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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #40Pounds #CollectiveBias

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School has been in session for almost two months now. I know. You don’t have to say it. Many of you didn’t start school until Labor Day. But in order to have longer Fall, Winter, and Spring breaks, something has to give. So that means a shorter Summer for us. For our three teenagers, that wasn’t exactly happy news. For our youngest? Well, she started counting down the days as soon as school was out in May.

first-day-of-school-40pounds-ad

Yes. She’s a goofball. And we love her.

So now we’re just a few days away from the end of the first Nine Week Grading Period. That means we’ve had plenty of time to work out all the kinks and become a fine-tuned, well-oiled machine when it comes to getting our three high schoolers out the door and on the bus by 6:30 in the morning. Right?

Well, not exactly.

I’m not going to lie. It’s still pretty stressful in the minutes leading up to the bus’s arrival. But there are still a few tricks we’ve learned along the way. I’m happy to share the wisdom we have gained over the last two months.  Continue reading

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Happy songs

happy

A few days ago, the world was rocked with a stunning announcement. It was an earth-shaking surprise. OK, not really. It really wasn’t a new development. In fact, a similar announcement was made in September of last year.*

Apparently, researchers at Mizzou have decided to determine what the happiest song is from the last 50 years. And they can make such claims because used science to help determine the happiest song. So they analyzed all kinds of aspects of different songs, including rhythm, tempo, theme, and key. And so they took the answers were from a focus group, ran the numbers, and came to this conclusion:

Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen is the world’s happiest song in the last 50 years.

Because science.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love me some Freddie Mercury and Queen. A Night at the Opera is probably one of my most favorite albums. Whenever I hear Bohemian Rhapsody, I have to…well…you know…

But I’m sorry. I don’t think I can say that Don’t Stop Me Now is the happiest song in the world. I’m not even convinced it’s even the happiest Queen song. We are the Champions comes to mind. So does You’re My Best Friend. How can a song that includes “atom bomb” in its lyrics be considered the happiest anything?

I think science has failed us, y’all.

In light of this, I have decided to conduct my own search for the happiest song from the last 50 years. And I have a feeling my findings will be just as legitimate as the group of neuroscientists’ results.

Here are my candidates. In no particular order.

Good Vibrations
The Beach Boys

Don’t Worry Be Happy
Bobby McFerrin

Holiday
Madonna

Celebration
Kool and the Gang

Happy
Pharrell Williams

YMCA
The Village People

The Touch
Stan Bush

For the record, if you don’t understand why The Touch is a happy song, I don’t know if we can be friends.

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)
The Proclaimers

Walking on Sunshine
Katrina and The Waves

Top of the World
Van Halen

There you have it. My totally unscientific list of happiest songs in the world. So how should I pick the #1 song? I don’t know. Maybe I should just flip a coin.

I know this list is biased. It leans heavily on songs from the 80s and the 90s. I don’t think I have a problem with that, though. At least you smiled a little when you listened to some of these songs. Right? That’s kind of the point of a list like this.

I’m sure it’s missing a song or two. Which song(s) do you think should be added to the list?

*Strangely enough, I could not find a link to an announcement in 2016. Could it be that the internet is abuzz about “news” that was released a year ago? I promise I heard a local news station talking about it this week.

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Remembering Rich Mullins

"It's not gonna matter if you have a few scars. It will matter if you didn't live." Rich Mullins

You might remember that I mentioned back in April that I announced to the entire Ichthus Christian Music Festival that Christy was not, in fact my girlfriend. Of course, we all know she really was my girlfriend by this point. We just hadn’t admitted it to each other. If you don’t remember that post, or have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, you can go to this post and catch up. Don’t worry. I’ll wait for you. It won’t take that long to read.

That was also the last time I heard Rich Mullins perform. I did get to meet him about a year later, but I missed out on hearing him sing. If you don’t remember that story, you really should read it.  It’s OK. I promise I’ll wait for you.

There are a few things I remember about that concert, even though it was twenty years ago. I remember he was barefoot onstage. At least, I’m pretty sure he was barefoot onstage. I also remember he sang a song that he had written that Amy Grant had originally made famous. When he introduced it, he jokingly said that she had screwed it up. Or maybe he wasn’t joking? I guess you can decide for yourself.

