Todd Bussey: More than an old youth group minister

Leigh was part of our high school youth group. I asked her to share some memories from her experience with Todd Bussey as our youth minister. I knew she would have some stories to tell. I’m glad I asked. Because she delivered!

Thanks for sharing, Leigh!

Todd Bussey!

I met Todd Bussey 30 years ago when I first went to youth group on a Sunday night in 1988.

Young, energetic, silly, larger than life in personality and stature…he drew us all in and, quite frankly, made us a family.

He often met us for chips and salsa at Hacienda after youth group and made the mistake of showing us where he lived.  Now, I personally never used a credit card to break into his apartment, but I was often sitting on his living room couch when he came home…along with anywhere from 5-20 other kids.

Todd arranged goofy skits and fun outings.  He encouraged us to get messy and let go of the typical high-school drama.  Along with Scott & Corri Brooks and Brian & Dawn Gower, he put up with constant attempts to get him off-topic, countless shenanigans, and some very reckless new drivers in the church parking lot.  He moved to a new apartment, and he didn’t even bother to lock the door.  

Todd Bussey, Dawn Gower, Brian Gower

He took us to Summer in the Son and led us to think maybe we’d go to Kentucky Christian College someday.  He forced us to stop at Cracker Barrel whenever we were traveling.  He kicked us out of the church van if we complained about his driving. He wore a skin-tight Batman costume and climbed down from the balcony in the sanctuary.  We were all super-proud that we were the ones who got to go back home with the hilarious guy who started each morning there with a grin.

I knew he loved everyone, but he found a way to make each of us feel special.  

I witnessed his true caring, and I know he spent long nights with a few people who needed him.  He sent me flowers to celebrate my birthday when he found out it had been overlooked one year by some of my peers. It was an endearing gesture I have not forgotten all this time later.

When we graduated from high school, he came to our open houses, let us know what we’d meant to the youth group, and prayed over us.  Because of the bond he’d fostered between us, we kids kept in touch with each other even though we all went our separate ways…and then when we came home from college on breaks, we now went to his house on Lincoln Avenue.  The door was always unlocked.

He sent me Audio Adrenaline’s new CD  when I graduated from college (a nod to our time at SITS when they used to be called A-180). I got my first teaching job, and I still came home on breaks to visit.  He counseled me through the break-up of a serious boyfriend…and then called my now husband by the old boyfriend’s name at our wedding rehearsal.  (He managed to use the correct name at the wedding, thankfully!)

Todd Bussey officiating Leigh's wedding

He was just “Todd – my old youth group minister…”

…until a family crisis made him “Todd – the person you call when everything is falling apart.” At a moment’s notice, he simply showed up and was the example of Christ we needed at a time of true despair.

It’s pretty powerful to realize that God placed this man in my 12-year-old life so that he could be a source of strength in my adult one.

And my story, of needing Todd as a grown-up, is not unique. That youth group family still keeps in touch, and I know he’s been there for others during times of confusion, pain, sorrow, and deep loss.

When Todd left Evansville this morning to move his dear family to Florida, he left behind a building that housed a ministry that touched my life — and that’s been weirdly hard for me to come to terms with. However, the friendship, admiration, and deep connection remain…no matter what state Todd lives in.

I’ll still celebrate his February 26th birthday that he shares with another important man in my life…my dad.  

I’ll still reminisce with my parents about the time the entire extended Bussey family stopped by our cottage in Michigan just to say hi.

I’ll still send him our Christmas card — how did that goofy girl end up a teacher, wife, and mom of 4 kids?

I’ll still text him selfies of me and random (or maybe not so random?) people that show up in my life who happen to know the legend that is Todd.

I’ll still seek his advice for big decisions and his support in times of trouble.

I’ll still fondly remember youth group on Sunday nights.

Love you, L. Todd!
Leigh Blackburn Stella

Perhaps as a testament to the positive effect that Todd had on the lives of those young kids in the late 80s, you might not be surprised to find that he moves to his new position in Florida at a church under the direction of Jason Cullum, a Cullen Avenue Christian Church High School Youth Group Class of ‘92 grad like myself.  I’m sure his new flock will enjoy these throwback photos of their new/our old partners in crime.

