A Missional Seminary

From the book Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America

“Seminaries are seeking to reorient their training philosophies to equip more adequately leaders today…This shaping would mean the redesign of theological education.  The learning process would be shaped by covenants and an intentional missional thrust.  The first year of such an education might be a year for initiates who are discerning whether God is calling them to the vocation of missional leadership.  Classrooms would become communities, and the initiates would live in these communities shaped by ecclesial practices and disciplines of accountability.  The remaining years of preparation would involve the initiate in a close covenant relationship between the theological training school and an actual missional community.  Together they would initiate leaders-in-formation into the ways of God’s sent people.  The actual learning of spiritual disciplines and spiritual direction would need to shape all the work of the gathered community that made up the school.”

Sounds good to me.  I wonder, practically speaking, what that kind of school would be like, though?

Ashes, birthdays, and legacies

By Oskar H. Solich (Rhingdrache) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Eleven years ago, I celebrated a significant birthday milestone by participating in an Ash Wednesday service. You know: the service that’s all about reminding you that you came from dust/ashes and you will eventually return to dust/ashes. It was a memorable experience for several reasons.

The service was conducted by two seminary professors of mine. Considering how I come from a non-(some might even say anti-)liturgical church background, I had never experienced an Ash Wednesday service until I was a student at Emmanuel. My first Ash Wednesday service was eye-opening. And awkward. And memorable. It wasn’t a foreign experience for me this second time around, but it was still unique. And it didn’t hurt that two of my professors were imposing the ashes.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

Thank you. Thank you very much, Dr. Blowers. That’s exactly what you want to hear the day you turn thirty. “You’re gonna die soon.” I know, I know. Thirty is the new twenty. Or is it forty? I don’t know. And I don’t know if it really matters all that much. The point is that time keeps on ticking. There’s nothing you can do to stop it. Continue reading Ashes, birthdays, and legacies

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.

Politics, leadership, and just getting by

Leadership Quotes

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

“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?

G is for Getting Organized

G is for Getting Organized - A to Z Challenge

All my life, keeping things organized has been an issue for me. It started in elementary school and got worse throughout my academic career. Let’s not talk about my pitiful excuse of a science fair experiment that I tried to throw together over night in middle school. Or the semester-long research paper that I scrambled to research and write the weekend before it was due my Junior year of high school. And that poetry project I pulled an all-nighter to create during my Freshman year of college? Although the final product was pretty good, I’m convinced it could’ve been better. It certainly wasn’t my best effort. I’d run out of time. Because I wasn’t organized.

“Get organized.” That’s something I was told quite a bit during high school and college. I was even told that by my immediate supervisor in my first experience in full-time ministry – the one that only lasted for 9 months. Part of the reason I didn’t last that long was because of my poor organizational skills. People just kept telling me to “get organized,” though. And I was never really given any tools to discover how to get organized.

I knew I needed to get organized. I just didn’t know where to start. So I’d write “Get Organized” as an item on my to-do list. Like that was going to help. Are you surprised that I never checked the box on that line of my lists?  I didn’t really know any better. I have the feeling that a lot of people feel that way. They know they need to improve the way they have things organized, but they just can’t figure out how. They don’t even know where to begin.

I’m not the most organized person in the world. Just ask Christy. But I’m better than I used to be. I’ve read books. I’ve checked out articles on the Internet. I’ve watched news segments about organization. None of that really helped. The best thing I did was about ten years ago. I got help. I was able to talk to someone and she helped me figure out how to take tasks that were overwhelming and break them down into manageable things. She helped me realize that I need to create patterns in my own life so I can maintain some level of control when things get all crazy and seemingly unmanageable.

At the time, I was also learning about management at a pizza place. The best thing I’ve taken away from that experience was this little nugget: Don’t wait until later. If you think of something that needs to be done, go ahead and do it. Don’t wait until later because you’re assuming you’ll have time later in the day. You don’t know what is going to happen later in the day. So don’t put off until later what you can do right now. This is true in most things, not just the pizza making business. If something needs to be done, get it done. Don’t procrastinate.

Both of these mentors in my life helped me realize this key thing when it comes to getting organized:

Getting organized is a process, not an event.

You can’t just wake up one day and say “I’m organized.” It’s not an item you can just check off your list and everything is magically organized for the rest of your life. It’s an ongoing process. At least, it’s an ongoing process for people like me. I have a feeling it’s an ongoing process for you, too.

