New Realities

This past week I started my new job. It was a tough couple of days, much harder than I expected.

It was a process of saying goodbye to co-workers and friends from my previous employment so it didn’t really hit me. I remember one of the last things I said before I left was, “It doesn’t feel like I’m leaving. I hope I don’t drive here next week on accident!”

I didn’t. I made the drive in the opposite direction. Kind of symbolic in a way. When I checked in at my new job, reality hit me. Reality caught me with a cheap shot right in the face. I don’t usually feel lonely, but I did that first day. Suddenly it was real, I won’t be back at the church I worked at for the last 4 1/2 years. This was my new reality. Honestly, it kind of sucked.

That day I got home and Emily’s friend was over. She worked with Emily a while ago, but had to leave the island and seek out treatment for cancer. Frequent and on going medical procedures, hair loss, lifestyle changes and permanent impacts on her life were her new reality. I’m certain the adjustment was tough, I just cannot imagine. Here she was, months later, pressing on, keeping a positive attitude in her new reality.

My father had part of his leg amputated when he was in his 20’s. Most people don’t even realize he has a prosthetic leg. Again, how does someone deal with that? How do you go on? He did. He got married, raised children, had a successful career, still went hunting and fishing regularly and accepted his new reality.

So many people are encountering new realities that take an adjustment. Change is inevitable. Sometimes it is as simple as switching jobs, other times it’s drastic, like physical impairments or loss of a loved one. We face the new reality, then we learn to move forward in it.

Have you faced changes recently? What’s your new reality?

The change and challenges may seem insurmountable, but do not lose heart. You will get adjusted to your new reality. Remember also, change is inevitable, so keep looking forward and be prepared for the next part of the journey.

The best path to take is the one that the Lord lays out ahead of you. There may be oppression, there may be deserts, there may be many challenges, but when you know the final plan, it’s all worth it. When you seek the Lord with all your heart each moment of life becomes the reality that leads to one glorious destination. No fault of man, no poor choice, no hurdle of life will keep you from the grace of God. (cf. Romans 8:38-39)

Embrace your new reality and discover the possibilities that lay ahead on the journey. I know for me I will get settled, find my place, and by the grace of God, bring Him glory in my work. Know also that you are not alone, not only does the Lord desire for you to call to Him, but I want to walk with you in the changes of life, the hurdles, and the challenges. In whatever way I can, I will support you in your new realities. -jason

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Good Deeds, Great Lesson

Last week a very close friend called me to meet up. He was in from California and wanted to share with me a financial company that he had been trying to establish himself in.

When I got to the little cafe he was sitting there with a business associate. This other gentleman was very nice and friendly. He was there to be the spokesperson for this financial program. My friend mostly sat back and listened.

During the presentation the gentleman mentioned building assets to pass on to the next generation. He said, “That’s our goal, building wealth that we can pass on to our kids.” I stopped him with a skeptical and screeching, “Weeeeelllll….” In recalling the story this is where my wife rolls her eyes.

I continue by reflecting on the dynamic of passing on wealth. Earlier we were talking about the fantasy world that people live in and how it seems to be growing with younger generations. I reflected on stories my parents told me and stories many of you have heard from your parents who were in that builder generation. Starting off as a young married couple, living in a small apartment, sleeping on a twin bed, eating sardines and rice for dinner. That generation gave blood sweat and tears to get where they are now. In turn, they wanted to build wealth for their kids so their kids wouldn’t have to go through what they went through. “Yet”, I pondered out loud, “how much of what they went to built the character of who they are now and what they have become?” Perhaps this is what feeds the unrealistic expectations of the next generation. I hear comments from the older generation toward the younger that they are too lazy. Shoot, I feel too lazy when I see what my parents do!

Eyes wide open because I am hijacking this presentation, the business associate says, “Yes, that is why we need to educate them.” I agreed wholeheartedly and added, “We need to teach them about Jesus and a Biblical understanding of money.” The wheels are spinning in his head, I can see it. “Well..”, he replies, ” sometime people pass on their wealth to their churches.” My eyes squinting in thought…I respond with a low, ‘Hmmm…about that….”