Todd Bussey and Jason Cullum

Todd Bussey and Jason Cullum

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A high ropes course and ministry [aka Thanks, Todd Bussey]

I’ve shared this story on several occasions in several different ways. I don’t think I’ve ever shared it here. Todd Bussey might be tired of it. But I’m not. And I’ve decided that it is altogether fitting to share it today as we wish Todd countless blessings as he begins the next chapter of his ministry life.
Todd Bussey with me before my wedding, 1998

There I was –

some 40 feet in the air. A helmet was strapped to my head. A harness was firmly fastened around my body. I was safe. But I was stuck. I wasn’t going anywhere.
It was one of my first years as a Boy Scout and we were participating in the high ropes team building course the National Boy Scout Museum in Murray, Kentucky. The climax of the afternoon was climbing a giant tower and then walking across a high wire from one tower to another. I could choose to take one of thee routes to this second tower. I chose the path that was most difficult.
Of course I did. I had to look cool in front of my friends, didn’t I?

I chose the path called The Hourglass.

The Hourglass is made up of a single wire to walk on a wire to hold onto. As you’re walking across the wire that’s suspended among the treetops, the wire that you’re holding onto is gradually sloping downward. Once you’re in the middle of the path, the wire that you’re holding onto has descended enough that it is actually attached to the foot wire.
How high did I say this course was? Forty feet? Felt like 75.
So there I was, 125 feet in the air, squatting down on a wire, holding on to another wire for dear life. Behind me was another wire that was attached to the wire at my feet. That second wire slopes upward and leads to the second tower at the end of the course.
There was a trick. One I didn’t expect. There, in the middle of the course, 235 feet in the air, I had to let go of the wire in order to adequately turn my body and grab hold of the other wire and make my way toward safety.

 Let go.

My head knew what I needed to do. I think my heart even knew. But my body? Not so much.
Let go?
That was crazy talk. I was hanging 376 feet in the air. That cord at my feet was my only lifeline. And I was supposed to let go? There was no way I was letting go of that wire.
So I squeezed harder. My knees started to shake. The wire I was standing on started to sway. Sweat ran down my brow and started to sting my eyes. I was in bad shape. Things were looking bleak.
I was certain I was going to die up there. I just wasn’t sure how. Maybe I would shrivel up and die from dehydration. Or maybe I would just shake myself into oblivion. Or maybe my safety harness would wear out and I would tumble 563 feet to my doom.

So I stayed there and waited for my certain death. At least I had my safety helmet on, so when I finally fell to oblivion, the staff could sweep up all of the pieces into my helmet, wrap it up, slap a sticker on it and send me home on my way.

Friends down below were shouting encouragement. “Just let go with one hand! Everything will be OK!”

Of course, every time I tried that, the tightrope would shake. I’d panic. And then I’d find myself gripping the wire even tighter.

After an eternity, which was probably no more than five or six minutes in realtime, something unexpected happened. I heard a familiar voice from the tower.

“Matt,” the voice said. “I’m coming to you. We’re going to finish this together.”

It was Todd Bussey, my youth minister. He had come with our Troop on this camping trip, and had already taken his turn on the high ropes course. He had strapped on the safety equipment and was already making his way towards me on a nearby obstacle.

It only took a few seconds after he came out to me. He calmed me down. He coached me through the next steps and encouraged me as I let go of the wire and grabbed the other one. The rest was a piece of cake.

I survived the Hourglass. And I owe it all to Todd Bussey.

Todd is wrapping up a ministry at my home church that began back in the 1980s. He’s moving his family to Florida to write a new chapter of ministry with some new church work.

I know.

Florida.

Tough life, huh?

But he’s going to help turn the region upside down. Perhaps he’ll even shock the world. Because that’s what Todd does. It’s what he’s always done.

