Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It's election season which means...yep. Celebrities on a white screen.



Actors seeking political relevance are always cringeworthy, God love 'em. But they really try. And this one takes a stab at beating all us naysaying common folk to the punch. 
Since people make fun of their political ads (don't mind us fault-finders, we're no one special), they decided to make fun of themselves first. And then they went right on ahead and made their political ad. It's enough to get you excited they might have gotten a dose of reality right before realizing they didn't get a dose of reality.
The problem with these kinds of videos is that they tell us nothing new. We already know Hollywood is liberal. It would be like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar going around telling everyone, "I'm tall."
Yeah, we got that.
"I'm really tall."
Yep. Understood.
As for their opinion, I have no problem with it. It's called a democratic republic. They have a right to their opinion and I have a right to disagree. My disappointment is the fact here, yet again, is nothing new under the sun. Another presidential election year, another group of celebrities on a white screen enjoying the sound of their political endorsement. And I thought the Marvel series was never-ending.

Friday, September 16, 2016

3 Lessons in Library Selfies

What do you do the first time you see your first novel at your local library? You stand in the "T" fiction aisle snapping creepy selfies with it, that's what you do.

Doesn't everyone?

Of course they do.

When that moment arrives, you'll be shocked, elated, freaked out, and a dork for taking selfies in the library. But that won't be your biggest problem. Here are the three things I learned from my library selfie photo shoot:

1. Books on the top shelf are hard to see and hard to shoot. If your last name lands you in the clouds or the dungeon, consider changing your name. Something with a "K" might work.


The straight on shock face. 

2. You dreamed of your book going public. And it has. Now your name is out there riding free, living willy-nilly, and at risk of being a dog's chew toy, dropped in the tub, and left on the back of the commode.
The trick to not thinking about it? Not thinking about it.

The side eyeball vein look. 

3. Conquering the world one shelf at a time takes patience and ridiculous, illogical hope. So, shrug. Be ridiculous. It's not like your hope has anything better to do.

The creepy coming-at-you-from-the-side angle.

Good luck out there! If you send me a copy of your book, I promise not to let my dog eat it because I don't have a dog.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Millions of peaches. Peaches for free.


I met a man last week who said “the best job I ever had” was on a GM repair line where he spent the day doing crossword puzzles and sudoku. Then he went home and patted himself on the back for another day well done.
It reminded me of the best job I've ever had when I was a kid. It lasted all summer and, near the last part of August, I got paid in peaches. As many as I could eat.
Back then, the arrival of Colorado peaches meant the summer season of food harvesting was nearly done. We spent our summers swimming and bike riding like everyone else, but after the work was finished.
We had corn to shuck. And green beans to snap. Apples to peel. And tomatoes to slice. Blueberries to pick. And weeds to rip out by the hair.
And when we were done with that? The food had to be preserved for winter because food doesn’t preserve itself.
That corn was cut off the cob and frozen. The green beans were canned. The tomatoes went into homemade salsa which would burn your eyes for days, even when you were sure you kept your hands away from your face.
But when it was all done, we ate like kings. And slept like the dead.
I know work is now considered a bad word. Getting something for nothing is considered the ultimate achievement. But, without the labor, I don't think that Colorado peach we waited all summer for would have ever been as sweet.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Fear and the sucker punch

Pre-gym


My Dad never taught me to face my fears. He taught me to beat them to the punch. Get in front of them. Don't let them take an inch because then they'll take 10,000 miles. 
And he wasn't kidding. 
When I turned 13, he drove me four hours across the state to the biggest church youth event happening that weekend and dropped me off in a massive field with hundreds of total strangers playing volleyball. 
His parting words: "Go make friends."
Years later, I hydroplaned and wrecked my first car. When Dad got home, he told me to get in his car.
"If it's alright with you, Dad, I'd rather not ride in a vehicle anymore today."
His response: "Nope. We're not going to start that. Get in. We're going out for hamburgers."
And so on and so forth.
So, what do you do when the last time you were at the gym your vehicle was vandalized and your identity stolen?
For one, you never leave anything of value in your vehicle again.
For two, you go buy a new workout outfit and go back to the freaking gym. 



Post-gym. Any questions?

Beating fear to the punch is a sweaty business.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Day Two in the Attack of the Gremlins



My garage carpet flooded today from a mysterious leak that persists in its mystery. And so the water continues being cut off and my landlord continues cutting into walls.

 Best of luck to all of us. 

