Writing notes and getting motivated

I am wasting so much time. For months now, I’ve been wasting time: because I’ve been tired, because I’ve been overworked, because I’ve been stressed. I’ve complained about it on here and elsewhere, but I haven’t really done much about it.

No more excuses, no more delays. Today is the day I start writing and don’t stop. Gotta get back into it one way or another, and discipline is my way.

On Friday I had some players in our D&D group relate the story up to that point. There were a couple of new characters, and since Cody just started playing with us a few weeks ago, he wasn’t aware of what had come before. Ryan was giving the narrative of what had happened at at one point said, “So I started off investigating why my people were killed and what happened, but it turned out there was this entire bigger picture I didn’t know about, like in a good story.”

Our D&D campaign is a story I’ve been working on for a long time, but I’ve not written it down. Everything’s in my head, which is a blessing and a curse: I like writing for the exploration, to figure out what’s going to happen next, and I have difficulty writing when I already know what’s going to happen. But in this campaign, I’ve got a pretty decent story, and I ought to write it down. In writing, it’ll have to be a fair bit different than what has gone on in the game, but the idea is there.

So I’m beginning notes on that. I laid awake Friday night working through two books centered around this world, though I’m still missing a plot for one of them (the one I want to publish first, unfortunately). Once I get the notes done this week, I’m going to sit down and make a massive timeline. Like, pseudo-ridiculous, which will tie everything together and make the storytelling so much easier. I’m having trouble with it right now because I’ve got two stories I want to tell, but I can’t figure out where they fit together. They overlap time-wise, and I know one starts before the other, but they don’t quite match up yet. That’ll be a good project this week.

I’m continuing to work on a book of theological ramblings, which I feel is coming along well. It’s only April, so this year’s looking pretty good. Should be at least one thing to publish next year, and hopefully two or three (depending on how the fantasy fiction goes).

But there won’t be if I don’t get my butt in gear. I need to stop watching The Daily Show and anime during lunch and start writing, even if it’s just a few pages with lots of staring out the window in between. I need to start doing more of an evening and on the weekends. I’ve got to figure out how to balance it so I don’t burn out (again), but this lack of productivity isn’t helping.

And I’ve also got to stop putting so much pressure on myself. This post isn’t the pressure to which I’m referring; this is needed pressure. But I want to do so many things in so many different ways: podcasts and videos and writing about half a dozen different subjects and updating the blog multiple times a week… I can’t do it all. I haven’t been doing it all, which is good, but I need to be OK with that (which I haven’t been).

So, that’s what’s up with me. So far, feeling good. I’ve also come up with a neat (I think) superhero story, and I’d like to tell it through a comic. Going to work on that script on and off for the next year or two, because I’ve got the conflict and a decent plot forming up, but I don’t have characters yet.

This is all a slow process. I’m finally coming to terms with that, which is really healthy. But I’ve got to keep working at it too. I will continue to seek balance.

What alignment is God?

Preface::

First, please don’t get turned off because I’m referencing some Dungeons & Dragons stuff at first. It’s not much, and you’ll be past it eventually.

Second, this post has been a long time coming. The matter has been on my mind for weeks if not months, and I’m still not settled on the matter. It’s a bit of a mind dump.

Third, because of that, I’d really like your consideration and input. Comment below and let me know what you’re thinking, even if you just agree or disagree. This is one of the theological subjects I’m really wrestling with and curious about right now.

Moving on::

For those of you who haven’t played D&D before, or maybe have only played the latest edition (the 4th), you may be unfamiliar with alignments. In general, there are two axes, as seen below.

The 3.5 edition of the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook lists nine alignments as options for a player character, because in addition to the four labels you see above, there is also Neutral. Someone might be Lawful Good or Chaotic Good, but they could also be Neutral Good, or Chaotic Neutral.

