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!"

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.

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.  

Living life and arriving safely at death

*This post contains affiliate links. You can read more in my Disclosure Policy. Thank you for your ongoing support.*

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

 

Take The #40Pounds Challenge and change the world

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

back-to-school-and-changing-the-world-40pounds-ad

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

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

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

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

Well, not exactly.

I’m not going to lie. It’s still pretty stressful in the minutes leading up to the bus’s arrival. But there are still a few tricks we’ve learned along the way. I’m happy to share the wisdom we have gained over the last two months.  Continue reading Take The #40Pounds Challenge and change the world

Happy New Year! In September. Seriously.

Remember 9/11

September 11 is a strange day for our family. I have a friend whose son was born on September 11, 2001. They named him Isaac, which I think is the perfect name for a child born in the midst of a national event like that. I’d imagine they feel a certain amount of emotional conflict every day 9/11 comes around.

That’s how things roll in our house on 9/11. But it’s not because of a birthday. It’s because of something else.

“Never forget…”

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

And I haven’t.

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

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

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

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

Such is the roller coaster we call the human experience.

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

Happy Ethiopian New Year September 11
A banner that was hanging in the hotel when we visited Ethiopia in September, 2009. It says “Happy New Year,” in case you can’t read what it says.

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

Meklam Addis Amet, y’all!

From the bottom of my heart.

 

Nobody said it would be easy

"Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete" - Waite Phillips

Is there really anything else that needs to be said about this quote from Waite Phillips?

“Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete”

Waite Phillips should know. The oil tycoon turned philanthropist is the benefactor of Philmont Scout Ranch and his generosity has impacted millions of young men and women around the world. And I’m one of them. I learned a lot about life, leadership, and perseverance during my Philmont experiences. These lessons set a foundation for the rest of my life.

Thanks to the generosity of Waite Phillips, I have several dreams. And I’m not going to give up pursuing those dreams – even when it seems impossible. Because sometimes things are supposed to be hard. Life is hard. Obstacles can be difficult. That’s what makes them worth pursuing. And that’s what makes the achievement even more rewarding. Right?

I’ve got this. We’ve got this.

What are you dreaming about? Do you have any big, hairy, audacious goals?

Feel free to share your dreams and goals in the comments below. Let’sl work together to encourage, challenge, and support each other as we pursue our dreams. Because the dreams might be yours, and they might seem impossible, but you know what they say…

teamwork makes the dream work.

We’ve got this. No dream is too big. No dream is too silly, either. Let’s work together to accomplish our dreams. That’s how we’re going to make the world a better place. And it’s through this process that we discover what we were made to do, what we were made to be. And when we’ve discovered that, it’s when we truly start living.

So no more excuses. No more delay. It doesn’t matter how difficult things are. Let’s start working together to see our dreams become a reality.

It’s time to make Life in the Fishbowl great again!

Make Life in the Fishbowl Great Again

This might be ill-advised, but I have a confession to make. This wasn’t intentional. And I’m sure it’s a pretty common occurrence. But it’s still something I need to confess.

I lost my voice.

I’ve spent so much time worrying about how many facebook likes my page has, how many clicks an affiliate link received, and how many people sign up for my email newsletter that I had kind of lost sight of why I even write on here to begin with. Don’t get me wrong. All of those things are important. I’m still working on building a community through the facebook page (although facebook is making it even more difficult…again) . By the way, if you haven’t “liked” that page – what are you waiting for? Go ahead. Like it. I’ll wait until you’re done. I think working with brands is important. And I’d still really like it if you subscribed to my email list.

I still think the email list is important, especially since FaceGooglebookTwitterGram can change the rules at any moment (and they do). So…why not go ahead and sign up for that, too?



But in the midst of all of this peripheral stuff, I feel like I might have lost my way just a little bit. I lost my voice. But I think I’ve found it again. So I’ve decided that it’s time.

It’s time to keep the main thing the main thing. I’ve been a storyteller all of my life. And that’s what I’m going to keep doing here. I’m going to tell stories.

It’s time to return to sharing my heart and my passion. I want to do big things. I want you to do big things. Live life big. Because it behooves us to live, right? So if even a little tiny part of this space helps inspire you to make a difference in your own life, the lives of those closest to you, or the lives of others around the world (and making a few memories along the way), that’s a huge win in my book. And since it’s my site, we’re playing by my rules from my book.

Will I still be publishing sponsored posts? Absolutely. I love working with brands and I really enjoy participating in their campaigns. In fact, I have a sponsored post coming up in about two weeks that I think you’re going to love. It was a lot of fun to put together. Will I ever be able to make a living off of sponsored posts and other brand partnerships? Probably not. And I’m quite OK with that.

It’s time. Now is the time.

It’s time to throw off the chains of whatever was holding me back. It’s time to keep improving and making this site the best that it can be, pursuing excellence with renewed vigor. It’s time to write about what I love more than writing about what I think I should be writing about because everyone else is writing about it. It’s time to use my voice again. It’s time to stand out and do something different.

