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.