Sunday, February 28, 2010

An Open Letter to the Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Dear Orlando International Airport (MCO),

I have never made it any secret that while I occasionally use you it's purely for utilitarian reasons, and that although we have our brief crossings, my heart really belongs to Portland International Airport (PDX).  I appreciate the little things you do to be more like PDX (this free wireless I am using right now, for instance), but in the end PDX is my preference.

I know this hurts your feelings and that you wonder why we can never be knit together in our hearts.  So I would like to share my experience today as a clear, concrete example of how our relationship deteriorates every time we try.

It starts like this... here I am, an expert traveler (according to your own definition -- we've never disagreed about that) and here you are, a solid, decent airport... maybe you're made up a little more than I would like, but it's not as if you're Las Vegas McCarran airport (LAS).  I mean, you're made up but you're not completely artificial.

Then, when I walk up to security, it all starts to fall apart.  Seeing the longer lines, I decide to go through the "expert traveler" line.  But when you see me with my wife and infant daughter, it's like some sort of jealousy sets in.  You tell me, no strollers in the expert traveler line, and I accept that.  You tell me, I have to go through the family line, and I say, no, that's slow, I don't want to go through that line.

And then the lying starts.  You tell me it will be faster.  You tell me the line is shorter.  You tell me you will help me with my things.  You tell me that I "have to" use that line.

So I take my wife and infant daughter around the corner, where I see a sign that it is for "families, inexperienced and first time travelers."  It's too late to go back now, though, and I think you are laughing at me.  So I stand there with the families who have never collapsed their strollers before, the man in the metal suit of armor, the guy who can't figure out why you won't let him take his Big Gulp through the line and is determined to chug it instead of throwing it away.  I watch as you empty out pocket knives and full water balloons and firecrackers from the bags of those in front of me, and as you remind people to take off their shoes and jackets, over and over, and meanwhile, here I am, humiliated like a high schooler forced to repeat kindergarten.  Because you know I'm better than that, and it's so clear that you've sent me into this line just to embarrass me.

I find myself thinking about what it's like in PDX when I go through the expert traveler line with my wife and infant daughter.  Just a week ago we were in that line, and I remember how we whipped out the quart sized bag with the formula and baby food in it, and how we managed to neatly get all our sweaters into one bin and our shoes onto the conveyor belt and how, with one hand and a smooth, practiced motion the stroller folded down and slid into the X-ray machine.  I remember how the security personnel nodded and smiled and one of them said, "You've done this before" and I knew that this was a moment they would treasure, that at the end of the day when they went home, exhausted, and one of their loved ones said "How was your day?" they would answer, "Long and difficult but there was this one bright moment where this expert traveler put all his stuff into the X-ray machine in such a smooth and practiced way that we all wanted to stop and stare but that would have only slowed him down, and it would have been disrespectful to slow a man like that down."  And then maybe they think for a moment, if only I had asked him for his autograph, and then they will find a 3x5 card in their pocket that night as they get ready for bed and it will be my autograph, which I slipped into their pocket during security.

And that is, at last, the plain truth of it all.  You treat me like some inexperienced traveler and PDX treats me with respect and even awe. I wouldn't tell you all this unless I cared about you, at least a little.



Friday, February 26, 2010

Leader's Thoughts on Leadership #8

Be sure to carry around several pieces of felt with you at all times.  Then, when one of your team members comes up to you and says, "I have a felt need..." you can pull out a piece of felt, hand it to them and say, "Not anymore!"

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Interview with Yours Truly

As I told you several days ago, putting a daily leadership tip on your blog makes you popular and irresistible to internet search engines, bots and even people.  As if in answer to my profound nuggets of wisdom, a short interview with me came out today on a writing site that had done a short review of my book.  That's right, it's a writing site and has nothing to do with my leadership tips.  But I would like to use this as evidence that my leadership tips are working.  Because sometimes you have to lead people somewhere but the facts are not in your favor and you can't let that stop you.

Enjoy the article, in which I reveal why I am the main character in my own novel.  Oooooh, the suspense is killing you, isn't it?   

