Hurricane Warning

Hurricane Lane came barreling toward the island state of Hawaii. An intense Category 5 Major Hurricane presented potentially catastrophic outcomes.

If you have lived in Hawaii for any significant amount of time, you likely have been around during some natural disaster warnings. Tsunami threats and hurricane/storm warnings are not uncommon. When these things happen, people start to prepare.

When I went to Costco there was a pallet of about 20 cases of water left. An employee was standing there loading the water into carts for customers limiting everyone to two cases. I stopped to get gas and there was only diesel and regular grade left, the lines were long. Everyone was preparing, and that is a good thing. Always be prepared.

There is a parable in the Bible that Jesus tells regarding the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven upon the earth. In this parable of the ten virgins, they are waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. They have lamps so that they will be able to participate in the celebration of the wedding feast between the bride (the Church) and the Bridegroom (Jesus Christ). Five of those virgins did not bring extra oil and therefore were unable to participate when the bridegroom arrived. (Matthew 25)

In the chapter preceding this one, Jesus gives the background to the need for this parable. Enraged with the Pharisees, He tells his disciples whats to come: 

“Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

This is just a sample of the signs of what is to come, the return of the Lord.

The Christian understanding is that we are all prone to turn from God. That’s just our nature. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the redeeming of many who He has called back to Him. In the end a storm is coming. There will be destruction, but those who are prepared will live.

Like a natural disaster, we should always be prepared, not just at the last minute. With the return of Jesus, we are already seeing the effects of the storm and we already have heralds proclaiming the coming storm. Will you be prepared?

Hurricane Lane has not passed us yet. We are not yet in the clear. The damage from heavy rains are already being broadcast on the news. Pray that it might move on with minimal further damage. This storm will eventually pass, but consider the spiritual storm that is brewing in our world. Be prepared, there is only one shelter available for this storm. -jason

 

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ICONIC

ICONIC

Marketing is so powerful. There are certain companies that have marketed themselves to be household names. Easily recognizable and so well integrated into our culture, these names become a part of our regular conversation. Consider how certain brands have become icons that shaped our society in the paragraph below.

What’s better than lounging in your Jacuzzi® while dinner cooks in the Crock Pot®. Please, if you have a cut, put a Band-Aid® on it before you get in. There are Q-Tips® if water gets into your ear and if the night gets chilly and you get a runny nose a box of Kleenex® is available. Go ahead and take some leftover dinner in a Tupperware® when you are done. You can use the Sharpie® to write your name on a piece of Scotch Tape® to label your food.

The list goes on…

These brand name’s have become iconic due to the fact that their names are tied to the general product, whether or not it is from their company. Hot tubs, slow cookers, bandages, cotton swabs, facial tissues, containers, markers and tape. A larger group of products in a saturated market is identified by one brand.

Sometimes icons are people. We have entertainment icons, sports icons, political icons, and we even have icons within our private institutions. We hear that “[so-and-so] is the face of football” or “[this person] IS Rock-n-Roll”. During my new employee orientation we learned about some of those icons at`Iolani School. These people were incredibly influential to the foundation of the school. Eddie Hamada, Harold Keables, Father Bray, and Reverend Coon are just a couple of those. Incredible people that were loved dearly and left their mark here.

At `Iolani School they push the philosophy of “One Team”. This was developed and lived out by the people mentioned above. With One Team there is a sense of humility as we strive for excellence together, unified. While certain people stand out in the foundation and history of the school, `Iolani is not represented by a few people, it’s everyone associated with the school. From past to present, from student to parent, from faculty to staff. We must carry out the values we pick up and learn from those who have come before. The icon of the school is the collective whole.

Honoring the memory of iconic people is very important and very valuable. May we never forget those who have gone before, paved the way and laid the foundation on which the many facets of our community are built. Let us also be sure that the values that they have exemplified live on through us. We cannot let the values and character they have shown us and taught us stay attached to a memory. When we carry on the work they have begun, we too become iconic as one with them. In everything you represent, be iconic. For your family, for your school, for your job, for your friends and for your beliefs, be iconic.

-jason

Instant Replay

The technology of instant replay is not a new one. Many sports incorporate instant replay in their games and have had it for years. Like most technology it is growing and developing every year. Also like most technology, there are pros and cons.

In the National Football League, instant replay was developed in 1976 and tested in 1978. Deemed too expensive and ineffective, it was shelved. Later in the mid 80’s new technology emerged and a new system was implemented. From 1986 – 1992 The NFL used instant reply during games. Still with the imperfection of the process it was voted against by team owners and once again the sport was without instant replay. Today we see instant reply that was revived in 1999 and voted to be permanent in 2007. With all the advances of technology, the process is still not perfect.

For the last couple of weeks there has been conversation about a Pittsburgh Steelers game that had a touchdown reversed because instant reply revealed that the receiver lost control of the ball when he hit the ground. It was so close even with instant reply the commentators were celebrating a touchdown. Only after several replays and careful inspection of the play did they see uncertainty. That frame-by-frame, slow motion replay of the catch created a stir and some controversy over this play.

Mabe similar can be said about our lives. Technology has created the ability for instant reply. Sometimes in a good way, like when Facebook flashes memories of five years ago, but maybe sometimes in a bad way, like archived tweets or Instagram pictures that never should have been sent out.

More than that, it’s the replay in our minds. It stirs controversy within us. “If I had only done XYZ”, “I can’t believe that happened to me!” We replay the tape over and over again. We analyze and dissect and every play-by-play of an event and we question the outcome.

