Learning from Dungeons and Dragons III

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A heavy winter rain began to fall as the travelers plowed through the muddy street. In this small village of peasants and farmers, the people toiled daily and the weariness flowed through every interaction.

The town mayor, a humble looking man in his forties, hailed from the tavern, welcoming them into the dry and warm community center. After warming themselves between the keg tap and the hearth, the mayor spoke quietly.

“It all started last year, slowly, but I remember, one of our farmers reported missing livestock, not just small goats, but even his cattle. In this village, even the smallest report of a missing animal warrants attention. But after a month, we heard no more.”

Quenlin peer from behind his mug of a stout brown drink, questioning the look in the man’s eyes, searching for sincerity. He seemed and honest and sane man.

The mayor continued, “but then, everything changed. Many reports of livestock missing and then, finally,” he paused here and quickly scanned the room, “people started to go missing. We don’t know how or why, or if they’re alive, or not. But we need help. I sent the letter to our lord in Chisdale, and as I understand, here you’ve come.”

At this, Strom leaned forward with a confident expression and pride in his voice, “We help the weak, seek out oppression all over this land. We will gladly help.” His weathered face dealt kindness towards the mayor, despite its grizzled features. Yasbagee answered her fellows remark with, “this should be good, I’ve been wanting to hunt something down for a couple of months now. My blades are getting thirsty.”

 

 

One thing I have noticed in these tales of bravery and adventure is that despite threat of death, these characters always find themselves staring down a haunted mine, or  looking into a menacing swamp, and then they just walk in!

The point being that motivation makes people move. Otherwise, we continue on with our lives without risking danger or threat. No one in their right mind would enter the cave unless they had a higher motivation than self – preservation.

I think one of the reasons D&D captivates our attention is that we get the chance to risk life and limb through the characters strength and valor, but truly our own as well. Most stories involve rescuing a village from terror, retrieving magic artifacts to keep evil from obtaining them, or pulling off a stunt to stop an evil lord from rising to power. I have learned this is what is categorized as an “epic” campaign. Classic good vs evil storyline.

Everyone one of us has a point where we say, “enough.” Adventures are simply those of us who respond first. None of the D&D characters I have met in the Forgotten Realms or Middle Earth would I ask to baby sit or mow my lawn, but upon news of an invading army of bloodthirsty orcs, these battle worn travelers would be the first I would call.

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I think I sometimes view myself as that mayor. I see the problems, I feel the pain of the people, but at the end of the day, the most I can offer is asking for help. Maybe that’s something else I have learned: if you have enough peril, and sometimes enough gold or bartering, a hero will answer your call for help and maybe teach you how to draw your blade.

 

 

 

Life Lessons from Dungeons and Dragons Part II

The mist began to effortlessly rise from the ground as the darkness swelled into light. Soft sounds of birds and woodland creatures stirred in the traveler’s minds as they took turns waking from their exhausted night in the forest glen. Only Quenlin, already awake and peering through the pine with draconian eyes, did not take the time to stretch his sore muscles into life. Yashbagee lit a fire with the last of her tinderbox and retrieved some of the talsin root she foraged yesterday. “Take this, all of you, the tea will help your bruises and wounds heal.” Quenlin, sniffed the tea, but of course, did not drink it as his wounds had already healed through his night’s vigil. A spark of compassion blinked quickly in his cold heart as he viewed the horrid gash in Strom’s leg. He bent over the supine warrior and held the rustic bowl up to his mouth. “Drink.” he growled. Strom’s swollen eyes opened and he slowly accepted the gesture. That morning, the party stood still around a flickering fire in the mist and watched the transformation come over Quenlin. Maybe they were wrong about him after all.

Dungeons and Dragons captures the imagination and attention of players because although part of the game rolls dice and takes chances, a big part involves the decisions of your character which can make a lasting change in the world, whether Middle Earth or the Forgotten Realms. There is also a temptation to scold ourselves when things aren’t working out. Here are some principles to consider. You may find that in this reckoning, you find our world works that way as well.