With that established, let’s talk a bit about God, Christianity, and myself. For my part, I have finally reached the conclusion that I am Lawful Neutral. This is kind of a Big Deal for me, mostly because it’s not what I expected. When I was younger, I liked to think of myself as Chaotic Good: I didn’t always follow the “rules,” and I didn’t always listen to “the man,” but I generally strove to do good things and help people. Robin Hood is Chaotic Good, as is Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly.

When I was a kid, my heroes were the knights in shining armor from the fantasy stories I read, but I bucked authority a lot of the time. I didn’t care much about school or grades, or what my parents thought or wanted me to do. I tried to do good, but I did it my own way. Now, though, my outlook seems different. I don’t know if it is that I have changed, or if I was always this way but just idealized “Good” and strove for that… but it’s not me. I’m not Robin Hood. I’m not even Mal.

Lawful Neutral is generally referred to as the “Judge.” Wikipedia has a good definition of Lawful Neutral:

Characters of this alignment are neutral with regard to good and evil. This does not mean that Lawful Neutral characters are amoral or immoral, or do not have a moral compass; but simply that their moral considerations come a distant second to what their code, tradition or law dictates. They typically have a strong ethical code, but it is primarily guided by their system of belief, not by a commitment to good or evil.

In regards to D&D, you generally see Lawful Neutral characters on the side of Good, because Evil has a tendency to go against the law. The important point is motivation: where a Good aligned person would uphold Good for its own sake, a Lawful aligned person upholds it because it is the law. If a law is unjust or not “good,” someone who is Chaotic Good may choose to not uphold that law and will make their own code–a course of action that would be practically anathema to a Lawful Neutral person.

My work has forced me to the analyses of my own alignment and motivations because we do have some policies and ways of doing business that I don’t particularly like or agree with. Because it’s my job, though, I have to follow through regardless of my personal feelings… but I have found, over the last couple of years, that my personal feelings strongly uphold the following of these rules for the mere fact that they are the rules. I’m an INTJ, so inefficiency and poor work angers me, and within the bounds of the system I will do everything I can do improve matters, but as a Lawful Neutral, I have found that I won’t break the rules ((As the above linked definition of INTJ states, I will sometimes “implement critical decisions without consulting my [sic] supervisors or co-workers” and I have little respect for anyone I perceive to be slacking, even if they are higher ranked than me. But I don’t break any rules, which is the key.)) to do it. Not anymore, anyways.

So my first question becomes, “How does being Lawful Neutral square with being Christian?” Jonny and I were on our way to a conference a few weeks ago and the topic of alignments came up–we were discussing why certain things in our jobs have gone as they have, and I replied that I do what I do, how I do it, because I’m Lawful Neutral. He was surprised; a Christian should by default be Good, he said.

This really set me to thinking: if God is Good, then should all Christians be Good? The more I thought about the classical, humanistic definition of Good, though, the less God seemed to fit into the assumed alignment.

From Wikipedia:

Lawful Good is known as the “Saintly” or “Crusader” alignment. A Lawful Good character typically acts with compassion, and always with honor and a sense of duty. A Lawful Good nation would consist of a well-organized government that works for the benefit of its citizens. Lawful Good characters include righteous knights, paladins, and most dwarves. …

Lawful Good characters, especially paladins, may sometimes find themselves faced with the dilemma of whether to obey law or good when the two conflict – for example, upholding a sworn oath when it would lead innocents to come to harm – or conflicts between two orders, such as between their religious law and the law of the local ruler.

If God is Lawful Good, then, how do we account for the suffering we see in the world? For centuries philosophers and theologians have attempted to address the problem of pain in the world: why do bad things happen to good people; why do children die; why do natural disasters wipe out civilizations; do those who have never even heard of Jesus to go hell, etc. If God is all powerful and all Good, would He not then save these people? Why would He not wipe out all disease, death, and pain?

