Thanks to everyone for participating in Imaginary Jesus Week! It was a week just chock full of imaginary fun.
On Monday, I started things off by announcing a giveaway. Let’s not mention Tuesday. Wednesday, Matt Mikalatos gave this excellent interview. Thursday, I posted my review of the book, and Friday I told you all about one of my favorite Imaginary Jesus mediums, the audio book.
Speaking of that giveaway, I have a winner to announce!
I used Random.org to choose a winner, and the winner of the signed copy of Imaginary Jesus is…
Niki, I’ll e-mail you shortly to get your address.
Thanks so much to Matt Mikalatos for partcipating in the interview and for writing the book in the first place. Catch a sneak preview of the cover of his next book over at his blog, The Burning Hearts Revolution.
The free ebook promotion seems to have ended, but you can still find Imaginary Jesus wherever the best books are sold. Check it out if you haven’t yet.
By the way, if you’re looking for more free ebooks, keep an eye on Tyndale’s blog. They post about them pretty regularly.
This concludes Imaginary Jesus Week. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself. Please take a moment to count your blessings and collect your things.
I’ve been over the Imaginary Jesus story maybe eight or nine times in the last year, but, confession, I’ve only actually read it once or twice.*
Most of my time with Imaginary Jesus has been spent with the audio book. I downloaded it from Christian Audio last summer, but I started listening to it after I moved out of my parents house. It’s been a pretty regular companion while I wash dishes or work on other projects. The book holds the distinction of being the only non-music that doesn’t get skipped when my iTunes is on random. Mikalatos narrates, and you know, when the author is also the main character, there’s something very fitting about hearing him read it himself.
I highly recommend checking out the audiobook. Especially if you don’t have a dishwasher. It really seems to make the whole process go smoother.
Christian Audio also happens to have a free MP3 download of an interview with Mikalatos, so you should definitely check that out. Free stuff is just my favorite.
Speaking of free, don’t forget to download a free copy of the ebook! You don’t need an ereader like a Kindle or a Nook or any other reader to read the ebook. You can read them on your PC, Mac, Android phone or tablet, iPhone or iPad or iPod Touch, Blackberry, or Windows 7 phone.** Here’s the info for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors, and Sony. Let me know if you have any questions about the download process! I love to answer questions. It’s a hobby.
And, don’t forget to enter the contest to win a signed copy of Imaginary Jesus. I’ll announce the winner at around 4:30pm Central time, so you have until then to enter. Don’t forget, the more places you share a link, the more chances you have to win. Just make sure to tell me where you shared so I can count it.
I’m off to wash more dishes. Good thing I’ve got something to listen to…
*But, hey, twice in one year isn’t shabby. That hasn’t happened since, what, Little Women? I’m also going to say that this is the only time that Imaginary Jesus has ever been compared to Little Women.
**Nothing yet for Palm or WebOS devices. Believe me, it breaks my heart just as much as it breaks yours.
I’m at a place in my life where I just can’t stop thinking about how blessed I am. I keep going over what it took to get me here. I go back through the different jobs I’ve had and what I’ve learned at each of them. I think about my time at Moody, and how that shaped my character and proved to me that I really did want to work in publishing. I go back through high school, and think about my different English teachers and about the hours I spent on the literary magazine. I go back just a bit further, and think about the hundred and hundreds of books I read in grade school, and how so many of my favorite friends were actually fictional.
I go back so far that I reach the very beginning of my relationship with the written word. It was the summer after Kindergarten. Mom and I were sitting on the floor in the living room with her sewing basket between us as a table. Mom was going over phonics flashcards with me. It was so. Boring. Did I seriously need to learn all of these letters before I could get to words? Couldn’t we just read stories already? But Mom kept telling me to be patient and keep working. If I wanted to be a good reader, I was going to have to get past the boring part.
That’s when I realize: she’s been doing the same thing my whole life. In grade school, she was the one taking me to bookstores and antique malls to find the best books. She let me read for hours and hours and hours on end. She was the one who told me when it was time to switch to “grown up” books. (Her main argument there was that I was reading the kids books too quickly, and I was getting expensive.)
She was the one who proof-read all my high school English papers and who picked me up from my literary magazine meetings. When I graduated and still didn’t know what to do with my life, she (with my dad) was the one to remind me of how much I liked putting books together. She was the one who suggested publishing in the first place. She was the one who listened to me go on ad infinitum about my college yearbook and made sure the staff always had a full candy jar. When I lost focus, she corrected me.