 Bad days often come in pairs. Or threes. Also quads. Or any number of their choosing. The best you can do is laugh, if possible. Cry, if necessary. Chant "oh no, oh no, oh please no," which is my personal favorite. Then keep moving forward.

 These aren't my favorite kind of days, but they have their purpose. It's a great reminder that our strength easy dissipates, but God's does not. If we truly believe that, then we can confidently face tomorrow because, let's be real here, we have no idea what the Gremlins have planned for Day Three.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Dear criminal class of miscreants...



... who broke into my Jeep and stole my purse this morning,
You targeted me for victimization, but, alas, you have failed. I’m just not in the mood. I’m feeling waspy today. Never target me when I’m feeling waspy.
Taking my purse is inconvenient. But now you’ve given me a reason to buy a new one. Without guilt.
Amateur.
You didn’t think this through. You took my favorite Burt’s Bees lip gloss, but the joke is on you. I was ready to switch to a new shade.
You just can’t win for losing.

As for breaking my window, you chose the wrong curly-headed chick. My hair always looks windblown anyway. Another epic fail!
You broke into my vehicle while I was at the gym. While you were being recorded on security tapes racking up charges at Lowes, Walmart, Target, and Walgreens, I was building muscle. Now you’re a wanted criminal and I have the core strength to kick your arse.
Who made the better decision today, hmm?

And then, the worst mistake of all, you took my purse but left behind a signed copy of my first book, Not Another Superhero. Have you any idea how valuable that will eventually be? You’re only playing the short game here.
Plus, I’ve been praying for you since the moment I saw your handy work. Do you know what that means? Coals. Heaps of them on your pitiful head. If you get singed by falling brimstone, you only have yourself to blame.
Lastly, I’d like to leave you with a bit of advice.
First, your smash and grab technique needs work. Eventually, you’re going to develop tennis elbow.
Second, never mess with a writer. We’ll spend years hunting you down simply for the fodder.
Sincerely,
Your Coming Tribulation

Friday, August 19, 2016

It's funny the things you miss



There was never a clean scrap of paper in the house. Not the front of paper. Not the back of paper. Not the inside of envelopes. Often, not even the toilet paper.

To my brother, the world was a canvas. And if he couldn't find a canvas, well...your journal will do.




That was life growing up with an artist. They must create. He was a doodling furnace that consumed every writeable surface in the house. Have you ever seen an alien battle depicted on an empty paper towel holder?

I have.

A few of them.

Space travel is a bloody business.




I've always admired his talent. More than admired. Coveted. I do well to print my name legibly. He could recreate the minute details of a Boeing 747 within six minutes or less of it flying overhead. Being in the same house with talent like that makes everything you do look like...well...child's play.

Because it is.




Mostly, however, what drove me crazy was never having a piece of paper to myself. As a writer pre-personal computer age, this was like dropping a swimmer in the desert and telling them to practice their laps.

"Mom! He drew all over my notebook again!"

My parents should have bought paper by the bale and ink by the bucket.




Even my homework got in on the action. My assignments were often spruced up with bold but odd doodles in the corner, on the cover, on the back, inside the notepad. You name it. Those doodles were sneaky creatures. They could wiggle into nearly any open space.

Frequently, my teachers would inform me doodling was not allowed in math. Or science. On my English papers or along the spine of my social studies homework. When they'd ask me to explain it, I'd just shrug.

"I left my notebook unguarded last night and Brendon found it."




As a kid, you have certain fantasies of what life will be like as an adult. You dream of all the dessert you'll eat. The late nights where you skip sleep. The freedom to do anything. And the endless supply of paper and pencils always available.

Okay, that last one might have only been me.




My brother and I haven't shared bathrooms, dinner tables, backseats, or notepads for nearly 20 years now. Recently, however, I was combing through my supply of clean notebooks and found a remnant left over. There, as if conjured straight out of a childhood memory, was a notebook with scribbles all over it.

I'm guessing he left it at my place at some point during the last two decades. I honestly hope I haven't kept notebooks around from high school. If so, it's time to sit myself down and have a chat about hoarding.




The funny or odd or ironic thing about that notepad is that I'm never going to let it go. I'll trash all the empty ones first. And, even then, good luck getting this sucker out of my hands. I have an intense grip.

After all those years of wanting to dump his head in a vat of black ink and watch bubbles float to the top, I missed those doodles. Really missed them.

