I Gotta Give Thanks

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I had to go to the MVA yesterday. Yes, the dreaded Motor Vehicle Administration of Maryland. It might be the DMV where you live or some other innocuous sounding jumble of letters, but it means the same thing: a little death. My vehicle registration had expired on June 1, and yesterday was June 13, but it had taken me that long to track down all the flags and little things to tidy up before I could renew, to the tune of several hundred dollars. I thought it was all done, and I thought I’d be in and out of there.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 5.42.04 PMI arrived to find that EZPass, the nefarious organization which runs a local crime syndicate called “Tollway” had more outstanding fines for me to pay than their enforcer had told me on the phone last week. I had been told that the $50 I paid last week would get me in the clear, but their mob muscle at the MVA detailed another $650 or so I’d have to pay before I could ever drive legally again on Maryland turf. I posted the Gif here of a collapsing baby on Facebook from a place of inner pain and hopeless I thought could only be visualized by the falling innocence and dejection of an infant who would surely also flop right off the couch and land on their face. #carpetburn Really, this was all too much to take in… so much worse than their only having Diet Pepsi available as the low calorie soda option in the vending machine.

I was upset. I was stunned. I did not have $650 to clear my good name and my Nissan’s registration. Of course, I could have yelled and stamped my feet. I really, really, really wanted to yell and stamp my feet and basically wig the fruit right out of my grits and bacon. But let’s be real for a minute… everything and I mean everything my faith is supposed to be about is about not doing that kind of thing. I am supposed to be forgiving, patient, kind, joyful in distress and expectant of good things, among other things, all of which sound great in sermons and hymns and are really difficult at the MVA. I don’t know what exactly the woman with EZPAss saw in my face, the hopelessness, the patience, or just a face not screaming obscenities at her from a mess of my own making, but she next says these amazing and unexpected words: Have you ever had a one-time waiver? 

there-can-be-only-one-quote-2A one-time waiver? I’ve suddenly got that feeling like Katniss when the salve dropped in on a chiming parachute to heal Pita: hope.

I have not had this thing, tell me more. She goes on to detail that she has the power to give me this waiver and bids me wait a moment while she checks and receives instructions from a small robot overlord on her desk she reverently called “My System.” She smiles and explains that all my many $50+ fines adding up to almost $650 can all be magically changed to $3 fines, but only once in my life. There can be only one. I had not had this done for me ever, so she could do it now, and all my fines and fees and great debt were shrunk to a total of $70.

I like to rant about the MVA. It’s fun to rant on the MVA. But once I cleared things with EZPass, I was out of there in barely more than thirty minutes updating the address on my license and renewing my registration. So as much as ranting might be fun and even funny, I have to be grateful. I have to be thankful. I’m so thankful that EZPass is housed at the MVA and I didn’t have to travel across the state to find them. And I’m glad I didn’t go nuts, because I’m supposed to be nice. I’m grateful for the ease with which things were settled, and for keeping my fruit together. Amen.

AMDG, Todd


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curb your angerIt’s time for followers of Christ around the world to stand up and courageously declare that we aren’t angry and aren’t all dopey rubes who believe the internet memes and alarmist headlines that try to turn us against our neighbors! It’s time we said, “NO!” to more silly calls for boycotting companies that support the dignity and civil rights which we and our diverse neighbors all cherish! It’s time to be heard! It’s time we took a stand for the things in our personal lives and choices that matter before we lose them: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. And what about civility and honesty? We’ve been taught to be kind and to use our words to build others up! It’s time we got serious!

equals human first runI’m not only not angry, I’m really quite happy. I enjoy my faith and my faith community. I enjoy exercising my right to choose a faith and pursue it, or not. And I’m happy that others have the same right. I’ve searched my scripture for a lot of years and just can’t find that elusive reference to the United States, or any Christian nation for that matter, but I keep stumbling across lots of things on my own life and choices and my responsibility to serve other people with sincere love and gentleness. It seems like there was a verse at one time telling me which political party I had to belong to in order to remain a Christian, but I can’t find it anymore. So, I’m just gonna be happy and let everyone know it! Hey people, love you!

