My generation prides itself on being worldly, but we’re really just a bunch of idiots with pretty passports.

We expect to study in a first world country for a semester or spend a few months backpacking around multiple first world countries. Basically we chose a European capital as a home base, learn a little, use a universal currency to buy tickets for self-explanatory trains, hop from English speaking host to English speaking host and get bombed.

When we return we regale parents, friends and homebodies, with stories about our travels, speaking with authority about foreign cultures and policies we don’t understand but assume are far more progressive than anything in the U.S.

“Oh, I totally understand your feelings about public transportation. The U.S. is so far behind. It’s sickening. When I was in Nice…”

We want everyone to know we’re no longer American, we’re worldly. We’ve relaxed in Spanish cafes, we’ve walked on cobblestone streets and America — the people and the culture — are no longer of interest.

Essentially we give ourselves license to disregard — not critique, disregard — the U.S. and the citizens who love it. I’ve done this a thousand times, writing off at least a dozen states I haven’t explored, as dull or beneath me. How could anyone in Oklahoma have anything to offer when I’ve been to Spain?

Do I judge the Spaniard, the foreigner? No, I save that for the American, the insider.

This has been going on forever. Paul the apostle traveled the world sharing God’s word. When he returned, he criticized God’s people, his own people for professing to be worldly. He also told them they should be more like him, shouldn’t associate with immoral people, etc. But he leaves the foreigners alone. He says, “it is none of my business to judge outsiders.”

It’s OK to judge what we know, but we shouldn’t judge what we don’t know?

I just drove across the country and once I let go of my Big Box complex and started observing as an outsider, I wanted to keep moving. In fact, I can’t wait to see what else I’ve missed. Middle America is not passé. It’s freaking awesome. If you think Americans and American culture are boring, hang out with Dan the Man for a day.

It is none of our business to judge outsiders OR insiders. If people really believed this, the Bible wouldn’t have a purpose.

Stopping Point: Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians

NOTE: I’m posting random musings about my U.S. cruise under the N.B. (Nowhere Bound) tab.

I should write about suicide and sex all the time. They’re huge sellers. That being said, the honesty of yesterday’s post really freaked some people out. Initially it irritated me, but then I realized the reactions reflected our discomfort with honesty. We covet our feelings, our flaws and our desires for fear that others will judge us. Myself included.

Yesterday’s confession was three years late. Why? Because it’s easier to talk about things that are embarrassing or emotionally intense once they’re in the past. Way in the past.

In short, we’re often ashamed to be human, which is why I like Jesus. He encourages honesty and introspection. He also allows us to forgive ourselves for being human.

Unfortunately God gets all the glory. All I ever hear is “Dear God” or “Thank you Lord.” God is the one who brings people to their knees. Jesus heals. The Lord hates. Jesus loves. Jesus accepts. God damns. Jesus helped the poor. God damned them (at least in the beginning of the Old Testament, he did the same to foreigners).

Do people pray to Jesus? I’ve heard “In Jesus’ name,” but that doesn’t sound prayer-like to me.

Why does God get all of the kudos? Well, he’s older and we’re taught to respect our elders. He’s also very Hollywood. He loves special effects and doom and gloom. Jesus, on the otherhand, is like an Independent film. Listening to him takes patience. He offers substance.

Last night I tried praying — to Jesus, not God — and instead of peace, I had a horrific nightmare, woke up yelling, knocked water all over my side table and quintupled the width of my favorite short story collection. My hips, back and stomach also seized up, preventing me from cleaning the mess. The dream —family murdered, me living in a house of blood with an invisible killer that suffocated me from time to time — wasn’t what I was looking for, but it made me think. God may have delivered blood and guts, but I don’t know if he would have putt me in the house or subjected me to the invisible killer. Jesus did (maybe) and I’ve been analyzing both all day. How do they pertain to my life? Emotional state? Etc.

I like Jesus, but I think this is a farce: “When  you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you will be given whatever you ask for.”

When I sort of prayed, I did not expect physical and mental torture especially because my prayer was altruistic, which is uncommon. Is exorcism a common response to prayer? Is that why everyone prays to God instead of Jesus?

Well, I’ll give Jesus another shot. As for the Lord, adios Dios.