I spent some time listening to Rich today. I’m not gonna lie. I wept when I heard some of his songs. In some ways, I think his music speaks to me today more than it did when i first heard him. A few musicians have taken up his mantle, but there will never be another Rich.

Next year marks the twentieth anniversary of the crash that took his life. I think it would be great to put together some kind of tribute to him, celebrating the impact he made on countless lives in the past as well as the present. I’m not sure what it will be, but I think it should include some form of audience participation. I don’t know. Maybe some kind of crowdsourced video or something?

We have a few months to think about it. I’m sure we can come up with something. Right? Who’s with me?

 

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A few Septembers to remember

septembers-to-remember

September is a strange month for me. I’ve already talked about how September 11 is a mixture of laughter and sorrow in our house, thanks to our new family traditions. And, of course, there’s the anniversary of bringing Mihret home from Ethiopia. But there’s also a series of days in September that lead me to some self-reflection, contemplation, prayer, and even a little bit of dreaming. These anniversaries aren’t necessarily things I celebrate. They turned my world and my family’s world upside down. But I think they’re worth discussing,

September 1999

I did not attend Milligan with the intent of going into Youth Ministry. I don’t know what I really thought I was going to do with my Ministry degree, but youth ministry really wasn’t in my plan. Thanks to the recommendation of one of my professors, a church search committee approached me. Would I consider moving to Kentucky to take over the ministry programming from preschool thru college-aged students?

i’d recently graduated. I was a newlywed. And this position kind of fell into my lap. OK, it didn’t exactly fall into my lap. It wasn’t handed to me. I had to go through the interviews. We had to go through the process. But it was clear that doors were opening. So, although it was never part of my grand plan, I became a Youth Minister and moved our tiny little family of two to central Kentucky in early 1999.

It was clear from the beginning that I didn’t know what I was doing. Really. I can say that with almost two decades of analysis. I was ill-equipped. I can’t blame my alma mater for that. I just didn’t pay much attention to anything anyone said about youth ministry during my ministry-related classes because I was convinced I wasn’t going into youth ministry after college.

I was wrong. And it showed.

Christy tried to help me as much as she could. The staff tried to help me as much as they could. But in the end, there were too many unsaid, unmet, and unrealistic expectations. I had them. So did the Board. And so in early September, 1999, the Elders and I agreed that we should part ways.

This hurt in a lot of ways. This might be one of my biggest regrets. In retrospect, I believe things could have changed. Everything could have improved. And if I could go back and change things, I probably would. I was already emotionally exhausted just a few months into this ministry. So I left. And it hurt.

But I learned a lot from it. I was more confident than ever in my calling into some type of full time pastoral work. So I started addressing some organizational and administrative issues. I also talked to other youth ministers, attended some conferences, and had a better vision of what I thought a dynamic, impacting youth ministry would look like. And so I approached my next ministry position with a fresh outlook and renewed vigor.

September 2002

After everyone survived the Y2K non-disaster, I joined the ministry staff of a church in the Indianapolis area. With a great group of adult volunteers, some strong student leaders, and a passion to impact Indy, we made a difference. We went on a mission trip to serve a ministry reaching the Navajo nation. We began a student-led Sunday night worship service that was pretty fabulous. We hosted Christian concerts. We attended CIY’s summer conferences and Believe conferences. We had a written purpose and Vision. An abandoned firehouse was transformed into a student outreach center. Teens were getting baptized. Lives were being changed. I was turning down job opportunities at other churches. Things were clicking on all cylinders.

Then the wheels fell off.

Administrative issues kept rearing their ugly heads. Instead of addressing them head-on, I just pretended they didn’t exist. I wasn’t spending enough time with some of our students. Some parents were upset. That got other people upset. Including my immediate supervisor.

Bada-bing, Bada-boom…

I left the Student Ministry position in September, 2002. I felt betrayed, alone, and uncertain what to do next.

The Interim

I found myself questioning God quite a bit during this time. While I told my youth ministry kids, “Don’t give up on the church,” I have to admit that I was close to doing that myself. We tried attending churches nearby. We were always met by former members from my former employer. “What are you doing here?” they would ask, oblivious of the events that had recently transpired. It was a completely innocent question, but it cut like a knife.

Every. single. Sunday.

