Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Guest post from artist Josh Alves: Putting Myself in Perspective


Here's a guest post from freelance illustrator and artist, Josh Alves. Josh and i have exchanged a couple of emails here and there after he read Night of the Living Dead Christian. Then he sent me this really cool illustration that he did of characters from the book. Behold! Here it is (click to see it in all its glory):

Intrepid Neighborhood Watchman, Matt Mikalatos, standing beside the Hibbs 3000 and
Dr. Culbetron. In the background, well-meaning zombies and werewolves lurk!

Pretty awesome, huh? I like it! Josh mentioned he would be willing to do a graphic novel adaptation of the book if there were ever demand for such. Good to know! So, let Josh know what you think about his post, and if you're ever looking to hire an illustrator, drop him a note! In the meantime, you can check out his blog, his website, twitter and Facebook.

"And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature." Romans 7:18

2011 was the year I made the jump into self-employment as a freelance illustrator/designer. The year I got my first children's publishing contract, and the year I got to work on projects for companies all over the globe.

It was one of the best years of my life, but for none of the reasons you might think.

If it were named after one of the books of the bible, it would be titled "Revelation". Not because my world ended or I saw pregnant prostitutes and crazy dragons. 2011 is when I feel like God started making Himself known to me. Peeling the scales off my eyes and giving me a touch of understanding about what it means to live a life transformed by the power of Jesus Christ.

And it's a lot different than what I thought.

That's probably the biggest reason why I resonated with the message of Matt's "Night of the Living Dead Christian".

After years of talking about it, my wife and I made the decision to take the plunge into full-time freelance work at the beginning of last year. We had been pursuing self-employment for a while and felt the "go ahead" to take the jump.

When I would talk to friends and family about this unconventional career move (I was leaving a well-paying, management position with a company I had been with for nearly a decade) I would talk about the faith I had that God was in it and that He'd take care of me and my family.

If only I believed that.

It wasn't until Summer when the words of Paul struck me upside the head. "And I know that nothing good lives in me..."

That includes me, and I hadn't quite gotten that yet.

Those that know me describe me as intelligent, creative, and talented - it's all very complimentary. Those are all the things I had placed my faith in as I started working on my own. I had the smarts to know how to earn projects. I was skilled enough to provide for my family. I could do it.

Then that sentiment from the converted Saul got me thinking. Anything in me that I could define as good - wasn't me. Any "talent" gifted to me was exactly that - a gift. I did not wire my own mind to think the way it thinks or to visualize the way it visualizes.

The idea that it could all change instantly - that God could flip my "know how to draw" switch in my head - humbled me. I felt as if I was able to put myself in perspective.

My prayer is that I continue to give credit where credit is due and give glory and honor to His name.

Now please don't misunderstand me, I haven't "arrived" or anything like that. From a professional perspective, there are many things I still need to learn and areas of my work to constantly improve. I now see training and education as stewardship - not something that will help get me recognition and fame. Likewise, I don't have all the answers about what it means to be a follower of Christ - but I'm encouraged by the fact that I KNOW I don't have it figured out and am actively pursuing Him.

Thanks to Matt for gifting me with this opportunity to share with you! You can learn a little more about what I do at www.joshalves.com.

Also, my treasure of a wife has started an encouraging, motivational blog geared toward Christian women at http://amyswomantics.blogspot.com that you are also invited to check out.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The full "Ferris Bueller" ad for Honda with Matthew Broderick... see it here!

Here it is... not exactly Ferris Bueller, but obviously the next best thing. "Calm yourself, woman!" Also... would love to see that parade scene fleshed out. Ha ha ha. HEY! Now I don't have to watch the Super Bowl. Niiiiiice!

My 2 year old thinks I look like a movie star. Or... something.

