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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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

 

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

 

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

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

Fleeting Beauty

Fleeting Beauty

Hopefully I can make the Koko Head morning hikes a regular thing. It was only my third time and it actually seemed harder. During one of my rests a man that was on his second round trip stopped and pointed out this flower to me.

I believe this is called the Hylocereus undatus. It’s a flower that blooms from a cactus plant, the same plant that produce dragonfruit. It is said that this cactus was first planted in Hawaii in the mid 1800’s by a member of the Bingham family on the walls that surround Punahou school. For this reason, some know this plant in Hawaii as “Panini o kapunahou”. This plant can now be found in different parts of Oahu and some of the other islands. The unique thing about this flower is it’s lifespan. This flower only blooms at night and drops off by midday and dies. It’s a beautiful flower that lets off a wonderful fragrance. In the dark, I wouldn’t have even noticed it had it not been pointed out to me. I’m so glad I was able to see it.

When we look at scripture there is a frequent warning about beauty. Beauty is never a bad thing, not at all. Yet there is danger in beauty becoming the focus of our lives. Too often this is something that plagues women more than men, although it’s more apparent for both these days. The expectation of a society to what is beautiful places unnecessary stress on young women. This is a timeless issue going back to Biblical times. In Proverbs 31:29-31 the scripture says, 

“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”

This scripture clarifies that many women have done well, excellently even, but there is one that surpasses, the one who fears the Lord. In some translations it says that beauty is fleeting. It doesn’t last. Charm is often an external expression of people pleasing and platitudes that do not genuinely reflect the true heart. When we center our lives on things that are temporary, our pursuits are in vain. Be cautious of being distracted by that which attracts in the night and in the darkness only to fade away in the light. Focus on what is eternal. And what is that? What is everlasting?

Enjoy beauty all around you. It is from the Lord. Don’t miss that which blooms in the night, don’t let fleeting beauty pass you by, for these things are from the Lord. As you recognize beauty, as you enjoy the charming and beautiful things around you, look to the Light, the Creator of all that is beautiful, the everlasting and eternal God of all. In Him is our true praise. In Him we find true beauty. -jason

*For a broader study on vanity in life, read through Ecclesiastes.

 

 

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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Excess Ability

Excess Ability

Every last Saturday of the month Olivet Baptist Church operates a Food Pantry. Over a hundred people come to our campus to collect a bag of food that has been purchased from the Food Bank or donated from members and other supporters of the Food Pantry Ministry.

One donation that arrives every month comes from a member of another church who collects baked goods from a local grocer. These baked goods are near expiration or even a little past the expiration date. The amount varies, but there are often several boxes that we give out. There are rolls, baguettes, cupcakes, cookies, and many other baked goods.

On one hand, it is wonderful that we are able to pass out the excess items that are only going to be thrown out. We all have excess. That’s the reality. If you are reading this on your computer or smart phone or tablet, chances are, you have excess and you have the ability to give out of that excess. No matter how poor you might think you are, there’s a chance there is excess that you can afford to give. No matter how buys you are, there’s a chance there is excess time to give. No matter how exhausted you are, there’s a chance you have excess energy to give. If we look well, we have the ability to give out of our excess.

On the other hand, I think about what we are giving. Every nutritional health person I talk to seem to agree on a few items that we should avoid or limit in our diet. Sugar, flour, salt are often always in the top five lists. These baked goods contain all of those. So we give out of our excess, but it’s leftover, it’s old, it’s not the best quality, and we are going to throw it out anyway. Is that what we offer people? Are we giving them our resources, our time, our energy that we are planning to throw out anyway? The leftovers?

In scripture when God desires the first fruits I don’t think it’s because He desires quality products, but I believe He desires quality hearts. 1 Corinthians 15:20 identifies Jesus as the “first fruit” of the dead. God had to come in the form of man to be offered up in death so that as the only one without sin He might be raised back into life so those who follow Him may also find life after death. We then become a first fruit of mankind because of Christ.

It’s the quality of what we offer. Even in excess, what are we giving? We have resources, time and energy to offer. Where are you expending that? Once we have prioritized, we still find we have the ability to give the excess. To whom will you give the excess? Who in your life has the greatest needs? -jason