We eventually found a church in Fishers. It was a small church plant with big dreams. It was a place where we could get plugged in, but we could also start the healing process. It was like a soothing balm for our hurting souls.

Christy and I had two very young kids by this point. I did whatever I could to provide for them. I worked in warehouses. I managed a pizza joint. I was a substitute teacher. We moved in with my father in law for what was supposed to be just a month or two. Maybe three. It eventually turned into two years. I still attended conferences. I got some counseling. I learned some organizational tools that still help me today.

We knew this was just a season. But I’m not going to lie. It was hard. I had interview after interview. Christy and I wound up visiting all kinds of churches all over the place: from Iowa to Florida.

Nothing.

To make a long story short, we returned to Upper East Tennessee. I enrolled in seminary to solidify whatever cracks may have surfaced in my ministry foundation.

September 2011

After Christy earned her M.Ed degree at ETSU and I had completed three years of seminary, we started to sense that our season in Tennessee’s fair eastern mountains was coming to a close. In the Summer before what was going to be my final year in seminary, we loaded up a moving van, hugged some dear friends, and waved goodbye to Johnson City. I had accepted a preaching position in a small church south of Muncie, Indiana. It was a homecoming, of sorts. And because of a series of events that included some wide open doors and some doors that had been slammed shut, I was confident we were where God had led us. I think it’s safe to say, though, that I never really felt at home there.

Some great things happened during that ministry. There were some pretty high highlights. I baptized Aiden and Alyson there. But I’m not going to lie. It was a rocky time. Whenever I’d get together with other pastors from the area, someone would always wind up saying, “I can’t believe you’ve stuck around with them this long.” And this was without telling them anything that had been going on.

I’m not gong to lie. I questioned God. A lot. Why would God lead me somewhere like this? There were days when it felt like I couldn’t do anything to ever satisfy some people in the congregation. I felt like a punching bag sometimes.

But when you look at people like Jeremiah, Elijah, and even Moses, it’s important to remember that “calling” does not always equal “fun times.” Sometimes God asks us to do things we don’t really want to do. And since I was still sure that God had led us to East Central Indiana, I needed to stop complaining and keep doing my best to reach our community. But I quietly looked around for other opportunities.

I stuck around with them for four years before they decided they’d had enough of me. It was pretty apparent early on that I wasn’t going to retire there. I was never going to be seen as a “local.” I saw first hand how the stereotypes about small churches might be more true than we want to admit. And there was plenty of talk about people and their problems instead of talking to them. And very little was actually decided upon by those in leadership. People just kind of did what they wanted to do and claimed the leadership had agreed to it. And that worked because nobody really knew what they really did or didn’t agree to do.

It is no secret that I was not surprised when they fired me. But it still hurt. A lot. The sense of betrayal cut deep. I could go into details, but I won’t. Let’s just say that it took a long time for those wounds to heal. It honestly took a good teeth-kicking.

Moving on

Things have certainly changed over the years since we were pushed out of Eacst Central Indiana. Our family has grown. I’ve picked up marketing/PR skills and experience. I know who I am. And I know Whose I am. That’s where I find my satisfaction and worth. I don’t need a title or position to have meaning.  Although I do preach in some area churches on occasion, I’ve moved on.

I’ve moved on.

Do I question my calling? Nope. I believe God used me in each of those ministry situations. I also firmly believe that He is using me right here where I am now. And that isn’t in the pulpit.

Every once in a while, someone will ask me if I plan on returning to the pulpit full-time. I say that I’m not against it. But it will require a giant neon sign floating in the sky that refers to me by name with a very specific set of instructions.

And I’m only half joking.

After seeing the dark underbelly of, for lack of a better word, church “politics,” you might wonder what I think about church in general. I think it could be argued that I’m even more dedicated tot he ministry of the church throughout the world, I’m spite of my not-so-positive experiences. In reality, all of us are messed up. And when messed up people get together, they’re likely to make messed up decisions and mess up some things along the way. That’s the beauty of the mission of God. He uses messed up people with messed up lives to accomplish His plan.

Don’t believe me?

There are countless examples in the Bible. If you need for me to, I can spell them out for you. If I was still preaching regularly, it would make a great sermon series. Maybe I’ll just write a book instead.

