Friday, November 27, 2009

The ELEM-6 Diet Now Has Its Very Own Blog! And...

The ELEM-6 Diet has taken the blogosphere by storm! That's why I've decided to give this plucky little diet its very own blog site. You can find it here:   

And... that's not all: my amazing sister, Lauren, who herself has lost 60 pounds(!) using the ELEM-6 Diet, will be blogging with me and sharing her keen psychological insights about how one gets a grip on one's inner attitudes about food, self-image and many other things, all of which I think you'll find a greatly helpful and very encouraging.Unlike me, Lauren brings to the table some real credentials as a writer and a seasoned professional in the area of behavior modification (and I don't know about you, but my behavior seems ever be in need of yet more modification!) I'll let Lauren tell you more about her professional experience and her personal achievements with weight loss and in many other areas. Together we're going to coach you as you let the ELEM-6 philosophy sink in and begin to practice the many ELEM tips we'll be giving you along the way.

Be sure to bookmark the ELEM-6 blog and visit often as you take the plunge and begin to EL and EM in the weeks and months ahead. Lauren and Iwill be here (well, I suppose I should say, "there") Of course you are more than welcome to continue visiting Random Acts of Intelligence as often as you like. I will continue to blog here as well, on subjects of all sorts.

Friday, November 20, 2009

ELEM-6 Diet, Part-9: ELEM-6 is One-Year Old Today!

And we've now sold over 100,000 copies of the book! Just kidding there, but who knows? If Oprah has me on before she goes off the air...well, then it could happen.

Here are the details in brief: I began to EL/EM-6 on November 20, 2008. Ten months later I had lost 80 pounds. I went from weighing 240 to my present 160. That comes out to 8-lbs per month, or just 2-lbs per week. See? If you only have 40-lbs to lose you can either lose it in 5 months by going for the 2-lbs per week, or--you can lose 1-lb a week for the full 10 months. It's up to you! Get out a calendar and figure out what you want to weigh and how long it will take to get there. That's exactly what I did.

I know, I know--Thanksgiving is just days away. If you decide to wait until after, who am I to give you a hard time about it? No sweat. However, there is one big advantage to starting now: doing so will send a bold message to yourself--and everyone else--that you really are serious about this. And, you will be able to look back and say, "If I can EL/EM on Thanksgiving, why, then I know I can do this!" It'll get you off to a great beginning; and beginnings are important.

Speaking of beginnings; have we picked up a good pair of walking shoes yet? You'll need the shoes, a digital scale, some sweat pants and perhaps a zip-up sweatshirt with a hood. Have you bought some new kind of cereal and other food? Not necessary really, but it helps.

Now I want to get very specific so, if you need it, you will have a clear pattern to follow. It is very important to begin the night before. What I mean is, you need to lay out your sweats, socks, shoes and things by a chair or somewhere easy to get to. You don't want to be rummaging around in drawers at 4:30 in the morning. Did I mention you'd probably have to get up early than you are used to? You do. Live with it!

If you are like me you will come to--I know it seems impossible to believe--absolutely cherish the first couple hours of the day. I wouldn't have believed it myself, but it's turned out to be so true for me. From 5:00a.m. to 6:30a.m. is now my favorite time of day. I think endorphins may play a role. At any rate, you must EM. Starting with 20 minutes is OK at the beginning if you really can't do any more, but just accept that you will need to build up to a full hour before very long. An hour-and-a-half to two hours is ideal if you can get there.

Here is an EM tip: extend your time by extending the route you walk. Add a block or two here and there until the course you set takes about an hour. In my case I use one very wide and long street as my course. Not really a course because I just walk up and back a couple of times and that's that. It takes me 15 minutes up the street and the same time coming back. So I do it twice and there is my hour. Then I walk, stretch and cool down for another 1/2 hour.

Well, I have more details for you but I'm sleepy and it's beddy-bye time for me--I've got to get up at o-dark-thirty!

Hang in there--keep taking in the ELEM-6 principles. Let the motivation arise within you as you think, "I must, I can... I will!" You can do this!

A happy and blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The ELEM-6 Diet, Part-8: A Brief Review

wOK--I will assume you have by now done at least some of the things I have suggested in earlier posts. You have, haven't you? I have suggested both mental steps you need to take as well as very practical things you need to do.

Let's review:

1) You learned the meaning of ELEM-6 The diet no one is talking about!

2) You discovered there is no silver-bullet and that your metabolism is not the issue. (If you are still thinking your metabolism is to blame, then you need to pick up the phone and make an appointment with your doctor so you can settle the question once and for all)

3) You got a hint that time management might be one issue to tackle if you are going to add a full hour to an hour-and-a-half to your daily schedule. Yet another bullet to bite. (Perhaps this should be called the Biting Bullets Diet--there seem to be a good number of them needing to be bitten!)

4) You learned that a visit to your doctor could be motivating--especially if said doctor tells you about the likelihood of your developing diabetes or a heart condition as a result of your excess weight. Have you been to your doctor yet? If your doctor doesn't make an issue of your weight, then encourage them to! I mean it. Ask him or her, "Doc, do you think I need to lose some weight? How much should I loose to avoid future health problems? If your doctor is too timid to give you the stern lecture you need, then make your doctor give you one!

5) You found that putting off the day of reckoning would not do. You confronted that simple yet profound three-part statement one needs to say to one's self at some point: "I must, I can, I will."

6) Then I encouraged you to elicit the prayers of a few trusted friends. I hope by now you have told three or four people that you need to--and intend to--lose a significant amount of weight in the near future and have asked them to be praying for you in this regard. Have you?

7) Next came the revelation that no day is a good day to begin a diet. In fact, there is not a single day in all 365 which is a good day to begin a diet. They are all bad and every single one of them right near some holiday or birthday or some other celebration which will involve lots of food. I'm writing this on November 9th. I know what you might be thinking: "Well, you know, Thanksgiving is coming up real soon--this would be a really bad time to begin. I'll just wait until after Thanksgiving." Then, after Thanksgiving, guess what? It's Christmastime. That too is of course a terrible time to begin a diet. "I know," you may be thinking, "I'll wait until the New Year. Yes, that's it. The newness of the year will give me just the boost I need to get me started." Uh-huh. New Year's Day comes with a special dispensation of will-power, generated by the shining resolutions made the day prior, does it? Never really worked that way for me--at least not as far as dieting is concerned. I had a whole day to spend around the house with all kinds of leftover Christmas cookies, Chex Party Mix and all kinds of goodies. My New Year's dieting resolutions usually lasted until about lunchtime.

8) Next, I encouraged you to go get a few items. Remember what they were? Here is a hint: Bathroom scale (digital); good walking shoes (I like New Balance); sweat pants and hoodie. If you will be walking early in the morning you may also need some gloves. If you want to burn a few extra calories along the way, then pick up a set of hand-weights while you're at the store. Start with the real light ones: 2 or 3 pounds. By buying the things above you will further motivate yourself. Oh, I almost forgot. If you don't already have one, perhaps you should get an i-pod or a little arm-band radio so you can listen to your favorite music as you walk.