This weekend I was flipping through an issue of Entertainment Weekly with my two-year-old, M, sitting on my lap, when she suddenly slapped her hand down on a page and shouted, "DADDY! THAT"S YOU!" Here's the picture:

I laughed and said, "That's not daddy." I thought it was pretty funny, though, so later I wanted to show Krista and I opened the magazine to that picture, held it up to M and asked, "Who is that, M?" She looked at it, thought for a minute and said, "That's ugly picture." Curses! Foiled again! By my two-year-old!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In which my two-year-old tells me something I already know

Krista was out of town one night this weekend. Baby M woke up at 6 a.m. in the morning. I greeted her with bleary-eyed, half coherent mumbling and she looked me in the eyes and said, "Want to eat lunch." 

"It's not lunch time," I said. Sometimes she calls breakfast lunch.

 "Want cinnamon chex."

 "No. It's too early."

 "Want mama."

 "Mama isn't here this morning. She's in Corvallis."

 "Want mama!"

 "She's not here."

 "WANT. MAMA."

 "She's Not Here."

 At this point, M adjourned to the hallway, where she stood at the top of the stairs and shouted: MAMA! 

(Me: she's not here!)

 MAMA, COME UPSTAIRS!

 (me: She's not here, M!)

 MAMAAAA! COME UPSTAIRS!

(me: M, she's not here. I'm telling you she's not here.)

MAMA! WANT MAMA! COME UPSTAIRS MAMA!

(me: She's not here! She's not here!)

M walked back into my room and leaned up against the bed so that her eyes were even with mine. She waited until I looked her in the eye, and then she said to me, confidentially, "Mama not here."

Friday, January 27, 2012

SAVE FERRIS!

This is weird, I know, but here's a teaser for a Super Bowl advertisement, in which Matthew Broderick plays FERRIS BUELLER once again. Supposedly (*SPOILER*... can you have spoilers for a television commercial?), the advertisement is a Honda ad, in which all the events of Ferris Bueller's Day Off are re-examined, replacing all the cars with Hondas. Which sounds like a minute or so of good times. But, more importantly... could this mean that the long-rumored Ferris Bueller sequel might be in the works? I hope so. Since we can't be sure, be sure to enjoy this clip of the original:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tyndale Podcast with Very Special Guest Star MATT MIKALATOS, the author of My Imaginary Jesus and Night of the Living Dead Christian

Tyndale House publishers released their first (highly experimental) podcast, with a special guest star who knows more about my books and me than pretty much anyone else on the entire earth: me!

The interviewer is none other than Adam Sabados, the infamous "just some guy" who wrote that Imaginary Jesus made him laugh so hard that milk came out his nose even though he wasn't drinking any.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

At the Mercy Centre in Bangkok

Krista and I went to the Mercy Centre in Bangkok today. I have lots of thoughts and a couple of pictures to share with you in the near future, but for today just wanted to let you know that we had gone there and had a great time talking with Father Joe and some other new friends during our time there. We also attended mass with the "Mercy Kids" (in Thai, of course), which was all translated for us by a young woman who graduated college from Westminster College... she grew up at Mercy, but has gone on to become a college graduate. A dream, she said, that is available to any kid at Mercy if they're willing to take it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday: Cats

I let my kids get a cat. Her name is Her Majesty Princess Amber. I am looking forward to making some videos like this:

Ahhhhhhhh, Thailand!

Things are going well in Thailand. Krista did a great job teaching yesterday... she was really relaxed and funny and brought great insights to the scripture she looked at, encouraging everyone to work hard at preserving the bonds of peace on their teams.

Today has been a day off, which is pretty nice. We walked on the beach, went swimming and Krista went to get a massage. Tonight we're off to the night market, which should be fun. I'm planning to gorge on mango sticky rice. Right now some of my guys are sitting across from me eating roti, which I also like but without banana hopefully.

Tomorrow Krista and I both teach, which will be fun. She's teaching about Elisha and his interactions with a widow whose son died and she has already shared some great insights with me. I'm looking forward to hearing it. And I'll be teaching about evangelism... sharing experience, thoughts from scripture, common misconceptions and some thoughts on how to do well in this area the rest of the year.