Here are some things that have helped me get a handle on the organization process. Now I don’t have to just write “Get organized” on my to-do list and hope things magically get better:

  • I use alarms like crazy. If I want to remember to do something, I have to set an alarm. That makes my phone buzz a lot (I usually use silent alarms), but it’s totally worth it.
  • I hinted at it a week or so ago, but I’m a big fan of Evernote. I used to use it all the time when preparing for sermons. Now I use it to help keep me on task. I know I’m only scratching the surface of its functionality the way I use it. Michael Hyatt has taught me quite a bit about great ways to use Evernote. I’m still learning.
  • I’ve used Trello for projects. It’s a nice visual taskmaster.
  • Even with all of the bells and whistles on my phone, I still use a physical calendar to chart out my “editorial calendar” for my blog. Have I followed it to a ‘T’ this year? Nope. I think I was a bit too ambitious. But it’s definitely helped to keep me on track.
  • I try not to procrastinate because I know it gets me into trouble. Still working on that one. A lot. And I’m trying to encourage my kids to avoid getting into that habit because it’s a hard habit to break.

I’m no organization expert. Like I said, just ask Christy. But I’ve gotten better. Seminary kind of helped force me to get a handle on things. But I’m still not great. But that’s OK. It’s a process, not just an event. This leads me to ask:

What do you do to stay organized? What lessons have you learned? What tips can you share?

I want to keep learning. I need to keep learning and keep getting better. And the only way I can do that is by learning from other people. So…what tips do you have?

**I’m participating in the April A to Z Challenge. This post is part of that endeavor. You can see my other entries to this year’s challenge here. A lot of people are doing the same thing. You should check out some of their posts!**

Egyptian Christians, St. Bartholomew, and counting the cost

In light of recent news of the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt because of their faith, I was reminded of something that I had written 10 years ago for a church history class while in seminary. It was a meditation based on the painting of St. Bartholomew. Christian tradition says that Bartholomew the Apostle was martyred for his faith. It was a brutal execution.

St. Bartholomew

You can read the whole devotional thought here, if you’re really interested. It’s OK if you aren’t. That’s not really the reason I’m writing today.

I really want to share one of the meditation’s final paragraphs. Because the point is just as important today as it was when I wrote it ten years ago.

The image of St. Bartholomew calls upon us to pray for the persecuted church around the world.  It tells us the story of the millions of Christians who have given their lives for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.  It is a startling reminder that the price of following Jesus Christ is not cheap.  It is not a road that will be traveled lightly.  There will be trials and persecution of all kinds.  In the end, it could cost the believer everything – including the loss of life.  It is the example of St. Bartholomew that encourages the believer to press on towards the prize, knowing full well the costs involved.  It is with that same confidence that we face the perils of following the Lord of all things.

I think these martyred Egyptian Christians do the exact same thing. While the nations rage and come up with a fitting response to these barbaric acts, let us count the cost and take up the cross with reckless abandon. Let us live in boldness, full of hope, joy, and love, as we press on towards Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

I know it’s not easy. I’m not pretending it is. But this is how we are going to change the world, my friends.

Looking back: 10 posts for 10 years!

10 posts for 10 years

It seems this has been a week of significant milestones for this humble little blog. I published my 2000th post a few days ago. And then this weekend marked the 10th anniversary…or “blogiversary”…of this blog. I want to thank you again for sticking with me. It’s been quite a ride, hasn’t it?

Over this ten year span, I’ve written about a lot of different life experiences. Some were great. Some were awful. Horribly awful. Here are some highlights from the past decade…

  1. I shared my seminary experience.
  2. We said goodbye to my nephew.
  3. I discussed my most memorable travel experiences. This list was written in 2006. There are several more memories I can add (like two trips to Florida and a life-changing trip to Ethiopia to bring Mihret home). I’m all about making memories with my family!
  4. When we left Tennessee and returned to Indiana, I shared a few more memorable goodbyes I’ve had along the way.
  5. I’ve shared quite a bit about coaching instructional baseball.
  6. For the second time in less than a year, I had to say goodbye to colleagues at work thanks to layoffs. The day after the second layoff, my father in law died. Man, I still miss him.
  7. Philmont Scout Ranch always manages  to show up in a post or two a year. I think this one about leadership lessons is my favorite.
  8. I’ve shared some fun stories, too. Like the time I had to break into my parents’ house. And how I proposed to Christy.
  9. Of course, our lives were changed when we brought Mihret home. I wrote about that. A lot.
  10. And there’s always Star Wars. Give me that Star Wars. Nothing but Star Wars.

