Fear, Faith and Donald Trump

I recently went on a job interview for a graphic design position. While browsing my resume, one of the people in the room laughed and said, “You were a marketing strategist at a church? Is it like…evangelical? How do you market a church? Like, how is that even possible?” I wasn’t surprised to hear this kind of thing. I spent the past four years working at the 13th largest evangelical church in America. Yes, as a marketing strategist. And having that at the top of my resume hasn’t made me the most marketable marketing strategist.

To say that evangelical is a loaded word would be an understatement. In American media, it means something political. In popular culture, it means something hateful and narrow-minded. In classical Christian tradition, it means to practice and share (evangelize) about your faith in God. But because of the broadness with which the word is thrown around these days, affiliation with the word has become problematic for many people who call themselves Christians. (I don’t think I even need to tell you, but I didn’t get the job.)

When the woman in the job interview asked, “Is it like…evangelical?” I knew what she was really asking. Do you hate gay people? Are you racist? Do you think I’m a sinner and should be sent to straight to Hell? Are you a republican? And the most timely assumption of the hour: Do you support Donald Trump?

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If I hadn’t wanted the job so much and felt the need to stay agreeable and professional, I would’ve taken the time to tell her about who I really am, contrary to her media-and-culture-influenced idea of who I am. I’m a person whose life was changed by Jesus Christ at 16-years-old. When I look back on that time in my life, the one thing I see is the full picture of the Jesus I fell in love with. And he looks nothing like the Christians I see on TV and on Facebook, angrily proclaiming allegiance to Donald Trump.

ERRATIC EVANGELICALISM AND DONALD TRUMP

This Buzzfeed article, featuring photos of Trump supporters telling the camera what they are convinced will happen to this country if Trump isn’t elected drew up deep fear inside me. These people claim to represent Jesus by their political leaning. They claim to be mouthpieces for disenfranchised Christians in America. They hear racist, sensationalist, blanket statements about people groups and they cheer. They hear their leader tell them to be physically violent with anyone who disagrees with them and they obey. Who wouldn’t be filled with fear, watching all of this occur in the 21st century? This is the unbelievable kind of stuff I’ve watched so many times in WWII documentaries. It feels so foreign and of-another-time. But it is happening today. And it’s terrifying.

As I flipped through the photos of Trump supporters and read their statements, it was painfully obvious to me that many of them are acting on fear. Fear that, “the country will go to shit,” or “the country will be filled with Hillary Clinton clones,” or “our freedoms will disappear” or “education will get worse”. These statements seemed so general to me. So broad. Almost like empty slogans. In the same way that Trump’s promises are big and fantastical, the fears his supporters seem to be drowning in are sensational and dramatic.

This is the kind of behavior that has created a PR problem for the word, evangelical. This is the kind of behavior that has created a culture where having worked for an evangelical organization is seen as a sign of negative personal character, rather than having a heart for service and love. It’s my humble belief that there’s a group of Christians who have forgotten what the Christ of the Gospels looks like, and have begun to worship a narrow and diluted version of him, overwhelmingly influenced by fear. And they’re unapologetically spreading that broken gospel as far as it’ll go.

Throwing your support behind a man who incites fear, promotes racism, encourages violence, and asks for continual personal allegiance to his personhood rather than his proposed good work, seems to me like the strangest move for a Christian to make. Bowing to feelings of pressure from Christian culture to simply vote for the most conservative candidate to protect your personal freedoms is no longer a worthy strategy. That strategy is based in fear and close-mindedness, and disregards people groups who I believe Christ would have us be loving servants to. Let us not be self-focused but others-focused and see people through God’s eyes.

All the while, there are many Christians like myself who are confused by the fandemonium for Trump within our religion. We’re starting to stand up and say, “This is not Christianity. These people don’t represent our faith.” In the same way, many Muslim people have been pointing at radical terrorists and saying, “This is not Islam. These people don’t represent our faith.” We can’t let fear mold our understanding of people groups. It’s happening far too often in our world and if we need any evidence of where that kind of thinking can lead us, it’s Donald Trump’s run for presidency.