It’s time to make Life in the Fishbowl great again!

Maybe I should put that saying on some buttons and pass them out. I could include the hashtag #ImWithMattdantodd.

I think this is a change we can all believe in. Are you with me? Let’s do something great together!

 

Z is for Zare

Z is for Zare - today #AtoZChallengeZare is an Amharic word. It means “today.” As we come to the end of this year’s A to Z Challenge (more than a month late), I think it’s altogether fitting that we conclude this series with this word. Because this is the only day we can control. Yesterday is already passed. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Don’t get me wrong. We can learn from the past. We can remember the past. We can even celebrate the past. But we cannot live in the past.

The same is true about the future. We can look forward to things to come. We can dream. We can plan. We can chart out where we’d like to be in 5, 10, or 25 years. We can dream some more. And hope for a better future. But the only way we can change the future is by changing how we live right now. Today. Because that’s the only time we can change anything.

Yesterday is finished. We cannot carry around any grudges or hard feelings. They don’t do us any good. Believe me. I learned the hard way.

Tomorrow has its own set of troubles. We cannot accomplish anything by taking on tomorrow’s worries today. It just bogs us down and keeps us from making the most out of today. So let tomorrow take care of itself.

With a firm footing in the past and our eyes looking ahead to what could be, what should be, what will be…let’s make the most of every opportunity and seize the day.

That’s right. I went all Dead Poets Society on you.

“Carpe Diem,” y’all.

Grab today by the horns. Wrestle it to the ground. Suck the marrow out of life. Live deep. Love unconditionally. Forgive freely. If you’ve offended someone, make amends. Find the proverbial hatchet and bury it. Bury it so deep that it’ll never see the light of day again.

Laugh often. Say “I love you.” Walk by faith with reckless abandon. Give generously. Show compassion. People are messy. Embrace the mess. Admire the everyday beauty that’s around you. Celebrate even the tiniest of wins. Give hugs. Lots of hugs.

The first of many hugs to be had.

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

Go ahead and dream big dreams. Set audacious goals. And don’t let them go. Walt Disney has some good advice: “Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it’s done, and done right…All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Walt Disney quote about dreaming

Don’t put it off. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Don’t hesitate. We can’t wait around until the circumstances are absolutely perfect. Because they won’t be. And so you’ll just keep putting off to tomorrow what you could be…no, should be doing today. Stop waiting. Enter the race. Say what needs to be said. Write that book. Sing that song. Make that phone call. I don’t know what you’ve been putting off, but it’s time to get the show on the road.

Because here’s the deal: tomorrow never gets here. There is no tomorrow.

You know this. Once tomorrow gets here, it actually becomes “today.” I’m not saying this to create some existential crisis. It’s the truth. When you really look at it and all is said and done: All we have is today. So get started today. Yes, remember the past. Plan for tomorrow. Keep working for a better tomorrow. But live today. Because that’s what we have. Today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

It behooves us to live. It’s what we’re made to do. We can’t sit around and wait for life to come our way. Yes, there’s a time for reflection. Yes, there’s a time for planning. Yes, there’s a time to rest. Yes, there’s a time to wait. But even in the midst of that waiting? There are opportunities to live life to its fullest. In the midst of our planning, we cannot allow life to pass us by. That’s how we wind up with a life of regrets. I don’t know about you, but I want a life full of memories. I want to be able to look back and see how I helped change the world. I don’t want a life full of even the tiniest of regrets.

Is that what you want, too?

Then let’s get started. What are you waiting for? Start living.

Today. Zare.

W is for Water

Less than half of the population of Ethiopia has access to clean drinking water (source). This is not a good thing. We take water for granted here – even in our rural areas. Yes, there are some outliers, like the water crisis in Michigan. But very few people in the States worry that the water they’re drinking could actually kill them.

When  you throw in the fact that many more people in Ethiopia lack access to proper sanitation, I think you can see the potentially disastrous situation here.

There are many fine ministries and organizations that are working to help end this problem. I saw some of them with my own eyes. They’re making a difference. And if you join me in partnering with World Vision, we can help them change communities, too.

M is for Money

Birr is the Ethiopian unit of currency. When we were in Ethiopia in 2009, one US dollar was the equivalent of about 11 birr (I think). When we were there a few months ago, I was able to get approximately 22 birr per US dollar.

There was a little souk (store) right outside our guest house. They had all kinds of different goods available for purchase. I was happy to discover that they had my favorite soft drink – one that I’ve only been able to find in Ethiopia – for sale! And it only cost 17 birr for the equivalent of a 20 ounce bottle. You can’t beat prices like that. It’s pretty remarkable how much buying power the US dollar has in Ethiopia.

So imagine how much good could be done by partnering with World Vision and sponsoring a child. The results would be…I don’t know which word to pick….amazing? revolutionary? life-giving? world-changing?

I believe the answer is yes. All of the above.