Hey, that’s not a bad idea. I don’t think I need a neon sign for that one.

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Happy New Year! In September. Seriously.

Remember 9/11

September 11 is a strange day for our family. I have a friend whose son was born on September 11, 2001. They named him Isaac, which I think is the perfect name for a child born in the midst of a national event like that. I’d imagine they feel a certain amount of emotional conflict every day 9/11 rolls around. That’s how things roll in our house on 9/11. But it’s not because of a birthday. It’s because of something else.

“Never forget…”

I remember. I always will. Like so many people who watched those horrific events the morning of Tuesday, September 11, I swore I would never forget where I was, what I was doing, and how I felt that day.

And I haven’t.

We remember that day every year. And I have to admit, I still struggle with how I should respond to these terrible acts, especially when I think about how messy it is when you respond to hatred with love and compassion.

Happy New Year!

But today is not only about remembering. Thanks to our family’s connection with Ethiopia, 9/11 has also become a day of celebrating. You might remember during the A to Z Challenge, I mentioned how Ethiopia has their own calendar. And based on that calendar, today, September 11, is the beginning of the New Year.

So today, we remember. We reflect. And we contemplate. But we also celebrate, dream, and eat lots of Ethiopian food. We’ve been told that Doro Wat (spicy chicken stew with boiled eggs) is a traditional dish for the New Year. So we happily had some today.

Doro wat for Ethiopian New Year today! Melkam Addis Amet! #EthiopianNewYear #MelkamAddisAmet

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

So we look back. But we also look forward. And we’ll probably hug our kids a little tighter as we spend this day remembering, reflecting, and celebrating as we encounter the whole gauntlet of emotions on this sobering anniversary/day of anticipation, celebration, and renewal in the New Year.

But that’s kind of how life goes sometimes, isn’t it? It’s a mixture of excitement and heartache, overwhelming joy and the deepest of sorrows, it’s the celebration of life and the mourning of death. It’s the good times and the bad times all wrapped up into one package that is hardly ever topped with a nice little bow. The plot is full of twists and turns and event taking place on top of event taking place on top of event. It’s ecstasy followed by unspeakable sadness followed by unsurpassed joy.

Such is the roller coaster we call the human experience.

So it may seem strange that on a day like today, I wish you a happy new year. But in many ways, it makes complete sense. Doesn’t it? Because when you look ahead at a new year, you can’t help but dream. You can’t help but work towards a better future. So in the midst of the sorrow of remembering the events of 9/11, I’m also reminded that there is hope. So. much. hope. And in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Because we’re going to make tomorrow better than today. We’re going to change the world.

Melkam Addis Amet - Happy Ethiopian New Year

A banner that was hanging in the hotel when we visited Ethiopia in September, 2009. It says “Happy New Year,” in case you can’t read what it says.

So I hope you understand what I mean when I tell you that I remember. Oh, I remember. I will never forget. Ever. And in the same breath, I wish you a happy new year full of joy, happiness, and a better tomorrow.

Meklam Addis Amet, y’all!

From the bottom of my heart.

 

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Just a boy and a dream about a motorcycle

When I was very young – probably five or six – my Uncle Don had a motorcycle. One day, I got to ride that motorcycle. This is the same Uncle Don who was me when I saw The Empire Strikes Back for the first time, for those of you who are keeping score. I don’t remember if I asked or if it was offered, but I do remember climbing onto the bike and flying around their yard as Uncle Don took us for a lap or two around their house.

The more I think of it, the more I’m convinced that I was the one who came up with the idea and asked for a ride. I mean, come on. Who could say “no” to this adorable kid?

I was the Ring Bearer at my aunt and uncle's wedding.

I mean, let’s be honest here. I was their favorite nephew at this point in my life. Of course, that might not be saying much. I might’ve still been their only nephew at that point, other than my brother. And since Kevin was so young at that point, I’ll just go ahead and announce that I was their favorite nephew. No need to take any votes or anything. Just look at that sweet, innocent face and tell me he wouldn’t be your favorite nephew, too.

While the details of who came up with the idea might be a little bit fuzzy, I can tell you this: It was amazing. I know the rush that this guy felt. I was on Cloud Nine. In fact, I was still so excited about what had happened that I ambushed Grandmama when she arrived at their house. I told her everything about it.