DO NOT FEAR

Fear is not from God. And Donald Trump is a fearmonger. 2 Timothy 1:7 reads, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” In Christ, we have self control, we have the power to make our own decisions, to love recklessly, and to oppose fear in any form. So, when we operate based on abstract fears of the future, we forfeit that freedom and become slave to a flawed human leader.

HOLD ONTO HOPE

There’s this old Steven Curtis Chapman song called, “Heaven in the Real World” that I’ve been thinking about since the political landscape has been getting so dark and dirty over the past year. It opens with a snippet from a Billy Graham message where he says, “We feel demoralized by the decay around us. Where is the hope? The hope that each of us has is not in who governs us or what laws are passed or what great things we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people. And that’s where our hope is in this country, and that’s where our hope is in life.”

Even though Donald Trump, his supporters, and the picture they’re painting of Christianity and evangelicalism for the world to see makes me scared as hell, I’m choosing to reject fear and rest calmly in the hope that we have in Jesus–that no matter what happens, he is still in control. I’m choosing to trust that he will not leave us or forsake us. And he’ll continue to teach all of us how to love.

It’s going to be a long and terrifying road to November. I’m praying that Christians find it within themselves to rest in God’s peace, to learn to see people through God’s eyes and not Donald Trump’s, to seek God’s wisdom, to place their faith and trust in God and not in government, and to most importantly–reject fear. It isn’t from God.

 

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Life is a Movie Starring You

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I read this book when I was 16. It introduced me to the idea that your life can be whatever you want it to be. The author used illustrations from classic films and the lives of 1950s-1970s actresses and classic crooners like Frank Sinatra. This was right up my alley. I loved this exciting approach to life–to walk out the door in the morning with a soundtrack in my head. Each morning, I popped open my Discman (yeah I call it a Discman. My youth group girls told me that’s OLD and I should say CD player…but I rock my Gen X/Millennial line-straddling with pride. So deal.) and chose a song to kick off my day. I imagined my life as a movie and it gave me more confidence to say YES to things that scared me, to get excited about things and to not squelch that feeling out of fear of being let down. When my life was a movie, I could steer the storyline however I wanted and create a life I loved.

Something I didn’t think about immediately was that in a movie, there are scenes. And they exist for a reason. To move the story forward, to help characters evolve, to provide resolution where possible. Can I be honest, here? I hate that scenes exist. At the same time…I understand why they need to be there. I sometimes skip ahead to the scene in When Harry Met Sally where Billy Crystal says, “When you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to begin as quickly as possible.” If you know that movie well, you know that this means I skip the ENTIRE movie to get to the final scene. I just love it that much. If I could camp out in that scene forever, I would. But I have to believe that the reason I love it so much is because I know what led up to it…because I’ve watched the scenes before it play out.

There’s a long scene that’s coming to an end in my life next week. I started working at Eagle Brook Church 3.5 years ago. I drove into the office blasting “Fader” by The Temper Trap because I love how it builds up at the front of the song. It’s how I wanted to imagine this scene starting. The beginning of the movie. Cast credits playing.

I was greeted warmly by my coworkers. Mainly because it wasn’t technically my first day. I had attended a conference in Dallas, TX with them a week earlier and met them all for the first time at the airport. We got to know each other quickly. Specifically, Melissa and I. We shared a hotel room where Melissa had to take pump breaks because she’d recently come back to work after having her first baby. We were essentially starting fresh together. Melissa and I went to college together but only knew each other because we’d had a couple Communication classes together; so to be working on the same Communication team at Eagle Brook seemed funny and fortuitous. On my first day at the office, I sat down at my desk to this note:

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We’re still buddies.

We’ve been through A LOT in the past few years. Mel had another baby and I helped cover her maternity leave. While she was on leave, I came across an interesting profile on Instagram…interesting meaning it belonged to a boy that I found attractive. 🙂 Instagram told me that a mutual friend of ours was Melissa, so I sent her a text asking, “Who is Justin Bonhiver?” Her reply? “OH MY GOODNESS. I can’t believe I didn’t already think of this. This is PERFECT!” They knew each other from a high school bible study they both belonged to years ago. So she sent Justin a text message and gave him my phone number. And well, the rest is history.

