droid and Fossil jeans. I hate when companies place their labels on the outside of clothing, but if I put my clothes on inside out today, same situation.

Unless I missed the glowing bulbs, reindeer holding birdhouses (?), santas and creepy nutcrackers snuggled in the manger with Jesus in the middle of the New Testament, every single person in this cafe is worshiping some anti-Christ idol.

My parents’ house looks like the North Pole. Every room, every blanket, every picture, every decoration replaced by something Christmas-like. It’s fantastic. However none of it has anything to do with Jesus. Admittidly, we’re not relgious. My dad went to Catholic school, an abusive and terrifying experience, but us kids are heathens.

My mom tried to give us a dose of Jesus (it’s his birthday after all), but it didn’t work. For a few years, she  kept this horrid painting of Jesus in the guest room. Eventually we convinced her to get rid of it. I literally couldn’t fall asleep with that sadistic Mona Lisa looking at me.

A few days ago, I asked my mom what happened to creepy Jesus. She said she didn’t know so I asked if she had anything other than the glittery angel ornaments my sister and I made when we were kids in any of the six of 11 first-floor rooms decorated for “Christmas.”

We searched. This is what we found. Upside down. Behind a ladder in the garage.

Out of respect I cleaned up the poor guy, righted him, but couldn’t do anything about the crack in the glass.

This is Christmas. Right? Obviously the commercialization of Christ is as old as the day is long but every year it blows my mind and I have to write about it especially because Christians are not supposed to worship other idols.

I have some idols, none of which have to do with Christ but so does everyone else so what happens to those Christians? Are they nixed? So American Christians don’t exist?

Well, at least we can be charitable during the season, think of other people and their hardships. I do it all the time. I mean, my heart bleeds for the guy sitting across from me. Here I am clicking away on a Mac while he clunks away on a TOSHIBA! I have no idea how the poor soul gets any work done.

Stopping Point: Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians

I develop what I perceive to be ingenious business ideas at least twice a day. Most recently, I started researching surrogacy and house sitting, the idea being that by combining the two, I could support my writer lifestyle, travel and help people who can’t have children.

Unfortunately, families looking for surrogates are not exactly keen on nomadic women without a stable life plan.

Since the New Year is upon us and people are obsessed with New Year’s resolutions, which are ridiculous because anyone who really wants to change should do so immediately, I’ve devised a new diet — “The Accidental Anorexic.”

The plan is simple — tell your most difficult truths to the people who will suffer the most from them and bam, you’re ready for the runway.

I’ve always had a wicked fast metabolism, I workout, I eat fairly well and I’ve never dieted. Until now. I told a zinger of a truth and have since lost a ridiculous amount of weight I didn’t need to lose. In fact, if I hadn’t slammed my hair in my car door while gassing up my car in Iowa, I would have been whisked away by raging 80 mph winds.

If it weren’t for fermented grapes and Colorado’s finest breweries, I would have already fallen through one of my parents’ heat registers.

Unfortunately “The Accidental Anorexic” business model isn’t sustainable because at some point, the guilt that causes truth tellers to choke on their food will subside and they’ll either start eating or slide into a real eating disorder, which is neither desirable nor funny.

So I’m changing my business plan…again. For a nominal fee, I will absorb weight other woman want to lose and slough it off in a week. Physiologically impossible, yes. Sustainable, definitely.

Paul loves to write letters and many of them are about telling the truth, being honest, blah, blah, blah. He’s emphatic about it, using the one exclamation point in these letters to emphasize his point.

“No more lying then!”

This is much easier said then done, which is why the Catholic Church invented the confession booth. It’s a lot easier to sit in a box and spill your sins through a screen than it is face the person you sinned against and say listen, I want to tell you exactly how I destroyed your life.

Think about it. Nowhere in the Bible does it say people should sit in a box to confess their sins. They do it in the open, fall on their knees, tear out their hair, wrap themselves in sackcloth. Above all else, they fast.

Less than a hundred pages from the end of the Bible and I’m FINALLY living the way God wanted me to. I told the truth, I’m suffering and I’m fasting. Hopefully he’ll forgive me for trying to make a profit on the experience.

