I recently talked with Eric Dye of ChurchM.ag about church marketing and reading lots of books. Here’s the interview:
I also appeared on their podcast for five questions, where we talked some more about books.
It’s the day before Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year, and for the first time since high school I’m not traveling anywhere. I guess 1996 would be the last year I didn’t go anywhere for Thanksgiving. In college I always drove the 700 miles home to Michigan. Once married, we alternated Christmas and Thanksgiving between our parents in Wisconsin and Kansas. The former was only a 300-mile trip, but the latter was another 700-mile full day in the car.
So I’m pretty used to traveling on Thanksgiving. On the years I made the 700-mile drive I’d get up at some ridiculous pre-dawn hour so I could be on the road early and make good time. The alarm would go off at something awful like 4:30 and I’d be on the road by 5. Except I could never sleep well before long drives and would always be up before my alarm. No matter how early it was.
I couldn’t sleep this morning either. No alarm was set, but I was awake by 5. Some habits die hard, I guess.
This year we decided to stay home for both holidays. Last year we somehow ended up traveling every other weekend in November and December and we just couldn’t handle it this year. Too many miles, too much whining from the back seat, too much stress. Plus, the idea of having our own holiday and forming our own traditions sounded pretty great. We’ve never done our own holidays, so we haven’t forged many of our own traditions.
Growing up we rarely went anywhere for the holidays. We had fairly set traditions, like going to cut down a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and setting it up that night. Watching Ernest Saves Christmas on Christmas Eve. OK, so sometimes family traditions are weird. But that’s what’s fun about them.
Through the years I’ve always been thankful that I had a place to go for the holidays. No matter what happened that year, no matter what life transition happened (and there were a few, between getting married, watching my parents get divorced and seeing them get back together), I always had a place to call home. A lot of people aren’t so lucky.
I’m also thankful that for all those miles traveled I never had any major car trouble. It always seemed like a minor miracle that I’ve never been in a big accident, never had my car break down, never had a flat tire. I’ve had my share of close calls. I hit a bird in Chicago once. A jet ski fell off a trailer just in front of me. It wasn’t a holiday, but on one snowy drive I did lose control and fishtail into a ditch, but I was nearly able to drive out of it. Plus my parents were there to help push me out and we were back on the road like nothing happened. Later that day on the Interstate I watched the truck in front of me start swerving and spin 40 feet off the road into deep snow. Last year I drove several hundred miles to Thanksgiving with the check engine light on, worried something bad was going to happen. But all systems were go.
I’ve had some close calls over the years, some diverted plans and some travel sickness I’d rather not detail, but we’ve always made it. I’m incredibly thankful for that.
I have a lot to be thankful for at Thanksgiving. This year it’s going to be staying home and doing nothing with my family. Forging our own traditions, like the day before Thanksgiving donuts (it’s a thing) and setting up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving (some traditions are meant to endure).
I’ve waited two years for this. In 2011 Five Iron Frenzy launched a Kickstarter project for their comeback, raising a pile of money and ensuring a new album. Today the album officially releases. You should go buy it.
As a Kickstarter backer I’ve been listening to it for a couple weeks. It’s good stuff. Here’s the band talking about the new album:
Five Iron Frenzy was my favorite band as a teenager and it was the end of an era when they called it quits in 2003. Ten years later they’re back and it’s kind of incredible. I don’t think I ever expected Five Iron to get back together. They ended with such finality (out with a bang, not a whimper) it was clear they had seriously thought about it and were ending their career on their own terms. In some ways breaking up the way they did made it easier to put it all back together, assuming the right pieces were there. Five Iron has never been a band that would do some aging comeback tour, and it shows. They’re writing new material, and while it’s different, it’s still very much Five Iron Frenzy.
I’m curious to see how the new digital economy and a decade of difference will change things for Five Iron Frenzy. They don’t have a record company and they’ve all got day jobs. It did take two full years for the Kickstarter project to actually come to be. Will this be a one-off comeback? Or can we expect even more Five Iron in the future? I have no idea, but I can only hope for more.
Last month I put together another yet another ebook, this one exploring heroes. Church Communication Heroes Volume 1 launched on All Saints’ Day last week. It’s another ebook from Church Marketing Sucks, our second one this year.
I’m especially excited about this one because it finds inspiration in the historical figures who have gone before us. They may not have used Facebook hundreds of years ago, but they still had to communicate. I think churches can learn a lot from history and too often we’re disconnected from it.
Church communicators may not think we have any history, but we do.
The book explores the stories of 15 saints of communication, including familiar names such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Vincent van Gogh and less obvious names such as Pauli Murray and Pandita Ramabai. We also had a ton of great writers and an incredible cover design.
It’s also fun because it’s volume one. The plan is to roll out more hero stories in the future.
Last week I went to two separate author readings: Addie Zierman read from her beautiful spiritual memoir, When We Were On Fire, on Tuesday evening at Northwestern University; and Rainbow Rowell read a short bit from her 1980s teen love story, Eleanor & Park, on Wednesday at the Harriet Island Pavilion.
