Running the Red

It was me. I was the idiot driver that you shook your head at a couple weeks ago.

My family and I were invited to a day at the pool and I was trying to plot out the route in my head. While carefully and strategically downloading my mental map, I drove straight through a red light. Emily almost passed out and the woman that was about to drive through the intersection honked her horn and gave me “the look”. I totally deserved that.

This was actually the second time in my life I did something like this. Once I drove right through a STOP sign. Teren and I had been over at Trav’s house till the sun came up the next morning. It was time to head home. Although no alcohol was consumed, sleep deprivation had me impaired. While driving Teren home my mind was fixed on our conversation, I went right through a normally busy intersection. Thankfully, it was very early in the morning so no one was around.

This is no lighthearted matter. Just the other day in Honolulu’s Chinatown, a woman was killed and two others injured when a car ran the red light and struck them.

In my situation, my eyes were fixed on the road, but my mind wasn’t. When we become preoccupied or unfocused we become unaware of the lights and signs that are warning us. These signs may be in the form of health symptoms, emotional distress, relationship issues and a variety of other things. We are on the go and our bodies, our brains, the people and circumstances around us are telling us to STOP. Without realizing it we just drive through the intersection. I thank the Lord for His protection that no one was hurt when I ran the red.  As it was in recent news, the outcome can be deadly.

We can look so far ahead that we don’t see what’s right in front of us. We may be under the influence of some intoxicating emotion or way of thinking and become impaired. More recently, people become distracted by cell phones and other things. Perhaps we might just not be in a condition to be moving forward and we have limited faculties. The road your are on may come in the form of relationships like marriage, family and friendships. Your journey could be your career or professional goals. Stopping before you move forward might save you from a tragic accident and allow you to safely arrive at your destination.

Pay attention to the signs in your life that might be telling you it’s time to stop. Take a pause. Take a minute to see the cars going in the opposite direction. Allow people to cross your path safely before you continue on your journey. Don’t run the red. -jason

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The Guilty Party

Have you ever heard the name  Margit Hamosh? It’s probably unlikely. Dr. Hamosh was a scientist who discovered the digestive enzyme, lingual lipase, in her study of human milk and neonatal digestion. Margit Hamosh may also a name heard along with other colleagues like, Mika Popovic, Robert Gallo and Rameshwar Sharma. All were on trial by the Office of Research Integrity organized by the National Institutes of Health in the late ’80’s.

In a piece done by Malcolm Gladwell in the Washington Post, and more recently revisited in his podcast, Revisionist History, he highlights the absurdity of the attack on the scientific community in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Many scientists, like the ones listed above, were found guilty of scientific fraud because of a typo or the deviation in the definition of a word like, “use”.

Gladwell expresses remorse over being a part of the journalistic frenzy over scientific fraud. He points out that he and others were proclaiming scientist “GUITLY!” and yet never really understood the crime.

I appreciate the sentiment of regret, but I also empathize. There are many times I have joined in the “GUILTY! Party” without much understanding. Without even knowing the crime, I quickly jump into the party that has told me someone is guilty of a crime. It’s human nature after all.

When Jesus was sent to Pilate for a trial, Pilate couldn’t find the basis for criminal punishment. He address the Jewish crowd in Luke 23:22-23 “And he said to them the third time, ‘Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.’ But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail.”

Incited by the religious leaders, the crowds collectively proclaimed Jesus’ guilt, and requested the freedom of another prisoner. My guess is that many in the crowd didn’t even understand what they were proclaiming Him guilty of. It was the collective agreement of the “GUILT Party”.

Whether in a casual conversation with friends or as an opinion from a media article, we must try our best to understand the situation before we reach our verdict. Tweets and social media outlets are so instantaneously spread throughout the globe. Like wild fire an opinion becomes fact and then the consensus of the masses. Let’s do our part to avoid being a default member of the “GUILTY Party”. -jason

 

Hold the Door

I’m grateful for my upbringing and parents who taught me to be courteous to others. Understanding I am no poster child for chivalry, I try to remember gestures of societal and communal kindness as much as I can. With a greater prominence of individualism in our world, I feel myself getting impatient in these attempts at courtesy, like holding the door open for others.

Have you ever held the door open for the person behind you only to get stuck holding it for the next fifty people? You ask yourself, “What did I get myself into?” Having this experience I often just carefully let the door go behind me so the next person has to hold it themselves as they exit. I mean, who has time to hold the door for other people???

The other day I was leaving a room and ran into someone I knew as they were entering. I held the door open as they stood in the doorway and we engaged in a conversation. Not long after a third person walked up and we all start talking. Then as the conversation shifted to a subject that only pertained the the other two people I began planning my escape. How can I leave when I am holding the door and these two people are standing in the doorway!?