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I sat down over lunch with Shannon, Krista Rose, Eva, Jackie, and Kellie and often sent text messages to Melissa while she was on maternity leave about HOW NERVOUS I was every time I had a date with Justin. Early on, before every date I required a pep talk from these girls. I was rusty when it came to dating, and I’d been hurt before. But they are the ones who helped me push through all that nonsense and say YES to something that had the potential to be incredible. (And for the record–is.) I am so grateful for those chats with those girls!

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They listened to me whine about little things and big things. We supported each other through sudden tragedies in each other’s lives, medical concerns, family tension, relationship changes and organizational challenges at the office. These are my people. I heart them.

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Within the first few months of working at EBC, my close friend Christie passed away from a two-year battle with brain cancer. It is to this day the most difficult loss I’ve experienced. It was drawn-out, tragic, painful and unexpected. I grieved pretty publicly about that and have written about it many times, so I won’t go into it again here. However, I can’t help but reflect on the role Eagle Brook played in my life at that time.:

  • It was on the floor of the closed-door filming studio at EBC that I learned of Christie’s passing.
  • It was Jamie Colbert, a former EBC graphic designer (and still a cherished friend!), who knew that I wasn’t a hug person and forced a love-filled hug on me that morning.
  • It was Johanna, the former Comm Director who allowed me to flit in and out of the office when Christie was in hospice care to visit her whenever possible. (She also made a point to touch my shoulder when she passed my desk when she knew things were getting worse with Christie.)
  • It was in worship led by my coworker, Kate Freer (graphic designer) that I felt a significant healing moment on one of the darkest days of my life in the auditorium at the Lino Lakes campus, six months after Christie passed away. It was powerful. And Kate is forever a part of that in my memory.

Speaking of that filming studio, I never thought I’d have any reason to be in a studio. But one day, Mike Hadley and Michael Pearce Donley decided that I was worth taking a chance on and gave me the opportunity to host the weekly announcement videos that aired in weekend services. My big face was seen on massive sidescreens at six campuses by 22,000+ people every weekend for two years. I’m sorry, what? It humbles me to think about it. It’s really just a whole lot of this feeling:

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The words that came out of my mouth in those little videos helped point people to ministries that may have helped them know Jesus in a new way that led them into a totally transformed life. I can’t believe God used me in this way. I’m really just in disbelief looking back on it.

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For funsies, here’s one of my favorite shoots from last year. Mainly because Tim Johnson did an INCREDIBLE job filming and editing it, and Michael Pearce Donley directed me and as always, made me look and sound like I had been doing this kind of thing for my entire life. 🙂

What’s almost just as humbling, is to think that I played a role in helping launch two campuses while I was on staff. Being on a campus launch team is like adding another full-time job on top of your actual full-time job. It’s draining and takes over your life for a few months. But seeing signage around the Coon Rapids and Woodbury campuses that I had input into warms my heart and again–just humbles me down to the ground.

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Really? Me? So many people come to Eagle Brook and find new life, hope, and healing through Jesus. As cranky as I was about being on those launch teams sometimes, I can’t believe God picked me to be there. ME. Sorry, what?

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Another crazy thing God asked me to do while I’ve been working at Eagle Brook was to speak at a Juvenile Detention Center. Yet another incredibly humbling experience. I was asked to speak about my career path (which has been anything but clear-cut) and how I managed to turn out OK despite having a low GPA when I graduated from high school, being rejected from every college I applied to except for one (and I was only admitted based on my essay and entered school automatically on academic probation). I didn’t feel like I had anything impressive to say. But I spoke to six groups of inmates about my life and career so far. I don’t know if it made a real impact. But I have to believe God had a reason for arranging that crazy day.

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And then there was Canvas Magazine.

