Good Things Up Ahead

My morning commute is pretty amazing. At the edge of Hawaii Kai I pull up to the Kaiwi Coastline. The early morning sun rises through the scattered clouds and makes them glow. Waves playfully crash upon the sandy shores. As I make my way around the hill near Makapu’u I descend upon breathtaking scenery. A couple tiny islands are scattered across the glittery ocean. The Eastern shoreline makes a sharp transition up the majestic slopes of the Ko’olau Mountains. Occasionally a rainbow dives off the sheer cliff’s into the ocean below. God’s beauty is overwhelming.

The awesome scenery continues along the shorelines of Waimanalo, but you can’t take your eyes of the road for too long, because you never know when you’ll need to stop. Anyone who has made the commute through Waimanalo knows exactly what I am talking about. One road in and one road out. If there is anything that stops the traffic, your commute gets set back a little. Many things could cause a stop in traffic, but commonly I’ve noticed cars stop to let other cars turn in from the side roads or parking lots. It’s an expression of ALOHA that I noticed in a unique way in Waimanalo. While drivers can have a lot of ALOHA in Hawaii, drivers in Waimanalo seem to be on the look out for people trying to turn and make an intentional effort to stop.

It may set me back 5-10 minutes, depending on the day, but I’m okay with it. If positive gestures of kindness and ALOHA require a little extra time, it’s worth it.

I don’t always know what is causing the back up and traffic, but knowing that these acts of kindness are common here, it’s given me a better perspective. It’s helped me to be a little more patient.

Perhaps you are stuck in traffic. I’m not just talking about sitting in your car. Maybe you are waiting on a job. You could be close to retirement. It might be a child that is not quite at the place you were hoping they’d be. Your plans could be delayed for one reason or another. You are in a place that you don’t really want to be, you really would like to be a few more miles ahead. It’s frustrating.

Remember that there might be good things happening ahead. Isn’t it worth it to wait if your expectation is that there are good things happening ahead? We don’t know sometimes, but if we put our hope in positive things, it makes the wait more tolerable. 

As a Christian I know there are good things ahead. I don’t really know what it looks like, but I know I’ve experienced the glory of God in my life and it will be so much greater later. So I wait, in traffic, but I wait in patience. Romans 8:25 says: “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

On a smaller scale, there are good things happening all the time. We may not see them, but they are happening. There are gestures of kindness and ALOHA along the road and sometimes it’s necessary that traffic gets backed up a little. Be patient. Believe that there are good things up ahead. -jason

 

Advertisements

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

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

IMG_5534.jpg

A Literate Heart

I have the opportunity to volunteer in Kamryn’s class for an hour on Mondays. I have been asked to sit with the kids and walk them through their reading program. There is a broad spectrum of literacy in the Kindergarten class. Some kids are still challenged by sounding out most words, while other kids can read with efficiency and proper emphasis on punctuation. This morning I asked a couple of the kids to tell me what the story was about. Some could read the words fairly well, but at the end of the story they couldn’t tell me what it was about. Reading comprehension is still developing in a few of them.
Literacy is more than just reading the words and we all walk through stages of literacy in many areas of life. Some people have given their lives to a profession to become highly literate in their field. I dabble with small auto repairs, but for larger jobs I would have to lean on the literacy of a trained mechanic. When I consider many things in the world, I can see how illiterate I am. Unfortunately, many illiterate people take to social media and give their opinion in harmful ways. Sometimes it even comes from someone that is completely literate in one field of study, and interject careless opinion into an area they know little about.
We can know basic facts, we can absorb the abundance of information that flows through our electronic devices, but without a deeper understanding of these facts, we are illiterate. We know the words, but we don’t know the story.
We are reading through the Bible in two years at our church. It has been a great experience for many so far. As a staff we are looking at ways to get our church to go deeper into the understanding of the Bible. We can read through the whole Bible, we can memorize verses, we can recite Bible stories, but without understanding we remain Biblically illiterate. Without study and understanding you will not get past the words, to discover THE Word. Teachers and preachers are trained and taught to develop literacy of the Bible, but ultimately the Holy Spirit guides all into the literacy of God’s Word.
Let’s be a literate people, especially with our world of social media and “instaopinion” applications on our phones. Seek understanding. Don’t just read words, know the story, this is the literacy of the heart. -jason
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:2

What Does Your Garden Grow?

In the famous nursery rhyme Mary is asked, “How does your garden grow?” Like many of these old nursery rhymes, there are political or religious meanings buried beneath the words. Today I ask you not how, but “What does your garden grow?”