Even though I was often frustrated beyond a healthy blood pressure level, I still had to admire the talent. And the journey. On every page there was a character waiting. Or a scene. Or an impression that left me realizing some creative minds think in more dimensions than the rest of us.

Now, as an adult, I want the doodles back. But my brother has far better things to do.




Next month, he and his wife will welcome their first son. He's already an active critter, my sister-in-law tells me. I'm not a bit surprised. If I had to guess, he's running out of wall space in there to draw on.

Or maybe he'll be more like me. The boring, reading one.

But I rather hope not. I hope, like his father, he is a fount of endless ideas. I hope he dreams of alien battles and draws them everywhere. I hope his curiosity gets him into trouble. And adventure. I hope he recreates creatures from his head into the corner of every piece of Botany homework his older sisters turn-in. And I hope they have to explain it to their teachers. Over and over again.

I hope he's alive with imagination. And I hope, when I leave my notepad lying around, he draws all over it.



Monday, August 1, 2016

The must-have piece for this summer's wardrobe.



Books compliment every outfit. You can't even say that about scarves. Get a copy of Not Another Superhero, your universal accessory, today at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Day of Book Research

The sequel to Not Another Superhero is currently underway. Stay tuned!

Until then, here's a glimpse into a day of researching a particular scene. How does a salvage yard fit into the mystery of Samantha Addison's life? Great question. Let me ask her and I'll get back to you.










A photo posted by @taralynnthompson on

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

It's a truth universally known.



Join all the action...and sarcasm...the sarcastic action?... Join Samantha in Not Another Superhero by ordering your copy today. Every order comes with a complimentary stack of wooden crates. (It doesn't, actually. That'd be a shipping nightmare.) Place your order today at Amazon or Barnes&Noble and you could be pulling out splinters by the weekend.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

8 Never Trump Reasons That Don't Work

A photo posted by @taralynnthompson on



Not voting for or voting for Trump has entered into the righteous stance stage. And I get it. I am it. Politics can extrovert an introvert and impassion a stoic. It's potent stuff, these ideals. As it should be. So I don't apologize for my opinions (nor should you), nor am I offended by any that disagree.

And I usually disagree passionately. So don't be offended.

Thankfully, we live in a society where conflicting ideas are welcome. And legal. If, as Benjamin Franklin challenged, we can keep it.

Stay tuned.

Lately, in our passionate expression, I keep hearing a few repeated phrases from those unhappy with the Republican ticket. And, since that's my side of the aisle, I want to address them. This isn't about defending Trump. He can do that himself. Or educating anyone about him. Anyone can do that for themselves.

This is more of an observation of the current mindset. I would start this by saying I'm no expert, but what follows is actually my opinion about these phrases. So I am the only expert.

Roll tape:

1. "I must stand up for my principles."

Here, here! I'm always for standing up for your principles. So, that's awesome.
My confusion is how Christians/Conservatives are using this in relation to not voting for Trump. I get he's not your ideal candidate, nor mine. But is Hillary? So you're standing up for your principles against someone who doesn't represent your principles by electing someone who doesn't represent your principles.
Do I have that about right?

2. "It's time to send a message."

This message sounds important. What is it? Who will be receiving it? How will they receive it? And, if you've already been trying to get this person to listen, what will make them listen now?
If we're going to gamble the future stability of western civilization on this message, let's make it clear. And, let's make sure it will reap the intended results. Otherwise, it sounds about as potent as a celebrity hashtag campaign.


3. "I could never support someone who (fill in the blank with whatever you dislike about Trump)."

It's vitally important to know who and what we are supporting. Absolutely. But don't stop there. Principles don't end at the ballot box. Who else shouldn't be receiving your support? Do you know about the players in your favorite team? The actors in your favorite movie? The principles that are being promoted in your favorite binge TV series?
Entertainers aren't politicians - true. They're worse.
They've been given national and international platforms with no vetting whatsoever. We support them because they entertain us. That's all. Yet they sway the culture. Then the culture sways the legislator. And we're paying them to do so.
If you can't support a person because of (fill in the blank), then make sure you aren't. Be consistent. Be principled. If you're willing to risk the future of a nation, make sure you're also willing to risk missing that playoff game.

4. "I shouldn't have to choose between the lesser of two evils."

Ah, sure you should. You do it all the time.
- That hateful thought you didn't share? Well, you shouldn't have even thought it.
- That exaggeration your boss pitched during the client meeting? Let's call that what it is: a lie. And you let it stand.
- That bill you couldn't pay this month? That didn't mean you didn't owe it.
Life is filled with making the tough decisions. Some we get right. Some we get wrong. But we still have to make them. That's life. And it won't be changing the rules before November.