In short, the answer is generally, “Adam and Eve sinned and now we live in a fallen world.” When asked why God doesn’t just fix it, the answer is generally that God is either waiting for more people to be reconciled to Him through Christ, or that some other plan is at work. We, as Christians, work very hard to reconcile the existence of evil in the world with God’s goodness.

Before I was Christian, I believed strongly in the “rules” of this world. I believed that angels and demons, while powerful, were only able to interact with this world and shape its events within certain restrictions, and that the deities were likewise limited, not due to a lack of power but due to some cosmic agreement. At the time, I considered it a dualistic issue: the gods of Good and the gods of Evil had made an armistice to prevent the destruction of the world over which they fought. Skirmishes occurred, but outright war was avoided.

I no longer hold that dualistic view, but the more I think about the world and God’s interaction with it, the more I come back to the idea of there being some sort of cosmic rule at work, or a self-limitation by God. Jesus is a good example of this: we uphold that he was entirely human and entirely God, yet there seemed to be times when he didn’t know exactly what would happen next, and he went so far as to ask that the suffering to come be put away from him. In taking on mortal flesh, limitations were put in place, and since I do affirm that God is all powerful, I can only conclude that these limitations were self-imposed to provide a better teaching example to Christians. ((Or for some other reason–the conclusion stands regardless.))

What if God was closer to Lawful Neutral than Lawful Good? Our concept of Lawful Good is someone who protects the innocent without hesitation, works and fights always on the side of Good, does whatever he or she can to protect and benefit others. I don’t propose the Deistic concept of a clockmaker God, who set the world into motion and then stepped back to watch silently, but I do perceive restraint that contradicts what we think Lawful Good should be. Could a Lawful Good deity who was all powerful watch as Haiti was torn apart and innocent children died in the streets? Could a Lawful Good deity sanction the genocide in Darfur or the ongoing civil wars in Sri Lanka and the Congo? We wonder at the horrors inflicted upon the Hebrews in the Hebrew Bible, and it is hard to reconcile them with our concept of a Lawful Good God, but they make more sense if we consider God to be Lawful Neutral, a God who has made certain laws that must be upheld.

By this, I do not mean that God is not generally good, but I do question our concept and the assumptions we make about God’s goodness. If you ask me, “Is God compassionate?” I will reply, “Yes, yes, God is compassionate.” And if you ask if God is forgiving, I will say, “Yes, yes, God is forgiving.” He is kind and loving and awesome. But if you ask, “Is God good?” I will wonder at your definition of “good.” If by good you mean that God is our servant and sworn benefactor, I say no, God is not these things.

We assume that actions follow nature, and so if God is compassionate, He must act upon that compassion. Likewise, too many look upon suffering and conclude that God must therefore not be compassionate, and since the Bible teaches of God’s compassion, many take it a step further and conclude that there is no God. These conclusions do not follow; God can be compassionate without always acting upon that compassion.

Let us consider Jesus who, as I referred to earlier, displayed adherence to the rules (if such do exist) throughout the gospels. There are numerous stories of Jesus healing someone, but he heals relatively few of the people around him. In one such story, Jesus actually delves into a great crowd of the ill and infirm, and finding a particular man at the center, asks him if he wants to be healed. ((John 5:1-18)) The man states that he has been seeking healing but has been unable to find it, and Jesus heals him.

Why does he heal no one else in all that crowd? Why pick that one man out? Some have wondered whether the issue is that Jesus’s power is limited, using Luke 8:40-48 as indication that he not only had limited power but the use of that power depleted his reserves. What if, instead, Jesus was limited by a set of self-imposed rules, a guiding plan, and was loathe to deviate from that course? The man at the well was healed for some purpose, and we can only conclude that an all powerful God would not heal those He didn’t want to heal, so Jesus must likewise have had some reason to heal the woman who touched his cloak (though he seems surprised when the event occurs).

