Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Disaster Preparedness. It deserves our vote.

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.


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.

Why Superheroes Hate Social Media

This happens to Black Hood Guy in ‪#‎NotAnotherSuperhero‬ ALL the time.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Being a Superhero is for the Birds

Today, you bought a chicken. A live one. Actually, it was more than one. Congratulations! A chicken!

Did you know that a chicken farm for families in poverty can provide a substantial supplemental income? As well as a food source? They sell the eggs, as well as eat them. They breed and sell the chickens, as well as eat them.

You changed the financial future for a family today. Because you bought a chicken. A live one. Actually, it was more than one.

Phase Two

My first check has arrived!

Thanks to those who have purchased Not Another Superhero, the second phase of this publishing journey has started! What is Phase Two? Hey, thanks for asking.

Phase One was actually writing and publishing the thing. Phase Two is the donation of a percentage of the proceeds from all book sales to charity.

"What a revelation TL! A donation? Who would have ever come up with such an ingenious plan?!"

I know. It's not like I created the idea.

"Such inventiveness. However did you think of it?"

I get the point. It's been done before.

"Generations will stand in awe of this moment in time."

Okay. You're done.

Why Phase Two

Not Another Superhero is a story I wrote while having way too much fun. It's also possible I wrote entire sections while seriously sleep deprived. Explains a lot, doesn't it.

Hopefully, readers are entertained. Maybe even laugh. Or chuckle. Okay, a slight grin. You're free to choose your own display of amusement, is the point. There are times you'll gasp. And be confused. Times you'll hate me, I get it. There are moments you'll be intrigued, others you'll roll your eyes.

I know because I did all of that while writing it.

If you experience any or all of those emotions, I've succeeded. There is, however, more to discover. If you wish.

Not Another Superhero is an adventure, but it's also a journey through struggles of self-worth and identity, through trauma and recovery, through fears and flimsy reality.

It's deep, yo.

Mostly, it's a journey of hope. If I've written it right, you'll even find a glimpse of yourself somewhere in there. The you not yet realized. The you not yet discovered. The you that you didn't know existed.

The way I see it, we're all Samantha in some respects. All seeking the truth of who we really are or who we could fully become. All trying to solve the mystery of the chaos in our lives. All seeing a version of ourselves that is incomplete or even inaccurate.

I think this because I am this, too.

What I hope you find on this journey is not another superhero, but you're kind of superhero. The one you'd be if you could.

And who says you can't?

Beyond Phase Two

Here's where I'm starting and where my readers are starting with me. So thank you. For joining me on this journey. For making the journey possible. For starting, ever so humbly. But starting.

Superheroes don't exist, right? I'm challenging that notion.

Maybe they do if you ask the right people. For example, families like the one in the video below might say they do.

Maybe the family whose life you changed today would, too.

Compassion’s Gift Catalog: Chickens from Compassion International on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Do you work for free?

Agencies often do. Creatives frequently do. It's become nearly standard practice for companies to request free creative work. Ode to the dreaded RFP.

In the advertising/marketing world, free work is called "spec," possibly because it sounds more legit than "free." How did this start? I have no clue. But here's one agency's take on what working on "spec" would look like for the rest of the world.

PS: This agency no longer does spec work.

Tell me again how spec is legit?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Time to Grow Up. And Disagree.

I concentrated on the salad. The conversation happening I wanted no part of. The salad, on the other hand, wasn't half bad.

It was during a recent work luncheon where the conversation had moved into politics. The mostly millennials sitting around me began discussing the political candidate they hated most and, should they get the opportunity, how to best kill this person.

Smothering was one option. Shooting another. Death by any means necessary seemed to be the joke of choice.

Oh look! A crouton.

I wanted to chalk it up to their youth. But, it had nothing to do with age and everything to do with an intolerance for an opposing viewpoint. And it has no age limit.


We can't agree to disagree anymore. A mob mentality has taken hold and, minus the crayons and milk mustaches, our political society resembles a kindergarten class.

Except kindergarteners stop fighting long enough to enjoy recess.

We appear to desire a society with one and only one opinion: our own. Otherwise, shut up or I'll shut you up. Generations earlier called that communism. By all reports, it wasn't the utopian initially believed.

What good do we do anyone, including ourselves, when our beliefs are never challenged? If what we believe is so weak it can't take criticism, we shouldn't believe it anymore.

Yes, them's fightin' words.

Bob and Weave

Being challenged with opposing viewpoints will either cause us to rethink our position or realize our position's weaknesses and strengths. It's healthy. It's strengthening. It takes maturity. And it's time to grow up and disagree.

Respecting a different opinion than our own is a necessary characteristic for any kind of success:

Want to be a good manager?
Allow your subordinates the freedom to express reservations about your new ideas.
Want to grow your audience base?
Listen for the need you aren't fulfilling.
Want to develop your craft?
Be open to constructive criticism from valid sources.
Want a close relationship with your family and friends?
Let them express an opinion different than yours without combativeness.

Caught cold

Years ago, a friend of mine was dating the man she would eventually marry. For the first several months of their relationship, they never disagreed. Not on anything. And, as time went on, they believed this would be the norm for them: two people in perfect harmony never challenging each other.

Hardy har.

Eventually, of course, they disagreed. My girlfriend never looked more upset. I, on the other hand, couldn't stop smiling.

She wasn't amused.

"Why are you happy about this? Do you want us to fight?"

"Yep." For the first time since they started dating, I believed those two crazy kids might actually make it. "You're going to disagree at some point. More than once. It was always inevitable. Now you can figure out how to disagree and still keep communicating."

They both love me, by the way, which speaks far more of their forbearance than my loveliness.

Neutral Corner

Accepting and working through diversity of thought takes patience, wisdom, maturity, and far more out of us than shutting up all dissenters. That only takes being a bully.

So go out there. Find someone you can't stand talking to and talk to them. Listen. Take deep breaths. You don't have to agree. You don't have to even understand. Just listen without anger. Be considerate. Respect that their opinion is different, even if you can't imagine why.

Maybe, if you do, they will one day be willing to listen to you, too. And treat you with the same respect.

If not, try to stop arguing long enough to enjoy recess.