5. "My vote against Trump is not a vote for Hillary."

Then who is the vote for?
Your "fill in the blank" candidate has no chance of winning because, ps, they aren't even on the ballot. And any third party candidate who is running has exactly the same chance as your fill in. Just like all modern day Presidential elections since forever, no third party candidate has ever won the Presidency. Even Theodore Roosevelt, although he came close, didn't pull that off.
So, like all other US Presidential elections since we've held them, this is between two candidates. If you want Trump to lose so you can "make a statement," stand on your principles and be honest. Vote for Hillary. Anything else is a denial of what you're really doing.

6. "This is only one election."

This statement is often used with "we're better off losing the Presidency and focusing on our Congressional races." Because that tactic has worked beautifully for nearly eight long years now.
The fact this is one election is freaking scary. So much at stake. One election. Not good.
Somewhere a myth has been created that elections don't have consequences. That's a bold statement. Can someone, anyone, please give me an example of an election where there weren't consequences? One will do.


7. "I don't see any difference between Trump and Hillary." 

My head hurts.

8. "Voting for Trump just to vote against Hillary isn't good enough." 

You're so right. It isn't. If you're a conservative, there are several areas where you can find common ground with Trump and Pence. If, that is, you want to find it.



Verbally contentious election years don't bother me. Because, at present, our political fight at home for liberty and freedom still only involves words.

W.O.R.D.S.

So let's keep all of this discussion and disagreement in perspective. As civilians, our fight doesn't require us to leave our families, our homes, or start every work day wondering if we'll end it with both arms, legs, and eyes. And that's the survivors. For this nation, we still have the freedom, liberty, and blessing to fight our political wars with words.

But one day soon, if we treat elections as throwaways, the cost could get far, far greater.

Doing everything I can to stop that from happening? That's the principle I'm standing on.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How Melania May Have Cinched the Writer Vote


Writers are a tough voting block to get.

We, by trade, move in single file. We socialize seldom. We need so much alone time that solitary confinement sounds like a great vacation spot to get work done.

We don't fit into any identity political box.

Our race, gender, sexual preference vary too wildly to be included in the groups who exclude. We rarely even include each other. Winning Ohio would be easier. Sink your advertising dollars there.

You can't reach us with empty promises wrapped in pithy phrases because we are the creators of pithy phrases. Or hope to be. But ones with more imagination. Less processed ingredients.

What we do get, however, are the struggles only writers understand: like having your written work attacked. Melania Trump, along with however many staff writers contributed, reviewed, or offered direction, made a mistake. A writer's mistake. I may not be able to relate to her wardrobe, but I can understand being human. And then getting pounced publicly for it.

I live in that unforgiving village. I've seen the torches and pitchforks.

It may have been a block of text posted for inspiration. Or a possible direction. Along with dozens of others. Have you ever seen a writer's draft file? It's a hot mess. It's the summation of every possible thought, idea, factoid, quote, or inspiration for a quote needed for this speech or any other speech until the end of time.

It's a junk drawer of ideas.

Add multiple hands and it's a junk room.

Then you start the cutting/rewriting/rearranging process, which may or may not include reconfiguring the drawer itself. It's a bloody business. Not one for the squeamish or those with better things to do than stare for hours into the distance in a trancelike state.

As a writer, missing the easy fix is something I've done myself. I've probably done it in this blog. (Crap. I can't see it, but I'm sure I have.) I've simply been spared the limelight of a national stage. So I get what she might be going through. The frustration at working so hard, stressing over every minutia, and still getting one area wrong. And believing that one area will be all anyone will remember.

Ah, unlikely.

For Melania, this will be old news in...oh...another half hour or so. Her white dress, however, will be selling for weeks.

And, on the scale of important issues in the world, well...this isn't one. We have a country facing tough days and tougher ahead. Even if her subjects and verbs disagree from now until November, we have more important discordant issues to discuss.

So, thanks Melania. Thanks for taking a walk in my shoes since my back would never want me walking in yours.

Just keep writing. It's the best any humans who dare to write can ever do.

PS
For additional insight on how the plagiarism mistake could have occurred, the Dilbert creator Scott Adams offers up a quick, f-bomb laden explanation. There's the language warning for you.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Independence Day!



