I had the opportunity to summarize my Bible reading and ThumpMe blog at TEDx Lansing in May. In December, when I finished the Bible, I wrote a small conclusion. It was paltry but it’s impossible, even now, to effectively express what I learned during the six months of reading this monstrosity. The TEDx Lansing invitation forced me to reflect on the experience four months after the fact.

So, if you’re interested, here’s part of what I learned.

TEDxLansing-Ivy Hughes-The Bible Told Me So

Ashes to Ashes

May 23, 2011

I’ve tried to keep up with my churches and bars while traveling but it’s been challenging to say the very least.

Yesterday, for example, I spent the time I allocated for God following news updates about the freaking volcanic ash threatening to derail my travel plans to Iceland. Since I’m hopefully headed into the beginning of the rapture, which was supposed to start Saturday, I may have to read the Book of Revelation in Iceland. We’ll see about that. I’m more excited about wearing a Keflavik International Airport issued mask and goggles than reading the end of the Good Book.

I recently spoke at TEDx Lansing. I spoke about the ThumpMe project, what I learned from the Bible (to have faith in myself), etc. To prepare, I read through all of my ThumpMe entries. It’s interesting to see how, even though only five months have passed since the last entry, my thoughts have changed. Evolution.

If you did not read the original ThumpMe entries – the ones following my reading and interpretation of the Bible – you might find these interesting.

If I get into Iceland and ash doesn’t ruin my cheap traveling Toshiba, I’ll have a dive bar post for you Wednesday. Enjoy!

WooHoo! Suck — Despair, Job and Me

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?

Read the entire entry here.

Puff the Magic Prophet – Ezekiel Sucks the Cactus

Mescaline is: “An alkaloid drug, C11H17NO3, obtained from mescal buttons, which produces hallucinations. Also called peyote.” (Definition provided by Urban Dictionary contributor, Adict). (Gist of this is how does one become a prophet)

This hallucinogen is obtained from cacti and special beans. I don’t know if mescaline producing cacti grow in the Middle East, but I assure you beans belonging to the Fabacae family are a prevalent food source in Middle Eastern diets and, based on his extremely bizarre visions, I’m going to guess Prophet Ezekiel fancied this particular food group.

Ezekiel learns he’s a prophet after four creatures with human-ish forms appear before him. Each of these forms has four faces — a human face, lion face, bull face and eagle face — four wings, straight legs, hooves (like a bull) and four human hands under each wing. Wheels with eyes sit next to them and there’s additional detail about subsequent wheels and fire, but it’s too confusing for me to explain. Despite Ezekiel’s descriptive efforts, I cannot imagine how these things moved or what they looked like.

Read the entire entry here.

Fa La La La La, La La La La, Liquor ­­– Holiday with the Jews

Ah, holidays. What could be better?

Holidays were created to celebrate dysfunction. It’s OK. All families are dysfunctional even the “normal” ones — it’s called denial. Don’t stress out about, enjoy it. You’re in good company. Jesus’ family was screwy too.

In the New Testament, four men give a version of the gospel. You can glean anything you want from any of them. I think Matthew is dryMark is dark and Luke is wonderful. His writing is interesting and he details good old family pandemonium.

Read the entire entry here.

Found: An Un-Preachy Preacher – Meet Preacher Mike

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. TheHeartbeat 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.

Read the entire entry here.

Revelation. – No Time for Endings

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.

Read the entire entry here.

*Let us clarify. By death, we mean the marriage can be dissolved for any of the following reasons: Large arguments; small arguments included but not limited to those concerning the agricultural categorization of a tomato and the merits of golf as a leisure activity or a sport; mid-life crises; general boredom and dissatisfaction with life; dirty dishes; ugly children; the discovery of anything that’s bigger, better and more interesting than what you have; drug allergies; delayed bi-curiosities and outside influence.

St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, England

Various hours

Chosen because…missing it would be like going to Rome and not dropping by the ‘ol Vatican.

Sigh. Watch this. Bride loses it because her husband’s family apparently doesn’t have the mental capacity to effectively participate in wedding day activities which, oddly enough, include a rousing game of the board game Clue.

Would you marry this woman?: Latest Bridezilla Meltdown! 

St. Paul’s Cathedral is gorgeous. I’m thrilled to go in. Until I learn the cost of admission, which is something like the equivalent of $36 U.S. if you want to get a view from the top. I bolt for the door. My tour guide grabs my elbow and forces me through the Capitalist gates. (Photo is the view from the top of the Cathedral. Can’t take pics inside.)

