Tuesday, March 31, 2009

News from My Neighborhood: Airplane Edition!

Our trip home today was essentially uneventful.

In the Air But Need More Air. Except for the woman who collapsed and needed oxygen in the first couple of hours, causing calls for doctors over the intercom. They eventually laid her out in the galley and left her there.

Criminal Economy. Then there was some sort of inexplicable crime committed toward the back of the plane, which caused the police to be waiting for us when we arrived. That crime happened far back in the bowels of the dreaded and frightening "economy" section of the plane so we from "Economy Plus" aren't even sure what happened.

The Day the Earth -- YAWN -- uh, Stood... ZZzzzz. Also I made the mistake of watching the Keanu Reeves version of "The Day the Earth Stood Still." I would like to say that this is the worst movie of all time. The only thing preventing me from saying this is that I have not seen all the movies of the future yet. And let me just share this (***SPOILERS***)... poor Gort. Klatuu barata niktu! The next time genocidal aliens bent on erradicating the human race arrive on earth, please call Will Smith. Also, please don't try to tell me they are the good guys.

Eavesdropping With Matt: Please. Make. It. Stop. Two middle-aged wannabe Lotharios rendezvoused behind our seats to talk ad nauseum and longer about bars around the world and the women they (supposedly) met there. It never ended. I prayed for the seatbelt sign to come on so that an attendant would come shoehorn them back into their seats. But no, these guys had to talk on and on about Vegas, Australia, Thailand. If it went on much longer I was going to turn around and shout GET A GRIP YOU ARE FORTY YEARS OLD AND IT'S TIME TO GET A LIFE! But instead I just used my psychic powers to send them the following message: move along, move along, you are getting your sad lonely life all over the people around you. Then I put on my MP3 player and tried to drown them out. Then the seatbelt light came on! Yay!

D'escalator. As we moved (finally) toward customs in Los Angeles, Krista and I decided to take the stairs instead of the escalator. As we came to the bottom a horrendous crashing and sceams of people falling down the escalator with their luggage. Quick, I told Krista, we need to get away from the people on our flight. Everyone was fine from the Great Escalator Fall as was evidenced by the sound of the Wannabe Lotharios chatting about bars in Los Angeles behind us. RUN AWAY!

Jiggety Jig. It was a sweet moment to arrive home to the cold, wet air of Portland. We love you Australia, but it was great to see our kids again (and Mom and Dad and Janet)! Z and A are requesting blood oaths that if ever we return to Australia they will somehow be with us. We put the little monkeys to bed tonight with the old familiar rituals of story times and songs and it was really wonderful. Glad to be home to the Old Neighborhood.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dragons in Australia


So... I didn't see a kangaroo in Australia. Or a koala bear. Or a platypus. But I did see a Kookaburra and several Eastern Water Dragons. Krista took the picture above while we were out hiking around Manly beach yesterday.

Kangaroos, I'm sorry to report to all you Americans, are plentiful but not in the city. It would be like driving through New York City and hoping to see a deer. This is yet another misconception of the world that I would like to lay at the feet of my old friend, Television. Oh, television... you always want to use visual shorthand to tell me where something is taking place. And the end result is that you tell me lies. I know you are just trying to be clever and helpful, but really Television, is this any way to keep friends? I am disappointed in you.

Water dragons are cool, though. Krista thinks them a little less cool, but this can be forgiven as she agreed to take pictures. If you enlarge this photo you will see that the dragon stuck its tongue out for the picture.

The Most Unexpected Moment in Australia Yet

 


Last night Krista and I went to dinner out on Bondi Beach and ate at a great Italian restaurant owned and run by an Italian family. The restaurant is called Il Puntaro and you should go to it if you get a chance... I had my best meal of our time here at this place.

At the end of our meal (when we tried to pay the bill) our Italian friend came and quickly brought us some free cappucinos. And, as is my norm, decided I had to drink it because it would be culturally inappropriate not to do so.

About eight or nine packs of sugar later I managed to down that drink. But Krista was very proud of this adventure into coffee. I believe this is my second cup of coffee since being married (the first being to honor an old Mexican woman who gave it to me for free because she said I needed something to drink and she felt sorry for me because I was eating alone).
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Eavesdropping with Matt (Episode Thirty-Seven: East Meets West)

Dedicated to the portly fellow in the short shorts and tight white sleeveless shirt at the picnic table behind us at Manly Beach, and also to the six elderly Chinese tourists at the table next to us, who had no idea that I could understand what they were saying.

Tourist 1: Look at that big foreigner! He is very fat.

Tourist 2: He is a little bit big.

Tourist 1: I would say he is fat. Everyone look at that man, don’t you think he is big?

Tourist 3: He is big.

Tourist 4: Do you think he is cold since he is wearing so little clothing?