9) The last thing you learned about is, for me, a key part of the ELEM-6 Diet Plan. That is the part about giving yourself one day a week off. One day in which you eat whatever you feel like in any quantity your heart desires. I call it my "free day." Some people tell me it couldn't work for them or didn't. Perhaps. Still, I find it to be a great incentive each week during the preceding six days. I'll may write more about my "free day" in the future.

Well, that is enough review. My next post will be my attempt to get you to at least approach the starting line (if you haven't already done so) and set a goal, and set a date on the calendar for arriving at your goal. I'll get the starter's pistol ready. I can't wait! On your mark...

PS-- For me, this will be the start of ELEM-6 Year II Wow, how time flies! :-)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The ELEM-6 Diet, Part-7: Why the "6"

Dear Struggling One,

Don't be deceived, dieting--especially the ELEM-6 diet--is hard work. Now, I ask you (those who follow the Hebrew scriptures) In this life, how many days is one to work? Yes, six. Blessedly, our heavenly Father has ordained a day of rest. One day out of the seven of our week. I have been trying to put this principle in practice in my life for a good ten years or so. Dennis Prager, one of my main hero's inspired me in this. After these ten years, I'm still trying, but I have a long ways to go until I get it right. Here is the deal: First, establish a Sabbath Day in your work week. After you lay that marker down, everything else seems to fall into place. Don't worry about becoming a Seventh Day Adventist. Just get hold of the Sabbath Principle and you'll soon get the hang of it.

Yes, I know it is as inconvenient as can be. Most of us get two full days, "off the clock," to spend however we please. The trouble is, many fill both of these days with activity galore. I know--I used to do that too. Going here and there. Shopping; car in for LOF or repairs; paying the bills; laundry, repairs around the home, vacuuming, shopping, more bills--soon we are part of the Rat Race without even knowing how we entered it. We don't quite know how, but we find we have a little tank-top with a number pinned on it and we're huffing and puffing our way down the race course that seems to have no end. That's because we did not set the Sabbath apart as holy to the Lord. We though we'd use the "free" time to take care of business and get stuff done. Makes sense, but not in God's economy.

All this is to say that you need to work very hard at dieting and exercise (EL,EM) SIX DAYS A WEEK only. Get it? I can't tell you what a difference the "6" in my dieting plan has made for me. When my seventh day comes up, I put all the work of dieting aside and eat to my hearts content. I usually don't "pig out" , but I know I can if I want to. Wheat Thins and Triscuits in abundance! Cookies! Bread of all kinds! Hot dogs, frozen pizza, wine--whatever! Ahhh... All worth waiting 6 days for.

What I am encouraging you to do--however you can do it--is to only do the strict dieting for six days. Give yourself one "free" day. It is something to look forward to. When you are denying yourself something really yummy, you can say to yourself, "Hang in there, it won't be but a very few days until I can enjoy whatever my heart desires. So, to recap: Eat-Less-Exercise-More-SIX-Days-a-week. Got it?

Well, that will have to be all for today. Hang in there and, if you haven't yet begun, prepare to do so.


PS--Have you got your walking shoes and digital scale yet? Well, get ready because we're starting real soon!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The ELEM Diet, Part-6: Getting Started

There is never a good day to begin a diet. Last year, as I walked out of my doctor's office on the twentieth of November, determining within myself that, "I can do this, I must do this--I will do this," I was so focused on the immediate task of starting to lose weight I didn't stop to think that Thanksgiving was exactly one week away. What timing! Not only that, but I had just been grocery shopping a few days before and our fridge and cupboards were brimming with all my favorite comfort foods: flour tortillas (I'd toss one right on the burner of the stove, flip it a few times, then slather it with butter and salt--mmmm, good!). I had hot dogs, cream cheese, p-nut butter, canned chili, chocolate bars, cookies--you name it. It was easily $120.00 worth of food. I am such a penny pincher, looking at all this food I'd just bought tempted me to put off starting to ELEM for a few weeks. But I knew I could not do that. The day of reckoning had come and putting things off yet again would just not do. As inconvenient as the timing was, I had to begin now--even if all this food went to waste.

There are always holidays just around the corner. There are always birthdays or other celebrations a day or two away. From that standpoint, it is never a "good time" to begin to ELEM. Just accept that fact, pick a day, and get to it.

Oh, have you bought your new walking shoes and new bathroom scale yet? Just do it! More to follow...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The ELEM-6 Diet, Part-5: Haven't Got a Prayer?

[Please excuse the rough-draft nature of this post. I'll come back to it in the next few days and clean it up. I just wanted to get it to you ASAP] --Allen

My dear still struggling friends. In the psychological /spiritual battle regarding weight, one needs every tool possible. For folks of faith, this means, among other things, prayer. Now don't go thinking (as us overweight folks so often do) that this will make things effortless or so easy one need not work very hard. No--prayer is not some spiritual magic diet pill that will enable you to lose weight while you sleep. Yet--yet, there is something to earnest prayer which connects us to God in a way which leads to victory when previous efforts--even valiant ones--have failed.

Let me tall you about how prayer was a significant element in my beginning to get real about losing weight. I work at my church and our ministry team holds a weekly staff meeting. Besides the church issues we discuss, staff members will often ask for prayer regarding someone or something in their area of ministry. Also, staff members will ask for prayer for a family member who is ill or for some other personal issue. I'm a fairly private person and do not readily share my personal problems and struggles. Last year though, in April or may, at one particular staff meeting, I felt like I should illicit the help of others with my struggle to lose weight (or, perhaps I should say, my lack of being willing to really struggle meaningfully about my weight). So when it came my turn to ask for prayers, I told them how much my excess weight bothered me and how I had failed time and again to control my eating. I confessed that it was an embarrassment to me and a further embarrassment to tell them this. At any rate, no one made a big deal of it or commented much. nonetheless, I now believe that my prayer request to my co-workers that day somehow played a vital role in my eventual success. For all I know, it was the prayers and faith of one of them which really made the difference--and not so much my own.

I should mention here that this happened a full six months before I began to get serious about my weight. However, having asked people to pray for me made me all the more aware that something had to happen and it needed to happen sooner rather than later. One great thing which came of my confession to my co-workers is that one of them, our church's youth leader, would pop into my office every week or two and ask me how my dieting was going. This made me feel guilty when I had to tell him I wasn't yet making much--or any--progress. I was walking a bit (EM), but had not begun to EL yet.

My suggestion: Either in person or perhaps by email, select a handful of people who care about you and tell them how frustrated you are with trying to lose weight. Tell them you know you really must find a way and need all the help you can get. Ask them to remember you in their prayers in this regard. If you are really brave, you might invite them to ask you form time to time how it's going.

O.K. I have now revealed you one of the secret strategies of the ELEM-6 diet which is not contained in the acronym. Perhaps I should have called it ELEM-6+P.

That's all for now. Keep checking back in the weeks ahead as I share more and get into some real detail about how I began in earnest and what that was like.