She encouraged me when I left college and didn’t think I’d ever find a job. When I was interviewing at Tyndale, she prayed harder than I think anyone ever has.
I don’t want to minimize God’s hand on my life, or the part that my dad’s played in all of this. But I do want to thank my mom for everything she’s done. She raised my sisters and I to love words, and to love books, and to love each other, and to love the Lord. It sounds trite to say I wouldn’t be where I am without her, but it’s true. I’ve always been told that I’m just like my mother, so I’ve got a lot to live up to.
Matt Mikalatos, writer of Imaginary Jesus graciously took the time to answer a few questions about his book.
JD: When did you decide to become a writer? Was this a childhood dream, or something that happened later in your life?
MM: I didn’t notice that I loved writing until after high school, although I had been writing for a long time. I did a lot of theater in high school and helped to write short plays and sketches, but I thought of that as acting, not writing. And my buddies and I did comic books and short stories and goofy movie scripts. I wrote a lot of poetry, which my ex-girlfriends could probably dredge up if you need a sugar high. When I hit college I realized that success in acting would require taking any part I could get… even if it was poorly written, or morally questionable. I suddenly saw writing as a way to control my art. No one could tell me what to write. My junior year I was serious enough about it that I decided to major in writing at UC RIverside. So it’s not a childhood dream (I really wanted to be a Jedi or at least an astronaut) but it’s something I’ve been passionate about for a long time.
JD: What did you read while you were writing IJ? I’ve heard you compared to C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, J.B. Phillips, Kurt Vonnegut, and others. Were any of these part of your inspiration?
MM:I didn’t read anything while I was writing IJ, I was on a writing binge, filling every spare moment with writing. It’s pretty hard to write a humorous book and not at least think of Vonnegut. And certainly C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce crossed my mind. G.K. Chesterton had a big impact on me, especially books like The Napoleon of Notting Hill, which is hilarious but also deeply moving. Flannery O’Connor has always inspired me with the way that she stares straight into the worst foibles of religious people without flinching. I should mention also the strange and wonderful novel The Plato Papers by Peter Ackroyd, which occasionally bounced around in my memory and reminded me that I could comfortably write whatever I liked. The late, great Wittenburg Door magazine was a big part of my learning process, too… I wrote a lot of satirical articles for them leading up to writing IJ.
JD:Why did you decide to make IJ a work of semi-fiction? Was that the plan from the start?
MM:The original pitch for the book was for a series of humorous essays about our misconceptions of Jesus. But Wes Yoder, who eventually became my agent, read a few chapters and told me that it needed a stronger narrative, and that he could tell I wasn’t writing what I really loved… a story. He encouraged me to write something I would want to read myself. I warned him that it would be weird, and he told me not to worry about that. So I sat down that night and wrote Chapter Zero… where I’m eating with Jesus in a Communist Cafe, when the Apostle Peter walks in and pops him one in the face. It made me laugh out loud when I wrote it, and then I just kept writing, weaving in the content from the planned essays, but making it a story. Wes and I had talked a bit about Dante’s Inferno, so that was providing some structure… a sort of tour through our conceptions of Jesus, with a couple of guides along the way.
JD:IJ is laugh outloud, make-people-stare-at-me-on-the-train funny. That’s not something you find in a lot of Christian fiction/theology. Do you think that humor can communicate an idea in a better or more engaging way than other forms of writing? How?
MM:Humor can be the best tool for communicating, sometimes. It disarms people and sets them at ease, and then you can sneak up on them and teach them a lesson when they aren’t looking. If you imagine your reader as a castle trying to keep foreign ideas out, then essays are like battering rams. Their unrelenting logic and persuasiveness can bust in the door. But humor is like building a giant wooden horse filled with warriors and parking it outside with a big red bow on it. Also, when something is funny, people want to pass it along to their friends when they’re done. Most people don’t have much of a defense against humor.
JD:At one point in the book, you’re tackled by a jesus who is angry that you cut his chapter out of the book. Are there any jesuses that you wish you had included?