The Human Fat Burner, LLC., will be on-line later today. The initial consultation is free. Please feel free to contact me here.

Stopping Point: Paul’s Letter to the Colossians

I don’t know how many people listen to Eminem while reading the Bible but I LOVE it. Love, as in one of thousands of emotions people refuse to express until it is proffered by someone else.

I’m listening to “Stan,” a rather morose ballad about a confused young man who loves Eminem with such ferocity that, when Eminem doesn’t answer his letters, he cuts himself, puts his pregnant girlfriend in his trunk and kills them both. Stan could have used psychiatric intervention, but I commend his commitment to emoting.

Emote is a verb. It means to show emotion. Few people know about it. Why? It could be our educational system, but I think it’s because we strive to ignore our emotions. We feel them, think about them, weigh the consequences expressing them will have on our hearts, our reputations, our jobs, our futures, assess how people will react to them and, finally, we either release a watered down version of them or bury them in our intestines. Healthy.

In Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, he wastes words apologizing for his feelings.

He says: “I wrote you with a greatly troubled and distressed heart and with many tears; my purpose was not to make you sad, but to make you realize how much I love you all.”

Here’s an idea, save yourself a 10-page apology and just say what you mean! I love you!

The contrast between what we feel and what we express is disappointing at best. I love South and Central Americans because they’re extremely expressive. They kiss, they hug, they love, they scream and they’re honest. They enjoy their lives.

We hoard our emotions because we worry about what others think and we don’t want to get burned but: “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies; but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.”

Musicians, artists and writers understand this. They feel. They express and then release. But they can’t always support themselves because we place a fiscal premium on stoicism. We’re a constipated society.

I write to release, but I’m learning I can’t write away emotions. I took a leap of faith and tattooed an emotion on my wrist but guess what? When it’s convenient, I hide that thing beneath my sleeve.

Feelings can be selfish, but if you let them go, they’re liberating. Challenge yourself to laugh, cry, scream, hug and explode before you have time to think about it. It’s hard, but magnificent.

I’m doing it and all I can say is: Damn it feels good to be a lova.

Disclaimer: Though this video exemplifies the exhilaration of emoting, I am not an African American male; I do not pack heat; and I do not drive a hoopty.

Geto Boys — Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta

Stopping Point: Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Note: This stuff is interesting and pertinent to my life so I’m slowing down. In order to meet my Christmas deadline, I’ll be publishing at least Mon., Tues. and Wed. from here on out.

Found: An Un-Preachy Preacher

December 14, 2010

To my knowledge, Preacher Mike is the first church authority — sorry Mike, couldn’t think of another descriptor — to pay attention to ThumpMe.

For political reasons, I pretend to read many blogs, but I actually read Preacher Mike’s because it’s interesting and un-preachy (new word).

Preacher Mike (Mike Cope) lives in Abilene, Texas and teaches at Abilene Christian University. He’s also the vice president of the non-profit educational organization Heartbeat. The Heartbeat What Really Matters project facilitates discussion about the things that matter — friendship, decision-making, social injustice. Cope joined the project after his young daughter, Megan, died in 1994.

Though he doesn’t know it, Preacher Mike is the reason I finally sought an answer to one of life’s nagging questions: What the hell is the difference between a pastor and a preacher? I still don’t get it.

Thanks to Preacher Mike, I’m adding another person to my “Phenomenal People I Haven’t Met” list, which also includes J.P Donleavy, Diego Maradona, Ralph Steadman, Umberto Bossi, boringfileclerk (@boringfileclerk) and Jack Nicholson. It takes all kinds.

So Preacher Mike, let your hair down.

The Devil makes a cameo in the Old Testament. In the new, his name is thrown around a few times. Why don’t we hear more about the Devil?

Preacher Mike: A little Satan goes a long ways.

It’s in the gospels, of course, where we’re really introduced to the devil, “a quasi-personal ‘accuser’ which is doing its best to drag Jesus down into the trap” into which God’s people had already fallen (N. T. Wright).  But a foreboding sense of darkness and evil goes far beyond that in scripture.

Jesus or God says something about not needing a building to worship or celebrate so why do we have churches?