Stopping Point: Book of Luke

Impatiently Waiting

November 10, 2010

Today I could use a priest, maybe a monk. Two reasons.

1. The prophets are jumping from century to century, kingdom to kingdom and it’s confusing.

2. The prophets have been going on and on about this end of the world situation. God recommends people “just wait” as if it’s easy to ignore an overly hyped apocalypse. I can’t wait for anything because I’m human, I’m American and I’m managing opposing…I want to say personalities but that makes me sound like a psycho. IDs? Can priests address that?

There’s a lot of stuff going on in my life (as if everyone else is at the beach pounding margaritas) and I want everything wrapped up. I want answers. I want decisions. A good friend of mine suggested I “be still and listen,” which is like telling a crack addict to sip tea while reading Thomas Friedman’s “From Beirut to Jerusalem.”

I’m trying but it’s hard to listen when I’ve got Ms. Type A in one ear and this spontaneous, free spirited pixie in the other.

The contrast between these personalities is reflected in my office. I have 10 running to-do lists; a file folder of more than 200 fiction and non-fiction story ideas; two novels in-process; a list of life goals (often conflicting); and a list of quarterly goals. That’s the military side. The creative side painted the walls bright blue, hung art and covered a large bookcase with all sorts of randomness including graduation tassels (what?); journals; dried lavender; sports medals (who cares?); an original Betty Crocker cookbook; useless press passes; a typewriter; and a tooth, likely human.

I worry that if I fail to balance these identities, I’ll either end up like Dr. Leo Marvin, an uptight goal-oriented therapist who helps his patient, Bob, learn to appreciate life while his own falls apart, or The Dude, a happy burnout who loves White Russians and women named Bunny.

Thenali and What About Bob part 2/2

Big Lebowski Crash Scene

God expects his people to patiently wait for the end of the world. We don’t hear from the people, but we hear from the prophets who swing between Dr. M and The Dude. None of them are in the middle. None of them are “just waiting.” They’re either freaking out (type A) or calmly relaying God’s message (pixie). If the prophets can’t balance Dr. M and The Dude, how am I supposed to? Just wait?

Stopping Point: The Book of Malachi

Sympathy for the Devil

October 26, 2010

Here’s a christian favorite: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

He sure does. I dozed off during today’s reading. I blame Gog, a man with an interesting name and dull tale. When I woke up I thought, “What the hell am I going to write about today? All I’ve got is Gog.”

To stay awake during the rest of the reading, I turned on Pandora and wouldn’t you know, the first song was “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. When I finished reading, I got an email from a reader about Stones’ front man Keith Richards quitting the Bible in 2008 because “it was boring.” Coincidence? I think not. God wanted me to find inspiration in the devil.

Before boring Gog, I read “The Valley of Dry Bones.” Anorexics existed during Biblical times (many people nearly fasted themselves to death in the name of the Lord) but this valley is full of bones, no flesh, no organs, no fuzzy faces. Bones.

God breathes life into these bones, thereby creating new humans. How, might I ask, does this exclude reincarnation as a possibility for Christians? What if God screwed up and breathed souls into animals or trees? I’d like to delve into this topic, but I’m brain dead and it’s almost Halloween so let’s get back to the devil.

All God has to do is breathe life into bones. The devil, on the other hand, has to personalize purgatory for every sinner. That, my friend, is quite a task. I am not bothered by the prospect of spending eternity in inferno. Extreme heat is not on my Top 100 List of Irritations. When I go to hell, the devil’s going to need to customize a chamber for me, Ivy Hughes, and it should include the following:

Old people eating liquids

Barking dogs

Morbidly obese people in motorized scooters

Snakes

Politicians (there’s some overlap here)

Glenn Beck and his stupid university

Bjork

Mark Zuckerberg

Raw chicken

Those are just a few samples from the list I’ve been compiling for about a year and that’s just me. My husband’s chamber would include wet socks, mismatched socks, Oprah and unsolicited contact with bodily fluids.

Imagine how many people are in and will go to hell. Imagine customizing purgatory for each and every one of them.

In “Sympathy for the Devil,” the Stones say the Devil “stole many a man’s soul and fate.” Imagine managing all of those stolen souls? The Devil only gets one holiday — Halloween — so make sure it’s a good one.

