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

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If you’re wondering where I’ve gone, I’m wandering around Europe. I’m about to leave for a few weeks of isolation on an island off of Spain. Until I settle down (presuming that happens), my posts will be highly erratic and will most likely be all things travel.

Though I want to follow through on my dive bar/church commitment, I need to take care of some other things first. Thank you for being such loyal readers. When I figure out what I’m doing, I’ll let you know what I plan to blog about next but right now I need to focus on traveling and writing my novel.

Wrath

May 6, 2011

I’ve had a hard time getting into churches, but now God wants to keep me out of bars.

Nursing a double duty kidney infection instead of going to pub or pew. Back on when I can stand on my own.

El Porton, Bogotá, Colombia

3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Notable Matter:  Foreign animal head (oxen?), canteen, horseshoe and bull fighting paraphernalia above bar.

Describing a dive bar to someone living outside of the U.S. is difficult. Not because class division doesn’t exist – it does – but because independent retailers and restaurants are the norm, not the exception. A dive bar in the U.S. is a neighborhood bar everywhere else. Like our dive bars, they tend to be dark, lack windows and fill with interesting characters but they’re not competing with chain restaurants and flashy facades so they don’t slide into the category of slightly sketchy.

It’s no secret that Americans fear Colombia. The only thing we know of it is drugs and violence. Thanks to U.S. intervention, again, in Colombian policy and the acceleration of Mexican cartels, Americans view Colombia more favorably than before but when compared to what we’re comfortable with – large, shiny, safe, new things – it remains a dive country.

I wasn’t afraid to travel to Colombia but I didn’t want to go to a dive bar alone. I could handle the unknown city, but feared the unknown bar. I thought I might get kidnapped, which is not only stupid but extremely egotistical as there’s nothing about me or my life that would be of any value to a kidnapper in Colombia or anywhere else.

I planned to travel to the south side of the city, an expansive mass exiled from all tourist maps, with some natives to check out some dives as described by me and interpreted by them, but those plans fell through. I almost used this, two attempted purse snatchings and a small run in with the police as an excuse to can the Colombian dive bar experience but then I would have lost to fear and we can’t have that.

Toe First

I walk past El Porton, a small white building with a large door blocking the crooked hole serving as an entrance, and grab a safe lunch special at an American looking French sounding restaurant. When I leave, I give myself a pep talk. I’m on a side street in the middle of the city. I’m tired of being on guard 24/7 and weighing my commitment to church and alcohol. Is it more important to follow through on the blog or remain sober for the three mile walk home?

El Porton is across the street from an old bull fighting stadium, one I wouldn’t have gotten into if I hadn’t poked my head through a crack in the door and grabbed the attention of a police officer. One I wouldn’t have had to myself if I’d snubbed my curiosity. I remind myself Bogota is a city, that as long as I respect it I’ll be OK. I walk into El Porton.

I fall into the bar because like the rest of the country, the steps are surprising and uneven. The tables are white, plastic, covered with red and white checked table cloths. The table numbers are written on the white wall in black marker or crayon. The room is long. A young woman comes from the back to take my order. I assume it’s a family business. Mom follows the girl and yells to dad when I ask if I can take pictures. For some reason I obtain manners in foreign countries that I don’t have at home.

The walls are sparse, signed bullfighting photographs with curled edges huddle near the door and behind the bar. The family doesn’t understand why I’m here but we don’t talk so it doesn’t matter anyway. I stare at a poster. Looks like a harmonica man is coming to town. I watch the military or the police or some other protective force patrol the street outside the bar. These protectors are everywhere, including the parks where drugs are sold. I wonder what, exactly, makes people feel safe.

Fear is necessary response, but a wasted emotion. I wish more people would challenge fear of the unknown. It would be great if we examined what we fear before moving onto what we know. It’s interesting to think what would happen if church goers and administrators had to talk to atheists, Buddhists, etc. before studying the Bible.

