Talk Story

You may have heard me discuss this concept of “talk story” before. It is a local term in Hawaii that people use. It wasn’t till I moved to California that I realized this was a phrase specific to Hawaii.

When someone says, “we go talk story” or “we were just talking story”, it most commonly means we were just having a casual conversation. Recently I began to wonder if there was a more significant intent to this phrase.

After moving back from California, I had a moment of clarity. Most of the conversations I had with long time friend back in the islands had to do with stories of the past which we were involved in together. Even thinking about Hawaii friends that I made in California, we often shared stories of mutual friends we had and times gone by.

Last week Emily and I were watching a Hawaii PBS Town Hall discussion. The central focus of the conversation was on preserving the old Hawaii. Images of Hawaii past flashed on the screen and people told their stories of how things used to be. I totally related and quickly became nostalgic. Emily inquired, “What are people wanting to preserve?” Good question.

Just the day before I had coffee with a friend who has started a new church here in the islands. While he is a haole boy from California, I see his genuine heart to connect with Hawaii, the people of Hawaii and be a witness of God’s love. We have very open conversations about the dynamics of the culture here and the challenges that come with relationships built between the local people and newcomers. He said, “I see that it takes time.” My mind processed, “time and effort.” AHA! I shared as I worked it out in my own head that we build our story with people. With recent flood damage in parts of the islands, there are opportunities to lend a hand and work alongside residents. It’s those moments that will be a part of your story. It’s being written into the story that builds relationships. It takes time and effort.

Upon reflecting on my time in the mainland, it seems one of the dynamics of being there is the ability to rewrite your story in many parts of the country. It’s so vast that you can escape and start again. It’s not just a new chapter, for others, it’s a whole new book. There is value in that. We need to move on and think about how we will continue our story and not just cling on to the past, but we can’t just forget about the past either.

As I consider the Bible, I see how it is both a history of God’s story and the eternal premise of what’s to come. “In the beginning…” is significant and pivotal in the good news of Jesus. All the people along the way are significant. God’s people even recognize that in their documentation of genealogy and remembrances. When we move past the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, it’s not a new story. The chapters of the past are not forgotten. It’s all significant and connected. When Jesus says he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, it’s a throwback to Moses and the commandments. It’s all connected, the commandments are still applicable, the interaction with Moses still very significant, but now Jesus IS the fulfillment of the law and a life lived following Him is that pursuit of righteousness. For what purpose? “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) It’s all connected: past, present and future.

There is a difference in cultures. This creates difficulty in relationships. While this does not solve all the problems or address every dynamic, we need to talk story more. Talk story about the past and the way things used to be. Laugh and reminisce about the good ol’ days and the adventures we’ve had. We are encouraged by them, we build community by them and we learn and grow from the past. We should not just archive or past for personal viewing, it has to be a part of us right now. With that, we need to give equal attention to creating new stories and see how new people are added characters to our book of life, not threats to the stories we have already written. Our lives are rich opportunities to live out the will of God that He has set forth before us. It’s meant to be exciting and vibrant. That’s not to say it will be easy or convenient, but abundant in the riches of the Lord.

I’m so glad you all have been written into the story of my life. I thank Jesus for all of you and even those He has used to bring me into challenging times. It is all meaningful and fulfilling, because the Lord is in it. I will always treasure and reflect on the significance of it, while looking forward to new stories with new and old characters. I will embrace the past and the present until that one glorious day when I stand before the Lord in the final chapter or eternity. -jason

 

 

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The Marathon

Well, HALF marathon actually.

Last week I participated in the Hapalua Half Marathon. It was the longest road race I attempted. Previous to the race, I was probably topping off at three miles. Somehow I needed to run thirteen.

It didn’t take long for my inner voice to say, “maybe you should just walk.” REALLY!?!?! It hadn’t even been a mile yet. I tried to just focus on my music. Pandora was playing my worship music station. Setting my focus on the Lord in worship was motivating me. My attention was on God’s glorious creation. As I looked up the rising sun slowly coloring the sky…”GREAT ARE YOU LORD!” Did I just sing that out loud??? It’s fine, maybe someone will worship with me. The road is hard under my feet but, “BLESSED BE YOUR NAME, ON THE ROAD MARKED WITH SUFFERING.” My breathing is becoming labored. I take one deep breath…”ITS YOUR BREATH IN OUR LUNGS, SO WE POUR OUT OUR PRAISE, WE POUR OUT OUR PRAISE….”

Mile seven!!! I’m still running. Slowly, but still running. Totally the Holy Spirit moving my feet. Thank you, Jesus.