PS-- You CAN do this! You must, you can, you will!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

The ELEM-6 Diet, Part-4, I Must I Can I Will

To my dear sisters and brothers still struggling. I hope you are at least at the "I must" stage. That is a good place to begin. "I should" just doesn't cut it. "I Should" doesn't begin anything. It is the same as saying "someday." "I must" on the other hand drives home the imperative of the situation. I can no longer put this off with "I should" and "someday." When we say, "I must" to ourselves, we put ourselves on notice that the day of reckoning is at hand. No more putting it off with avoidance strategies: "Well, after the holidays..." That won't do. "I must" means now--before, or even during the holidays.

Oops--out of time. More next time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The ELEM-6 Diet, Part-3: D-Day

My annual physical having been a couple of months back, I had been in to see her for something else, which I can't recall at the moment. The point is that, during both visits--and of course in previous physicals--I'd given a blood sample. Now I get a call from the doctor asking me to come in for a follow-up visit. I was a bit concerned because I'm the one who is suppose to initiate an office call, not my doctor. Of course I went through a bit of the normal, "Uh-Oh--maybe I have cancer of some other terrible disease" thought process but, but beside that I was not too worried really. More curious than anything.

What she wanted to talk to me about, I discovered, was my blood sugar levels. She had been looking over my my chart and had noticed a steady incline. This climb in my blood sugar levels was in the pre-diabetic range she explained. My first thought was, "You mean you actually read my chart and take note of trends?" I was impressed that some professional--any professional--actually did what we all assume they should do. [You know, like auto mechanics telling you the truth and lawyers billing you accurately] Anyway, after the good feeling of being looked after, I had to face the bad feeling that what she was telling me might have somehow have some unpleasant ramifications for my lifestyle. I was right about that!

Our conversation went something like this:

Doctor: Mr. Randall, at this rate you will be on insulin by this time next year. For now I want you to begin taking Metformin to get your levels down, and I want you to begin taking your blood-sugar levels daily. These are a start, but they don't really address the fundamental issue.

Me: Oh, I see. You mean I need to change my diet to include fewer sweet things?

Doctor: No. That might help a bit, but it's your weight that is the main factor here. As of today you weigh 243 pounds and that is a several more that last time you were in to see me.

Me: You're right doctor, I know I need to but I just can't seem to find the time in my schedule. I'll try though.

Doctor: You have been telling me that for several years--but it is not happening. I'm just telling you that now you are facing some serious health consequences in the years ahead if you don't get a handle on this.

Me: Do you think I could get off the Metformin and the finger pricking if I lost some weight?

Doctor: Theoretically, yes, you could. But to do that you'd have to lose much more than just "some"--you'd have to lose a lot of weight. And frankly you don't seem capable of getting motivated to do so.

This last statement of hers really stung--because it was so true. She was absolutely right. Although I inwardly bemoaned my weight on a daily--sometimes hourly--basis, I seemed to myself to be completely incapable of getting motivated enough to do the simple but difficult thing [ELEM!] it takes to lose weight. Oh, I could come to a decision on New Year's Eve of on my birthday or some other time to "cut back" or "eat more sensibly" or "eat a healthier diet" but even those very modest efforts would only last a day our two--often only hours! Sometimes only until the next meal.

I've been round and round in my mind exploring the causes and reasons I eat like I do, or, I should say, like I did--but I really don't think there is much help in going there. I knew that food was a great comfort and solace for me and that I used it as a substitute for all kinds of psychological things I should have sought by other means, but that understanding in itself never helped me much when it came to getting motivated to lose weight.

I left the doctor's office feeling like a failure--again. I also felt like my doctor was exasperated with me and my prom ices over the years to do something about my weight. She was right--I'd just been putting it off and putting it off and had not been getting serious about doing something about my weight.

As I walked out of the building and down the sidewalk on Fourth Avenue, a small but essential thought rose in my mind. It was my voice speaking to my reluctant self. It simply said, "It is time. I cannot put this off any longer. I have to find a way to do this."

Please reread the last three sentences. This was a critical turning point. I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I knew I could not put it off any longer. I knew I would not do it with any fad diet. I knew I had to face the reality of E-L-E-M...

In the next post I will go back in time and tell you something I did about 6 months before this which helped to set the stage for this turning point. And, although this "something" I am going to tell you about was followed by 6 months of failure, nonetheless it was, I have come to see, a very important key to unlock the mystery of motivation.

For now, meditate on accepting that the putting this off must soon come to an end. Go ahead and panic if you like. Let you face-stuffing inner-child throw a tantrum if she likes. You will soon be sitting her on a stool in the corner

Meditate also on these three phrases, for they form the mental basis of all that is to follow in the months ahead:
I must. I can. I will. This may sound like pop psychology, but it is not. It is ELEM-reality therapy! You must consider each statement by itself and accept its implications: I must do this. Not just "I should do this", but "I must do this. Sit with that a while.

I can do this. This is essential. Drop all the "But it's so hard" and "I know I should" inner dialogue. D-r-o-p it! You can do this! Yes, it will be difficult, but no matter--it must be done and you can do it! You know you can. You have just been too lazy or too afraid to tackle it. Well, just get over it because you know deep down inside that you really can do it. You've just been putting it off. Not for much longer though.

I will do it. Perhaps you are not quite there yet. That's OK. It's OK because you going get there soon. How do I know? Because you are going to go over and over the previous two statements until you are all the way there. You are going to accept "I must" and "I can" so completely that you will have no where else to go but to "I will do this".

I love You two women like sisters. I will be praying for you as God ushers you into and shepherds you through the changes ahead. Remember, God can do abundantly above all we can ask or imagine--through Christ Jesus our Lord!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The ELEM-6 Diet, Part-2: A Personal Word

My dear friend struggling with weight,

I only have a spare minute to jot you a little note in between posts. I just wanted you to know I haven't forgotten your anxiety and and perhaps even desperation over the struggle to lose weight. In my next post I will recount the trip to my doctor which [a number of different expressions could be plugged in here] got me off the dime, or if you like, inspired me to (again) attempt to lose a serious amount of weight. It was November 19th of last year that my doctor got just a bit exasperated with me and my offhanded and always-broken promice to loose weight. I'll tell you more about this in my next post.

I will have to keep repeating that I didn't go on a diet--at least not the way "diet" is commonly understood. I didn't follow any "method" in particular. Having said that, I do want to give a detailed (as much as possible) answer to the question I hear so often, "how did you do it?" So, in the posts to follow, I will describe to you, in chronological order, the things I did to lose 75 pounds in 10 months. Stay tuned...

Oh, one more thing: If you want to follow my "method" (which, remember, is really no method at all) call today and make an appointment with your doctor. Make it for two or three weeks from now so I can get you ready for how you will want to approach the visit. You can give any reasonable explanation for making the appointment. Schedule an annual exam if you haven't had one in a while. Even if you aren't due for one, pay to get one anyway.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

At Last, The ELEM-6 Diet Revealed, Part-1

So many people where I work and at my church (the same place) have asked me how I lost so much weight (80-pounds in 10 months) I decided to put it in some sort of formula fashion so anyone wanting to take the same path could have some pointers in doing so. One person especially is very anxious to know the secret to my weight loss. I am dedicating this series of articles to that person. I will write as if I were addressing that person directly. Feel free to listen in.