Todd Bussey at the Welcome Back sign at Philmont Scout Ranch, 1990

Todd baptized me. He co-officiated my wedding. He ordained me. And if something unfortunate were to happen in the near future, I hope he’ll bury me, too.  We went on our first Philmont trek together. And he coached me through some important merit badges in Scouting, including Communication and Citizenship in the Nation. Of course, he was also a spiritual mentor of mine. We have some pretty great memories from five Summers in the Son together. Oh, and we were the Summer in the Son volleyball champions of 1990, even though we were the clear underdogs. And he even introduced me to A-180/Audio Adrenaline.

His story has been wrapped into my story for the past 30 years.

And I share this story about the high ropes course because it’s a nice little illustration of what he has done for me over and over and over again.

As a ministry coach, a spiritual advisor, a pastor, and a friend, Todd has always been there for me. He was there when my dad had a heart attack. He was there when I needed a listening ear after I left my first professional ministry. And he helped guide me through preparing for my first funeral as a preacher.

Just like when he was there for me 722 feet in the air, I have always been able to count on Todd Bussey to be there for me. And I know there are many other people who feel the same way.

This leaves a large hole in my home church’s leadership. Shoot, it leaves a large hole in the entire Tri-State area. But Evansville’s loss is going to be Jacksonville’s gain.

This most definitely is not goodbye, it’s “see you later.” In Florida. I can’t wait to see how God uses Him in this new chapter!

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Did you forget Valentine’s Day?

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I know. It happens to the best of us sometimes. You really didn’t “forget” Valentine’s Day. You really planned on getting something amazing. And you started looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift a month ago. Couldn’t find anything. So you decided to wait and keep looking.

And now it’s the day before Valentine’s Day and you never found that perfect gift. So you’re kind of stuck. The great but not quite great enough gifts that you saw in the stores last month are all gone. And the rest of the gifts at your local store are all picked over, leaving you a choice between a cheesy gift and a corny one.

Believe me. I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there. While I’ve always had grand plans for Valentine’s Day, and think I’m planning ahead, I’ve found myself stuck in this exact position on a few occasions. Maybe you’re like me. You have some great ideas but you’re lacking in the execution department.

If that’s you, have no fear. I have some last-minute ideas that should help rescue your Valentine’s Day this year. You could start off with some love notes. Not sure what to say? No worries. Here are some suggestions.

I also put together a few suggestions for some sweet, simple gifts for Sweetest Day. You could easily adapt them for Valentine’s Day. And these items won’t be picked over because you won’t find them in the Valentine’s Day section of your local store.

I get it, though. That might not be enough. You want to do the chocolates and the flowers and the whole shebang. But you definitely don’t have time to hit the stores today and shopping on Valentine’s Day is out of the question. Fortunately, the answer is right at your fingertips.

Here are some last-minute Valentine’s Day gifts you can order right now.

Roses from flowersfast.com

FlowersFast.com offers flowers delivered the very next day! This is a great resource to have for many occasions, but it’s especially great when it’s the day before Valentine’s Day and you don’t have any flowers in hand.  This beautiful My Heart to Yours bouquet  includes between 7 and 14 roses, depending on the size you choose.

According to the page, “Same-day florist delivery is available for this item, for orders placed before Noon in the recipient’s timezone.” Just be sure to check out their delivery policy first.

Shari’s Berries Chocolate Dipped Be Still My Heart Valentines Strawberries via flowersfast.com

Chocolate dipped strawberries and Valentine’s Day go together like…well, they go together like strawberries and chocolate. Am I right?

Of course I am. That’s why Shari’s Berries are so popular this time of year. And there’s still time to order them today.

You can’t wait, though. Same day delivery is not available. But why would you want to wait, anyway? Go ahead and order these.

You’ll thank me later.

Footed PJs from PajamaMania.com

Baby, it’s still cold outside!

Footed PJs are a fun gift that will help keep her warm during the cold nights that are still bound to come our way.

Of course, if footed PJs aren’t her thing, they have plenty of other styles available.

You have to hurry, though. I think next-day shipment has to be ordered by 1 p.m.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! I hope you have a memorable day celebrating this crazy little thing called love.