If the Son has set you free, then you are free indeed. (John 8:36) May ‪#‎GodBlessAmerica‬ and ‪#‎Happy4th‬ from Samantha Addison in ‪#‎NotAnotherSuperhero‬.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Lessons We Could All Learn from a Second Grader




Christian came about to my ribs. I know this because that's where his head would hit when he rushed out of class every week to hug me.

I learned not to wear long necklaces so his cheeks didn't get imprints.

For a year, Christian and I hung out every Wednesday. I was suppose to be helping him with his reading. What I know is that I learned a lot about Clifford the Big Red Dog, who really is just a ginormous animal. And that Christian, with his intelligence and warmth, taught me a few things about life I'd simply forgotten.

Here, thanks to Christian, is what I learned:

Christian eating his weight in pizza.

1. Sitting still is harder than it looks. No one should do it for long or often.

2. Start every conversation with, "I've missed you so much." It completely disarms the other person and makes them agree to anything you want.

3. Video games have no educational value, but they're freaking awesome.

4. If reading isn't fun, reading won't happen. So make reading fun.

5. Cookies should be eaten so that crumbs remain on your face to enjoy later.

6. When you leave a room, push in your chair, as well as every other chair in the visible distance. It will give you a great sense of satisfaction.

7. A week is also the same time span as eternity. So, when you don't see someone for a week, don't be surprised if when you leave they respond with, "But I won't see you for forever!"

8. Tickling fixes every bad day.

9. Crayons are the coolest gift ever, second only to chocolate.

10. Everyone loves to be seen and appreciated for who they are and what they can do. And that is a need you never outgrow.

Thanks buddy. I hope you have a great summer! I'll miss you.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The 5 Necessary Elements to Captivating Writing (Hint: at least 3 get overlooked.)



Goodreads asks lots of great questions. Some I answer seriously. The latest question was, "What's your advice for aspiring writers?" and I wanted to share my response, incase it can help you love your writing and love writing more. 

In a nutshell, this is the be all end all of advice. And it isn't only for aspiring writers, it's for all writers. Everywhere. In every phase. A great reminder that, when we write, we write with a burden. And it requires all of what we are. 

Here's my Goodreads answer:
Open your senses.  
Really open them. Take some menthol to the nasal passages. Smear some wasabi on your tongue. Walk into a fabric store and touch everything, but wash your hands first.
Experience your life through your senses. Pay attention to them. Pause when you hear a train whistle. Look at the details of a painting that you've seen a hundred times before. Stare at it again. Look for the things you missed. Scrutinize the paint strokes. Focus on the canvas fibers. Invision the artist's vision take shape, stroke by stroke. 
And then restrategize. 
Shuffle them up. Use senses in a situation that don't relate. What did that painting smell like? Was that wasabi a pasty, tired green or was the green vibrant with life? Did the menthol taste like biting into an avalanche? 
Okay, skip that last one. That could be toxic. 
When you write, you are the gateway for your reader to experience your story. You and you alone can do that for them. Otherwise, they are limited. They cannot smell, taste, touch, hear, or see your story. For all practical purposes, they are void of all five senses and cannot stimulate them except through you. 
You are their surrogate. Feel for them. Smell for them. Listen for what only you can hear and describe it. Go out there and eat that menthol.
Again, you probably shouldn't do that. 

Homework, if you want some:

When we tell a story, we often share our emotions, our thoughts, a few visuals, and that's where it ends. We leave a lot of flavor on the table that could be added. Next time you sit down to write a story,  as an exercise, focus on one sense, like hearing. Think about the scene: What do you hear? Focus on that sound. Is it alone? Does it have company? Is it why we - or, for fiction, our characters - feel and think what we do? What affect does the sound have on the emotion of that moment? Tell your reader what you hear as if they've never heard a sound of any kind before. 

And when you do, send it to me in the comments! Because I want to hear it, too. 


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

You wanna win, don't you?

Of course you do.

Enter below by clicking the "Enter Giveway" button (or clicking HERE since it's not showing up on some systems) for a chance to win an autographed copy of Not Another Superhero, along with a personal note from me about... well, I'll think of something.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Not Another Superhero by Tara Lynn Thompson

Not Another Superhero

by Tara Lynn Thompson

Giveaway ends June 10, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What difference could you possibly make?



She looked across the table at me and sighed, "I just don't know where to start."

Me either, come to think of it.

We were discussing the world and all its juicy problems. My friend wants to be involved, wants to reverse the destruction she sees, wants to push back all that is crippling the sense of right and wrong in the world.