Before jumping right in to the particular weight loss "secrets" I "discovered" I need to say a few things about the subject of weight and dieting in general. First and foremost, there are no secrets to be discovered. That's the first thing you'll have to accept. But of course you already know this. You just need to drop all the wishful thinking. Sorry, no silver bullets. Don't search for any diet with a name or any "diet program". ELEM-6 is only a name I gave "my" diet--which is no diet at all--as a spoof on all the diets with have names: the Atkins Diet; the South Beach Diet; The Beverly Hills Diet--there must be a thousand or more of them out there. Those names are all about selling books. So here is the big ELEM-6 revelation in as brief a way as it can be said: Eat Less and Exercise More--Six days a week. There, that's all there is to it. I could just plink a period down at the end of that last sentence and conclude this article right there, but that would be a bit cruel--even kind of cold and heartless. I don;t want to do that. I have to much deep and genuine sympathy for those who struggle and agonize over their weight. I know, I have most of my life. I do need to say more, but but before I do, you need to accept the simple truth that you already know exactly how to lose weight. We all know it. We just hate the cold mathematical-like reality of it and we long for something that will fast-track us to wight loss with not much effort or, or, --OMG--hunger. This is exactly why I call ELEM-6 [I wish I could put that little Trade-Mark symbol right after it] "the diet no one is talking about".

Here is an important 2-part disclaimer: 1) I know many people are helped by finding a diet with a name on it or who pay to join a program or hire a trainer. When it comes to weight loss, I really am for "whatever works for you". Even though I make fun of some of these things, I understand that people trying to lose weight need to find that help wherever and however they can. I just think that those things can often be a way to avoid facing the water-in-the-face reality that, once really and fully accepted, can be the real beginning point for substantial and weight loss. To that last sentence I almost included a clause about maintaining your weight loss once you've achieved it, but then backed off because I've not done that yet. If and when I've stayed at my preferred weight for a couple of years then maybe I'll write about that. For now, I'll just tell you about how I went about losing it. 2) I know that a few people have some rare metabolism or thyroid condition which requires surgery or some kind of special treatment. If that's you, then these articles are not for you. If you suspect you have some such condition, here is my advice: Stop using that possibility as an excuse not to try to lose weight. Go to the doctor, take some tests, then come back here if--as I suspect--you don't have any rare metabolism condition. If you are like me you don't have a metabolism problem, you have an eating problem. And for heaven's sake, please. pul-eeze don't call it, or think of it, as a "eating disorder"! Yikes. Drop that term like a hot baked potato... Hmmm...with real butter and sour cream...and chives...oh, and bacon bits and cheese. Sorry about that. :-)

Well, there is your intro. I want you to think about this little (but big) hard-to-swallow pill I've set on the dinner plate here before you. Think about what it would mean to take an ELEM-6 pill first thing every morning for the next ten months. Think about this for a few days and then I will tell you more about just how I got started and how, perhaps, you can get going in the same direction. See you back at this blog spot in day or two.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Weight Loss, Self-Image, Time Management and the Apple Cart

Little did I imagine, back in November of 2008 (the 19th to be exact) just how much an appointment with my doctor was about to change my life. People see my weight loss and think that's the big change. From their vantage point I know it is strikingly true. My appearance is so changed that some people at church are even struggling with a bit of cognitive dissonance and saying things like, "That was weird--I didn't recognize you for a moment there." I have to admit that, even for me, the thin-ish guy in the mirror is strangely unfamiliar still. I actually think my face looked much more friendly and warm when it was more rounded. And now that I have gone and shaved my head, my appearance looks, even to me, more different still--rather turtle-like really. Except for my white scalp and skin, I now look like one of the BlueMen (I love their music/act!). I suppose I'll get used to that turtle-headed guy in the mirror, but perhaps I'll need to try and purposely smile more to make up for the kind of gaunt monkish look my face has now taken on.

As I began to say, my appearance is not at all the biggest change since I began to lose weight. The biggest change is a shift in how I see and manage that ever-faster moving element in my life--that illusive, fleeting, mercurial, conveyor-belt-ish thing we call time (Remember that song by--Who was it?--called Time? It was all echo-y and psychedelic). My doctor had been on my case for two or three years about my weight. She said I needed to get more exercise and to do it more regularly and intentionally. I would always answer that I just couldn't fit it in to my busy schedule. I was already getting up at 6:30 or 7 and that seemed pretty early to me.

As I left the doctor's office with my prescription for Metformin--and a glucometer with which to prick my finger several times a day and record my blood-sugar levels--I determined that, convenient or not, I'd have to find a way to squeeze some exercise into my routine. The only place in my schedule for any new activity was in my mornings. Ugh. This would mean getting up earlier. I began getting up at 5:30, but after getting dressed and wrapped up (It was cold then in late November) it was ten-'till-six which didn't leave much time to walk and then take a shower. Eventually I found that the only way I could get ready and get in a sufficiently long was to get up at--gulp--4:45. Some days were really miserable. Now, almost one year later, this formally absurd hour of the morning seems a pretty "normal" time to get up. Nowadays for me, "sleeping in" means sleeping all the way through to 5:30 or 6:00. I guess it just proves that one can get used to nearly anything.

Well, Time compels me to wrap up this post and hit the "Publish Post" button so my waiting readers--both of you--can have a fresh morsel to consume. Now I must do some further research into something called Single Malt. Perhaps I will blog about my findings at some future time--Time permitting that is...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Consumerism Nears its End--for Me at Least

That might be overstating it a bit, but it is virtually true, if not literally so. My personal consumption is not over yet, although the end is in sight. You see, today I bought the last pair of shoes I will ever wear. I came to this realization as I drove home with them and thought, "How long can I make these shoes last?" The answer I gave myself was that, with prudent care, I guessed I could easily get a good 15 years out of them. That's when I dawned on me that, considering my age--fifty-nine--any actuary worth his sea salt would tell me that these were indeed most likely my very last pair of shoes. Mortality will certainly bring consumerism to an end, if nothing else will.

Look, I know we all have to consume; it is a necessary, and even in a number of respects, a good thing. But we Americans have gone a bit overboard. I think we'd all, if only reluctantly, admit to that. Now admitting something is the same as confessing. I belong to a church tradition (Reformed) which values written and spoken confession of beliefs, sins, commitments and indeed, all kinds of important things. Confession, as it turns out, is good for the soul after all. And when it comes to the issue of consumer sins, perhaps we all have a good deal to confess.

Although my wife and I are both very frugal, she is much more so than I. And although we both subscribe to the motto, "Use it us, wear it out, make it do or do without," I do more of the buying of new things than she does. I like to shop (I confessed to this in an earlier post). Here I have to admit to being absolutely crazy about Walmart. OK, I'll make this a formal confession: I love bargains and I LOVE WALMART! There, I've said it. Yes, I know, I know; everything in the store in made in China. And to think that for years I used to scrupulously boycott anything made in China. Somewhere in the course of my boycott though, I was sucker-punched by reality.