Perhaps Jesus only healed those who would have the greatest impact on his mission–it certainly makes sense in a Lawful Neutral way. I wonder as well about the mystery of faith. In Luke 8, Jesus states that the woman’s faith has healed her, and it seems to me like that gives us a clue in itself. No one healed by Jesus is recorded as temporizing or rationalizing away the miracle, but I have seen miracles occur to people who have done just this. I believe that, in the stories recorded in the gospels, those healed had the faith to believe, and subsequently they kept that belief. I might conclude, then, that faith is one of the components necessary for a miracle. ((As Jesus himself seemed to state in Matthew 17:20.))

We have read that the door to heaven is narrow and few will enter, ((Luke 13:22-27)) but we all believe we will be part of that few. Just as I questioned our definition of “good” above, I question as well our concept of “faith.” How many Christians in the Church are there because they want something, rather than because of their faith? What they want might be all good things: to serve others, to join a community of like-minded individuals, to find belonging or love, to find peace or healing, etc. But how many are involved in the community of Christians purely because they believe in Jesus and the truth of the Bible? All those good things follow faith, but I wonder for how many faith is the primary motivator and factor.

It would be Lawful Good for God to let everyone into heaven. He indicates in Luke 13 that this is not the case. One could argue, though, that the “Lawful” balances the “Good,” and that God is indeed Lawful Good in this respect: God wants everyone to enter heaven (Good), but must turn away sinners (Lawful).

Back to the earlier question, rephrased, I ask, “If we consider God to be Lawful, then who’s law?” The previous paragraph feels more like temporizing to me. ((To be honest, I’ve reached the same conclusion in regards to Calvinism as a whole.)) I feel like we’re attempting to cram God into the Lawful Good alignment because we want to believe that God has our individual best interests at heart and will always take care of us. In looking at the world and at the Bible, particularly in light of the verses above (as well as countless others I’m not relating here because I don’t feel like taking the time to look them up right now), that conclusion just doesn’t seem to fit. It seems more like God has created a world and an order and we have deviated from it. It is now our job to get back in line, and God has aided us in that by providing the sacrifice of Jesus. We still have to accept that sacrifice ((A la Arminianism)) and follow God faithfully to get back within the boundaries accorded by the cosmic rules.

I’ve got another branch of thoughts on this topic brought up by the book I’m reading, but I’ll end the mind dump here because those veer off into spiritual warfare territory. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with it, and please comment to share what you’re thinking. I’d really like to read it.

Breaking Radio Silence

Oh, hello there.

Brief recap of what did and did not happen this wonderful, phenomenal Winter Break.

  • We hosted Christmas for April’s family. Eric got into town a few days early, with the rest here on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The day after Christmas, we traveled to St. Louis, and then visited Piedmont the day after the day after Christmas.
  • I got some awesome gifts. Now, Christmas isn’t about gifts, and what we really loved was having the chance to spend lots of time with our family. But it cannot be denied that I also played Dragon Age: Origins for about 60 hours this week. It may be the best game I have played in the last 6-8 years.
  • I didn’t write a whole lot. I was stymied on the story I wanted to write, and didn’t feel like I could write anything else until I made progress on it. That was stupid of me. I should have dropped it and done other things, coming back to it once I had something to write, but I got stalled and played Dragon Age instead. For what it’s worth, I finally found the idea I needed to drive the story forward, but it’s a bit late now.
  • I have had the best week of vacation ever.
  • Finally finished our D&D campaign. Not that it has comprised too many game sessions, but between us we have so many scheduling conflicts that we end up only playing about once a month. Since I’d originally intended this campaign to be 15 games, I had to revamp it and cut it short–we’d already been playing it over six months and it was getting old. Really looking forward to the next (much, much shorter) story arc.
  • April and I celebrated our second anniversary, somewhat to our surprise. Not that we’re surprised we lasted two years, because it’s been a pretty blessed and easy two years. It just came up on us fast. Totally awesome. We stayed in Springfield and saw local touristy things, like Bass Pro and fancy restaurants and little shops we never visit. Good times.
  • Snow!
  • Seriously, such a good week.