Success – Warning! May involve some wandering

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Maybe you find yourself between a job you didn’t want, only applying for more jobs you don’t want, but have to take because you need the money. Maybe you find yourself stuck in a major in college and you are not quite sure if this is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Maybe you have no idea what success looks like. In Dungeons and Dragons, role playing involves a lot of waiting and even more discovering because you truly do not know how the story will end. A warrior can spend ample time searching, investigating, or wandering around to discover “what” the “quest” means. Even each clue, each little success in the journey leads to a better answer to the larger puzzle. No one simply stops playing because they are stuck in the game with no answer. They make something happen. They throw spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Movement is life. When you find yourself stuck, visit the local rustic tavern, ask about trouble in the country side, investigate the local crimes in the sheriff’s office, or search the library for ancient books, or maybe wait for the town crier asking around for an adventure to keep the game going. Eventually, this path leads you to success and we should not scold ourselves during the rhythm of downtime in the game.

Everyone is where they are because they walked there.

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In the story above, one hero specializes in survival skills, knowing how to track in the wooded realm, discerning between healing and poison mushrooms, and navigating using the stars. Another character specializes in keeping a sharp blade and not backing down from a fight. We cannot spend our energy envying the hard earned skills of others. There is a cost to specialize in anything worth doing and that cost is, by definition, not specializing in another skill. Every hero is there because they walked there. You are where you are because you walked there and your skills are needed on any team, whether in a relationship, in parenting, in your career or any group. Dungeons and Dragons vary the party’s skills so that they accomplish any quest by the hands and minds of many.

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The warrior who fights back darkness weilds more fear than the evil itself.

As your characters first start out, you may encounter a pack of feral wolves, or a grumpy ogre guarding his cave, or maybe a hideous rat that tries to steal away your supplies. Then you travel further and find the evil becomes more organized, such as a marauding band of orcs, or systemic attacks from flying imps. However, the battle peaks while discovering that the enemy behind all of the brute force is a corrupt law master, using cruel cunning to deceive the townspeople. Or maybe a rogue wizard poisoning the vegetation in order to establish her as the dominant economy in the region. However, the band of fighting travelers braves the night and hunt down the villains. What makes our heroes so great is they are not necessarily law abiding, peace keeping polite citizens. They are just as quick to slash and burn, use brute force or cunning magic as the enemy. Of course, the principles differ – the villain wants to eventually use up the people around them, the heroes protect and defend against wickedness. Times of evil summon the bravest warriors.

So, wherever you find yourself today, grab your hard earned skills, a couple comrades, and ask yourself, “What lures you to adventure out of the security of your local village?” Roll the die, and participate in writing the story of your life.

Life lessons from playing Dungeons and Dragons

[Or more about how we are story formed]d201

Maybe you have seen the 20 sided dice show up in pop culture lately, or heard the name of the world’s best role playing game. I don’t know about you, but most of my childhood was spent fantasizing about other worlds, adventure quests, role playing as a different creature, and leading my siblings into that realm. Books like The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Chronicles of Pyrdain, Redwall, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH all deeply influenced my choice of games played. And like my childhood imagination, the game is all about telling stories of adventure. Around 2017, I suddenly had an enormous amount of free time handed to me via losing employment. That’s the opposite of striking it rich. However, in many ways, I have confirmed some powerful principles in life through researching the world of The Forgotten Realms and such, in the game Dungeons and Dragons.

  • Perception is seeing what’s there
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Open your Senses

While adventuring through Middle Earth or the Forgotten Realms, stopping to take a look around goes a long way. The game is at it’s simplest form a series of ability checks your adventure makes in progression of the game. The dice roll determines percentage of success (by the way, the game is also great at building your math skills!) Just know that your adventurer will not usually be handed information without asking for it. However if you venture out there and look around, there’s no limit to what you can find. Quite simply, If you’re not looking, you won’t see anything! Life is first accomplished by investigation, perception and taking in what’s in front of your, or even better, looking behind the curtain. Take a lesson from Curious George.