Recently I was doing some yard work. I’ve mentioned my father’s green thumb before. He has cultivated many kinds of fruit bearing trees for as long as I can remember. We had papayas for breakfast on a regular basis, chilled mango for snacks on hot summer days, more bananas that we could consume on our own. Currently he has a mango tree, two avocado trees, a lemon tree, an orange tree, a tangerine tree and a recently cut down guava tree.

With the guava my dad often made guava jam, sometimes he would use it to make a guava nectar drink, but that hasn’t happened in years. When the guava grew they would just drop to the ground, rot, fill the air with a strong scent and attract a ton of fruit flies. The decision was made that the guava were not being used any more, so it was best that we cut it down.

When the guava was used it was a good fruit. When it is allowed to fall and rot, it becomes more of a burden.

In the scriptures we are taught that we will recognize false prophets by the fruit they bear. Jesus specifically mentions good fruit and bad fruit. In verses 17-20 He says:

“So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

Again I ask, what does your garden grow? There may be fruit, but what kind of fruit are growing? Sometimes what grows may seem like good fruit, but if the Lord does not harvest it, it falls, rots, and attracts bugs. Consider wealth. Is it wealth a bad thing? No. When the Lord harvests the fruit of wealth in your life it is used tremendously for His glory. Think of how the Kingdom has advanced because of the generosity of many wealthy brothers and sisters that have given to the gospel work. When wealth is just kept and not given to the Lord of harvest, it rots. The stench of greed fills the air. It attracts bugs, those who just want to feast on what you have to offer them. What about social causes? Should we neglect the poor, the needy, and the oppressed? May it never be! When these things are done with the gospel as it’s end, the Lord of harvest does good things. When it is done without any kingdom purpose it produces the pungent odor of hate, violence and hypocrisy.

When the Lord harvests these fruits in your life, when you open yourself up to His leading and direction, when you acknowledge that all authority and blessing have been given by Him, He transforms it to the fruit of the Spirit. Our wealth, our actions, our families and our very lives are transformed into “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

What does your garden grow? -jason

Fear Factory

My children, like most children are afraid of the dark. This only happened recently for Jonah. A few months ago we would read a couple books, sing a song, pray and I would say good night and shut his door and he would go to sleep. Soon he started asking for a nightlight and it progressed to leaving the door open. Now he will randomly call for us, even with the nightlight on, the door open and the hall light on, because he’s afraid.

This morning Jonah woke up at 5am and sat in the bathroom with me while I brushed my teeth and shaved. I asked him why he woke up so early and he said because he’s scared. When I asked what he’s scared of he said, “I don’t know”.

Isn’t that true for many of us? We are afraid, we have fears, but we don’t quite know what we are afraid of. Like children, the more we learn and discover, the more our potential for fears grow. Our minds are fear factories. With the ubiquitous and instantaneous connection to information our minds are flooded even more than ever with information. All that information is processed and some of it feeds our fears. Nuclear threats, economic forecasts, natural disasters, violent crimes and even medical crisis all get processed in the fear factories of our minds. In the world of psychology they have labels for a variety of fears. In the Peanuts Christmas movie Lucy is trying to diagnose Charlie Brown: “Are you afraid of responsibility? If you are, then you have hypengyophobia. How about cats? If you’re afraid of cats, you have ailurophasia. Are you afraid of staircases? If you are, then you have climacaphobia. Maybe you have thalassophobia. This is fear of the ocean, or gephyrobia, which is the fear of crossing bridges. Or maybe you have pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?”Charlie Brown asks, “What’s pantophobia?” Lucy responds, “The fear of everything.”

It is almost certain that we all have fears. The strongest of women and the toughest of men all have their fears. Some of us understand it, some of us don’t. Many times we try to mask it. I believe this is the appeal of horror shows. Some of these shows are absolutely horrendous! Regardless, people love them, I believe, because it gives them a tangible fear to distract from the real fears inside.

With so many verses in the Bible on fear, I believe we need to start with Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” It is the renewing of your mind, a work of the Spirit, which will keep you from thinking in the way of worldly fears, but will find peace and comfort in the perfect will of God. It is then that we can understand the promise of God in 2 Timothy 1:7, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

We all have our fears and they may not disappear forever, but when we are walking with God His Spirit delivers us from fear. This Christmas may you rejoice in the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. With the grace of God that is delivered to man through Jesus, we can renew our minds from fear factories to peace and love. -jason

Designer Fashioned

 

Christmas is right around the corner. Did you get your Black Friday deals? Thousands of people flocked into malls for the best deals in town. Every year it is absolute madness! Recently I was in a conversation with people preparing to brave the Black Friday crowds. Specifically there was talk about Kate Spade. Apparently there were lines of people there on Thanksgiving Day! Yikes. It prompted me to ask what the appeal is for brand name products. Was it better quality? Was it the designs that stood out above all other products? While it seems some of those things are taken into consideration, the conclusion was simply to have the name recognition. You want people to know you have a Kate Spade wallet or a Tori Burch purse, just for the sake of saying you have it.

