Monday, August 31, 2009

Three attributes of leaders who are worthy of respect

Tomorrow morning is the first regular meeting of my team... we meet once a week for three hours to cover the most important issues facing us at the time. I'll be leading our devotional time tomorrow, and I'm going to walk us through three attributes that the apostle Paul said made a leader worthy of respect. This is all taken from First Thessalonians 5:12-15.

One, they work hard. The word used for “work” here means work which is both difficult and exhausting. A good leader works hard, and as a result they deserve our respect.

Two, our leaders should care for us. The word used here is proistemi which has a semantic range which can include being over someone or can mean to care for someone. There is some debate on which meaning is intended here (some saying we respect them because of their position, some saying we respect them because of their care for us), but it seems to me that the author (indeed, perhaps the Greek language) is making the assumption that to be over someone includes the prerequisite in the job description that you care for that person as well. This would fit easily with Paul’s statement in 1 Thessalonians 2:11 that he cared for the Thessalonians, “like a father with his children.” It’s simply a natural expectation that those who lead are not only organizationally above those they lead, but also that they will care for those who are their responsibility.

Three, our leaders admonish us. Since no one even knows what admonish means in English, let alone Greek, I’ll tell you that the word admonish (noutheteo) can mean to instruct or to rebuke for wrongdoing, or to warn someone about the consequences of their actions. Here it most likely refers to general teaching, but a few verses later (v. 15) it clearly refers to rebuking someone for wrongdoing (“admonish the idle”).

So, three reasons to respect our leaders.

Or, if you’re a leader, three standards to compare yourself to: Do I work hard? Do I care for those under my authority? Do I instruct those under my authority?

What do you think? Who is a good leader from your life history who led in these three ways? Do you have negative examples where leaders didn’t do one or more of these things in their leadership?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Into the (Scary) Land of the Unicorns

I noticed the other day that Z had just finished reading a book called Into The Land Of The Unicorns . The girl reads so much that it's hard to keep tabs on what she's reading or even where all these books come from. I decided I would read it, just to have an idea if the books she's reading are appropriate for her age.

I read the first couple of chapters, which were pretty intense, and then we talked about them:

Me: Your book is a little bit scary.

Z: It's not scary! It's exciting. You know nothing is going to hurt Cara because she's the main character.


Z: Do you want me to tell you what happens so you're not scared?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Imaginary Jesus now available for pre-order at CBD!

Well, CBD wins the race. To be fair, I didn't contact all the bookstores to let them know there would be a race. But if you're so fast that you win a race before other people know a race is happening, well, it's not your fault that God made you fast.

All that to say: BEHOLD! Imaginary Jesus available for pre-order at CBD!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Last Seminary Class

I'm signed up for two classes this semester, still need to finish my summer course and then have one unit more to accomplish. So, I'm planning to do a unit of individualized study... basically a self-study course with a professor watching over you to make sure you learn something. Here's the syllabus I've submitted to the school:

Faith and Fiction

“Story” is increasingly en vogue among evangelicals today. Books like Brian McClaren’s “New Kind of Christian” trilogy uses a narrative framework as a vehicle for presenting theology, and even Gordon McDonald adopted this in last year’s “Who Stole My Church?” Don Miller’s newest book is about using the framework of Story for discovering purpose in our lives. Even non-Christians are presenting theology using narrative, as is evidenced in books like “The Da Vinci Code.” This self-directed study course is designed to explore the advantages and disadvantages of conveying theology through fiction and story, looking not only at Biblical examples but also at the best (and worst) examples from our history and today. What are the appropriate boundaries between faith and fiction? If there are advantages to using fiction to convey theology, what are they? How can we do this well? How can we make sure that the message of Christ is getting to as many people as possible using this method?