At this point he probably is wondering why in the world my friend set this meeting up.

I went on to question if there is a similar thing. I had been preparing for my sermon that Sunday and the scripture describe a comfortable church that was absent of the Holy Spirit. I shared way too much and way too passionately for a financial presentation, it just spewed out of me.

It was not my intention to hijack the meeting. He was a good guy and they were sharing a very significant product on a very important topic. It did make me think a lot about how well intended things like providing financial security for the next generation can have its detrimental effects.

It’s not a bad thing to provide financially for generations to come, its actually a very good thing. It’s also good to think about what impact that might have in the long run. What lessons and character traits are being overlooked when a good deed, results in unwelcome results? Never stop doing good and never stop helping others pursue greatness in themselves. -jason

Cruising Attitude

The captain just informed us that we have reached the cruising altitude of 40,000 feet. We are on our way home. After two weeks of travels, a 330am alarm let us know that it was time to load up the car and head to the airport. Car is returned, bags checked, security lines cleared, a stop for breakfast and coffee, and now we are on our way home.

From Oakland to Maui the flight was full. My seat was three rows in front of the rest of the family. I read a little, dozed off for a couple of minutes, but mostly I just sat there with my thoughts. Scary, right?

Thinking about the long travels that we had, I was exhausted. Can’t wait to be home. Then I start thinking about all the unpacking. Then back to work the next day, what a bummer. As I sit and sulk in my physical exhaustion and lamentation of getting back into the groove of life, I notice the people around me. There was a single guy a few rows ahead. He was wearing a “CREW” tag so assume he was just hoping a ride back home because he looked tired. Another family several rows ahead seemed to be returning home as well. When we were boarding, the father of the family angrily instructed his kids on their seating and steamed in his seat as people crammed into the plane. Still there were other dynamics going on.

Right next to me was Peter and his two daughters. Peter has family in Maui and they were going back for a visit. His younger daughter seemed excited to get there. “I hope Aunty Christy will be there!” she exclaimed. In front of me were a couple of young adults that belonged to a group of nine that were giddy about their vacation to Maui. To the left two young boys wearing their Warriors Championship t-shirts planned playfully for their time in Hawaii as with their parents sitting behind them listened in and smiled.

We are on the same plane, going to the same place, but we have very different destinations. These destinations and circumstances impact our attitudes, but inevitably we are responsible for the attitudes we have. There was another young man that was returning home, but he carried with him a giant hockey trophy. He seemed elated to be returning home with his prize. A woman sitting in the midst of the young adults in front of me was on a business trip to Hawaii and she was sharing with them how she was not looking forward to this trip.

Our church has been reading through the Proverbs. Proverbs 17:22 says:

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

As I observed all these people I made the decision to have a joyful heart. Joyful that I was able to spend time with people we loved, joyful that we have a home to return to, joyful that we have a life that is blessed. Most of all, I know my final destination. With my heart I believe and with my mouth I confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and I know I have a home that I will return to with my Creator and Heavenly Father. It was a good thing too because our luggage was delayed! Still, joy remained.

Choose today to maintain a cruising attitude. When turbulence hits, when the flight is long, maintain a joyful heart. Consider your final destination. There is a God who loves you and wants to welcome you home. When you are clothed in God’s grace, it’s easy to maintain a cruising attitude. -jason

 

Follow the Leader

Watching my three kids grow up has been fascinating. Their personalities are so different and the way they interact with one another is intriguing at times. One dynamic that comes out is the leadership role. With three kids it often takes on different forms. Aubrey as the oldest tends to exert her authority as the oldest and takes the lead. Kamryn, as the middle child, tend to be the mediator between the younger and older and at times that tends to place her in the leadership role. Then there is Jonah, the youngest and the only boy. He loves to follow his sisters, but there is this drive to lead the way. Mostly, being the “baby”, he ends up in frustration as his sisters go their own way.