I love hearing from authors. It’s great to hear an author’s work in their own voice. I still remember hearing Wendell Berry read from Jayber Crow during college and just being blown away. That was a book I had to read.
Author readings are also great events because they’re free. It’s not like you can get that deal with your favorite band. I’m not big on autographs and needing to meet authors, but that can be fun as well. And if you’re looking to meet women, apparently author events are the place to go. Maybe I’m just reading the wrong books, but the gender balance was way off. That makes sense for a teen love story, but I felt a bit like the old skeezy guy (sticking around for an autograph would not have helped that issue either). Continue reading The Joy of Author Readings
It’s been a warm fall in Minnesota, at least until this last week. I never even thought about turning on the heat until this week when it suddenly got cold. Those beautiful weekends in the 70s seem to be long gone and there’s even talk of snow today.
I’m not exactly athletic. Anybody who knew me growing up knows that I stayed far away from most anything athletic. I liked hockey, bike riding and rollerskating, though I never played anything more than pond hockey. I did actually play intramural broomball in college, but that’s the beginning and end of my team sports experience.
My high school history teacher, who also happened to coach the cross country team, once told my parents I’d make a good runner. Maybe I should have listened.
I ran a 5K on Saturday and with the Twin Cities Marathon yesterday, running has been on my mind.
Personal Best 5K
I hate it when people constantly brag about their running achievements, so I try to keep mine to a minimum. But I did manage a personal best in the 5K on Saturday with 28:13. Most of the summer I’ve been doing longer runs (5-7 miles) and I’m not well adjusted to the relatively short distance of a 5K. But I did pretty well on Saturday, running hard early, not dying in the middle, and pouring on a ridiculous sprint I didn’t know I had in me at the end. It’s not a particularly fast time for a 5K, but the low-9 minute miles is a lot faster than I normally run.
The funny thing about running is how much work it takes to get better. This is probably obvious to most people, but my complete lack of athletic experience gives me nothing to base improvement on. I have no idea how hard athletes work. Now that I’m running, I have an idea.
The problem with running is that there’s such a chasm between milestone achievements. If you don’t run at all, a 5K sounds daunting. Who wants to get up on a Saturday and run three miles? A few years ago, that’s the camp I was in. But now a 5K is too short. All that effort for 28 minutes of running? I’d rather run twice that far.
Of course getting to twice that far has taken about six months. This spring I actually read a book on marathons and thought maybe someday I’ll run a marathon. I wasn’t incredibly serious about it, but I did think it was conceivable. I checked out upcoming marathons and mapped out the training schedule to see if I could do it. If I followed the training schedule this book laid out, I would have been ready to run the Twin Cities Marathon with a week to spare.
That’s hilarious. Simply building from three miles to seven miles has taken me six months. Getting to 26 miles feels like an impossibility. I realized how crazy I was being when I noticed a 13-minute per mile minimum pace for the Twin Cities Marathon. At the time I was averaging a 12-minute mile on my longer runs. But I frequently started at over 13 minutes, and sometimes even 14 minutes for that first mile.
These days I’m running in the high 10-minute range, so improvement does happen. But it comes slowly. (For comparison’s sake, the winning marathon runners yesterday were in the 5-minutes per mile range. That’s freaky. A friend of mine ran in the 8-minutes per mile range.)
In the end, I have an incredible appreciation for people who run. It’s seriously hard work and requires tremendous dedication of body and spirit. It’s one thing to keep your body going, but it’s another thing to keep your spirit motivated when your body hates you. The time commitment alone is staggering. Serious marathon trainers run at least three times a week and those longer runs take time (it takes me an hour to run six miles). Simply finding the time to run (and get cleaned up afterward) is intense.
Sometimes I hate running. It hurts and my body is tired and I don’t want to crawl out of bed. But some days I crave it. I itch to get out and move my body. I’ve learned that sometimes stopping is the worst thing you can do and even when you think you’re completely spent and can’t go any farther, you can.
I’ve been a NASCAR fan for a while, but for some reason this year I’ve been getting more into it. It started with watching the truck series race on dirt at Eldora. Trucks racing on dirt? Awesome.
Because of that race I looked up a local dirt track and took the kids to see some Saturday night dirt racing at Cedar Lake Speedway. We’re definitely going back.
I think what I’m enjoying about NASCAR this year is diversity. They raced on dirt for the first time in 40 years and it was incredible. It also seems like there have been more road courses than in the past. Between Cup, Nationwide and the trucks, there were six road courses on five different tracks this year. I love road courses and that’s just fun to watch. (Trucks on road courses? Yes! With a last corner wreck/pass, it was an incredible race.)
It was also fun at the start of the year to watch Danica Patrick make some waves by scoring the pole in the Daytona 500, becoming the first woman to lead a lap in the 500 and then getting a top 10 finish. Unfortunately, the rest of her season has been downhill and she’s usually running a lap or two down in the 20th-30th position. Makes me wish she’d spent another year in the Nationwide series learning how to race stock cars.