I remember one time needing work boots and calling around to places to ask them if they had any work boots not made in China. I spoke to the manager of BootWorld who assured me that they had shoes which were indeed made in other countries--like Srilanka, Bangladesh or some such place. Anyway, I go to the store and look around awhile. What should I find but a really big sturdy cardboard store display with the word Caterpillar in big bold letters and an all-American manly-looking scene with photos of huge earth-moving equipment and big burly all-American guys in their Caterpillar work boots with their feet propped up on a giant muddy tire about ten feet high. "Man," I think, "this is the work boot for me." I get a pair and, when I get them home I what do I discover when I look at the label way inside on the underside of the tongue? "Made in China." "What?!" Caterpillar work boots--made in China?!! I took them back and the manager agreed to a refund. I made my righteous Ghadian stand, but it was one of my last. In the months following that episode my ever-vigilant label-checking revealed that nearly 97.3% of everything in any store I went to was "made in China." So much for my solidarity with the suffering masses in the Peoples Republic...

Worse than the effect all those unavoidable Chinese-made products had on my self-indulgent consumer habits was the idea my wife ran across not long ago in her reading. In the book by Timothy Keller (Ministries of Mercy, The Call of the Jericho Road) she read where he quoted John Newton to have said, "We are to spend a penny on the poor for every penny we spend on ourselves." This has cursed and haunted me ever since my wife and I discussed it. It's bad enough that we talked about the idea. She had to go and set up a little offering jar where we are to put a little slip of paper with what we have spent on ourselves. Let me tell you, this really makes one think every time one--I!--spend money on myself. I am forced to think, "Did I really need that?" and, "OK, now I have to spend an equal amount on some poor person--who will it be? How will I get them something they need?" As you can imagine, this has really messed with my buying habits.

Well, even as our consumerism must end, so too with this post. Here I sit contemplating my mortality, my comparative neglect of the poor, and to top it all off, how the shoes I now wear will most likely be on my feet as they lay me in my grave... Wait just a cotton-pickin' minute! Why must I have shoes on when I'm buried? Can't these shoes be better used by giving them to a poor person? I can be buried barefoot, thank you!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Of Shin Splints and Time Management

It's 6:09a.m. and I would normally be nine minutes into the second hour of my morning walk. But because of a nasty shin splint I am instead here in my silent living room at the keyboard of my iBook. Sometimes a pesky problem in one area of our lives leads to a nifty solution in another.

I have been quite bothered by not finding time to blog for almost three weeks now. And, in general, I have of late been wrestling afresh with the seemingly eternal issue of Time Management. Enter the shin splint. It came on--for no apparent reason--one week ago. At first I continued my two-hour walks, but the pain soon curtailed that. This morning it was a bit better, but forty-five minutes into my walk, my very unhappy right shin told me, "that's enough!" That's when it occurred to me that I could--I should--use the remaining hour to get back to the blogging I'd been so missing. It also occurred to me that perhaps, now that I'd reached my weight-loss goal, I might cut my walking routine from down from two hours to one. One Time-Management issue solved, others yet to be managed.

The other related issue I came to a new approach about was how I so often am hesitant to even begin a project--like writing a blog post--if I do not have a big block of time in which do do a really good/thorough job of it. For me, with writing, that usually means a solid two hours. I have now decided to try and get over that attitude and instead re-train my hyper-critical inner-editor to loosen up and accept smaller slices of time and (gulp) sloppier writing. I know he'll just hate both of these things, but if he can't make this transition, well, he'll just have to understand that he can be replaced.

What does this mean for you, my loyal readers? [Imagining one has readers is a helpful motivational mental tool] It means that you will see some much shorter and more 'rough-drafty' posts. As I mentioned in another post, this blog has, amoeba-like, divided into two blogs: this one, Random Acts of Intelligence, which will deal with my personal take on life issues and popular culture; and my other blog, The Plumbline which will feature more crafted articles dealing with theological issues, especially truth claims and relativism.

Well, there you have it--had it not been for a nasty little shin-splint, you would not have had this post to waste your--er--um, I mean, to pleasantly fill a few minutes of your precious time. You're done now so you'd better hurry up now and get back to managing your time!

Bye for now... --Allen

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shoecare Advice from 2018--Part-II

I just read what I wrote last tiem, and I see I LefT a number of things out. For one thing, how the PeoplE came to be so overwhelming in favor of SingleSourceNewGovernmentProvided (SSNGP) Shoecare. I suppose one big factor was when, back in 2013, the Clothing Czar launched a series of GoodWiseMediaMoments (GWMMs) (I almost forgot you guys haven't begun to get GWMMs on your UMD--Universal Media Device--yet). Come to think of it, you guys probably haven't even been issued your UMDs yet. Ugh, I'm beginning to realize how much technology has changed since your time. Anyway, a Universal Media Device is self explanitory. They are really cool, except that only the New Government is allowed to make them. I suppose that's why GoodWiseMediaMoments (GWMMs) pop up so frequently.

All that above was to explain how and why so many people got on board with SSNGP Shoecare. They even finally swayed me, in spite of my libertarian leaning views (Don't worry, I'm using a very secure free and independant (!) network to compose/send this, so don't be anxious for me. I don't even worry about this being archived on the blog in 2009 because after 2012 everything on the OldInternet gets... um, nevermind--it's complicated and something you don't need to know right now. Just don't keep any paper copies of things I've written--of any other subversive stuff. Bad idea! Trust me.).

ANYway... The GWMMs would pop up and show some poor guy with no shoes and then, in your earbud, that Orson-Wells-like voice would ask if you really wanted to deny this guy decent shoes. Other GWMMs would constantly remind us of how many people could not afford decent shoes and how the big shoe companies were charging prices many could not afford (although $20,000 now sounds like such a sweet deal! You can't even get a pair of flip-flops for that nowadays!). Then there was that holograph of that little girl crying over her stubbed toe--you'd see her everywhere. That one really got to me.

Anyway, after a year and a half of GWMMs promoting SSNGP universal shoecare, everyone with a decent pair of shoes was feeling guilty about everyone without them. I think it was in early 2015 that the RollingRealTimeVote reached a majority and that familiar tone sounded in my earbud letting me know the People had once again spoken and that yet another NewGovernment program was being launched in order to make us all SafeandSecure.

All this space and I haven't even begun to tell you about what a bureaucratic nightmare it was dealing with the Department of Universal ShoeCare. I'll have to give you the details in another post.

A word to the wise: DON'T print this--or any other Tea Party type communications. I'm sure you know what I mean.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shoecare Advice From 2018!

You're not going to believe this, but I am blogging from 2018--no jive! Don't even ask me to explain how I did it. All I can say is, I know 99% of the stuff on the Art Bell show is bogus as a 3-dollar bill, but one guy he had on back in 2009 was the real deal. That's all I can say for now ( You can listen for re-runs or you can just go to... oh, sorry--you folks back in 2009 don't have that website yet. Never mind.