  • You are not as resilient as you think you are
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Help is for the Strong

As I researched the game, the rules of adventure, it surprised me at how few hit points it took to knock an explorer unconscious. 3 swipes from an raging ogre, 2 bites from a bloodthirsty wolf, or even a fall from a slippery ledge would issue enough damage to end the quest. At first, I thought, “how can you get through a campaign alive if the adventures have such limited resources on health?” But the more I thought about it, I realized that that’s pretty much how it is in this world as well. It’s easy to believe our health and stamina are invincible, but as we traverse through danger, we can only take so much damage to our bodies and minds before we find ourselves chronically ill, in a hospital, or mentally used up that we are only able to take one day at a time without caving into darkness. Of course in D&D, the answer to maintain health is partner up with healers, choose your adventure appropriately (don’t chase down the level 14 dragon if you are a level 2 rogue!) and quite simply: learn to rest.

  • Rest goes a long way and helps you stay alive

You heard it! Quite a bit of the game is going to sleep, resting and vacationing from perils in the wild. The sojourners will head to an inn, the kind old hermit woman in the woods, the hall of a great lord and enjoy the peace and quiet until their wounds and minds heal.  I’ve worked in hospice most of my nursing career and have witnessed so many people engaging in life with only 1 hit point to save. I’ve watched fellow colleagues give all to work and leave no room for rest before chasing down another week of work. I myself have fallen prey to the lure of working overtime instead of tending to my bleeding soul. Really folks, learn to rest, vacation, veg-out, unplug and the like. And really rest. Not staring at your phone swiping through an app, but rest that truly unplugs you. This will be different for everyone and I can’t recommend http://www.personalityhacker.com enough for the resources they provide on discovery of your personality and how it rests. If the travelers forget to rest, they certainly will not be prepared for the next skirmish around the corner, and may suffer death.

  • Sorry, there is always room to fail
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Though you fall, the story continues

In the game, every attempt the hero makes, whether choosing to convince a law master to set your party free or take a stealthy stab at an unsuspecting goblin guarding the bridge, it is all determined by a roll on a 20 sided dice. Rolling a 20 is automatic success! However rolling a 1, despite any bonuses your well-developed hero might have, is a total and devastating failure. Ugh, this is a humbling lesson because rolling a 1 does not care how much you have previously achieved in success before this roll. Imagine investing thought and time into developing an adventurer all the way to level 6, being careful to rest, wise about the pursuits, perceptive of the surroundings, planning each battle strategically and then make one unlucky move and fail. It happens. You will spend years at a church investing into the heart of the people and the mission only to have someone turn on you and your family and find yourself kicked out of the tribe. You know why it happened, but you didn’t think it was worth splitting fellowship. Or you pour your heart and soul into a company, promising your family that it will pay off and everything looks great for the promotion that will make life so much easier and then they hand the offer to an outside hire and terminate you because you are now overqualified for any other place in the company. Or you look left, look right, proceed your vehicle through the intersection and still find yourself injured in bed and without hope of healing. Should I go on? You fail your boards, you fail the relationship and find yourself sobbing on the floor of an empty house with even an emptier heart. Grief is really mourning something that was once loved and is now off limits for you to love. Your love is no longer allowed. Or at least it must be changed into a lesser version of that love. It hurts. However, at the end of every failure, there’s always another chance to roll the dice. Try again. Rest, heal up, start over, but please don’t stop playing the game.

  • Little guys win, sometimes
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Nothing makes you braver than the fear of losing a loved one

You know what though, sometimes you do roll a natural 20. And win big. With superhero powers. Just like the natural 1 doesn’t discriminate failure to only failures in life but also to very successful adventures, so the natural 20 roll hands a good luck charm to those adventures starting out with very limited resources. That’s what I love about the game. It keeps the adventures humble in this large and threatening world. Even the bold remember that they too, bleed. Conversely, the promise of a bulls eye, or getting rookie of the year calls out to everyday ordinary people to step out their door and make something happen in the life around them. The first time your level 1 adventure does the perfect acrobatic and slays the fiend in one fell strike encourages them to keep going! The first time your novice cleric attempts a healing against all odds as the princess is bleeding out, and magically brings her back to life, it’s encouraging! The first time your stealthy rogue sneaks into a locked dungeon and rescues the entire party from a hungry giant, it’s encouraging! Unexpected winning can happen to you too, but you do have to roll!