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I was asked to act as Managing Editor of Canvas in 2014/15. We didn’t know at the time that it would be the last edition of Canvas for awhile. But it was the best. And the most fun. And to see the picture above on Instagram, posted by an attender who was reading MY article (and Kate Freer’s gorgeous design) just blew me away. Humbled. Honored. What? More of this:

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There are a few specific people who really made an impact on my life in my time at Eagle Brook. As friends and mentors, they led me through difficulties over and over again. They didn’t get awkward when I ugly-cried in their office. They listened when I was so frustrated that I couldn’t see straight. They celebrated my victories with enthusiasm both in work in life. They reminded me of my worth over and over again. And I will always love them for it. Johanna Price has her own blog post. 🙂  But then there’s Mike Hadley.

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First, it should be noted that I copied Mike and took an improv class where he used to be a SUPERSTAR (Comedy Sportz MPLS) and name dropped for him like, every class. He helped me build credibility and respect there because so many people who work there count him as one of the greats. 🙂 Mike not only helped direct me and worked beside me in On the Fly, last year he became an interim manager for our little Communication Team (which had dwindled down to Melissa, Shannon and me). This was the most challenging time I endured in my time at EBC. It was marked by a lot of loss- in my personal life and at work. A lot of people I cared about and looked up to on staff at EBC were leaving for other opportunities. Senior leadership was struggling (and talked openly about it, so I feel free to say that here). Mike rallied his troops and helped us stay as positive as possible. And he let us be honest when things sucked. He’s a better counselor than he realizes. 🙂 He helped me learn from mistakes and do better the next time. And he cheered me on and continually reminds me of who I am and what my abilities are when I feel down or discouraged. Mike has been a rock at work and a great friend in life. I am so grateful for him.

Then there’s Joelle.

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At a time when a lot of high-level female leadership was disappearing at Eagle Brook, Joelle was hired as the Middle School Teaching Pastor. I remember when I was introduced to her, I knew instantly we’d get along. We both love fashion and beauty products and have had the most fun shopping around Sephora and visiting each other at the office to talk about new products we’ve found and loved. 🙂 We went to the Mpls St. Paul Magazine Fashionopolis show together last year and it was A BLAST. There’s no one else I would’ve rather experienced that with. Aside from the fashion times and lunch dates and late-night texting, Joelle has been an incredible role model for me. She invited me to her birthday parties and out to the movies and dinner. She’s the kind of Jesus girl I want to be. She encouraged me by leaving devotionals and verses on my desk. She was always ready and willing to listen to me in tough times and to give perspective on work and life difficulties. She PRAYED for me. When things have been really, really dark–Joelle somehow brightened it up. There’s a kindredness with Joelle that can’t be denied. I am so grateful to her for her guidance and her laughter and her prayers. 🙂

I really can’t believe I’m moving on. But it’s what’s happening. Next Wednesday, I’ll walk out of the office for the last time. Which is why I’m posting this, today. I don’t think I’ll be able to handle it next week. Let’s spread this scene out as long as possible! Can we pause it? Indefinitely?

To everyone I’ve loved and worked with at Eagle Brook:

You are my people. You have been my saving grace more times than I can even recall. I don’t know what I’ll do without seeing you every day. Let’s do the hard work of remaining in each other’s lives as much as possible. God placed me among you at a crucial point in my personal life and in my career. He used you to do amazing things in my life that will stay with me forever. Thanks for loving me and caring for me as-is and never asking me to change (actually, encouraging me to be more ME many times. :)) You are all called and God’s working through you. As He’s calling me out, I’m eternally grateful for this scene in my movie.

I plan to replay it often.

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Tragedy + The Tide

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When I was growing up, my family vacationed in Gulf Shores, Alabama every September. One year, my dad took my brother and I on an oceanside stroll after dinner. Mom stayed back in the condo to relax. We were probably 7 and 8 years old. As we were walking along, I remember the sun being almost completely set, my brother scampering around, his skinny limbs flailing as he ran up and down the ridge of sand on the shore where the tide had come in the night before. I remember talking loudly to my dad, asking lots of questions and hamming it up like I usually did, when my brother started to run in the opposite direction. I didn’t think anything of it, because he was kind of running erratically to begin with. But moments later, the tide came crashing in, right over my 6’4 dad’s head and my scrawny 3rd-grade body.

