Unarmed and Dangerous

Since 2018 there have been too many reports of school shooting in this country. The exact number of school shootings is debatable based on the nature of how a school shooting is defined. Check out this link on Snopes. Regardless, one school shooting is one too many. No matter who you are and what you believe, this has to be heartbreaking.

Seems the most widely suggested solution is gun control. The collective voice of the media champions a loud cry for the government to establish laws on gun ownership in America. Whether or not gun control would be a good idea, I see problems in the  petition for gun control. The focus on government intervention.

It’s similar to the area of social services. These services can range from public welfare to Special Education in schools. The support from the government is a good thing, when appropriate. Unfortunately, there is little done about accountability for those who receive these services and people begin relying on the “system” and that is a problem.

Let’s consider special education. In 1993 a lawsuit was filed against the state of Hawaii for inadequate services for kids in special education. Through that the Felix Consent Decree was established and major reforms in special education came about. Today, the Department of Education is overwhelmed by lawsuits, fear based policy and reactionary operations because of the large number of families with children classified under special education. There are many who need the help and support, yet there are just as many, or more, taking advantage of the system.

As a Behavioral Health Specialist in the school system, I estimate 95% of the issues I deal with are family related. Of those, more than half rely on the system to “fix” their child. More than ever families are relying on the government to ensure their child’s success. That is just not realistic. The family is the most important factor in a child’s growth and development.

This is the need I see beyond gun control. Families working hard to raise their children. A society and culture that promotes strong parenting and family living. I have heard many arguments on gun control to Japan. They have strict gun laws and also close to zero gun violence. Sounds convincing. Then you consider, they send their elementary-aged children to commute to school alone, sometimes over several miles and over an hour commute. When I was growing up that may not have been so significant, but in today’s American society, that is appalling. So perhaps there is something deeper in Japanese culture that we need to explore.

Again, I am not making a suggestion for or against gun control. I am making a suggestion for us to make a culture change. Focus on family. Not your child’s vocational success or athletic aptitude, but their character. Let’s not focus on showering them with gifts or the latest trends, but with love. Do not forsake discipline, but do it compassionately. There is no perfect parent out there, but it’s hard to go wrong when you give it your best effort. We must not rely on the government to create a better world for us, we have to take action and do it ourselves. If we fall into a mindset of government to run our world, they WILL run our world. When we as families, come together, focus on a communal society and raise our children the best we can, the government will be what it’s supposed to be, a support for our society.

The way I see it, the problem is not that people are armed, but that our children are unarmed. They are unarmed with the love and protection, they are unarmed with life skills, they are unarmed with solid character, they are unarmed with compassion and empathy, they are unarmed to cope with the challenges of life because we have failed to arm them with these things. We have failed to offer the support within our families and within our community of human connection. Family, that’s where it starts, that’s where they get the training and equipment for life. We are failing them.

Our children are unarmed…and dangerous.  -jason

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What’s In It For Me?

My transition back into the Department of Education has been, well, a little rough.

There could be many variables that have caused me to feel this way. One aspect of this job that I am learning and growing in is the age group. I have worked previously in two high schools and a middle school. Now in Elementary school, I am having to discover new strategies.

When I arrived, the previous Behavioral health Specialist had a store in place. Students could earn tokens to purchase items in the store. They earned tokens by achieving expected behavior. This is not a new concept for me. I have heard about this system used in homes and in schools all round the country for behavior modification. The reasoning is that incentives will give children/youth something to work toward so they will learn to modify their behavior to obtain the reward. This is a very common strategy used by behavioralist of various fields.

I’m not completely against this. I see how it is effective in some situations. The field of autism seems to have benefited greatly from the practice of token systems. Behavior modification has proved successful in this setting. In life in general there are some incentives that people work toward. In the restaurant business servers will put in the extra effort in expectation of a higher tip. Interestingly, when I worked at Alan Wong’s Restaurant tips were pooled. For many that was not a desirable system. No matter how hard you worked, you received a set percentage of all the tips collected. Some might expect that would cause servers to work less. Instead, the effect it had on the community of workers, was accountability. Co-workers will get on another worker that was not “pulling their weight” in the community.

An article that I came across highlighted the dangers of reward systems. It’s one opinion of many, but worth considering. The author suggests. “Priming kids to expect rewards for good behavior can harm their social skills in the long term.” The theory suggests that rewarding core social behaviors (responsibility, courtesy, respect) will build a mindset that will always leave them asking, “what’s in it for me?”