  • Not much adventure happens if you just sit on the couch
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With that being said, as Gandalf said to a polite and everyday ordinary hobbit who had just finished breakfast “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.” Dungeons and Dragons is such a great game because it involves a world where everyday people with stories and backgrounds can start as level one adventures and set out to make a difference in the world. A great campaign is not one where your party simply demolishes an orc stronghold, but one where the orc stronghold is demolished and the dam freed, bringing the river back into the town, boosting the economy and encouraging free-trade in safe lands once again. Now the adventures are heroes that make the world a better place. And that’s the principle, we are all formed by the stories we tell ourselves and the stories that connect us to each other and into the world. We sing songs, share dreams and relay tales, but none of that will happen if you choose to bypass the quest to the comfort and safety of your own home and hearth. Really though, we are wanting a world of adventure so we can tell those stories by the fireside one day. As Gandalf the wizard wisely said, “do you suppose, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck just for your sole benefit?” Get off the couch and off the phone, leave behind your pocket handkerchief and share an adventure with folks who enjoy your fellowship! Because life is not just about a solo trip, but a party-shared adventure that changes the world. Prepare, be wise, use all your resources, enjoy your quirks and roll the dice!

And so, our story continues

The 5 Pillars of Authentic Leadership

Source: The 5 Pillars of Authentic Leadership

my favorite pillar is number 4: groundedness. I think great leaders realize that they are made of more than leadership. They hold value in more than what they lead. Groundedness means balance in life. Being a good dad, good husband, good neighbors and caretakers, good tenants, good shoppers and so on.

A good leader understands we are more than 8 hours we put into work. We have all been somewhere, are going somewhere and we are here.

Obscurity 

In the name of obscurity this week, I’m sharing a few thoughts and quotes I have about this topic. 

“If you want to be successful, you have to be willing to disappear for a while”

“Two things comfort me; knowing that I matter, and knowing that I am completely insignificant and disposable to the world”

“Welcome small beginnings, for even God arrived as a baby”

“A seed begins in darkness where no one sees and no one knows. Yet it is the beginning of life and without this necessary and obscure time, apparent growth and glory would not be attained.”

What do you think of obscurity?

Stands with a Fist

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Welcome to my first guest blogger, my wife Ellen. Enjoy her thoughts!

I may not be the best writer but I want to be an honest writer

specially when conveying my thoughts on a particular topic that is dear to my heart. My hope is that this is a testament to how marriage can work even when things are stacked against you. When my husband and I started dating, we dated for merely two weeks and then decided to get married and then was engaged for six months and then married. After we were married for a couple of years, our pastor had made a comment saying that he didn’t think we would last because I am so black-and-white and my husband Jon is so flowery and emotional. We were given advice on how I need to become softer and how he needed to step up and be more masculine (whatever that means).

Well, I know what that meant. You see, my experience in the Christian world taught me that women are  like a wine glass or a champagne glass – very delicate and fragile – and men are supposed to be more like a beer mug, sturdy and useful. With that kind of imagery, I want you to understand that my goal is to be truthful and honest. I have lost many friends in my life due to my abrasive and blunt responses. My lack of sensitivity has gotten me into a lot of trouble. But if one were talking to me, they would never describe me as a fragile wine glass. I am one who knows my shortcomings and I tried so hard to fit into this Christian mold of a housewife who is always constantly supporting her husband and being his “helpmate”.

After having kids I admit that I have softened a little and learned  to grace my words with gentleness — some. However, inside I could never feel right.

I felt constant tension between my cultural Christian surroundings and the depression I was sinking into, knowing I could never live up to the social pressure of being a ministry wife.

I was told by leadership in the church that I should not hinder my husband’s calling in life and be supportive. He was juggling a 60 hour work week, worship team and youth group. I was left at home with the kids with nap times and feedings and all of the stuff that comes along with raising children. Don’t get me wrong, it was having children that saved my me. They gave me something to do and wake up for in the morning, or at least they woke me up in the morning. It’s safe to say though, if I had not had them, I would have left my marriage being bored of sitting on the sidelines and watching my husband fulfill his dreams. Then I would’ve gone to some jungle with a machete, collecting fruit with the natives or some other crazy adventure.