I reached out to my dad as the water poured hard and heavy over our heads. He grabbed my wrist tightly and I remember looking down and seeing my heels digging into the sand, my lightweight frame being beckoned right into the ocean. It seems like the water poured on our heads for the longest time, but realistically, it had to have been less than a minute. My dad let go of my wrist when the water receded and we both looked back at my brother, dry as can be, running back toward us.

My brother saw a wave coming in bigger than he’d ever seen before and he took cover. My Dad and I were too busy talking to notice the wave. And we got clobbered. It very well could have pulled us right under.

This memory resurfaced this morning as I learned about the unexpected passing of a dear friend’s mother. I’ve been thinking about the loss of my friend Christie a lot lately as well. So this story about the late-night walk on the beach with my dad and brother has taken on some new meaning for me.

I think tragedy is like the tide in the ocean. Sometimes we see it coming and we can prepare ourselves. The tide comes in every single day. We know this as a meteorological fact. But most of the time, tragedy arrives abruptly and rudely. It interrupts our peaceful stroll through life. It blindsides us, and pours heavy and hard over our heads. We can’t see clearly, only through blurry strands of raging water. We dig our heels in, determined to get through it. But we still wonder if there’s a chance we might not make it, while the sand slides away beneath our feet.

And when the ocean recedes, when things quiet down, and we realize we’ve made it to through, we still can’t forget what it felt like to be in the middle of the wave, hanging on for dear life. I sometimes wonder what part of tragedy has the worst effect on a person: the event itself or the subsequent grief journey.

So when I look back on the tragedy of losing my dear friend, when I think about the sudden loss of my friend’s mother this morning, when I think about the tide nearly taking my Dad and I out that day in 1993, I think about what made it possible for me to survive.

With gallons of ocean water pouring hard over our heads, my dad reached out through the angry waters and gripped my wrist with a determination and strength that I knew would sustain me until the wave passed. Even though I looked down and saw my heels slipping away beneath me, I knew no matter what, my Dad wasn’t letting me go.

When tragedy comes (and it always will, just like the ocean tide) I hope and pray that we all have an anchor that won’t let us go. I pray that God shows up in the people that surround you with love and food and strength and prayers and loved ones who grip your wrist in a way that helps you believe you’re going to make it, no matter how hard you’re sucked under. Because if you’re going, they’re going. Into the darkest places and back out to the light again.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory is the title of the mix CD I created for myself years ago that I played most mornings on my way to work. Its kind of legendary in my musical memory (you know, the soundtrack of my life) because it stuck around in my rotation for so long. Since streaming came around, I spend far less time camped out on one mix of songs. (Personally, I think that’s kind of sad but also great in many ways. But that’s another blog post altogether.)

I love to share music. Love, love, love it. If I share a song with you and you actually LISTEN to it, you’ll be my favorite person forever. If I had to recreate my Morning Glory mix today, here’s what I’d include: (And thanks to streaming, this will probably change by next week.)

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE: You Are a Tourist

There’s always been something about the lead-in for this song that for me, makes it ideal for the opening of a playlist and also–the opening of your DAY. 🙂

BECK: Dreams

Beck found his Odelay keyboard patches. And I am rejoicing.

BEST COAST: Feeling OK

This is the most produced Best Coast has sounded since their start. And I have to say–I like it. I love Bethany’s voice. It’s like a polished Courtney Love sound. This song is bright, bright, bright. Good stuff for mornings.

SHE & HIM: In the Sun

Something about Best Coast’s West Coast retro sound always points me to She & Him next. This song has been in the Morning Glory rotation since 2010 and only rarely falls out for a short period of time. ESPECIALLY in the Summer. I mean come on. In the SUN. Yeah. Perfect.

OWL CITY + HANSON: Unbelievable

People love to call Owl City and Hanson guilty pleasures. I’m just gonna fly my flag high and call this a straight up JAM of mine. You were going to start your workday with a Buzzfeed list about the 90s anyway, right? Just get it done before you even sit down at your desk.

BETTY WHO: Heartbreak Dream

If you don’t already know about Betty Who, please. Stop what you’re doing. Listen to Take Me When You Go. All of it. Congratulations, you’re addicted. Betty Who has had at least four tracks in my daily rotation for nearly two years. She’s the bestest.