We're missing the kids... lots of good memories with them and our parents here. And of course, we're especially missing all of you. Come to Thailand and hang out with us.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Guest post from Ryan Cleveland: How to Hide Mt. Everest: a Diary of a 300 pound Pastor (sort of)

Last week we heard from Gary Thomas, who told the story of a 300 pound pastor figuring out his need to lose weight if he was going to minister well. My good friend, Ryan Cleveland, dropped me a note about it and we started talking back and forth and I thought, "Ryan has some good thoughts here, I'd love to have him share this with the gang at my blog." I asked him if he would be willing to do a guest post, and he graciously agreed. I love Ryan. He's a great man who stands by his convictions, has a deep andy growing relationship with Christ and isn't afraid to sit and talk with me about Green Lantern, comic books and movies. I feel certain you will enjoy Ryan's heartfelt and vulnerable post. You can learn more about Ryan's ministry here, or follow him on Twitter.

After waking up early this morning (thanks kids) I picked up my Blackberry (it’s a smartphone…used to be popular in Moses’ day) and checked my twitter app, and I saw a link to Gary Thomas’ guest post on Matt Mikalatos’ blog entitled, “The 300 pound Pastor.”

My heart sank.

As a missionary who currently weighs 330 pounds, I had several thoughts go immediately through my mind. Did Gary come down with an acute case of fataphobia? Did Matt betray me? (For I had recently shared with him and others about my struggles with my weight.) But really the thought and emotion that came out on top was despair. Not again.

 But because of some recent victories in my life, I felt like I was in a place to share about my own journey and struggle with my weight, and was happy to take the opportunity to post on Matt’s blog.

How to Hide Mt. Everest

Over the years, I have developed a highly scientific and effective tool to deal with my insecurity about my weight. I hide it. Yes, you heard me. HIDE IT! How do you hide that mini-Mt. Everest you are carrying around your waist, you ask? The only way I can—humor. By making jokes about my size, I am trying to seize control of the situation. I do this in many areas of my life. I can get up on a stage and be a goofball as long as it is my idea. Try and force me, and I run like Carl Lewis. In fact I remember having to get on a stage at a conference with some fellow team leaders a few years ago. Part of the act was to wear white T-Shirts. I didn’t have one and was lent one from someone else, a 180 pound someone else. I was at the verge of tears when I took control, and started making jokes and acted like a fool. Everyone laughed just as they should. If you know someone who seems to make light of their weight, it may very well be their desperate way of coping with their fears and insecurity.

Seeking a Better Reputation

For pastors and other spiritual leaders, being obese bodes a problem because we are God’s stewards of hope for betterment in the lives of those entrusted to us, and we run (okay maybe not “run”) in to the problem of hypocrisy. But is it hypocrisy? If we broaden our spiritual walk with God to an all or nothing thing, then an obese pastor preaching “God’s good, you’re not, do better” has a credibility problem. A pastor who preaches “we all have things that we struggle with; some of us have things that are visible, others invisible, let’s go on that journey together can do so and maintain his credibility because I believe that to be the biblical message behind true spiritual growth and development.

I appreciated Gary’s thought that we should not choose leaders by BMI, but I wonder if that is exactly the message we unintentionally reinforce when we talk about other people’s weight and how it damages their reputation. As an overweight person I have heard this often, and there is no question that people often evaluate me in light (yeah, I said “light”) of my weight. I think there may be a slippery slope at play here. Our culture likes pretty skinny people. We are enamored with them. I can lose 100 pounds, but can’t make my face any prettier. Trust me on that one, not unless I got some handy dandy plastic surgery. So here is my question, “Should I get surgery to make my face look “better” so people would be more apt to listen to what I have to say about Jesus?” Of course not. But even discussing the idea of "lose weight, gain reputation" seems off to me. That feeds my insecurity and is super demotivating, and I wonder if it unintentionally feeds our culture’s thoughts on image. For women, this takes on a whole new direction of eating disorders and depression, reinforced by our culture’s absolute right and wrong view of our bodies. As much as I don’t like it though, image does affect reputation. But should it? I wonder. I wear a suit when I perform a wedding ceremony and I don’t feel bad about that. Splitting this hair is most challenging for sure.

