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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Book signing in Tulsa! You want in on this hypercritical action.



New book signing poster is done and delivered. For, you know, book signings. Yes, everyone has something that excites them. Mine is seeing compliments on foam board. Don't judge me. 

I'll be proudly displaying this braggadocious foam board during the book signing tomorrow night, from 6:30 until I leave, at Bound for Glory Books, 4624 E. 11th Street, on Nerd Row in Tulsa. 

How long has it been since you've been to Tulsa's Nerd Row? Well, partner, that's too long. 

Come by. Say hello. Buy a book. Buy nine more. I'll be there and you can tell me all about what and who else you've been judging all day. And I will, patiently, listen to it all and judge you, too. It'll be a critical good time! Who could possibly want to miss this? 

Seriously. Who. Because I have a few opinions about said person. 


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

There's only one way to stop hate, if we're willing. But are we?


Growing up as a preacher's kid and a preacher's grandkid and a preacher's niece, you see things in life at an early age that many may never see. Some things are heartbreakingly beautiful, and you feel blessed to experience them. Some impossibly sad, and you feel burdened to know them. And some are so hateful you can't understand them at all.

And for good reason.

Growing up in my family, we weren't safeguarded against the seriousness of life. Or the reality of it. A safe space? That was the closet we hung out in when the tornado sirens started.

Because I was raised during a time kids rode bikes without helmets and played on playgrounds with hard edges, I understood life held a certain amount of pain. And that was okay. It made the days you left the playground without skinned knees more of a success.

No blood or band-aids today! I'm getting the hang of this playing business.

But the pain I never could adjust to was watching my family attacked without cause. Being in ministry isn't a bunch of delivering casseroles and chatting with the elderly. Although, admittedly, that happens.

It's dealing with people in pain, people who cause pain, and, at times, entire groups who simply hate you for existing at all. I can't even count all the bite marks in my tongue from staying silent while grandpa, my uncles, or my dad sat patiently through accusations, attacks, lies, and verbal abuse from this angry person or that angry group.

The men in my family are why I know what real strength looks like: It's calm. It's generous. It's charitable. And it suffers in silence for the good of others. It's also very masculine, but that's a delicious blog for another day.

As a kid, I learned quickly that hurting people hurt people, angry people rage, and sometimes people hate you for no reason at all. Inside of them, something is broken. Or dark. Or dead. And no earthly power can right them.

I'm not going to say I took it all with stoic indifference, let alone grace. Personally, I wanted to punch these people in the nose, but that would have only gotten me grounded.

That didn't mean, however, I didn't reach my tolerance limit a few times.

"I hate them," a disgusted teen version of myself told my father one day. "They're just a bunch of freaking haters. And I'm sick of it. I really hate them."

Dad, because he's groovy like that, asked me a question that has served to cool my temper frequently over the years. "And how does that make you any different than them?"

Ah, man. I knew what was coming: a life lesson. And this life lesson was going to suck.

First, before he unloaded whatever weighty wisdom I would need to consider, I offered up my best argument: 1) they hated us first, 2) they need a taste of their own medicine, 3) I have good reason to hate them, while they hate us for no reason at all.

It didn't get me far.

"If you hate them," Dad countered, "then you're acting exactly like them. You're doing what you know is wrong. You've become no different than them. Is that what you want? To become like them?"

At the time, I didn't know the word to describe how I felt at that thought. Now I do; it's "repulsed."

He explained that it wasn't good enough to not repay hate with hate or act out my anger. This wasn't only about my actions, but my heart. God calls us to not hate, but He also calls us to take a giant leap further and love.

"But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you." Luke 6:27

Man, I just knew I was going to hate this lesson.

The idea of loving a hated enemy, of course, struck me as completely impossible. And, at times, it still does.

Because it is.

Loving our enemies isn't in us. We can't love like that on our own. God, however, can. And does. And shares that love with us, if we'll only ask. But that means we also give Him the right to seek the vengeance or not seek the vengeance we so badly desire.

Man, seriously unpleasant lesson.

The thing is, in life, we will often have good cause to hate. Society will often encourage us to do exactly that, in fact. And to seek revenge. Or to give as good as we got. What that same society won't tell you is that hate will destroy you, too. It'll hollow you out. It'll rip away your peace. It'll torment your mind. It'll sicken your body. It'll rob you of joy even on the lovely days, even in the celebratory moments, because hate has a thin, runny consistency and, once poured out, it gets on everything.

We can let it go. We can forgive and move on. We can release hate because Jesus, who wasn't only a man of incredible words, was a man of incomprehensible action. He didn't only instruct us to love our enemies, He showed us exactly how while hanging on a cross.

"Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing."
Luke 23:34

My family and I watched "Woodlawn" this weekend, which ended up being incredibly coincidental. The movie is about a school in Alabama that overcomes racial division by stopping the finger pointing, stopping the rhetoric, stopping all the airing of grievances and weighing of victimhood and seeking of revenge and turning to Jesus.

