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

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

 

As Seen on TV

My kids probably watch too much TV. When Emily was pregnant with Aubrey we said they wouldn’t watch TV, that didn’t last long. We do try to limit it, but they probably watch 1 to 2 hours of TV per day at home.

One thing on TV that bothers me the most is infomercials. On the kids shows there are a tons of thing that they are selling. Magic Bubbles, Animal Pillows, glow in the dark toys, water play toys, and on and on. Ever thing my kids see they WANT IT. “OOH I want that!” “Can I get that for my birthday?”

I began thinking a lot about wants and needs. While we all have basic needs, even our needs have shifted to wants. We are a society of abundance. I have even had homeless people turn away food because they didn’t like a particular thing. We need food to survive, yet we survive off of what we want. We Yelp the best Thai restaurant in our area because we feel like eating Thai. We need shelter, but we dwell in the most extravagant places. The want of design and comfort overwhelms the simple need for shelter. We need water, but we want it to be a certain brand that is filtered in the Swiss Alps from melting snow.

In the church this is also true. We need Jesus, but most of us ebb and flow in and out of a relationship of need and want. Some even only know Jesus as a want.

So what happens when our needs turn into wants. We take it for granted. Toys get tossed under the bed or at the bottom of a pile, food and housing become large investments as they become disposable and easily replaced or cast out. Relationships are caught in conflict and torn apart. Worst of all, some will never truly know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, because you don’t just want the Savior, you need Him.

When you understand your need for Jesus, the Spirit transforms your life, radically. There is nothing more important than Jesus and you become fully dependent on Him. When you want Jesus, its on your terms and you put Him away when you no longer want him. When you need the Savior, you will turn to Him daily, throughout your day and constantly.

In all areas of life, we must consider our wants and our needs. If we live an “As Seen on TV” life, things become disposable and devalued. When we give careful thoughts to our needs we rediscover the things we treasure and we can separate them from the things that are excess. -jason

Good Soil

Emily has been inspired to have a raised bed garden. She went to the hardware store and  picked up the wood, some compost, some fertilizer and some seeds.

Yesterday, I put the garden box together and I prepared some of the soil from our yard for the garden. In preparing the soil, I dug up piles of it that was displaced in our construction, i sifted it through a screen box and threw out large rocks and weeds that were growing in it.

Shoveling dirt is not what I imagine my Saturdays being filled with, but hopefully it pays off. Preparing the soil to be mixed with the compost would be something that would provide the right minerals and nutrients to allow for the garden to grow. Having good soil will be a critical factor for seeds to grow.

How’s your soil?

Young and old, we are constantly having seeds planted in our lives. Some are weeds that seem to grow much easier, but need to be removed. Other seeds are life giving and they require good soil. Seeds will be planted in your life all the time from things we see on the television, conversations we have with co-workers and through many other things that we are exposed to.

Good soil contains the proper elements to give life to the seeds. Humility, goodness, patience and honesty are amongst the major components of good soil. We are life-long learners. There are always lessons. Once we think our garden is full, we miss out on so much.

“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”   Luke 8:15

May you sift through the good soil in your life and rejoice in the harvests to come. -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

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

 

 

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