Tourist 5: Let’s go. I’ve had enough to eat.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

At the Sydney Opera House and what happened there

Krista will put up pictures of our date last night soon. I enjoy going out with her, and last night we had a great time together. We went to see the Sydney Symphony playing a show called "Beethoven and Beyond" at the Sydney Opera House. They played Beethoven's Piano concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15, Hayden's Symphony no. 67 in F and Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. Renowned pianist Paul Lewis played piano for the Beethoven piece, and Douglas Boyd conducted.

Douglas Boyd is quite a conductor. We sat on the stage (it would be the choir's seats when they have a choir) and could see his every move. He would grunt and hiss as he gracefully directed the orchestra through each piece.

At one point someone crinkled some paper (on the other side of the auditorium, it wasn't me) and he gave them such a practiced look of insane anger that I think the person's bit of paper spontaneously combusted and the ushers silently removed the offensive person.

But then, during the break between the opening movement and the Largo, someone started to applaud, then a short but well-intentioned outbreak of appreciation came from the audience. Boyd put his palms together and bowed with a slight smile on his face as if to say Ah, thank you for this applause. We are not finished yet, but I can see that our simple music has moved you. I can tell that you have no idea of the true beauty of this third and longest cadenza we just played, and I imagine you will have no idea what to do at the end of our Bartok, when the chromatic theme is adapted to a diatonic environment... but for now you are impressed and perhaps truly appreciative so far as you are able, and you understand perhaps for the first time what it means when the Bard says that cat guts can bring forth men's souls. So we accept your applause, though we are not yet finished -- and as for the paper crinkling and the coughing and that man there in the red shirt who keeps creaking about in his chair... these things I forgive you, because I can see now they were done in ignorance. And now, if you are quite finished we will continue.

And then, when the evening was over and Boyd returned continually to the front of the stage to receive still more applause, when our hands were raw and tired from playing a sort of music back to the conductor and his orchestra, when he returned one too many times to the apron of the stage and bowed and smiled his superior smile, we forgave him, too, because what he had accomplished was not only some simultaneous reading of music but rather an organized reminder that we, yes we all, are made in the image of God and that a man can take what is in his mind and scratch it out on paper, and other human beings can fashion instruments and still others sacrifice their lives to learn to bring pleasing sounds from these instruments and all these things can come together to provide the faintest echo of the words "Let there be" spoken many millenia ago and for these two hours we remembered that we need not be captives to our base selves, because deeper still stirs an innate desire to be like the One who made us and this is not only possible but so near that we feel we can reach out and take hold of it as simply as reaching out and plucking ripe stars from the tree of night.

And then we took the train back to our hotel, happy and tired and occasionally catching the eye of someone else in a collared shirt or an evening gown and between us passed the mutual understanding that there is a God and He is not far from each one of us, and we must serve Him, we must make this place one that is fitting for Him and that when He comes to reign again we will make an orchestra of previously unknown proportions and there shall be a symphony unlike any other in all of history, and just as His glory fills the whole earth like air, like daylight, so our praise will rise and seek to attain the fullness of His presence.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Heavenly Bar



While traveling through the Hunter Valley yesterday, our intrepid crew of explorers came across an ice cream case filled with strange Aussie wonders. One of which was this "Heaven" bar... a caramel truffle ice cream delight. Of course with a name like "heaven" there are many excellent slogans one can invent for one's product. For instance (click to enlarge if you can't read it):



Yes, it's true that this slogan would probably be more appropriate for a "Hades Bar" but you have to admit they are trying. And it's true, this slogan sealed the deal for me, I knew I needed to try this frozen confectionary wonder.




I'm not certain, in the end, that it lived up to its hype. The caramel was too sweet, so I chipped that off. And the ice cream was a touch not-sweet-enough and had a strange truffle caramel center. All in all, I'm guessing that the real Heaven is better and has better ice cream bars.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Low Down from Down Under


Decided to try vegemite this morning. Our host here tells us that starting as infants they feed it to children... that the pediatrician suggests this. Probably because it tastes like eating the Ramen spice pack and it takes a while to get used to it. I am told that if I eat a little bit each day I will build up an immunity to it... much like iocane powder.



This was my breakfast this morning. Toast, bacon, hash browns and baked mushrooms. It was great.




Here's me watching Shawn BBQ our traditional Aussie meal last night. Also great. A big thanks to the Mitchells for the great meal.


And here's us with the whole team... Paul, Shawn, Heather, Christy, and Nick... plus Krista and me. A big fight broke out with some cockatoos (or something like them) soon after this. You have never heard so much squacking. Or squawking. We had a great time with the team last night talking about culture and how to live well on a multi-cultural team. A lot of great insights from the team on what they are doing well and what they can do better.

Weird Magnet: BIKER RUMBLE

Two biker gangs tried to kill each other at the Sydney airport about half an hour after we left there a few days ago. It's been all over the news here. Of course we didn't know about it or I would have tried to break it up.