I’ve said this 1,000 times but opulence and a complete disregard for Jesus’ teachings – poverty, good will, helping others – is one reason I hate church as a walled institution. It’s the same reason I’m fairly anti-marriage – people get too caught up in flowers, budgets, color schemes and board games to think about what they’re doing, what it means and if it’s for them.

This comes from a recently divorced woman, a divorcee, a social pock-mark but hey, I went for ceremony when I didn’t want it and though I don’t think it impacted my marriage, I certainly let the grand idea of a wedding as well as outside influences and second hand experiences occasionally sway dealings within my marriage.

I wish more people – myself included – would go beyond the pomp. Beyond churches as symbols, holidays as economic bustiers and weddings as events.

Perfect example: The Royal Wedding. My trip to St. Paul’s happens a few weeks before the wedding, but for the next few weeks, the cathedral haunts. It’s on every news channel and in every paper, commentators speculating on guest list dust ups, Kate Middleton’s relationship with the church and her ability to look like a royal by W-Day.

I hope the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a lovely life, I really do, but standing in St. Paul’s Cathedral, listening to reporters say things like, “Oh look at them, you can just tell they’re in love” is like nails on a chalkboard. How is marriage between  man, woman and, for believers, God, everyone but the bride, groom and God have an opinion?

I suppose the trip up St. Paul’s stairwells was worth $36 but I leave feeling the same way I do after exiting many wedding receptions. What is the point?

I must admit that I would have thoroughly enjoyed the royal wedding had I been invited, the Syrian ambassador to the U.K. hadn’t had his invitation renigged and the lovely princess sat me between him and her drug and booty loving uncle, Gary Goldsmith. That’s the kind of pomp and circumstance I look for.

Redeemer Lutheran Church, Ft. Collins, Colo.

11 a.m. to ?

Chosen because…late service

Biggest church I’ve been to.  It sits in a giant field surrounded by wealthy neighborhoods. Not only does it have a welcome center, which gives makes me feel like I’m walking through an airport rather than a church, it also has a worship center, life/center gym, preschool, student center, etc.

I’m grateful for the coffee/donut room. Guilt kicks in so I donate $1 to the coffee collection. This is the only donation I’ve made to a church thus far. After service I feel duped, used and wish I could take my money back.

Love Money, Then Jesus

Remember this scene from Jerry Maguire? This is Redeemer Lutheran Church.

JERRY MAGUIRE SHOW ME THE MONEY


The preachers or whatever are dressed in white, red sashes resting on either side of their chests. Huge choir. Massive movie screen. Many people wearing buttons purporting their love for Jesus. At least I think that’s what they’re for.

It’s “commitment weekend,” a time for parishioners to place donation envelopes they received via mail in Pottery Barn-like donation baskets. Before they do, the preacher fills them with artificial love, hiding the church’s need for greed behind Bible passages such as “whoever does not love God does not know love.”

When the preacher quiets, this message is conveyed, falsely — though song — and soundtrack as people in the sound booth add thunder and other such nonsense to the melody.

After guilt by love, the preacher gets down to business. This whole love B.S. will continue for 36 months because the church is on a mission to a) Raise up stewards b) Pay down debt c) Further the mission.

So learn about God, pay down the Redeemer Lutheran‘s $2 million debt during the next 36 months and then spread God’s word through costly missions. Appalling.

Need for Greed

He uses the following mantras to encouraging giving…and love.

“Love is not really love until it’s given away.”

“I hope you get to learn during this season we get to give love away.”

“We don’t want to whore the message of God.”

Then we watch a clip from Schindler’s List. It’s at the end when Schindler realizes the money he spent on material excess could have saved thousands of Jews.

People sniffle. It’s an emotional scene and a cleaver way for the preacher to beg for money. After the clip, he invites everyone to bring up envelopes of money, encouraging them to “woo hoo” when they dump it in Pottery Barn-like baskets.

I’m sick to my stomach. This place of worship is an infomercial, not a church. I leave and head to a dive bar in Loveland of all places, to cleanse my soul.

The leaders of this church should be ashamed of themselves for their unabashed call to greed. Redeemer Lutheran Church is antithetical to Jesus’ message. It’s disgusting.

St. Joseph’s Church, Fort Collins, Colo.