MM:My readers have sent in some great ones, the sort where I slap my forehead and say, “I wish I had thought of that one!” A British reader sent the idea for “Stiff Upper Lip Jesus” who greets any inconvenience or trouble with a stony countenance and some sort of comment like, “Carry on!” My friend Jessica sent me Bridegroom Jesus, which is the Jesus at women’s retreats who keeps telling women that they need to stop trying to get a boyfriend because they are already married to him, and they should never feel discontent about anything. I thought that was a good one, too! A friend of yours, Adam Sabados, suggested Chewbacca Jesus. I’m not sure what exactly that means, but it made me laugh. I did have to cut a chapter with New Age Jesus which was very funny but also not really on topic with the rest of the book. Oh, and I had an extended scene once upon a time with a superhero version of Jesus called GODMAN! He makes a cameo in the book now, but I was fond of the original scene.
JD:You went on a fantastical journey through space and time to get rid of your imaginary jesuses. Do you have some pointers for those of us without access to an apostle or a talking donkey?
MM:Getting to know the real Jesus is not that much different than getting to know any other person, especially if you think of him as a very famous guy who lots of people know. You have three basic sources of information… literature/media about him, what people who know him well have to say, and interacting with the Man himself. We have the Bible, which is basically God’s autobiography. Looking at that book carefully and what Jesus says about himself is absolutely invaluable. Second, get with people who know him well. A good church is a great place to connect with people like this. Ask them about their experience with Jesus and what they’ve learned about him over time…ask them their own experience of removing imaginary Jesuses and how they’ve grown closer to the real Christ.And lastly, Jesus is not a historical figure. He’s still alive and still interacting with us today. Which means talking with him can be the best way to get to know him. Prayer is an enormous asset in knowing the real Jesus… we need to make it a normal part of the relational life of those of us who are following Jesus.
JD:I hear you have a book coming out later this year. Can you tell a little about that?
MM:Yes! Night of the Living Dead Christian is about our hero, Matt Mikalatos, who discovers that his neighbor is a reluctant werewolf. The neighbor has done everything he can think of to try to cure himself of his “condition” and asks Matt for help. Matt, of course, suggests going to church. So, the werewolf, a vampire, a mad scientist and a cast of other wacky characters team up to try to help find a spiritual cure for the werewolf to help him escape a werewolf killer and be reunited with his wife and daughter. There are zombies and mole men and lots of laughs, as well as an exploration of what it means to experience true transformation on the path of following Jesus. It’s a lot of fun.
You can learn more about Matt Mikalatos at his blog, The Burning Hearts Revolution, or you can follow him on Twitter, or by signing up for his newsletter.
Don’t forget, you can still download Imaginary Jesus for free at Barnes & Noble, Sony, Christian Book Distributors, and Amazon. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a signed copy of Imaginary Jesus!
Matt Mikalatos could have written Imaginary Jesus with a nice, quiet set of bullet points. He could have used some keywords with nice alliteration, and maybe thrown in a few anecdotes to keep things interesting. He would have gotten his point across, and it still would have been a a great concept. But he didn’t.
Instead, Imaginary Jesus is sort of a semi-autobiographical science fiction pop-philosophy adventure novel. It stars Matt Mikalatos as himself, the Apostle Peter as a metaphorical spiritual guide, Peter’s pal Daisy the Donkey, and all the imaginary Jesuses you can think of.
Matt and his Imaginary Jesus get along just fine. They hang out on weekends, and Jesus understands if Matt needs to fix a parking ticket or complain about a waiter. Jesus is cool like that, you know? They have a pretty good relationship.
Until the Apostle Peter shows up.
Peter, you see, spent three years walking side by side with Jesus. He knows what Jesus looks like, sounds like, what he likes to eat. He knows how He’d respond to practically any situation. So when Peter runs in to Matt at the local vegan Communist cafe, he knows another thing: that guy in the sandals sitting across the table from Matt? That’s not Jesus.
The imaginary jesus, on being found out, takes off running.
That begins Matt’s journey through time and space to find and abolish his Imaginary Jesus.
Each of their stops (at a comic book store, in ancient Jerusalem, and at several Portland, Oregon landmarks, etc.) helps to show Matt what he’s missing about the real Jesus. He meets several members of the Secret Society of Imaginary Jesuses, including Political Jesus, Testosterone Jesus, and my favorite, Magic 8 Ball Jesus.
There are some truly moving parts of this book. I’ve never had the “in remembrance of me” part of Communion explained quite this way. It’s changed the way I think about the sacrament. When Matt explains what it was that’s kept him from following the real Jesus, his pain is real and relateable.