I don’t even feel [too] bad about not writing. April made the excellent observation that I really oughtn’t put a ton of pressure on myself to get everything done and caught up in the one week I have off a year. I should enjoy the time instead, and work harder to build writing time into my daily schedule instead of forcing a lot of it into this week. I was gratified by this and went right on playing Dragon Age.

I’ve got nothing prepped for this week, so I don’t know what the publishing schedule will be like. Need to get my sea legs back under me, so to speak. For the first time in six months, though, I do not dread going to work tomorrow. I had an amazingly productive end-of-the-semester and got everything done that I wanted to get done. There’s nothing really hanging over my head tomorrow. I have lots of good stuff to report. All-in-all, things are looking up.

Goodnight!

Impromptu D&D Creation

I’ve had too much coffee tonight as a means of fueling my Dungeon Mastering, so I thought I’d write a bit before going to bed.

I enjoy playing D&D. I don’t know that I particularly enjoy running the game, and I certainly don’t prepare much when I must run it, but if the options are “run the game” vs “no D&D,” then I choose the former.

For me, the whole point of the endeavor is to build a story together, to laugh and share good times, and to find out what happens next. I come to each session with a rough framework and an idea of what will happen now and what will happen next, but I don’t prepare overly much. Part of that is because I’m afraid I’ll railroad my players if I do over-prepare, and part of it is certainly that I’m busy and don’t want to take the time to work on D&D a whole lot, but there’s something to be said for how fun impromptu creation is.

I really enjoy, and probably prefer, the challenge of making things up as I go. Of trying to remember and tie everything together. I like to have an outline and a general idea, and I recognize that I would probably benefit from scripting out some descriptions and names in advance (and I sometimes do this), but reading a script is a lot less fun than generating the world as my players experience it. Impromptu creation is a way to keep me entertained and going, and that helps keep me from getting burnt out.

What would be great, though, would be if I could bring this same sense of impromptu creation to my writing. Perhaps I need to try more free writing with less thinking, and just let my ideas flow. I’m not sure if I can type fast enough for this to really work… so maybe some audio recording followed by transcription? I hate transcription, so I’m afraid that would kill it for me, and I don’t think anyone would want to listen to my rambling stream of consciousness…

Maybe I can find out tomorrow? I’ll try a free write in the morning for a little bit and see where it takes me. Someday I want to write our current D&D story down as well. I really enjoy the setting it’s in, and I think it has a lot of potential if I invested some more time into developing it. As it is, it’s interesting enough that I, at least, want to find out what happens next.

That’s the best part of creating things like this: I get to find out what happens next too ^_^

Upcoming Events

We’ve got a number of social engagements coming up, and maybe you’d like to come to them? I don’t know, but if you did, here they are.

October 23, 2009 – Game Night

My D&D group usually meets on Friday nights, but with Ryan’s wedding and subsequent honeymoon our group hasn’t been traversing dungeons as usual. Since Ryan will be out of town this night, we’re going to shift to a board game, and I’m thinking Runebound just because it keeps with the D&Dishness of our usual Friday evenings. If you’d like to join in, the game can support six people and we only have… well, four, but feel free to come by and check it out! We also have several other board games as well as Rock Band 2, so there’s that.

October 27, 2009 – Pumpkin Carving

In preparation for our kickin’ Halloween Party, we’re going to carve some pumpkins for decoration. April and I will buy a few (probably 4-6) and people can carve on those, but people are welcome (and encouraged) to bring their own pumpkins and pumpkin it up! I’m scheduling this for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

October 31, 2009 – Halloween Party and Kitten Birthday

Yeah yeah, it’s Halloween, but our kittens are also ONE YEAR OLD. This is a BIG DEAL to April, so we’re having a birthday party for them.

We have a theme and that theme is DON KNOTTS. Dress up as your favourite Don Knotts character and we’ll be playing movies featuring him all night.