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These songs have brought me comfort

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I’m not going to lie. The last few months have been hard. Heartbreaking, really. I went through a similar experience while preaching south of Muncie. I think I wound up conducting something like four funerals over the span of three months. It takes its emotional toll.

Back in November, we lost David, his mother, and his daughter. My grandma died right before Christmas. And then Dr. Phil Gerhart, a man who impacted my life and the lives of so many others in ways I cannot even describe (but will try to at some point in the very near future), died. There are moments when I feel overwhelmed with wave after wave after wave of loss. It’s almost like I’m drowning.

And that hurts.

In these moments of hurt and loss and sadness, it is inevitable that a song pops into my head and I find my heart pouring out in worship. The songs that keep popping up in my head? They are songs I haven’t heard or sung in years.

The Old Rugged Cross

It is Well with my Soul

Are you familiar with Audrey Assad? You should be. There’s a haunting beauty in her voice. And her story as the daughter of a Syrian refugee is especially poignant today. I admit that this was not the version of this hymn that has been churning in my soul, but it could be. It could be…

How Great Thou Art*

The majority of the congregations where I’ve worshiped and served over the past 30 years have leaned toward the contemporary side of Sunday morning worship. I’ve sung countless worship songs during that time. Many are deeply moving and have strong connections to my own personal faith story. And songs from the likes of Andrew Peterson, Rich Mullins, and Steven Curtis Chapman are woven into my story, too.

It’s an interesting thing, however, that the songs that I have found my heart singing over and over again these past months are songs from my childhood. Don’t read too much into that if you’re looking for me to take some kind of stand in the decades-old “Worship Wars.” I just think it’s a fascinating thing that during times of sorrow and heartbreak, I have found myself turning to the classic hymns.

Of course, it’s not just the simple music of the hymns. It’s not the creativity of contemporary songs of worship. It’s the One to whom these songs point. That is where real comfort, hope, love, and strength is found.

I don’t really have anything profound to say about this. I just pray that you are able to find some comfort in these songs that I’ve shared. And I hope they impact you they way they have touched me throughout the years.

*Yes, I know this is sung by the BYU Singers. Yes, I know BYU is a Mormon school. No, I’m not getting into any theological discussions or debates about that. The history of the hymn is powerful. Challenging. Inspiring. I don’t care who is singing it. The message remains. 

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Thank you, Phil Gerhart. I’ll see you over the next ridge.

Mr. Gerhart and Crew on top of Tooth of TIme 1994I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the influence of Mr. Gerhart.* As my Scoutmaster, he invested his time and energy into young men like me. He showed us how to be servant leaders. If you look at the numbers, they speak for themselves. During his tenure as Scoutmaster of two different troops (Troop 412 and Troop 322), he saw 87 different young men achieve the rank of Eagle Scout (my brother and I are just two of those 87).  When you consider that only a small percentage of Scouts ever reach this rank, it is clear that he influenced several hundred young men over the years.

He saw something in me that many did not. For a variety of reasons, I did not reach my academic potential in middle school and high school. So I was not considered a good candidate for many leadership positions or leadership-related scholarships.**  But Mr. Gerhart saw something in me. He took me under his wing and showed me the true nature of a servant leader. Here are few examples of when he challenged me to grow as a leader and celebrated my successes…

“Matt, Jarod, remember this when you’re working here.”

1990 Philmont Crew

During my first trek at Philmont Scout Ranch, we were met on the trail by one of our Troop’s graduates. He was on staff at Philmont that year, and we thought that was pretty cool. We’d spent a few days on the trail and we had grown tired of the re-hydrated dehydrated trail food that served as breakfast and dinner. All of a sudden, a watermelon appeared, courtesy of our friend the Phil-staffer.

Now, I’m not much of a watermelon fan, but this was the best tasting watermelon I’d ever had. It was like it had been picked from Heaven’s garden itself. It was a perfect setting. We were hot, sweaty, and dirty. And we were sprawled out in a small meadow in the middle of the Sangre de Christo Mountains in New Mexico, sharing slices of watermelon.

It really doesn’t get much better than that, friends.