Bzzzzzz!

Wrong answer.

I probably shouldn’t have said anything to Grandmama. She was not happy. And she let her son know about it. I still feel bad for getting Uncle Don in trouble with his momma. I hope he thought it was worth it. Because I sure did.

Fast forward some 35-ish years…

Weldu loves talking about driving. That really shouldn’t be a surprise. I mean, he’ll be turning sixteen soon. And while he talks about driving a car quite a bit, I get the impression that his real dream is to own a motorcycle. He’s even asked me to buy him one. Of course, he doesn’t want just any motorcycle. He wants the nice, shiny, super-expensive ones. My standard answer to that request?

“Get a job.”

Because that’s really the only way he’s going to be able to get any kind of bike like that. So he can add that to the list of things he wants to use his not-yet-existent income to pay for. He already has plans to by stuff like a new phone, but he’s also planning on living in Europe for a while and he’s planning a return trip to Ethiopia. And he wants to save up some money for that.

So he probably definitely isn’t getting a motorcycle any time soon. But that doesn’t mean he can’t dream about riding one. Right? And if he could ride one? Well, that would just be fantastic now, wouldn’t it?

Enter Uncle Don. Again.

While we were in Evansville over the weekend, we helped Uncle Don move some things into storage. While we were loading the trailer, I showed Weldu Uncle Don’s bike. I told him he should ask Uncle Don if he would take him for a ride after we were done moving everything.adjusting-weldus-motorcycle-helmet

It took a little coaxing, but he did eventually ask him. And when the moving was done, we grabbed a helmet for Weldu and away they went.

weldu-and-uncle-don-leaving-on-a-motorcycle weldu-and-uncle-don-after-their-motorcycle-ride

Considering the amount of grief Uncle Don got from Grandmama about my magical motorcycle ride, there was some discussion about whether to show Christy the pictures from the ride or not.

weldu-and-uncle-don-on-a-motorcycle

I’m not going to keep something like this a secret. Weldu needed to be able to share the excitement of this moment with his mom. So of course I told Christy about the whole thing.

Or did I…?

 

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5 ways Crater Lake prepared me for life

5 Ways Crater Lake Camp Prepared Me for Life

This post may use affiliate links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy.

Twenty years ago this month, I loaded my backpack, laced up my hiking boots, and boarded a bus that was bound for an Amtrak station. On that day, I said goodbye to what might have been the most memorable Summer I’ve ever had. After my seventh visit* to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimmaron, New Mexico, I knew that a significant chapter of my life was coming to a close.

I was not going to return to Scouting Paradise in 1997. I was already committed to taking a Summer class at Milligan. 1998 was out, too. I was already on track for an internship that Summer. And who knew what was going to happen beyond college, but I was 99.99% sure that spending another summer on staff at Philmont was not going to be in the proverbial cards. I knew that my stint as a member of the 1996 Crater lake staff was going to be my last hurrah.

And I was going to make the most of it.

I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with during that final Summer. Andy, Ron, Karl, and Jon were some pretty great guys. They still are. Sometimes, I felt a bit out of my league as their teammate. They were hilarious. Creativity oozed out of their pores. You know how everyone talks about the Magnificent Seven from the Atlanta Games in 1996? I believe the 1996 Crater Lake crew was just as magnificent. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that I was in the presence of greatness the Summer of 1996.

There are a lot of great memories that I still carry with me from that Summer: getting pelted by golfball-sized hail, climbing on the roof of our cabin to gaze into the vast expanse of stars every night, throwing a loaf of bread across the dinner table any time someone asked for some bread, and the hundreds of Scouts we taught how to climb a spar pole, just to name a few.

Spar Pole Climbing at Crater Lake in 1996

The Summer of 96 was life-changing for me. I became friends with an amazing group of guys. I made some amazing memories. And it prepared me for the rest of my life.

5 ways serving on staff at Crater Lake at Philmont Scout Ranch prepared me for life:

Continue reading

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Easy Orange Chicken and Rice

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

Easy Orange Chicken and Rice Recipe #ReadySetServe [AD]

Always on the go.

Life is pretty hectic around here..