The Mirror Never Lies 

There is something you need to know about your overweight friend, and especially your overweight pastor or Christian leader. They know they are overweight, and more importantly they know you know it, and it likely terrifies them. About a year and a half ago, I was speaking at my church about our most recent summer mission trip. After I was done, I left the stage and was heading down the aisle to my seat and a gentleman whom I had never met before grabbed my hand and stopped me, pulled me close and said, “Great testimony. But from one brother to another, you really need to lose a lot of weight.” I said “thank you” and walked away. But in my mind I was thinking, “Yes, I have a mirror at home and I am not an idiot.” My interaction with this man just reinforced my belief that everyone who meets me thinks, “he just doesn’t take care of himself, tsk, tsk, tsk." And when I encounter those people, I franticly tell them about hypothyroid disease, and how my mom gave it to me because I did not eat beets growing up, etc., and therefore I am not 100% at fault, and then they have sympathy for me and all is good again. An obese person looks in the mirror as little as possible, and can be undone when others decide they need to be a mirror for them in such a way. They need a different kind of mirror.

Hearing the Truth in Love

Nate, a friend of mine I worked with a few years ago sat me down to talk to me about my weight and getting in the gym. He didn’t care about how I got fat, or what my reputation was. He cared about me and offered to be a friend along the journey. That was incredibly motivating for me, though it was still incredibly hard to hear. Please don’t ever tell an obese person you care about their reputation or credibility (even if you believe it to be true). Tell them you care about them. Check to see if there is a deep love for that person that is driving you speak the truth to them about their health. The conversation will be hard, but that is okay. Love and empathy cannot be faked.

 Why I disagree with Gary, but he is still right

Though I may think differently about some of the premises in Gary’s blog post (I guess I need to read his book now), he is absolutely dead on in his conclusion. Fat preachers need to lose weight. But it has to be for the right reasons. I want to lose weight for the Lord because I am convinced he wants me to. I want to lose weight for my family because I want to be able to live a long life with them instead of dying of a heart attack in five years. I want to lose weight to gain victory over something that owns me unnecessarily and fully enjoy any blessings God in His grace might send my way. Because the truth is right now I can’t. I miss out on so many things because of my health.

Time to lose some weight. Time to go climb Mt. Everest.

P.S. I have read a lot of books on marriage. Some of them can be pretty bad to be honest. Men, if you want to find a good book on marriage, ask your wife. My wife loved “Sacred Marriage ” by Gary Thomas.” Another book I actually have not read—okay Gary, will read Sacred Marriage ASAP!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Canada!

Krista and I are safely in Canada, and have walked through the majestic halls of customs, where two tireless employees vetted about three hundred of us. We have passed an indoor waterfall. We have gazed upon a really cool fish tank which is in the food court. We have also passed the gatekeeper of the Star Alliance Gold Lounge, and now we are feasting upon cold cereal and Krista is drinking coffee and we are using the free internet and looking down upon both the planes outside the airport and the people outside the lounge.

And I, determined to practice what I preach when I talk about "learning a new world" and "engaging in culture" have just eaten VECTOR* for breakfast. VECTOR* is a Canadian cereal (or rather a "meal replacement") designed for athletes (or something).

Here is what it is like: It's like someone took every "flake" style cereal and smashed them all together, and then sprinkled granola over the top. Then they thought, we don't want to be copying other cereals, so let's take out all the corn, so no one can say we ripped off corn flakes. Unlike some flakes, VECTOR* didn't taste like vitamins to me, possibly because it is packed full of different types of sugar and syrup and molasses. It takes some hard work to chew it, so that by the end of my small bowl I DID feel like I had chomped my way through a meal.

Okay! Only two hours before we depart on our next leg, headed to Hong Kong and then Thailand! Woo hoo!