Out of the bue, Mr. Gerhart looks my way and instructs me and my friend Jarod: “Don’t forget this when you’re working here.”

I was but a lowly underclassman in high school at the time. The thought of even attempting to get a job at Philmont was the furthest from my mind. But Mr. Gerhart planted a seed. And that was the first time I ever thought about spending a summer out at Philmont. At that point, it was nothing more than a pie in the sky pipe dream. But he planted the seed.

Fast forward…

Years later when I was working at Beaubien Camp at Philmont in 1995, I made a concerted effort to get my hands on a watermelon. My home crew, including my Dad and Mr. Gerhart, was due to arrive at my camp in a few days. I was almost frantic. I had to have a watermelon.

Alas, it was not meant to be. There was no watermelon available from the camp commissary. So I did the next best thing I could think of: I baked a chocolate cake for them. And I completed the challenge that I had accepted in that meadow several years prior.

As a mentor, you challenge. You inspire. And you might even plant seeds of a dream that won’t come true for several years. You keep the big picture in mind and play the long game.

He grew leaders

In our Scouting experience, Mr. Gerhart helped create an atmosphere where young leaders could celebrate their successes and learn from their failures in a safe environment. He equipped us with the tools necessary to become strong servant leaders. Then he challenged us by expecting us to follow-through.

Here’s what I mean…

Our Scouting calendar basically followed the school calendar. It began in September and ended in July/August, with Summer Camp and the subsequent Court of Honor serving as a transition time from one set of leaders to the next. Sometime during this transition (I don’t remember when – probably in June), the new leadership team, consisting of the Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Leadership Corps (older Scouts who were mentors without official leadership titles) would gather together to plan out the next year’s monthly themes and campouts.

Mr. Gerhart would set some parameters, like some non negotiable event dates. Then he would leave the room. The Senior Patrol Leader, as the youth leader of the Troop, was left to run the brainstorming session and the actual planning. An hour or so later, Mr. Gerhart would come back into the room, fully expecting a cogent plan for the rest of the Scouting year.

He could do this because he had equipped us. He empowered us. And he released us to do exactly what was expected. That’s what leaders do. They don’t manage. And they certainly don’t micromanage. They lead. Sometimes, that means they get out of the way.

And that requires trust.

Don’t get me wrong. There were times when I did some pretty boneheaded things. Like my “ax-ident.” But Mr. Gerhart expected me to learn from my experiences. And that helped us trust each other even more.

Mr. Gerhart showed me he trusted my leadership abilities during a time of crisis. It was during the Summer Camp when I served as Senior Patrol Leader. It was my last hurrah in that position, as the Senior Patrol Leader passes the baton in a peaceful transfer of power to the upcoming Senior Patrol Leader during the final moments of Camp.

Before that happened, we had to deal with a crisis.

A young Scout had mistreated an animal in front of the rest of the patrol. It was cruel and uncalled for and a clear violation of Scout rules – including the parts of the Scout Law that say a Scout is kind and a Scout is reverent.

In my Scouting experience, no one had ever done anything like this before. We were in uncharted territory. But Mr. Gerhart had faith in us. He told me to gather up the Leadership Corps and come up with a proper punishment. And he would help us carry out whatever punishment we deemed fit.

It was much like the planning meetings we had, except this had a much more heavy feel to it. Mr. Gerhart showed us that he trusted us by leaving in the cabin to brainstorm, deliberate, and come up with a plan. It was kind of like a final exam. And our teacher had prepared us in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

When we reached an agreement, we shared our conclusion with Mr. Gerhart. He agreed with our decision. And in what was probably the second-most difficult leadership moments of my life up to that point (the first was when I was called out on a mountainside in New Mexico), Mr. Gerhart sat behind me in support as I issued our team’s decision to the Young Scout.

Our decision was bold, but fair. I think it included a loss of rank and maybe a certain amount of probation. It was a devastating punishment, but it could have been worse. I think we showed a measured amount of grace. We could have kicked him out. But we didn’t. Because we knew how transformative the Scouting experience could be as part of our Troop. That, of course, is another testament to Mr. Gerhart’s guidance and leadership.