Sadly, one guy did get bludgeoned to death right in the terminal. Stupid bikers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

pics from Newcastle

These little parrots are everywhere. They're like the pigeons of Australia. You can tell the Americans from the Aussies because the Americans are walking around with their mouths open, staring at these little guys flitting from tree to tree. The Aussies are saying G'WAN YOU LITTLE FLYING RATS! I would love to bring some of our Aussie friends to America so they can gawk in wonder at the fat little grey pigeons in the States.

That's Shawn on the left, one of the team leaders of the Newcastle team, and to the right is Brina, one of the team leaders of the Seattle team. He came over to get some time with the Newcastle team and also to surprise his son, Nick, for his birthday.


We took the team for dessert at "Cold Rock." Can you guess which American restaurant this is? Here's Heather and her daughter and Christy (the other team leader... she's an Aussie!) having a bit of ice cream.



Here's Paul, Shawn and me doing the same.



Heather, Paul (American stinter), Nick (Aussie intern) and Christy at one of the morning prayer meetings on campus.


Lazy, Lazy Kangaroo

I remember my disappointment when I first saw wild horses. You mean to say they just stand around in a field and eat grass like... well, like ordinary horses? Yes.

Today Krista took part of the day with our friend Heather and her daughter and went out to an animal park so she could see koalas and kangaroos and so on. Krista took this picture of a kangaroo.



"It just sat there," she said. "It looked like a dog lying down." Lazy kangaroo! Krisa also wrote this rather funny little something about the koala bears she saw today.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SPITFIRE!

The woman who runs the place we stay in was talking with us this morning and then looked over on the floor and said, "SPITFIRE!" and walked over to pick up a bug in a napkin. She threw it in the trash and I looked at Krista with wide eyes and mouthed, "Spitfire?" I could just imagine some bug that shot fire out of its snout or something.

Then the lady came back into the room and said, "It's spitfire season, you know. They're everywhere and they're quite hot."

"Hot?" I asked.

"Yeh. They're furry little guys but they sting. If you see a furry little bug, don't touch it."

Okay. You've got a deal.

Being in a new culture always makes you feel like a child. You don't even know if you can pick up a caterpillar, you're always looking the wrong way before you cross the street and you have to ask simple questions like, "What is vegamite, exactly?"

Vote For Matt Reis

I know, I know, you guys get tired of my ceaseless political stumping. You're going to have to suck it up and deal with it one more time.

My friend Matt Reis is in some contest where he needs people to watch him sing the national anthem. I don't understand the contest exactly, but you should see this guy sing. Here it is:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Eating Gelato with Krista

Whenever we come across gelato shops we always stop and try a bit. Krista had chocolate and I had mango. As we walked from the shop toward home, I offered her a bite. She took a bite and immediately made a face of utter revulsion.

Me: You don't like it?

Krista: It tastes too much like mango.

Updates from Australia

Krista and I had a good flight into Australia. We didn't watch any of the movies. Okay, I watched one... it was the riveting account of the man who invented the intermittent windshield wipers and the evil automobile manufacturers who stole the invention. FORD! The monolithic evil in the movie. The main character was supposed to come across as a hero, I think, but mostly he seemed insane after being offered 30 million as a sort of apology from Ford and then deciding he would rather go to court despite the fact that it comepletely tore his family and marriage apart. Anyway. That was the best movie playing. Krista gave up on it after about twenty minutes, declaring it "boring." HA! If she had held on she would have learned that windshield wipers are hard to make.

We arrived in Sydney a bit ahead of time and made it quickly through customs. They are very serious about you not bringing in most food items. My Aussie friend Geoff says this is because Australia is an island and they don't want any "nasty little bugs" getting in. And I hate to point this out, but Australia has more poisonous animals per square foot than anywhere else in the world. But it's good that they are trying hard not to let any other nasty bugs in.

Geoff took us to his house for a few hours where we hung out with him and his wife Liz, as well as a couple of American friends. Then our friend Shawn came and picked us up and we went out to an excellent lunch at Trellini's. Then we went to the place we're staying in Newcastle. I'd put a picture up, but I know you people will tease me about the pictures of the place. I know your merciless sense of humor!

Then we went to dinner with Shawn and Heather and their little girl, which was fun... Mediterranean food. We managed to keep ourselves awake til about 9 last night, which was pretty good considering. Saw the Southern Cross in the sky last night, which was great. We went on a little walk around town in the evening. It's interesting, they don't have many street lights so it was pretty dark. And we saw an ENORMOUS bat flying around. Krista says that the Brits called them "flying foxes" when they first arrived because they are so huge. I believe it. Also, I think the Brits are cute for saying that. They should have gotten some pegasuses and flying dogs and they could have had a flying fox hunt. I bet they never thought of that. (EDIT: Krista adds that they really did think they were some breed of flying foxes... they didn't know they were bats.)

We had a nice breakfast this morning, and then Krista went out to campus and I hung out for the day with Shawn and his daughter. We went to a park and had lunch at Hungry Jack's, which is Aussie for "Burger King." I wanted to try the "Aussie Burger" (note to self: pronounced 'ozzie burger') but it had an egg on it, so that was right out. We also talked a lot about Shawn's team here and ministry, which was fun.