Help Us Go to Brazil

April 1, 2011

My good friend and I want to volunteer in Brazil. In order to get to Brazil, we need to snag this grant. If you want to help us out, please check out the video. You can vote every single day for a month or so and we really need it. Feel free to share this on Facebook, Twitter, etc. We can’t wait!

Here’s the video but please click here to vote.

Bogota posts coming Monday and Wednesday. It’s a great place. Book a ticket and if we get to Brazil, we’ll pop over and say hey.

Posts from Colombia

March 29, 2011

Despite the many satellites outside my window, I’m having tech issues. I always tell my dad most of his computer problems are user error related. I think the same is true here. Either way, I have a Bible post and a bar post but getting them on the web from Columbia will be dicey.

There’s probably some reason for all of this. Perhaps God’s intervening in order to get me to the Brokeback Mountain bar, which was closed earlier today. I can take a hint. Giddy up!

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Ft. Collins, Colo.

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

Chosen because…went for Pentecostal but service times didn’t suit my needs so swapped it with another “al” denomination.

Well I Never

I’ll never stay in Colorado. I’ll never read the Bible. I’ll never go to church. I’ll never get married. I’ll never get divorced. Never say never. Lesson learned.

Since the Redeemer Lutheran experience, I’ve put my pissy pants on every Sunday morning, bitched and moaned all the way to church and resisted pre-service temper tantrums. But when I left St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, I was calm. Like abnormally, once-in-a-lifetime kind of calm. Why? Because it turns out that I’m getting dumber, not smarter and for that I’m grateful. I’m so sick of thinking.

Age: The Great Eraser

I don’t know anything about Episcopalians and that’s fine as knowledge taints experience. I love the church interior. Basic. A few stained glass windows. A cross draped in white cloth hanging from the ceiling. This is the first church I’ve been to with organ music, which I love. Very traditional. Love that too.

Service starts. A choir cloaked in white, wooden crosses hanging from necks, floats down the aisles. Priests or whatever take the stage. There are many. They have hoods on the back of their white robes. I’m not in the deep south or Michigan. I wipe KKK from the brain. During meet your neighbor the preachers step into the aisles, shaking hands as they go. I like this but am trapped between an old woman in a powder blue suit and a crabby note taker who nearly clips my toes every time she pulls down the prayer bar.

Most of the congregation will be chillin’ with God soon. Perhaps that’s why the preacher chose John 3:1 – 17. Here’s the story. This arrogant dude, Nicodemus, meets with Jesus at night because he’s ashamed to be seeking advice from a lowly country boy but he needs counsel so he does it anyway. Nicodemus thinks he knows everything but in his later years, after Jesus dies, he doesn’t say anything. He kicks his know-it-all attitude, which suggests that as we age we either lose our minds or realize we don’t know a damn thing about anything.

I believe it’s the latter. I’ve realized this in my own life, particularly within the last few months. I’ve ripped the blanket off some of my more gregarious opinions and stereotypes, but I still use “you’re wrong, you’re just wrong” when backed in a corner during arguments. Turns out I’m usually wrong, which I hate especially when my mom hauls out the dictionary as backup. You can’t argue with Merriam.

Never Say Never

I didn’t want to go to church, assumed it would suck, thought “I’ll never enjoy this” but like I said, it really chilled me out. I liked the sermon but I also didn’t feel any pressure to share my non-existent relationship with God with other people. I’m not sure I’ve gotten that from any other church.

Example. Rather than harping on Bible studies, the pastor focused on Foyer Groups, groups of eight-to-10 people who meet for dinner etc. to get to know each other. I like that. I need friends but I don’t want the Bible getting between us.

I never thought I’d use the prayer bar or reply to the preacher as outlined by the bolded text in the leaflet, but I did it. I kind of want to get baptized so I can receive communion. But I’ll never do it. I’ll never stick with organized religion. And I’ll never say things I don’t mean. Ever.

Redeemer Lutheran Church, Ft. Collins, Colo.

11 a.m. to ?

Chosen because…late service

Biggest church I’ve been to.  It sits in a giant field surrounded by wealthy neighborhoods. Not only does it have a welcome center, which gives makes me feel like I’m walking through an airport rather than a church, it also has a worship center, life/center gym, preschool, student center, etc.

I’m grateful for the coffee/donut room. Guilt kicks in so I donate $1 to the coffee collection. This is the only donation I’ve made to a church thus far. After service I feel duped, used and wish I could take my money back.

Love Money, Then Jesus

Remember this scene from Jerry Maguire? This is Redeemer Lutheran Church.

JERRY MAGUIRE SHOW ME THE MONEY


The preachers or whatever are dressed in white, red sashes resting on either side of their chests. Huge choir. Massive movie screen. Many people wearing buttons purporting their love for Jesus. At least I think that’s what they’re for.

It’s “commitment weekend,” a time for parishioners to place donation envelopes they received via mail in Pottery Barn-like donation baskets. Before they do, the preacher fills them with artificial love, hiding the church’s need for greed behind Bible passages such as “whoever does not love God does not know love.”

When the preacher quiets, this message is conveyed, falsely — though song — and soundtrack as people in the sound booth add thunder and other such nonsense to the melody.

After guilt by love, the preacher gets down to business. This whole love B.S. will continue for 36 months because the church is on a mission to a) Raise up stewards b) Pay down debt c) Further the mission.

So learn about God, pay down the Redeemer Lutheran‘s $2 million debt during the next 36 months and then spread God’s word through costly missions. Appalling.

Need for Greed

He uses the following mantras to encouraging giving…and love.

“Love is not really love until it’s given away.”

“I hope you get to learn during this season we get to give love away.”

“We don’t want to whore the message of God.”

Then we watch a clip from Schindler’s List. It’s at the end when Schindler realizes the money he spent on material excess could have saved thousands of Jews.

People sniffle. It’s an emotional scene and a cleaver way for the preacher to beg for money. After the clip, he invites everyone to bring up envelopes of money, encouraging them to “woo hoo” when they dump it in Pottery Barn-like baskets.

I’m sick to my stomach. This place of worship is an infomercial, not a church. I leave and head to a dive bar in Loveland of all places, to cleanse my soul.

The leaders of this church should be ashamed of themselves for their unabashed call to greed. Redeemer Lutheran Church is antithetical to Jesus’ message. It’s disgusting.

Town Pump, Fort Collins, Colo.

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Notable Matter: Bumper stickers. Two favorites: “My boobs have fallen and they can’t get up,” “Masturbating is not a sin.”

Three people recommended the Town Pump as a Ft. Collins must see dive bar, but it’s far from a dive. Ft. Collins is its own thing and the people here have a skewed view of, well, everything.

This “dive bar” is small — bar, three round tables, a long table facing the street. It’s quintessential Ft. Collins. A highly educated city full of people who consider themselves open-minded because they have the ability to judge diplomatically.

The people here love the environment, but burn many a fossil fuel every weekend to travel via Subaru or SUV to ski, rock climb, snowmobile, kayak, etc.  They express their individualism by placing political signs in their yards, tattoos on their wrists. We think we’re different but we look the same.

Coors Light is the only domestic beer on tap but it’s buried behind all the microbrews and I don’t see it until after ordering New Belgium’s Dunkel Weiss, a German wheat with enough alcohol to keep me at a pint. The stickers covering the walls advertise ski resorts; breweries; environmental stewardship; health and exercise; and marijuana use.

This is not a dive bar. This is Fort Collins, the perfect hometown for a walking contradiction.

Masturbating is Not a Crime

But neither is chasing a dream. Unfortunately most people don’t see it that way, myself included.