love everyoneAnd I’ll tell you something else while we’re at it… I love my neighbors! I love my Christian neighbors! I love my Muslim neighbors! I love my Jewish neighbors and all the other religious neighbors I have whether they are Sikh, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu or Wiccan, or two or those, or one I forgot to mention! I love my atheist neighbors, too! I love my gay neighbors and I love my straight neighbors! I love my old neighbors and the young ones! I love my male neighbors and female neighbors and trans neighbors. OMG, I love them all and I’m not going to let anyone try to represent me and say I don’t. I love them because they are amazing people, and I love them because my faith tells me to love them. I’m stuck with love! I may feel like loving less some days or caring less, but I’m screwed if I want to be hateful. Welcome to Christianity as Jesus taught it, huh? Judgement is out the door, meanness and carelessness are gone, and my right to get angry and tell someone off is finished. Distilling all the negativity and hurt down to love is rough stuff, but it’s the commitment I made at baptism.

religion jesus taughtAnd you know what else? I cannot believe that anyone is dumb enough to threaten their neighbors just because they believe differently from them! This is AMERICA! In America we are guaranteed the right to be Christian the religious persuasion of our choice. If you’re silly enough to threaten and deny your neighbor their right to free choice, free thought and free speech, then please don’t be surprised when someone tries to take the same from you. And for goodness sakes, don’t use my religion to justify your ridiculous actions and words!

If you see or hear someone doing something incredibly stupid, mean, threatening or uncivil in the name of Christianity, please don’t think of me. And don’t think of Christ, either. For anyone interested in it, I made a cheat sheet on what Jesus taught about religion. If we are getting this simple set of ideas right, then we wouldn’t have all the arguments, boycotts and fights going on with our neighbors.

This is my response and repudiation of religious intolerance and meanness. This is my declaration of confusion at people using Christ to dominate, hate or condemn others. This is my way of trying to use a little light-heartedness and honesty to sincerely stake a claim on the love that Jesus taught and instituted with his life, ministry, death and resurrection.

Because of my faith: 1) I do not need to judge my neighbor, 2) I must craft my words to support and serve, 3) I am not interested in dominating (so if there really is a culture war then I’m screwed),  4) I love people because God loves people, 5) I love people because God made them to be amazing and lovable, 6) you and I are not stuck in a transactional relationship like people play at in our society, seeking personal gain… I simply owe you love and will try to pay off that debt, 7) this is how I will try to live as a pastor, a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a cousin, an uncle, a neighbor, a friend and a human being, and 8) I recognize that I’ll surely need some grace when I fail to live up to the standards my Christ taught and modeled.

Now, enough with the declarations. It’s bedtime. Thursday is done. Peace out.

AMDG, Todd

Forget the Resting Happy Face, OK

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Resting Face CollageIt’s time to forget the resting happy face, and the resting unhappy face, too. I see it floating around the internet at times, some funny or serious exposition on the state of a person’s natural “resting face.” I’m the most guilty of this, in fact. Living in Bethesda I’ve mentioned more than once that I was a bit perplexed by the “Bethesda Scowl.” How could so many people walk around looking so  unhappy in such a great place to live?

It’s time to stop worrying about our resting faces and start refining our working faces, our playing faces, our gifting faces. Sometimes when I’m on the Metro, where you aren’t supposed to make eye contact with others, I look people right in the eye… and smile! It’s always fun to see the reaction. A few will smile back, most hastily look away, and if they happen to be tourists they actually strike up a conversation. Who made the rules to say that we shouldn’t be engaging one another on the Metro to increase the globe’s smile content? It often seems that the same rule applies to walking around Bethesda or downtown DC.

About five years ago when our family had just lived in Bethesda for a couple of years, we realized we hadn’t been to a Walmart since our move here from Texas. I know that many of you hate the very existence of Walmart, but until you’ve lived in Texas and had three Super Walmart stores within a mile of your house you can’t know how integral they become to your life. Anyway, we set out to find a Walmart. To be completely honest, I had found a pair of reading glasses online I wanted and Walmart was the only store where I could find them in stock. We set out to go explore Howard County and find their Walmart. It was a long drive into Maryland and away from the comfortable confines of the Beltway to which we had become so accustomed. As we walked across the parking lot I grew more and more self conscious about peoples’ stares. Teresa felt it too and we are asking each other, “Do I have a booger or something?” During our mutual inspection she realized what was wrong: people were making eye contact with us. Very NOT Metro DC of them.

Let’s make a gifting face for our neighbors to enjoy. Do we have the energy, the strength, the quiet faith in one another to manage a little smile, and hold it? I’ll admit, it’s hard for me to think of my face as a gift to anyone. I’m a little too Orc’ish to be very thrilling for the masses. Still, I share a bit of the global responsibility to make the energy and legacy of this day with my neighbors.What’s my contribution going to be? Can I add a bit of positivity, some lift, a touch of happy or a slice of grin? I can. I should. The gifting face is what we mean to share. The gifting face is what we hope to leave in our wake as we pass through the lives around us.

Madball CollageEven a half-Orc Madball® like me looks better in a grin. Don’t I look like I’m having some secret fun? One glance and you know I stole your cookies. I look like I’m hiding some cool super powers! What is it, do ya think? Do I have ex-ray vision and can see your mis-matched socks? Maybe I’m enjoying some snarky internet meme about b***chy resting faces! Who knows, but you wanna ask now, don’t ya?!

Let’s be real for a moment… I don’t think there’s anything restful about unhappy resting faces. I think we use those faces to shut people out, to insulate ourselves and to hold onto some illusory power: “If I’m going to be unhappy, it’s my decision!” A gifting face opens the wearer up to the people in their lives. It asks for interaction. It affirms. It hopes.

Give it try. Let’s have a smiling contest. Do it until your cheeks hurt! If anyone actually makes eye contact with your gifting face, give them a big double-fisted thumbs up and a “Yeah, baby!” Most of all, have some fun! I dare you. The one thing I know for sure is that someone needs your gifting face, today. Release that gift, let that energy go. Make the world a smile’y’er place! Make them all wonder.

AMDG, Todd “The Round’est Ever Madball®” Thomas

Rolling Mercy

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mercyI haven’t shared any pics or written about Mercy (my crazy old bike) in a while, so this is my make-up work. If you were wondering, she is still rolling and having fun. I took her to WSC this morning to work out, which is a automatic doubling of any and all calories burned. I was thinking about her wondrous attributes all the way home…

  • Her single gear says, “Incline or decline, toughen up and breathe deep, baby.”
  • Her crazy heavy frame weight (I think it’s iron) says, “Nimble-shmimble… better plan ahead for that turn!”
  • Her ever-empty basket says, “I would so totally carry your sweet buns.” (I’m still trying to get Teresa to ride in it.)
  • Her giant-sized seat says, “No matter how often you do or don’t work out, I’ll always make your butt look smaller!”
  • Her awesomely rusty parts say, “Go ahead and wreck. I’ll give you such an infection.” (One day I’ll ride her all the way to Indiana for the Ragers to powder coat her!)
  • Her mis-matched wheels say, “Anyone can ride a nice bike.”

She defies the idea of having much less using a bike lock, and she draws the curious and envious stares of strangers. There’s nothing like pedaling to her squeaks and pops. Hope your day’s as fun!

AMDG, Todd

election day limerick (nov. 6 2012… tongue in cheek)

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My little election day limerick…

“election day is finally here
time for you to vote!
your side will surely win it all
or at least you hope

but either way you did your part
you braved the crowds, you stood in line
to guarantee for four more years
your right to cheer or right to whine

by midnight you’ll be a dancing fool
or letting loose that thousandth tear
so just be safe, and pack a bag
I hear Canada’s nice this time of year”

King of the Hill- Church!

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I was pointed to this video a while back by another blog and have been meaning to post it ever since… it’s pretty fun when we get nailed, huh?