Upon completion of this course you should be able to:
1. Communicate intelligently about the use of fiction in scripture
2. Have a basic awareness of the history of using fiction as a vehicle for Christian theology
3. Develop basic guidelines for using fiction well to communicate theological truth
4. Develop a list of exemplary Christian writings of and about fiction that could be given to others

COURSE TEXTS (at least 35 hours of reading selected from the following texts)

1. O'Connor, Flannery, Mystery and Manners.
2. Beuchner, Frederich, A Clown in the Belfry.
3. C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man and That Hideous Strength (these two books address the same theological concerns… the first is an essay, the second a novel)
4. McKee, Robert. Story.
5. Miller, Don. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.
6. Bunyan, John. Pilgrim's Progress.
7. Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow.
8. Doestoevsky, Feodor. The Brothers Karamazov.
9. Scripture texts: Ruth, Esther, Jonah, Ecclesiastes (?), the parables of Jesus
10. C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
11. Hemingway, Ernest, The Old Man and the Sea.

The student will keep a course diary to show how the 45 hours allotted to the course are spent."
The student will write a paper at the end of this course summarizing his findings and what he has learned.

I'm looking forward to this course. Like I told Krista, I tend to work harder on courses completely within my areas of interest... I'm likely to put in a lot more work for this one unit than is necessary or even wise.

Anyway, I still need to get approval from a few people at the school, but this is what I'm shooting for!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Berzerker presents Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter

When I got home from class yesterday I was excited to see that my copy of Parker: The Hunter had finally arrived.

Adapted from Richard Stark's novel of the same name, Hunter is the story of a criminal named Parker who is double crossed by his wife and partner and left for dead. But he's not dead, and he shows up with a cold, calculating plan for revenge. Parker is played out with almost machine-like implacability, but that's just a mask for the raging emotions underneath.

This book (Darwyn Cooke's doing) has some of the most gorgeous sequential art I've seen in a long time. It's well worth your time to click through the link above and click "search inside this book" to see a few pages. The whole thing is done in black and white with blue shading. I'm about halfway through the book right now and if you're a fan of Chandler, Connelly or crime fiction in general, this is a book you're going to want to pick up.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sermon on the Mount class with Bill Mounce this week

I'm taking a class at Western Seminary this week... a three day look at Jesus' sermon on the mount by Bill Mounce. If you're interested in seeing the sort of thing we'll be discussing, my professor has free podcasts of the two year series he preached on the sermon on the mount online. That's right, two years. I know. Read it again. Two years. He will have to talk fast to fit it all into 2.5 days.

I'm looking forward to this class. We're going to take a pretty deep look at this key sermon of Christ. I'll try to give you some worthwhile tidbits from the class later this week. In the meantime, if the internet causes you to sin, cut it off. It's better to enter Heaven without wireless than keep it and go to Hell. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Now it's time to play our game

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing just doesn't belong?
If you guessed this one is not like the others,
Then you're absolutely...right!

A: It's me, Matt Mikalatos.

James Joyce reviews the Brothers Karamazov

I was on Amazon looking at The Brothers Karamazov. I have been debating reading it because I feel like an uncultured Philistine for not having read it yet. Anyway, this review by Irish author James Joyce (1882-1941) caught my eye:

"[Leo] Tolstoy admired him but he thought that he had little artistic
accomplishment or mind. Yet, as he said, 'he admired his heart', a criticism
which contains a great deal of truth, for though his characters do act
extravagantly, madly, almost, still their basis is firm enough underneath... The
Brothers Karamazov... made a deep impression on me... he created some
unforgettable scenes [detail]... Madness you may call it, but therein may be the
secret of his genius... I prefer the word exaltation, exaltation which can merge
into madness, perhaps. In fact all great men have had that vein in them; it was
the source of their greatness; the reasonable man achieves nothing." -- James

Then I saw this:

"This text refers to the Kindle Edition of this book."

WHAT? HOW DID THEY GET JAMES JOYCE A KINDLE EDITION OF THIS BOOK TO REVIEW? That's amazing. He's been dead for almost 70 years and now he's reviewing books on his Kindle. Neat. Maybe he'll give an endorsement for my book! I'll have to ask Amazon about that....