So I waited, resigned my strategic getaway and engaged. In the scheme of the day, it was a few minutes. A few minutes of interaction with people, a few minutes to connect and build relationship for a longer lifetime. I suppose I could have said that I needed to get going and ended the conversation. What difference would it make? Turns out, those few minutes turned into a conversation that I know will be significant in the future.

The things we do for others, as inconvenient as it might seem, have to come out of a sacrificial heart. When we do for others and truly have others in mind, we can give and do freely and joyfully. You never know how significant that might be.

hen we hold the door open we might be encouraging other people to pass along those acts of kindness. We never know how our sacrificial acts of compassion and thoughtfulness will develop into a greater benefit of our community as it ripples through relationships. When we give without expected reciprocation, what we receive unexpectedly might just be something that impacts our lives for years to come.

You can afford to give a couple minutes, don’t forget to hold the door open for others.

-jason

In Dependence

This Wednesday we celebrate the independence of our country. Regardless of how you feel about the current state of our nation, our independence is worth celebrating. We are, after all, a people that love and value independence.

Recently I have come to believe that independence is an illusion. We all pursue it, but can we really achieve it?

The reality is that we are all dependent on something or someone. We lean on money, substances, people, fame, or even our own strength. All of these things, ALL OF THESE THINGS will fail.

There is one that is eternal that we can depend on. Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection was not only his path to eternity, but it was His invitation for others to follow Him into eternity.

What are you dependent on and will it last? What will happen when eventually it fails?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

Celebrate our countries independence for in it we may live freely in our dependence on the Lord! -jason

Mind Control

The Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences did a brain scan study that discovered something interesting. By studying brain patterns, scientist could determine what decisions participants were going to make seven seconds before they made it. In essence scientists discovered the the unconscious mind makes decisions before your conscious mind even realizes it. This left them questioning, “Do we have a freewill?”

Many in the ministry get apprehensive at the mention of psychology. Understandably there are some whacky pop-psychology trends out there, but I think it’s dangerous to completely disregard psychology in our churches. It’s important to understand how the brain works, in fact I think the Bible implores us to consider the habits of the mind.

Romans 12:1-2 tells us, Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

It’s our mind that does the transforming of our actions. The world around us shapes us a certain way, the RENEWING of it transforms us. If there is integrity in the study mentioned above, it’s true: our mind controls us, we don’t control it. No one wants to believe this, especially in this world of free choice and choosing your own way. We are all slaves to something. Whatever masters us, that is what shapes our unconscious mind. When we become a sacrifice and a slave to Jesus, He shapes our minds that transforms our actions to His good, acceptable and perfect will.

Don’t misunderstand, we are responsible for our actions, but our actions are responses of the unconscious mind. What then is guiding your unconscious mind? Do we really have control over our minds, or are our actions a product of our mind’s control? Freewill is more of an illusion than we want to believe. Comparing Romans 12 and the scientific study, it would seem our minds transform us more than we transform our minds. What will you allow yourself to be transformed by?  -jason

 

Do Not Feed The Animals

There is something about feeding animals that is appealing to people, especially young children. Whether it’s Henry the dog, Squish the rabbit, Crystal the fish or Richard the goat, the kids love giving them treats. Maybe there’s a control aspect to it.

In researching goats, one website talks about taming a kid. Raisins, they say, is the key to taming the goats on their farm. Richard is fond of raisins. Squish comes running to the edge of her cage to get a carrot or some lettuce from the kids. Henry gets treats for the kids in exchange for a command. With food you can tame, train and get the attention of animals, perhaps it is a form of control. What happens when you lose control?

What we feed will become bigger and stronger. If properly trained, there shouldn’t be a problem, shouldn’t be. When it comes to animals, it’s good practice to always understand that they are still animals. In fact, it’s good practice to always remember, we are still animals too.

There’s a Native American parable you may have heard before:

A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at battle.

One is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery, and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred, and fear.

The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”

The grandfather quietly replies, “The one you feed.”

The animal you feed will tend to come back for more. The more you feed it, not only the stronger it gets, the more comfortable it gets.

Romans 13 talks about the things of the flesh and the things of the spirit:

“13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”

This verse alerts us that salvation is near, the Lord’s judgement is upon the earth and we must live according the ways of Jesus Christ, according to the things of the Spirit.

To add to that thought, Galatians 5:17 says: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”

In essence, don’t feed the flesh. In doing so you starve the spirit. I’ve been feeding my flesh all too much for all too long. Over the years I have made efforts to stop feeding the flesh and giving nourishment to the spirit. There are so many subtle treats in life that sabotage. I want to prepare for Christ’s return. I’m tired of feeding the flesh. I want the spirit to grow stronger and have the control.

For this reason, I am planning a break or fast from social media. In so many ways it feeds the flesh and distracts from the spirit. This is not something I am promoting to anyone, but it’s something I personally want to do. Perhaps there are other things you might need to consider. What feeds the flesh and starves the spirit? The kingdom of the Lord is upon us. Don’t feed the animals, the animals within us. – jason

Tuning Out the Beeps

It’s about 4:30am and I am awaken by an intermittent beep coming from downstairs. As I try to pretend it’s not there, my mind shifts into gear.

Certainly it’s a smoke detector. Battery needs to be replaced. Which one? I think there’s only one left that requires 9-volt. Must be in the office. Do we have a 9-volt battery? I remember seeing one the other day when I was looking for AA batteries. Where was that?

Well, there’s no use trying to go back to sleep, even though I know I could use it.

Hearing the beep reminded me of being a hospital chaplain. Much of my time was spent in the Emergency Room. Each patient had a monitor connected to them and throughout the day there are alarms going off on random monitors. At first I freaked out a little. Are they dying? Should I call someone? Can’t they hear it??? Casually a staff member would walk by and push a button and may or may not look in on the patient. Sometimes it would take minutes before someone would come by. After awhile I realized you get used to it. You barely hear the beep when you are around it so much.

I’ve been to people’s homes where the smoke detector beeps for days, maybe even weeks. They just didn’t get around to changing the battery. They learn to live with the beep.

In our lives we all have “beeps”. Different people will call it what they want, but I am certain it is the voice of the Lord. The Lord speaks wisdom and caution through the Holy scriptures in divine revelation by his Spirit. The Spirit convicts. These are the “beeps” that believers and unbelievers alike turn a deaf ear to. Consider Proverbs 1:23-33:

If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
    I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused to listen,
    have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
because you have ignored all my counsel
    and would have none of my reproof…
…but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
    and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

If instead of a beep from the smoke detector, it was a full on alarm, I would have jumped out of bed immediately. In the ER there are certain alarms that would cause everyone to rush over to the patient. Beeps are there to warn us before things get bad. It tells us that there is a potential for disaster, something is not quite right.

Don’t take lightly the “beeps” that are there to warn you. Change the battery, check your pulse, whatever it is, the beeps are important. Do not wait for disaster to arrive. -jason

 

Temper, Temper

When I saw Emily pull into the parking lot I walked out to help unload the kids, especially because it was a little rainy. Just as she was about to pull into a stall, a car zoomed in through the adjacent parking stall into the stall that Emily was about to park. Emily slammed her brakes to avoid a collision. I looked over at the driver and shook my head. Immediately he rolled down his window:

“What? Why you shaking your head?”

I looked over at him and said something along the lines of, “I feel very disappointed in the way you have decided to operate your vehicle.” Certainly, it was along those lines, translate that how you feel best.

The blood was boiling inside of me. I had so many more things to tell this guy. Then I remembered my kids were in the van. What would I be teaching my kids. So I walked past his car and went toward our van.

“Yeah, walk away, brah! Keep walking!” I turned around as he stood at his open car door. Again, so many things I want to say. Instead, I stop, turn and say, “You’re not worth it.”

This seems to anger him more. “Brah, I got to the stall first, too bad!”

At this point my thoughts are overflowing a bit so I turn back toward him and say, “BRAH, you not supposed to drive through the stalls! You’re gonna to cause an accident. Learn how to drive.” I turn back to get my kids. He muttered some other things that were indiscernible and went on his way.

As my family and I walk past the restaurant he was in, he stared me down with the look of fury. I looked at him and again just shook my head and went on my way.

A little over a week after this incident I was sitting in the Emergency Room at Queen’s. I see the same guy there with his son. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure. As we sit there and I try to catch glances of him to confirm with my memory, his son stands up. About ten years old, he stands in the middle of the waiting room and starts shadow boxing. He turns toward his dad and moves toward him continuing his fight with the air. His dad says, “Ho, son, you so violent.” The boy responds, “Not as violent as you, at least I don’t throw rocks at cars.” He quickly grabs his son close to him and whispers, “Shhh…don’t talk about that.” Yup, this has to be the same guy.

Anger was fueling the both of us. My behavior and his, both driven by anger, it was not good. I’m thankful that the Lord reminded me that my kids were there and I had to be an example for them. I know that is from the Lord because that is not something I would have decided on my own. I realize anger has controlled me in the past.

Anger is not the problem, really it comes down to the ability to temper anger. Emily will be pleased to hear me say that emotions are not bad. Emotions help us react to the world around us, it’s our bodies alert system. Anger is just one of those. It’ helps us to identify wrong and right, injustices and measures our expectations.

Proverbs 14:29 says:
“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

It doesn’t say anger is bad altogether, but it does say to be SLOW to anger.

Ephesians 4:26-27 says:

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

Anger will be there, temper it so you are not lead to sin, deal with it before the day ends lest it manifest and provide the devil with a handle on you.

It’s when our anger turns to rage. Working in the elementary school I surprised by so much anger and rage at such young ages. It’ impacting our society. It turns everything inward where anger turns to rage.

Emotions are a god thing when they are tempered. Even anger. When our emotions are left unchecked and unrefined we lose control and contribute to an untempered culture.

-jason

Nothing to Prove

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28 has been a verse that I have turned to in times of hopelessness. Let me tell you, I have those more often than I would like to admit. Recently I was reflecting on this dynamic and I realize I often find myself in situations that are challenging, because I engage in things with something to prove.

Thinking back on my life I think I have always had this sense of needing to prove myself. I was a runt of a kid, I had zero athletic ability, I was of average intelligence (that might be a generous assessment), and I was socially always a background performer. Being the youngest of four kids, I will probably always be the baby brother, which is not always a bad thing. With all of these things I have created within myself a need to prove my worth. Looking back on my life, this can create problems. When you feel like you have to prove yourself, you make decisions, think and act in a way that may impact others.

The need to prove is also very problematic when you are trying to follow Jesus. Also in chapter 8 of Romans, verse 26 and 27 say: “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

As a Christian you are called into the will of God, but we are weak when we often lean on our own understanding. In the verse above we are faced with the reality that we don’t even know how to pray and it is the Spirit that intercedes. When we have something to prove or when we decide we want to chart our own path, we step outside of His will. Christian, allow the Spirit of God to unlock the will of Him who has called you for His purpose. You may be toiling or wrestling with some challenges, seek the Lord to see if you have wandered from the path He has laid before you. It may be a difficult season, perhaps you have something to prove and you have created a need for God to reprove.

Turn back to the Lord, seek the work of the Spirit and welcome His grace. Jesus Christ works ALL things out for the GOOD of those who love Him and for those called according to His purpose. You have nothing to prove because by grace you have been proven complete. That grace flows from Jesus Christ as He was crucified and then raised from death into glory. That grace covers those called according to His purpose. That grace strips us of any need to prove and frees us up to live for Him! -jason

 

 

 

 

Speed Demons

My driver’s education instructor told me I have a “lead foot”. I think I am always rushing to go places. Even when I walk Emily tells me I walk fast. It seems patience is not a virtue I posses. This is a problem when you have a police officer pointing his laser in your direction.

After a couple of tickets over the years, I have really tried to stay within five miles of the speed limit. In fact, I will accelerate to five miles over the speed limit and set my cruise control. That is my accountability.

I’m not at the speed limit, I am five miles over. Technically I am speeding, but hopefully within the unspoken limits of grace that police officers give. Still, I feel like I am driving slow. Cars fly by me like I’m standing still. People drive up behind me as if the closer they get the faster my car will go.

Last week as I was cruising in the middle lane at 40MPH in a 35MPH zone, a woman comes blazing up right behind me. She is frantically waving her arm for me to change lanes. With all the sports I watch, I was able to read her lips clearly. She was not happy with five miles over. Emily always says, “maybe there is an emergency and they are trying to get there quick.” So I try not to get too upset.

After that I just started noticing more and more how five miles over the speed limit is really annoying people. It makes me want to drive faster. I don’t want to be in the way or an inconvenience to anyone. Then I think about paying a ticket or high insurance premiums. That’s not something I want just because I’m trying to “go with the flow”.

So where else might I be tempted to go with the flow? What other laws am I willing to break because, “everyone else is doing it”? What about moral laws? Laws of ethics? Cheat a little on my taxes. Little lies here and there. Pilfering small items from your employer. And what about some bigger concerns in our society that are becoming acceptable? Infidelity. Drug use. Violence. Hate. Slander.

If we want to maintain certain standards of morals and ethics we have to be willing to maintain our speed when others around us are flying by. Christian, if you want to be firm in your faith and your walk with Jesus, we need to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

What is your standard? What is right and righteous? There will be speed demons urging you to speed up. There will be many who will defy the standards that you know are right. We must not conform. We must stay firm. Keep your eyes on what is right. -jason