Leadership has been on my radar recently. It is such an important role, yet we often find people in leadership that are questionable in their ability to lead. I’m looking at the political world, globally, nationally and locally. It’s not a party issue it’s across the board. We have weak leaders. I look at organizations and companies and I see the same issues, weak leadership. Patrick Lencioni makes a challenging statement about non-profit organizations in his book “The Advantage”:

“Nowhere does the tendency toward artificial harmony show itself more than in mission-driven non-profit organizations. People in those organizations tend to have the misguided idea that they cannot be frustrated or disagreeable with one another. What they’re doing is confusing being nice with being kind.”

Everywhere you turn leadership is challenged. Books are published everyday on leadership. They become best sellers and produce “gurus” who speak around the world on leadership. Still, we struggle to develop good leaders.

Like many things I have come to see that it is a multifaceted and cyclical thing. Many are afraid of leading. Our society has developed a strong aversion to authority and leaders are often chastised. Even in our marriages men don’t lead because of the mindset that leading equals domineering. Organizations choose amendable leaders and they get exactly what they, not necessarily what they need. This leads the way to a growth in leaders that are conflict avoidant and people pleasing. In his book “Mistakes Leaders Make” Dave Kraft says about leaders:

“To be frank, I meet very few leaders who honestly, gracefully, and promptly deal with conflict. I don’t mean this to be unkind, but many leaders are ‘relational cowards.’”

In no way am I a great leader. I will continue to discover those books and attend those conferences on leadership in hopes to grow as a leader. In these two books that I mentioned there are so many aspects to leadership that are absolutely convicting. It’s also painfully obvious that we live in a world that is plagued by poor leadership. Leaders are figureheads, puppets and representatives instead of strong, inspiring, team building visionaries. In another quote from “The Advantage”, Lencioni says:

“At every step in the process, the leader must be out front, not as a cheerleader or a figurehead, but as an active, tenacious driver.”

Demand strong leadership, not dictatorship or cowardice. Seek leaders in our marriages, in work, in government and in every area of life, look for compassionate, sacrificial, confident and bold leaders. This is the key to health and progress. -jason

CAGED

CAGED

When I helped chaperone Kammy’s field trip to the zoo I was reminded of some of my feelings about the zoo. I remember visiting the zoo in San Francisco thinking, “We humans are pretty arrogant that we think capture animals and stick them in cages for our entertainment.” Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the zoo. In situations that animals cannot fend in the wild, I am glad there are zoos that will take them in and care for them.

As I walked around the zoo I noticed the construction in certain areas and the recent renovations of some. Rusty and Violet are on my kids favorites list. Last week we were not able to see them, but they have a nice set up, hammocks, regular feedings, toys, and any comforts they could ask for. Some of the other exhibits have similar luxuries that I imagine are not afforded for in the wild.

I imagined other animals in the wild that have to find their own food and may not have a regular shelter over their heads. I thought about how good some of these animals in the zoo have it. Then I remembered once again, they are captive. They may have many things, but freedom is not one of them.

Living in Hawaii is tough financially. People figure out how to make it work, but many struggle. Sometimes the struggle is just the reality of an individuals life, other times financial hardships and debt come out of choices, and often choices of luxury. We see on our social media that our friends have a nice house, or got the latest car, they dine at the new trendy restaurants and have the privilege of many other luxuries in life. Some can genuinely afford it, others may be living beyond their means.

Our financial struggles become a prison, whether it is debt, overtime hours, the second job, or perhaps even illegal pursuits. We enjoy the luxuries of life within the confines of our walls of debt and financial hardship. Perhaps the walls even look like stress, health issues, broken marriages, or many other manifestations of the consequence of living beyond your means. With all the indulgences of life, are you free? For some, the answer is “yes”. That’s a wonderful blessing! For others, you might assess and realize that there is a sheet of glass between your luxuries and freedom. -jason

 

 

Watch Your Step

Watch Your Step

Last week I turned over in bed and discovered one of my children had climbed in with us. It was Aubrey. I can’t remember the last time Aubrey came into our bed in the middle of the night. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep, but Aubrey is just too big now. I picked her up and carried her back to bed. Now I lay in bed, still dark and I suddenly feel wide awake. I look at the clock 3:55. Then I get the thought to hike Koko Head. I had thought about doing it one morning, but could never get up in time. Well, I’m up. So I pack some water, put on some shoes and head out.

