*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.

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

Porn. Links. Comment.

December 6, 2010

Words. They are beautiful, painful, meaningful, empty, random, cathartic, misunderstood, abused, destructive, empowering and confusing.

ThumpMe is a great word. It generates a staggering amount of interest from the adult entertainment industry. Usually they contact me via Facebook, or follow me on Twitter, but one commented on the Sexy Nine post. The comment was OK — “this is the best post ever seen…ok!” — but when I stalked him via the link associated with his name, I ended up in Porn Land, which I can deal with unfortunately, the girls on the site were minors so now MSNBC’s “To Catch a Predator” is probably going to send some 16-year-old in a short skirt and thighs highs to my house. Great. At least it will make for an interesting story.

This week we’re launching Fiction 440, a flash fiction event designed to get people playing with words. We give them three prompts that they have to use some where in the story, a 440-word count and a deadline. Our first prompts: Balls. Cufflinks. Glassware.

If ThumpMe were a flash fiction topic, the prompt would be Porn. Links. Comments.

We can play flash fiction with The Acts too. They’re a snooze. If I wanted to listen to that much courtroom drama, I would have gone to law school. My God. Workable prompts for The Acts include: Gentiles. Romans. Miracle.

“If it weren’t for miracles, the Gentiles, Jews and Romans would chill out and allow me to read things of greater importance such as “I love you but…”

Seriously though, we’re so flippant about syntax. Take the word miracle. In the Bible, miracles are unexplained situations that heal deaf people, jolt the crippled from bed and revive weaving widows.

My miracle criteria are a bit more blasé. “It’s a miracle I’ve survived six Michigan winters.” “It’s a miracle that I haven’t lost my ‘jade is the new black’ nail polish.”

Sometimes I use it correctly. “It’s a miracle I didn’t get raped when I followed a few Dominicans to ghetto fab ‘dance clubs’ in a seedy barrio.” “It’s a miracle that women can make bones, brains and skin.”

Today I looked at the top “miracle” Google news alerts.

1. Keizer Miracle of Christmas lights

(It’s about a Christmas light festival. Really?)

2. No Bobb miracle: Detroit Schools Have Failed

(Poor guy couldn’t save the Detroit schools, which, I suppose would be a miracle.)

3. I’m skipping this one. It’s too stupid for consumption.

4. After ‘miracle,’ shooting victim gives thanks

OK. Getting shot in the face and outpacing death by .5 centimeters counts as a miracle. The others, not so much. But if you don’t believe in a higher power you can’t use the word “miracle” because Merriam-Webster defines miracle as “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.”

Guess I’ll have to excommunicate myself from miracles.

Stopping Point: Paul’s Letter to the Romans

Pastor Noah Filipiak is young, smart and far from a thumper. He’s using his church, Barefoot Christian Church, as a pulpit to build community and understanding in Lansing, Mich. His approach to religion could encourage a person like me to convert…if conversion were a possibility.

Filipiak, 27, started Barefoot Church, which is located in Downtown Lansing, in 2006 to build a community, not pack pews. Barefoot started as a series of in-home Bible study groups and eventually grew into a building.

A friend told me about Filipiak a few years ago and though we live in the same hood, I’ve never met him. However, he left two books in my mailbox — The Year of Living Biblically and The Blue Parakeet — books an uneducated, almost middle age person like myself will actually read. He knows how to connect with people, he isn’t pushy and he’s gracious.

He’s one of many people cracking my thumper stereotype. Here’s what he has to say about the church, movie theaters and God’s request that a prophet marry a prostitute.

Barefoot Church. Do you really check your shoes at the door?

Noah Filipiak: No. We came up with the name from Exodus where Moses takes off his sandals before God at the holy bush. When we started the church we didn’t want it to be a once a week ritual. As Christians we have God living inside of us so we should live out that faith all the time. Essentially, the way Moses was in front of God when he saw the burning bush is what it would look like if God were consciously with us.

It’s a good name to laugh at and it raises some good questions.

What do you think about all of these churches that are desperately trying to boost parishioner numbers?

NF: There’s a really delicate balance there. Do we want people in church? Absolutely because we want people knowing the love of Jesus but if the goal is just to have a big crowd and not be honoring God, that’s different. He was never about having a big crowd. He invested in 12 disciples, not the big show. We need to be careful about the motives there.

I’ve been to a big box church. I’ve also been to several prisons. I prefer the prisons. Thoughts?

NF: I think you’re talking about mega churches. I call that movie theater church and I think American church culture is turning more into movie theater churches. When I go to the movies, I walk in with a bunch of people I don’t know, we see a show together and when it’s all over, we leave and go back the next week to do it again.