But I think my favorite scene is when Matt has a tubing race with three different Jesuses to determine which view of God’s providence he should take. It’s an awful lot like the some of the discussions I overheard in the dining room at Bible college: all circular arguments and snide remarks, and in the end, someone gets eaten by a bear. (It includes what I think is the funniest line in the book. I’m not going to share it because I want you to enjoy it fully and in context.)
Which brings me to this: this is the funniest Christian book I’ve ever read. I don’t think I’ve ever switched from somber reflection to make-the-rest-of-the-train-car-stare-at-me giggling so quickly.
Wait, no. My favorite bit was Motorcycle Guy. More giggling. More staring. Couldn’t help it.
There were one or two things I could have lived without, like Houdini Dog, a neighborhood dog who steals Matt’s steaks off the grill and dirties his lawn. I’m sure there’s a great metaphorical reason behind the hound, but after multiple readings/listenings, I haven’t figured it out. Faith in the unseen? A cautionary tale to convince you to curb your dog?
Imaginary Jesus doesn’t answer a lot of questions, but I don’t think it’s supposed to. Mikalatos isn’t giving you a list of what Jesus is. He’s telling you to let go of some of your precocieved notions of who Jesus is, and go to the source Himself. He wants you to spend time getting to know the real Jesus.
- You ever wanted to attend Monty Python’s Flying Sunday School.
- You liked Blue Like Jazz, but all that pipe-smoking gave you a headache.
- You’ve met Imaginary Jesuses (or their followers) and want to know what to do about them.
Why, you ask?
Because I really love this book. And I want you to read it.
And what is today’s festivity, you ask?
It’s a giveaway! I’m giving away a signed copy of Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos.
(I assume there is much hooting and hollering on your end. I’ll give you a minute.)
Why do you need a signed copy if you’re just going to get a free ebook anyway? So many questions today!
Because signed things are cooler than unsigned things, and even if you tracked Matt Mikalatos down and asked him to sign your ereader, you might end up regretting it when you realized that you just ruined your fancy screen.
So, to enter this giveaway, I need you to do three things:
- Download a free e-copy of Imaginary Jesus. If you have any questions about that, ask me in the comments or e-mail me or tweet at me. I sort of do ebooks for a living, and I should be able to answer any questions.
- Share a link to this post. Share it anyway you like: Facebook it, tweet it, write it on a Post-it note and show it to your friend. Share it as many times and ways as you want. I’ll count each time as a new entry.
- Comment. Leave me a comment telling me that you’ve shared a link to this post and how many times.
Check back here through out the week. I’ve got an interview with Imaginary Jesus Week’s guest of honor, Matt Mikalatos coming up, as well as some other exciting festivities. You’ve got until the end of the week to enter, and I’ll announce the winner on Friday.
Want to know more about Imaginary Jesus? Check out the book trailer:
Disclaimer: I work at the fine publishing house that publishes this book, but I’m celebrating this title of my own free will, and I don’t receive any compensation for it other than the warm fuzzies that I get when I see you’ve downloaded the book.
Apparently, this has already made the Internetly rounds, but I saw it for the first time this with my sisters while we had our Brownies for Dinner Weekend.
***Coming soon! Posts without YouTube videos! Indulge me here. I really missed the Internet.
Didja miss me?
Soon I will return to sensical posts, and I might even post regularly now that I won’t need to write everything on my lunch break.
Now, in celebration of my return, please enjoy this video of cats playing patty-cake.
Have I mentioned yet that the comments on this blog are the best part?
Yesterday, I asked for suggestions on what to name my little apartment. I love all the suggestions. And now I want more.
Here are the suggestions from yesterday:
Heather suggested “The Magnificent Cave”, so that every time someone asks me where I’m headed, I could say, “I’m off to The Magnificent Cave!” I’m definitely going to need a cape if I go with this one.
Lorraineo said “Cair Paravel”, since I’m so close to the gateway to Narnia that I answer the phone, “good morning, this is Jesse, Daughter of Eve”. However, as Lorraineo pointed out, I’ve already promised to name my firstborn Reepicheep, and it might be overkill to name everything after C.S. Lewis.
My favorite name so far is Laura Rot’s suggestion, Cherith Brook. I like the idea of being sent away to a place of solitude and nourishment very much, and I want to do some research on this one.