The reality is many of the name brand products are not necessarily better quality. Nike for example is so popular. To have that Swoosh is a definite status symbol. Does it make it a better shoe? Not necessarily. I’ve definitely had better quality shoes, but when I am in a store my eyes are drawn to the Nike shoes. Brands often become popular because a celebrity endorsed it. If you think about what Michael Jordan did for Nike, brand recognition. Jordan is himself a brand.

Often we try to make ourselves into a designer name. Maybe it’s by the way we act, or how we dress. Perhaps its measured by our wealth or our status. Whatever it is, I believe we all have that aspiration to “be somebody” to be recognized. Haven’t you ever wanted to be the next______________________?

When I was in high school I wanted so much to be “cool”, I wanted to be recognized. I did not have the resources or attributes to be cool so I often did stupid things to get recognition and probably hurt many people along the way. Being “designer” was something I strived for, something that I felt I needed to have and I was often depressed because I didn’t have what it took to be known the way I wanted to be known.

In Sunday school the question was asked, “What do you want your legacy to be?” I apologized if it came across as self-righteous, but I answered, “I just want people to say, ‘Jason genuinely followed Jesus and committed his life to his faith.’” With all the things that I had done in my past many people from my past were shocked to hear I was a pastor. I tried so hard to develop my own brand name, to be “designer” and because of the grace of God, I know now that I am the perfect result of the Divine Designer. The Creator of all things had every detail planned out for me. In one of my favorite Psalms David says to the Lord, “For you formed my inward parts you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13,14

Hopefully you are not as misguided as I was to seek to be recognized. Hopefully you already know that you are fashioned by THE Designer. You are perfectly made and perfected in the full recognition of God’s grace. I hope today you see that in yourself and you see that in others. Gift giving is a fun and wonderful tradition, but know that the greatest gift you can ever receive is the gift of God’s grace. In His grace through Jesus Christ our soul will know very well that His works are wonderful! -jason

A Pake Full of Posies

The well-known nursery rhyme, “Ring Around the Rosie” is often explained as a coded reference to the Black Plague or bubonic plague. The truth is, like many nursery rhymes, there really is no in-depth meaning. The lyrics were a means to an end. Amazing that an innocent children’s song can turn into something so dark and disturbing. Oh, what the human mind is capable of. This is just one example of so many things that can get misinterpreted in life. Sometimes perception is developed out of the observer’s wild imagination, but other times we can feed that perception.

I am a proud PAKE! Pake was a Hawaiian word that referenced China or Chinese. Over the years it has evolved to refer to a cheap person. I prefer what my Pake sister said recently, “I’m not cheap, I’m frugal.” Whatever the implications of that word, a true Pake cannot resist a good deal! This morning in my reading of Genesis 23 I realized, a good deal may not always be a GOOD DEAL.

Abraham was just measured of his faith by the act of sacrificing his son. Following this account his wife Sarah dies and Abraham is seeking a proper burial. In the foreign place that he is a sojourner, he seeks some land. The people of that land, the Hittites, offer him any property he wants and recognize him as a “prince of God”. Instead of taking the land he insists on paying. Some Biblical scholars may argue that there was deceit on the part of the Hittites in various forms. The lesson I walked away with was to represent well. Represent yourself, your family, and your friends and most importantly, your God the best you can.

Leading up to this chapter I was under the impression that Abraham might have been PAKE. Not once, but twice he deceived a king and walked away with some serious loot! This guy put his wife in jeopardy for his safety and got rewarded for it. That’s WAY over the top. Now, he insists on paying full price for the land. Why not just take the free offer? Again, there can be much speculation on payment to avoid deceit. It possibly was just a shrewd business move, but I think it was more. I think Abraham was acting out of integrity. Paid for the land, which his family would be buried to represent his family well. Also, he dealt fair with these foreigners to represent his God well. God’s Word warns us constantly against greed.

There is little more exciting to me than a good deal. My favorite word is F-R-E-E!!! How well do I represent my Lord, my family and myself if I take everything for free? There is careful discernment in seeing God’s blessing and knowing when to bless others. God’s blessing is not a one way stop into our lives, it should be a constant flow through our lives. 1 John 3:16-18 says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” So also other will know the love of God by our actions. The church has been vilified throughout history, some of it is perception of the observer, other times it our own actions. I am encouraged today to not be a Pake Full of Posies, but to allow blessings to flow through me. -jason