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

Advertisements

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

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

 

Cruising Attitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Upright and Free

 

The other day there was a police car behind me on the road. Immediately I start doing a mental check. Is my registration and safety check updated??? Was I speeding??? Did I pick up my phone??? Was my seatbelt off???

Everything was in check, but I still had this sense of uneasiness. Why? I’m not doing anything wrong? I usually set my cruise control to 5MPH over the speed limit, but I dropped it down to about 3 MPH over, just in case. When I finally convinced myself that I was doing nothing wrong, I felt at peace.

Fear, anxiety, anger, defensiveness, all these things come out when we are not walking upright. I have not always been a very lawful driver, so it’s embedded in my brain to react when a police car is behind me. When you are lawful, you have nothing to fear.

This is true in every area of life. When certain emotions are triggered inside of us, we need to ask ourselves, is it something I am doing to make me feel this way? Certainly if you are not upright in all that you are doing, you open the door to react in certain ways. When things are hidden and in the dark, you fear the light as it may expose your deceit. You become captive to lies and wrongdoing. When you live upright and true, you can find freedom in that.

Like many people, I first became a Christian and I was fearful that I was going to do something wrong. I looked in my moral rearview mirror for God to roll up behind me and give me a ticket. I had this perception that He was some sort of a moral police. Then I was transformed by grace. It wasn’t a ticket to do whatever I wanted, but it was the only ticket to freedom. Grace alone. There was nothing I could do to make myself innocent, only God’s grace. When my eyes were opened to the truth about God’s grace, my life was transformed. Suddenly, all you want to do is follow Christ, live upright in the eyes of the Lord.

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

James 1:23-25

Like police cars patrol the places we live, the Holy Spirit lives within us. Like police, we should be happy they are around, patrolling, looking out. We should not fear the police. Similarly, the Holy Spirit lives within each believer. We should not fear the Spirit’s direction and guidance. We should be joyful at the Spirit’s presence. Should we stray the Spirit convicts. The truth is, when the Spirit convicts the sentence is “guilty as charged”. Amazing grace! For those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, HIS kindness, leads us to repentance. Repentance is not earned, but a gift from God most high. Repentance overturns the sentence, INNOCENT and free to live upright by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. -jason

 

 

Move or Adapt

 

It’s cold! I know, I know, I live in Hawaii, that statement is absolutely absurd. Well, for me it’s cold. I have worn a hoodie every morning the last couple of weeks to take our dog out to walk. I wake up in the middle of the night to readjust my blanket because it’s cold. The funny thing is, when we lived in the Bay Area, I LOVED the weather. I would wear shorts and slippers and people would look at me like I was crazy. We would surf in the frigid waters at dawn and in the summer I would unzip my wet suit to let in the cool water. It was great! It is now 69 degrees in Hawaii and I am COLD. Maybe I’m just old. Some of you are nodding your heads. I tend to believe its all related to adaptability. We adjust to our environment, get acclimated to our surroundings and conform to that which becomes our norm.

Adaptability happens in all kinds of circumstances and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not so good. Marriage is one area that we all must adapt. Sometimes this is true more often than others. Emily and I were talking with another interracial couple the other night and laughing about the differences we journey through and learn from. Thankfully we can laugh about it as we learn to adapt. Think about your marriage. Have you laughed differently since being with them? Do you say certain things differently? Maybe you have adopted their facial expressions or mannerisms. Adaptability in marriage is a good thing.

Sometimes we adapt in less than positive ways. When Emily was pregnant I adapted to her diet and cravings. After she gave birth, I still looked pregnant. Not so good. Sometimes the people you hang around speak negatively and with a poor spirit. When these people are the ones we are around regularly, we can tend to adapt to that negative spirit too. In work, school, friendships and even family, we are influenced by our surroundings. We can also be the influencers, and that’s a good thing. If you can help a cold environment turn warm, that’s wonderful.

You may be in a situation that you can’t change. Just like I can’t make the weather warmer, I just have to adapt. Some people move residence to escape a certain climate. Maybe it’s time for you to make that move too. When you cannot be the influencer, and the environment around you is something you do not want to adapt to, you may need a new environment. -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