Anyway, the big thing I have to tell you is this: DON'T SIGN UP FOR THE SHOECARE PROGRAM WHATEVER YOU DO! I might be a bit overwrought at the moment and I know I am finding it difficult to manage my agner [Oh, I forgot--the old word "anger", like many other words from back then, has had its letters rearranged back when--nevermind, that will lead to a whole new topic ond open one giant can of rowms. Just know that it is hard for me, even after only three reays--I mean years--here to spell everything the old way. I offen now forget which is the old wa and which is the nu (new?) se?].

Wer was I--oh yes, shoecare. I suppose it was a sign that I'd conceded the last vestige of my conserve bent when I checked the box for shoecare during O-pen enrollment. I'd been holding out on taking all the government care that had been offered me for the past nine reays. I told myself I was standing on principle, but I was beginning to feel a fule for insisting on being independent and not letting the nation meet my sabic needs like it was for doing for everyone else.

So I finally gave in and checked the box because my favorite New Balance shoes were about ready to need replacing and, what with the economic situation, I knew I couldn't come up with the $35,000 for a new pair anytime soon. That was back in Febama of 2016. Here it is Baragusta 2018 and I'm still waiting for my GoreSteP shoes. I can't believe I gave in. I should have gone on the... um, let me just call it a worldwide network that the authorities have yet to penetrate--and got me some OldStock genuine New Balance shoes. Sure, they'd have cost me a QOG (That stands for Quarter Once Gold. That's the currency on the... um, the network I mentioned earlier). If I'd done that, I'd have had a real pair of OldStock New Balance shoes in a week or two. But stupid me, I just had to go for the "free" government shoes. Because of that decision I've been waiting two years for my first pair of GoreSteP shoes. All this time I've kept my last pair of New Balance together with duct tape and material cut from one of my two government-issued shopping bags. Ive got to hand it to them on that one--that GoreWeave is strong stuff! OK, I know it's a CAS (Crime Against the State) to use the bag in an unauthorized manner, but what could I do?

It all started when my application for shoes was denied because I'd not worn my GPS during my morning walks and so didn't have the VN (Verification of Need) documentation I needed. I know I know--"Your GPS, don't leave home with out it!" Who hasn't heard this PSA a thousand times? I just forgot to take it with me on my walks. I forgot it because I refused to have it implanted like everyone else was doing. While everyone found ithe GPS implant convenient, I thought it was really creepy.

Anyway, they denied my claim and so I was stuck with those six-year-old New Balance shoes. They were worn to tatters, but they had sentimental value to me because they would be my last pair of self-bought, free-market shoes. I guess I took it for granted when a person could just up and decide it was time for a new pair of shoes and just walk into any shoe store in town and buy any pair one wanted--wow!--that seems like a lifetime ago. Just think--some young kids today will never know what that was like to go out and buy your own new shoes...

Well I've gone on way longer than I ever intended and still have not told you about all the time and trouble I've gone through just to get the Feds in Chicago (back in your time the capital was in the District of Columbia) to send me my NSV--New Shoe Voucher. I'll have to continue this at some other tiem. To be continued...


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Back in the (blogging) Saddle Again!

My "mini-Job" series of trials my be coming to an end, at least that is my hope as of this moment. I have begun the work of getting myself whole again, but still have a way to go. If you read my previous post (A Bucket Full of Trials) you know what I am referring to. In a ten day period I had a series of small problems or, as Christians often call them, trials. The chronology has run like this:

1) My computer died--kaput.
2) A tire on my truck went flat--IHOP style.
3) I stupidly lost my very expensive prescription glasses in the San Diego bay--glug, glug, glug.
4) An abscess developed in one of my wisdom teeth--throb, throb, throb.
5) A crown came off another one of my teeth--fall into the Gap.
6) I develop bronchitis--cough wheeze cough.
7) I develop laryngitis--raspy Truman Capote voice.

There you have it, a perfect seven. Seven little annoyances right in a row. Here is where the rebuilding project stands:

1) I have a new computer with upgraded Windows programs, but am having "issues" with it. Need I say more?
2) Got a new tire--two new tires to be exact. No problem there (Tire Depot on Adans Ave. Highly recommended).
3) My new glasses came in but I am having issues with them too. Looks like I'll have to go back to the eyeglass place to...I dunno--argue with them?
4) Wisely had the wisdom tooth yanked. Not really too bad, pain-wise.
5) Got crown glued back in place but it is too high. Will have to go back in to get is sanded down.
6) Bronchitis is hanging on. I may need to go see the doc if it doesn't clear up.
7) My raspy Truman Capote voice began Sunday and remains. Did that sound come out of my mouth?

Here is how I would honestly rate each of these things on a scale of one-to-ten, ten being worst and one being just a minor annoyance:

1) 2.3
2) 1.6
3) 3.1
4) 2.5
5) 1.6
6) 1.8
7) 1.6

All things considered (Who has time to consider all things? NPR does, now that I think of it).
I am no worse for the wear and, I hope, somehow in some way a bit improved from having had to cope with these minor trials. Compared to what many other folks have to cope with on a daily basis, these things are, as Paul referred to them, "light and momentary afflictions."

May god bless you in all your trials, both big and little and whatever comes your way.



Monday, July 20, 2009

A Bucket Full of Trials

This week I feel like the subject of the TV show 48 hours. It was in that span of time that, 1) My computer at work suffered a fatal crash, 2) My tooth began to ache, 3) My right-rear tire went flat, 4) I lost my prescription glasses. "Ugh" sums it up nicely. Sometimes it seems that life's trials come in buckets full.

Today was the day for me to begin the recovery process. I went in to see my dentist, Dr. Jepsen, and found I needed a wisdom tooth extracted. I made an appointment to have that done. I also made an appointment with the Optometrist at the Walmart store to get an eye exam and a new pair of glasses ( In the meantime I am using a 7-year old pair that leaves much to be desired). I hired a homeless guy (a good friend) to put my spare tire on in place of the flat. My place of work, First Presbyterian Church, will get me a new computer. So, all things considered, I am not really all that bad off. I have a very great deal to be thankful for. And although I had some moments of feeling irritated and sorry for myself, in general I feel as if I have handled this cluster of trials not too badly. Glory to God for his grace and guidance!

Anyway, I just wanted to let you, my faithful readers, know what I have been up to lately. I love to dialogue and would love to communicate with you about anything on your mind. Thanks for reading my blog and staying in touch. God bless you!


Saturday, July 18, 2009

I'm Just a Happy-Go-Lucky Risk-Taking Fool!

Friday afternoon on his radio show Dennis Prager was extolling the benefits of risk-taking, of not always "playing it safe" in life. He told of all the experience he'd gained from having tried things which were out of the ordinary and diverged from the safe path. In particular he encouraged young people to travel to foreign countries and gain self confidence as well as rewarding experiences. He was not encouraging people to take unreasonable or radical risks, but just encouraging his listeners to try some things out of their usual comfort zone. It got me to thinking about how I am often kind of a--I hate the term--"stick-in-the-mud" choosing most often to do only familiar things that are not very adventuresome. His words nudged me a little in the direction of being a bit more daring the next time an opportunity presented itself.

