I am just a poor boy, though my story’s seldom told.
– Simon & Garfunkel, The Boxer
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… – George Lucas, Star Wars
Great stories start with great opening lines. They grab you, pull you in, and don’t let go until the final word on the final page.
I’m not going to be writing an autobiography any time soon. I have three other books I need to write before even considering sitting down and writing anything close to an autobiography. Besides, I’ve got some more living to do before putting pen to paper for anything that would sound something remotely like an autobiography that anyone would be interested in reading.
But if I ever do write that autobiography, I think I’ve got the opening line. It’s based on the motto that has apparently been connected with the Todd family for generations. While I hadn’t heard this motto until a few years ago, it has certainly resonated with me. So I took it and ran with it. Because I believe it’s a great motto to have. And I think it would be a great opening line to a great introduction to an autobiography.
It behooves us to live.
It would establish the tone of the rest of the book – my pursuit of living life to the fullest, changing the world by sharing light and life everywhere I go.
So there’s my hypothetical autobiography’s hypothetical opening line. What do you think? What would your opening line be?
Pretend you’re writing your autobiography. Give us your first line, a first chapter, or even just an image. What’s the story of you?
I’ve participated in the ThinkKit project before. I really enjoyed it. Thought I’d try it again since they moved it from December to January. You know what happened? I totally missed the first day. Not the best way to start off a 30-day blogging challenge, amIright? Fortunately, today’s prompt is to look back at 2015. Good thing I already did that. So after posting today, that puts me right back on track.
It’s no secret that adoption can be expensive. Of course, it’s also no secret that giving birth to a child can be just as expensive. It’s just paid in different ways by different people. So as we’re waiting to meet “W” and ultimately bring him home, we’re busy finding the funds to complete this journey. And that’s where you come in. Just like are plenty of ways you can help orphans without adopting, I’ve come up with 16 ways you can support our adoption. And most of them won’t even cost you a cent! Here they are:
1. Buy Coffee.
When you buy coffee from Just Love Coffee Roasters, we receive a portion of the profits. It’s that simple. In addition to high-quality coffee, they also have apparel, mugs, and hot chocolate available. They make special blends for different occasions, like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day. And you can even sign up for a year-long subscription. You’ll have high-quality coffee delivered to your doorstep every month. Oh, and they also have single serve cups.
Just Love Coffee Roasters has all the coffee you’ll need. And it creates a win-win-win situation. You are supporting Fair Trade coffee growing co-ops around the world. You’re helping to cover our adoption expenses. And, you get some pretty tasty coffee. As one former co-worker (who claims to be a coffee snob) of mine once said:
What more do you need to convince you? If you’re a coffee drinker, please try Just Love Coffeetoday!
2. Give us your books.
If you live in the Greater Indianapolis area and have extra books sitting around gathering dust, we’ll gladly take them off your hands! We’ll re-sell them to Half Price Books for cash money. If you live in southwestern Indiana or the Louisville area, we can also arrange a pick up. It just might take a little bit of time.
Do you have books you’d like to donate? Don’t hesitate to contact me! We’ll get something worked out.
The next three have to do with an upcoming garage sale.
3. Donate items to our garage sale.
We originally planned on having a garage sale on Saturday, April 25. Because of a scheduling conflict on my end (I’ll explain in a later post. It’s a really really really good conflict), we’re going to have to host the sale at a later date.
In the meantime, we need your stuff! If you’re like us, you’ve been doing some Spring Cleaning and discovered all kinds of stuff that you really can live without. If you live in the Indianapolis area, we’ll be happy to take it off your hands. Just shoot me an email and we’ll get the ball rolling.
4. Help promote the garage sale.
Once we have the date nailed down, if you could help tell all of your friends in the Indianapolis area to come buy our stuff, that would be awesome.
5. Show up. Buy stuff.
That kind of goes without saying. Right? If we’re going to have a garage sale, we need people to buy our stuff!
Here are some ways you can provide support without any effort at all.
