Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

Did you see the new trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi?

This post about The Last Jedi contains affiliate links. I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your support.

Friends, we are getting so close to the release of Episode VIII, The Last Jedi. I can almost taste it! Tickets are available now at Fandango, so don’t wait around and miss out on what’s going to be a huge opening weekend!

Star Wars The Last Jedi Episode VIII movie poster

As you probably know from previous Star Wars related posts, I’m not a fan of spoilers. At all. I think the idea of trying to figure out the movie before the movie is actually released minimizes the filmgoing experience. It’s all supposed to be revealed onscreen for the first time, not on twitter, facebook, or any other form of social media. That’s my opinion, anyway.

And I’m sticking to it.

So you can imagine my consternation when Episode VIII director, Rian Johnson, suggested that the newest trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi had the potential of being a spoiler-rich environment. I’ll be honest. There was weeping. There was gnashing of teeth. All night long, I wrestled with whether I should watch the trailer or not. In retrospect, it was a much more difficult decision than it should have been. But that shouldn’t really be too much of a surprise.

Because Star Wars is a big deal.

A big, stinkin’ deal. And I’m not going to allow some spoiler-crazed nutjob to ruin my Star Wars experience. Even if the nutjob works for Lucasfilm and personally put the trailer together him/herself. No way. No how. Uh-uh.

So I thought much longer and harder than I really should have and finally came to the conclusion that unless they showed something like Supreme Leader Snoke telling Rey that he is her father or Rey and Kylo Ren passionately swapping spit, or a lightsaber going through Luke’s back, or something earth-shattering like that, I wouldn’t really know if it was a spoiler or not. So I decided to watch the trailer.

And it was worth it.

So worth it.

It didn’t feel spoilery at all. But then again, I don’t know the storyline because I’ve tried to avoid all things The Last Jedi for the past six months. I guess there’s a chance that this trailer was filled with spoilers. But I won’t really know that until I watch the movie.

Spoilers? Maybe not. Cliffhangers? Absolutely.

There’s certainly a different feel to this trailer compared with other trailers. Much like The Empire Strikes Back (my favorite Star Wars movie, by the way), it appears that things are not going to go well for our heroes in this installment of the Skywalker saga. I think I remember someone, possibly Mark Hamill, once say that everything that could go wrong for the good guys does go wrong in this episode. That leaves a huge cliffhanger for the final installment. Just like the cliffhanger at the end of this trailer.

I won’t lie. My mouth silently shot open when I watched it happen. It took my breath away. And I stood in front of my TV, frozen for several seconds (although it felt like hours). What is going to happen? I guess we’ll find out in about two months. Won’t we?

Now is the time to remind you that if you haven’t bought your tickets to The Last Jedi, you can buy them here. Yes. It’s an affiliate link. No, it doesn’t increase the price. So why not help a guy out? AmIright?

The Last Jedi is coming December 15.

What do you think about the trailer?

At least Collin Kaepernick listened. Are you listening?

Statue of kneeling football player - not Collin Kaepernick

Before we get into this discussion, I want to make something very clear:

I disagreed with Collin Kaepernick when he wore socks with pigs dressed like cops on them.

He also lost me when he showed up at a press conference wearing a shirt with Fidel Castro on it. I have a hard time listening to your protest of perceived systemic abuse by our own government when you’re wearing a shirt that honors a man who systemically abused his own people. Not only do I disagree with that message, but you really can’t give your critics ammunition like that. It gives people an excuse not to listen to you.

A similar thing happened when he sat down during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner during a preseason game in 2016. There was backlash. A social media firestorm was unleashed. People didn’t bother to listen.

And his message – the hard truth about racial inequality in America – really has to be addressed. It needs to be tackled head-on. It is important to bring it into the light. Collin Kaepernick was certainly tone-deaf in these situations and wound up turning off the very people to whom he was attempting to communicate.