But aside from Danica, there’s not a lot of diversity happening in the Cup series. It’s mostly the same bunch of guys running up front and it’s pretty hard for new guys to break in. I get tired of rooting for anybody but Jimmie Johnson. And let’s not talk about the recent controversy of collusion to get drivers into the post-season Chase.
That’s why the truck series has been so exciting. They raced on dirt. They did a road course. They’ve got a bunch of young, up and coming guys like Darrell Wallace Jr., Chase Elliott (who won with that controversial last corner road course pass), Ryan Blaney and Jeb Burton. They’ve got some international flavor like Brazil’s Miguel Paludo and Mexico’s German Quiroga Jr. (with Juan Pablo Montoya going back to Indy, NASCAR needs some more international talent).
The Nationwide series could be that exciting. They’ve got young guys like Kyle Larson and Brian Scott, international flair with Brazil’s Nelson Piquet Jr., and their token female with Johanna Long (running a less than full season with less than stellar equipment and being ignored because Danica Patrick gets the woman racer spotlight). Unfortunately instead of watching all these up and comers duke it out for wins, you have to watch Cup series regulars run away with it. Kyle Busch has 10 Nationwide wins this year. Brad Keselowski, last year’s Cup champion, has five wins. Brian Scott was even on his way to winning his first race and was going to do it by leading every single lap, until Brad Keselowski passed him on a questionable restart with 11 laps to go and stole the win. Lame.
This is an age old complaint that goes back to my favorite driver Mark Martin racking up a record number of Nationwide victories (until being bypassed by another Cup regular, Kyle Busch). NASCAR has even tried to stem the flood of Cup regulars by not allowing them to compete for the Nationwide championship. But still. This year Nationwide regulars have only won four of 28 races so far. And that’s not abnormal. In 2011 it was six of 34. In 2010, 2009 and 2008 it was only one race in 34. Last year was actually a breakout year for Nationwide with 16 out of 33 wins coming from Nationwide regulars. The last time the series had those kind of numbers was 2003-2005 when Brian Vickers, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. were coming up and hadn’t graduated to Cup yet.
There’s lots of fun racing to watch this year, I just wish those Cup guys would stick to their own series and let some new stars grab the checkered flag.
Lately I’ve been reading about the civil rights movement and World War II is yet another area that has captured my interest. Racial segregation was the norm across the South, in the nation’s capital and also in the armed forces. Even blood collected for wounded soldiers had to be segregated by order of the War Department.
In that atmosphere of inequality and second class citizenship, it’s not hard to see parallels between the fascist and racial supremacy ideals of Hitler and the segregation of Jim Crow.
As civil rights activist (and my new hero) Pauli Murray put it in a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, “We are as much political refugees of the South as any of the Jews of Germany.” As the Holocaust showed Hitler’s tyranny was far more gruesome and deadly, but blacks in the South faced lynchings, intimidation and degradation as a way of life. White racists of the South weren’t that far removed from Nazi Germany.
Murray argued for equality as part of the war effort, saying: “We cannot come into the world struggle for democracy with dirty hands.”
As the draft began blacks posed a fair question: “Should I sacrifice my life to live half American?” That’s how James G. Thompson of Wichita, Kan., put it, as he proposed the Double V campaign:
“The first V for victory over our enemies from without, the second V for victory for our enemies from within. For surely those who perpetuate these ugly prejudices here are seeking to destroy our democratic form of government just as surely as the Axis forces.”
Published and promoted by the Pittsburgh Courier it became a rallying cry that gave blacks an opportunity to support the war effort and maintain their dignity.
The Double V campaign didn’t succeed initially on the home front, but in 1948 Harry Truman ended segregation of the armed forces by executive order. In the 1950s other challenges to segregation would mount and it would eventually crumble beneath the march of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, 20 years after World War II and the Double V campaign.
Lately I’ve been reading about the civil rights movement and it’s incredible.
Everyone knows that, but reading the details is something else.
I could probably write a lengthy post going into all kinds of details, but there’s just too much to say and that’s too hard to swallow. Instead I think it’ll be easier (for you and me) to just throw out random thoughts as they come.
Tonight I was struck by how a nostalgic view of 1950s America has to be completely blind to issues of race.
I imagine 1950s nostalgia is blind to a great many things. But race seems like the most offensive.
Viewing the 1950s as the golden age of America forgets that Jim Crow was in full force in the South. Even though court rulings had dismantled segregation, it still existed as a practical matter. Much of the civil rights movement was about claiming what had already been won in court and was being illegally denied.
It’s a shocking thing to consider. Comparisons don’t do it justice, but they help put it in perspective. The Supreme Court recently struck down California’s Prop 8, making gay marriage legal in the state of California. Imagine if gay people went to California to get married and were not only turned away, they were arrested, beaten and jailed?
It’s inconceivable today. Yet that’s what happened with the Freedom Riders in Mississippi.
The 1950s were hardly a rosy time of peace, prosperity and good morals. Especially for blacks in the South.