This is going to sound silly, but supporting this blog is a great way to help our adoption. I have had the opportunity to use this space to publish some sponsored blog posts. Over the last year, all of the money from those compensated posts have gone to help pay for adoption expenses. The more “reach” and engagement that I can show potential advertisers, the more likely they are to hire me. And that’s a good thing. So, here’s what you can do to support this blog…
6. Subscribe to the email newsletter.
Did you even know there was a newsletter associated with this blog? Probably not. I haven’t done a great job at letting you know about it. That changes today.
Keep reading posts on this blog. Comment on articles. Share posts on your social platforms. You can start by sharing this post, if you want.
12. Buy from affiliate links.
Most links to Amazon are what are known as affiliate links. That means we get a very small percentage of each purchase made from that link. It doesn’t really add up to much right now, but if you’re going to buy the product anyway, why not help us out in the process?
Prayer might be last on this list, but it’s what we need most.
13. Pray for “W.”
I can’t imagine what it’s like to know that your have a family that’s pursuing you, but you still have to wait. And while you’re waiting, having to watch other kids leave with their forever families. Please pray for his sweet spirit. Pray for his health. Pray for his safety while he waits. Pray for his transition as he makes our family a family of SIX, while moving to a strange country with a strange language, customs, and food.
14. Pray for the governments and agencies involved.
International adoption involves a lot of bureaucratic red tape and hoop-jumping. Please pray for all agencies involved, that all the ‘i’s will be dotted and the ‘t’s will be crossed and that everything will be conducted with the utmost of integrity and honesty. Pray for roadblocks to be removed and that this adoption journey will be smooth.
15. Pray for our family.
Pray for our nerves as we wait. Pray for the transition. I have no idea what it’s going to be like adding another teenage boy to our household mix. But we’re going to do it. Because he’s worth it. Please pray for our family as we get ready for this transition.
16. Pray for God’s provision.
We have applied for several grants and no-interest loans to help pay for these expenses. Many of these ministries and agencies are looking at and praying over our requests as we speak. Please pray for open hearts as they hear our story.
I know God is going to show up. In some way, some how, He always does. He provided in unexpected ways during Mihret’s adoption. I’m confident He’ll do it again. I’m hoping it’s through these grants and our fundraising efforts. But maybe that won’t be the case. However He chooses to provide, I look forward to seeing Him work through His people.
That’s all. For now.
So there you have it: 16 ways you can support our adoption. Most of them are pretty painless. Right? But I promise, if you do even a few of them, you’re going to make a huge difference.
Thank you for your ongoing support. You have no idea how much it means to us.
The ballots have been cast. The votes have been tallied. They winners are about to be revealed.
That’s right, friends! It’s time for the annual release of the Matty Awards! I know you’ve been on the edge of your seat in anticipation of this year’s announcement. This is, after all, a highly coveted award. It’s right up there with The Old Man’s fragile Leg Lamp.
So here’s this years winners in all their glory. But before I announce them, please note that the links included are affiliate links. If you happen to buy any of these fine products, a small portion of the profits will go back to me. And that helps keep this blog up and running. Thank you for your continued support!
Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, I’m pleased to present the 2014 Matty Award recipients.
Congratulations to all of the winners!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I think the second Captain America is my favorite installment in the Marvel series so far. Of course, I haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet. Some say it’s even better than Winter Soldier. That’s a pretty tall order. I plan on finding out soon if this is a valid claim or not.
Andrew Peterson is no stranger to this award. In fact, his album, Behold the Lamb, won the award for Best Album in the inaugural appearance of this award (back when it was called the Ralphies).
This is not your typical “best of” or “greatest hits” album. There are some new songs mixed in with the old ones. And the old ones have been redone. It’s like Andrew Peterson is covering Andrew Peterson on this album (or something like that). While I love every song on this album, I’m especially fond of the second half.
I think this category is going to be handed over to my kids. Permanently.
Not only is this the story of the creation of Pixar and the resurrection of Disney Animation, but it also talks about how to be a creative organization. This is a must-read for any fan of Pixar, Disney, or Steve Jobs. It might even be a must-read for fans of Industrial Light and Magic. It’s also a must-read for anyone remotely concerned about leadership, management, creativity, teamwork, or storytelling.
The chapter about failure is worth the price of admission alone. It’s completely contrary to what I’ve experienced in the corporate world.