MAJOR LAZER, DJ SNAKE + MO: Lean On

I’m convinced there’s something psychological that they’ve capitalized on that makes this song as addictive as sugar. There’s something about that lyric: Blow a kiss/fire a gun. I love. Can’t get enough.

ASTR: Hold On We’re Going Home (Drake cover)

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Because you know you need to wind the energy back down before focusing in at work. And it’s best to start your day with a groove that forces you to move. This’ll be on repeat at the end of the day, too. Guaranteed.

Found at Church

I recently worked on the strategy side of a really exciting new campaign for Eagle Brook Church–and I just want to share about it! It’s so fun when every once in a great while, a project comes along where you feel like you’re using all of your talents, you’re getting to work with some of the coolest and most skilled thinkers and doers you’ve ever come across, and the end product turns out to be something you’re really proud of. Found at Church was just that!

Like most churches, we typically we do some external advertising around Easter. But as we sat around a table talking about how to reach our target audience, we realized something pretty key. People already know that Easter is coming. We’re a church. No one needs us to let them know that we’re having Easter services. It’s the world’s biggest no-brainer.

Here’s where we started:

AUDIENCE: The somewhat-churched, the open-to-church, the desperate seekers, the two-timers (Easter and Christmas), the casual churchgoers. Anyone who is a little bit familiar with Christianity and what this time of year means.

DEMOGRAPHIC: 25-55 years old. Male and female. culturally diverse. Tech-savvy. Baby Busters (1965-1980), Gen X (1975-1985), Gen Y/Millennials (1978-1990). Suburban and first-ring urban commuters. Public transit users.

METHOD: Focus on public transportation advertising opportunities. Engage current attenders in all-church, “I Found ______” invitation initiative that aligns with external ads and will continue past the Easter season. Website at foundatchurch.com generates content from attender social media engagement with #foundatchurch. External ads promote foundatchurch.com.

So instead of blabbing on billboards and direct mail pieces about how fantastic our Easter services will be (and they will be…) we made the decision to simply ask people who’ve experienced God change their life through attending church to tell others–What have you found at church?

We launched with this video and caption on Instagram and Facebook:

“What have you found at church? Wisdom? Friendship? Acceptance? Whatever you’ve found, post it from your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts using #foundatchurch. Your stories tell the stories of Eagle Brook Church and show others what they can find here, too!

Throughout the month of March, your #foundatchurch posts will show up at foundatchurch.com. Take a look, share your story and, together, let’s tell others of Jesus’ incredible love.”

Last weekend, we passed out Found at Church cards after services at every campus, and aired this video before services–specifically, at :41 in. (Yeah, that just so happens to be me yammering on about stuff. Again.)

Attenders have been posting what they’ve found at church for one week–and we’re already seeing great engagement. It’s very exciting!

(By the way…I love making Flipagrams. Pairing music with imagery is one of my favorite things in the world!)

My lovely friend (and EBC graphic designer) Kellie Cornell designed an incredible range of ads for us to use on social media and in external channels.

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We have seen great ROI when advertising through public transit channels over the last year or so. This time, we decided to focus more heavily than we previously have on targeting suburban and first-ring urban commuters.

By targeting suburban and first-ring urban commuters who utilize public transit, we have the unique ability to specifically speak to people who live near our campuses without using direct mail which has historically proven to have a very poor ROI, or digital billboards, which are very expensive with very low impressions.

Buses with EBC advertisements are specifically assigned to run through our campus communities, through both Minneapolis and St. Paul downtowns, back to suburban park-and-rides and neighborhood stops. Riders become familiar with the ads as they see them repeatedly for five weeks on their buses. Pedestrians, many of whom are suburban car-commuters, become familiar with the ads as buses pass by downtown.

Those waiting at bus shelters will become familiar with the poster ads, connecting them visually with the bus tails and the interior bus ads.(I LOVE CONNECTEDNESS!!!)

Ten transit shelter ads will also rotate throughout downtown Minneapolis over the course of the four weeks leading up to Easter.

I’m really excited to watch this campaign evolve past the Easter season. Melissa Therrien, Kellie Cornell, Eva Zellmer, Mike Hadley, Andrew Broshat, Amy Overgaard, Shannon Nelson–it was so much fun collaborating!