The other thing that helps is when you are running with others. There’s something motivating when you do things in a group. It pushes you beyond your limits. I rode the energy of the group to mile nine. Another station. Gatorade, water, a gel pack and some muscle spray. Awesome. Reenergized. Attempted running up Monsarrat Avenue, but it was just too much. Started running again at the top of the hill, but my legs were shot. Walk. Run. Walk. Run. Then suddenly my calf muscles decided to curl up into a ball. Not fun. Stretch, walk, run, CRAMP! Stretch, walk, run, CRAMP! Longest two miles of my life.

Shear pride propelled me over the finish line in somewhat of a run. No more running. My brain tells my body it’s over. My body tells my brain, “YOU GOT THAT RIGHT!” I can’t think straight, as I walk through the crowd of people. I got my hands on some shave ice. Three bites and I feel like vomiting. I ate nothing all day, why do I want to vomit? Water and juice barely go down. Finally I find a spot in the grass to sit. I’m stretching right next to the medical tent. A woman surrounded by about seven volunteers looks unconscious and one volunteer holding an IV bag. That can’t be good. I better get home.

Upon standing my legs refuse to straighten up and my brain gets a little more cloudy. WHOA…all I can think is, this is only a HALF marathon??? I look around and people are laughing and don’t even look tired one bit! Yeah, yeah… After changing my clothes I get on the shuttle and as I push up on the stairs, CRAMP! In the tiny seat of the Robert’s Hawaii School Bus I grasp my toes to pull it toward me with my head pressed against the seat in front of me so I can clear the aisle for others getting on. Suck it up JASON!!

After what seemed like a long drive home, I draped my medal around Jonah’s neck, went straight upstairs, took a shower and laid down. I slept no more than 30 minutes, but I just needed to lay there. My body was spent.

As I lay there, I reflected on my experience. There’s some parallels to life here.

Life consists of many races we run. Some sprints, some long distances. We all start on the same line, but not all in the same place. Some of us have better equipment than others, but the barefoot guy that finished a few people ahead of me proved that it’s not about the equipment. Runners condition themselves. It’s dangerous to compare as others seem to handle the race better than you do. They are ready for it. I pushed myself beyond what I was able to do prior, but I paid for it in the end.

Then life in general is a race. We must all run. When we run together we can go further than we imagine. When we run alone we have the tendency to give up much sooner than our potential allows. The little races along the way are for our conditioning for the big race of life. Every race matters. In every race we give our best effort.

Upon reflection of my spiritual life. When the seas got rough, I took my eyes off of the Lord. Just like Peter. I didn’t hear the music anymore. I stopped focusing on Jesus, I was focused on the pain, the hill in front of me and the tiredness of my body. Stay focused.

We are all running this race. Let’s run together with encouragement. Let’s help one another get conditioned. There are some smaller races we might cramp up on. There are some smaller runs that will shut our bodies down. Don’t be discouraged. There’s a bigger race we are running. Run with endurance, run with your head held high, rest when you need to rest, but just don’t quit the race. Most importantly, do not take your eyes off of the Lord. See that He is running with you the whole time, cheering you on to the finish line, ready to drape that medal around your neck and proclaim, “Well done…” -jason

 

The Distressed Look

Our whole family loves watching Fixer Upper on HGTV. It really is one of the few options for family friendly TV viewing. That show has developed quite a following and we will be sad when it is over. We will miss all the “SHIPLAP” and watching “DEMO DAY” and welcoming the family to their new home.

One thing that seemed to have faded, as most trends do, is the distressed look.  It seemed that there was a lot more of that in earlier seasons. In fact, I don’t see much of it any more in social media posts or other types of media outlets. The distressed look was SO last season.

The distressed look is like a trend for all of us. Busy, busy, busy. How will I get through the day? There’s so much to do. Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go! With the greeting of “How are you doing?” The most common response I get (and give) is: “BUSY!” Hopefully for all of us this is a quick dying trend. Not likely though. That in itself is not a terrible thing. We are a busy society. We have higher expectations at work. We have higher expectations for education and extracurricular activities for our kids. We have higher expectations for our social and leisure experiences. We have higher expectations for our lifestyle.

Higher expectations often create busyness. We all become very busy.

This doesn’t have to equate to being distressed. We can navigate through the busyness without having the distressed look. I was listening to a podcast called WorkLife with Adam Grant. In his last episode he did a segment on “Faking Your Emotions at Work”.

In this episode he discusses emotional labor and the two types. Surface acting and deep acting. Related primarily to work, emotional labor is energy that is expended to fulfill the expected emotion at work. In surface acting, we smile, but everything else deep inside is not smiling. It’s exhausting and what’s worse, people know it. Turns into a lose/lose situation. Deep acting, is like method acting. You actually take on the emotion of that role, not just fake it. The example given was a flight attendant who decided to go off script and use humor in his flight presentation. If you’ve ever been on a Southwest flight, you might have experienced similar. What is uncovered in situations where people are happy at their jobs? Customers are happy with their experience.

So what happens when we are happy in our lives? People around us are probably more happy also. That distressed look, the one I am so good at, needs to real work in deep acting. Now, there are appropriate times and places and people with whom you will vent, and unload with. There are proper places to be distressed and overwhelmed, but I think we have foolishly become a society where we “need to be transparent” in all places and at all times.

There’s a time and a place, even for our distressed look. Life is busy, it just is. We try not to be, but it’s reality. If we can be busy and grateful for it, we will be busy in the midst of happier people. Your emotional expressions and output impacts everyone around you. Let’s make the distressed look an old trend. -jason

When Sheep Become Shepherds

My mom started attending a Christian church when I was around the sixth grade. I would attend, but really had no understanding of church. One thing that did intrigue me was the role of the pastor. I remember at some point asking my mom, “You mean the pastor just gives a 30 minute speech on Sunday and you guys pay him for that?!?!?” I’m not sure what her response was to me, but just leaving the pastorate after 7 years I learned that there is so much more to it. I also learned how complicated and dangerous of a role it is.

In recent news of sexual harassment cases, there are some high profile church leaders that are making headlines with scandals. My guess is that the list will only grow. It’s not only sexual harassment, it’s a variety of issues and concerns that surround the role of pastor. We’ve all seen the unfortunate circumstance surrounding financial fraud, abuse of power, preying on people in desperation, neglect of family and even sloth.

My reflections have brought me to a place where I believe the role of the pastor is not supposed to be left to one person. The role of the pastor is a shared responsibility amongst a multitude of leaders. For many, we understand the pastor to be the shepherd. I think we have missed the mark on this depiction. When I look at scripture, I think the most applicable understanding is that Jesus is the shepherd. We are ALL, even pastors, His sheep. In the case of the church, the Bride of Christ, some are given responsibilities. When you look in scripture, it’s different roles, not one person to fulfill all roles. That’s not how most of us operate. Most of our churches are looking for that one shepherd, or even a king, to reign over the church. This is nothing new, we see this in the 1 Samuel 8. Samuel was getting old, his sons did not follow the Lord, so the people wanted a king like the other nations. God told the people what it would mean to have a king and even concluded his warning in verse 18 with: “Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

In verse 19 the story continues: Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

Repeatedly our churches demand a king. We search high and low for that perfect person, the one that checks off all our boxes. Sometimes we luck out and we find that guy that is completely surrendered to the one true Shepherd. More than likely, you will probably find a multitude of God fearing people surrounding him. Many times the leader that a church calls will begin well and eventually succumb to the temptations of the role. There are unfortunate times where there is complete unawareness to the pride that is already existing. No matter the situation, the problem is the same. There is one King and one Shepherd that is over all. When we call leaders the danger is that they see themselves as the king and shepherd and churches promote that. Churches encourage the king, because we want the king. Churches need to see their fault in this.

The best things I see to remedy this in the churches, is to repent and seek the Lord alone. Ask God to identify chosen leaders that will fill roles in full submission and obedience to the one true King as we await His return. Make sure there is accountability in the group and transparency in how they operate. Be certain God is the only king and shepherd.

Reality is, most churches will never do this. They will pursue a king to be their shepherd. History will repeat itself. Leaders will fall. Unchurched people will continue to be hurt by the church and turn their ear from the good news of Jesus Christ because God’s people want a king. Pastors will continue to fall to sexual temptations, abuse the church, justify their sloth as ministry and ride the monetary contributions to retirement. They will snatch away financial gains here and there for personal benefit because they “deserve it”. Pastors will continue to manipulate people with the distortion of God’s Word. Pastors will continue to busy themselves, but really do nothing at all.

While leaving the church was tough, I am grateful for what the Lord has taught me through the process. Jason Hew, chief of all sinners, pulled out of my own blindness and by God’s grace shown the dangers that lurked around the corners. Pride was the bait to lure me into the snare of the Enemy. I flirted with the subtle temptations of the role.

Thank you, Jesus, for your protection that I may better consider the role of leaders in your church. I pray for all of the servants in the ministry. Be with them Lord, show them the dangers, show them shortcomings. Strengthen those that are faithful and obedient to you. Surround them with others that will hold them up in such a dangerous work. Keep us humble and dependent on you, for we are all your sheep. In Jesus name, AMEN.

Thank you, pastors who are fighting the good fight. It is no easy task to turn down the crown and return the staff to the one and only Shepherd. The role of the pastor is not a one person position.  -jason