Later that same day I attended the graduation of a friend. The keynote speaker recounted a study taken of people over the age of ninety-five. One of the three things they would do differently if they had life to live over was to take more risks. Well, that cinched it for me. I would break out of my conservative approach to things and take some risks along my life's usually predictable path.

The very next day (earlier today) such an opportunity presented itself. It was so good and so inviting as to seem heaven sent especially for me in order to have me enjoy and learn from a little risk-taking. My wife and I were out sailing today with my brother and sister to celebrate their July birthdays. There were nine of us on the boat altogether. The weather was fantastic and we'd had a good sail from the marina in Chula Vista up to Glorietta Bay where we anchored for lunch and relaxation. At some point my brother and sister jumped in the water for a swim and to just cool off in the water. They are both, unlike me, bold and adventuresome. At first I followed my usual non-participatory pattern and didn't even consider joining them. Then I remembered the two--two--admonitions that had just so recently come my way, challenging my stick-in-the-mud ways.

That did it. I decided I had to take the plunge and break the old boring Allen Randall mold. I was already wearing casual shorts so didn't need to change. I took off my shirt; took my wallet out of my pocket, congratulating myself for having the foresight to do so. Oh, and my watch would likewise need to be taken off and stowed safely in the fanny pack I'd brought. Then there were the car keys to remove from my pocket and place with the other things. It was a good thing I remembered also to take my cell phone and my pocket camera off my person and place them in the tote bag. Now I was all ready to defy my personal conservative convention and take a liberating leap into the San Diego bay. Yes! Go for it!

Over the side I went with a splash. Freeze frame. In the nanosecond just before my head goes under the water my nephew Shane yells, "Your glasses!" I pop up out of the water to the realization that I'd forgotten to take them off. In the half-second that this thought took to sink into my newly risk-friendly brain, I saw, in my mind's eye, my $500+ pair of prescription Flexon frame glasses descending toward the bottom of the bay. I dove down as fast as I could hoping to catch a glimpse of then and extending my hand in the hope I could race ahead and catch them as they sunk. No such luck. They were gone--forever. My sympathetic shipmates produced a pair of goggles and snorkel, but the bottom proved to be too far down and the water too murky for there to be any chance of my recovering them.

After about twenty minutes in the water I climbed back aboard the now fuzzy boat and joined my blurry family and friends for the sail back to the dock and the rest of the double birthday party for my brother and sister. One small irony was that, as we neared the marina, a young woman on a power boat passing near us, going in the opposite direction, lifted her top and, for apparently no particular reason, flashed us. I have never been to Marti Gras and such an event has never happened to me in my entire fifty-nine years, but on this one day, and at this particular time, it did. All I can deduce is that God, in his great wisdom and mercy, arranged it such that my view was even more obscured than when they pixelate stuff like this on TV. Is this Murphy's Law or what?

As I drove home, my wife read out the exit signs to me so I'd know when to change lanes and where to get off the freeway. Since it was twilight and all the cars on the road had their lights on, the view in front of me as I drove looked just like the night sky on the fourth of July. Once back home I fortunately found a seven-year-old pair of glasses and the fuzzy world came back into acceptable focus.

All I can say is that I've had just about enough risk-taking for one day. In fact, I think I've had enough to last me another decade or two. The way I'm feeling just now, it'll be some time before this risk-averse stick-in-the-mud takes any more plunges into adventure.

Our Shared Longings

I believe there are certain universal longings shared by all people. The four things we all long for are love, joy, peace and power. Of course not everyone longs in equal measure for each of these things. Sometimes I feel the need for peace more acutely than I do for joy, but I need and long for each of these attributes to some degree at all times.

On a human level every individual can experience the warmth of familial love, moments of ecstasy, times of peace and aspects of personal power. The drive to experience these things more often, and to an ever greater degree, drives all human ambition and activity.

Those who are followers of Jesus Christ and have come to God through him have access to these things in a double and deeper sense. Jesus told his followers he was imparting his peace to them. He said it was a peace such as the world at large was unable to give. It was an extraordinary peace. It was a peace so deep even the prospect of death could not ultimately disturb it.

Everyone needs to give and receive human love. If you have been to a wedding you have probably heard the preacher refer to first Corinthians thirteen. That is the great passage where the apostle Paul writes of the essential qualities of the highest form of love--which is Gods love, "agape" love. It is the love that, unlike all human love, "never fails."

Not only do Christ's followers experience extraordinary love and peace, but they also posses a joy which is almost undefinable. Jesus prayed to God the Father that his followers would experience the joy shared by the Son and Father--a joy which flowed from their unique oneness and intimate fellowship.

Lastly, those who belong to Jesus have access to a special power which only comes from a dynamic connection with the God of all creation. It is a power that proclaims, perseveres and overcomes. This power emboldens the believer to unashamedly proclaim the gospel. This power enables Christ's followers to persevere through every trial, difficulty, doubt and discouragement. This power ultimately gives Jesus' people the ability to overcome sin, temptation and the Devil's traps and to cross the final finish line with a victorious and living faith.

The marks of Jesus' followers: love, joy, peace, power.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


That stands for Too Busy To Blog Blues--which should explain why no new posts for a few days. My goal it to be posting five or six days a week. That will take some discipline--something I've been working at building into various areas of my life lately. I'll have to get up a bit earlier or cut my walk down a scotch, or perhaps write at lunchtime. We'll see. This I'm posting this just so there'll be something up and current. Lord forbid this blog ever go dormant!

I should mention that this blog, Random Acts of Intelligence, is devoted to personal slice-of-life type things and social commentary, espeecially now that I've started another blog, The Plumbline ( which will deal with Biblical/spiritual/philosophical issues--especially touching on the question of whether people do or do not have access capital-T Truth and, if so, how and in what fashion.

Please forgive that this post is more along the line of an announcement than a thoughtful article. I'll knuckle down and get my next post up before too very long.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Climate Change--Bring it On!

It looks like climate change has come to San Diego this summer--and I'm lovin' it! I already love the wonderfully mild weather here, never very far from 70 degrees. A heat wave is when it gets above 75 and a cold snap is when it dips to below 65--brrr. If a breeze happens to be blowing, you have to consider the wind-chill factor, which can make it feel like 60. So far this summer we are having an amazingly mild one.

How one feels about the weather is quite a personal thing. To my wife, San Diego is nearly the Antarctica. She grew up in Houston and apparently acquired a mental thermostat much different from mine. A pleasant day to her is somewhere in the 90s. For her, the only thing which could improve upon that (for me unbearable) condition would be to have eighty percent humidity to go along with it! That's why this summer has seemed to her a virtual ice age. For me, the weather couldn't be fine-ah. Ahhh, the sweet mid-to-high 60s--that's the zone for me.

No sooner than the latest data for the past decade had come in, than Al-gore apparently issued a decree to his minions to drop the sacred term, "global warming," and replace it with the new sacred term, "climate change." The minions got the message, didn't skip a beat, and kept right on predicting impending world-wide disaster. A billboard in our neighborhood shows a boy who looks to be about ten standing in rising water up to his chest and admonishes us who are driving by to get with the program or this kid's future is sunk.