We could issue such a bold, fair, and graceful punishment because we knew Mr. Gerhart had our back. He trusted us. And we trusted him.

A servant leader has to trust AND be trusted. Mr. Gerhart did both.

Pointing the spotlight.

Mr. Gerhart lived out his faith every day that I saw him. He encouraged us to study creation as we were on our monthly campouts. Because he knew that as we studied creation, we would see the hand of the Creator at work. He encouraged us to take our faith seriously and live it with boldness. And he showed us that faith and scholarship are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they work together hand in hand.

He saw Scouting as an arm of our sponsoring church, reaching out to new families and encouraging young men in their faith. He took this role seriously. And I guess it was pretty effective. I mean, it got me and my brother to become active members of that church.

In addition to introducing me to Cullen Avenue Christian Church, Mr. Gerhart has another prominent place in my faith story. Shortly after mom and I had a discussion about how it was time for me to finally take ownership of my faith through the act of baptism, she set up a time for me to talk with Todd, my Youth Minister. Mr. Gerhart asked if he could sit in on our conversation.

I still have a few mental “snapshots” of this meeting. I don’t remember most of the words that were said. But I do remember knowing from that meeting that Mr. Gerhart took his faith very seriously and he was happy to know that I wanted to take my faith seriously, too.

The Apostle Paul instructed the believers in the church at Corinth to “Follow my example, as I follow the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:1). That was Mr. Gerhart. He urged us to follow him as he pointed to Jesus. That’s what servant leaders do. They don’t point the spotlight on themselves.

They point it beyond themselves.

“It’s just over the next ridge.”

When hiking at Philmont, Mr. Gerhart and his friend, Mr. Dawes, would have a saying to encourage each other. The rigorous terrain was a struggle for them, but they insisted on pushing on. They would encourage each other by saying that our destination was “Just over the next ridge.”

Climbing Baldy at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron New Mexico

Of course, the end of the day’s hike usually wasn’t “over the next ridge.” It was usually five or six ridges away. But this was a good way to break up the hike into manageable legs. And since good leaders know that words matter matter and that you don’t climb a mountain in just one step, this was a fitting saying for them to share.

During long drives while my kids were younger, I found myself saying similar things. “Let’s get past this curve.” Or, “Let’s wait five minutes and see.” And, of course, “It’s just over the next ridge.” It helped break the monotony of some long trips. And it certainly helped me keep my sanity.

That’s not a bad way to approach life. Yes, we live in the present. And it’s healthy to have goals. But in order to achieve those goals, we have to break things up into manageable pieces. Each mini goal that leads to the big goal is a ridge that we must conquer.

This is one of the many leadership lessons I learned from Mr. Gerhart. It is not uncommon that find myself using many of the lessons that he lived out. He was a great leader, teacher, and friend. I will miss him. Dearly. In fact, I already do.

“Happy trails, Mr. Gerhart. Thank you for the impact you made on my life and the lives of countless others. We’ll see you over the next ridge.”

 

Endnotes

* Phil Gerhart was a highly-respected professor of engineering at the University of Evansville. Because of his PhD, it was altogether fitting that we call him Dr. Gerhart. In Scouts, he had us call him Mr. Gerhart. I don’t know why he did that, but that’s what we called him. That’s what I will always call him. I saw him at the end of 2016 when he and his wife came to the Viewing before my Grandma’s funeral. I suppose I could have gotten away with calling him “Phil.” But I didn’t. He always was and always will be Mr. Gerhart to me.

** By the time I was a Junior in high school, I had leadership roles in Band. I know my band director had something to do with that. But I credit the preparation for those leadership opportunities to Mr. Gerhart. He certainly paved the way.

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3 easy steps to a romantic steakhouse dinner at home

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Idahoan® Foods for this campaign, but my opinions are my own.