The Rolling Stones : Sympathy For The Devil (live) HQ

Stopping Point: The Book of Daniel

*We’re adding faces and opinions. Thursday our first guest blogger, Laura Talley, creator of the Redheaded Skeptic, will contribute to ThumpMe. If you’re interested in contributing or have suggestions for contributors/subjects, please leave a comment or contact me at ivy.hughes@gmail.com

Puff the Magic Prophet

October 20, 2010

Mescaline is: “An alkaloid drug, C11H17NO3, obtained from mescal buttons, which produces hallucinations. Also called peyote.” (Definition provided by Urban Dictionary contributor, Adict).

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.

I’m reading a Bible with pictures, drawings really, sometimes they’re helpful, sometimes not. This is the one place where I could really use some imagery but for some reason, the creative team behind my edition of the Bible thought it more valuable to include a drawing of a man shaking his fist in the air than the quad-faced roller derby creatures.

So, I’ve had to improvise. This is a little amateurish, but this is what I picture.

Oh, the eye wheel.

I’ve heard it’s difficult to explain hallucinations. I suppose it’s like explaining dreams, which is why I’m going leave Ezekiel’s second vision of God to the imagination.

In all seriousness, I’ve always wondered how a person becomes a prophet and, more importantly, how people believe that person is a prophet. Prophets claim to have seen God in some form or another but plenty of people claim to have seen God. They see his image in toast, concrete and candy bars. Others claim God reveals himself through substance induced hallucinations. One guy founded an entire religion based on four golden plates allegedly bestowed upon him by God’s angels. Another man convinced 39 people to kill themselves because, after a near death experience, it became apparent to him that he was one of the two witnesses in the Book of Revelations.

Who gets to decide what is a hallucination; an idol; a dream; a message from God; or a joke? What, really, is the difference between someone who sees a four-faced, four-handed creature and someone who sees Jesus toast? Talking stuffed animals? Golden plates?

I find this all very confusing but make no mistake, prophets lead horrible lives. Forecasting death, cannibalism, fire and starvation is an intense, thankless job. Poor Jeremiah nearly lost his mind. Ezekiel, was much more matter of fact in his role as bearer of bad news. I don’t think he was insensitive, I just think he had a little something-something to get him through the night.

Make no mistake, if God ever reveals himself to me, forcing me into a life of prophesying, my food pyramid will consist entirely of mescaline…or beans.

Stopping Point: The Book of Ezekiel 25-48

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

Passing on Passover

July 12, 2010

I realize this will devastate the Jewish community, but I will not be converting to Judaism. The Old Testament is largely at fault as it’s full of names and places I will never get straight. I’m also not that hot on Jerusalem, a sentiment my husband says is “ignorant” and therefore may require revision.

Even though I don’t want to be a Jew and am looking forward to the New Testament, I’ve enjoyed several pieces of the Old including the Book of Judges. The majority of the Book of Judges is about killing, taking land and killing. Naturally, I can’t remember the names of the murderers, lost tribes or pillaged lands, but I remember the means to every end. They include a left handed stabbing with a double edged sword; an enthusiastic hammering of a tent peg into a skull; an oxgoad beating; a natural beating via thorns and briars; lighting people on fire (this happens a lot); death by flaming fox tails; dead donkey jawbone bashings and collapsing structures for the sole purpose of crushing skulls.

The Book of Judges also introduces us to our first sociopath, a wayward Levite who makes up for selfishly murdering his wife by generously distributing her chopped up body to each of the 12 Tribes of Israel. I believe Judges records our first gang rape, but I’d have to go back and check because something similar may have happened last time homosexuality was discussed. I have major issues with this and am logging all violence related to homosexual activity.

The Levite is fascinating, but I’m awestruck by Samson, who ripped a lion apart with his hands and then ate honey from its innards; and indebted to Deborah, who created a two page “song” that reads like a text book, proving that people have been subjected to musical train wrecks since the beginning of civilization. In other words, I finally found a song less palatable than “Money Can’t Buy You Class,” by New York real housewife Countess Luann de Lesseps.

This is entirely unrelated but I came across extraordinary hat while searching for photos of Jerusalem. If anyone wants to send me one, I promise to search eBay for a matching oxgoad (a stick-like weapon) and wear both to work.

Stopping Point: Samuel

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