Something changed

Collin Kaepernick met with Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret. Together, they came up with an alternative way to continue shining the light on the issue at hand, but in a more respectful manner. He could have chosen to remain seated. He could have chosen to turn his back on the flag, or hold up a newspaper, or pretend to sleep, much like a student section might when the opposing team is introduced at the beginning of a ballgame.

Because those student sections can be pretty crazy.

Student section - Cameron Crazies
Image via Wikimedia Commons

He could have done a number of things to intentionally disrespect the flag, our veterans, and our families. But he didn’t. He kneeled.

Because he listened to someone, he kneeled.

Now, we can go round and round about the appropriateness of kneeling versus standing. But I don’t think I had ever heard anyone say that kneeling is a sign of disrespect.

Ever.

No. This is not Collin Kaepernick kneeling

Until 2016.

That’s when a tattooed man with big hair and darker skin chose to take a knee. And people lost their collective minds, refusing to even consider that someone might have an opposing viewpoint that is appropriate and needs to be said. Nobody wants to listen to the other “side” anymore. Everyone is making assumptions about everything regarding the entire #TakeAKnee movement. I wish people would just listen for once, instead of merely hearing what they assume they hear.

If we would simply slow down, be quiet, and really listen to what is being said, maybe we could actually work towards getting something accomplished that would actually work towards bringing us together instead of driving us further apart.

That probably makes me a dreamer. As my brother recently reminded me, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel described our current situation quite perfectly in the song The Boxer: “Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” And when we do that, we build our walls a little thicker. We dig our trenches a little deeper. And these “United” States of America become anything but.

I don’t want to say that the Great American Experiment has died. I don’t think we’re there yet. But we’re sure getting closer. As Abraham Lincoln wisely observed while quoting Jesus:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

"A house divided against itself cannot stand" Abraham Lincoln

We are divided, friends. And our house feels a whole lot like a house of cards teetering on the edge of collapse. It’s like we’re waiting for that small, yet firm, breeze to come by and just wipe us out.

As my band director once reminded us, there’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth. So can we please sit down, shut up, and listen to the real concerns that are drowning in all of the excess superfluous noise?

You probably think I’m simply talking to the “other” side and not yours. You’re wrong. We’ve spent too much time talking screaming past each other. And that hasn’t really worked, has it? So maybe we should try something else. Let’s try listening to each other for a change.

If Collin Kaepernick could do it, why can’t you? Why can’t I? Why can’t we?

You are welcome to share your opinion in the comments section. After all, the sharing of opinions is part of what has always made America great. That being said, any name calling or racist remarks will be deleted posthaste. 

I’ve led many special events. This one might have taken the cake.

Cowan Christian Church

Over the years, I’ve put together all kinds of different events. During my youth ministry days, we hosted all kinds of major events. We had Super Bowl parties and Volunteer Appreciation Nights and almost everything in between. The “Saw You at the Pole” rallies were always fun. I put together big concert events, including a major grand opening of a firehouse-turned-teen-outreach center. We had hundreds of teens and adults at that event. We called the building the Fire Escape, from Jude 23.

Save others by snatching them from the fire Jude 23

That event was pretty stinkin’ cool.

When I was preaching in Muncie, we hosted a “safe alternative to door-to-door trick or treating” called Trunk or Treat. It was a huge hit. Kids and their parents looked forward to our Trunk or Treat every year. We were able to make it bigger and better every single year, in spite of the bitter wind that cut through our church’s front lawn during the Trunk or Treat. It became a big stinkin’ deal.

And it was pretty stinkin’ cool.

Of course, during those days as a pastor,  I planned many weekly worship services. I also helped execute special services like Candlelight Christmas Eve services and Maundy Thursday services. There were also Mother-Daughter Banquets and church Homecoming celebrations. From fun to contemplative  to everything else in between, I’ve done quite a bit of event planning and coordinating and execution. Continue reading I’ve led many special events. This one might have taken the cake.