OK. That was actually more than 10 posts. But how can you pick just ten out of two thousand? I’ll tell you how…

You can’t.

Thanks for looking back at the last 10 years with me. I can’t wait to discover what happens next!

A return to Disciplines

“It’s difficult for me to have disciplined, consistent time with God because…”

well…to be honest…I haven’t put forth the effort recently. I’ve allowed myself to act like I need to isolate myself from everything in order to have a consistent time. I don’t really believe it’s necessary to do that. In fact, I think pursuing God should be quite the opposite. I like the way Richard J. Foster explains it in the very first page of Celebration of Discipline:

“God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings: people who have jobs, who care for children, who wash dishes and mow lawns. In fact, the Disciplines are best exercised in the midst of our relationships with our husband or wife, our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors.”
Page 1 (emphasis mine)

I’m not sure if it was laziness or spiritual forgetfulness or what got me out of the habit of practicing the Disciplines in my every day life, but I got out of the habit. There are excuses I could use if I wanted to: my audio Bible app became unreliable, I had trouble keeping the Anakin Redeemed blog updated while I was reading and studying, or a myriad of other excuses. And that’s what they are. Excuses.

Honestly? I don’t have any excuses.

I know that I can be pretty good at faking the spiritual life for a little while. I’ve been to church camps. I’ve been in seminary. I’ve been in groups full of church leaders. I’ve learned how to talk a good game if I want to. But one can only pretend for a while. Eventually, your true self – the one who is trying to do everything on his own – starts to show through.

“Willpower will never succeed in dealing with the deeply ingrained habits of sin”
Celebration of Discipline, page 5

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I’ve really been faking it. I haven’t been living some false life. But I’m also sure that I haven’t actually been living out my faith the way I should, either. I’ve allowed myself to be distracted by so many other thing that I’ve allowed my relationship with my First Love to suffer.

It’s time to fix that.

It’s time to put Jesus back on the throne of my life. It’s time to discover where God is moving and put myself in His path. Because an encounter with the Living God changes you. It’s time to start practicing the Disciplines again because “the Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us” (Celebration of Discipline, page 7).

 “Our world is hungering for genuinely changed people.”
Celebration of Discipline, page 11

I’m hungry to be one of those genuinely changed people. Care to join me? What’s stopping you?

Let’s stop making excuses. Let’s start making the time.

Note: This post was written in response to this “Complete this sentence…” writing prompt. Prompt #2 will be published tomorrow (with a brief explanation of how the schedule got out of whack). If you have a response to the question, “It’s difficult for me to have disciplined, consistent time with God because…” then you’re welcome to share it. Please send your response to me via email

What if? 10 years later.

What If

Aly and I went to Cold Stone Creamery to take advantage of the BOGO coupon they sent me for my birthday. We had a good time and the slightly modified Signature Creations that we had – Oreo filling flavored cream with Oreos mixed in and chocolate truffle cream with brownie bits and chocolate chips (should’ve had Oreos instead of chocolate chips, but that’s OK. I’m not complaining) – were pretty amazing.

Free birthday ice cream. Mmmmmmm….

A post shared by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

As we were chowing down on our fabulous frozen feasts, it hit me: It’s right about ten years since I was given a somewhat unexpected job offer. At that time, I was delivering pizzas and serving as a substitute teacher in two different school districts, desperately trying to do whatever I could to keep our head somewhat above water.

Because of this job offer, I was this close to packing up our family and moving to Evansville to help open a Cold Stone Creamery. And when I say this close, I mean it.

We were this. close…

banana for scale

Thanks to the banana added for scale, you can see that I was pretty stinkin’ close to accepting the job. We were also just as close to moving to Phoenix so I could attend seminary there. I don’t really have anything profound to say about that. Just felt like sharing it.

I can’t imagine what life would’ve been like if we’d moved to Phoenix or Evansville instead of upper East Tennessee ten years ago. So many things would’ve been different. I’m sure there would have been some good things, but I also know that we would’ve missed out on meeting some pretty amazing friends over the last ten years.  Some pretty crazy thing have happened over the last ten years. Some have been awesome. Some not-so-awesome.

It was awful tempting to dwell on the “What if?” questions that could easily arise when thinking about past decisions. But I knew that wouldn’t have done any good. So while I thought about all the good and bad things that would have been different if I’d accepted that job offer, I also celebrated the great journey that began ten years ago.

I’m also looking forward to the next chapter in our story. I think we’re in for an amazing ride.

 

The Guest Post Where Melissa Goes on the Offensive Against Christmas Songs

I met Melissa Dixon on the first day of school.