Party starts at 5 p.m. and will feature DISASTROUS DRINKS as well as TERRIFYING FOODS and fantastic Halloween Videos like Scooby Doo and… I don’t know, SOMETHING ELSE that may or may not feature Don Knotts. Our neighborhood’s also got a ton of kids, so we’ll be handing out candy pretty constantly for an hour or two.

If you’ve got kids and want to take them trick or treating, feel free to bring them around 🙂 Our neighborhood’s a good one for it. Just be aware that the party will be an Adult Party which means there will be Adult Language and Alcoholic Beverages. Younger kids might be bored and/or hear things you don’t want them to, so just be aware of this.

Party goes to midnight, and April has a trip downtown to the Spook Show scheduled at 9 p.m. I don’t know what that is and probably won’t go so, YOU KNOW, whatever floats your boat.

PS if you’re dressing up as a (Don Knotts) pirate you should probably bring rum because there can never be enough rum yo-ho yo-ho

November 14, 2009 – Neighbourhood Dinner Party

This is for a relatively small group of people, but if you live around us, you should come to dinner on Saturday, November 14th at 6 p.m. I intend to bake a spiral ham and we’ll have water, iced tea, and wine. Please bring a side dish and/or dessert.

In particular this is for Vineyard Friends, but if you’re not a Vineyard person and still want to come, you ought to. Good times await!

Introduction to Farsight

As difficult as it is to type, I hate writing by hand and have work that needs doing, namely the creation of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Farsight is the base town for the adventurers, a sleepy hamlet of drunkards trying to forget.

This wasn’t a town that got up early. As the sun rose over the forest to the east, bakers and blacksmiths alike pulled blankets up and rolled away from windows, groaning quietly with clenched eyes. Chamber pots were always close to the bedside in Farsight, and no one rose before midmorning. They would stumble blearily to the Djinni’s Den for the miracle cures that got them through the day, combinations of pork fritters and eggs any way you liked them. Farsight was renowned for its meats, largely because its residents had such a devout interest in protein-based hangover cures.

As the light sparkled off dewy grass cropped close to the ground by wandering goats (their herder wouldn’t be up for another two hours), a young elven man scratched his head, enjoying the feel of hair between his fingers as he looked upon the town from the westward road. No smoke rose from the chimneys and even the children were still abed, having learned that breakfast would arrive only when it was good and ready.

Hitching his pack over his left shoulder, the elfling pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket and regarded the scribbled address with a grin. A new adventure was waiting just down this road.

As soon as it woke up, anyways.

Clavicle Update

First, it’s not a clavix. My mistake.

Second, we have met with our local doctor, which was much more fruitful. He gauged my movement, showed me a stretching exercise I should do, and made me an appointment with an orthopedic specialist on Friday. They will be the one to decide if I need surgery or not.

I’m not taking any pain meds, other than the occasional ibuprofen, and am generally in very little pain. The first afternoon/evening was pretty hard, but that can partially be attributed to the concussion, shock, and dehydration. Sleeping at night isn’t particularly comfortable, but it’s manageable. I have discovered that my SumoSac is perhaps the most wonderful piece of furniture ever.

I can only type one handed, and only about 30-40 WPM, so suffice it to say that my first draft of the scifi novel I’ve been working on will not be completed by August. I will, however, still be running the D&D game we are starting this Friday.

I am back at work and will be attending leadership training this week. Though my functionality is limited, there’s no reason I can’t sit and listen to people talk.

Also, for those who are curious, our weekend in Eureka Springs wasn’t quite ruined. We couldn’t ride horses or get massages, but we did go shopping. I found some great sandals for 50% off and April got a skirt and a big, floppy hat. We also had the best coffee ever at a little place in town.

Blog entries will be few and short for the next 6-8 weeks; today’s was the last one I had written in advance. I intend for the OBS to be podcast only for a month or so.

I’ll put some pictures up from our weekend eventually. Until then, I’m signing off.