Best Book (fiction)
The Warden and the Wolf King
by Andrew Peterson
No, this hasn’t become the Andrew Peterson Awards Show or anything like that. I managed to read some good works fiction this year. The Warden and the Wolf King is the best work of fiction I’ve read in a long time. I laughed. I cheered. I cried. I couldn’t put the book down. It is a fitting end to the Wingfeather Saga.
Best TV Show
Still retired. I have one show that I’d like to name, but I don’t want to jinx it. It seems like every show that wins this award is canceled shortly afterward. So I’ll keep my choice to myself because I kind of like watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Best Sports Moment
Aiden Todd, North Middle School
I didn’t write about this when it happened. And it was one of the few times I didn’t have the camera ready when Aiden was on the football field this season, but the best sports moment, by far, has to be the interception he got during one of his games. Hopefully it’s only the first of many in his career. Although I don’t have a video or a photo of his interception, here’s a little video I put together while playing around with flipagram.
I mean, the guy is raising his kids in the ways of the Geek. And he and his family dressed up like characters from The Princess Bride this Halloween. And he even took his kids to meet Wesley himself. That makes for an awesome dad. And an awesome blog.
I could probably also give the award to Indy with Kids and Geeking in Indiana, too. But they’d be repeat winners. And we’ve already had repeat winners this year. Besides, they’ll probably win next year, too. Because they’re pretty awesome people with some pretty cool blogs, too.
Now it’s your turn! What books, movies, etc. are on YOUR list for 2014?
A few weeks ago, I wrote a little bit about my new job with an elementary school in the area. Even though it’s a tough job and can be emotionally exhausting at times, I really do love the job. There was one day not too long ago that the whole day was one meltdown after another, followed by one blowout after another. And all I could do was smile. I just couldn’t help myself.
Predictable, right? It’s like I’m saying this because I’m supposed to say it. Much like an award nominee says “It’s an honor just to be nominated.” It’s so…cliché.
Cliché: A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought…A very predictable or unoriginal thing or person. – Oxford Dictionary (emphasis mine)
Oh, but that’s not all…
I didn’t mention that I also have another job. It’s at a Christian bookstore. I know, right? Where else would you expect a former pastor to eventually wind up? Of course!
Oh, I’m still not done…
Guess what this Christian bookstore does with all of its earnings. All proceeds from their sales go to support ministries that primarily focus on caring for orphans and widows. Earlier this year, there was a stirring in my heart. I started to think that maybe I needed to spend more of my time and talents in a career that was about actually helping other people instead of merely helping other people make money. I realize that’s a bit of a false dichotomy, but that’s how I felt.
So, of course I’m working with kids with special needs. And of course I’m working at a store that’s giving away all of its profits.
Please note: The links to the books are affiliate links. That means that if you click the link and choose to purchase the book, our family gets a very small percentage of the proceeds. These links had no impact on the books I chose. Believe me, if I did, I’d have chosen books likeEncyclopedia of International Media and Communications, Four-Volume Set. Obviously, I’m better than that.
6 Books That Changed My Life
We’re in the midst of back to school madness here in Central Indiana. That’s right. It isn’t even August yet and Summer Break is already over! Long gone are the days of starting after Labor Day and ending before Memorial Day. If I’m honest, I usually like the new balanced calendar – except when we get to the end of a not-long-enough Summer and wonder what happened to the kids’ break. And since Mihret has been asking us how many days until school starts since…oh…the last day of school, let’s just say that the early advent of the school year is not necessarily an unwelcome development.
Readin’ writin’ and ‘rithmatic are about to be in full swing here in the Todd household. So in the spirit of going back to school for getting a head full of knowledge and stuff, I’d like to share with you some of the books that have had a big impact on me over the years. Because of the way they changed my outlook, I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to say that they changed my lif. Some of them were books I read in college. Others were read more recently. Sorry, high school teachers. None of the books I read while under your tutelage made the cut. It’s nothing personal. I promise. I was challenged by several teachers during my high school career. In fact, I’m still challenged by some of the things they said.