While I am not completely against reward and incentive systems, I believe we need to consider how it is implemented and what we might be teaching our youth. Something we are trying for our kids is to have them complete set chores with no payment, but just as a functioning member of our family. Once those are done, there may be other tasks that they can get paid for, but not until their set chores are complete. There are things you just have to do. Responsibility. On top of that, there can be incentive if you choose to put in the extra effort.

There is a shift in our society. There is a word that I hear floated around in many circles, “entitled”. With the practice of a reward for everything and for everything a reward, we can tend to produce entitled adults. Doing things just because it is the right thing to do becomes an exception. We are inspired by acts of kindness, because it is increasingly rare. Social norms are lost as we ask ourselves, “What’s in it for me?” -jason

Casual Sex, Serious Consequences

My youth sexual education was mostly peer influenced. Ignorant conversations about sex with peers, pornography and even public media moving closer to pornographic imagery, these are the things that I was exposed to. The eighties had an uptick in movies like Casual Sex and Porky’s that painted a very loose picture of sex. In today’s movie scene we mock the 40-year-old virgin and are appalled in sitcoms with the character who has not had sex in a month. This is normal behavior in our societal standards. I am convinced this type of thinking strongly contributes to the sexual misconduct that is being uncovered recently. It may be casual sex, but there are serious consequences.

Admittedly this is not a parallel comparison, but it is interesting to me that when there is a deadly shooting many look to change in policy and overarching value shifts. It’s a community problem. When there is sexual deviancy, we don’t look at societal influence but focus solely on the individual. We need to, in all situations, look at both the part and the whole.

On an individual level we can look at biology. Men, we have all heard, have sex on their minds constantly. I’m not sure how that is measured and how valid some of those statistics are, but I did get some interesting information at a recent conference. The presenter was speaking on brain chemistry of boys and girls. She stated that boys experience a burst of dopamine at the anticipation of sex, greater than the actual act of sex. This is why pornography is a mega industry that will continue to find its way in the hands of adolescent boys everywhere. On an individual level, for men in particular, we must understand this propensity for irrational thoughts and action when it comes to the chemical effects of perceived sexual encounters.

On a larger scale, how do we address this information? I believe we need to reevaluate our societal views and values on sexuality. This is not a religious plea, it’s a plea for humanity. Our openness and loosening of moral principles in the area of sexuality are NEVER excuses for sexual deviancy, but we must not neglect the pathways we create.

In seminary we studied about Emperor Nero. Scary dude. One area that was discussed was his twisted sexual appetite that only grew over time. My theory: The anticipation of a sexual encounter fueled his desire for more and as the all powerful emperor of Rome, it required more perversion and extremely deviant behaviors to achieve that.

Fast forward to today. Sexual misconduct is being uncovered and exposed in many high profile people. We are appalled as a society and we should be. How could this happen? Well, look at the world we live in. A sexualized society of casual sexual encounters and we are normalizing this. High profile men who are absorbed by their power and status push the limits of that anticipatory pleasure seeking rush. It happens once. They want more. The Nero effect unfolds. It takes more and they push things further.

Sexuality is not the only value system that is weak and destructive to our society. Certainly there are many others. This one area of casual sex is threatening our society. Personally, I have seen how deceptively destructive it is to relationships. We must demand that the beautiful expression of sex be preserved in a committed, monogamous and loving relationship. The way we value sex directly impact how we value people and relationships. This is the fabric of community. There is absolutely NO excuse for sexual misconduct, but I urge you all to consider how casual sex has serious consequences.  -jason

 

Wea U Stay?

When I lived in California my ears would perk up when I heard someone speaking pidgin. Talking with friends over the phone would frighten some of my friends that aren’t from Hawaii, but it would transport me back to my island home. Often the conversation would begin with, “Wassup? Wea u stay?”

Even though I am back home pidgin still has the same effect on me. Seems pidgin is phasing out of our society because it is frowned upon so I don’t feel like I hear it as much. 

When I started this new job it felt a little weird. It’s not quite your place and you are stranger to everyone. One person made me feel welcomed. She is the custodian responsible for the building I am housed in. She is a sweet local woman that is always smiling and joyful and speaks some serious pidgin! There’s all kinds of pidgin, as some may not know. Her’s is this soft, warm pidgin, reminds me of the Uncle on Rap’s Hawaii feeding his chickens. Makes me feel at home.

What makes you feel at “home”? With so much going on in our lives we are running from place to place. We can sometimes be strangers in our own world and sometimes we just need to return “home”. Living in Hawaii I meet a lot of transient people. People are led to the islands through the military, employment opportunities or just adventure. Often I hear them mention that certain things remind them of home. When they catch the smell of a certain flower, taste a certain food, or hear a certain accent from back home, it’s like they are transported. You can see the escape to joy on their face.