These football players chose to stop the repetitive war - where no one was winning, anyway - and leave the past behind by coming together, asking Jesus into their lives, and letting Him change how they treated each other. By coming together, praying together, and letting go of all their anger, they were able to inspire their entire school, which inspired their community, which inspired other schools, which affected their entire town.

They found peace and unity in their community and they didn't need a single march, protest, or counter-protest to do it.

We really can have unity in our nation and here's the historic, tried and tested, formula to do just that. So the question shouldn't be how we end racial division, it's whether or not we're willing to do what will.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

No, life isn't always great. But my book is.

Live today! Order your autographed copy at TaraLynnThompson.com. It's the sensible thing to do.

This picture is coming at you live from the hospital. I'm here today with a family member who is undergoing a procedure for skin cancer. And, yes, while they're under the knife, I'm here in the lobby launching my book, Just Another Sidekick.

Appropriate? Inappropriate? They're often so similar.

I didn't reschedule this announcement for two reasons 1) because life is always a mixture of joy and sadness happening simultaneously and 2) this date signifies that perfectly. On August 1, 2012, around the 10 am hour (if you want specifics) I injured my spine and a whole new journey, one I never saw coming, swept me out to sea.

Life altered drastically in nearly every way - how I physically moved, where I lived, who was in my life, what I did for a living. Within 45 days, the only thing that didn't change was my eye color, but that shifts depending on my clothes anyway.

Five years ago, I was living through an evolution in my life I considered bad. Everything seemed wrong. Ill-fitted. Uncomfortable. Or just so incredibly hard. This was not the life I had envisioned for myself and I struggled to see a hopeful future. But, I'm not always right about such things.

What I found was that, yes, there was a lot of harsh reality happening. Even in the midst of it, however, there were also moments of honest laughter, healthy challenges, perfect breezes, delightful surprises, and priceless friendships being built.

All the bad also brought with it good.

So, on that note, I'm launching Just Another Sidekick, the sequel to Not Another Superhero, on this difficult anniversary to show that a day previously representative of pain can also represent joy. And that a day of joy also comes with the seriousness of reality.

When life is served, my friends, it doesn't come in separate dishes but in one ginormous bowl. Never hesitate to grab a spoon and dig in.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Are there boundaries in entertainment anymore? And, if so, what are they?



Today, I had a long Twitter exchange - which I never do - with a journalist and Christian about #GameofThrones. He defended the indefensible because, dude, it's really good tv.

I mean, what's a show without rape as a frequent, common, and accepted plot event? Throw in some sexual abuse of children, too. That's just necessary story development. Don't forget to include scenes of pregnant women being stabbed in the belly and women killed by shooting arrows into their groin. It's been two minutes, cue another rape scene.

All good solid character development.

I know talking about our entertainment choices is a sensitive topic. Entertainment is sacred. If you can find a show with good acting and an intriguing storyline, we'll tolerate nearly anything to have it.

But we've gone too far with this. And, if we don't speak up, hard as it is to imagine, it's only going to get worse.

I'm sharing the Twitter exchange to illustrate the lengths #GameofThrones viewers will go to justify their entertainment. If you're so attached to a program that you believe violent sexual assault on anyone for any reason at any time is a "necessary visual," you've got a serious stronghold in your life.

Turn off the tv, get away from that show, and get some perspective before it does more damage to your perception than it has already done. Being okay with consuming this kind of evil is not trivial and never okay.

Yes. Calling this stuff out will get me called "self-righteous" and "judgmental" and "holier than though." If that's what it takes to push back against this kind of vileness, so be it. I've been called worse.




Any story that relies on sexual violence is a pathetic excuse for a story. And created by unimaginative writers. Building rich characters, even villains, requires far more than showing the vulgarity of their actions. That's the cheap route. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the writers, should try harder. But, instead, they are focused only on shock value of the subject.

A story in The Atlantic, the one I quoted above, outlines several ways the writers have gone far beyond what was required for the story or the character in their illustration of sexual violence. They've purposely added even more than the book series outlined and all for what purpose?

In the end, if sexual violence against women and children is acceptable in the name of entertainment, what isn't? If that doesn't stop you from watching a show, what will?

For you Game of Thrones fans, I'd really love an answer.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Entertainment at the cost of what?

Here's Matt Walsh's post on the subject. 