I’m still looking, though. I think I get nervous about the permanence of naming something. Makes me nervous. So, here’s what I’m looking for in a name: something cozy and small, something with a sense of humor, something that I’ll want to keep around for a while. Oh, and it can’t be from Jane Austin, because my home isn’t that grand and she’s just never been my favorite. Sue me. And it can’t be from Tolkein, because I grew up in Rivendell Cottage, and that’d be copying.I think those are my only caveats.
I’m thinking I’ll give a $10 gift card to the bookstore of your choice to the person who comes up with the name, so think good and hard. Or think small and cozy. Whatever works for you.
Leave your ideas in the comments, and I’ll pick a winner Friday.
When I was in junior high, my parents took me to Wheaton College to see C.S. Lewis’s wardrobe. This was…magical. I packed all seven Narnia books to read on the two hour drive. (Not that I finished them in that time. I just had them to hold.)
The museum wasn’t dedicated to just C.S. Lewis. There were also artifacts from the rest of the , Lewis’ cronies, including J.R.R. Tolkein. There, in that little room, was Tolkein’s desk. Now, the wardrobe was great. It was the gateway to Narnia. You can’t really beat that. But this, this was Tolkein’s desk. This was a whole nother kind of gateway. This was where he wrote all those books. That desk must have absorbed something from its time with Tolkein, become imbued with hobbity magic. What a shame that all that potential is locked up in a museum, never to be used again.
I realized then that I needed a desk. Something that would inspire me to write billion-page epics, and could then sit in a museum as proof.
That was about 15 years ago. Since then, I’ve had a few desks (not the least of which was a Victorian-style travel desk with a brass key that my parents gave me for my 14th birthday) but I haven’t had a Desk. You know, the imbued kind.
So, when I moved in to my new little apartment, I knew what one of my first priorities needed to be.
Doesn’t this desk just cry Golden Age of Publishing? Don’t you just need a martini? And a fedora? And a Girl Friday?!
I found this it at Jubilee, which has to be the best furniture thrift store in the Midwest. You should go.
The desk chair in the first photo was, believe it or not, was a separate Craigslist find. It matches the desk perfectly. My magic desk is obviously blessed as well as imbued.
Now a quick tour:
First, you’ll notice the print which hangs above my desk. This is to provide mood and inspiration. Obviously.
I was on Etsy looking for cephalopod prints. (What home is complete without one?) I found this one, but when I looked around the shop, I knew I had to have Portrait of a Girl Reading a Book. It was painted by a librarian who does watercolors on the side. She sent this card along with it, which makes everything even more adorable. You need to to look at her shop, DomesticIcing. You can go now, if you’d like. I’ll wait if you promise to bring back a present.
You back? Ok.
If you lower your gaze just a bit, you’ll see the right-hand corner of my dear desk. This is where I keep my dictionaries, the afore-mentioned travel desk, and MYSTERY.
The MYSTERY sign is from my family’s favorite independent book store, Treehouse Books. We were there just weeks before the store closed permanently, and they were selling off their fixtures. My family has lots of good memories at that store, and I like the idea of keeping a piece of it close.
The globe is a prop from my yearbook. (The yearbook is the fourth book from the left. I don’t like to let it out of my sight for too long. You wouldn’t either. It’s pretty. I’ll let you hold one if you want.) A professor was cleaning out their office, and gave the globe away.
Just you turn a little to the left, and you’ll see my lamp. That’s all I have to say about that. You’ll also see the Cord of Three Strands picture that my little sister made for my older sister and I when we left for our respective places of higher learning.
Allow me to direct your attention to my snail-shaped ink wells and my fountain pen. I was a nerdier junior higher than you were, and these are the things that I requested for Christmas and birthdays. But it works out, because look how spiffy my desk is now! Oh, and that’s my grandma’s stapler, which doubles as a bludgeon, and my Mini Cooper, which I will someday embiggen and then drive around town.
So that’s my desk. Now I need to get to work imbuing.
Where do you write? Do you need a fancy place full of “inspiration”, or can you write any old place?
Oh, actually, I have another question for you now that you’ve seen some of my apartment. I need a name for the place. You know, like the Nookery or the Rookery or the Snuggery or Somethingery. Have any suggestions? I have a gift card to someplace bookish for the person who comes up with the best name.
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