Now Krista and I are back at our place, and in a couple of hours we'll go out with the team for Thai food and spend some time together. We're having a good time so far, and enjoying Australia and our friends and co-workers here.

I've learned that the Aussies like to shorten a lot of words and have other words we don't use. Two favorites so far:

Brekky (breakfast)
"There are biskys in the bisky jar"... roughly translated "cookies in the cookie jar"

I also like the pedestrian crossing signs, which are yellow signs with two big walking legs on them.

Okay, that's enough for now. I'll post again soon.

A video for Professor John Stackhouse

Last month Professor John Stackhouse wrote an article on his blog about how Christian musicians need to work harder at creating good art rather than art which is judged purely on the merit of whether it mentions Jesus or not. He did this by writing his frank thoughts about popular Christian musician Chris Tomlin.

A lengthy (and entertaining) comment section followed.

I thought Prof. Stackhouse might like the following video, but since the comments section is now closed I thought I would host it here on my blog. For your entertainment, sir:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Solomon and Gilgamesh

One of the interesting things that came up this last week in my Ecclesiastes class was a likely allusion from Ecclesiastes to an ancient Sumerian epic... GILGAMESH.

The verses in Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 say:

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun— all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.

In Gilgamesh X in the third column our hero, Gilgamesh, is mourning the loss of his best friend (dead) and is trying to find a way to achieve his own immortality. He meets an alewife who tries to discourage him from this. She says to him,

"Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things; day and night dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace, for this too is the lot of man.”


Notice the similarities here... looking at the mortality of humanity, the authors each tell a man to enjoy his food, to take joy in these celebrations, to put on his best clothes and wash himself for a celebration and to enjoy his wife. Because this is the lot of humanity.

Its such a fascinating allusion. Qohelet (which is how the author of Ecclesiastes refers to himself) is making reference to this story about a man trying to overcome death and pulling from it the wise advice given to him... stop running after immortality, enjoy the life you have and take pleasure in the things that have been given to you... good food and celebration and family.

I wonder if Qohelet references other literary works from the time and we simply don't know about them or don't have those works any longer. It seems like it might color the meaning a little in places if he's making a clear reference to a story everyone would know, and the audience at that time would say, Ah, he's talking about the story of Gilgamesh. It's like trying to read The Wasteland without knowing any of its referents.

Anyway... I thought it was interesting and that I would share.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Holy stratosphere, Batman! If we were only birds...

Krista and I should be on the plane for Australia right now... flying high above you all and hopefully awake for a few more hours to help with jet lag on the far side.

So it's terribly apropos that you watch this clip from the much beloved Batman television show. HOLY STRATOSPHERE!

Giving Soccer Moms a Bad Name

This morning was "soccer morning" which is when we take the kids down to the park, walk through the wet grass and find out which team they are on. A lot of the conversation on these mornings revolves around who will be on which team, team names and the dreaded "what color will my shirt be." We spend a lot of the morning preparing A for the fact that, yes, she might be on the green team again and no, that does not mean she can throw a fit.

Z accidentally got placed in the wrong age group, so her team was about eight inches shorter than her... she turns eight next month and all these people on the team were saying things like, "My little Johnny is only five but he turns six in a few months and as you can see he is huge." Z towered over him.

Z, bored, was standing on her soccer ball while holding my arm. One of the Soccer Moms leaned over and said, "Honey, it's just a rule that you can't stand on your soccer ball. You need to get off that ball. It's just a rule, honey."

This immediately pushed my buttons. Here I am, standing between the Soccer Mom and my kid, and she leans over me to tell my kid what to do. Z was holding my arm, so clearly I knew what she was doing and had no issue with it. So I turned to Z and said, "That's not a rule. You can stand on the soccer ball if you want to." Soccer Mom turned away, but Z felt nervous (no doubt because of conflicting instructions from adults) and stayed on the grass.

I don't see any need to domesticate my children to the point that they can't stand on soccer balls. Sure, they might fall the SIX INCHES to the ground and hurt themselves. But then they learn a lesson. And I think that holding onto my arm shows that Z, who isn't a huge risk taker anyway, already knows that gravity pulls one in an earthward direction. Perhaps this Soccer Mom doesn't realize that I would perfectly happy if all my children were able to balance unassisted on a soccer ball while juggling tennis balls. And they aren't going to get there without practice. What would she say if they were trying to learn how to ride a unicycle... it's just a rule that bikes should have two wheels plus training wheels?

Anyway, we got Z switched to the right age group, where children are encouraged to put each foot on a soccer ball and walk on top of them down the field.

As for Soccer Mom, I saw her walking off with her son. He had a big stick in his hand and was hitting his Mom over and over with it and she was saying things like "OW!" and "STOP IT!" I thought about pulling her son aside and saying, "Hey, you shouldn't hit your mom or really anyone with sticks" but I didn't want to confuse him or interfere with Soccer Mom's parenting.