Rich Mullins and my personal Cloud of Witnesses

Rich Mullins "I hope that I would leave a legacy of joy, a legacy of real compassion"

I remember when I was given a copy of A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band for Christmas in 1993. I couldn’t wait to pop it into my cassette player. To be honest, I didn’t really know what a liturgy was. And I had no idea what a ragamuffin was. But I knew who Rich Mullins was. So I was pretty excited.

The album did not disappoint. The instruments were amazing. And the lyrics had a beauty and depth that was absent from so much music in the early 90s. I’ll readily admit that I didn’t exactly understand some of the songs like How to Grow Up Big and Strong at first. But entries like Hold Me Jesus, and Creed, and Land of My Sojourn – they spoke to me.

They still speak to me.

I mean, listen to these lyrics from Hold Me Jesus. Rich had a way of voicing what your heart was crying out.

I saw Rich Mullins in concert a few years later at the now-infamous “She’s not my girlfriend!” installment of the Ichthus Music Festival  of 1996. I don’t remember many details from the concert, other than a few “postcard memories”* He was barefoot. I remember being amazed at the sound that came out of his dulcimer as he played. He told engaging, sometimes funny, always poignant stories.** He sang Sing Your Praise to the Lord, which he wrote. It was originally made popular by Amy Grant, although Rich smirked and said that she had messed it up when she recorded it.

He sang the song because he had just made a new recording of the song for his greatest hits album called Songs. So, of course, he promoted this upcoming album while he was on stage at Ichthus. So this concert was a greatest hits concert. And that was pretty awesome.

Fast forward three months…

Continue reading Rich Mullins and my personal Cloud of Witnesses

The NASCAR Acceleration Nation app makes races even more exciting!

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post about the new NASCAR Acceleration Nation app. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your support.

Me and Aiden at Bristol Motor Speedway NASCAR Acceleration Nation

I have a lot of fond memories from our time living in Upper East Tennessee. One of the best memories is the opportunities we had to attend NASCAR related festivities and races. Needless to say, living in the shadow of Bristol, the fastest half mile in the world, we had a pretty big NASCAR fan while we lived there.

Aiden in front of Bristol Motor Speedway NASCAR Acceleration Nation

Now NASCAR has created something I wish was around when we lived in the Tri-Cities: NASCAR Acceleration Nation! Available on Android, iPhone (click here to download), and the web, NASCAR Acceleration Nation has all kinds of great stuff for kids, including information about upcoming races, driver details, fun games, and learning materials about the science of racing!  Continue reading The NASCAR Acceleration Nation app makes races even more exciting!

Then Andrew Peterson made me weep. Again.

Navigating our journey as newlyweds

During the fall of 1998, Christy and I were newlyweds on the campus of Milligan College. I was finishing up my final semester of classes and Christy was working at a local childcare center. We were young, in love, and broke (as opposed to being old[er], in love, and broke like we are now 😉 ). In many ways, this final semester of mine was like a minor diversion before we took off on our journey of life dancing in minefields together.

Wedding portrait

When we first arrived on campus, we were the celebrities. It’s one of the advantages of being part of a small college community. Professors went out of their way to come see us on move-in day. It was…nice. Actually, it was pretty cool. I’m not sure you’ll find that kind of “welcome back, newlyweds” reception on most college campuses around the nation. But Milligan is pretty special.

Of course, many of our college friends had graduated and moved away. School and work and figuring out how to do this thing called marriage together took a lot of energy. So we really didn’t spend much time hanging out with our friends who were still in the area. And with Married Student Apartments being on the edge of campus, it’s not like we were in the middle of the campus commotion.

Looking back, I feel like the colder months of that final semester, with the early nights and living on the edge of the  campus scene, it was kind of isolating. We didn’t really hang out with anyone else. Just each other. Don’t get me wrong. That was pretty awesome. But we were in a different life stage than the majority of the campus population. Even in classes, it felt like I didn’t really relate to any of the students anymore. It’s like I was just biding my time until it was time for us to move on. Continue reading Then Andrew Peterson made me weep. Again.