No matter wea u stay, you might need to return “home” for a bit. Talk to a childhood friend, listen to a song that transports you to a happy time in the past, take a lunch break and eat something that reminds you of the good ol’ days. Wherever you are, take a break today and return “home”, if even just for a few minutes. Escape to that joy of home. -jason

 

 

Regular Maintenance

Most people hope to own a home someday. When we moved back to Hawaii the housing market left us feeling hopeless. We were fortunate that my parents offered to have us build our home on their property. It’s nice to have a place to call your own. Except for all the home maintenance things that pop up regularly!

Things you don’t think of, things you don’t see. One thing is piping issues. You don’t realize something is wrong until there are back ups and overflows. A few months ago I had to snake our kitchen drain pipes. Not fun. Last week I noticed the washer was leaking. I removed all the hosing from the inside of the washer and the drain tube was clogged with major build up. Disgusting. Then the kids bathroom sink was not draining well. When I pulled out the drain stopper I discovered a sticker and some tape along with a bunch of unrecognizable gunk. NASTY!

It’s around this time that the Lord was showing me that I was starting to overflow. The bitterness that had been building in my heart over the last few months over a particular situation was creating a clog and build up in my “heart pipes”. All the junk was not draining properly because of this one major blockage.

Immediately I turned to the Lord in repentance and shame for my wicked heart. It was overflowing into all areas of my life. The internalized bitterness was even having physical affects on me. I needed to “clean out” the bitterness that was blocking the flow of everything else. The words of David in the 51st psalm came to mind. When Nathan called him out on his sin with Bathsheba, David cries out to the Lord in repentance. Within this chapter of repentance comes the lines many are familiar with: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

If we are a temple of the living God, we must make sure we are conducting regular maintenance of the home which His Spirit dwells. The “heart pipes” get clogged easily by hate, resentment, jealousy, anger, bitterness and so much more. When we are not aware of it, we don’t process everything else very well, the good and bad. Then we overflow into the lives of others. Be sure to seek regular maintenance. Time in God’s Word, times of contemplative prayer, awareness of the Lord in all areas of life and trusting, intimate relationships with others, these are things that we can do on a regular basis for maintenance of our lives. -jason

Permanently Temporary

IMG_6261This is a picture of a gate that blocks Henry (our dog) from escaping from the yard. When we got Henry it was a process of figuring out the nooks and crannies that he could escape from. The obvious one was this stairwell. This gate was laying around the yard and I just leaned it up against the stairs. It was good enough for now, but it was just temporary. Eventually I would put hinges on it so we can open and close the gate without having to lift it or drag it. It’s been over a year and “eventually” hasn’t come. This gate might be permanently temporary.

Every time I see this gate I think, “Okay, I need to put those hinges on.” Then it makes me think of all the other projects and repairs I have to do around the house. If I had a dollar for every time I said, “Tomorrow I’ll get to it”….

This gate is not a pressing matter. It would be more convenient to have the hinges, but it still functions. There are things that are more pressing that are left for tomorrow and tomorrow never comes.

When my grandfather passed away, my grandmother was all alone. Being from Japan, her English was minimal and she relied on my grandfather a lot. I visited her regularly during my breaks between classes. Eventually she had health issues and required dialysis treatments three times a week. She could no longer live alone. She lived with us at first, but the stairs were too much to handle. She moved around to different relatives’ homes, but eventually ended up in a care home. All alone with communication barriers, I needed to visit her soon. Too many times I said, “Tomorrow I’ll go.” She passed shortly after being in the home. I still think about that to this day.

In James chapter 4, God’s Word says, “13 Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring and it’s actually arrogant to believe you will have a tomorrow. While somethings can be put off till tomorrow, others shouldn’t be taken for granted. Tomorrow may never come.

As a Christian our priority is a right relationship with God. Jesus holds our tomorrows. He calls to us daily and we tell the Author of tomorrow, “I’ll get to you later.”

We know what we should do. We know where our attention should go. God, our marriages, our families, our loved ones…how are we treating these areas of life? What are you putting off till tomorrow? We might say to ourselves, “this is just for now” and years later discover that our choices have become permanently temporary and tomorrow never arrived. -jason

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

Chew Before You Swallow

I’ve always been a fast eater. The problem with that is, I tend to not chew my food well before I swallow it. When my grandparents were alive my grandmother was convinced that what contributed to my grandfather getting cancer was because he didn’t chew his food well. A good friend from high school told me once that he actually chews his food 45 times before he swallows it! Amazing. 

Chewing your food properly is very important to your health. Chewing your food helps to produce saliva that has properties to help breakdown food and aid in digestion.