Now that school has started, it’s even more hectic. While Christy’s getting ready for her teaching job, It’s my job to light a fire under our three high schoolers so they’re up, dressed, and out the door in time for the school bus to arrive before the crack of dawn. Then, after they’re on their way to their respective schools, our youngest and I get ready to go to our school.

That’s right. I work at my daughter’s school. While I love working there, I don’t think anyone is as excited as she is about this new development. She’s always excited to see Daddy when she walks down the hallway. It gives me a little lift during the day, too.

Believe me.

Work is fast-paced. I’m working directly with students and every day presents a new set of challenges, surprises, and opportunities. Almost every part of my day is busy. Even lunch.

It doesn’t really slow down after school, either. If I’m not picking up one of our two athletes from their practices, I’m heading to meetings or helping someone with homework. My afternoons and evenings are just as hectic as my mornings.

Lunch time?

I really don’t have very much time to pack myself elaborate lunches. Shoot, I’m lucky to get our daughter’s lunches packed in the morning. And since I only have a half an hour for lunch, I really don’t have much time to prepare anything during my lunch time. It has to be quick and easy. Because this is one of the few “down” moments I have in the day, I want to make the most of it. There’s no room for bland meals. It’s just unacceptable.

Minute Ready to Serve Rice is easily portable #ReadySetServe [AD]

That’s why Minute® Ready to Serve Rice has become a regular part of my school lunches. The cups are portable and easily fit inside my backpack. They’re ready to eat in 60 seconds. And with a wide variety of flavors, a Minute Ready to Serve rice cup can be served with almost any meal at any time of the day. The flavors include:

  • Brown Rice
  • Brown and Wild Rice
  • Multi-Grain Medley
  • Brown Rice & Quinoa
  • Basmati Rice
  • Jasmine Rice
  • White Rice
  • Chicken Rice Mix
  • Fried Rice

Available at groceries nationwide, I found several flavors at my nearby Walmart. They’re the perfect size for a meal, ensuring a healthy portion to help provide the necessary fuel for my day. With a quick stop at the store, I am able to pick up a few simple ingredients for some great lunches during the week.

Minute Ready to Serve Rice store collage #ReadySetServe [AD]

If you can’t come up with something amazing to do with these different flavors, Minute Rice has taken things a step further. They provide some great recipe ideas on their facebook page.

I’m a big fan of a recipe I’ve created myself: Easy Orange Chicken and Rice. Just like the Minute Ready to Serve cups, this meal is easy to carry, easy to make, and full of flavor. The sauce takes just a few minutes to make ahead of time, but it’s so quick even I can fit it into my hectic schedule.

Minute Ready to Serve Rice at Walmart #ReadySetServe

Here’s what I use to make my Easy Orange Chicken and Rice:

1 Minute Ready to Serve Basmati Rice Cup
1/2 Cup Popcorn Chicken
1/4 Cup Orange Chicken Sauce (see below)

Easy Orange Chicken and Rice Ingredients #ReadySetServe

It doesn’t really matter where you get the popcorn chicken. You can buy some hot popcorn chicken from your neighborhood grocery. Or you can buy a bag of frozen popcorn chicken if you’d like. That’s what I usually do. I grab a handful of popcorn chicken from the freezer, toss it in a storage container, and bring it with me to work. It’s almost as easy as grabbing the cup of Minute Ready to Serve Rice!

Once you have all of your ingredients, here’s what you do. Don’t blink while you read this or you might miss something. It’s that quick.

Heat the chicken, according to directions. Set aside and allow it to cool.

Remove lid from Minute Ready to Serve Basmati Rice. Heat according to directions.

Warm up the Orange Sauce.

Combine the chicken, Minute Ready to Serve Rice, and Orange Sauce.

Eat and enjoy! 

Here’s how to make the sauce.

1/3 Cup Orange Marmalade
1/3 Cup Barbecue Sauce
1 teaspoon Soy Sauce

Orange Sauce #ReadySetServe

Combine all three ingredients.

Simmer on the stove for 15-20 minutes.
-OR-
Microwave for 1 minute.

Stir.

Keep in refrigerator in an airtight container until needed for your Easy Orange Chicken and Rice.

I told you it was easy.