A Leader's Thoughts on Leadership #6

Keep your messages short.  Five minutes if you lecture.  Twelve with discussion.  Twenty with a skit. Anything longer than this must include a multi-media laser show presented by dinosaur sock puppets from the moon.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Leader's Thoughts on Leadership #5

You can't be a leader and stay in bed all day. Unless you have a laptop, wireless internet, and a cell phone. A bed pan would also be strongly suggested.

Optional: a t-shirt that says "CHIEF."

Monday, February 22, 2010

BECAUSE YOU DEMANDED IT! A leader's thoughts on leadership

Every once in a great while someone writes me and says, "Mikalatos, we know you have deep thoughts to share, but your blog is mostly you goofing around, as if this is your hobby or something.  Why don't you share something serious?  And none of these long posts about comparing the book of Genesis to the Epic of Gilgamesh.  Do you think we want a humanities lecture?  We do not! P.S. We don't even read your dumb Gilgamesh commentaries."

An excellent point.  And since I am going to be at Campus Crusade's National Leadership Conference this week and want you to be able to have deep thoughts about leadership from someone who knows what he's talking about (NOTE: I am referring to myself), I will republish here some Leadership Tips which I originally published here some time ago.  Observe:

ONE) It is hard to be a leader because everyone is always looking at you, and there is so little time to get your hair cut.

TWO) A leader should never say, "I am sorry you are so stupid." I know what you are asking yourself right now. And the answer is: No, not even if they are very, very stupid.

THREE) A leader must be flexible. For instance, if you are camping and realize you have forgotten your sleeping bag, a suitable replacement can be made by putting a few ducks or geese into a large garbage bag. So warm!

FOUR) It is not a good thing if your followers start to call you a Nazi, unless you are the leader of a gang of skinheads.

This is the sort of blog-worthy gold that makes blogs get thousands of hits, as people are looking to get some leadership tips.  I think I will give more leadership tips throughout the days to come in honor of the National Leadership Conference.  In the meantime, please feel free to share in the comments about how these four tips have impacted your leadership style.  "True stories" are encouraged.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Story of Noah as Polemic

I'm speaking at our church, Village Baptist, this weekend.  They always roll out the red carpet as you can see on the left when they call me a "special guest speaker" instead of "some guy who goes to our church."

I love the story of Noah, it's a really weird and disturbing story that has been turned into a children's story, so I'm looking forward to speaking about it this weekend, although I've been wrestling with it a bit as I try to find the right things to focus on for the sermon.

One of the more fascinating things about the story of the flood is comparing it to the myths and legends about the universal flood in other cultures and traditions.  My pastor, John Johnson, has been talking about how Genesis, or at least parts of it, was written as a polemic against these other stories... a sort of way of saying, "You think this is how the world began, or this is who God is, but here's the REAL story."  Which is particularly interesting as you look at the story of Noah.  Now, this is not at all the point of what I'm sharing this weekend, so all of this is really just interesting window dressing I've been mulling over the last couple of weeks, but I thought some of you BHR minions might find it interesting.

Longtime readers of the blog will already know how much I enjoy the story of Gilgamesh, which has a full telling of a flood story in tablet XI. There are lots of fascinating parallels (like the use of birds to investigate the flood levels afterwards, the multiple levels in the vessels they use... although Utnapishtim's is actually his own house, not a boat).

If you're looking at the story of the ark as a polemic against a story that the Hebrews no doubt knew from their time in Egypt, here are a couple of the points that I think are interesting (of course these go directly to the difference between the understanding of God/the gods between Gilgamesh and Genesis):

1) The reason for the flood being sent to destroy all mankind.  In Genesis, God destroys humanity because they are continually wicked in their actions and thoughts.  They are filling the world with violence.  In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the gods are concerned about human population, and specifically are annoyed by all the annoying sound that human beings make all the time. 

2)  The response of God/the gods to the flood. The Mesopotamian gods experience terror, fleeing to the highest heavens to get away from the flood.  There is a weeping speech about the evil that has been done in destroying all mankind.   God in Genesis is not afraid of the flood; he does promise never to destroy humanity on this scale again, so that could be used as an argument that he regrets the flood in some way (though that's never stated, while his regret at creating mankind is expressed using very strong language earlier in the story).