Me too, come to think of it.

So...where to start?

We've made an overwhelming mess of things in our world. We have debt we entered into willingly while being unwilling to pay it. Stress we're stressed out about. Language police and protests against any police. Destruction that is called free speech. Free speech that is called destructive. Haters who hate the haters. Lovers who love too freely. Mysterious diseases. Mysterious legalities. Mysterious national borders. Freedom to enter any bathroom of our choosing but a lessening right to privacy. Rape that isn't rape rape and marriage that isn't marriage marriage. People seeking offense in anything except that which is offensive. And politics. Always the ever present seepage of politics into every aspect of our lives, whether it's in the laws that govern poorly, the burdens we are legally required to carry that are not our own, the disagreements that divide us, or the words we are and are not allowed to speak.

Yeah. It's ugly.

My friend wants to make a difference. And, let me be brutally honest with you here, she may not. Nothing we do may have any affect at all.

But that's the risk, isn't it? The not knowing if it matters. The unknown results. The hidden destination. We aren't asked to control the outcome, God simply asks us to be obedient. To do what is placed before us, what we know is right, whatever we can do, and to let Him handle it from there.

Results are His territory and the destination is His design. We're not responsible for our impact, only our actions.

My job is to trust that. And to trust Him: in my world, my life, and my future. When I do, shockingly enough, the mess doesn't seem so big anymore.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

21 years ago today. One small, untold story.



The man backed his pickup into the parking space and jumped out. Then he went to work.

In the bed of his truck was a gas grill, along with dozens and dozens and dozens of uncooked hamburger patties and hot dogs ready for cooking.

David Lopez, the President of Southwestern Bell Communications, walked out of his building, the one known as One Bell, the one that now houses Oklahoma City University's School of Law, the one - at that moment - with busted windows and traumatized employees, the one on 8th and Harvey, the one down the street from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the one that would become the Command Center for rescue workers until every last Oklahoman was brought out.

Lopez, having just been knocked out of his chair by the force of the explosion, exited the building and saw the man.

"You can't park here sir," Lopez remembers telling him, a story he recounted to me a few years ago during an interview. A story he used as an example of all the many incredible stories that happened on that day in 1995.

Instead of leaving, that man, who still remains nameless, heated up his grill. He turned to Lopez, who remembered his simple response, "He said, 'We're going to be here awhile and people are going to get hungry.'" Then he went back to cooking.

He was one of thousands who responded on April 19th - 21 years ago today - without direction or authority. Simply to be a good neighbor. To help.

They call it the Oklahoma Standard, this neighbor helping neighbor attribute. May we never lose it. More importantly, may we spread it to every corner of the world we can. And, in so doing, tell them where it comes from: a Savior who loves at all times and inspires us to do the same.



Friday, March 25, 2016

Your Four-Day-Dead Dream: What if there was a resurrection?



He wasn't suppose to die.

Lazarus had a cure. The cure. An all-access VIP pass to answered prayer. He would live. It was what Martha wanted most. And, because Jesus loved her, He would never deny her what she wanted most.

Right?

Martha believed her story would always be victorious. Imagine her devastation when she realized she had read her genre wrong. She was the protagonist in a tragedy.

This wasn't suppose to be your story


You were so certain. So sure. What you dreamed of having or doing or seeing or being, what you hoped for yourself or your family, would come true. God would answer that prayer. It was a good prayer. A right thing to want. He would show.

Then He didn't.

The time came and went. The moment passed. The door closed and locked. It wasn't suppose to end like this.

Where do dead dreams go when they die? A tomb. Deep and cavernous, cold and black. Only an entrance. No egress.

Not the end but a lengthy third act


A few years ago, while reading Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God by Sheila Walsh, I began to view the story of Lazarus differently and, with it, my own dead dream. What I didn't understand in Lazarus' story was the significance of Jesus waiting four days.

I'm not alone, though. Martha didn't understand it, either.

If the point of the story was to illustrate His resurrection power, wouldn't any moment after the last breath do ya? Four days seemed odd. Lengthy. Inconvenience. A little insensitive. Did He not understand Martha's broken heart?

Never doubt. God is always in the details.

From Beautiful Things:
"The Jews, you see, believed that for three days the soul might return to the grave, thinking that it would reenter the body; but on day four it sees that the color of its face has changed and leaves for good.....after three days all hope of recovery was gone." 
All. Hope. Gone. Got it. Dead is dead is dead.