This Easy Orange Chicken and Rice lives up to its name. I’m not sure if it could be any less complicated. And thanks to the convenience of Minute Ready to Serve Rice cups, it’s a dish that can be ready in five minutes or less. It’s perfect for my hectic work days. And the tangy sweetness of the sauce makes this an oh-so good lunch!

Ready for lunch #ReadySetServe [AD]

You can easily adapt this dish to fit your preferences. Sometimes I like to add some veggies, like broccoli and carrots to this dish. And diced pineapple is a fruit to have as a side.

That’s just the beginning.

There are so many different ways you can use Minute Ready to Serve Rice that the Easy Orange Chicken is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I can use the cups in my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It makes a great midday snack. It’s great in soups and salads. Shoot, I can even use it in a dessert!

The possibilities are endless. Fortunately, Minute Rice has compiled some great recipe ideas that are quick, easy, and delicious. You can find these ideas on Instagram and via their Twitter profile, They also have a searchable database of recipes available here. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to have to try the Pumpkin Pie Rice Pudding next Fall!

Which Minute Ready to Serve Rice recipe are you going to try?

Please share in the comments below.

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Politics, leadership, and just getting by

Leadership Quotes

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“Getting by”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that political season is in full swing as we are hurtling towards November’s General Election at breakneck speed. The two parties’ national conventions are behind us and I although I only listened to a few speeches during those two weeks, the fear-mongering was in full display. And now we’re about to be bombarded with even more negative ads after negative ads, accusing politician’s opponents of doing everything from willfully watching corporations send good-paying jobs overseas to secretly kicking puppies and taking candy from sweet, innocent children.

I fully expect a whole lot of arguments about why I should vote against candidates and not very many arguments about why I should vote for their opponents. Such is the nature of contemporary politics, unfortunately. But, hey, it works. Or so they say, anyway. I disagree. Shouting down your opponent isn’t winning. It’s bullying. Turning your opponent into a straw man caricature you can easily convince 51% of the people to vote against doesn’t give you a mandate. It’s just getting by.

Just “getting by” is not acceptable. It isn’t acceptable for my kids when they do their homework. It’s not acceptable at most jobs, either. So why is just “getting by” acceptable when it comes to our elected leaders?

Servanthood and leadership

As I was contemplating making a run at the governorship, I thought a lot about leadership and what I believe a public leader should be like. I thought back to one of my favorite classes from my seminary days. It gave me a lot of leadership concept to chew on. That was ten years ago. I’m still chewing on them.

I even went back to my notes from Dr. Wasem’s class. As I perused those notes, it strengthened my belief that true leadership isn’t displayed by those who shout the loudest or generate the most fear. Leadership is about servanthood. That’s the heartbeat of a leader. With that in mind, I wonder what our local, state and Federal governments would look like if leaders truly approached their positions as service opportunities – chances to get their hands dirty – instead of stepping stools and ways to grab more power. That’s what Hans Finzel says in
The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make
:

A servant leader must be willing to get ‘down and dirty’ with his [or her] troops in the implementation of his [or her] objectives.

Don’t get me wrong. I know some people who approach their leadership positions with true servants’ hearts. They are heroes. I wish politicians would emulate them more.

I also found a few quotes about leadership while I was reading. I think they’re worth sharing here:

Changes

Change is inevitable; not to change is a sure sign of imminent extinction. Hans Finzel

This is true in almost every area of life. Look at a teenager. Holy cow, things are changing every single day, and sometimes multiple times a day. There’s also regular change in Church life, family life, society in general, world affairs, government, politics…you get the point?

Things change. It happens. So we look to leaders – servants who have gotten their hands dirty with us, who lead from the trenches – to help us navigate change. That’s how we move beyond merely surviving to thriving. And that’s what I want to do.

Change is inevitable. So why not make the most of it? Why not use it to expect our leaders to stop shooting for “just getting by” into the realm of dynamic, challenging, and inspirational leadership. That’s what our country needs.

Changing laws and changing hearts

And then there’s this quote. I like it. A lot. I’ve tried saying something similar. I even did it in one of the first posts I ever wrote. Mr. Greenleaf was just more succinct and eloquent.

we in the United States are more naive than most about what can be done with law, especially with the labyrinth of laws with which business is surrounded. It comes out better if one persuades rather than compels. Robert K. Greenleaf

I could easily write several posts that disagree with this quote. I could also write just as many posts supporting it. With that being said, I’d like for this quote to remind us that we cannot put all of our eggs in one basket if we want real, lasting change. And since change is going to happen anyway (see above), let’s pursue lasting change that makes a difference.