But I digress. Back to the topic at hand. Here they are, in no particular order…
Art & the Bible by Francis Schaeffer
This book is small. It’s a little bit larger than a pamphlet. Its message, however, forever changed how I approach creativity and using God-given talents for His glory. The big takeaway for me? We are created in the image of the Creator. We were created to create. It’s what we were made to do.
I was introduced to this book by Dr. Alex Wainer during my Junior year in college. After I read it, I put it down and asked, “Why hadn’t anyone shown me this book before?” After all, I was majoring in Communication at the time. At a Christian school. In my opinion, this was a book that should be read by everyone in every department of the school that is remotely arts-related.
I’ve gotten rid of a lot of my books from undergrad. This book, however, is one that will always remain on my bookshelf. It’s a relatively quick read, but it has challenged me in ways that very few books have.
7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, and Lane Jones
I read this as a book for church leadership, but it’s had an impact on how I approach leadership in general. It’s because of this book that you’ll often hear me say things like:
“Clarify the Win.”
“Celebrate the Win.”
These are so important. The book is worth the price just for the first chapter alone.
Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones
Communicating for a Change is one of the reasons I stopped trying to come up with a three-point sermon.
It’s one of the reasons I don’t try to do many lists or multiple-point posts on my blog. We’re moving into an age of communication – one that I’ll probably talk about in an upcoming post (I think this is fascinating stuff). While having lists might help with the Google searches, a post with a single point that’s approached by several different angles is more focused and is more memorable in the long-run.
Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain
Quiet reminded me that it’s OK to be an introvert. It’s OK to be sensitive to other introverts. You don’t have to be an extrovert in order to change the world.
I wish every church leader would get his/her hands on a copy of this book. It could encourage much healthier churches. It also could improve a church’s track record in regards to retaining visitors – especially visitors who happen to be introverts.
It should probably be a must-read for managers and HR professionals, too. I think the book would be pretty eye-opening and could positively impact the morale of many offices.
In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day
by Mark Batterson
Inspired by the relatively obscure story of Benaiah in the Old Testament, In a Pit with a Lion challenges you to step out on faith and chase that God-given dream.
Even if it means jumping into a pit with a lion.
by Bob Briner
I was introduced to this book in Comm 101: Intro to Mass Media by Professor Mattingly. It completely revolutionized my understanding of the meaning of “salt.” It’s not just to “add flavor,” it’s a preservative, pushing back against the forces of decay.
See? Pretty revolutionary.
And it changes everything.
The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
by Brennan Manning
Up until I read this book in the Summer of 1997, I thought grace was something you had to earn. I thought you had to be worthy of forgiveness. Brennan Manning wrecked that understanding. He also wrecked me in the process. I will never look at God’s love the same way again.
And that’s a good thing.
What about you?
Well, there you have it. These 6 books have had a tremendous impact on my life. They have helped shape me into who I am today.
I know what you’re thinking. I listed 7 books. I kind of lump the two Andy Stanley books together. They’re kind of like 1a and 1b. That’s my story, anyway. And I’m sticking with it.
What about you? What books have changed the way you think, believe, or act? What books have had a profound impact on your life?
Béla Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart
A co-worker introduced this album to me back in March. Some of the songs in this album make me feel like I’m at the Abyssinian again. And that brings a tear to my eye.
Favorite Song by Tobymac featuring Jamie Grace Just like the song suggests, I have to listen to this song over and over and over again. I can’t help it.
Best Book (Nonfiction)
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Marytyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas Eye-opening. Inspiring. Heartbreaking. Life-changing.
Best Book (Fiction)
I’ve probably read more fiction this year than in the previous ten years combined. Nothing really sticks out, except maybe the John Grisham novel that reads nothing like any of the other John Grisham novels I’ve ever read.
Skipping Christmaswins this award, but there’s some controversy here. I probably would’ve chosen The Hunger Games if I hadn’t read the subsequent sequels. They are so dark and twisted that they soured the way I felt about the first book. It’s a dark enough premise on its own without things spiraling out of control in Catching Fire and MockingJay.
Best TV Show
I give up on this category. Every time I say one’s my favorite, it goes away. I really got into America’s Got Talent for the first time this year. But that was because we know someone who’s father in law was a finalist on this year’s show.