*It is unclear why there is an asterisk.

We're on our way to Thailand!

At THIS VERY MOMENT Krista and I are on our way to Bangkok, Thailand. The journey will take us to the far reaches of Canada, the beautiful city of Hong Kong and then on to Bangkok. All told, it will be about twenty hours from PDX to BKK.

As part of the Worldwide Student Network, part of our jobs is taking care of our overseas missionaries. For many of our international interns (called "STINTers" in house), we provide a once-a-year refresh/revitalize/redirect re-treat called a "Midyear." Because it falls in the middle of their internship year.

So, for the next week or so, Krista and I will be spending time with teams in four different overseas locations (three in Asia, one in the middle east), talking about their experience and helping them set up to spend the second half of their internship year well.

This year, Krista and I both will be the Bible teachers for the conference (every morning there's about a 30 minute Bible time). It's fun, we haven't been the co-teachers for a while, so it will be nice for both of us to teach together.

We may have internet access, but don't expect to hear from us too much, because we will also have mango-with-sticky-rice and tropical-ocean access.

But if you would like to imagine what time it is and what we might be up to, here is a little widget to tell you what time it is where we are:
See you soon!

Friday, January 13, 2012

I think I might need to turn the heat up in my house

Can I get a blanket, Daddy?

Moonrise Kingdom is coming soon!

I always enjoy Wes Anderson films. They're quirky and deep and painfully funny. So I'm pretty pleased that there's a new one coming out, which from the looks of the trailer will be pretty much everything you would generally expect from Wes Anderson. Should be fun!

 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Of Monsters and Men

I stumbled across this band, Of Monsters and Men, on the radio this week and I thought you needed to meet them.

 Anyone want to go to Iceland with me to catch a concert?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The 300 Pound Pastor: Guest Post from theologian and author, Gary Thomas

Today's guest post comes from Gary Thomas. Be sure to follow him on his Twitter feed. Before I met Gary, he had already had a profound impact on my life through his book, Sacred Marriage, which is the best, most helpful and practical marriage book I've read. I read through multiple of his other books and found them insightful, eye-opening and profound. Then I met Gary in person, when I took one of his seminary classes at Western Seminary. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Gary is not only insightful, but deeply spiritual and someone who practices what he preaches. Gary has consistently shown generosity, patience and kindness toward me, and his deep love for Christ is evident to anyone who has spent time with him. This post relates to his newest book, Every Body Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul. Enjoy!