PM: Great question – especially since the early churches met in homes (for the most part).  As churches grew in number, they eventually got too big for homes.  So before long, there were church buildings.  (I can still hear in my mind the voices of Sunday school teachers urging that “the church is people not the building the people meet in.”)

God doesn’t need a building; however, churches need a place to gather.  Of course, you’re probably aware of a growing “organic church” movement – where people are saying “enough with spending gabillions of dollars on buildings [a sort of modern edifice complex] where people hardly know each other; let’s go back to meeting in our homes.”

Do you think Jesus is funny?

PM: I’m guessing he was quite a bit of fun to be around, yes.  Unfortunately, the written pages of the gospels aren’t very good at communicating smirks and winks.

An example of his humor (from Matthew 7): people who judge others are like those with planks coming out of their own eyes who are trying to delicately remove specks from the eyes of others.  As Larry the Cable Guy might say, “I don’t care who you are. That there’s funny.”

Will you be disappointed if your kids decide to religion when they’re older?

PM: I had a daughter, Megan, who died in 1994.  I’m within a couple weeks of finishing a book called Megan’s Secrets: What My Mentally Disabled Daughter Taught Me About Life.  She was (and I don’t say this in a maudlin way) my greatest teacher.

We still have two boys, ages 28 and 18.  And yes I’d be disappointed – but would still love them completely – if they decided not to follow Jesus.

However, there is a great deal of “canning religion” that needs to take place.  In some ways, I think it’s fair to say that people got mad at Jesus because he regularly took on religion.  The essence of a life of faith and the entanglements of religion can be two very different things.

OK. When something happens in your life and you send up a prayer and the outcome you hope for is realized, is it God or fate?

PM: I don’t know.  My track record isn’t good.  I begged God to heal my daughter and she died.  The best prayer I’ve found in scripture (other than the Lord’s Prayer) is this:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

What if the outcome is entirely different than the one you hoped for?

PM: Prayer is a mystery.  My prayer life is at its strongest when it is centered on the Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms.  I don’t expect God to be a genii in the bottle who comes out and grants my wishes as I summon God through prayer.

In The Acts it’s suggested that if “we’re good” God/Jesus will forgive us. Then it says if we fear God we will be forgiven. That doesn’t make any sense.

PM: Ivy, you’re tossing me a big fat pitch here.  You’re begging me to witness to you, aren’t you?

Actually, you have a knack for getting down to the nitty gritty.  That’s why I’m a faithful reader of your blog.

On one hand, we Christ-followers know that salvation is by the faithfulness of Jesus not by our own efforts; yet on the other hand, we know that faith without works is dead. (You’ll be in the book of James soon).

The New Testament writers (including Luke) indicate that salvation is a gift of God.  It is an act of grace that is based on the faithful life of Jesus.  Yet that gift comes with a life-transforming mandate: to “walk worthy of our calling” or to be transformed into the kind of people Jesus calls us to be.

Being a person of forgiveness doesn’t earn you brownie points with God so that God is now in your debt; however, being “saved” by God does compel you to become a person who turns from bitterness to forgiveness.

So in the history of Christianity (and anecdotally all around), you can witness two problems.  When Christians forget that salvation is God’s gift, the burden of legalism is laid on people.  Say “hello” to guilt and spiraling depression, as well as to pride and judgmental spirits.  And when they claim to be saved but continue to be selfish, bitter, racist, materialistic, etc., this is what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace” (another tragedy).

The New Testament envisions communities of faith that are full of compassion and justice – not so they can be saved but because they have been saved. The transforming of their lives from hatred to love, from stinginess to generosity is itself part of the saving/delivering work of God.

What’s your favorite book? Why?

PM: If you mean ANY book, then I’d say “The Hobbit.” Part of that is nostalgia.  I loved reading it to my boys when they were young.  But another reason is that I can identify with Bilbo.  There is a Took part of me that wants to be a person of courage; yet there is a Baggins part of me that is always trying to hold me back and to be safe.

If you mean a book of the Bible, then it would come down to Psalms, Isaiah, Luke, Romans, or Hebrews.  (I’m guessing the last one isn’t on many lists.)  I’d give the nod to Luke.   However, without a doubt, my favorite section of any book is Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount.

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