For Grandma

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Hi Everyone.

In case we’ve never met, my name is Andrea. I’m Diane’s eldest granddaughter.

Diane had a heck of a time with her health over the last forty years, didn’t she? There’s no question—she was dealt a rough hand. But she also had a heck of a time making the most of those years with family and friends. I bet that if you close your eyes and picture my grandma, you see her smiling or laughing. You probably hear her answering the phone with a cheerful, “Yello,” or eating a late-night bowl of ice cream or popcorn with her eyes rolled back in her head, filled with glee; or maybe you hear her retelling a story with more animation and gusto than Lucille Ball, or maybe she’s beaming happily at her great-grandkids as they run around her living room. Time and time again, as years went on and her body continued to fail her in new and miserable ways, I think we can all agree that her shining personality remained intact. Diane was always still Diane.

She was a mother to two and a surrogate mother to many who crossed the threshold of the Schellenberg home over the years. She was a friend to hundreds and I swear she must’ve been cousins with millions. Second, third, fourth cousins, in Wisconsin, Georgia and Germany—she was in touch with them all! And she was a grandmother to four and a great-grandmother to two.

On a personal note, something I always appreciated about my Grandma is how she always made an effort to understand me as I grew up. When I was in elementary school, I remember her sitting down next to me while I browsed through some kind of teen magazine. She started pointing at pictures of boys saying, “Oh he’s cute.” I was SO embarrassed. But I knew she was just trying to connect with me.

When I was in middle school, Grandma Diane and Grandpa Wayne stayed with my brother and I at our house in Alabama while our parents were out of town. Unfortunately, a 13-year-old girl at the time, I entered a biological rite of passage that every girl must endure when my parents were gone. I called my mom to tell her what was happening and she told Grandma. I ran into the kitchen and started painting my nails, weeping from humiliation, praying she wouldn’t come upstairs and talk to me about it. I heard her coming up the stairs and I was filled with dread. She simply and casually strolled up to the kitchen table, sat down, grabbed a bottle of nail polish and started painting her nails and said, “This is a pretty color.” She couldn’t have approached it more perfectly. I made her promise not to tell grandpa, and she let me stay home from school with her for the rest of the week. We watched movies together and ate lots of junk food. At a time when I know my mom really wished she could’ve been there with me, I know she was thankful it was Grandma Diane who was there to go through it with me.

One Summer in college, I spent two weeks working on the hobby farm my grandparents shared with my Uncle Mike. I treasure the time I spent painting birdhouses and sheds with my Grandpa Wayne, gathering chicken eggs and chasing ducks underneath the car. But most of all, I treasure the memories of driving around Hector, Glencoe, and Hutchinson with Grandma Diane, the summertime sun beating into the car, windows down. She let me play all of my CDs because she wanted to hear what I liked. I mean, we listened to Mariah Carey, old NSync and other pop music, as well as some not-quite-as-terrible stuff like John Mayer and Jason Mraz. She hummed along even though she didn’t know the songs and tapped her hands on the steering wheel no matter how ridiculous or obscene the lyrics got. I made sure to play some old songs I knew she’d like too, like The Andrews Sisters, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. She oohed and aahed over the nostalgia those songs drew up in her mind of her teenage years and early years of marriage to Grandpa.

To me, she was a warm, loving, relentlessly caring grandma. To you, I hope she was just as warm, loving, and relentlessly caring in whatever role she played in your life. Or maybe she was basically just your primary contact for fine knit afghans, scarves and sweaters in a jiffy. If that’s true, that’s ok. She loved doing it.

Whoever my grandma was to you, one thing’s for sure—I know you’re really going to miss her. The world just won’t be as bright without her in it. But out of all the people in this room, there’s only one person who will miss her more than the rest of us combined. And that’s my grandpa.