The Eclipse is coming! The Eclipse is coming! [2017 Edition]

This post about the 2017 Eclipse contains affiliate links. I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your support.

Eclipse 207

It’s almost here, everyone! It’s just over the horizon. The full eclipse of 2017 is almost here! If you don’t have a hotel or bed and breakfast reserved anywhere near one of the peak viewing areas, you’re probably out of luck by now. If they aren’t already booked, they’re probably pretty close. And the rates are astronomical. * And the glasses are probably sold out wherever you are  (why didn’t I stock up on those a month ago? I could be a gazillionaire). And if they aren’t, there’s a chance they might not be as safe as you think they are. So you just might be out of luck.

But have no fear. You can still party like it’s 1999** in anticipation of the most visible full eclipse across the contiguous United States in almost a century. And you don’t even have to go outside or look up in the sky.

Times have changed.

I remember discussion about a solar eclipse while I was in elementary school. They made it very clear that you couldn’t look up at the sky during the eclipse without special glasses because it could blind you forever. I think we had inside recess that day.*** Just in case.

I’m also pretty sure I was hiking at Philmont during the 1991 eclipse.

They were memorable events, for sure. But there certainly wasn’t the hype surrounding the 2017 eclipse. And there definitely weren’t any parties.

But there’s definitely a party atmosphere now. I guess you could say we’ve come a long way since the days when a solar eclipse was a reason to panic. I mean, there’s certainly a little bit of fear and trepidation about going outside, accidentally looking up without your protective glasses, and having your eyeballs melt away, not unlike what happens when you look into the Ark of the Covenant.****

But solar eclipses used to be signs of the end of the world. I mean, who wouldn’t think everything was going to come crashing down when the sky suddenly turned dark and the sun was unexpectedly blotted out? Surely it was a sign of something. And that something couldn’t be good.

I think it’s fair to mention that there will be another full solar eclipse visible in 2024. That’s right. Seven years from now. You know seven is a special number. Right?

I’m sure the prophets will have a field day with that.

But the eclipse of 2017? It’s a party, for sure. Maybe you’re late in planning this party, but that’s OK. There’s not a whole lot of preparation required, unless you want to go out and buy some Moon Pies or make some space-inspired drinks. If you want to get all fancy, you can make your own DIY pinhole camera. Or you could do what I’m going to do and watch NASA’s livestream of the 2017 Eclipse.

But I’m not going to stop there. Every party has to have music. Especially and Eclipse Party. Here’s some music that should be on everyone’s Eclipse Party Playlist. Feel free to tell me in the comments if I should add a song to this list.

THE Epic Solar Eclipse Party Playlist

Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Duh. This is the no-brainer of no-brainers.

Man on the Moon

Fitting, since the Man on the Moon is doing some funky stuff to the sun.

Walkin’ on the Sun

Speaking of the sun…

Heavenly

“The Man in the Moon is smilin’
Cause he’s in love with the Girl in the World.”

Kinda sweet. Right?

Blue Moon

The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

A little nod to all the doomsday apocalyptic aficionados throughout the centuries who knew that an eclipse surely meant the beginning of the end…

Obi-Wan

OK, maybe this one’s a little of a stretch. But not really. Because maybe that’s no moon that’s causing the eclipse.*

Actually, this entry is dedicated to Aiden and his friend, Gabe. They introduced me the song.

So there you go. A great set of songs to get you ready for two minutes of awesomeness that you won’t see again for another seven years. And if, for some reason, you miss out on this year’s Eclipse, you can start planning ahead for 2024.

Assuming the sun lights back up and the world doesn’t end tomorrow.