3) Response of God/the gods to the sacrifices after the flood. Utnapishtim makes a sacrifice to the gods after the flood and they come flocking around it "like flies". There is an inference that there is a sort of sustenance the gods get from the sacrifices of humanity.  In contrast, Noah's God is pleased by the "aroma" of Noah's sacrifice, and, well, that's pretty much it.

4) The rainbow.  Ishtar throws her necklace into the sky as a reminder of what happened (but no promise it won't happen again).  Noah's God puts his "bow" (the word in Hebrew is actually for a bow like a bow and arrow) into the sky as a reminder to himself that he has made a promise not to destroy humanity in this way again.

5) What happens next to Noah/Utnapishtim. I find this one really fascinating, although it's more about humanity than deity... Utnapishtim and his wife are given immortality and sent to live far away and to guard human wisdom. Noah gets drunk, takes off all his clothes and gets made fun of by one of his sons.

These are just a few contrasting things, of course, that best show this polemical theme in the story of Noah... I'm sure you could write your doctoral thesis on comparing these two stories (if it hasn't already been done many, many times).  But it's interesting to me, anyway.  The Hebrew story says that God doesn't destroy on a whim, but in reaction to evil and violence on the earth. He is not afraid of the flood, or of anything, really (he is, in this respect and others, less "human" than the Mesopotamian gods).  The Hebrew God desires human worship but is not dependent on it.  The Hebrew God makes a promise that this will never happen again and lays aside his weapon.

Regarding our heroes, Utnapishtim is welcomed into the family of the gods, essentially, while the Biblical story goes out of its way to show us that Noah was, in fact, merely a man and that far from achieving deity, he hasn't even reached the heights of humanity lost in the Garden of Eden... he still has to work the land, there is still shame about nakedness, there is family discord. 

So, there you have it.  A bunch of stuff I won't talk about this weekend at Village.  Come hang out with us this weekend if you're in Portland.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Steve Martin, Emperor of Dreams

I had another weird dream.  Are they always weird?  I guess so.

In this one, Steve Martin had put into place a nefarious scheme to become Ruler of the World that required some diabolical evil.  His plan had almost come to fruition, but somehow I had made it into his throneroom and he was talking with me about his plan to rule the world with an iron fist.  I kept imploring him to remember how everyone in the world loved him for his many comedy bits, especially his beloved portrayal of "Squid Head Man."  I kept reminding him of the endearing things that Squid Head Man would say and do and how much we all felt connected to Squid Head Man, and that he could make the world a better place by being more like Squid Head Man instead of being an evil despot.  It seemed like my words were really getting through to him, he even seemed to choke up a bit at the thought of how much we all really cared for him. 

Of course this is when I woke up, which I can only assume means that Emperor Martin turned off his Dream-Communicator so that he could consider all my words in privacy.

So. If the world is not reduced to ashes in some evil comedian-induced plot, I suppose you have me to thank. And if, conversely, I happen to mysteriously disappear, I would appreciate it if all of you would start a grassroots campaign to send Steve Martin rubber Squid Head masks.  Gracias.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

News from My Neighborhood: Special Tribute Edition

This week our neighbors to the West got a dog.  This by itself would not be news, as many people in our neighborhood have dogs.  HOWEVER, when I asked the youngest nieghbor what happened to all her cats she said, "They're gone."


I know that the cats next door lived life to the hilt.  They were several generations of chain-smoking, rough and tumble, sex-starved reprobates.  They ate frogs. They stalked children. They brought fear to the neighborhood.  It seemed inconceivable that they could all be gone.

And yet... as I interrogated the child I discovered that several of the cats had "run away" and that one of the boy cats "had babies and then ran away."  And then I remembered that "ran away" is often a parent-euphamism for "fell asleep in the dryer and I didn't notice" or "thought the engine block would be a warm place to hide." 

In any case, Gemma the cat, her daughter Gemma the cat, Gemma the Second's kitten, Toey, and Toey's little of cats that soon followed are all gone now.  Perhaps they ran away or perhaps, as I was told later in a complete contradiction, she was "sold."  Regardless, an entertaining part of our neighborhood has been removed, and thus we must fondly remember Gemma "Tiger Cat" and her progeny.