Except when it's not.

Jesus waited for a reason. He was making a point. A big one with an exclamation at the end. He was saying, "Death isn't death. Not with me. Not even after four long days when all hope is gone."

Never underestimate the author


Writers are all about plot twists. We're sneaky that way. Besides, a journey without challenges is boring. A clear path from Point A to Point B isn't a great story, it's an instruction manual.

The more insurmountable the obstacle, the bigger the victory. We don't cheer on protagonists that face inconveniences. We root for heroes that face the impossible.

 The worse the odds, the sweeter the win.
"So Jesus moves toward the tomb....He tells some of the men to remove the stone from the grave's opening. Martha is horrified. It was hard enough to bury Lazarus's lifeless body, but to open the tomb after four days and face the stench and decomposition is too much. Jesus senses her panic. He turns to her and reminds her to trust him. He's simple and clear here. No matter how things appear, Martha, believe."
No matter how things appear. No matter. Believe.

Final isn't always final


You may believe there is no hope left. Your dream is four days dead. It's died the death of deaths. It's past revival. And, if you think it's all up to you, that would be correct.


But, with God, the dead rise.

They shake off the earth that buried them. They breathe again. They awaken and start anew. They walk out of that tomb. They shrug off their burial clothes. They call out to friends and family and joy returns. They rescue the mourners. They officiate the celebration. They toast to the new day and the bright future. They restore our lost faith. They revive our defeated heart. They make everything new again.

They live. Even though they were dead.

Death isn't always death


Lazarus came to me today, which is so like him, always showing up when he's not expected. His life, his death, his life again, I woke up thinking about him and his story and, of course, his sister Martha.

What were those days like for her? Those hours sitting by the window, staring down the road, desperate to see a glimpse of Jesus in the distance and seeing nothing. All the while her brother perishes beside her.

Then he's gone. And the days tick by. One. Then two. Three. And finally four.

Did she watch the sun rise on that morning? Did she grieve anew at, yet again, her loss of hope? Did she feel unloved, overlooked, or even rejected by Jesus?

Today, on Good Friday, Jesus' disciples experienced a similar defeat. They dreamed the dream of a Jewish King. That king died on a cross today. It wasn't how the story was supposed to end.

But the story wasn't over. A bigger, better dream was actually beginning. This was the first step. An earthly king? Oh, no. What they thought was death was actually God showing them He could do so much better than what they imagined.

How about a heavenly kingdom that never ends. A house right next door to Him. A love that forgives all. A savior that gave everything. And, just because God is a ridiculous kind of giver, an eternity with no tears or sorrow.

It was all coming. Even when Jesus died. Even when they buried Him in the tomb. Even as the days passed in fear and grief. Resurrection was coming.

No matter how things appear. No matter. Believe.













Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Lucky Ones: A story dedicated to Dad and all the incredible fathers like him




My family are the hearty, earthy bunch. Farmers and coal miners, that's our ancestry. Opinionated Germans. Energetic Irishmen. Contemplative Natives. We're diversity all tied up into one bloodline.

We understand work. Hardcore is the only way it comes. Life takes sweat and the occasional drop of blood here and there. As a kid, you propelled yourself through the chores of the day because a bowl of homemade ice cream waited at the end of it.

Ben & Jerry don't know what they're missing.

Summers were wonderful affairs, filled in large part by tending, raising, and harvesting food for the remainder of the year. Also, who doesn't want fresh corn on the cob for supper and homegrown watermelon for dessert?

That's right. Everyone wants it.

We raised a garden and picked fruit and canned vegetables and cracked pecans and, depending on the crop, sometimes more went into our mouths than into the freezer. Fresh strawberries off the vine are laced with crack. I kid you not.

That was Mom's part - the food not the crack. My brother and I were there as support personnel.

Dad, however, had a much bigger responsibility. He kept us all alive. There were no such thing as sick days and vacation time for him. He worked for himself, selling and installing residential flooring and doing interior remodeling.

Have you ever seen a man pick up a 12-foot wide roll of carpet, pop it onto his shoulder, and walk around like it's nothing more than a bag of groceries?

I have. A few thousand times. It's awesome.

Dad didn't have help. He had his two hands. And his shoulders. His back and his knees, until those started giving out. He also had the motivation to care for his family. That and my mom's fried eggs and pork chop breakfast got him out of bed before the sun could rise and sent him out the door. That same door he would stumble back through when the sun set and his clothes, which started the day freshly washed and smelling of detergent, were stained with sweat and dust and the occasional drop of blood here and there.