3 Easy Steps to a Romantic Steakhouse Dinner at Home #KingOfSoup #ad

When Christy and I were dating in college, one of our “go to” dates was to go to one of the local steakhouses and order potato soup. We would sit and talk for hours, munching on the endless rolls they would bring us and savoring every bite of the creamy soup. It was something we did quite often. We even went there for potato soup and rolls after I proposed to her (and almost dropped the engagement ring into the Doe River). I guess you could say that potato soup has a special place in our family’s story.

Since those college days, we have eaten at some pretty memorable restaurants over the years, including an airplane restaurant and chapel-turned-microbrewery. I’m sorry to say that we haven’t taken many opportunities to eat at fancy schmancy steakhouses, though. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve eaten at some pretty amazing and romantic establishments. But we really haven’t gone out like we used to. And we haven’t shared a bowl of potato soup in a long time. Continue reading 3 easy steps to a romantic steakhouse dinner at home

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Worst.President.Ever.


By Unknown – White house, Public Domain, Link

When it comes to political discourse, it appears that we have become a nation of extremes. Many have taken the statement “If you’re not for us, you’re against us” into the political realm and then multiplied it to the extreme. With this type of approach to American politics, anyone who even remotely disagrees with you is obviously anti-American and full of hate. And if the conversation shouting match goes on for any length of time, one side is sure to accuse the other side of sounding like Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.

Of course, it is inevitable during conversations like this that someone eventually accuses a recent president of being the “worst president ever.” They rarely give many valid reasons why he was the worst president in the history of the US. They just make the blanket statement that he was obviously the worst president we’ve ever seen. Continue reading Worst.President.Ever.

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Living life and arriving safely at death

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Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Mark Batterson

“Be careful.”

“Stay safe.”

I say these phrases a lot. It’s habit. And I don’t really think that’s a bad thing. Safety is important – especially when it comes to our children. Unfortunately, we’ve become so concerned about safety that we act like it’s the only reason to live. We act like safety is the purpose of life. At least, I have acted like that from time to time. Mark Batterson has helped change my perspective about safety and the purpose of life.

His book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, is one of the books that changed my life when I first read it. It’s a relatively short read, but it’s packed with some powerful words. One of the quotes that hit me square between the eyes is this one:

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.

It’s the first point in his Lion Chaser Manifesto. If we live our lives concerned with safely arriving at the end of life, we set ourselves up for a life guided by fear. And a life dominated by fear leads to a lot of regrets. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look back and wonder what might have been.

We’re not going to change the world by sitting idly by. We’re not going to change the world by allowing safety to be our only guiding force. If we’re going to change the world, we’re going to have to take risks. We might even have to live dangerously on occasion.

Yes, safety is something to consider. But it cannot be the driving force of our lives. It cannot be the purpose of our lives. Because when we use safety as our guiding force, we allow fear to creep in. We allow fear to control us.

And we all know that LOVE drives out fear.

When we live our lives full of fear, we miss out on the great adventure we were created to live. We live a less-than-full life. That not only impacts our lives, but the lives of the world around us.

No more fear. Live dangerously.

So live dangerously, my friends. Take a risk. It might be something as simple as walking next door and getting to know you neighbor. Or it might mean flying halfway around the world to stand in the gap for the voiceless, powerless, and oppressed. It might mean opening your home to a family of refugees. I don’t know where your journey will take you. But we cannot allow the idol of safety paralyze us. There is too much work to do. We have too much life to live.

So get up. Get moving. And change the world. That’s what love compels us to do.

That’s what we were made for. It’s what it means to live. And it behooves us to live.


If you’re interested in more about the Lion Chaser Manifesto, I recommend you check out these books. Let me warn you: they might change your life.

in-a-pit-with-a-lion-on-a-snowy-day chase-the-lion

 

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Unpacking our Family Motto

Todd Family Crest

Todd Family Motto: It behooves us to live!

Does your family have a motto?

I recently asked this on social media and here are some of the responses I received:

Those are some pretty good responses. If your family doesn’t have a motto, you might consider stealing borrowing one of these. Family mottos are kind of like mission statements. They can be a guiding force, helping to direct your family along the way. Even the House of El has a family motto (“Stronger Together,” according to the Supergirl TV series).