As I’m walking in the dark I have my little flashlight directing my way. Alone hiking up a dark hill I have a lot of time to think. My thoughts turn to the Lord and I confess my burdens to Him. I stop for a rest. Turn around and sit on the track and shine it down the hill. My little flashlight can’t see very far. Hmm…kind of like life.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The imagery is placing you in a dark setting, a place where you need the light. You are navigating through by the light of God’s Word. Like the flashlight I used to hike with, you can see maybe a few steps in front of you, you might not see your final destination. You stay focused on what you can see, right in front of you, that’s all you need to see for now. Just like the Koko Head Trail, if you have a misstep, it could be disastrous.

It was a good word for me. Maybe you too feel like it’s hard to see what’s ahead, maybe it seems like you are walking in the dark. Focus on the steps in front of you. Take it one step at a time. If you can’t even see that, pause and turn your thoughts to the Lord. Sincere time in prayer and scripture will be your guide. The truth of God Word is the avenue of the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Matthew 6:34 also says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Be encouraged friend. With the Lord directing you, you will reach the top, there will be a sunrise over the darkness and the view from the top of the Lord’s mountain is breathtaking. Watch your step, don’t look too far ahead, be strong and courageous. You WILL get to the top. -jason

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Distracted

Just got back from volunteering in Karmyn’s class. I have the opportunity to go in every Monday and read with the children. There are different levels and series of books that move these Kindergartener’s through their reading development. Some of the kids might actually read better than I do, while others need a little extra support to get to where they need to be.

Often I chuckle when I watch the kids. They are so easily distracted. Take one kid I was working with today. Sweet boy, always smiling, always happy when I see him. While I was walking the kids to school he was walking in barefoot. “Where are your slippers?” I asked. “Oh, I forgot to bring them.” He causally says with a big smile. His mom came back later to bring them. He was the first I read with this morning and after we were done, I asked him to call the next child. “Taj, can you get Harley for me?” I ask. “Okay!” I watch him as he weaves his way to his desk to put his folder away. The slap bracelet in his bag catches his attention and he gives it a couple of good slaps on his wrist before putting it back and closing up his bag. He realizes he forgot to get something out so he opens his bag again and digs through his folder. Out come some forms. When he finally gets his bag closed and put away, he works his way over to the teacher. Along the way his attention is pulled to things that are on other peoples desks. He stops to read them. Eventually after touching a few things along the way, he hands his forms over to his teacher and makes his way to the group sitting in the front of the class. I watch him as he weaves his way to the far side of the group where Harley is sitting. His line seems to be heading toward the right direction, he makes eye contact with the student, then he pulls a 180 and spots his friend at the opposite end of the group, where he makes his final destination. I laughed to myself as I got up to call the next kid to read. Totally something one of my children would do. So easily distracted.

Not just kids. We can too, and on an even larger scale. What are some of your goals you had when you were younger? Where are you on that path now? What were your goals in having children? Where are you in your parenting now? Career? Finances? Ministry? Family?

Maybe we had aspirations to “make a difference in the world”. Then mortgages got a hold of us, and even more so because we got distracted by wanting the bigger house. Making a difference shifted to making more money. When we had kids we may have said, “I just want us to be healthy and happy.” Then they get older and education becomes more real and every other parent is talking about private school and extra curricular activities. Time to build deep bonds with your children might have been replaced with overtime to afford tuition and sports or other activities on the weekends because they need to be “well-rounded.” I think about pastors and how easily building a church business instead of a church body has distracted many.

Have you been distracted from your final destination? It’s not to late to reset the course. May you reach the goals you set before you. -jason