One day we looked at each other and decided it was time to get out, so we moved to Virginia. To some people, it may have seemed very whimsical, but to us it was what saved us. We took all of our problems with us and I took all of my struggles with being a wife, a mom and a Christian woman with me. But what moving did was help us slow down to really learn and understand each other. Jon, being very supportive great man that he is, took the time to research and try to understand about personality in order to help me.

I was in a very deep depression over the last few years. I never had needed medication, however I was starting to develop many physical ailments that go along with depression and it was beginning to complicate our marriage. We had stopped everything when we move to Virginia meaning all of the extra things, all of the church things that we were doing. In his searching for answers, Jon found typology and discovered that I am an ISTP. Now,  I’m not going to go into what that means but I will tell you that only about 2.5% of the population in the world is an ISTP female. I lead with a very strong thinking process and where all of my feelings in the backseat which would account for why I’m perceived as so abrasive and black and white about things. What encouraged me the most was Jon’s willingness to learn about me so that he could help.

After we made this discovery, we slowly have been adjusting our lifestyle to accommodate less what culturally is OK for Christian women and started to take in account who we are as people. My duties as a woman moved out of the home and in to the workforce. Even though I’m still discovering where my gifting and strengths lie, I know that this has made me a healthier person. Without a willingness to discover new things and discover answers to old problems, we would’ve stayed stuck on a path that neither of us was enjoying. My encouragement is to take the time to learn who your spouse is. Do not just follow the superficial cultural norms of marriage. To me that is just the easy way out, but to sit down and have a discovery talk with your spouse. Learn each other. There is no template just raw human individuals that need to be discovered and loved.

What do you think? In what new ways have you answered old problems? Are you feeling stuck? Tell me how you are enjoying your life today.

 

Murky waters


I hope you have had the experience of fishing for Crayfish, also known as crawfish, crawdads, freshwater lobsters, mountain lobsters, or mudbugs. If not, then know that it’s a wonderful experience, especially with little ones rooting for you to fight away the pinchers and collect the prize.

The hunt all started with my family stream walking, dipping our feet in a cool riverbed in the middle of summer. It wasn’t long before I sensed some curious pinches grasping for my toes. Soon, all of the kids were gathered around the shore to spot the little monster lobsters darting around underneath the glassy pool.

One thing we learned quickly is that it is impossible to catch crawfish with your hands unless the water is clear. It would go like this, we would spot one, slowly gain ground towards it, reach in and snatch them up. (No, we didn’t eat them, but later returned them to their home). Although, I totally can dig into Louisiana style boiled crawfish, shrimp, potatoes, corn on the cob with a couple ice cold beers holding out in the cooler. That’s summertime.

This is what I learned. We could never see the little critters unless we waited for the muddy water to rest and become clear. The restful period of waiting was important and if we got impatient and stirred the waters too early, only murky water could we reach into blindly.

 

 

The rest. The active anticipation. The calm. All of it made the successful catch possible. And it was the stirring and the hunt which created the opportunity for rest possible. 

 

We live between the balance between work and rest, activity and stillness, sabbath and toil. Both are required to produce things we long for; peace, contentment and joy.

What about you? Are you experiencing clarity? Then go for it! Reach into the cold spring waters and succeed! Are you attempting to peer through murky waters? Rest. Allow the clarity to come as you remain still. Nothing else needs to be done but wait patiently for the murky waters to become clear.

I’m currently enjoying a good read:

The Sabbath by Wayne Muller. 

 

Why you need a Mr. Rogers in your life. 

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“It’s such a good feeling to know that I’ll be back when the day is new”

Have you heard of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood? Was he your neighbor? Do you remember him, his zip up and zip down sweater routine, the way he crossed one leg over the other as he politely removed his shoes?

Do you remember the way he uttered, “feed the fish” and then I knew as a child, exactly how much fish food to pinch because I saw him do it. 

Do you remember him telling you that thunderstorms gave you no reason to be afraid? I remember trusting his word because he never gave me a reason to doubt him.