I’ll probably retire this category in 2013, unless something really grabs my attention.
Best Sports Moment
Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis!
I’m proud that my fair city was able to pull off such an amazing event without a hiccup. I don’t know if I ever really blogged about the day we visited Super Bowl Village, but you can check out the pictures here. It was definitely a highlight of our year.
Because of the nature of my job, I read a lot of stuff online. I read a lot of blogs. A. lot. of blogs. How to be a Dad sits at the front of the class. Charlie and Andy have made some tough weeks a little bit easier. They definitely deserve the Ralphie for this new category.
Congratulations to all the 2012 Ralphie winners! You’ve won a major award! You should be proud.
*What’s a Ralphie? Here’s a brief explanation. Why haven’t I changed it to something like The Matty or something like that? Because I’m a sucker for tradition. And the Ralphie pictures are just cooler.
I’d like to know your favorites. If you were awarding Ralphies for 2012, who would you give this highly coveted Major Award to?
I chose to read Ten Christians Everyone Should Know because I’m intrigued by the stories of people of faith and I must confess I knew very little about the people discussed in this book. I think books like these are a must-have for any home library. The great thing about Ten Christians Everyone Should Know is that the end of each chapter gives you the name of a more complete telling of the person’s story. While I realize this is a marketing technique (each of the biographies happen to be published by Thomas Nelson Publishing, the very same publishing house that published Ten Christians. Convenient, huh?), I appreciated having that knowledge available. It’s kind of tough to find some quality biographies about people like Jane Austen or Johann Sebastian Bach, and I will be searching out some of these biographies because some of the brief biographies I read in this book made me want to know more about the people.
It is no secret that I’m a big fan of St. Patrick. Not St. Patrick the legend, but the St. Patrick – the one who was kidnapped and enslaved. The St. Patrick who escaped his captors and then went back to share Jesus with them. The more I read about him, the more I want to know about him.
I also really appreciated the chapter about George Washington Carver. The only thing I’ve ever really known about him was that he was the token African American scientist you talked about in school during Black History Month because he came up with so many different uses for peanut butter. As I read Ten Christians, I realized that his story is much more than being the Peanut Guy. Personally, his story probably stands out the most for me. It is inspiring. It is challenging. It is also infuriating because of the way he was treated during segregation. I must admit there was one time where I came very close to throwing the book across the room because I was so angry at what I had read about the way some people had treated him. In my opinion, his story alone would make Ten Christians worth the read.
The full title of this book is Ten Christians Everyone Should Know: Lives of the Faithful And What They Mean To You (emphasis mine). I don’t think every biography in this book really touches on the “what they mean to you” part. If told well, the stories of Christians like Bach, Galileo, Jane Austen, Sergeant York, and others, should be inspiring and challenging to the reader. They should force us to look at our own lives and see if we’re using our talents and opportunities to God’s glory. Some of these biographies do a fabulous job of doing just that. Others, unfortunately, fell flat for me. At times that left me disappointed with the book. But that was just a few times. And that was probably because I expected too much from such a relatively short book. With that being said, however, Ten Christians is definitely worth picking up. I’m pretty sure you’ll discover something you never knew before about someone who was influential in his or her world.
Disclaimer: I am a participant in the BookSneeze program. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
After my last book review for Waterbrook, I decided I needed to choose something a little bit less…heavy. I mean, after all, I’d spent nearly three months reading about the topic of pain, suffering, and why evil exists. It was time for a break.
Enter Phil Callaway and his book, To be Perfectly Honest. The comedian-author took a vow of honesty for a year. For 365 days, he did his best to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – and chronicled his thoughts and struggles, his victories and failures in this book.