The 300 Pound Pastor

When Mark Bejsovec, a youth pastor, saw the scale creep over 300 pounds, he gulped.  During his high school football playing days, he carried just 186 pounds on his six-foot-two frame.  In his early thirties, however, Mark started gaining weight steadily. At first, he rationalized it and even began using it like a tool. It made him seem funnier. He could push out his stomach until he looked like he was pregnant, and the kids in his ministry would laugh: “You look like you got twins!”
When he hit 300 pounds, though, Mark began to sense God speaking to him about his physical condition.
“I looked into Scripture, specifically at the men in the Bible who assumed leadership roles, and wondered how they must have looked. I couldn’t find anyone in leadership who was overweight.”
This wasn’t about vanity, but rather about being a better steward of his body and his calling: “If I was addressing only spiritual issues but not the physical ones, I considered I would be less useful to the Lord in my ministry. If I was going to remain in ministry, I needed to honor God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and also all my body.”
By definition, we can’t be a leader in secret.  Somebody is following us.  And the bodies we are leading with aren’t hidden.
A friend of mine, who works as a senior director for a major Christian development organization, recently shared with me the battle he faces with eating and exercise.  On a recent business trip, he ate twenty-four restaurant meals in a row. He’s concerned about his health habits, and like many, he lives with a constant sense of failure that he could be doing more about his weight. What he doesn’t see are spiritual leaders taking this struggle as seriously as he does.  “We’ve been taught in the evangelical tradition about adultery and lying and stealing and coveting,” he says, “and about lust and alcoholism and smoking and drug abuse. But many evangelical pastors who preach against these things are visibly overweight or obese. I don’t say this to judge them—I struggle with the same thing. But sometimes I wonder. Sure, they may have conquered the online porn, but it seems like they’re ‘medicating’ with food; I get that, because I do the same thing.”
For his part, Mark decided to quit his former eating habits cold turkey. When his weight started coming off, Mark experienced a rush of positive energy. “I started feeling more affirmed, my self-esteem went up, and my relationship with God grew. It’s not that my previous life didn’t honor God, but now it felt like I was living like God designed me to live.”
When I asked Mark what changed most about his life since he lost seventy pounds, he responded, “Let’s be honest: there were times I was discredited because of the way I looked. When I talked to kids about self-control in other areas, they could look at me and understandably ask why I wasn’t addressing my issues with food. But now, when I share my story, there’s an added inspirational element. If I can do it, anyone can do it, and my weight loss has become an effective tool in my ministry.”
As a writer whose most prominent books relate to marriage, I take it as a personal challenge to maintain the integrity of my own marriage.  I can’t write and teach on marriage if my own is falling apart.  As a pastor, however, when I talk to the church about self-control; when I preach on the necessity of personal discipline, good stewardship in all areas of life, and, above all, when I teach out of 1 Corinthians 6:20: You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” I am going to completely undercut my message if I’m preaching out of a body that denies this.
It would be convenient if being a leader didn’t require also being an example, but that’s not the case.  Paul writes, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)
Leaders, let’s ask ourselves, “Is my body serving or thwarting my message?”  If you’re a pastor, you may well have accepted financial sacrifice for the privilege of being in the ministry; if you’re a leader of any type, you have readily accepted the sacrifice of your time, tranquility, and even reputation, as leadership assaults all of these.  But will you also accept bodily sacrifice—watching what you eat, and putting in the effort to get appropriate exercise? Will you recognize that the body out of which you lead can either support or undercut the message that you carry?
I am not suggesting that we pick leaders by how thin they are, or that we make a direct connection between a person’s BMI and his holiness. That would be ridiculous, ignorant, and unfair—some bodies aren’t designed to be thin, other bodies seem to naturally stay thin regardless of how they are cared for or fed, but leaders, we know our own journey, we know whether this area of stewardship is feeding or hindering our maturity and ministry. Don’t all of us feel better, stronger, more energetic, when we’re being faithful in this area?  And don’t we all know that there are negative consequences when we get careless?
So, in a spirit of encouragement and grace, let’s admit that this is something we need to start talking about. Just as we seemed eager to denounce the opulent affluence and money-raising scandals of the 1980s televangelists, let’s not be blind to our own contemporary challenges at the dawn of the 21st century.


For more on this topic, check out Gary’s book Every Body Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day to Me

My 2 year old (M) hardly ever says "I love you." I've heard it a handful of times, most often when I am leaving for work. Maybe once when I put her to bed. She'll repeat anything else I say, including a recent favorite, "HOW DARE YOU!" which is what I say to the kids when I'm pretending I'm upset with them.

But, this weekend Krista started to tell M all about Valentine's Day. She said, "Valentine's Day is a day when we tell each other how much we love each other and we eat cookies."

M looked over at me and with the sweetest little voice she said, "I love you, Daddy." It was the clearest I've ever heard her say it. Then she gave me a hug. Then she said it again. I couldn't believe it. I gave her a hug and told her I loved her, too.

Then she looked at her mom, and back to me.

She looked me right in the eye and said, "Cookie now? Where cookie?"


Saturday, January 07, 2012

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday: God Save the Queen

My Aussie friend Steve, who lives abroad, sent me a note this morning and told me to check out the Queen's Christmas speech, saying, "It's a ripper!" It certainly is. NOTE: To all my American readership, that's not "My Country Tis of Thee" playing in the beginning. That's "God Save the Queen." Those darn colonials and their propaganda!

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