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.

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

Family Meeting

November 16, 2010

Family meetings. Everyone has them. It’s time for ours.

You’re pushing back — rightly so — regarding yesterday’s emotional cop out. Why can’t/won’t I dig deeper into the New Testament? Why not examine it and myself more critically? Etc.

You’ve gotten to know me a bit through this blog, but I’m fairly good at hiding behind words. I mean my profile picture is a llama or an alpaca. Who can tell? I’ve never met the young woman on the masthead. I told you I hate Miracle Whip, am offended by Tex-Mex and wear contacts but what do you really know about me?

Time for some honesty. Right now I’m going through some stuff I cannot write about because it affects too many people. This is not a cop out. Actually, it would be easier for me to write about the situation. You know the relief you feel when you’re sick to your stomach and you finally vomit? That’s what happens when I write.

Believe me, I want to write about this. It would be a redemption of sorts but I can’t. My motives aren’t selfish. I’m not holding back to protect myself. In fact, let me lay out a few things that, until now, have been reserved for very close friends. This will make you pity me, hate me, distrust me, fear me, but it’s honesty, proof I don’t fear exposure, evidence that I want to be honest in this quest. Two things: I’ve had my stomach pumped twice and three years ago, I slit my wrist.

Two things got me through: Love and writing. If I were to write about the current situation, I would feel better but everyone else would feel worse. So it’s not an excuse, it’s just what it is. Bear with me on the New Testament. OK?

If you looked through the hole in my head, you’d see these are the scriptures (is that what they’re called?). Maybe they’ll provide more insight…

Scriptures (or whatevs)

“Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye?”

“Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it.”

“To have good fruit you must have a healthy tree; if you have a poor tree, you will have bad fruit.”

“Anything that goes in a person’s mouth goes into his stomach and then out of his body. But the things that come out of his mouth come from the heart, and these are the things that make a person ritually unclean.”

Two other observations

1. Matthew is a much better writer/story teller than Mark though Mark found a use for “sickle” and told a troubling story about dropping a paralyzed guy through a hole in a roof so his book isn’t a complete wash.

2. The parables clearly laid the foundation for 21st Century jokes. Did you hear the one about the 10 girls who took their lamps to a bridegroom? How about the one about the three servants and their coins? Or the one about the sower who sat in a boat? That’s a real side splitter.

I suppose this post is a parable. It’s the only way to explain yesterday’s haze but I believe substance will creep back in.

By the way, do not feel sorry for me. I’m medicated, I have faith this situation will work out (whatever that means) and I’m too old and tired for suicide.

On that note…have an uplifting day!

Stopping Point: Book of Mark, Jesus Feeds 5,000 Men

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.

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