But then I thought again, pulled him aside, taught him to respect his Crazy Soccer Mom and people in general, threw his stick into a ditch and taught him to do something useful:

Outnumbered, but...

As we announced yesterday, Baby Mik #3 is going to be a young lady. Which means that we will now have four women in the house and one man.

Some of you math geniuses have been writing in to tell me that up until recently my family was 75% woman and now it's moving up to 80% woman.

People keep saying I'm "out numbered."

But, as anyone who is a fan of old Westerns knows, the correct response to that statement is, "I may be outnumbered... but I'm not outmanned."

AAAAAAAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAAAA! HA HA HA HA HA HA!



Ha ha.

Friday, March 20, 2009

New Baby Mik is a girl!


Things we learned today at the ultrasound:
  • No heart problems.
  • This baby is by far the wiggliest we've had yet. The poor ultrasound operator person (yes, I know they probably have a fancy name)had to work hard to keep a good look at what she was up to.
  • And of course, we learned that we have another young lady on the way!



Of course, we'll have to work on a new letter for the baby to use on the blog. So the name can't start with Z or A. Names that begin with numbers and other symbols will be considered.


Anyway, after our two miscarriages we're THRILLED to have a healthy baby on the way. Here's a picture of her tiny feet.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

my crazy kids

As you already know, my kids make up words all the time, many of which are consistently used in consistent ways. One of these words is "The Boungy" (pronounced with a hard 'g'). It appears that a Boungy is some sort of imaginary rabbit. Our six year old, A, is the physical manifestation of this strange Platonic ideal.

Tonight when I went up to get them out of the bath I heard them making up words in Spanish for the first time. "The Boungy" is now "La Boungisia." Z followed this up with a longish Spanish sentence about La Boungisia that made her collapse into a helpless fit of laughter. I have no idea what she is talking about. I thought I had a couple more years of being able to figure it out.

Note to self: Take Spanish.

new poll for friends of the revolution

Please note the poll on the right sidebar. It's only available for the next 24 hours, so put your answers in quickly!

In the meantime, I'm feeling much better today. And no, it was not a solitary cry for attention, so I didn't put that in the poll you smart alecks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

thanks

You know every once in a while a favorite song comes on the radio and you start to sing along but it seems like you can't get the right octave or something? And it's a favorite song, but still you're reduced to sort of saying the words along with it, not quite enjoying yourself, but realizing the whole time it's a great song and that you *should* be loving it, but you aren't.

Today was one of those days for me. It's a day that if you look at what happened, what I did, the great moments, it should have been a really great day... intellectually you look at it and see it's a great day. But it just doesn't feel quite right for some reason.

So I thought it might be a helpful exercise to write out a few of the things about today that I'm thankful for and enjoyed. It's like stubbornly trying to get the chorus of the song right, at least.

A few great moments today:

My kids were friendly and loving overall, and we had a lot of fun together.

A good conversation with a good friend about work... someone who is giving me good insights into my own shortcomings and helping me work and lead better.

A great follow up conversation about the same issues with my lovely wife.

A lot of time spent getting ready for our upcoming trip to Australia.

NavPress sent me a book to review... a book I'm looking forward to reading called Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture
.

I bought two books I'm excited to read... for the long ride to Australia. David Duncan James' The River Why
and Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian(Modern Library).

Got some great news--really exceptional--good news over email today.

Had some great insights while reading the new Flannery O'Connor book Krista bought me last night.

LOST is on tonight.

After I put the kids in bed I made an unintentional pun about how they were "firmly embedded." That made me laugh.

I feel better now. Thanks, blog.

I pity myself

I had never seen this before. I must have lived overseas when it came out. Pure hilarity. I broke all my furniture from laughing so hard.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's not easy being Fourth

Yahoo news shared today that it's hard to come in "last." Amazing.

My kids had this "AWANA competition" this weekend (I would write about how weird this was except that I would feel guilty afterwards).

When they got home they shared about their competition with me:

A (jumping around): DAD! We came in THIRD!

Z: Third place is last place.

A: What?

Z: There were only three teams. We came in last.

A: WHAT? We came in LAST?

Cue the waterworks. Abundant tears. Being last can be difficult.

Monday, March 16, 2009

VAMPIRES! (Not really, don't be scared)

There was an interesting article about vampires in Venice this week. In addition to explaining how the myths may have come about (it involves decomposing and the gases involved, as well as shroud-eating bacteria) and a recently discovered vampire corpse, it also included some interesting notes about early methods for killing vampires.

Like putting a brick in their mouths.

I personally prefer this method to the old "stake in the heart" routine. I mean, really, all that whittling and stabbing and hammering. It's a lot of work. But getting the vampire to open its mouth and then quickly inserting a brick... GENIUS! Let's be honest, whoever came up with this particular technique of vampire taming was very brave. Those priests back then were gusty. "Father, I think we dug up a vampire." "Yes, my son, let me get one of the holy bricks and we'll be on our way." YES! SHOW THEM WHO IS THE BOSS!