OK. It was my first day of seminary, but it was still the first day of school. We instantly hit it off because we discovered that we grew up just a few miles away from each other. She’s hilarious and has great insight into how people operate. I think you’ll see that shine through in her post. :D

Like me, Melissa is a seminary drop-out. She’s also a Sunday School teacher to people smarter than her and is mercifully covered by Jesus’ grace. She lives in Johnson City, TN, with her husband, Tim, and her two spoiled cats, Therion and Ollivander. She blogs sporatically at A Place to Land.

Speaking of blogging, she’s actually one of the reasons I started my blog oh so long ago (back when LiveJournal was all the rage). But maybe you shouldn’t hold that against her. 

You might recongize her from a guest post on The Tale of Anakin Redeemed, but I’m sure longime readers of my blog probably remember Miss Awissa. She was involved in several of the more memorable stories involving our kids while we lived in Tennessee. Although, after reading this guest post, I’m starting to question if that was such a wise idea. I’m normally not one to criticize a guest poster, but I think it’s safe to say, “You’re a mean one, Miss Awissa…”

😉

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch!
Image via fanpop

I think I can pinpoint the exact moment Christmas music was ruined for me.

Growing up, I attended a church where people were encouraged to sing solos. Some Sundays, we’d have three or four songs before the plate was even passed. Even though it’s not nice to say, it’s honest to say that my church often attracted amateur singers who often rooted themselves smack in the middle of the congregation and sang at least two songs a week, minimum. And even if they didn’t have anything planned (which they always did), the preacher would call on them to sing regardless.

One such a time as this was a day when Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday and a man whose name I will withhold was asked to sing a solo.  This was kind of a treat because he was an irregular church attendee, but when he was there, chances were good that he had brought his guitar. He fancied himself a sort of Country Western cowboy, perhaps Gene Autry, playing the guitar as he told a story.

During this particular service, he told a story about being a sidewalk Santa on Christmas Eve, down on his luck and chatting with a sickly orphan boy about what he wanted for Christmas. (Never mind that I am sure this man had never been a sidewalk Santa, and we lived in the middle of nowhere, so it wasn’t a popular job anyway.) At the end of the song, the little orphan boy died at the sidewalk Santa’s feet, and sidewalk Santa told all the other orphan children not to be sad, because the boy was getting the best Christmas present ever- to go home to be with Jesus.

I’m going to give you a minute to let that sink it. The orphan boy died… on Christmas Eve… on the sidewalk at Santa’s feet…

And that’s pretty much when Christmas music was ruined for me. I was already a little disenchanted with commercial Christmas when my neighbors (who happened to be my aunts and uncles) started a Christmas light war that rivaled most professional light displays. I was already starting to suspect that Christmas wasn’t just about good feelings, getting presents, giving presents and the birth of Baby Jesus. It was after that song that I gave myself permission not only to be skeptical about Christmas, but to go ahead and dislike any and every Christmas song that didn’t strike my fancy.

Now that you’re all appalled and worried for my soul, let me assure you that I don’t HATE Christmas music, but I really don’t get all that excited about it either.  I already feel like Christmas is getting a little greedy by appearing in stores before Halloween, and then hijacks the radio the day after Thanksgiving and won’t give back regular music until after the holidays. And don’t even get me started on different artists doing the same song over and over again. There are only so many ways you can get creative with “Jingle Bells.” You may love that Christmas album, but to me it only means two words- Cash Cow.

I do have a healthy appreciation of humorous Christmas songs like “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”, “Rusty Chevrolet” and “The Restroom Door Said ‘Gentlemen’ “ but as a general rule, I don’t get all misty eyed hearing “Silent Night” over the loudspeaker at the mall. And yes, I do have a heart, and a chorus of children singing “Away in a Manger” does melt it just like Frosty.

But I find some of the songs so absurd. “Mary, Did You Know?” Um, yeah, she kind of had a clue as an angel appeared to her and TOLD her the child was from God. Now she might not have known the outcome, but I bet she was smart enough to know something was going on. No one Decks the Halls with holly anymore now that we have synthetic garland,  and the “Carol of the Bells” just makes me want to get ready for my house to get robbed.  And, for goodness sake, just tell me what you’re hearing instead of asking everyone else. The night wind can’t even talk.

**In all seriousness, thank you, Melissa-Bob-MissAwissa, for sharing your thoughts. You bring up some pretty good points…especially the one about the boy dying in front of Santa. I think I’m scarred for life now. I still think you’re a Grinch, though. 😉 **