Endnotes

* You see what I did there. Right? Man, I’m hilarious.
** There were two solar eclipses in 1999. But I don’t remember hearing about any solar eclipse parties.
***My memory might be a bit fuzzy on this. According to this, there was only one solar eclipse that was visible in North America when I was in elementary school. It was after Memorial Day, though. And I’m pretty sure we did not go to school after Memorial Day. But I could be wrong.
****That’s two posts in a row with Indiana Jones references. I’m on a roll, man. It’s time to go solo.

Some of my thoughts in the wake of Charlottesville, Virginia

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend have brought to light the deep-seeded hatred that has lurked beneath the surface of our society for generations. It’s been our nation’s dirty little secret. Some say it’s America’s Original Sin.

Many have thought that if we ignored it, it would just go away. If we stopped giving it any credence, it would wither on the vine and die of starvation. Maybe those tiny pockets of crazy KKK folk would eventually disappear due to lack of interest. That’s the easy response. Because admitting we have a societal problem is uncomfortable. It’s embarrassing. And it’s shameful.

But we cannot pretend it isn’t happening anymore. In all honesty, we shouldn’t have been pretending in the first place. But many of us have been. And although it’s been a long time coming, it appears that Charlottesville has served as a wake up call.

I would hope that if you’ve spent any time with me at all or if you’ve read any of my writings at all, it should go without saying that I deplore racism, white supremacy, and any other form of hate-filled rhetoric that these misguided characters might espouse. Let me say it again so there is no doubt in anyone’s mind: I reject racism and I repudiate white supremacy.  This a poison that will only lead to destruction. There is no room for such hatred in our society.  Period.

And there’s even less room for this type of venom in our churches.

Somehow along the way, people have tried to connect the Church with racist, white supremacist views. I assume some of this goes back to the time leading up to the Civil War, when church leaders who were sympathetic to the cause of slavery desperately needed some proof texts from Scripture to prove that the enslavement of an entire race was somehow divinely appointed. So they ripped verses out of context, twisted the meanings of different verses, and did the little song and dance that many of us do when we try to make the Bible say what we want it to say instead of what it really says.

If you’ve come here thinking that Jesus encouraged and supported some kind of hate-driven agenda, you can go ahead and put away your proof texts and your mental gymnastics because I want to take a few minutes to remind you* of what Jesus has to say on this matter:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34 (emphasis mine)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘ There is no command greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31 (emphasis mine)

You’ve probably heard the story of the Good Samaritan. If you haven’t, you should read it. Right now. Go ahead. Read it. I’ll wait. If you don’t want to read it, you can watch this video. Jesus makes it pretty clear who our neighbors are. He makes it pretty clear how to show love. And he made it very clear what we’re supposed to do in response to this story.

“Go and do likewise.”

And just in case you haven’t gotten the hint yet, let’s look at what the Apostle Paul and see what he has to say.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28 (emphasis mine)

You think one race is cursed while another is elevated? You think one is inferior while another is superior? No way. Not in God’s community. There is no distinction. We should all be united. That’s our call. It’s what we’re meant to be when the love of Christ transforms us. Love your neighbor. Show mercy. Love one another.

And that’s the same thing that John tells us in his first letter to believers.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:8

You might as well go ahead and read the rest of that chapter. Shoot, read the whole letter. If you have any doubt about how we should live in a world full of hate, 1 John has the answer. Spoiler alert: It ain’t hate.

It’s that simple.

And it’s that difficult. Holy cow, it’s hard.

Because when I see images of people gathering to spewing  hate and breathing violent threats, my first reaction is to respond with hate. In fact, I want to punch them in the throat.

Indiana Jones punching a Nazi, much like many people want to do after Charlottesville
Image via Nazis Gettin’ Punched

That’s what I want to do. But that’s not what I’m supposed to do. “Love your neighbor,” remember? One could argue that a white supremacist Nazi type of person is hardly a neighbor. So maybe it’s all OK to simply respond to hate with hate.