He said what he meant and meant what he said. “I always felt I didn’t need to put on a funny hat or jump through a hoop to have a relationship with a child.”

If a child can read a phony, it only served to show up honestly. He helped each child understand with sincerity, when he said, ” I like you just the way you are”. I believed it because he was there – just the way he was.

Here are a few reasons why we all need someone like Fred Rogers in our life.

 

  • We all need someone to understand that we are not the random snapshot of our life, but the sum total of experiences, past, present and future. With this thought, no one is beyond help or understanding. This kind of thinking begs to wait for more light to be shown on the situation before a judgement is made.

  • We all need someone to be there. Right where we left them. It’s almost as if they are a faithful undeveloped side character in the story of our lives, and they are not going anywhere. Uncertainty brings such a restlessness to our hearts as we wait nervously for our next affirmation or validation. These people are always found stationary and subtle, but heals our most misunderstood wounds.

  • We all need someone who is proud of us. Personality Hacker types Fred Rogers as “Memory Harmony” in the Genius style assessment. These wonderful people demonstrate a much needed characteristic in our world – pride. They clap when your recitals sound terrible, they cheer when you get taken to the sidelines, they smile and find a reason to celebrate in the C- you brought home from school. And they keep biding time for you to become the person you are meant to be, holding their breath while you learn to breathe.

Mr. Rogers was on the path of becoming a minister when he watched children’s televisions for the first time at his parents house while on break. Registering disgust as he watched the cartoons unfold, he decided he would take another path and began to work as a lower level employee with NBC. Eventually, he moved up to creating his own television program that reached into so many hearts around the country.

A person like Fred Rogers understood that we are made up of the people who have invested the most in us. Maybe it is a parent, maybe a friend. Maybe someone further along in life, whether one year or twenty ahead of you that reminded you “it’s going to get better”. If Mr. Rogers were still here with us, he would ask you to take a moment, let that person know you appreciate them. Would you do that now?

Thanks for reading today, and remember, there are many ways to say

“I love you” there are many ways to say, “I care about you.”

 

Seasons

Photo cred: Calie Garret
Lately I have been thinking a lot about seasons and their purpose. When we talk about seasons, we refer to the leaves blooming flowers, changing color, and falling off, leaving their home to rest into the dirt beneath. 

Really, it’s the cycle that we are taking about. There are a lot of effective ways to communicate life using circles. One of my favorite is the circle of continuous breakthrough referenced in Mike Breen’s book Choosing to Learn from Life 

What I like about this model is that we can learn from our moments, in almost a post game Conferance sort of way, where we can observe, reflect, discuss our actions in order to learn from them. 

Of course, this means we have to be willing for the next opportunity before we can choose to grow. Rather than simply correcting a mistake, error, or undesirable I observe, life requires patience from me as I wait for that moment, or season to come around again so I can arrive with a new skill set, alternate mindset to change my behavior. 

Train stations, harvest time, full moons, meteor showers, hunting deer, open enrollment, most of our life involves taking the opportunity to better yourself or to wait until the next opportunity comes around. 

Patience and understanding yourself brings the preparation necessary for me to grow into a better version of myself, all the while I am waiting for the season to arrive. 

And I think that’s what we can become more skilled in doing: waiting actively. Waiting, not in an idle way, but purposeful, intentional, understanding this: that the universe operates in seasons and so should we. 

So, here’s to your season! 

Friends let friends be themselves

imageI would have to say that today I’m thankful for the friends in my life who give me space to be myself.

I notice that the things I’m the most insecure about in myself particularly my ability to get things done on time, is where I need someone to hold space and give grace.

Being myself, in the case, would mean that when making decisions, I allow myself the slow process of filtering through my values until I know, deep in my core, what is the right thing to do.

The picture I get in my mind is tracing a group of tangled cables all the way back to a power source. At this point, I can reassure myself that if I make a decision (pull the plug) that it is not going to shut power down to a vital motivation in my heart.

Does this sound complicated? It is! But along with mastering this decision making process comes some of the most beautiful art and expression of humanity since it is so in touch with the core values of the person.

How do you make decisions? What process do you go through? Share your thoughts in the comments.