Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos

Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos is the weirdest religious-related book I’ve read in quite a while. I actually really like the book, but I’ve got to admit, it took a while to grow on me.

At one point in the first chapter, I found myself really glad that I received the book directly from Tyndale House for reviewing, because if I would have picked it up at a random bookstore, I probably would have found myself wondering if someone hadn’t moved it over to the Christian section as a joke. (How exactly does a physical fight with broken objects happen between someone imaginary and someone able to be seen, in a room full of witnesses, anyway?)

The story starts with Matt being shown by a stranger that the version of Jesus he sees (as a real but invisible person) is not Jesus in reality, but just made from what Matt wants Jesus to be. That part was fairly clear, and is what Matt struggles to figure out how to deal with for the rest of the book.

That stranger turned out to be the biblical Peter, but Peter was not imaginary. Somehow. From there we went into a few chapters that reminded me of A Christmas Carol, and introduced a character that is really hard to separate from a rather similar one in a recent movie.

However, after we’ve gotten through that, the book settles down a bit, gets moving, and really does become both funny and thought provoking. It becomes hard to put down, and when you do, it sticks with you in your thoughts afterwards.

It’s hard to say much about the ending without giving things away, but I found it really interesting that where I assumed the end would be wasn’t where it was. Odd at first, as it almost seemed like it needed a division into a part 2. But again it grew on me, and I like how it put the focus back on the true overall goal.

The book has a trailer…

Tyndale’s book page, including .pdf of the first chapter

Amazon’s page for Imaginary Jesus

4 years, pt 3, the unexpected

so, part 1 gave my mindset before the service. it pretty much dropped from my mind as the service started.

the service was back with the main pastor, the first one since the new year that i can remember.

every year in the summer for a month, some of the lay leaders in the church do the service to give him a break… and they fill in when he has to be gone. but this round he’d been here and introducing them… following a series on using gifts… so it seemed related to that.

actually, it was kind of a nice change of pace. last fall involved a 17 part series that overstayed its welcome a bit.

and at one point he even jokingly made the comment “im still here, you aren’t getting rid of me that easily!”

which made it all the more weird that this sermon started with the regular palm sunday readings, and somehow worked its way into an announcement that he’s leaving on what he called a paid sabbatical.

but, he made it fairly clear that he doesnt know what direction its going from here or if he’ll even be coming back. normally sabbatical to me generally means a break for a certain length of time or to complete a certain project…. with expectation of a return.

but this got weirder still… with explanations of his opting out of social security, details of losing lots of money in a previous business… mentioning the church having approved a retirement plan back when it was at peak growth and looking to expand, but not being able to fund it now… then to his intentions to work on his new business and see where it goes as to whether or not he’s returning.

or whether or not to be looking for a replacement among the current leaders, or to be looking at someone new for short term, or to stay entirely.

he’s been the pastor of this church since he started it over 25 years ago… after a split from another church he had started about 10 years before that. (and he thanked everyone for toughing it out through the last 3 1/2 years as the roughest spell… which sort of amused me that of course that starts right about the time we became official members…) his wife and son in law are 2 of the 3 non-pastor paid staff.

i suppose at this point is where i should mention one of my other annoyance incidents. one of the times when he came over and was speaking with me, it came up that i’m job searching right now. to which he started telling me about a multilevel marketing program thing he was involved in… your typical thing where you recruit people then you get a share of their profits without doing the hard part of the work. he dropped it when i told him i wasnt really looking for that sort of thing.

the recruiting seemed a bit inappropriate… but, i didnt really think too much of it. he’s human, he has a life outside of the church, and whatever works for him.

so thats what i was expecting this was about.

but later that afternoon, i googled him. i’d done it before back when we started attending, and found your regular sorts of stuff. random newspaper quotes, links from other church sites, etc.

not anymore. the church pages barely made an appearance. but, neither did the original multilevel thing he’d mentioned to me the one time.

all of the new stuff is related to a couple of different business things.

one is a thing with reverse auctions… the sort where you pay 50 cents for every time you check the price, and it drops in price every time someone checks it, until someone gives up and buys it at that price and everyone else is just out the money they have spent. the ones i’ve always heard referred to as a form of gambling, working on the principal that people feel like they are losing the money they have already spent on the bids if they dont keep bidding, so they lose even more.

the other… seems to be the new business project. its filled with so much backtalk, its hard to tell what in the world its about from its pages.

fortunately, other people have helped… and one explains it as basically buying reputation. the example given was that if you have something you want voted up higher on a site like digg to get more attention, you can buy 80 votes of the next 3 days, and your item will be voted on by 80 different computers in that time frame.

