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

Note: I apologize if this blog is subpar. I’m in hellhole Nebraska, kid behind me needs a spanking. I didn’t sleep last night, GPS broken, no atlas, headed into a storm, 14 hours to go.

Mountain View Community Church, Ft. Collins, Colo.

10 a.m. to 11: 30 a.m.

Chosen because…it’s small, my mom considered buying it years ago and I spent many a night jumping off the roof of a neighboring house to hang from a rope swing. Genius, I know.

Warmup

Getting out the door is rough. Mom straightening my clothes, touching my hair, thinks I’ve never dressed myself. Feels like the first day of school. Notice six-inch rip in upper thigh of my leggings. Don’t want to get in a tête-à-tête with mom regarding how hemline dictates whether an outfit requires leggings or tights. Instead, I change my outfit and get in the car. Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitter” playing. I consider feeling bad for agreeing with the following verse, which I love.

“Been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding.”

I think better of it, continue thinking of stupid people breeding, figure church will help. Drive up. Sigh of relief. Young couples, families and teenagers walking up the steps. Fine with meeting my neighbor who is young, cool, interesting and sweet.

The Message

I like the message. Condemnation. Conviction. Cleansation (pastor admits to creating this word). We condemn ourselves when we do something wrong, feel unworthy of God’s love or, for us non-believers, the love of others. Rather than confessing, we cover it up or blame someone else.

I feel good. I don’t have an issue with condemnation or conviction. I do not blame others for my issues and confess everything to everyone. I think for a second, realize this is good for me but problematic for others. It damages relationships and, thanks to keypad confessions, has me looking into international journalism law, specifically defamation of character.

The pastor says “confession brings hope.”

I disagree and have another thought. Do I confess my sins to the entire blogosphere because I’m honest or do I do it because it takes the weight of sin off my shoulders and dumps it on someone else? For me, does confession bring hope? No. It begets relief. Something to think about. Hard.

I lose the pastor during cleansation. This is the point where belief collides with lack thereof. Cleansation requires faith in God or Christ. I don’t have it.

The Pews, My God the Pews

Next week I’m strapping a body pillow around my chest and wearing three layers of Depends to prevent pew pain. The pastor mentioned removing ourselves from our flesh. I have difficulty doing this anyway and sitting in a pew with a tense back, bra clasp digging into my spin, butt bones on fire, does not help.

Churchgoers: Why are pews so miserable?

Take Away

I would go back to this church. I liked the people, the size and the message. No donation platters. Pastor referred to judgmental believers as the “so called religious.” Loved that. Was uncomfortable with the baptism of two high school girls who were dunked in a waterhole hidden behind a wooden door. The Baptism, not the church, made me uncomfortable.

I felt better after church and thanks to some divine radio intervention that put Bob Marley in my head, I stopped thinking about stupid people breeding and thought about sunshine, snowboarding and enjoying life.

As BM says:

Most people think great God will come from the skies, take away everything and make everybody feel high. But if you know what life is worth, you will look for yours on earth; and now you see the light.”

Yes, there was an attitude shift after church experience No. 1 but I don’t know what/who was responsible. I can’t relate it to God, but does it really matter what it is if it improves your life?

P.S. The title of my last post was “Though Shalt Not Judge.” I changed it to “Thou.” If you see glaring mistakes, please let me know. I’m a novice.

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

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.

If you don’t have at least one vice, don’t plan on infiltrating my personal circle. I’ll never trust you.

God and I agree on this point, he just doesn’t know it. According to this bit of Bible, God gives non-believers “corrupted minds” so they can do things they should not do, so they can entertain vice, which includes: evil, greed, jealousy, murder, fighting, deceit, malice, gossip, evil talk; hating God; insolence; pride; disobedience; lies; and cruelty.

Above all else “every man is a liar.” Agreed (women included), but what a disingenuous way to garner followers. Essentially God is saying, “since you’re human and these things are bound to happen, you’re screwed so you may as well give yourself over to me and, if you do you’ll have eternal life and this drudgery you live will disappear.”

I’ve stayed away from cliché arguments against religion, but using force and fear as a means to facilitate loyalty is repugnant.

The Book of Romans is fascinating. It’s about God’s Law and it is written like a congressional bill so if a person isn’t paying attention, they just get the fear and follow message. It’s winding, wordy (new word) and extremely difficult to follow. But the stuff Paul wants us to know — you’re bad and if you don’t love God you’re screwed — is written in plain English.

At one point Paul says (in parenthesis), “I use every day language because of the weakness of your natural selves.”

As in, listen up dummy, here’s everything you need to know. God created you to sin, but is merciful and will forgive you and let you walk among angels if you believe. Aside from coercion, this is a lie. In the Old Testament, God is anything but merciful. He doesn’t show grace, turn a blind eye, or bestow patience on sinners. He eviscerates them.

I know the Bible offers a lot of value — I see it — but this is propaganda used to fool people into letting fear overtake thought.

Now, I’m trying to remain open minded. As I said, I’ve found a lot of value in the Bible. I even found two bits in The Book of Romans that apply to my life.

“If our gift is to speak God’s message, we should do it according to the faith that we have.” If we don’t act on that faith, then we’re in trouble. But, if my faith is within myself, does that count? It may not be what God intended, but it’s faith.

Paul says that if we, as individuals, think something is right and we do that thing, we’re OK. But if we have any doubts about it, we’re guilty and therefore it’s wrong. So if I think it’s OK to kill a certain person – no doubts, no guilt — is that OK?

At one point Paul portends to address some important questions, questions no person of faith has ever answered for me. For example, if God is merciful, how can God find fault with anyone? Peter’s response: “But who are you my friend to talk back to God?”

That’s my problem. The answers I see in the Bible are ones of don’t ask don’t tell.

Unfortunately, interpretation is nine-tenths the law and I’m the outlier.

Stopping Point: Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians

* Note to the few of you hanging on despite this post: I will be traveling across the country starting Friday. I will continue the posts, but may add some travel updates as well.

 

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