Monday, August 17, 2009

Darth Vader in Love

I debated putting this up a few months ago. My friend Alan sent it to me again this week and I still thought it was funny. So, here you go: Darth Vader in love.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Philosophy Talk: Literature and Philosophy

As I was on my way to the grocery store last night I heard part of a radio show called "Philosophy Talk" which was discussing the relationship between Literature and Philosophy. It was a great discussion, but I didn't get to hear it all because I had to take a break and actually buy groceries in the middle.

It was a helpful show, though, as I've been thinking through how best to explain my book, which is both fiction and theology. I'm planning to listen to the rest of the show later. Here's a link if you want to hear it:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Daddy's Little Girl

It seems that Baby M's Mikalatos genes are already kicking in. I was teasing her about not being able to walk yet at 2 weeks old and she gave me this look.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Age of Dragonflies

Riding in the car a few days ago, my daughter A was reading about dragonflies. Then she piped up with this:

A: Dad! This says that dragonflies first came on the Earth 300 million years ago.
Me: Oh yeah?
A: But I don't think that's right!
Me: Why not?
A: Because God made dragonflies. And he's been around a lot longer than 300 million years!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Return of the Mormons

My neighbor across the street, Derek, was standing out on his porch talking to the new Mormon missionaries assigned to our neighborhood. After a while I decided to wander over and say hello. I learned a few things (like when you're excommunicated from the LDS church you can still go to services but you're not allowed to pay tithes... weird). I asked about the second heaven that's so great that if we could see it now we'd kill ourselves to go there... and so long as you've been a good person that's where you get to go. One of the guys said, "Well, that's not really true, that rumor gets around but that's not really true." I told him that the person who told me that was the last missionary assigned to the neighborhood and he said, "Well, it's true but widely misunderstood." Oh.

The most special moment was as everyone was getting ready to leave Derek said, "Matt's an author." And then a minute later he said, "Tell them the name of your book, Matt."

Me: "Imaginary Jesus."

And then there was a long, awkward pause. Then I explained that it wasn't a book against Jesus.

Mormons: You should come to our church for services sometime.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

News from My Neighborhood: The Jehovah Witnesses are Here

This morning I went out to my car to get something (okay, okay, my kids left their hairbrush in the car and couldn't find it themselves). As I bent over, rummaging through the detritus of accumulated child life in the back seat, a strange male voice floated over to me and said good morning.

I stood up and saw a man who had apparently just arrived from attending church in the 1950s. Next to him was a lady wearing a lovely floral dress to compliment his suit. He began, as I recall, by asking me if I had my Saturday chores all planned out. I told him we had a new baby and therefore wouldn't be doing chores. We exchanged baby related pleasantries.

I turned back to the car and bid them a good morning, and the man called for my attention once more so that he could show me a copy of the Watchtower, which would guide me through my confusion about the Bible by giving me a reading plan. Then he showed me how you could cut it out along the dotted lines. I liked how he assumed that I both wanted to read the Bible and also that I found it intimidating and difficult.

I told him that I didn't need his magazine, but thanks. He asked, "Are you a Bible reader yourself?" I told him yes. He asked if I had a special Bible verse for being a father. I wasn't sure what he meant. He said a special verse I went to as a father. I scratched my head and told him that so far as I knew they were all equally special and I hadn't really singled any out for special duty to me as a father. He quickly agreed and said good-bye.

I went out a minute later and they had moved on to our Russian neighbors, who never get up that early in the morning. At this time of the morning the father usually answers the door in his shorts. Then they went to the next neighbor down. He's deaf, and they seemed discouraged when no one answered. They got in their car (which, strangely, had two more JWs inside) and left the neighborhood.