My grandparents were married for nearly 60 years. In my lifetime, I’ve seldom come across another couple more interconnected at such a deep level. Grandma’s family truly became Grandpa’s closest of kin when they got married. Meeting Grandma changed everything for him. And really—it changed everything for her, too. I’ll let her tell the story in her own words:

“Schellie and I met around November 1956 at the YMCA in St. Paul at a club called, ‘The Club With No Name,’ which I was a member of. On Sunday nights we held dances. My friend Bunice had talked to some guys from her hometown of Fulda and told them about the dances. Well, Schellie, Bill and Buzz came to the dance that Sunday night. As the story goes, Bill and Schellie walked across the dance floor to ask Bunice to dance. Bill got there first so Schellie asked me. That was the start of something wonderful. He brought me back to my home that night and we have been together ever since. It has been a marriage with a lot of things happening.

First, Schellie did not ever propose to me. It went something like this: Schellie told me he loved me one night as we were parked in the country someplace. I told him I loved him and his reply was, ‘Well I better get you a ring.’ How romantic! But that is about as romantic as Schellie gets. On valentine’s Day I received my beautiful diamond ring. We were at a restaurant in St. Paul in Highland Park. We hadn’t known each other long but knew it was right.

We were married on August 25, 1957 on one of the hottest days. My sister Joy was my maid of honor, three of my girlfriends were bridesmaids: Bev, Carol and Gloria. Chuck Draeger flew home from the Navy to be Schellie’s best man. Schellie’s groomsmen were Buzz, Ron and Bill. Reverend Wolff married us at St. Matthews Lutheran Church on Lexington Avenue in St. Paul. Reverend Wolff said it was the prettiest wedding he’d seen at the church. It really was.”

…fast forward 50 years…through the births of two children, four grandkids, multiple health crises and challenges…Here’s what Grandma had to say about 50 years of marriage to Grandpa:

“This brings us to our 50th year of marriage. We are still as much or more in love than when we met that night at the YWCA. Yes, I guess it was love at first sight or very soon after. I will never be able to understand how Schellie keeps going like he does. Schellie is never without pain in his leg. Some nights become very difficult for him with the pain. Schellie is one in a million and I am so lucky that we found each other. We have gone through some difficult times in the past 50 years, with operations, sicknesses and normal aches and pains but we are dealing with it all.”

Grandpa was Grandma’s strength. He was her physical strength when she couldn’t do things on her own anymore and he was her mental and emotional example of strength when she encountered health challenges of her own later on in her life. We all heard her say many times, “I’ve got my marine. He can take care of me just fine.”

Grandma and Grandpa slept in a tiny double bed for their entire marriage. A DOUBLE BED. Some nights, I don’t even like to share my double bed with my yorkie. But they liked to be close. All the time. Right until the end. Two chairs side-by-side facing a TV, a room full of rambunctious grandkids tearing presents open on Christmas, a hospital bed, an open road with two kids in the backseat, and…the end of life. Together.

So if Grandpa and Grandma drew strength from each other—what was the source of their individual strength? Their faith in God sustained them through challenge after challenge. They continuously turned to their church and their pastor for guidance and comfort. Last Spring, when Grandma got sick with gout in all of her joints and the decision was made to transition into assisted living, I made her a booklet of index cards and wrote a Bible verse about hope on each one. She kept it on her bedside table and told me she read it every night. She held onto hope in Jesus. And because of that hope—I know I’ll see her again.

Isaiah 46:4 (NLT) says:
I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.

I may not know what it looks like where she is. I may have trouble really believing she’s actually there in heaven. I mean, what is Heaven, really? It’s so beyond what the human mind can fathom—it’s often difficult to have faith in its existence, isn’t it? But faith is the belief in what can’t be seen. So I pray for faith to believe. I pray for faith to believe that God will lovingly and mercifully carry me to my grave in the same way he carried my Grandma Diane. And until that day, I pray for the ability to have an attitude like Grandma’s. Bright. Shining. Positive. No matter how much I miss her. Not only would she want it that way, but it’s what God calls us to do.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (MSG) says:
And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.

My prayer is for all of us to truly find hope in Jesus and the ability to carry on without Diane—the evidence of his incredible love lies in the creation of her spirit, the life she was blessed to lead, and the merciful end she met with her Savior.

I’m going to wrap this up exactly how grandma would simply by saying, “Talk atcha later.”