Then one day, one glorious summer day in my seventh year, how I viewed my dad changed.

The story


It happened on one of those enchanting days that stretch beyond their allotted hours. The sun looks around, admires his handy work, and lingers longer in the sky.

It happens.

There's nothing happier on a summer day than a a seven-year-old free of chores and ready to play. Unless it's her dog. My dog was always grinning.

That day I tasked myself with discovering all the bugs and dirt and mysteries waiting to be dug up and all the trees waiting to be climbed. Mud pies were made, not eaten. Honeysuckle was eaten, not made. After a few hours, I also felt the day required water. Gushing from a hose. There for me to dance under and the dog to bite.

I dragged our water hose through our carport, right past my father's supply of raw wood, right next to a set of intricately handmade kitchen cabinets (my dad's an incredibly talented carpenter), and on to the backyard.

When I cranked on the water, the fun started. What I didn't see was a leak spilling all over that raw wood and those freshly built cabinets. It didn't, however, escape Dad's attention when he got home.

The legend


"Do you have any idea what you've done?!"

I really didn't.

Dad pulled at the wood, watched the water seep and slosh, and stood stunned and, I wonder, feeling a bit defeated. Unbeknownst to me, I'd probably cost my family at least a month or more of our income. That meant a month or more with no way to pay the bills, no way to keep the electric on, no way to buy food we hadn't grown.

He couldn't even look at me. That's when the best moment of my life happened (I'm not being sarcastic. You'll see what I mean). My Dad, with every right and from the very depths of his desperation, turned to me and said, "You're an idiot."

As a kid, I'm what you would have called an overly sensitive child. We writers are sponges. We absorb everything around us - the sights and sounds and details, but also the emotions and unspoken undercurrents. We sense them. We're built that way. It isn't until you reach adulthood, or even enter into the deep journey of adulthood, that you find coping mechanisms.

Like alcohol. (Lots of writers, sadly, become alcoholics. I just eat too much salt.)

My seven-year-old self did not yet have coping mechanisms. I crumbled into a mass of curly hair, bony limbs, and regret. I sobbed and, of course, jumped in to try and make it better. Dad told me in no uncertain terms to leave. I'd done enough.

Actually, I'd overdone enough.

Because stubbornness isn't necessarily a writer's trait just one of mine, I didn't leave but, instead, found a corner far out of his way and, piece by piece, dried off inconsequential scraps of wood. And cried.

Just assume crying was happening this entire time then I won't need to mention it again.

Within a few minutes, literally a few short minutes, while the water still pooled around those 2 x 4s, overspray dripped from the partially constructed cabinets, and the unknown financial impact was still on the horizon, my dad stopped what he was doing and knelt down on his knees in front of me.

"I've made a mistake and I need you to forgive me for it," he said. "I said something I shouldn't have. It wasn't right for me to call you an idiot."

It really was. I mean, come on. Fitting description, no?

"Yes I am." (insert information about crying here.)

"No." He grabbed my shoulders and made me look at him. "You need to hear me. I was wrong. I should not have called you an idiot. You're not an idiot. You made a mistake. But I had no right to call you that. No one has the right to call you that. Do you understand?"

I really didn't. Not yet. Not then. But I would.

"Do you forgive me?" He waited there on his knees until I said I did.

My dad. A real-life superhero.

The man



I have no idea how we survived that summer because I was a kid and I had that privilege. My father didn't. However we survived, my guess it cost him more sweat, lost sleep, and the occasional drop of blood here and there.

Today, St. Patrick's Day, is my Dad's birthday. 69 years old and he gets more interesting and priceless with age. He's a truly ridiculous guy. He loves to a ridiculous level. He gives to a ridiculous amount. He forgives a ridiculous lot.

Whenever I hear the culture debate the importance or non-importance of fathers, I think about that moment, as well as a thousand others. My father is irreplaceable. Not even my mother, who played an equally great role, could fill that void.

Fathers matter.

So thanks Daddy. For that. For everything. I could write a book about all I've learned from you, and one day I may. It'll be a series. And I'll make sure I never store my inventory between me and a water hose.

Happy birthday!


*Correction: I initially said those rolls of carpet my dad carried around everyday like nothing more than a sack of flour were six feet wide. That was crazy talk. The were actually 12.
Yeah, he's a big deal.