Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Other Side of the Story

So the last couple of posts involved being thankful.

However, there is another side of the story. Honestly, right now is also a time of significant struggle - personal demons, cynicism, and frustration. It is a time of desert-wandering, of aridity, of thirst.

In the past couple of weeks, I have discovered that loyalties, alternate ideas, and apparent successes do not necessarily result in dividends. From a personal stand-point, my "old" defense mechanisms are coming back into play.

Why? I don't really know exactly.

Yesterday, though, I had the opportunity to hit the pavement for a farm run. The farm run is, well, a run to the farm - conveniently around lunch-time. So I run for 4.76 miles, eat some lunch, let lunch settle, and run back 4.76 miles to my house. Just a few blocks into the run, an acquaintance walked out into his yard. Suddenly, thoughts from summer biking and running started to come back. Thoughts of being closer to the surroundings, to being out in the world. So I shifted into reverse and stopped to talk for a few minutes... just the normal "how was your Thanksgiving?" Then all of the sudden I remembered a picture of the guy in the Bremen Enquirer and said congrats about that. It was pretty cool how the words just came out of no where. This happened at the grocery store on Friday afternoon, too. I was picking up items to make BIG sandwich and soup. I passed by a different acquaintance. About two months ago, I had been out on another long run and had seen this person taking senior pictures of her son out in the yard. So I had stopped at the time and talked with them for a few minutes. So on Friday, I turned around and asked about the pictures. They turned out great. The really interesting thing was that we passed again in the grocery store and she asked about swimming (because evidently she sees me running back and forth from school) so we talked again.

Well, I guess that in the midst of this desert-wandering, one possibility would be to withdraw, to retreat. However, the noted experiences are not-so-subtle reminders that the better alternative is to go out, to advance.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Good Times

Here are some pictures to accompany Trent's post. The evening included serious competition in indoor lawnsports. The last round became quite heated. The mountain dulcimer made an appearance and resulted in two concerts featuring Trent on the guitar, Ben on the dulcimer, and Todd (that's me) on the keyboard. It also included a rendition of Let It Be with four hands on the piano. However, as you can see below, there was also interest in the trumpet. That thing sure left a puddle when the spit valve opened up.

Chemistry in action. The evening included recitations from Corrosion and Corrosion Control. It also included a demonstration of Boyle's Law relating pressure and volume (as seen above).

Indoor cornhole

Indoor cornhole

Trumpeter 1

Trumpeter 2 with mute

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Moments

The holiday season started off with a bang last night in B-town.

Last night the Horizon band joined the high school band and Santa Claus at the town Christmas lighting. Down-town Bremen was packed with people of all ages just out having a good time. Some people may or not have even sported blinking red noses. Grandpa was really in the festive spirit and came up by the keyboard to sing a long.

After the lighting, my brother and I carpooled all of about 5 blocks to my aunt's house for some amazing soup. We welcomed our family from Wisconsin as they finally made it into town after some busy traveling conditions. We all made s'mores around the fireplace!

After setting up the chairs and tables with Jim for Horizon's dinner, I went out for a "turkey trot." Wow, it really couldn't have been more beautiful... the crisp air, the radiant sun, clear skies. Amazing.

All Mom's side of the family met in Winona Lake for lunch. This included two rousing games of Pictionary.

The evening featured the Huff gathering in Mishawaka and I think ten rounds of Catchphrase. I'm glad that my dad could be with all of his three sisters this Thanksgiving. That hasn't happened in a long time.

And now...


Monday, November 24, 2008

Simple Gifts

Lately, this idea of simple pleasures has been coming up in communication. I'm not really too keen on pleasures so I'm changing it to gifts.

So I am thankful for simple gifts...

Some of these gifts...

On Saturday, I drove out to the farm and Chad was cultivating the soil. (I'm sure he has a more appropriate term.) The smell of the newly turned soil permeated the Cavalier. The richness of the soil was overwhelming!

Tonight, I helped Clella move her furniture back. She is a special gal and I'm thankful for her pies, friendship bread, and hugs. (By the way, she is a great lifeguard!)

I am thankful for the opportunity to take the plunge in the mornings into the cool pool water. It sure is a great way to clean away the cobwebs. (The run across the field in a damp swimming suit is fun, too.)

When Troy was in high school, he used to stop by my house sometimes for lunch. Sometimes, our schedules would coincide and we both be at the house for a few minutes. Those were great moments. Now, he is away at college, but I still am thankful when he calls while at home to see if he can come into town and watch one of the games on cable (like he is tonight).

I'm thankful for the opportunity to play music with the band at church as we worship God. Sometimes it takes being away from practice a week to really realize what a wonderful group that we have.

Feel free to share the simple gifts for which you give thanks.


Sunday, November 23, 2008


Has anyone checked the calendar lately?

Well, just in case you haven't, please note that this Thursday is Thanksgiving.

Wow, can you believe it?

I can't. It is almost shocking how fast time has passed and seems to be passing.

This week, I hope to offer thanks on this blog.

I'm going to start with a letter from Mom that I received in 2001. The crazy thing is that, as you will see, it refers back to 1995 when I was a freshman in high school.

Dear Todd,

In November of 1995, you wrote a paper on thankfulness. You spoke about being thankful for life and making the most of the time that we have. You stated that each person should "participate in activities, assist others, set high standards, and get to know God. Do not dwell on the past, but plan for the future. All people should work to improve themselves and influence others positively."

I know that you have done all those things, plus much, much more. I am so proud of the fine young man that you have become. My prayers are always with you as you continue with life's challenges and adventures.

Love always,
So tonight I'm thankful for my family - Mom, Dad, Chad, and Troy. Today, we shared a meal together. It was amazing. We had a serious conversation about church, about our town, about life. Although we were unable to solve any of the world's problems, this was a great time of sharing that I'm not sure we have ever shared previously. Although "growing up" sometimes still seems very scary and uncertain, I was so reassured today because although we are no longer three boys running around the farm, we have changed and are changing, we have grown and are growing... and it is okay.
Tonight, I am also thankful for the past. Although I apparently wrote, "do not dwell on the past," I think it is okay to be thankful for the past. I'm thankful growing up on the farm... for building straw forts with Matt, for playing in the sandbox with Chad (the ants in his pants were particularly funny), for building furniture for the treehouse, for having been so fortunate to live right by Grandpa and Grandma, for the chance to work the soil, for riding with my dad on the combine, for campfires, for camp three stones, for playing trumpet out on the deck...
There is much more that I could write about, but I guess that I'm not embarrassed to say that the screen is a bit difficult to see through the tears...

Good night and God bless.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I left for another trip to Oswego on Tuesday. The trip out was uneventful and I made it into town in time to hit the health club in the basement of the hotel.

I focused much of the trip on the electroplaters. While studying the platers and contemplating improvement opportunities and strategies, it occurred to me that plating is how I entered into this business. It is kind of strange how some things seem to end up cycling back. Situations and context change but many of the underlying issues remain the same including containment of corrosive chemicals, identifying key parts and maintaining adequate inventory of these parts, and drag-out concerns.

I have enjoyed getting to know the people at the plant. It is interesting to hear their stories.

The trip back to the airport of Friday ended up being a bit challenging due to white-out conditions. The snow was really coming down! I couldn't see the road. However, it let up as I approached Syracuse and the flight ended up being delayed by just an hour.

Friday night, after flying into Chicago, I met a friend for dinner at Giordano's. Now that is some good pizza!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Trivia question...

Is this my office?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


While writing an email tonight, I had this realization of sorts. I have been working in the electroplating department. We are working on helping to keep some very old machines running - hopefully for years to come. We are also improving the appearance of the overall department. It dawned on me tonight that this is restoration work. Wow, all of the sudden this work has much more value - much more urgency. Actually, in thinking a little bit more about this, so much of what I do does have a deeper meaning. For example, most of the cost saving work that I do involves material optimization and conservation. This means that valuable resources are being used as optimally as possible - stewardship.

Pretty cool!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Desert

This evening, I had the opportunity to spend some time reading in Mark. I had the privilege to read a paper by my friend, Kevin, and this led me to Mark's Gospel. At St. Joseph's, I wrote a paper entitled, The Good News Came Out of the Desert, that was based on the Gospel accounts of Jesus in the desert. Consequently, I thought that I had read the first chapter of Mark multiple times. (Well, I have.) However, tonight, it was like a different story. Specifically, verse 12 seemed totally different.

"At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert,"

Somehow, the Spirit never stood out when reading this. My jaw dropped when I read this tonight. What in the world does this mean? The Spirit sent Jesus into the desert where he was tempted by Satan. What does this mean in our individual and collective journeys? It seems like a lot of Christianity wants to create this protective shield around us. I kind of get this impression from the current institution of higher education that I am attending. (By the way, I really like this school.) However, the entry is surrounded by this really large, beautiful fence. What is this structure fencing in or out? God doesn't seem to have put a fence around Jesus. The Spirit sent him into the desert.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Rational Faith?

I continue to read Pagan Christianity? This is a book that I read about 2/3 of the way through this summer and am now working through the last 1/3. Last night, I read about Christian education. This chapter addresses something that puzzles me about contemporary Christianity. The first sentence of the chapter:

"In the minds of most Christians, formal Christian education qualifies a person to do the Lord's work."

Although this is a pretty sweeping generalization, there is certainly a lot of truth in this statement. In my on journey, I tend to think that surely if I read another book or study some more things will make more sense. I also tend to feel pretty intimidated by those who have undergone formal Christian education. It seems like they must be Super-Christians or something.

However, another sentence stood out in the chapter:

"As products of the Reformation, we are taught to be rationalistic (and very theoretical) in our approach to the Christian faith."

I laughed when I read this statement.

I wonder how many people thought Jesus was a particularly rational guy.

How rational was it for fishermen to just drop what they were doing and follow some random guy just because he said, "Come, follow me."

The authors shared a quote from Blaise Pascal:

"It is the heart which perceived God, and not the reason."

The Heart!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

We Are Marshall

First, I just need to let Ben know that a select few have photographic evidence confirming one of his deepest questions. Someday, he, too, might enter into this inner circle.

This weekend involved a lot of action. However, I was able to try out some new things and learned quite a bit, too. Tonight, though, is not the time to share most of this. The house-cleaning, though, has made significant progress and even extended to the bag shed with the help of one of the high schoolers. It is such a relief to be getting drawers, closets, and, now, even the shed purged. We also raked the leaves!

So tonight, after running in a snow shower, I sat down to watch a movie. I rarely watch movies anymore so this was unusual and felt kind of weird. However, it was so worth it. I watched We Are Marshall for the second time. I could probably watch it several more times. It is the true story about rebuilding the Marshall football program after a plane crash wiped out the Thundering Herd. First, can you imagine what the people of that college community felt like - particularly the handful of people affiliated with the football program who were not on the trip with the team. We've all lost loved ones, but an entire plane filled with "family?" However, this crazy guy, Jack Lengyel took a job - the job of coaching the Marshall team only months after this tragedy beyond all tragedies. He became a restorer, a bringer of hope, and instiller of heart.

Some awesome parts of the movie...

Seeing the President of Marshall University standing outside the NCAA in Kansas City, drenched, pleading for an exemption to allow true freshmen on the team. He says, "We are hurting. We want to play football but we can't do it without your help."

Lengyel and his assistant at rival West Virginia watching tapes to learn about the veer. As two WVU players leave the film room, the coaches see a cross and MU on the back of the helmets.

Lengyel talking about winning... Winning is everything and nothing else matters. This is what he thought until coming to Marshall. It wasn't true at Marshall anymore. It was not about winning or losing, or even how they played the game. After experiencing tragedy, the only thing that mattered was that they

took the field.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Collision of Two Worlds

This past summer, I read most of the Chronicles of Narnia. What struck me is the idea of these two worlds that are so close together - just a wardrobe apart. The kids could walk through the wardrobe and be in Narnia. This left me wondering a lot about Heaven and Earth. I grew up praying the Lord's prayer every Sunday, but never really put a whole lot of thought into the prayer. Now, when I don't know what else to pray (which is pretty often), this is what I pray.

... thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. ...

This part of the prayer strikes me every time. What is it like in Heaven? Where is Heaven? Jim shared a lot about this tonight in the message. However, one verse struck me in particular...

Then I looked, and, oh!—a door open into Heaven. The trumpet-voice, the first voice in my vision, called out, "Ascend and enter. I'll show you what happens next."(Rev 4:1)

Can you imagine what John felt? It was a door to another world...


Maybe Heaven is not in some distant place beyond outer space. I know that is what I always sensed Heaven must be - some place, far, far, far away. What if Heaven is kind of like this parallel world? What if Heaven is behind the back panel of the closet? What if Heaven is right around us waiting to be recognized and realized?

Where are the doors??

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hair and Image Management



Well, as my coworkers duly noted today, I got a haircut. It was kind of funny really. I heard probably ten times, "Whoa, you a got a haircut." No way, is that what you call this? The haircut came about because of swimming - that is the only reason, just wanted to make that clear. As a novice to regularly swimming, I did not know that it was necessary to get a special shampoo because of the chlorine in the water. Consequently, my hair did some pretty crazy stuff. It got all tangled together and started to feel strange. Much to my chagrin, it had to go. Of course, it will grow back - at least for now (hopefully, for many, many years yet to come!).

However, I started to think about this in light of my previous post - specifically, the line about image management. So okay, I'm going to tell you that I felt kind of naked after getting a haircut. Why? Well, with the hair also went the "mad scientist" image. In fact, someone said today, "I like the mad scientist look better." I guess that kind of ties into the whole dressing up thing, though. It is kind of like Adam and Eve. They felt naked. They "dressed up." What would happen if we all were able to be ourselves before God - to not worry about how we look or about having a certain image?
I wrestle with this verse:
"In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you." (Mt. 5:48, MSG)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Letter to the Editor

Unfortunately, I tossed the paper before cutting out this letter to the editor. However, it has kind of been in the back of my mind since reading it. The author shared his utter disdain for the clothes that "young" people wear to church. He wrote that no one would wear the clothes that these people wear to wedding or funerals and that these clothes dishonor God.

The question I wanted to ask this author:

Would you prefer that these people don't go to church at all?

Honestly, I would be afraid to hear the answer.

I was also reminded of a chapter in Pagan Christianity? entitled, Sunday Morning Costumes: Covering up the Problem. In this chapter, Frank Viola and George Barna explore the roots of "dressing up for church."

Dressing up became increasingly popular with the invention of mass textile manufacturing. Why? Well, all of the sudden, the common people could afford the clothing of the aristocracy. By the 184os, fashion had developed into an important part of "honoring" God. However, the reality is that dressing up for church was nothing more than common folks attempting to show off their improved status by their clothing.

The authors go on to describe why the whole dressing up thing is a problem.

It is nothing more than image management.

From the book:

"Dressing up for church violates the reality that the church is made up of real people with messy problems - real people who may have gotten into a major-league bickering match with their spouses just before they drove into the parking lot and put on colossal smiles to cover it up!

Wearing our 'Sunday best' conceals a basic underlying problem. It fosters the illusion that we are somehow 'good' because we are dressing up for God. It is a study in pretense that is dehumanizing and constitutes a false witness to the world."

Wow, these guys really go at this issue. I can honestly say that this makes sense to me. I know from my own experiences that I act differently when I'm wearing a suit or even a tux - maybe a little less farting, for example. It is kind of like I insert legs into pants and arms into jacket and enter a different world. Honestly, when people dress up to go to the wedding are they really "honoring" the couple or are they concerned about their own image? Again, from personal experience, I would lean toward the latter. In regards to wearing clothes to "honor" the dead. Hey dude, guess what? The people are dead. I doubt that they give a darn about the clothes people are wearing.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8, NIV)

Monday, November 10, 2008

This Evening

I just had something strange happen. When I walked in the door, I locked at the clock.


9:01? I was so confused. I ran into the bedroom and checked the alarm clock.


What the heck?

Then, I it dawned on me.


I haven't changed the clock in my car and was driving back from Mishawaka thinking that it was already 10:00. (My guess is that the car clock won't be changed until a road-trip sometime next summer.)

It was a pretty amazing feeling, though, to realize that there was still an "extra" hour in the day.

So tonight we had our second accounting exam. It was actually pretty fun in a warped sense of fun. Before class, I was talking with the student behind me. We were just kind of chatting and then she asked if I had thought about tutoring in accounting. (Tutoring in accounting? Another, what the heck? for the night.) She told me that she knew I was doing good in the class - kind of weird what people know - and wondered if I had thought about tutoring. Flattered, I said that I only get to campus once a week so the timing wouldn't work out great. However, it was pretty cool to be asked. For a long time, I've been the "mad scientist guy" so it was neat for a few minutes to be the "accounting guy."

After class, I headed down to Kohl's for some gloves. I'm hoping to run in the AM and my old gloves failed to keep my fingers warm. (What are gloves for, anyway?) After finding gloves, I headed out of the parking lot and an amazing sign drew my attention:

Del Taco.

I had never been to Del Taco but succumbed to temptation and drove the Cav across the road into the parking lot of Del Taco. With great anticipation, I casually sauntered into the establishment and checked out the menu like I had been there a thousand times. I concealed my delight at seeing "Crispy Fish Taco $1.49" listed on the second menu panel from the left. What to get with the fish taco? I casually turned my head to read the rest of the menu and an sublime image drew my attention. The picture depicted a concave vessel nearly overflowing with a vast orange-hued web encompassing premium gems - cosmic legumes. Dazed, I whispered the remainder of my order and waited, gazing in awe at the picture, until the order came up.

Beans, so magical.

(Okay, so I only wasted 1/2 of my extra hour writing this. Night!)

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Last night was pretty awesome. For most of my life, I have gone to church expecting to get something in return - that somehow God would come send some special message during that single hour of this thing we call church. Last night, it was all about giving it all to God - worshipping. It was awesome. Strange things start to happen when you enter into church with this modified mindset. When I would go to church expecting to get something, sure sometimes there would be this tingling feeling, but many times I would walk away disappointed. However, giving it all to God creates a huge place for God to enter and it was awesome to leave re-energized. In fact, there was such a buzz after church, it was hard to leave.

Time to rake leaves!


Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Difficult Pill to Swallow

First, I need to correct a grievous error that Ben pointed out regarding the previous post. The two friends did not visit my office. Instead, they visited my workcenter. As some of you know, the office is where I go to read the Wire Journal International. I'm certainly sorry for any confusion or concern that this oversight created.

As written earlier, I rode bike with Trent last Sunday. However, it just didn't seem the same as rides earlier in the summer. The earlier rides seemed filled with anticipation and enthusiasm. The time spent riding seemed much more carefree and joy-filled. More recently, life seems much different. For example, I learned that working hard to save money for the company does not necessarily equate to saving jobs. This really crushed my spirit. Recently only one student showed up for student ministry. We learned that two of the students were at Taco Bell in South Bend. Again, at the time this seemed pretty disappointing.

However, a good friend shared something with me this week:

"I recall a particular Saturday when a one Todd Huff spoke of expectancy and anticipation while riding a bicycle through the church. Expectancy that God will show up. That the Spirit is going to work. "

Whoa, I was taken aback by this comment. In the past few weeks, this expectancy and anticipated has drastically dissipated. Today, though, I'm thankful. I'm thankful that we still are able to employ as many people as we are employing. I'm thankful for the time that the other leaders and I had to spend with the student who showed up - we played UNO and had a pretty serious conversation in the process. I'm thankful for a friend who offered a not-so-subtle reminder the Spirit is at work and is going to work.

God is present!

Off to band practice and to worship this God.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Friend

Two friends stopped by my office today. One recently experienced a lay-off and is not working right now. This friend really reminded me of how much I take for granted. I really admire her because of the genuine sense of enthusiasm and optimism that exudes from her - even during this challenging time. She explained that this is forcing her to trust God in a totally new way. She also shared that she is taking this time to head back to school. Wow, that is so bold and courageous!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Times They Are A-Changin'

This line from Bob Dylan's song with the same title has been going through my mind over and over again now for days. There is a lot of change going on right now. At work, we are experiencing change - reorganization and new challenges due to the weak economy. On the national scene, we elected a new president yesterday. The time changed over the weekend. The leaves have changed color. I have been thinking a lot about change - lamenting some changes and taking joy in others. Maybe it is just consequence of all the change that is happening right now, but I've been wondering about changes in my own life. Are there areas that need to change? Questions of purpose and identity have floated through my thoughts as of late. I read some letters tonight that I had kept from years past. They left me feeling challenged more than ever and with even more unanswered questions.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Well, tomorrow is the highly anticipated election day that has been in the news nonstop now for months. It is a historic election. We will either have our first black president or first female vice president. It is pretty amazing to live in a country that offers these possibilities.

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that I really hadn't finished a book in quite some time. So I returned to reading Shane Claiborne's, The Irresistible Revolution. In the chapter, Kingdom's Collide, he writes about the conflicting allegiances Christians face - allegiances to God and country. He shared an interesting statement about voting:

"After all, we vote every day by how we live, what we buy, and who we pledge allegiance to, so I just decided to write in my vote, as I did not find it on the national ballot."


Sunday, November 2, 2008


Wow, has anyone looked at the calendar? Today is November 2 and the temperature in Rensselaer peaked at 74 balmy degrees this afternoon.

However, this morning, in Bremen, the conditions were quite different. After a lengthy hiatus, Trent and I headed out for a bike ride this morning. (We missed Ben. We had a lot of great rides this summer! Last night, we were reminscing about the "lost" hay wagon.) The sharp winds warranted wearing gloves and a long sleeved shirt. As we started out, the wind seemed to create a pressure differential that made breathing seem like gasping. However, we persisted and eventually encountered the wonders of fall. The trees were ablaze with color. This year, the reds are especially vibrant. As we sat in the yard after finishing the ride, the sun gleamed just right on some trees to our right. The damp, golden leaves shimmered in the sun's rays.

On to Rensselaer...

After lunch with a friend, I headed to campus for the 50th Kairos closing Mass. Following Mass, I caught up with friends, Mo and Nick, at the reception. Later, I walked across campus and met Troy at Bennett. We enjoyed a pleasant stroll around the reflecting pond and through the grotto and then worked on his schedule for next semester.

Now, it is time to rest!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Blessing Machine

I sat down to start typing a few thoughts and this peculiar odor wafted into my nostrils. It is this kind of sour odor. It took me awhile to figure out and then I noticed the half gallon milk jug that I finished last night. Yes, it is on the floor by the sofa without the lid. I guess that there is still a lot of working to go in developing cleaning habits.

This evening at church, Jim made a comment that forced me to think about this morning.

His comment was something like, "God has blessed us every single morning before we even get up." This might be paraphrased a bit, but I think it captures what he was trying to say. I thought back to this morning. I woke up and really didn't want to get out of bed. I hadn't slept great and just felt pretty much exhausted - physically and mentally. However, Justin had left a reminder on the blog about the Run Baby, Baby Run 10K in Plymouth. So a bit grouchy, I stepped out into the cold morning and just thought, what the heck am I doing? At the race, I saw Pete, and he said, "Oh, I didn't know you were going to be here." Unfortunately, I'm a bit embarrassed by my response because it was something to the effect that it was hard getting out of bed and it was cold. What kind of response is that? It is pretty warped. I wasted the first few hours of the morning moaning and groaning rather than recognizing that God is the Blessing Machine. What blessings did I overlook? Well, let's see. Friends. Beautiful fall colors. Crisp, fresh air. The opportunity to run. The list goes on and on. Yet, it is so easy to get this all mixed up. This morning, I missed the mark entirely - putting my focus in all the wrong places. However, by the end of the race, the situation had been rectified and the day seemed to start over again in a new and awesome way - culminating in an amazing worship experience at church tonight.

Tomorrow is a new day! A day to wake up, mindful of God's blessings from the very beginning!