Here are a few of the previous reports from the neighborhood which included news related to Gemma and her descendants.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Still More Dreams

We have several trees in our backyard, all of which we planted ourselves.  I'm pretty attached to them.  Two summers ago our pear tree bore fruit for the first time, and last summer it bore a bit more, although it also ended up with a cracked trunk. 

Last night I had a dream that I was in our back yard and then saw our pear tree.  It was so covered with pears with that you could barely see the leaves or the branches or even the trunk.  In my dream, everyone who came to the tree stood and stared at it with a sense of profound wonder, amazed by all the pears.

And that was the whole dream. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

More Imaginary Jesus Book Reviews

A great and thoughtful review of Imaginary Jesus from Kiwi blogger Andy Shudall went up this week.  Check it out and leave him a nice comment!

Also, check out fellow Portlander Brian LePort's thoughts here and we even got a mention on the Western Seminary Blog (that's my seminary, of course).

Tastes Like Betrayal

Baby M is eating solid food now, if you call gelatinous pureed food a solid.  She's fond of apple (sauce) pear (sauce) and pea (sauce) as well as green bean (sauce). 

The other night I decided it was time for her to try some meat, so I popped open a little glass bottle of "turkey".  I sat her down in her little chair, and she bounced happily while she watched me mix up some rice cereal for her, and take out the tiny plastic spoon which she uses for eating.  Then I took a little bite of turkey and held it to her lips and she gobbled it up.  Then she paused and looked at me for a long moment, her forehead wrinkling up while she smacked her lips over and over.  She swallowed and fixed me with a look that said, "What was that?"

Sometimes with babies they are so surprised by new flavors, they aren't sure if they like them or not.  So I decided to give her another bite (those little bottles of baby food are expensive, anyway, and you don't want to waste them).  Again she took a bite, puckered up, moved it around in her mouth for awhile and then let it dribble out onto her chin with a definitive look that said, "Are you really giving me that stuff again?"

Once more, I thought.  Just one more try.  So I gave her another spoonful.  She leaned over sideways so she was hanging toward the floor and spit it out onto the chair and then looked at me as if to say, "Dad, you are supposed to give me good things in life, but this... this tastes like betrayal."  And she started to cry.

That's when I went and got the applesauce. 

Guess who's going to have a lot of pureed turkey for snack time for the next couple of weeks.  That's right.  Z and A, that's who.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Death of Snow Hitler

I met my best friend Chris when we were in high school. We therefore have a lot of
"in jokes" that no one will ever get (like, 'Heh-heh- HI! My name is Tranio!'). These jokes are funny to us and not to you because you weren't there and you don't get it.

But then there's a whole other class of jokes that are funny to us and not to you because we have a weird sense of humor. There's really no one who makes me laugh as hard as Chris does. And while Chris doesn't laugh at all my jokes, at least he gets them and knows why I thought they would be funny.

Case in point... in the 90's it was hip to make these hand made greeting cards. It seemed like everyone was making these things. I would sometimes go over to my then-girlfriend Kerry's house and we would make some of these things. And I made the one below for Chris while he was a traveling Karate photo salesman.

When Chris found the card he wrote the celebratory poem below:

face down in a puddle
of third-reich red blood
Snow-Hitler's x'ed out coal eyes
are spared the sight
of subhuman 'sno-men smiling at his corpse
the scum of snowmankind
have inherited the Earth
dancing for joy up to their snowballs in
each other's crystal white feces.

AND, for those of you who think I am making Chris up and are saying to yourself, "I know for a fact that Matt doesn't have any friends, let alone one who gets his sense of humor" then I invite you to print a copy of this greeting card, go to Island Framery and get it framed while Chris tells you stories and jokes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wonderful Wednesday: Pigeon Impossible

My parents sent me this video last night.  And I thought I would share it here for the seemingly defunct Wonderful Wednesday slot. 

Enjoy. And remember, it pays to be generous to pigeons. Or, as my old friend Bert would say, "Keep the park clean for the pigeons, that is the right thing to do. Put all your trash in the basket and they will say 'thank-coo' to you."