One of my pet peeves is when you are talking to someone and you know they are not listening. This is something I know I need to be aware of and something I am grateful for in my counseling training. Listening, and not just hearing, is the process in which we “chew” on what other people are saying. When we take in what people are saying before we chew on it, we don’t digest it well and it causes interrelational problems.

Chew the food that other people feed you, chew it well. Listen, really seek to breakdown what people are saying before you swallow. Avoid giving a quick answer. Avoid formulating your own answers before they are done speaking. Try to not be in a rush. Just like eating, when we rush, we don’t chew properly. This can cause much complications.

The better you chew on what is being told you, the better you can digest the communication between you and others. The better your digestion, the better the overall health of your body of relationships. Chew before you swallow. -jason

 

Let’s Make Pretend

While my kids play I overhear many things that are very interesting. One word that is repeated often in their play is “pretend”. As an example Aubrey will say, “Hey guys, pretend this is a castle and I am the princess and you are the sister and you are the cat.” (Yup, they often make Jonah be the cat or puppy.) Then Kamryn will chime in and say, “Yeah, but pretend this is a magic wand and I can make my own castle and I am the other princess.” Then Jonah will try to squeeze in his two cents with, “But, but, but pretend, guys, guys, pretend I’m a cat that can fly and I fly over your castles.” Then it goes on and on.

It’s great. I think the use of a child’s imagination is healthy exercise. Imagination that is allowed to be set free can open the doors for creativity and progressive thought. To compliment that development comes the ability to differentiate between real and pretend.

Seems to me that there is a level of pretend that happens with adults that is not so healthy. Often “let’s make pretend” leads to further issues and complications.

Our game of pretend is usually done in an effort to preserve a perception of positivity.  It manifests itself in friendships where we pretend that life is great. We pretend we are parents that have it together, we pretend to have more femininity or masculinity than we really do. We pretend to be more knowledgeable or more athletic or more wealthy than we really are. It can appear through social media and even in our face to face interactions. We don’t want to reveal struggles and hurts, we don’t want to let others know they have a leg up on us so we engage in “let’s make pretend” we have our lives together. Sure we moan and lament over our messy homes, but yet when people come over we make sure it’s pretty darn clean. I’m guilty of this myself. I scramble and clean, because I want guests to be comfortable, but then I say, “Sorry the house is so messy…” Why is that?

In the midst of conflict we like to play “let’s make pretend” everything is fine. Maybe we do it for ourselves, maybe we do it because we think it’s best for the group. I’ve come to realize it’s not best for anyone.

We do it in our families, in our marriages, in our friendships, in our workplace and sadly even in our churches.

The problem is, when we make pretend all is well when it is not, reality will have to collide with it at some point. While peace may be kept for the short term, you can be certain it will not last. Eventually play time will end and things will unravel. Imagination can be a wonderful thing when we can discern that from reality. Let’s stop making pretend at the expense of what is real. -jason

Casting Call

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to be an extra on Hawaii 5-0. I had never done anything like this before and it was kind of exciting.

I was one of six men to be background as gangsters. Turned out they only needed three of us. I was part of the first three selected, but I just didn’t die very well. Pretty bad acting! I got subbed out and placed on the bench. I blew it.

At least I had a shot at it, another background guy actually looked like a gangster, but he never even got a chance. Three of us just ended up sitting there the whole day.

At about 230pm they broke for lunch and directed us to a park nearby. We sat in a holding area under a tree while the crew ate lunch on the opposite end of the park. After a short while we were told they wanted us closer so we folded up our chairs as directed and walked over next to the catering tent where the crew was eating. Around 20-30 extras stood next to the tent watching the crew eat. When they were all done, we were given the okay to eat at about 330pm.

I began thinking about the story of our lives. We are all stars in our own little movie. The camera crew of our memories follow us wherever we go documenting the events and experiences we have. Everyone of us also has a cast. Some are regulars and some are extras and both are necessary. The regulars have the most “camera time”, they get a big part of our attention. The extras sit and wait, uncertain if they will be called.

Who are the stars in your life and who are the extras? Can you tell them apart? How do you treat them? Maybe you have cast more than you need. Are some sitting on the sidelines waiting to be called?

Extras are necessary, co-workers, acquaintances, classmates, etc. Sometimes, we may want everyone to be stars in our show and we end up leaving people sitting on the side waiting to be called. We expend our time and energy trying to make extras stars and we don’t have enough for the stars in our lives. Personally, I want to focus on the leading cast. Give my resource to those I hold closest, for myself and for the sake of others.

It’s your movie. You’re the main character. Who will be your cast? -jason