I suppose it's less convenient if you come across an entire colony of vampires. "My son, fetch the wheelbarrow. We're going to need more bricks."

Yet another indication that the little pig who built his house of bricks was the smartest one. Smart little pig.

Bacon. Mmmmmm.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Iraqi Refugee Crisis

This morning in church we had a gentleman from Heart for Lebanon come and speak for part of the time and then we saw this video:


The Iraqi Refugee Crisis.

We also had a great talk from a missionary in Lebanon... not sure if I'm allowed to share his name, but if they put the talk up on the web I'll put a link up.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Things Fall Apart

This morning I finished reading Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

It's the story of Okonkwo, a tribal African who has worked hard to advance himself in the tribe to become a great man in the eyes of all around him, despite his lazy and shiftless father. An unexpected tragedy derails his rise, and when he finally gathers himself to effect his own redemption, the white men and their strange Christian religion have come to the village.

It's a fascinating story and didn't go at all the way I thought it would. It was really interesting to see "colonial literature" from the point of view of the "colonized." And, much like in Endo's Silence, it becomes clear that to the people of the invaded nation, it's very difficult to tell if there's a difference between the Westerners government and their religion... and this inextricable union of faith and government brings conflict and, ultimately, tragedy.

I enjoyed this book a great deal, though the ending left me unsettled. I think anyone setting out to do ministry overseas would benefit from reading this book. I can tell that this book, like Silence, will be one that will haunt me for some time. I am pleased, though, to find another author's work to explore.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Who Is PAGE CXVI?

You know in LOST how they slowly reveal the mysteries and then all of a sudden in one episode it hits you (SPOILER) that Ben is really Kate and Jack's love child that has been sent back through time and when they figure out what is going on they send a cloud of nano-bots into the past to prevent children from being born on the island which has come unstuck in time so as to prevent Ben from growing up and getting super powers from the yellow sun of the Earth?

Yes, there's something fun about a mystery. Right now a lot of people are trying to figure out who this band Page CXVI is. I sent them a note and asked for them to do an interview or something with me so I could help reveal who they are for people like Nick G who are trying to figure it out. But they told me, "For now we will remain shrouded in mystery."

I do know who they are, though. And I promise that when they give permission I will fill you in. I know some of you readers out there know who they are, too... so don't give it away until the time is right.

Okay, okay, fine... I told them I could only hold out so long, so here it is:

1) Paula... lead singer. Paula has this amazing voice, and she loves to use it to really bring some soul to the tunes.

2) Randy... plays guitar. Amazing guy. So much older than you would think from looking at him, Dog. And... weirdly enough... he loves kittens.

3) Simon... the meanest junkyard drum player to ever come out of Britain.

Wait... I am getting a little confused. My wife makes me watch a lot of American Idol. Pretty soon I'm always thinking that those guys were over at my house. We sing a lot of karaoke.

Anyway. I'm sure Page CXVI will reveal themselves pretty soon... in the meantime, if you've heard the music, I'm sure you're looking forward to the album release, which is pretty soon I'm told. And if you haven't heard it yet... hang in there, True Believer. Your time is coming soon!

News From My Neighborhood

Recorders Without Borders. I think the local grade school is gearing up for a big recorder festival, because all these little grade school boys are walking around playing Handel's Messiah together. I am not kidding. So far they've got it through "God of Glory" and then they start over again. And again. And again. They are a little less shaky on "Old MacDonald had a farm."

Fast Walking Man. There's this one guy in our neighborhood who we only see when he is on a walk. White beard, sunglass, sweatsuit. And he always crosses the street when he sees people coming toward him and walks on the other side. Not clear why this is... doesn't want to break his stride I guess. My weirder neighbors have been suspiciously quiet lately.

Spring has Sprung. First daffodils have bloomed in our backyard. Spring is back! Yay! No sign of Houdini Dog yet. Pressure is mounting to get the lawnmower out, but I *just* put away the Christmas lights. Be patient, little lawnmower, your time will come.

Ain't It The Truth. Krista told A she wanted her to clean her room today. And A said, "I don't want to clean my room! IT'S TOO DIRTY!"

Advice To My Wife

Krista is on her way out to spend the evening with our friend Shasta. As she prepared to leave I wanted to give her a small piece of advice.

Me: Don't do anything I wouldn't do.

Krista: Like try on maternity clothes?

Me: Never mind.

Discipleship Journal article now online...

For those of you who have been wanting to read the "Disarming Questions" article and I kept telling you to Go Away because it wasn't online yet and I didn't want to read it to you over the phone, NavPress just put it online.

So: Go. Read. Enjoy. Pass it on.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Page CXVI


If you haven't heard of Page CXVI you are going to hear about them Very Soon. And not just here. Page CXVI is a band that that is about to release a hymns album. Right now they're sending out a limited number of free downloads for pastors and people in ministry, and since they're my buddies they sent me a copy and it is SPECTACULAR.

You guys know I am really cranky about my music, and I cannot imagine someone not liking this album. I was listening to it today and I got all choked up a couple of times. This band is really gifted... they have a way of bringing the music in a fresh way that brought the message of the songs out in a way that reminded me to listen to the music and recognize the powerful God behind the theological references. It truly is excellent.

Page CXVI's hymn album should be going into general release in the next couple of weeks (I think) and I'll give you info on how to get it then. In the meantime, if you're a pastor and want a sneak peak during the preview, send me an email and I'll get you a link.

Matt.Mikalatos(at)gmail.com

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mikalatos Radio Appearance -- Now ONLINE!

Alright friends, Paul Butler's interview with me about the Disarming Questions article is now available online.

Here's a link to the interview.

I know you all are wondering, and no, there are no spectacular Lucy Ricardo moments where I do something so mind-blowingly crazy that Ricky yells at me for trying to get on his show. You will notice, however, that for part of the interview I go by my familiar nom de plume, "Mike."

I particularly enjoy the picture that Paul chose for the interview. Anyway, feel free to drop by, listen to the interview and leave Paul an encouraging message. Thanks!

Chariots of Fire sequel green lighted

Producer Ken Wales, producer of the "Amazing Grace" movie recently announced that the financing for a "Chariots of Fire" sequel has come together.

Here's a video clip of the announcement. I like his definition of "entertainment"... "To inform with delight."


This morning I was helping A with her awanas homework and she had to look up information on Eric Liddell and as I read about his ministry in China and his service in the internment camp I got all choked up. As people describe his unifying force in the camp and then his ultimate death from a brain tumor, they say that his final words were, "It's complete surrender." Beautiful.

Anyway, I remember for a long time that EVERY SINGLE CHRISTIAN talk had a clip of "Chariots of Fire" in it. So this ought to give another movie to use.

In the meantime, Mr. Wales, if you're looking for a writer I am available.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Radio Interview with Moody radio on the air Wednesday

Wednesday at 4:20 CT there will be a short interview between me and Paul Butler of Prime Time America. You can find a local radio station here. It should be posted on the web also, so I'll put that up when it's available.

I haven't heard the interview yet, but Paul assures me that it's good.

I'm sure this disappoints you my minions, especially those of you who have seen the complete travesties that are my previous media appearances. Like when I was a child on the Christian television program and they asked me, "What do you want for Christmas?" and I said, "Money." Then that darn four-year-old who came after me said, "For everyone to know Jesus." Boy, I was slapping my forehead over that one. And don't even get me started on my appearance on Chinese television... complete disaster. So... tune in tomorrow to see what sort of dramatic power is available from my first radio appearance!

Can you say "radio appearance"? I have so much to learn.

Steve Martin Vs. The Muppets

So many of you keep writing me saying that the Steve Martin banjo video from yesterday was trick photography that I decided to include this clip from the Muppet Show to prove to you that it was real:

from A SIX YEAR OLD'S LEXICON

New words from A this morning:

1) Winky: A unit of time measurement. One might say, "Come on, Dad, we can't waste a winky." Or "We're wasting winkys, let's go!"

2) Hot Conditioner: The opposite of an air conditioner.

24 across: six letters, two word rhyme for poor father

I almost didn't get Z to school this morning because of the NY Times crossword puzzle. When Krista and I were in NYC we started working on the Times puzzles together. We can usually champion the Monday puzzle (the easiest of the week), so about half by Wednesday and then we start suffering on Thursday.

So this morning there was this half-done Monday puzzle sitting on the table, so I told Z she had five minutes and sat down to fill in a few blanks. I still needed to make lunch for Z.

About fifteen minutes later I asked Z if she was willing to eat "sizlling hot chicken sandwich" from the hot lunch menu, grabbed my jacket and we raced to school.

We had to play "antelopes" to get there on time. The game of antelope is played by the two of us pretending to be on the African plains. When Z yells LION we run/leap to the next block, crossing the "river" and then trotting along for a few breaths. It gets us to school fast.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Steve Martin's Latest Project


I discovered this weekend that Steve Martin has a new project coming out called The Crow New Songs for the 5-String Banjo
... a music album made completely of Martin's own five-stringed banjo music.

It's not a comedy album. And it appears that Martin is actually an extremely talented musician. For those of you who haven't seen it, here's a clip of Martin playing banjo on the Letterman Show:



As you can see, he's a virtuoso. I wish I had half the talent this guy has in pretty much any area. I will have to start working on my banjo playing.

Theology getting me in trouble

Watching the snow this morning gave me this weird flashback to when I was a kid. I think it was a Sunday School class or something, and the teacher said that when Noah was in the ark, God started to cry because the world was so messed up and it rained and rained. I guess the point was when we do bad things it makes God cry and then it rains.

So I started thinking about it and I asked, "Does that mean when his nose runs we get lightning?"