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Michael Frost

Missiologist and author Michael Frost was in Portland this last week, and Krista and I were invited to go over to our Pastor's house and get to know him and his wife, Carolyn, a bit over dinner.  There were maybe twenty of us there, and after dinner we sat in the living room and talked about "missional church" and what that means in a Western, post-modern context.  It was an interesting conversation, especially as we talked about the difference between church communities that use worship as the engine for what they do versus communities that use mission.

I read Michael's book ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church last week, which I thoroughly enjoyed and can gladly recommend.

Then, on Sunday, Michael spoke at our church.  To get a feel for what he means when he talks about "missional" you can listen to his talk here.  I thought his talk was exceptional, and that God really spoke through him.  Our pastor shared his thoughts about Michael's sermon this week as well.  SARAH ATKINSON -- click on that link to see which of your favorite authors Michael Frost used to end his sermon.

Michael and Carolyn are touring the U.S. for the next couple of weeks, so if you get a chance to go say hello you should do it.  They're in San Francisco this week, so we got to suggest some of our favorite places for them to go hang out and have a meal and some coffee.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Publishers Weekly Review of Imaginary Jesus

Publishers Weekly just reviewed Imaginary Jesus.

Here's their review:

Imaginary Jesus Matt Mikalatos. Tyndale/BarnaBooks, $14.99 paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-4143-3563-6
The Apostle Peter punches Jesus in the face, then chases him out of a coffee shop. And that’s just chapter 0. In this quirky tale the publisher describes as “not-quite-true,” former missionary and comic book store clerk Mikalatos disguises his critique of Christian life in an action-based quest to find the real Jesus. It’s A Christmas Carol meets Oz, but instead of ghosts and tin men, it’s a talking donkey, a motorcycle rider, and Mikalatos himself. The cast of characters drags the reader through the streets of Seattle and ancient Judea to introduce a host of fake Jesuses: Magic 8 Ball Jesus, Harley Jesus, even Liberal Social Services Jesus. They’re constructs of the human mind. “People invent a Jesus for one specific reason and then discard him when they don’t need him anymore,” says one of the Jesuses (the one with an expensive suit). Peter teaches Mikalatos that he must quiet falsehoods and mold a deeper relationship with the living, historical Jesus. Mixing questions of suffering and free will with “a nexus of weirdness,” Mikalatos throws Christian fiction into the world of Comic-Con and Star Wars. His silly quest is startling, contemporary, meaningful, and occasionally exhausting when the reader is puzzled. It begs for a comic book counterpart. (Apr.)

Anytime a book is compared to the Oz books and Charles Dickens and Star Wars, it has to be good, right? And it is begging for a comic book counterpart.  Did you hear that, Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Comics?  Well, did you?

Okay.  Now that you know it is great from an impartial source, you can go pre-order a copy.  Go on.  I dare you.  You can also order it from Powell's bookstore, which appears in the book.  That would be a nice little piece of meta-fiction for your day.

The Random Number Generator Has Spoken: Imaginary Jesus Audio Book Winners!

Aaaand, the numbers (that's right, I said numbers, I decided to give TWO copies away) were the numbers 3 and 64.  So if you were the third or sixty-fourth person to sign up at, you win!

And, in case you don't know what number you were, the names of the winners are Jen Sablan and Julie Lee.

As always, I used the Random Number Generator to create completely random choice of winners (lucky that it didn't pick the same number twice!).

If you lost, that doesn't mean you are a loser.  You can still purchase your own copy at Powells, or Amazon or download it at Christian Audio.  It's just that it won't be shipping right away, unlike the copies winging off to our talented and lovely winners.

Stay tuned for more contests in the weeks to come.  I like to give things away, and I have big plans coming for the unveiling of the spectacular new!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Sign that You are just Speaking into the Telephone by force of habit

Someone called our house this week and asked for Colin.

Me: I'm sorry, you have the wrong number.

Lady: There's no one at this number named Colin Smith?

Me: Nope.  Wrong number.  Can I take a message?

Now there's some lady out there wondering if there really IS a Colin Smith at my house and if I am part of a cover up.  But it's not true.  There's no Colin here. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Life isn't fair when you're a kid

You know, there are times when I watch my kids and think, "Oh, it would be great to be a kid, when all I had to worry about was whether I would like the vegetables with my dinner and keeping my room clean."  But the fact is, life can be tough on kids sometimes, and although my kids point it out a little too often and with perhaps some exaggeration, life isn't always fair when you're a kid, either.