Is the earth's climate suppose to change, or is it suppose to remain constant? If I am not mistaken, scientific data have long ago established the latter. I am therefore driven to the inescapable conclusion that--hold your head-gear--climate change is normal! Nothing to see here folks, move along. Yes, yes, I know, human activity is putting its awful carbon foot on the global climate accelerator and is driving us off the weather cliff. "Eeeeek! Honey, slow down! You're gonna get us all killed!"

Everything above was preface to what I was wanting to say, but I've run out of time to say it. I wanted to tell you why I love climate change. I'll have to write another post on that in a day or two. The bottom line for me is: global warming; global cooling--either way, I'm good with it. Meanwhile, Google Weather tells me we're in for a scorcher here in San Diego today: we're facing a high of 76! Bring it on!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Buddhism--Get Ready to Speak to its Followers

For centuries, Buddhism has been the dominant religion of the Eastern world. Today it remains the predominant religion in China, Japan, Korea, and much of southeast Asia. With the rise of the Asian population in the U.S., Buddhism has made a tremendous impact in the United States. Presently, there are over 300,000 Buddhists in the U.S. It remains the dominant religion in the state of Hawaii and many prominent Americans have accepted this religion, including the former governor of California, Jerry Brown.(1)

The Origin of Buddhism

Buddhism began as an offspring of Hinduism in the country of India. The founder was Siddhartha Gautama. It is not easy to give an accurate historical account of the life of Gautama, since no biography was recorded until hundreds of years after his death. Today, much of his life story is clouded in myths and legends which arose after his death. Even the best historians of our day have several different--and even contradictory--accounts of Gautama's life.

Siddhartha Gautama was born in approximately 560 B.C. in northern India. His father Suddhodana was the ruler over a district near the Himalayas which is today the country of Nepal. Suddhodana sheltered his son from the outside world and confined him to the palace where he surrounded Gautama with pleasures and wealth. Despite his father's efforts, Gautama one day saw the darker side of life on a trip he took outside the palace walls.

He saw four things that forever changed his life: an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and a beggar. Deeply distressed by the suffering he saw, he decided to leave the luxury of palace life and begin a quest to find the answer to the problem of pain and human suffering.

Gautama left his family and traveled the country seeking wisdom. He studied the Hindu scriptures under Brahmin priests, but became disillusioned with the teachings of Hinduism. He then devoted himself to a life of extreme asceticism in the jungle. Legend has it that he eventually learned to exist on one grain of rice a day which reduced his body to a skeleton. He soon concluded, however, that asceticism did not lead to peace and self realization but merely weakened the mind and body.

Gautama eventually turned to a life of meditation. While deep in meditation under a fig tree known as the Bohdi tree (meaning, "tree of wisdom"), Gautama experienced the highest degree of God-consciousness called Nirvana. Gautama then became known as Buddha, the "enlightened one." He believed he had found the answers to the questions of pain and suffering. His message now needed to be proclaimed to the whole world.

As he began his teaching ministry, he gained a quick audience with the people of India since many had become disillusioned with Hinduism. By the time of his death at age 80, Buddhism had become a major force in India. Three centuries later it had spread to all of Asia. Buddha never claimed to be deity but rather a "way- shower." However, seven hundred years later, followers of Buddha began to worship him as deity.(2)

The Way of Salvation

The question Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, sought to answer was, Why is there pain and suffering? Also, he held to the Hindu belief of reincarnation: after death one returns to earthly life in a higher or lower form of life according to his good or bad deeds. This belief prompted a second question that needed to be answered, How does one break this rebirth cycle? The basic teachings of Buddhism, therefore, focus on what Gautama believed to be the answer to these questions. These basic tenants are found in the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path. Let us begin with the Four Noble Truths.

The First Noble Truth is that there is pain and suffering in the world. Gautama realized that pain and suffering are omnipresent in all of nature and human life. To exist means we will all encounter suffering. Birth is painful and so is death. Sickness and old age are painful. Throughout life, all living things encounter suffering.

The Second Noble Truth relates to the cause of suffering. Gautama believed the root cause of suffering is desire. It is the craving for wealth, happiness, and other forms of selfish enjoyment which cause suffering. These cravings can never be satisfied for they are rooted in ignorance.

The Third Noble Truth is the end of all suffering. Suffering will cease when a person can rid himself of all desires.

The Fourth Noble Truth is the extinguishing of all desire by following the eight-fold path. "The eight-fold path is a system of therapy designed to develop habits which will release people from the restrictions caused by ignorance and craving."(3)

Here are the eight steps in following the eight-fold path. The first is the Right Views. One must accept the four noble truths. Step two is the Right Resolve. One must renounce all desires and any thoughts like lust, bitterness, and cruelty. He must harm no living creature. Step three is the Right Speech. One must speak only truth. There can be no lying, slander, or vain talk. Step four is the Right Behavior. One must abstain from sexual immorality, stealing, and all killing.

Step five is the Right Occupation. One must work in an occupation that benefits others and harms no one. Step six is the Right Effort. One must seek to eliminate any evil qualities within and prevent any new ones from arising. One should seek to attain good and moral qualities and develop those already possessed. Seek to grow in maturity and perfection until universal love is attained. Step seven is the Right Contemplation. One must be observant, contemplative, and free of desire and sorrow. The eighth is the Right Meditation. After freeing oneself of all desires and evil, a person must concentrate his efforts in meditation so that he can overcome any sensation of pleasure or pain and enter a state of transcending consciousness and attain a state of perfection. Buddhists believe that through self effort one can attain the state of peace and eternal bliss called Nirvana.

Above from:

Christians would do well to become conversant with Buddhism if they (we) want to reach our culture. Young people who have come of age without any religious instruction will be attracted to a number of elements in the eight-fold path. I will be considering what some of these elements are in upcoming posts. I think Buddhism will also appeal to some middle age folks who may be tiring of the nebulous nature of the New Age philosophies they adopted in the eighties and nineties. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law. Matthew 7:28 & 29

In a world heaped high with words, the words of one man surmount them all. Amidst the cacophonous voices raised to give us their two cents worth, one voice speaks with calm and priceless clarity. Of all the boastful claims of knowledge made by the many, there is one who speaks with true humility and wisdom.

May his life-changing words find welcome in your soul today.

4th of July Quiz

Who is John Galt?

(Hint) ---------->

Friday, July 3, 2009

Grateful for the Blessings of Liberty!

Happy 4th of July to everyone!

And... special greetings and blessings to those of you fortunate enough to be born on this important and historical day.

However you celebrate today, I encourage you to pause, reflect and be grateful for (as Michael Medved puts it daily) "This, the greatest country on God's green earth."

It is our tradition, here at the Randall homestead, to read the Declaration of Independence each year on this date. Its primary author, Thomas Jefferson, certainly exhibited great wisdom, passion and courage in penning this incredible document.

May all the blessings of liberty abound to you and yours this special day!

For more on this subject, you might want to visit the site of a fellow blogger, Bryan Burton: