Life in the Fishbowl

Living by the Todd Family Motto: "It behooves us to live." I want to change the world.

Life in the Fishbowl - Living by the Todd Family Motto: "It behooves us to live." I want to change the world.

Powerful stories, the magic of film, and the Heartland Film Festival

Heartland Film Festival

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been intrigued by the power of story. I’ve been especially interested in the way a story can be told through the magic of film. I’m sure that my interest in powerful stories and magical films was enhanced by my love of one movie in particular: Star Wars.

Me with my ceramic Darth Vader nightlight

Yes, this is me a long time ago in a galaxy not-so far away. Star Wars helped me appreciate the power of good storytelling and the magic of the silver screen.

While I don’t believe Star Wars is the cause of my love of story and film, it certainly magnified it. My eyes were opened to a whole new magical world because of the artful storytelling of George Lucas and his editors.

In middle school and high school, I wanted to become known as “The Next Steven Spielberg.” I was the first Scout in our Troop to earn the Cinematography merit badge. I took as many creative writing and film-related classes in high school as I could. I entered Milligan with a plan. I was going to graduate with a degree in Communication and then move to LA where I was going to attend film school. My ultimate dream was to take the story of Elijah and present it on the silver screen. And then, after making that blockbuster, I was going to spend the rest of my filmmaking career telling moving, inspiring stories through the medium of film.

Obviously, that didn’t happen.

But I still love a good story. I love how film can transport you to another time and place. Sometimes even another dimension. I love how a well-told story can make you laugh with delight or move you to tears. It can challenge your beliefs. It can poke around at the tender parts of your soul, prodding you to make a difference in the world around you. It can inspire you to act. Sometimes, it can even change your own life. And yes, it can also provide a place to escape the trials and troubles of the day.

Stories that challenge. Stories that inspire. Stories that move you. Stories that make you want to create. That’s what I think film does best.

Heartland Film Festival Logo 2014

And that’s why I love that Indianapolis is host to the Heartland Film Festival, Indiana’s largest and longest-running independent film festival. Over a course of 10 days in October, this festival shines the spotlight on more than 130 independent films and gives audiences access to more than 100 independent filmmakers from around the world. And it’s all right here in the Crossroads of America. The Heartland Film Festival is one of the many reasons to love this great city.

In addition to shining the spotlight on some amazing storytellers, The Heartland Film Festival is also a qualifying festival for the Annual Academy Awards® within the Short Films Category. This means that the winner of the Grand Prize for Best Narrative Short Film will qualify for consideration in the Short Films category of the Annual Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules. That’s a pretty big deal.

This year’s festival has almost completed its run, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. You still have today, tomorrow, and Saturday to catch a screening or two. For some strange reason, the powers that be have decided to grant me a media pass to this year’s festival. So maybe we’ll run into each other while we’re catching some powerful stories on the big screen. You can check out the lineup and screening schedule here.

This is an amazing event. It’s one that truly puts Indianapolis on the map and introduces some great filmmakers to the public eye. I hope you take advantage of this opportunity before the festival ends Saturday night. I know I will.

Tickets are $9 if purchased in advance, $11 at the door.

My friend, Leah, ended a six month blogging hiatus in order to share her experience at this year’s Heartland Film Festival. You should check out what she has to say.

I’ll see you at the movies!

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Be a better princess with the Sleeping Beauty DVD

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias #DisneyBeauties #shop

Sleeping Beauty DVD at Walmart #DisneyBeauties
With the release of the Sleeping Beauty DVD and Blu-Ray, Disney has re-introduced one of the classic Disney Princesses to a new generation. As I mentioned before Mihret is a big fan of all of the Disney Princesses. So in honor of the release of Sleeping Beauty from the Disney Vault, we dressed up in our royal best and visited our local Walmart to celebrate.

In Store #DisneyBeauties

As we were shopping for the DVD and other princess goodies, Mihret and I talked about what qualities we liked in the Disney Princesses. Sure, they’re pretty. And most of them can sing with beautiful voices. But there’s more to being a Princess than these external characteristics. To be noble requires a goodness that comes from deep within your innermost being. The beauty of the #DisneyBeauties is truly more than just skin-deep.

#DisneyBeauties shopping spree

 

We bought a few Princess related items while we walked and talked in the store. I hope these items will help reinforce the strong inner virtues that the Disney Princesses possess. They can be some pretty important role models for Mihret.

Princesses are kind-hearted.

Princess Aurora is a kind-hearted soul. She fills her parents’ lives with sunshine. That’s a pretty remarkable reputation to have, isn’t it? She lit up the room with her joy. Even in the midst of difficult circumstances (what’s more difficult than having the self-proclaimed Mistress of all Evil wanting you dead?), we can choose to live our lives in such a way hat we’re always filling other people’s lives with sunshine.