The author is refreshingly authentic in this book. In a book about honesty, one would expect such things, I guess. He openly discusses his struggles with money, lust, sharing his faith, and how to wrap his mental arms around the fact that some of his friends are struggling through some very painful situations. As one would expect, his daily entries about his year of living honestly are laced with humor. I think this is my favorite entry that highlights his struggle:
”I’ve been lying awake thinking of a friend who dumped me, who disappeared completely off my radar. He has spread false rumors and damaged my reputation. My wife says I should pray for him, but all that comes out is, ‘Lord, may the front wheels fall off his shopping cart. May a watermelon fall out and land on his toe.’ Does this count as prayer?” – page 38
Callaway’s truth-vow does present some sticky situations that I didn’t expect. If you’re trying to live honestly, can you laugh at someone’s joke even though you don’t think it’s very funny? What if someone seeks your forgiveness for something they didn’t do to you (but think they did)? Is there a statute of limitations, or do you have to go back and make things right – even if it means giving back the five dollars you happened to steal when you were a little kid? Living honestly also forces us to get real with ourselves. When we do that, we realize we’re just as messed up as everyone else we look down our noses towards.
While it won’t make my list of top ten books I’ve read this year, I did find myself encouraged to live my life a little bit more honestly and openly as a result of reading it. That was, after all, the point of the book. It’s a funny and touching reflection on how our lives intersect with one another, how there really is something amazing about this thing we call grace, and how we really aren’t going to be all God has intended for us to be until we choose to do what Phil did and decide to get real with God, ourselves, and other people.
Christy and I have been big fans of Andrew Peterson’s ever since we were invited to one of his concerts back in 1998. We have loved his music ever since. So when we realized that Aiden was old enough to really enjoy the Wingfeather Saga, I was excited because it gave me a good excuse to read the book myself after he had finished reading it. So we gave him Book One: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness for Christmas this past year. He says it was the longest book he’d read at that point. And he completed it in about a month’s time, which was a pretty good pace, considering schoolwork started getting in the way.
If I was the kind of guy who thinks ahead with such things, I would have read the book before he did; not because I am concerned about any content, but because the boy can’t keep quiet about what happens in the story! If I could go back and do it over again, I would have read Book One before he did, then take him out to breakfast once or twice to talk about the story while he’s reading it. It would’ve been a good father-son bonding moment. Maybe we’ll do that with the third book. But first, I have to finish Book Two (North! Or be Eaten) because he’s chomping at the bit to talk about it. We’ve managed to sneak in a few conversations about it, talking in code and in hushed tones because Momma hasn’t read it yet.
“I can’t believe that…”
“I know! I thought ….”
“Yeah, that surprised me too. I thought….was going to happen!”
We did manage share an inside joke at the Nature Center during our vacation when I pointed at a bas relief carving of a cow and said, “Look, Aiden! They have toothy cows here!” His eyes grew wide and he shot me a grin of approval. Success!
So here’s my conundrum: I’d like for Aiden to be able to start reading the third book before going back to school. I’ve just begun reading North! Or be Eaten. That means I’ll have to create an accelerated reading program in order to make this happen. I’ll probably just have to bite the bullet and go ahead and give him Book Three. There’s always the fourth installment to carry out my grand plan that I would have thought of if I was the kind of guy who thinks ahead with such things.
I loved David Platt’s book, Radical: Taking back your faith from the American Dream. Platt is hard-hitting, honest, and quite refreshing as he discusses how we have allowed the “American dream” to usurp Christ’s position in the American church. When I was in Ethiopia, I saw Christians take their faith very, very seriously. Many were walking a minimum of five miles just to get to a Sunday worship service. As I drove by them, it made me wonder how seriously we really take our faith in America. After all, we tend to complain if we have to search for a parking spot for more than five minutes. What if American Christians had to walk more than five miles to worship with other people of faith? Do we really take our faith that seriously? David Platt seems to have been challenged by the same questions as he has come into contact with other believers around the world.
Which leads me to why I hate this book. OK – “hate” is a little strong. It certainly made me uncomfortable. It forces me to take Jesus’ words at face value and put my faith into practice. Do I really believe Jesus meant all the words told us? Or am I more willing to engage in the hermeneutic gymnastics in order to make the radical Christian life subservient to the much more comfortable Americanized, convenient version of Christianity we tend to preach from our pulpits? Radical takes the words of Jesus and holds them up to the reader as a mirror, asking who we see in the reflection: Jesus, or a watered-down version of Him that is much more convenient and comfortable?