Years ago, a friend recommended, "The Ring." I watched it, then spent a week of insomnia waiting for a dead girl to crawl out of my TV.
I'm not glad I freaked out for a week, but, then again, I am. It forced me to seriously rethink my entertainment choices and their impact on my thoughts, views, and peace.
What I've discovered is that the more distance I put between myself and the glorification of sex, death, and gore, the more I see how it impacts me when it crosses my path again. I'm not only generally disturbed, I'm angry. So, I shut off my tv. Then I yell at it. And it soothes my rage.
If we think our entertainment is harmless and has no impact for good or bad, we've swallowed a lie. And if we think, 'oh, it doesn't bother me,' we've washed down that lie with personal deception. We're either lying to others or ourselves because, yes, it does affect you. If you aren't noticing it, that means you've allowed it to root itself in who you are. It means it's affected you far more than what you even realize. It means you need to start noticing now and fast.
The environment, the words, and, yes, the entertainment we surrounded ourselves with impacts how we view our life, our beliefs, our world, and even our personality. Whether unconsciously or not, we often take on characteristics and mannerisms of the characters - or reality stars - we watch. This is how movie one-liners become part of our cultural dialect.
Entertainment also puts thoughts in our heads that simply should not be there, especially as a Christ-devoted example to our friends, coworkers, and family. Christ is holy. Above all else. Holy. What are we saying about our love of God to those around us who witness us easily discard that principle for a good time?
What I'm saying is, our entertainment choices matter. Really, really matter.
I'm not telling you to resort to watching reruns of "Little House on the Prairie," although a few episodes of that show wouldn't hurt anyone. And I'm definitely not saying I've got the list of "approved" and "banned" TV shows and movies to pass around. But I do believe we should be considering what we're consuming before pushing play. And we should be willing to turn it off for moral reasons, not just entertainment value ones.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Life and Times of a Book Festival

The Decopolis BookFest in Tulsa on Saturday was a hot, fun mess. This is how it all went down....


The ability to succeed as a writer has nothing to do with communication skills or creativity. It's all about the biceps, deltoids, and core. Can you or can you not carry everything needed for your table for a minimum distance of one city block? Many a promising writer has ended their careers at the 20-yard line.





That's not even a little true. There wasn't one freaking camel in the entire downtown area.





Those who know tell me authors must constantly be taking pictures with their books. But...it's a book. It's rectangular. Eventually, you run out of fresh picture angles. So I've taken up flashing hand gestures with my books. Here, I went with the peace sign. I have no idea why. It means absolutely nothing.





This sweet couple stood and chatted for awhile. I sat the entire time, while, apparently, taking a periodic nap during the conversation.





That's not completely true. I ate very little, although I will admit to consuming a fruit roll-up. Otherwise, I kept consumption at a minimum because bathroom breaks aren't frequent. Instead, I chose starvation and dehydration.






Then a friend, knowing that's exactly what I was doing, showed up to complicate the situation. I won't regret drinking that water. I won't.




There's a family-type familiarity between readers. We know each other, even when we don't know each other. Whether we're driven to read history or fiction or autobiographies, it doesn't matter. We know inside those pages there is another world, one we can only explore by taking the time to seek it wrapped in words.
Meeting those people was the best part of the day.
The worst part of my day was when the bookfest ended and that freaking camel still hadn't shown.

The end.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Why is entertainment so unentertaining?



A few months ago I tried watching Homeland. I knew better. But some lessons take a few tries before they stick.

After a few too many episodes of feeling like a voyeur in Nicholas Brody's bedroom, I signed off. Let's let these kiddos work out their material issues without me watching.

I don't own cable, or any of the cable add-ons because, quite frankly, I don't enjoy needing mental decontamination after an evening of relaxing in front of the TV. I prefer not seeing severed bodies during a typical Friday night - I'm funny that way. Or hearing joke after joke about genitals and bathroom habits - because jokes are supposed to be funny. Or watching actors simulate sex acts - I pity them for the awkwardness they should be feeling.

Since I'm neither a sex addicted porn watcher or a murderous psychopath, none of these things entertain me. And all these things, in one form or another, are everywhere. Even in my non-HBO or Showtime watching world.

God preserve me from the day I'm held hostage and tortured with Game of Thrones episodes.

I don't mean to come off like some self-righteous puritan. But, then again, do self-righteous puritans hate being around gratuitous sex, gory violence, extreme crassness and excessive profanity? Because, buddy, if so I'm in. Get me the t-shirt.

Here's the part that really disappoints me: As consumers, we can have better; As artists, we can do better.

Entertainment can be inspiring, hilarious, romantic, adventurous, mysterious, intriguing, fascinating, intelligent, inventive, impactful, pointed, opinionated, thrilling, all without the negative, gruesome elements. Despite the popular belief of most entertainment producers, it can. And the fact we're so rarely treated to such either shows a lowering of standards on the consumer's part, or a laziness on the artist's.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying you can't find high caliber entertainment anywhere, I'm saying is isn't predominant in the industry. It's like that rare fleck of gold you find after sifting through running sewage.

Now go wash your hands.

When I wrote Not Another Superhero, writing a story with class was a major objective for me. Could I create complex characters, put them in extreme circumstances, design a multi-faceted plot, ignite it with a respectful but spirited sexual tension, and do it all without asking my readers to lower their standards?

You tell me.

Not Another Superhero is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The sequel, Just Another Sidekick, is due out in August.

Expect more from your entertainment, my friends. Expect movies and books and art that meet your moral and mental standards. When you do, the artists - as artist Robert Florczak explains in the above Prager University video - will have to meet those standards.

Hold artists accountable and demand better. You deserve entertainment from your entertainment. Otherwise, what are you inviting into your time and attention?