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

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

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’m sure you all get sick of my voice so we’re incorporating some guest bloggers. We’re hoping for a few a month and we’re starting out with Laura Talley, creator of the blog Redheaded Skeptic. Laura started this blog after she ended her marriage to Baptist minister. Now she’s an Atheist. Her blog is fun and interesting and I would encourage you to check her out. Laura…

LT: Life is never a straight line. It seems we often go the hard way to get to our goals, if we ever make it there at all. Someone did the math on the Bible story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land. They wandered in the desert for 40 years on an eight-mile line from point A to point B. That’s how I feel at times.

Five years ago today, I was a conservative Baptist youth minister’s wife finishing up my psychology degree and preparing for motherhood and a life of serving at churches alongside my husband. Today I am married to another man, I have a 4-year-old daughter, I am working on pre-requisites for medical school and I am an atheist. You never know where life is going to take you. I am in the last place I ever thought I would be.

To explain how I got here is like explaining how the Israelites wandered in the desert for so long. Full of twists and turns, and not all of it seems to make a lot of sense.

I married my now ex-husband at the age of 20. While we worked at a Baptist church, we also attended school. Bob (a pseudonym) attended his theology classes and we discussed them when he arrived home. Learning about the different theological theories sparked my curiosity and I began doing my own research. I became more moderate in my theology over time, and from moderate to liberal. By 2007, it was quite clear that I no longer belonged in a Baptist church.

When we graduated, we moved to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere with our infant daughter. The isolation from family and friends while caring for a new baby in a miserable marriage in a church where I felt I could not express my opinions led to a severe depression, but no one saw me fall and no one really cared as long as I still attended church and put on a spiritual face. No one, that is, except a friend of mine from college who had moved into general region to attend law school about an hour away from where we lived. When my marriage finally ripped apart, I stayed with the friend while my fundamentalist family showed no support.

Away from the conservative strangle, I delighted in attending a Presbyterian (PCUSA), and later Episcopalian (liberal) church. But I found that the questions I had while a Christian didn’t go away just because I liberated myself from an oppressive situation. I kept exploring and found that I no longer believed any of it anymore. A year after I left my ex-husband, I left the church entirely.

Happily ever after doesn’t usually come all at once. For me anyways, it’s coming in pieces, often more slowly than I would like. In 2009, I married Steve, the friend I stayed with after leaving my ex, and the friend who has stayed with me despite the enormous amount of baggage I brought to the relationship. He saved my life. We have struggled through school together, and he finally graduated from law school last spring. We moved from Fayetteville, Arkansas to the Little Rock area, where I will hopefully begin classes for medical school next spring. It’s not perfect, and it never will be, but it is getting better. It may not come all at once, but for me, this is happily ever after. Or, to carry the Israelite theme all the way through, this is the Promised Land. Now I just have to build my house. . .

Burn Baby Burn

September 13, 2010

Apparently Colorado is the fourth axis of evil. As per usual, the state is up in flames. Within one week, three major fires broke out along the Front Range. The Boulder fire destroyed 166 homes and is now 87 percent contained. Yesterday, Loveland went up in smoke thanks to a few idiots who failed to snub out a campfire (does Smokey the Bear, the fuzzy guy that indicates FIRE DANGER at every trailhead ring a bell?) Ten percent of the Loveland fire is contained though 700-acres are already toast. We’ve got another one rolling in somewhere around Lyons but as of yet, it isn’t big enough for the front page.

Fires are common in Colorado. It’s a dry state — lives have been lost in water right wars — the pine beetle infestation has turned the state into a tinderbox and residents overpopulate but that’s not the only reason Colorado’s on fire. Coloradans are heathens. And what does God do with heathens? He burns them up.

Psalms 72 through 106 summarize other books, which I’m not particularly fond of, but the reading did open my eyes to the heathen/fire theme. The smell of ash, a three-minute Wikepedia read and Swiss cheese logic lead me to this conclusion: Colorado is burning because it’s a heathen state.

The Evidence:

1. “At 25%, Colorado also has an above average proportion of citizens who claim no religion. The U.S. average is 17%.” — Wikipedia

2. “The Rocky Mountain region has the highest suicide rate in the country. Colorado’s suicide rate at 17.3/100,000 was over 1.5 times the national rate at 11.0/100,000 in 2004, which makes it 6th highest in the nation at roughly 720 deaths each year from suicide (Minino, Heron, Murphy, & Kochanek, 2007).” — Colorado State University Extension

Coloradans don’t like God and, even though they’re educated, blessed with copious amounts of sunshine and gifted with unlimited recreational opportunities, they kill themselves. Heathens.

I am a Coloradan and a heathen. So is my brother. Last night I read him some psalms. After two pages, he put down his graffiti art book and said:

“I’m going to shower because this is too painful for me.”

When he returned, I continued my reading. His response:

“I actually have stuff to do now and I can’t have God chirping in my ear.”

We heathens find this stuff hysterical. Others find it offensive. Unfortunately for the rest of the country, us Colorado heathens are headed for greener, wetter ground. I moved to Michigan 2,081 days ago and my brother and his girlfriend are on their way to Alaska, but we know not what we do. We’re putting our selfish needs before the safety of these beautiful states. Instead of bringing our curse to Michigan or Alaska, we should take two-year mission trips to uglier, flatter states. Naturally God’s wrath would follow us to places such as Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma thereby ridding this country of some major eyesores. I believe that if all Coloradans made this two-year sacrifice, God would forgive us for our self-serving ways, lift the curse and stop these dreadful fires.

But, who the hell wants to live in Oklahoma?

Stopping Point: More Psalms (sigh)

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

%d bloggers like this: