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!"

Ashes, birthdays, and legacies

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

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

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

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

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

Are you tired of just

Leadership Quotes

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“Getting by”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that political season is in full swing as we are hurtling towards November’s General Election at breakneck speed. The two parties’ national conventions are behind us and I although I only listened to a few speeches during those two weeks, the fear-mongering was in full display. And now we’re about to be bombarded with even more negative ads after negative ads, accusing politician’s opponents of doing everything from willfully watching corporations send good-paying jobs overseas to secretly kicking puppies and taking candy from sweet, innocent children.

I fully expect a whole lot of arguments about why I should vote against candidates and not very many arguments about why I should vote for their opponents. Such is the nature of contemporary politics, unfortunately. But, hey, it works. Or so they say, anyway. I disagree. Shouting down your opponent isn’t winning. It’s bullying. Turning your opponent into a straw man caricature you can easily convince 51% of the people to vote against doesn’t give you a mandate. It’s just getting by.

Just “getting by” is not acceptable. It isn’t acceptable for my kids when they do their homework. It’s not acceptable at most jobs, either. So why is just “getting by” acceptable when it comes to our elected leaders?

Servanthood and leadership

As I was contemplating making a run at the governorship, I thought a lot about leadership and what I believe a public leader should be like. I thought back to one of my favorite classes from my seminary days. It gave me a lot of leadership concept to chew on. That was ten years ago. I’m still chewing on them.

I even went back to my notes from Dr. Wasem’s class. As I perused those notes, it strengthened my belief that true leadership isn’t displayed by those who shout the loudest or generate the most fear. Leadership is about servanthood. That’s the heartbeat of a leader. With that in mind, I wonder what our local, state and Federal governments would look like if leaders truly approached their positions as service opportunities – chances to get their hands dirty – instead of stepping stools and ways to grab more power. That’s what Hans Finzel says in
The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make
:

A servant leader must be willing to get ‘down and dirty’ with his [or her] troops in the implementation of his [or her] objectives.

Don’t get me wrong. I know some people who approach their leadership positions with true servants’ hearts. They are heroes. I wish politicians would emulate them more.

I also found a few quotes about leadership while I was reading. I think they’re worth sharing here:

Changes

Change is inevitable; not to change is a sure sign of imminent extinction. Hans Finzel

This is true in almost every area of life. Look at a teenager. Holy cow, things are changing every single day, and sometimes multiple times a day. There’s also regular change in Church life, family life, society in general, world affairs, government, politics…you get the point?

Things change. It happens. So we look to leaders – servants who have gotten their hands dirty with us, who lead from the trenches – to help us navigate change. That’s how we move beyond merely surviving to thriving. And that’s what I want to do.

Change is inevitable. So why not make the most of it? Why not use it to expect our leaders to stop shooting for “just getting by” into the realm of dynamic, challenging, and inspirational leadership. That’s what our country needs.

Changing laws and changing hearts

And then there’s this quote. I like it. A lot. I’ve tried saying something similar. I even did it in one of the first posts I ever wrote. Mr. Greenleaf was just more succinct and eloquent.

we in the United States are more naive than most about what can be done with law, especially with the labyrinth of laws with which business is surrounded. It comes out better if one persuades rather than compels. Robert K. Greenleaf

I could easily write several posts that disagree with this quote. I could also write just as many posts supporting it. With that being said, I’d like for this quote to remind us that we cannot put all of our eggs in one basket if we want real, lasting change. And since change is going to happen anyway (see above), let’s pursue lasting change that makes a difference.

A change in leadership

Meaningful change can happen, folks. It can even happen in the midst of our national parties doing nothing but puffing themselves up while tearing their opponents down. We need real leadership. Servant leadership. And I imagine this happens from the ground up. It doesn’t require a top-level position. It does require dirty hands. And a servant’s heart.

I’m tired of putting people into power who are simply aiming to “get by,” aiming for the common denominator that gets them just enough votes to slip them into power. Aren’t you? Let’s do something about it.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a towel. Let’s get started. Let’s navigate change together and make the world a better place. Together. If we do that, maybe our politicians will follow our lead. If not, maybe we need some new leadership.

Who’s with me?

This is dedicated to all the teachers in my life

Dear Teachers

This post is for all the teachers in my life, past and present.

Teachers like the late Mrs. Wood, Mrs. Stewart, Mr. Cates, the late Mrs. Brown, Mr. Eiffler, Frau French, Mrs. Kuhn, Mr. Briel, Mrs. Goebel, Mrs. Mautz, Mr. Hughes, Frau Blice, and

Professors like Dr. Montgomery, Terry Mattingly, Dr. Higgins, Mr. Helsabeck, Dr. Roberts, Dr. Wasem, Dr. Rollston, Dr. Ramsaran, Dr. Shields, and Dr. Blowers…

Friends like Leigh, Amanda, Alicia, Scott, Jennifer, Christy, Mark, Heather, Heather, Valicia, and Matt…

Family members like Liz, Aunt LeeAnn, and Kara…

and, of course, Christy, who is my favorite teacher ever…

Thank you for making my world awesome!

Go with the Flow

Every morning, without fail, the kids ask me if we can walk to school.  The problem has been that they ask at 7:55 a.m.  School starts at 8:05 a.m. and is between a third and a half mile away from our house. With all of that considered, I would regularly say “Not today.  If you can get ready by 7:30, then we’ll try to walk to school.”

At 7:30 this morning, they asked if we could walk to school.  They were pretty close to ready, so I reluctantly agreed.  I was planning on going to a lecture at Anderson University this morning that started at 9.  My original plan was to drive them to school and then head on to AU, since it’s about a half an hour drive to the school.  I’ve been determined to become better at  “Leading with a ‘Yes'” both in leading our church and in raising our kids.  I’d rather say ‘Yes’ much more than ‘No.’ I think my reflex is more ‘No’ than ‘Yes.’  So, trying to say yes more than I say no to our kids – which means I told them we’d walk to school today.

We didn’t get out of the house until 7:45, which is usually pretty good. Cutting it close when you’re walking to school, though. Long story short, we got to school on time.  It was around 8:00.  This delayed my departure for AU by about 15-20 minutes.  Long story short, I didn’t get to AU until 9:00. Couldn’t find a parking place right away.  I finally arrived at the chapel about 10 minutes late.

Now, the chapel at Emmanuel is pretty good sized.  I figured AU’s School of Theology would have a similar sized chapel and I could sneek in the back and find a place without causing much disruption. 

I was wrong.

The chapel was approximately 1/4 the size of ESR’s.  And it was packed!  So much for not causing a disruption. I quickly decided to abandon my plans to attend the lectures today.  Although I like the topics, I wasn’t planning on attending tomorrow’s sessions.  Maybe I’l go anyway.

But that’s OK, though.  I happened to bring our new laptop with me (did I mention we bought a new laptop? It’s sleek, lightweight, and it was cheap – the most important quality in a laptop right now), so I walked over to the Library and decided to do some research for the new sermon series I’m starting this week.  I’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit this morning.  I’ve signed up for lending privileges at AU’s Library, downloaded several sermons dealing with the topic we’ll be discussing the next 6 weeks or so, and found some more resources online.  It’s such a busy week for me this week that this will probably turn out to be a very good thing.  It’s funny how plans can change at a moment’s notice.  Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

And this morning keeps getting better.  In a few minutes, I get to go to Ci Ci’s and have lunch with my lovely Bride!  Man, I’m so lucky!

What if I can’t read the Neon Sign? I think it’s in Hebrew

Earlier this week, I got a message from a pastor at a local church we’ve been attending off and on.  He sent the message to his entire congregation telling us that he had received a ‘Word from the Lord,’ and that we didn’t want to miss this Sunday.  I really didn’t want to go.  In fact, I wasn’t planning on going.  Christy and the kids were going to a festival in Greenville with her mom.  I was planning on helping out with the breakfast that Emmanuel was having for graduates and their families.  Turned out I wasn’t needed.

So, I decided to go to said church at the last minute.  I was actually five minutes late and they had already sung one song.  After just a couple of songs, it was time for the revelation of the special Word from God.  Why this was different than any other Sunday is still a mystery to me.  Shouldn’t every message you have be a ‘Word from the Lord?’  If not, then what’s the point of preaching, really?   Anyway, that’s a different issue for different post. 

Usually, when someone announces to a congregation that they have received a special revelation from God, you expect some big new vision to be revealed (like when Gary Lamb recently announced their church was going multi-site), or some major shakeup is going to happen (many people had initially thought the pastor was going to announce his resignation…he didn’t).  Christy was secretly hoping he was going to challenge everyone associated with the congregation to adopt a child, and they were going to do everything possible to help families do that (adoption is yet another post for another time. I’m sure it’s in our future at some point…).  None of these ideas are even close to what he had to say…

“Don’t give up.  Persevere.”

That’s the basic thrust of his message.  It was, honestly, one of the better sermons I have heard from the guy.  He was passionate and had obviously put a lot of time, thought, and prayer into the sermon.  Even the songs we sang tied into the message, which I always appreciate.  Although this ‘Word from God’ seemed a little anticlimactic because it wasn’t anything earth-shattering or paradigm-shifting, it was still a message that definitely needed to be spoken.  It’s one that needed to be heard.

So, a few hours later I’m at Emmanuel’s graduation.  The man delivering the commencement address had one basic point that he expounded upon for about a half an hour.

“Don’t give up.  Persevere.”

Now, these two events have absolutely nothing to do with each other except for the fact that 1) They seek to honor the same risen Lord, and 2) I was the only one to have been at both places.  When messages/events converge that have nothing to do with each other at face value, but tell me the exact same thing, I’m usually one to sit up and take notice.

In my Elijah sermon, I spoke about waiting for a neon sign from God and how that doesn’t normally happen to people.  In many ways, I’m wondering if this was my neon sign.  I get the message – “Don’t give up.”  But here’s where I’m confused – Don’t give up what?

For the last few weeks, I’ve been wondering if I should give up on the ministry search for right now.  It appears that whirlwind tour will end up fruitess.  Some more churches have expressed interest and I’ve still been sending out resumes.  But we’re almost to the ‘point of no return.’  Once the kids start school again in July, we really don’t want to yank them out of school to move away.  That would be too hard on them.  So, I’ve considered putting the whole ministry search ‘on hold.’

In addition, this semester was rough for me.  I bit off more than I could chew in some ways.  On top of that, I had a general sense of apathy throughout most of the semester (as expressed several times in this journal).  I’ve considered giving up on seminary.  If I were to take a ministry position, I would probably have to give up on the degree anyway – at least for a while as I tried to get established in a church.

And then there’s thewhole idea of planting a church in Evansville.

So – I get the point that I’m not supposed to give up.  I see the neon sign flashing away.  I just don’t know what exactly I’m supposed to persevere at pursuing.

Maybe next time God will hit me on the head with a brick instead.  Or at least write the sign in English.  Or SpangDeutschLish, since I’m such a wonderful communicator in both Spanish and German.

I Had a Dream

So, a few weeks ago I had a dream that I received a letter from the Academic Dean. In it, he says that he’s on his knees begging me to prayerfully reconsider my decision to take Hebrew this Spring.

Although in real life I had already decided not to take Hebrew this Spring, this dream still haunted me for a few days. It was really eerie when I would pass him in the hallway.

I hate having dreams with people I know in them. It just freaks me out.

Ding! Ding! Round Three!

So much to say, so little time right now. I’ll post more later from Aiden’s birthday party and our trip to Carter Fold. Parents are on their way home after a fun visit with them. We grilled steaks yesterday. Well, Dad grilled and I watched the Master. I learned some new tips for grilling, though.

Here are some thoughts as this semester begins full force:

* Worship and Sacraments from a Historical Perspective is going to be interesting. There’s a ton of reading, as should be expected from a Blowers course. It’s from primary sources, though. I think that’s kinda cool. In fact, I’m at the library right now printing off the primary sources for next week’s class.

We’ll see how the class progresses. I’m surprised at how big the class is. I think it was pushing 40 people. Dr. Blowers said the last time he taught the class there were 12 students. 40 people doesn’t leave much room for discussion and interaction.

* Hebrew’s gonna kick my tail. Enough said.

* Doctrine of God is my first class with Dr. Elolia. There’s a lot of reading and writing involved, which might be good for me. There’s also a lot of debate in class, which I’m not too keen on. Discussion is good. Debate is bad. You’re not going to win me over to your perspective by brow-beating me with your mental gymnastics that you want to label as “logic.” I look forward to lively discussion, not so much to the debating side. That’s just the nature of a class like this, though. Especially when there’s only nine in the class. I think it’s the smallest class I’ve had yet. In all, it should be fun (and challenging).

I think I just jammed the printer. Stupid technology!

New Students

New student orientation was this week. Classes began today. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of the new students, since I’ve been running around the school building all week changing lights and helping with housekeeping and all the other odds and ends that come with working on the ESR maintenance crew the days before school starts.

As I have met the new students, I kept thinking their faces looked familiar. Every person looks like someone I’ve seen before. And when they introduce themselves, I think, I’ve heard that name before somewhere.

Then it hits me. I’m on the admissions committee. I’ve read all of their applications, including their biographies. I’ve seen all of their headshots. If I didn’t recognize them, there’d probably be something wrong with me.

And I walk away feeling rather scatter-brained.

Ouch!

You know, when I said I’d help some new students move into their new house, dropping their Nordic Track on my big toe is not exactly what I had in mind.

It happened yesterday. I thought I broke it. My toe was pretty ugly this morning. It’s made a remarkable recovery, though. I think I’m still going to lose the toenail, though.

I’d post pictures of it, but a.) my camera’s not working too well; b.) it was disgusting – trust me; c.) I forgot to take a picture and preserve it for posterity.

Lucky you.

Chernobyl

I vaguely remember hearing something about something happening in the Soviet Union (as it was called then) and I think it had to do with the Chernobyl disaster.

I had lunch with Misha and his wife (Olga? I think that’s her name. I’m going to use it as her name for the rest of the post unless I figure out it’s the wrong name) today after working at school (mowing the lawns is so much fun…or something like that). He reminded me that today is the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the meltdown.

Then Olga told me that she is from Chernobyl. She remembered they were outside for a parade. Then a cloud came and started dumping radioactive “rain” on the city. She said the trees lost all of their color. She remembered the troops arriving in protective gear, spraying down the streets with some type of protective chemical on the streets and buildings and such. The kids didn’t know any better (they hadn’t heard any news of an explosion or anything), so they hung around the soldiers in their funny suits and tried to play with them. It just blows my mind that the government went out of their way to keep the meltdown a secret from their own people. Misha lived somewhere else in Russia and he hadn’t heard about the event when it happened, either.

Most of the people from Olga’s generation now have some type of cancer. Genetic problems have been passed along to their kids, too.

I came in contact with history today. It made me both angry and sad to hear of what happened on that fateful day.