8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Chosen because…good Catholic friend in town

I will never go back to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, not because I tainted the holy water in elementary school, but because it’s the most judgmental church I’ve visited. Nothing about St. Joe’s embodies peace, love or understanding.

Before I delve into my own judgments, let me say I know it’s contradictory to condemn judgment and then judge but processing experience necessarily requires judgment. Also, this opinion is based on the 1.5 hours I spent in one church. By no means do I think all Catholics adhere to these values or lack there of.

Choice, Freewill, Abortion

From the street, St. Joe’s is beautiful. From the street, you can’t see the picture of a fetus (it isn’t graphic) framed by words urging congregants to pray to end abortion.  I don’t care what people think about abortion. Life, choice, whatever. I also don’t care about political views. Democrat, Republican, anarchist, whatever. What irritates the living hell out of me is listening to a priest tell a hundred people or so how they should feel about abortion or politics.

Unfortunately for the congregation and the advancement of peace and understanding through Christ, this priest focused on condemning those who make poor choices, such as abortion. Well, that and contradicting himself.

One of the day’s teachings included the following:

“…we should not be passing judgments on others, for this is the Lord’s right. Rather, we should joyfully await his return, when all shall be brought to light.”

Sometimes I’m a little slow, but the Bible led me to believe that there’s only one God. Google’s helped me understand that there’s billions of people on this earth so, if the relatively small St. Joe congregation judges those who abort, doesn’t that mean that more than 100 people in tiny little Ft. Collins are playing God?

Good Old Catholic Spanking

My dad was raised Catholic. He’s got some great stories about naked swimming and nun brutality. While I can’t speak to his experiences, heavy-handed Catholics continue whacking from the pews.

The woman in front of me had three kids. The husband immediately left with the little one. The poor thing was terribly sick but I would have preferred her fever and hacking cough to time with mom who, between praying and singing, occupied her time by whacking her sons on the head, pinching their arms, yanking their wrists, flicking them in the middle of the cranium with her thumb and pointer finger and threatening spankings.

Doesn’t Catholicism sound fun?

The Punisher didn’t smile, but neither did anyone else. I saw a lot of kids and a lot of young parents — good honest Catholics using the ‘ol rhythm method, holding tight to their anti-abortion stance — but I didn’t see many smiles and I certainly didn’t feel like I was part of a community. In fact, not one person returning from communion reception looked happy or even content even. Either something’s askew in the church or Christ tastes like garbage.

Not that they’d want me, but I’m passing on Catholicism.

NOTE: Once again I blew it with the pics. I took plenty, but I’m out-of-town and forgot the adapter. I’ll add them when I return.

As you know, I’ve finished the Bible — all but Revelation — and so I’m moving to a new project.

After much deliberation, I’ve decided that from now until Christmas 2011, I will go to church on Sunday and dive bars on Tuesday, posting church blogs on Monday and bar blogs on Wednesday.

I hope to post from undetermined national and international locations. Prague and Argentina are high on my list as is Iceland, a fortuitous location suggested by a physic and friend who, as fate would have it, plans to go to Iceland in June. What are the odds?

Though you’ve noted my affinity for shock value, the church/bar project is about exploring the congruity of pew and stool. Both allow people to escape life, understand it, enjoy it, hide from it and surrender to it.

I’m anxious about this transition. Not the bar part, the church bit.  I read the Bible in at my own pace in solitude. But going to church requires a certain amount of scheduling (cringe) and talking to strangers. Yikes.

Yes, I talk to strangers for a living. I ask questions, people answer. I don’t like the idea of inverting this system. I want control. In dive bars, loosely defined as windowless edifices with no more than four domestic beers on tap — no one asks any questions. I walk in, people stare and go back to their bottles. They don’t ask about my personal life, my profession or my woes. In church, this is not the case.

Once I hit a certain comfort level with church, I’ll loosen up and take a bit from Pastor Noah, using myself as a mouthpiece to share problems that are not mine. (Noah talks about turning to someone in a movie theater and saying something like “Hi, I’m x and addicted to porn. Can you help me?” I will do this.)

I promise that after I run through 51 churches and 51 dive bars, I will read Revelation. Promise.

In the mean time, if you want to subscribe to this blog, please scroll to the bottom of the page. I can’t figure out how to move that up. I’ve tried. Always with the same result — a fascinating combination of expletives.

I hope you stick with me on this one. As always, questions, comments and criticisms are welcome. Email is biblethump@rocketmail.com. Twitter: @thumpme. Facebook.

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

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

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.

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