I was a little disappointed that I didn't have the energy to engage in a lively conversation with them. Oh well. I'm sure they'll be back.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Sassifier

We're learning a lot of new lessons with the a baby in the house for the first time in six years. Baby M took a pacifier for the first time yesterday... Z never took one at all, so I was glad to see that she might take one. When A saw her take it she said, "Hey! I thought you said that M didn't like sassifiers!"

And suddenly it all made sense. My kids never took pacifiers, which would have, one assumes, pacified them. No. They were using sassifiers. Which is why they are so sassy.

Now Krista and I know what to do when the kids are getting a little edgy with us. Confiscate the sassifiers.

Wonderful Wednesday: Powerbocking

Powerbocking is essentially jumping stilts. The guy who invented them had been studying kangaroo biology.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Here's what I made for dinner tonight

This salmon with fresh green beans from our garden, yellow peppers and dill pistou. Made some wild rice to go along with it. Then we went to Burgerville and had some fresh blackberry milkshakes for dessert.
All the adults present seemed to like the meal. Z refused to eat and went to bed hungry. A said she wanted this meal every night, but without the green beans.

Monday, August 03, 2009

An open letter to whomever designs my infant's clothing

Dear Designer:

I realized as I was changing my daughter's clothes this morning at 2 am that you probably don't remember or haven't experienced some of what I am about to describe.

Imagine for a moment that you are suffering from sleep deprivation. Not, I went to a party and stayed out late laughing with my friends sleep deprivation, but I woke to a hungry mouth calling from somewhere in my house (just like an hour ago) and this is going to keep happening for several days in a row sort of sleep deprivation.

Now imagine that as a result your manual dexterity has declined and that you have to be careful when, for instance, picking up a pillow that you don't somehow break it or rip it into shreds because your hands seem to ignore your brain's directions.

And speaking of brains, let's imagine that your mental acuity has suffered as well and you find yourself saying things like "I'm glad it's April finally" and just assuming that everyone will figure out that you meant "That other month that starts with an A". Pretend that it takes you upwards of two hours to even realize that you said April instead of the word you meant, and the only way you figure it out at all is because someone at the time decided to mess with you and said, "Yup, can't wait for Easter."

Now imagine that it's two in the morning and your kid has just emitted some sort of fluid onto her clothing and needs to change again, for the sixth time this day, and that as you try to get her little pajamas on you realize that this outfit like too many others has SNAPS! NOOOOOOO! WHy not a zipper? WHy seventeen snaps? And why is it that no matter how carefully you try to make sure that you get them all snapped, at the end of the pajama you're one snap off and are left a strange wrinkle mocking you and saying that you somehow missed the other piece? How many minutes have I spent staring at the pajamas and telling my brain you can do this, you can figure this out?

Of course, the sheer waste of time involved in me staring at the pajamas as if it were the Sunday New York Times Crossword puzzle is counter-balanced by the enormous amount of time I am awake in the day. So I guess we have that going for us.

But in conclusion, I would like to encourage you to contact your R and D department and suggest that they put a lot of work into designing some sort of clothing that would actually crawl onto children on command.



Sunday, August 02, 2009

In the House of God Forever

As I drove across the vast, nearly endless plains states on my way home from Colorado, a bank of dark clouds stretched away to my south, like a dark companion without beginning or end. A hole formed in the underside of the cloud at an angle that allowed me to see through it and up to the clear blue sky above. And I could see through that brief window that above the clouds there was the bright arc of a rainbow.

The stereo hummed along and soft voices began to sing wordlessly in gentle harmony, giving the whole scene a soundtrack that underscored its unique beauty. The thoughts of a covenant sign hidden by darkness but revealed as a promise of safety came to me, and then the voices that filled the car sang these words:

God is my shepherd
I won't be wanting
I won't be wanting.
He makes me rest
In fields of green
With quiet streams.

Even though I walk
Through the valley
Of death and dying
I will not fear
'cause you are with me
You are with me.

Your shepherd staff
Comforts me.
You are my feast
In the presence of enemies
Surely goodness
Will follow me
Follow me
In the house of God