What I say to my church is, next time you’re in a movie, turn to the person next to you in the theater and talk to them really seriously. Say hey, I want to let you know I have an addiction to porn that I can’t break and it’s wrecking my marriage and I was wondering if you you’ll be there for me. Can I call you when I’m struggling? See what the person says. Usually that person will sit in another chair and probably report you to an usher.

The story of how the church started includes a description of what went on — teaching, singing, prayer and fellowship with people. There you see a very different picture of church than what we do today. It’s challenging for me as a pastor. It’s like OK, we live in America, how do we kind of fight against our culture? We’re very individualistic in some ways but we’re consumers and those things blend into church and that’s why we need to emphasize home groups and community groups.

Church is more than just a big show.

You said I might like the Book of Hosea. I remember thinking he was a bit of a wimp. What did I miss?

NF: I thought you might find it funny that God asked him to marry a prostitute. I read that and I preach on it every once and while. I don’t think most Christians realize that even in the Bible, God asks his prophet to marry a prostitute. There are Christians that might say that’s false.

I think the metaphor is fairly powerful. It shows that God is a relational God and it shows what’s really happening with his people. It shows what they were doing to him (Hosea) and emotionally it really hurt the way it would if my spouse were cheating on me. It’s more a metaphor than Hosea himself.

Do you ever get sick of reading the Bible?

NF: Yeah. I grew up in the church and genuinely put my faith in Christ when I was like four years old. It sounds bizarre, but it truly wasn’t a manipulative thing. I first read through it when I was 15 and I’m 27. I remember the first reading and I thought some sections were really boring.

The Bible can lose its freshness but you have to keep it different. Right now I’m reading the Daily Bible. It takes the Bible and divides it chronologically and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few months. That’s really freshened it up for me. The big thing is to see the Bible as a story, not a lot of different things just happening.

So you’ve read a bit of the blog. What am I missing?

NF: I think the biggest thing is that I would never have anyone pick up the Bible and read it cover-to-cover. Not to sound dramatic, but when people get to drive a car, they don’t give everyone a car and say have fun and good luck. We give driving lessons and there’s a test you have to pass. You have to know a bit about the car before you drive it.

I think the Bible is a dangerous book and it can be misused and misread. I think when it’s just picked up without some context to what it actually is, it can be difficult to glean the messages.

For example, when you read through the Old Testament there’s definitely stuff that’s just crazy. I believe the Bible is God’s word. The trick is the context. It’s not meant to be taken literally so that’s often why the Bible is so misunderstood. People read the context and say that would never apply today. Whether it’s not eating shellfish or not wearing certain fibers. Some of those obscure texts still have meaning for us so we have to realize the context we read it in today is different than when it was written.

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

Sexy Nine

November 9, 2010

I’m not a mathematician, but I crunched some numbers during Leviticus and according to young God, humans can have sex nine times during a 30-day month. Max. If the stars don’t align and a woman has her period during those nine days, the in-laws are visiting, or someone has a headache, sayonara pillow talk.

How then, does human kind make it to 600 B.C.? After centuries of war and a nine-day sex window, how the hell did humans survive and have enough resources to repopulate?

Maybe after eviscerating his people a few times, God conducted a census and changed his mind. He does it all the time.

When I did my days-of-sex count, God punished his people by draping them in sackcloth and drawing their hair over their eyes. In the Book of Micah and the Book of Nahum, God punishes people by having them run around naked. I’ve never lived in a nudist colony (visited one, fascinating and shriveled), but I assume the propensity for sexual interaction is greater when people walk around in the buff — any collision could result in attachment.

It’s too bad we can’t choose who follows God’s nine-day sex rule. Unfortunately, most people can procreate (cringe).

Right now one of the “hot topics” on American newsreels is a presidential miscarriage. Our former president, W., had someone write a book for him and in it he talks about the time he saw his mother’s miscarried fetus.

According to the Christian Post, “He unexpectedly saw the remains of the human fetus that his mother saved to bring to the hospital” and “acknowledged that moment also contributed to his pro-life view.”

I’m so traumatized by this, I really don’t know what to say other than there must be some rational behind the nine-day rule. Imagine how many more Bushes there would be if God allowed sex all month! Yikes!

Because part of me is a 15-year-old male, I had to include this. I also grew up in the 90s so I have a thing for Salt-N-Pepa. Enjoy.

Spindarella cut it up one time…

Salt N Pepa – Let’S Talk About Sex (The Original)

Stopping Point: The Book of Zephaniah

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