Wrong.

(Jesus said:) “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

Jesus wasn’t merely talking in theory. While we were still sinners, while we had set up residence in the Enemy’s camp, Jesus put “love your enemies” into practice when he spread out his arms and died for all of humanity – even the ones who beat him, hurled insults at him, and executed him.

If I’m being honest, that’s a pretty tough example to follow. And I also have no idea how to put that into practice. Because I’m outraged at the fact that people think it’s OK to treat other people like they’re less than human. I will not let their trash gain legitimacy in our society. And I will not allow them to hijack my faith.

But where is the line between responding in holy anger (yes, there is such a thing) and responding in hate? I don’t know. But I do know this: I know in the end even after everything else has passed away, only love will remain.

And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest, the most excellent way is love.

It’s all about love. It will always be about love. Love will remain. That’s the answer to the ugliness that was displayed in Charlottesville. It is the answer to any ugliness we encounter, honestly. That’s what it boils down to.

Love.

So I’m learning how to choose love in the midst of hate. I’m learning how to stare Satan’s minions in the face and respond in love. Because these all of us desperately need Jesus.

I know what the answer is. But I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know what it looks like in real life. How do we flesh this out? I don’t have all the answers, but I know where to start.

So I’m learning to stand with love. That should be my default setting: love. But since we’re being honest here, I can tell you that it isn’t my “go-to” response most of the time. But I’m doing my best. I’m learning to love the way Jesus loves me.

I hope you’ll learn with me.

*Do I really think that sharing these verses is going to change the mind of a devoted white supremacist? No. I don’t think they really care about the words of Jesus. Or Paul. Or John. I doubt they really care about anything other than statements that promote their own twisted, hate-filled, repugnant views. This post is really for people who might be on the fence, although I don’t see how you can be on the fence. It’s also for people who are looking at these white folks, connecting the dots, and thinking that this is what the American church is all about.  

I made 7 year old me extremely jealous last weekend

This post about nostalgia, Star Wars toys, and classic arcade games contains affiliate links. I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your support.

I’ve only been working at the new job for about two months and I’ve already done some pretty memorable things. I got to tour a local bottling plant and was very tempted to pull a Laverne and Shirley. I was a good boy and didn’t do it. But, man. It was so tempting.

Then, not long after that, I had the opportunity to tour a local radio station and Continue reading I made 7 year old me extremely jealous last weekend

We stand by Jennifer

Jennifer has been an integral part of our family for the past nine years. Through her work with Adoptions of Indiana, she has served as our social worker. It was because of her that we were able to bring Mihret home. And Weldu, too.

I have no idea what our family would be like without her direct influence. And for that, we are forever grateful.

We stand by Jennifer.

Jennifer’s story is woven into ours. She has had a huge impact on our family. That’s why the horrible news of her husband’s death hits us pretty hard. And that’s why I’m sharing this GoFundMe campaign. I can’t imagine losing someone in such a public way. This is just one way we can stand by Jennifer as she and her family rebuild and carry on. From what I understand, Jennifer plans on continuing the priceless work she’s already been doing. That’s a great thing. I hope she can continue to impact countless other families throughout Indiana.

But first, there are some other things that need to be taken care of. And maybe you can help.

It would mean the world to our family if you would consider donating to this cause. I realize I can’t speak for them on a first-hand basis, but I’m sure it would mean a lot and countless other families whom Jennifer has served, too.

According to the page itself, here is the plan for using this financial assistance:

  • Emergency rescue and medical out of pocket costs
  •  Funeral expenses
  • Bereavement counseling and support for Jennifer and her children
  • Loss of family income
  • Future educational needs for the children
  • Long-term financial stability

Jennifer Morrissey has given so much of herself to so many families throughout the state. Supporting her during her family’s unimaginable moment of crisis is really a no-brainer. It is a right thing to do.

I hope you feel the same way.