Can’t we?

Sunshine #DisneyBeauties

 

Being a Princess means you’re kind-hearted and bring cheer to others. That is certainly a Princess quality I hope my daughters display throughout their lives.

Princesses are determined problem solvers.

Do you remember when Mulan climbed that pole with those weights tied around her wrists? She was determined to solve that puzzle. She didn’t give up. She had the courage and determination to get the job done with whateveer it took.

Puzzle #DisneyBeauties

 

Mihret shows similar problem solving skills when she’s putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Much like Mulan, she is a very determined girl who refuses to listen when someone says, “You can’t do that.”

Princesses are creative.

Dinglehoppers…

Snarfblats…

Ariel’s creativity shines when she explains what all her gadgets, gizmos a-plenty, whosits, whatsits galore, and thingamabobs. Her creativity and her inquisitive nature work hand in hand, don’t they? an adventurous, curious, creative spirit is something that should be encouraged in our daughters.

I know.

Reading that might make you a little bit nervous. Free spirits like this can get into trouble pretty easily. And that makes parents like me a bit uneasy. Daughters like that can keep you on your toes. They might even make your hair turn white.

Kind of like King Triton’s hair.

Creative Coloring #DisneyBeauties

 

You know something? I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love having daughters who aren’t afraid to color outside the lines a little bit. it seems like their creativity knows no bounds. And I want to do whatever I can as their Dad to keep encouraging them to be the creative and curious free spirits I know they are. It’s just a small (but important) part of what makes my daughters such beautiful Princesses. And I want to keep encouraging that spirit to grow within them throughout their lives.

It might cause some bumps along the way. But the ride is worth it. Princesses make the journey one for the storybooks. I know mine have.

Oh, and Mihret also wanted me to tell you that Ariel is pretty neat because she can swim around and around and around. So she has that going for her, too!

What’s YOUR Princess like? How do Disney Princesses inspire her?

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A former pastor’s plea: Encourage your pastor.

Recently, I found myself looking through some archived emails of mine. I was searching for an old piece of information. I don’t remember what I needed, exactly. But I remember that I needed the information for some type of job application.

Mr Popular

During my quest, I stumbled upon some conversations that happened during the years I was pastoring that small church in East Central Indiana. While I believe I have completely moved on from that experience, having let go of whatever bitterness I had harbored (remember when God kicked me in the teeth?), I’m not gonna lie. Reading some of those emails hurt my heart.

Not one of the emails I had read was positive. My inbox was full of messages that pointed out what I wasn’t doing right. They focused on the negative. Not one of the 8-10 emails that I skimmed had a positive comment. That still hurts my heart.

It hurts my heart because I know I’m not the only pastor to have received emails like this. It hurt my heart because I know that many pastors have received emails like that this week. Maybe even today. And at the same time, they haven’t received any words of encouragement. I know it’s easier to point out areas improvement instead of talking about what was done well, but a constant barrage of negativity, continually hearing things like…

“You didn’t do _________.”
or
“You forgot to pray for _________.”
or
“Why haven’t you brought more young families to our church?”
or
“We’re not growing. What are you going to do about it?”
or
“Why haven’t you visited _________ yet? She’s had a hangnail on her pinky for a week!”  - OK. I’m only half joking about this last one. You’d be amazed at how some people get worked up about the silliest of things, though.

A constant barrage of negative attitudes, criticisms, and complaints with no reprieve can wear you out. Pastoring can be a lonely profession. Being a recipient of such discouraging messages over and over again only makes things even more isolating.

It’s no wonder so many people walk away from the pastorate.

I know this isn’t the goal of most people who complain and gripe and criticize. But it happens. And this isn’t healthy. There’s already a spiritual battle taking place around our church leaders. Let’s try to minimize casualties due to friendly fire, shall we? So let’s do something about it. Let’s all work on being an encouragement to our pastors and anyone else in church leadership positions.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up - 1 Thessalonians 5:11

This month is Pastor Appreciation Month. It’s a good time to start fixing this heartbreaking trend. But please don’t stop when the calendar switches to November.

Here are some ways you can encourage your pastor all year long:

1.) Send a note.

You have no idea how much impact a simple note or card can have. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. All it really needs to say is “You’re doing a good job,” or something like “I appreciate you because _______” or even a simple “Thank you.” These simple gestures don’t take very much time but they are powerful.