Many have asked so I’ll go ahead and say it. I moved to Colorado. Alone. Why? Because I need freedom, I need to travel, I need to keep moving and writing. Many people tell me how lucky I am, how cool it must be to travel, how they’d like to do the same, etc. But they don’t. Why? Because dreams and nightmares co-exist and what goes up must come down.

Yes, I’m completely unattached but I’m not a trust fund baby and my free spirit is often smothered by practicality. I’m free but anxious. Excited but terrified. Unattached but alone. I remind myself every day that it’s OK to chase what I need, what I want, but I don’t always believe it. I’ve been trained not to. I think we all have.

I love Ft. Collins, but living here is like looking in a mirror, watching myself talk out of both sides of my mouth. Travel? Job? Living with the ‘rents? Owning a home? Stay stateside? Move to Argentina? Find religion? Absorb alcohol?

Some places are too familiar for comfort, which is why I can’t stay here or anywhere for that matter. At least not right now. When I return from the Town Pump, I book my return ticket from Europe. Tonight I’ll book a ticket to Columbia. Columbia in April. Michigan, Iceland, Prague, Munich, Italy, Paris, Spain, Canary Islands, Michigan in May, June and July.

I’m a writer on the run. How unusual.

Religion or Bust

February 15, 2011

I had every intention of going to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. In fact, as soon as I realized the events surrounding the Mercedes-sponsored Laureus sports event would prevent me from going, I tried to extend my stay purely for the mosque. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the eighth largest mosque in the world and the largest mosque in the UAE. It’s gorgeous and open to visitors for educational tours. Understandably, visitors are asked to respect cultural norms ie. wear modest, conservative, loose fitting clothing; long sleeves, long skirts and trousers; leave shorts, short skirts and tight clothing at home; avoid intimate behavior such as kissing or handholding; wear a headscarf (women only); and keep beachwear at the beach.

My first experience with Islam was, naturally, inappropriate. I first heard midday prayer while relaxing on a private beach in a garish, unholy Victoria’s Secret bikini I bought on a whim of overconfidence (I’ve lost the bottoms to my standard plain Jane swimming suit). Though it was a private beach, I felt uncomfortable until the wind forced me to cover up.

(The dreaded VC suit on a lampshade…where it belongs.)

The prayer was surprisingly soothing and nothing like the chaos Fox News links to everything Middle Eastern and/or Islamic.

I did have a little prayer mat in my room and realized on day three that the diagonal arrow above my bed was intended to lead guests toward Mecca, not the closet. Waking up to the early morning prayer was delightful and saved me from missing my return flight.

I only wish I could have made it to the mosque and actually come back with an impression a tad more substantive than prayers and an arrow.

My flight out of Abu Dhabi had some quote from the Koran but I can’t remember it. However, when I got home, I found a Bible on my front porch — no joke — and there was a bookmark in the Book of Esther so I randomly grabbed a quote as I need guidance and apparently, sometimes when people are struggling, they reach for a random bit in the Bible and relate it to their lives.

This is what I got:

“And the ‘drinking’ was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure.” (Esther, Chapter 1)

I was looking for something more substantive, something that wouldn’t encourage my commitment to vice. I thought the Bible was supposed to speak to people when they’re hurting. Maybe it’s supposed to act like a cheering section. Who knows. I was hoping for something like:

“This too shall pass,” a Facebook post from a friend that may be Biblical in nature? I’m not sure.

On a side note, my flashy binki may not have been entirely inappropriate. Apparently bikinis and religion can work together as proven by another Mercedes-sponsored event — the True Religion Bikini Runway. I wasn’t asked to participate in this one. I can’t imagine why. You wouldn’t believe the number of swimsuit modeling offers I turn down each year. It’s out of control.

True Religion Bikini Runway 2011 Line

I will be heading to a Mennonite church this coming Sunday and apologize for the flighty posts. Travel. Hopefully I’ll adjust.

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