A change in leadership

Meaningful change can happen, folks. It can even happen in the midst of our national parties doing nothing but puffing themselves up while tearing their opponents down. We need real leadership. Servant leadership. And I imagine this happens from the ground up. It doesn’t require a top-level position. It does require dirty hands. And a servant’s heart.

I’m tired of putting people into power who are simply aiming to “get by,” aiming for the common denominator that gets them just enough votes to slip them into power. Aren’t you? Let’s do something about it.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a towel. Let’s get started. Let’s navigate change together and make the world a better place. Together. If we do that, maybe our politicians will follow our lead. If not, maybe we need some new leadership.

Who’s with me?

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Here’s my decision about running for Governor of Indiana

State Flag of Indiana

My fellow Hoosiers (and all Americans, for that matter):

As you know, in the wake of Governor Mike Pence’s nomination to join Donald Trump’s ticket the Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States, an interesting opportunity has presented itself. The Republican Party of the State of Indiana needs a new nominee to run for Governor. Several established candidates have announced their intentions to seek this nomination. And party leaders are supposed to gather Tuesday morning. They will decide Governor Pence’s on the ballot this November. And now that Governor Pence has thrown his support behind Lt. Governor Holcomb, it makes many wonder if the decision has already been made.

Nevertheless, there is still hope. There is still time for someone to swoop in at the last-minute and make a compelling case that he or she should be the Republican nominee. It would make sense for this person to be an outsider with no political baggage to weigh down a campaign that would have to hit the ground running. There’s very little time between now and November. It would have to take someone who is passionate about Indiana and can clearly communicate his or her ideas in a concise, memorable way. There is a chance that this kind of outsider could sway the voting public.

I love our state. And I love our people. I even love the people with whom I fundamentally disagree – both on the Right and the Left. When you count Summer jobs, I have lived in five different states over the past 30 years. Nothing against the fine citizens of those other states, but Hoosiers always have been and always will be my favorite people. That’s why we moved back to Indiana ten years ago. And that’s why we plan on staying here for a long time.

I’m an outsider.

I have leadership experience.

I love Indiana.

I have thought long and hard about this. I have bounced the idea off of family and friends. I have prayed about it with open eyes, ears, and an open heart. I even threw the question out there on social media several times. Thank you to the tens of people who answered my unofficial poll. Your encouragement strengthened my resolve.

Now, more than ever, we need to continue to seek new, strong, empowering leaders who are not part of the political machine. We need a fresh batch of political outsiders who remember what it’s like to be Jack and Diane Hoosier. And we need strong servant leadership.

I’ve taken all of this into consideration and have come to a solid conclusion.

I will not be seeking the 2016 Republican nomination for Governor of the State of Indiana.

That’s right. I’ve decided to side with #NoMattNo instead of #GoMattGo. I’m sorry if this disappoints you. But it’s the right thing to do for our State. It’s the right thing to do for my family. And those are the most important things when considering a decision like this one.

I’m sorry if this disappoints you. But it’s really the best decision for this election cycle. While I”m convinced that I’m not the right person for this position at this time, don’t rule me out in 2020, though. Who knows where I’ll show up on the ballot. Or maybe, more importantly, where will you show up on the ballot? Because one or two people cannot do it alone. If you’re disappointed in the candidate choices this year, then do something about it! Encourage people to run. Consider throwing your own hat in the ring. Choose people who are going to represent us, not the special interests. Support candidates you want to vote for instead of fighting against candidates you want to vote against.

I’m sure my Democrat and Republican friends will be upset with this, but don’t limit your choices to just one party. Consider a split ticket. Or maybe even consider a Third Party candidate or two. Don’t let the Establishment fool you. Remember, a vote for a “third party” candidate is not throwing your vote away.

My fellow Hoosiers, we need unity, not division. I firmly believe that the best days of Indiana are ahead of us. I am also convinced that we will not reach our fullest potential unless we figure out ways to work together. Perhaps the presence of more than two parties will require everyone to work together.

Because it’s only when we’re united that Indiana will truly be a state that works.

 

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