I used to keep a “Feel Good” folder tucked away in my files. Whenever I was having a really tough day, I would pull that out and look through a couple of the notes and cards I’d received over the years. These items are always a beacon of light whenever times are tough and it feels like the darkness is creeping in.

2.) Watch what you say.

There are times you have to be critical. I get that. I understand that. Criticism isn’t a bad thing. It’s important. It helps people grow and improve. We have to help each other get better. It’s part of how iron sharpens iron.

BUT…

Don’t let the only things that come out of your mouth be negative. Consider following this rule: for every criticism/complaint/negative comment you make, say three positive things. It might sound silly, but it’s a simple reminder to keep our eyes on the positive.

And even when you need to say something critical, make sure you’re still speaking life. We are called to be life-givers. Not soul-suckers.

Speak life. In all you do and say, speak life.

3.) Help protect your pastor’s family.

Pastoring is tough. It can be even tougher on a pastor’s family. Family Life has some pretty good suggestions about how you can encourage your pastor by helping to protect your pastor’s family.

4.) Bring a guest.

You want to make your pastor’s day? Maybe even your pastor’s month? Invite a guest to participate in a worship service with you. You don’t have to make a big deal about it. You don’t even have to introduce your guest to the pastor. If you’re part of the majority of churches in America, your pastor is probably begging you to bring a friend some Sunday. Imagine what an encouragement it would be if your pastor found out that you did what you were asked to do!

Avoiding friendly fire.

When I was ordained 15 years ago, I remember being told by a few people during the service that I was now a “marked man.” In other words, we are in the midst of a spiritual war and choosing to step into a role as a church leader means that you’ve decided to allow a giant target to be placed upon you. Satan wants to see the Church destroyed. A great way to do that is by destroying her leaders.

I firmly believe that a spiritual war is waging all around us. As we are fighting in this war, however, let’s make sure that the target that’s on our leaders doesn’t get moved to their backs. Let’s avoid wounding our pastors with friendly fire.

I’m open to suggestions!

What are you going to do to encourage your pastor this week? These four ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. I’d love to hear your suggestions. We’re all on the same side. Let’s work together to encourage and lift up our church leaders in ways they’ve never experienced before! When we do that, we’ll have a tiny part in changing the world.

I admit that I haven’t been as good at being an encouragement to my church leaders and pastors as I should be. So while I’m waiting for your awesome suggestions, I’m going to go sit down and write some notes to some members of our church staff.

I hope you’ll join me.

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Our daughter’s princess makeover

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias #DisneyBeauties #shop Disney Princess button #DisneyBeauties

Hear ye! Hear ye! We are in the Presence of Royalty!

We celebrated Mihret’s birthday over the weekend and it looks like we have a little princess on our hands. I don’t think that should really come as a surprise to anyone, though. From Princess Sophia to Princess Merida, she loves all the Disney Princesses. Her favorite, however, is Ariel. She could watch The Little Mermaid all day, every day if we would let her. I don’t know if it’s her stunning red hair or her amazing swimming ability or her beautiful voice or her creativity or her curiosity or some combination of these characteristics, but Mihret is a full-blown Ariel fan. So we just had to give her this little gift before her birthday party. It was like she had her own little princess makeover this weekend.

Mihret the Mermaid #DisneyBeauties

She was in heaven as she wore this costume around the house all day. With Halloween just around the corner, she’s going to have a lot of opportunities to dress up as Ariel all month long! There is a wide assortment of Disney Princess Halloween costumes available, but I know which princess will be gracing our presence this year.

An event fit for a princess.

In addition to her birthday and Halloween, I’m pretty excited about another event where Ariel-Mihret will be making an appearance. As a special way to celebrate the release of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty DVD and Sleeping Beauty Blu-Ray, Walmart is hosting a special Disney Princess event this coming Saturday.

Sleeping Beauty DVD at Walmart #DisneyBeauties

Grab your favorite princess (or prince), dress them up in their royal best as you party with the princesses this Saturday. Here are the details:

When?

Saturday, October 11
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where?

Your friendly neighborhood Walmart store
(click here for a list of participating stores)

Why?

Here’s just some of the fun that will be happening:

  • Disney Princess coloring and activity sheets
  • Photo opportunities with a cardboard Sleeping Beauty
  • Disney Princess cupcakes samples
  • Disney Princess character balloons (available for purchase)

A royal deal awaits.

In addition to the fun activities, there will be a special in-store coupon available from American Greetings at participating locations. It’s good for $3 off of any $10 purchase of Disney Princess themed party supplies. You don’t want to miss out on this royal deal, do you?

Join the fun!

I’ll be there with my mermaid princess. Will you? It should be an event that dreams are made of. You can join in the fun all week long by following the #DisneyBeauties hashtag on Twitter and Instagram!

 

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It’s National Coffee Day. Buy some coffee. Help our adoption

The powers that be have declared today to be National Coffee Day. If you’re a coffee drinker, I’m not sure why you need a specific date for you to celebrate coffee. I mean, every day is coffee day for many of you. Right?

So it’s National Coffee Day. And you love coffee. You also want to do good with your purchase. I’ve got a proposal for YOU!

Just Love Coffee adoption fundraiser

You can support our adoption by buying coffee from Just Love Coffee, a portion of the proceeds will go directly towards our efforts to bring our boy home.

I don’t drink much coffee, but I know this is some high qualityquality stuff. A former co-worker of mine is a self-proclaimed coffee snob. She had this to say about her purchase:

“It’s yummy.”

It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

Happy National Coffee Day, y’all! Thanks for your ongoing support! Now buy some coffee!

(please)

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“My life is but a weaving…”

Ever look back on a series of events and see that all the pieces were coming together perfectly? Ever look back and realize that the hand of God had to be orchestrating things because there’s no way that you could make things happen the way they did? Ever stand back and say, “Wow. Everything that has happened, the good and the bad, has led my life to this moment“? It leaves you awestruck and breathless. Well, it leaves me awestruck and breathless, anyway.

While I cannot share many details right now, I promise I will in the very near future. In the meantime, let me say this, friends:

God has been at work. He is still at work.

He hasn’t put all of the pieces into place yet, but I can see how He has already brought so many threads together. He’s weaving an incredible work of art. It’s been pretty amazing to stand back and watch it all start coming together as He slowly reveals His handiwork.

I can’t wait to share the story He is telling. But for now, I’m going to watch Him work in the amazing ways that only He can.

It leaves me in awe.

It takes my breath away.

My life is but a weaving - Corrie ten Boom

Life is but a Weaving
(the Tapestry Poem)

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

Corrie ten Boom

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Our lives changed after we took this picture 5 years ago

We took this picture five years ago today. It was the last time we were together as a family of four.

Outside Indianapolis International Airport before flying to Ethiopia.

A few minutes after this, the kids drove off with their Papaw. Soon after that, Christy and I boarded a plane. Our ultimate destination was a Little Girl in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Flying over Egypt

Five years ago today, we were ending one leg of our family’s journey.

Five years ago today, we were starting another leg of our family’s journey.

Five years ago…

Wow.

How has it already been five years since we went from being a family of four to a family of five?

Our first picture as a family of five. Taken at the Indianapolis International Airport

It couldn’t have happened without the prayer and support of some pretty amazing friends and family who were with us throughout the process. And it certainly couldn’t have happened without family members taking care of Aiden and Alyson, trying to do whatever possible to keep their lives as close to normal as possible while their mom and dad were half a world away. To anyone and everyone who had some part in our journey to bring Mihret into our family, I want to say “Thank you” again. Thank you for allowing God to use you and to weave your story into our family’s story.

Because we can’t imagine our family without Mihret.

Family picture at the 2013 Show Hope Celebration in Franklin Tennessee

I bet you can’t, either.

The kids holding a sign that says

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9/11, ISIS, and a different response (aka the post I don’t want to write)

The Greatest of These is Love

I’m going to be honest here. I’ve been struggling with writing this post for quite some time. I don’t really feel like I have any real answers here. And I like answers. I like to have my posts tied up in a neat little package with a nifty bow to present to you, dear reader.

I also hesitate to post this because it feel like I’m choosing to be a little naïve. And nobody likes to appear naïve.

And maybe I’m struggling with this thought that’s been rattling around in my head and my heart because…well…I don’t LIKE these thoughts. But I have to share them. I have to get them out. You might not like them, either. You might want to call me an idiot. You might want to call me crazy. That’s OK. I’ve been called crazy before. Or maybe you’ll choose to never read any of my stuff again. I hope that won’t be the case. But I might understand if you choose that response.

I remember how it felt to watch the planes slam into those Towers. I remember the horror of watching the buildings collapse. I remember wishing for *those* people and anyone who agreed with them to be sent straight to the pit of hell. Like all other Americans who watched in disbelief and terror that horrible Tuesday morning, I will never forget. I will never ever forget.

Here we are, 13 years later, and how far have we really come? We have killed countless terrorist leaders, including Osama himself, but the President addressed the nation a few nights ago, declaring that “We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are.” That sounds an awful lot like his predecessor, who said, “Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” Doesn’t it?

We’ve been doing an awful lot of hunting these past 13 years.

We’ve also done a lot of punishing.

Regardless of your political persuasion, I think we can all agree that there have been a lot of successes in the ongoing fight against terrorists.

Yet here we are again. We’re in another knock down, drag out with a ruthless terrorist organization. They rose up out of a crippled terror group. And once ISIS (or is it ISIL?) is destroyed , what’s to stop more terrorists from rising up in its place? It’s like the Hydra – you cut off one head and two more sprout up in its place.

Then they’ll strike at us.

We’ll strike back.

They’ll get revenge.

We’ll punish.

And it will go on and on and on.

We are stuck in a never ending cycle. The pursuit will not end. The hunt will not be over. When will it stop? Will it ever stop? I remember during the initial days of the commencement of the War on Terror that we were warned that this effort could take decades – maybe even generations to accomplish.

What if we responded in a different way?

And here’s where I struggle. I don’t know how we, as a State, could implement any other approach than a military response. These monsters are terrorizing civilians, murdering babies, and beheading journalists. They must be stopped. Period.

But I also keep hearing these quotes bounce around in my head and heart:

“An eye for an eye makes both men blind.”
- commonly attributed to Gandhi

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
- commonly attributed to Abraham Lincoln

“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you.”
- Jesus (Matthew 5:44)

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…”
- Jesus (Luke 6:27)

“…the greatest of these is love.”
- Paul (1 Corinthians 13:13b)

So that’s where I’m stuck. I don’t want to respond with love. I don’t even know how to respond to this kind of evil with love.

Like I said, I don’t have a pretty bow to wrap around this one. There’s no Brady Bunch or Family Matters ending here where everything magically comes together at the end of the post. Responding with love could mean that more people are murdered and oppressed and abused in the immediate future. That’s not good. At all. Things are messy right now and a response like this could make things even messier.

And I don’t like that one bit.

But doing the same thing we’ve been doing but expecting different results…that sounds like the common definition of something. Doesn’t it?

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Walgreens #GetAShot Twitter Party 9/17, 1-2 pm ET ($550 in prizes)

RSVP for the #GetAShot Twitter Party

This post has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.

#GetAShot-Twitter-Party-Badge-9-17, #TwitterParty, #shop, sweepstakes on Twitter

Do you love a good Twitter Party?  I do! that’s why I’m excited to co-host a party about how you can Give a Shot when you Get a Shot at Walgreens! On Wednesday, September 17 at 1:00 pm ET, please join me for the #GetAShot Twitter Party where we’ll be discussing this wonderful opportunity to give back to children in need and giving you a chance to win prizes.

As you might know, the Get a Shot, Give a Shot program at Walgreens is something that is very near and dear to my heart. If you’re planning on getting a flu vaccine this year, I ask that you strongly consider getting it at Walgreens. Because when you get vaccinated at Walgreens between now and mid-October, you’re also giving a vaccine to a child in a developing country through the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life program. So this Twitter Party is extra-special. Not only do you get a chance to win one of the six prizes, but you will also help spread the word about this life-saving campaign. You can win stuff and change the world all at the same time. How cool is that?

Join me and RSVP for the #GetAShot Twitter Party on SoFabChats!

RSVP at SoFab Chats

DATE:  Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TIME:  1:00 to 2:00 pm ET

PRIZES:  5 – (1) $100 Walgreens Gift Cards

EARLY BIRD PRIZE:  1 – $50 Walgreens Gift Card

HOSTS:  @Freebies4Mom, @MoneywiseMoms, @comebackmomma, @mattdantodd, @JManMillerBug

SPECIAL GUEST:  @Walgreens

RULES:  #GetAShot Twitter Party Official Rules

RSVP & PARTY GRID:  #GetAShot Twitter Party Page

PLEASE RETWEET:

 

How To Participate In A Twitter Party on SoFabChats!

TIP:  How to join a Twitter Party
Sign in! Before party starts, click on the green “Sign In On Twitter” bar at the top of the page!

TIP: Who to follow at a Twitter Party?
Follow the Party Team by clicking on the Twitter handle links on the RSVP page!

TIP: Want to win Twitter Party prizes?
RSVP by clicking on RSVP button before you join the party, follow everyone on the Party Team, and tweet with the party hashtag during the party to be eligible!

TIP: How to win the Early Bird prize?
Watch for your chance to share a tweet when you RSVP for chance to win!

TIP: Special deals and brand coupons?
Keep that option checked when you RSVP for the party!

TIP: New to Twitter parties?
Watch your column and Party Team tweet columns – they are slower paced and easier to follow!

TIP: Where to find Twitter Parties?
Check out the SoFabChats Twitter Party Calendar to find more fun parties to attend!

Find more helpful Twitter Party Tips on SoFabChats!

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