A case in point: Last Monday I sent Z off to school with an envelope containing twenty bucks, so she could turn it in at the cafeteria for her lunch money fund.  That day when she got to the cafeteria, the lunch lady told her that she didn't have any money in her account and she couldn't get lunch.  She eventually caved and let Z get lunch, at least, but told her that she had never turned in her money.

So Z tells us about it, and just to make sure we check her backpack and she cleaned out her desk at school.  No envelope full of cash.  Now the thing is, my kids loses stuff sometimes.  She does.  But she was really committed to the fact that she had turned that money in.  She told me all about it.  When she did it.  Who took it.  Her confusion about it not being in her account.  And this kid is pretty sharp.  There are plenty of adults I would put in second place to her on sheer mental acuity.  So I believe her. 

This week I went in to ask the lunch lady about it.  And you know what's weird?  She has pink hair.  Not that this bothers me, but I wanted to point it out just in case you had the stereotypical picture of a lunch lady with blue hair.  Anyway, I tell her who I am and tell her I want to see my daughter's lunch account balance.  She says this is no problem.  It's at negative one dollar.

"I sent in twenty bucks on Monday," I said. 

"I know your daughter and she never came in here with twenty dollars.  Maybe she gave it to the teacher."

"But she didn't give it to the teacher.  She brought it in here."

"I would have a record of that.  Look, here in the computer it says that she last brought money in November.  And I write down all the kids who bring it in by hand also."

"Maybe we could look at last Monday's handwritten list."

"Okay."  She goes off to find it, brings it back and sits down and we look over the list.  "See?" she said.  "She's not on the list."

Except that she is.  Right in the middle.  I point her out.  And now instead of the slightly defensive person having an internal monologue about how kids always lose stuff and parents complain, there's a conversation about not-knowing-how-this-could-happen and where is the money and whose account did it end up in.  I told her I was sure she would figure it out, she assured me she would, and I left.  Notice the lack of apology.  Nobody is going to pull Z aside next time she goes through the lunch line and say, "Hey, kid, you were right and all the adults were wrong.  Good job.  You deserve to be trusted."  Because she's eight years old, and she loses stuff sometimes. 

Sometimes it's good to be an adult.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Eavesdropping with Matt (Episode Forty-One: In Which I Am Not Eavesdropping)

Dedicated to my lovely wife and to her Dad, Terry.

Terry: Are you claustrophobic?

Krista: No, it's just that I don't like small, enclosed spaces.

Monday, February 01, 2010

New Title: Get an Advanced copy of the Imaginary Jesus audio book BEFORE IT COMES OUT!!!!

One of the greatest disadvantages for Tyndale (the excellent publishers of Imaginary Jesus) is the constant demands of the ravenous fans that this book be released early.  It really is a hardship, but they are sticking to their guns.  APRIL FIRST they have said, over and over, as people call their offices, send angry e-mails and - in one unfortunate incident -threw a brick into their office with a note on it that said "You will get REAL BRICKS once a week until I get Imaginary Jesus." 

To help alleviate the tension a bit, Tyndale has allowed Christian Audio, the geniuses who put together the audio book version, to release the audio book before the print book!  In fact, you can buy it on CD RIGHT NOW!  Or you can download it at Christian Audio and be listening to it in a few minutes.  

Despite the ignorant paragraph above, penned by ridiculous authors who think they are in the know (cough cough Mikalatos) this audio book remains unavailable.  UNLESS YOU HAPPEN TO BE ME AND HAVE A COUPLE OF COPIES RIGHT NOW ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND.  And it just so happens that I do happen to be me, and thus have copies on my nightstand.  And therefore please read the sentence in red below:


To keep things simple, I'm going to use a random number generator to pick one person at random from the Imaginary Jesus e-mail list.  So sign up here for your chance to win!  I'll announce the winner a week from today.
That's right! Be the first to listen to the audio book!  Amaze your friends!  Shame your enemies!   Obfuscate your pursuers!  Verb your nouns!  Do it today!