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

And now, a word from one of our sponsors...

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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:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Peace Vertical, Peace Horizontal

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. (Romans 5:1)

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

Back when I was a young peace activist I did not have peace with God, myself or with the great majority of my fellow human beings. True peace was not possible until I accepted the Terms of Peace offered me by God. Once hostilities ceased on that front, a pacification operation was begun in my heart and mind that continues to this day. Once I was an angry pacifist, now I am becoming a peaceful warrior.

I have become convinced that this peace with God--this peace which only the death of Jesus Christ could secure--is an absolute prerequisite in order for us to truly be at peace with one another. The new pacifism I now practice requires much much more from me than marching or petitioning or pontificating. It requires a surrendering, a laying down of all arms of every sort--even, perhaps especially, of loaded words.

Lord, thank you for the peace you have brought to my life. Thank you for sending your son to die so things would be set right between us. Father, you know I have far to go on the road of peace and much more to learn. Show me more the way of Christ so I can love even my enemies as Jesus taught.

World peace, personal peace, peace of mind, peace and quiet, peace treaty, peace symbol, peace sign, peace conference, peace maker, peace march, Prince of Peace.

I would like your help in exploring this many-faceted topic. Let me know what you think. I will be doing some posts on this theme over the summer and would love to have your input.