Meskel Match

MeskelToday is Meskel. What’s Meskel? It’s an Ethiopian religious festival celebrating the discovery of the “true cross” in the fourth century. They celebrate by dancing, feasting and lighting huge bonfires.

The legends associated with the true cross are kind of bizarre, but this is my favorite snippet:

According to the Ethiopian legend, when people get close to the piece of the True Cross it made them naked by its powerful light. Because of this, a decision was made to bury it at the mountain of Gishen Mariam monastery in Wollo region.

It’s a big event in Ethiopia and if you search Twitter for “Meskel” you’ll get a taste for how people celebrate. There are indeed massive bonfires, good food and not all the celebrations are in Ethiopia.

The Match
We’re celebrating with the Mudula Mamas—three moms of children born in Mudula, Ethiopia, who are running a triathlon this weekend—by raising money for clean water through Mudula Water. Today we’re doing a Meskel Match. If we can raise $1,500 today we’ll match it. Will you help us celebrate Meskel and donate?

Update: We’ve raised more than $1,800 today and scored the $1,500 match. That’s more than $3,000 for clean water in one day! And that puts us that much closer to scoring the extra $8,000 from Janus. Thanks for your support and continue to cheer the Mudula Mamas on. They race on Sunday and will keep raising support through Saturday at noon. Melkam Meskel!

Support the Mudula Mamas

Mudula MamasThree moms of children born in Mudula, Ethiopia (also in Southern Ethiopia where Milo was born), are competing in a triathlon in Dallas on Sunday, Oct. 2 to raise money for Mudula Water, a clean water project. They’re also part of the Janus Charity Challenge where the top fundraisers earn extra cash for their charity (up to $8,000!).

You can read more about it and donate here.

These inspiring moms are racing for water and racing for life (one of the moms was profiled here). This area of Ethiopia is experiencing a drought and feeling the impacts of the current famine. It’s hard to ignore and this is an easy way to help.

That’s the basics of what’s happening, but there are also several efforts going to help these Mudula Mamas raise more money and score that extra $8,000 for clean water.

I’m getting personally involved as well. I helped edit the copy on the donate page, I’m advising on the social media aspects of the campaign, we’re pitching in (a tiny bit) on the matching fund below and I’m donating my book profits. Will you join me? Here are three simple ways you can help:

1. All You Have to Do is Click
The first effort is the easy one. All you have to do is click. A number of people have offered to donate $1 to the Mudula Mamas efforts for every ‘like’ on various Facebook pages:

All you have to do is visit the pages above and click ‘like’ at the top. Simple.

These are all small, grassroots groups that care about Ethiopia and fighting poverty. I’m sure there’s a practical limit to how much each challenge is willing to donate (I know for one of them it’s over $1,000!), but let’s make them sweat. ;-)

2. Meskel Match
Sept. 27 is the celebration of Meskel in Ethiopia, so we’re celebrating with the Meskel Match. If we can get $1,500 in donations on Tuesday, we’ll match it. Donate on Tuesday, Sept. 27 and help us bring in an extra $1,500 for clean water in Mudula.

Update: We raised well over $1,500 on Tuesday and scored the matching grant. Thank you! That’s a huge shot in the arm towards getting the extra $8,000 from Janus.

3. Buy My Book
Addition by Adoption: Kids, Causes & 140 CharactersMany of you have heard me talk about clean water before. It’s an important issue and it was the center of my book, Addition by Adoption. For the rest of this week I’ll donate all the profits from my book to the Mudula Mamas. I make $3.84 per copy sold on Amazon and usually donate $2 of that to charity: water, but for this week we’ll send it all to Mudula Water (I think Scott Harrison will understand). There are two ways to buy:

The Regular Approach:
Buy it from Amazon – Cost: $9.99 – $3.84 goes to Mudula.

The Save More, Give More Approach:
Buy it from CreateSpace – Cost: $8.99 (with coupon code “TARZGB88” for $1 off) – $4.84 goes to Mudula.
(CreateSpace is run by Amazon, so it’s legit, you just don’t get the benefit of using your Amazon gift card, shipping deals, etc.)

Note: My book came out more than a year ago and sales have really fallen off. So don’t think this is some super generous effort on my part. I expect we’ll sell maybe one or two copies. Go ahead and prove me wrong.

Help the Mudula Mamas
Will you join me in helping these inspiring moms bring clean water to Mudula, Ethiopia? Donate now.

Outspoken Releases

So I wrote another book.

Well, not just me. Tim Schraeder came up with this brilliant idea and asked a bunch of people to contribute. In this case, “a bunch” is defined as more than 60. I edited the book and contributed two chapters. And since I work for the organization putting the book out, I’m doing some of the promo work.

It’s been an incredible experience. The book is called Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication. It’s all about how churches can communicate better, which as you can probably guess is the heart and soul of the blog I run, Church Marketing Sucks. You can read an excerpt of one of my chapters over there.

The book officially launched today. I keep reminding myself to keep book sales in perspective. I’ve done two other major book releases and I’ve watched the Amazon sales rank rise and fall. Watching the numbers is folly. That’s what you tell yourself to feel better. But secretly I keep hitting refresh and watching that darn sales rank.

As I’m typing this, we’re at a high of #225. I don’t think Addition by Adoption ever went higher than 55,000. That means that of all the millions of books on Amazon, today there are only 225 selling more copies than Outspoken. If that’s not crazy enough, right now the book is #92 on the hot new releases list, #3 on the movers and shakers list, #24 on the best sellers in Christianity and #4 on the hot new releases in Christianity (right above Joyce Meyer and below Joel Osteen).

Crazy. I don’t know what that actually means for sales numbers yet (though it’s probably fewer than you’d expect). But what’s even better about all those sales numbers is that the book benefits the nonprofit Center for Church Communication and a portion of the proceeds will go to Creative Missions, a missions trip for creatives that actually helps churches communicate better. So by purchasing a book to help your church communicate better, you also help other churches communicate better. So cool.

Such a cool project to be a part of. Thanks to all the contributors who wrote for the book, the team that helped pull it together (and there are a lot of you!), the folks who have been promoting it and of course Tim Schraeder for having this whole brainstorm in the first place. I’m so excited and thankful that I get to work with people like this on projects like this.

You can buy the book on Amazon (where it’s even on sale!).

St. Paul Classic: I Biked St. Paul

Yesterday thousands of bike riders stopped traffic across the Twin Cities as part of the annual Saint Paul Classic Bike Tour.

I was one of them.

I rode 30 miles around St. Paul, following Mississippi River Boulevard along the bluffs, down Shepherd Road to downtown and the waterfront, then back up the bluffs to Indian Mounds Park, then along parkways to Phalen Park and Como Park, then past the state fairgrounds, across University and the light rail construction and over 94 to get back to the start at St. Thomas. Yeah, it was as tiring as it sounds.

Earlier this year I started riding my bike more to get some needed exercise and even more needed stress relief. I decided early on that I wanted to do the Saint Paul Classic. I’ve always thought that’d be a cool event to take part in, but I was never active enough on my bike to seriously consider it. I should have. The short route is a very do-able 15 miles.

While I’ve probably only biked more than 15 miles once this year, I decided to go for the 30 mile route. I tend to overdo things like that, but I also wanted the bragging rights. Amazingly, I can still walk today.

While they did close off streets and intersections for the ride, I’d guess that 95% of the route was along streets with marked bike lanes or on streets next to paved bike paths. St. Paul is pretty bike friendly.

We also passed a lot of public art, which was fun for me.

Spoke at Speak

Justin Wise Instagrammed my talk at Speak.

So last night I swallowed my public speaking fears and gave a talk on church communication at the Speak Conference. The response was overwhelmingly positive, which is incredible for this non-speaker.

Thankfully I didn’t trip over the podium or say anything embarrassing. Though I did almost lose my voice by the end (should have brought my water on stage).

Maybe I should venture out from behind my desk more often. Although today I’m completely exhausted. The introvert in me needs some serious alone time, maybe curled up in a corner somewhere.

Continue reading Spoke at Speak

Lexi’s First Day of School

Lexi's First Day of SchoolYesterday was Lexi’s first day of Kindergarten. Thankfully, she had a much less traumatic first day of school than I did.

Last week we went to the open house and met her teacher and got to go on a school bus ride. She was shy and nervous and I had to push her on to the bus. Made me a little worried for the first day of school, but when she came bounding up the stairs at 7 a.m., fully dressed and shouting, “Happytuesdayitsthefirstdayofschool!”, I knew it was going to be OK.

When the school bus came to pick her up she jumped and down and shouted, “There’s my bus!” Then Milo erupted in tears.

In the afternoon she hopped off the bus with a big smile and gave me a high five. School was great.

“Did you learn anything?”


Awesome. The days of my children telling me nothing happened at school have already begun.

Continue reading Lexi’s First Day of School

Speaking at Speak

Despite the fact that I hate public speaking, I’m doing more public speaking this week. I’ll be sharing at the Speak Conference in Minneapolis this Thursday, Sept. 8. The event is free for locals (though register now, there are only 54 tickets remaining) and being streamed online for everyone else.

A few folks I work with are also speaking, like CFCC co-director Justin Wise and Table VP Jason Wenell. There are also a bunch of other folks speaking I haven’t met yet, but am looking forward to hearing from.

The conference will cover how churches communicate online. I’m planning to talk about how to tell your story online and I’ll be using my book, Addition by Adoption, as a major example. This afternoon I’m hoping to put together my PowerPoint presentation (eek). Thankfully I only have ten minutes, so we’re going for a very minimal presentation (mostly just an excuse to show pictures of the kids).

The event is from 6-8:30 p.m. and I think I go on near the end, so feel free to tune in online. You can count how many times I say “um.”