And then, to my complete confusion, the teacher got really mad at me for saying that. I couldn't figure out why... I mean, if his tears are rain, then the lightning must be something related to that. But my teacher didn't have a lot of patience with me taking her theology to its natural conclusions.

Come to find out, rain isn't God's tears at all. Go figure.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

GREAT NEWS!


Scientists report the first photos and video of a strange fish with a transparent head...
Or... dare I hope to dream... maybe my super powers are finally kicking in! YEEEHAAA!

Friday, March 06, 2009

From My Seven-Year-Old Daughter's To Do List

TODAY --

Watch a movie
Do chores
Go to bed

NEAR FUTURE --

There is a drawing. It appears to be a heart. Could possibly be a bird. A partidge.

SOMEDAY --

Get a Horse

MAYBE NEVER--

Get a ranch

Thursday, March 05, 2009

News From My Neighborhood

Making Money In The Neighborhood. An industrious duo of gentlemen wended their way about the neighborhood collecting the cans and bottles that could be recycled for cash. It was a good morning for it since everyone had just set their recycling out on the curb. My first thought was that they were really smart. Second thought was that maybe they were sort of jealous. Then I saw the Jesus Fish on their back bumper and I realized they were just thrifty and responsible. They had about 600 bucks worth of recyclables piled up in their back seat. Godspeed, my thrifty brethren.
STOP BREAKING MY TOYS! Meanwhile, walking back from the grade school I came across a woman with a gaggle of children. Three of them had baby dolls in their hands, apparently some sort of class project, as two of the children were boys and one of them thought it was an action of unrestrained hilarity to turn the head of the doll backwards and make growling noises. Finally the mom was pushed beyond her parental limits and she snapped. STOP IT she cried in a shrill voice, I TOLD YOU IF YOU BREAK MY TOYS YOU WILL HAVE TO BUY ME NEW ONES! It made me want to buy those poor little boys some dolls of their own that they could pretend are demon possessed. Poor lads.

The Key To It All. On the way home I found an abandoned key in the middle of the street. The thing about unknown keys is that they are limitless potential. Could this be the key to a car? A mailbox? A lock box full of cash? Or could it be a key that will open the half-sized door I saw behind our refrigerator... the strange little door with the golden edges and the curly, unreadable script. I'm going to try it tonight to see where it goes.

FUNNY MONEY

Johnny Cash can be my hero since he was not only deep and serious and in your face but also a complete wacky nut job:

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Anatomy Of The Red Wolf

Z is doing a research paper at school about red wolves. She has been regaling me with red wolf facts for several weeks now.

This morning as we walked to school she told me how "back in the 1900s" (yea, the very century in which I was born) the red wolf was the most endangered canine in the world.

We also talked about the anatomy of the red wolf.

Z: I know how to tell the difference between a boy red wolf and a girl red wolf.

Me (surprised): You do?

Z: Yes.

Me: So, how can you tell the difference?

Z: The boy wolf has darker fur.

MORE CASH

It's like Johnny Cash week at BHR. Here's an old video of Johnny Cash singing "Ring of Fire."

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Daddy Dearest

On a night like tonight, when the dinner I'm making is late, which means that the children are tired and cranky and saying things like, "This meat is too chewy, Daddy" or "You put the sour cream on my potato the wrong way" or "More milk!" or "I want broccoli instead of green beans" or "Why do I have to have the small piece of bread?" I like to take my piece of bread and hold it up and say to myself, "Thank me for baking this bread. It's just the way I like it and I am so thankful to myself for making me this bread just the way I like it."

Doodling Helps You Concentrate... THUS SAYS SCIENCE!

Friend of the Revolution, Wendy, wrote in to point out this article, which says that people who doodle during meetings have a higher focus and higher information recall than people who don't doodle.

I did a little digging and pulled out the actual paper on doodling submitted for applied cognitive psychology.

The upshot of this is that during a meeting if you look around and see some people doodling and others not doodling you should stop the meeting and say, "HEY. I NEED YOU PEOPLE TO PAY ATTENTION. START DOODLING!"

CASH

Johnny Cash has been coming up a lot lately. The first time was on the plane last week debating Shasta about whether country music could be good. Conclusion: Johnny Cash is good. Twangy, nasal singing and steel guitars... bad.

Then my good buddy Dan sent this link to an article about Cash in Touchstone magazine.

One of the things I love about Johnny Cash is how in his later life he started stealing various songs and converting them into vehicles for his own messages. So you have him taking Trent Reznor's (Nine Inch Nails) "Hurt" and transforming it from Reznor's meditation on addiction into a reflection on mortality and, ultimately, faith. Here's Reznor's own thoughts on that process.

And here is the video of Cash's version of the song:

Sunday, March 01, 2009

We Were Young

Krista and I are going through old pictures today and we saw this one... just before we went overseas with some of our friends.

Seems like a long time ago now. We miss you guys!
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Meeting Doodle #3: The Vine


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