Apparently, the Todd family has had a motto for decades. Maybe even for centuries. I don’t really know how long it has been the Todd Family Motto or if it even has a direct connection with my family. Either way, I’ve come to claim it as our own.

“It behooves us to live.”

Sounds familiar. Right? I mean, you see it right up there in the header.

It behooves us to live

It’s only five words long. But those five words say a lot, don’t they? With so much packed into so few words, I plan on spending some time unpacking the message of our family motto. This statement isn’t just our family motto. It has also become the underlying force behind this site. In many ways, it’s become this blog’s mission statement.

So here’s the deal: once a week for the next few weeks (or maybe the whole year – I haven’t decided yet), I’m going to share thoughts about what “It behooves us to live!” means in our everyday lives. It might be a quote. It might be a word or a definition or even a long essay or a short video. I’m not entirely sure how it will manifest itself as the weeks unfold. But it will be a journey. An encouraging, inspiring, and challenging journey. And there might be a little bit of fun thrown in from time to time, too.

Who knows? Maybe you have something to say about our family motto. What does “It behooves us to live!” mean to you? Maybe you’d like to share your thoughts in a guest post? I’m certainly open to that. Shoot me an email and let’s get to work!

For today, I leave you with the same question I asked at the beginning of this post. Do you have a family motto? If so, what is it? Please share it in the comments below!

You don’t want to miss this series. So why not go ahead and sign up for the weekly newsletter or “Like” my page on facebook?


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2016: Worst. Year. Ever? Nope. Here's why.

this-trumps-everything-in-2016

In the past, I’ve recognized the arrival of a New Year with a retrospective Todd Top Ten List or the announcement of the year’s Matty (formerly known as Ralphie) Awards. After much soul searching and careful consideration, I have decided to indefinitely suspend these events.

Is 2016 the worst year ever?

When we look back on 2016, it’s hard to say it’s been anything but rough. Personally, this has been the most physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually exhausting year I can remember.  This has just plain worn me out.

I don’t think I’m the only one. It appears that 2016 presidential contest sucked the life out of many people. And this transition to a new administration is causing angst on both sides of the aisle. Then there’s Syria. And Russia. Ethiopia has also seen some political unrest and uncertainty. Oh, and then there were horrible terrorist attacks and horrifying mass shootings. And don’t forget the worldwide refugee crisis. I could probably add the hype around the Zika virus and the uproar over the death of Harambe and the wildfires that swept through Gatlinburg.  Don’t get me started on the way social media has turned everyone into an expert about everything from parenting to zoology to political science. And they’re not shy about pouring on the criticism when someone disagrees. It’s awful. It’s really awful.

It feels like we’re sitting on a powder keg. And the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Turkey made many wonder if we were getting a front row seat to early 20th century world history repeating itself.

That’s a scary proposition.

Then you add in all of the well-known people we lost in 2016. Prince. David Bowie. George Michael. Kenny Baker (R2-D2). Erik Bauersfeld (Admiral Ackbar). Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia). Muhammad Ali. Florence Henderson. Alan Thicke. These are just a few of the many celebrity deaths in 2016.

On a personal note, I was heartbroken when I heard about the deaths of David, Sophia, and Ruth Ann Rinehart. We also said goodbye to my Grandma and laid her to rest at the end of 2016.

The hits just kept coming.

When I look back on 2016, it can be tough to argue that it is anything but the worst year ever.

One event changed everything.

Regardless of all of the other events that took place this year, this is what makes 2016 one of the best years ever.

Brothers meeting for the first time.

Todd Family of Six

Todd family of Six

We became a family of SIX in 2016. And that trumps everything else that happened this year.

It’s something worth celebrating.

So let’s dance!

In light of recent worldwide and celebrity tragedies, it feels like we’re limping into 2017. Many are wishing “Good riddance” to 2016. I get that. I really do. So whether you’re celebrating the end of what could be considered a pretty awful year, or whether you’re celebrating the good things that happened this year, let’s dance together as we look forward to what 2017 has in store for us.

Happy New Year, friends!

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