from one of the other question and answer pages, it seems that the computers of the people buying are the ones voting for the other peoples. also theres a mention of limiting the number of the same type of businesses involved in it, as there can only be so many people seen as the top expert.

if you were really the top expert, would you need to be buying attention? if you were that good in the first place, wouldnt you be able to earn your votes on your own?

so, neither of these seem to be illegal… but i cant say i’m impressed with the ethics of either one.

but i guess i’m just sort of stunned.

sad, both for him and for the church… but also sort of baffled.

im not even sure really what direction id hope to see this go in. not that my hoping has anything to do with outcomes… but still. while i think the lay leaders will do fine and several of them would have no problem taking up the role, its still a difficult limbo to put them in.

and sort of wondering exactly whats up with this that we arent seeing. has this been his intention the past three months? were there others pushing him towards making the choice between these odd seeming business choices and his role as pastor? not that any of that is any of my business.. but just feeling sort of ambushed out of the blue and like the rest of us have missed something here.

the disconnected feeling from before? massively amplified.

still not really sure what to do with it.

4 years, pt 2, my lame excuses

suppose i should explain the why on the reduced involvement a bit more.

the small group that i had joined with one of the friends essentially died from lack of organization. things got delayed, things got changed, things didnt get communicated…. eventually the friend had too many other things on her schedule to mess with it, and i got tired of dealing with the chaos trying to sort things out. eventually the group itself dissolved, and the two sets of leaders are now working with different groups.

i was invited to join another one… but it was by one of the people that i’m not all that comfortable with, who led it, and so that didnt seem to be a good idea when i already am not a fan of talking in groups. the other i was invited to was a singles group…. with nobody else with kids, and about a half an hour drive away, not ending till 930 on a school night. the time probably would have made it a huge pain, even had i not been a bit disconnected from the singles stuff from having more tying me down on family stuff.

which is also a preventing factor on some of the other involvement. several of the study groups require expensive sets of books and weekend retreats…. and most meet during first service, where the childrens church doesnt start till midway though, after the worship time.

i know i wrote here before about my annoyance with my pastor in regards to his strategies of getting people involved with each other by putting them on the spot… with about the same logic as tossing a kid in the pool to learn to swim figuring they will realize its not that bad… but pushing the others even further away from the goal from the forced experience.

well, with a change, the pastor became the leader of the prayer meetings. after the second round of being put on the spot, i bailed. i dont talk much with groups anyway till i know them, but especially when i know they arent going to respect my level of verbalizing of my prayers.

i have a hard enough time making my thoughts make sense to others in general… but my prayers frequent bear no resemblance to complete sentences or sometimes even complete thoughts for that matter… and are normally a rather private time to me… asking me on the spot to both focus on prayer and make it into verbal sense at the same time with people listening to me doesnt work well even on a good day with people i know well.

so anyway… thats the deal with why im no longer in the groups i was before, and havent joined new ones. which im sure probably sounds like a lame list of excuses.

which, yes, probably helps on the lacking deeper relationships…. but then, i cant say i was any closer to people when i was involved in them… so maybe not as much.

4 years, pt 1, reflecting

With the last sunday in march I realized something. We’ve now attending our current church for 4 years. (I don’t remember precisely which sunday we started, but it was mid-march, a few weeks before easter, so it’s passed in any case).

Before service, i sat there thinking about that for a while.

my first thought was that its the second longest i’ve ever attended one church. but then, knowing dates when i became a christian and when we moved… i realized that actually, its the longest. that first church just seemed like forever… but thats another topic i suppose.

and as i sat there, i thought about how disconnected i feel at this church sometimes. i’ve had 2 fairly close friends and one sort of friend there… but, sadly, none of the three attend there anymore. only one of them do i even have contact with, and very rarely at that.

there are a few people who chat with me off and on… fluffy conversations about the current length of my hair, the weather, that sort of thing.

and a few who i talk with a bit, but really don’t feel all that comfortable with. the chipper, nothing is ever wrong, good christian mask type…. that i just dont get a feeling like they really are what they present. hard to explain a bit… but not a personality type i feel like dealing with.

but not really anybody i connect to well anymore, or trust with any sort of depth.

and i’m not entirely sure why.

i know part of it probably has to do just with past issues related to that first church… but, theres not much similarity between the two outside of that masked crowd. and probably part of it has to do with insecurity issues i need to deal with from past on feeling like i’ll be judged. but again, i’ve seen this church be openly accepting of people with much worse in their much more recent pasts… so it shouldnt be that much into play.

(yes, service was late in starting…. i had a while to be sitting there… lol)

but it was just sort of an interesting realization on how much i feel detached… and really, did even when i was more actively involved with activities there.

not exactly a feeling like i dont belong, or should look elsewhere, or anything like that. just sort of a feeling like i should have developed more in the way of relationships within the church by now… and a wondering why i havent.

Not very gazelle-ish

i’ve been trying to find a cheap used portable basketball goal for boo as part of her easter. since her birthday is so close to christmas, i try to spread some of the more large items out a bit more, so her easter basket usually gets a lot of outside toys and summer clothes.

so i was trying a particular yard sale that mentioned lots of sports equipment. no luck.

but i did find one of those gazelles… from the infomercials… for $20.

which really, looks a bit like the arc trainers at the gym. so i figured was probably essentially a cheap knockoff version of those, and gave it a shot.

its not. lol

this is quite possibly the oddest workout product i’ve owned. actually, even including my mom’s ab lounger and gut buster in that, even though technically those weren’t mine.

the arc trainer goes in a curve, so depending on what slope you have, its more like a stair stepping feel in front, or a kicking from heels motion leaning back.

the gazelle is flat. honestly? it feels like skidding your feel across the kitchen floor in socks.

but it also has no resistance. none.

when you tap the foot peddles to get on, they move with barely any slight tap. a bit harder to move them once your weight is on them, but not much. i’m still amazed at exactly how little effort it takes to move them.

you can sort of add some resistance with your arms by deliberately going against their regular motion… but then that totally messes with your stride.

but the really pathetic thing? as out of shape as i am, i can get my heart rate up doing about anything. never been an issue.

well, apparently, that should be anything but the gazelle. it barely budged with the fastest pace i could keep without feeling like i was losing balance!

it just sort of amazing me exactly how different this thing was from my expectations. soo glad i didnt pay retail price for it.

not really sure what to do with it now though. but understanding exactly why it was only 20 bucks at a garage sale.

No blisters?

Deut. 7:2 Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. 3 Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. 5 Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.

no blisters?

all of that 40 years of walking miles and miles and miles… and no blisters?

even when it was being extended for disobeying?

somehow this is a random part of his provision for them in the desert that i’ve missed or forgotten.

kinda trivial in the big picture maybe… but stopping to think about it, maybe not.

i think sometimes the tone of that whole section of the story turns into one of harsh punishment. which, ok, yes, 40 years of wandering is rough. but protecting their feet from blisters and swelling.. just seems like a loving contrast to the harsh upset tone.

supplying them with manna and water from a rock meets basic needs that they were completely unable to meet on their own, and the leading them by cloud/fire also seems fairly essential.

but the feet… they could have survived with blisters and pain. just with a lot more discomfort and pain.

maybe he does actually like these guys after all.. 🙂

More scary food

I like to make big batches of fried rice.

Which I don’t actually fry.

And sometimes isn’t actually even rice.. quinoa works pretty similar to brown rice in it, or even couscous… depends whats in the cabinet.

And often has almost as much veggie content as it does anything else.

Oh, and it’s most frequently eaten for breakfast.

So it’s almost pushing the line of not even being able to be called fried rice anymore due to lack of resemblance after all my changes.

But I do use fried rice seasoning mix in it. Because it just doesn’t taste right otherwise. And soy sauce makes it too salty. So I write off the extra 60 calories for the batch of 8-10 servings or so as being worth it.

I had bought two packets of the seasoning a couple of weeks ago… almost made a batch last week but put it off because I didn’t have any frozen snap peas.

This week, as I’m checking out at the store, the machine beeps, and tells me it has an important message on my receipt, which I instantly assume to be advertising.

Got to car, look at it, and turns out that it wasn’t an ad, it was a recall notice.

My fried rice seasoning packets have been recalled due to salmonella.

Of all of the things I’ve purchased lately… that might be likely candidates for salmonella…. a dry seasoning packet is about the last edible thing I could imagine being a possibility.

It has no meat products. It does have powdered whey.. which is about the only thing on the list that I can figure must be why. Because everything else is just spices.

It’s not like this is a raw veggie or a chicken product that didn’t get cooked enough.

Which is actually a good part of why this is messing with my head. It’s just not something I associate with that sort of issue. Preservatives killing me maybe… but food poisoning?

It’s just really weird. And rather scary for food safety the more I think about it.

And guess I’m glad I keep forgetting those peas. lol