Revisiting memories can be great and even beneficial. Replays of sports on ESPN is my main source of viewing. Sometimes some memories need to be left in the past. A decision was made, whether it was just or not. Right or wrong, life moved on. There are things you cannot change by dwelling on it. Turn off instant replay and let the game continue.

In this new year, may you treasure the wonderful memories of the past and move forward from the hurts, perceived injustices, regrets and uncertainties that are out of your control. No more instant replay, the game must go on. -jason

To BElieve or Not to BElieve

I had the “Santa talk” with the kids a few weeks ago.

Three kids fidgeting in their seats as I explained Santa. We explored real and not real. “Is daddy real?” “YES!”, they all agreed. Well, that’s a relief. “Is Mickey Mouse real?” “NO!” No, Mickey Mouse is a cartoon. “Is Santa Claus real?” With confused looks, as if they knew the right answer, but were unsure of how to answer that, they gave a mix of yes and no. I went on to explain that Santa was not real, but the reason we acknowledge Santa was to remember the spirit of giving. I went on to explain about the legends of a man named St. Nicholas. I told them how people remember his generosity by a tradition of giving. I told them that they will still get a Santa gift from us and I wanted them to start thinking about one person they could give a Santa gift to each year. I explained how remembering the birth of Jesus was the central focus of Christmas for our family. We give gifts because of the gift we were given in Jesus. Many questions and stories followed my presentation, but in the end, I’m pretty sure they still believe in Santa.

There are certain things that you just cannot convince people of. They will either believe or they won’t. At Christmas I think of the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. We understand how great a gift we have been given when we realize how desperately we need Him.

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” Romans 6:20-21

This is where it starts. The belief that we are all dead in sin. All of creation, all of nature is under the curse of sin. Sin, the rejection of God and all His righteousness.

Jesus says in Luke 13: “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

1 John 1:8-9 teaches us: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So we believe that sin has sentenced all of us to death, every single one of us. The Good News is that we are called to repentance that leads to life. This is the gift! It’s a gift because repentance is only available because Christ has died as the atoning sacrifice for all who believe. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Like my kids and Santa, I cannot make them believe and I’m not sure I want to MAKE them believe. At some point they will come to that conclusion themselves (maybe) and hopefully our talk will help with that revelation. In the same way, what I say will not make you believe, but when you come to that revelation through the Holy Spirit, hopefully this will help you along. I never want to try to force anyone to believe at risk of an insincere or misguided faith. Only the Holy Spirit convicts and transforms. Salvation and repentance, that is a gift of God: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9 Merry Christmas to you all. -jason

UUUUGE Walls

Since returning to Hawaii with my wife, I have seen things through her eyes. It’s been enlightening.

When we moved back we wanted to buy a van. We went to dealerships on the weekends and the salespeople were very friendly and personable. When I would go to work, Emily would go and check out vans and while the salesperson was nice, they often didn’t engage beyond a greeting. That was early on. In time I would see it even more. If I was with her or if they saw that her kids were hapa haole, they reacted different. She says even in conversation she will mention that her husband is a local Asian and their demeanor softens.

I’ve noticed a similar dynamic. When I talk to people that have moved here from the mainland and I tell them my wife is a blonde hair, blue eyed California girl. I feel like there is a sigh of relief. Like I understand something deeper. We had our friend’s aunt over from the Big Island and she looked at me with apprehension when I first met her. After a while she warmed up and said, “Thank you! You look like the kind of guys I was scared of in Kona. You’ve help changed my view of big local guys.” After living on the Big Island for decades, she was still apprehensive about local men.

We all do it. We build walls out of our perceptions, out of past experiences and out of what we have been taught. Most often we don’t even realize it. We don’t see the walls and in fact we might deny there are walls there.

It’s not just a dynamic with ethnicity. We see it in religion. A religious person might see a tattooed man drinking a beer and our walls go up, but then he says he’s a Christian and we see him differently. The opposite can be true if someone finds out your are a Christian and assume you must be a closed-minded, self-righteous bigot.

Social classes are displayed in dress or cars or other external things. We build our walls around our perceptions of poverty or wealth. What goes through your head when you see a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk in front of you? Again, the opposite is true. People of affluence are commonly looked at as snooty and arrogant.

Speaking of UUUGE walls. Political views have been a major divide. Conservative versus liberal, Democrat versus Republican. When you are driving behind a car with a Hillary or Trump sticker, what do you conclude about the person inside?

Job position, athleticism, place of residence, education, lifestyle choices, and so much more. These are all things we see externally that build walls and create borders. We are nice to people, but behind the safety of our walls. Behind these invisible borders we limit our views and miss out on tremendous opportunities for relationships, personal growth and opportunities to be a blessing.

In Galatians 3:27-29 the Apostle Paul writes: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” God doesn’t judge people by what’s on the outside. For His people we are all one, no divisions. For those who don’t know Him, I believe He is equally grieved, He doesn’t grieve over one more than another, for He loves all His creation. 

Be aware of the walls and borders you are building and consider tearing them down. You might realize you have been missing out on something great. -jason

Move-in Ready

We have been in our home for more than three years now. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to build our home on my parents property. With a limited income we tried to keep it simple. When the bids came in we went with the lowest bid. Being that it was a simple build, and knowing that kids will probably not be gentle on the home, it made sense. It was the first time we have been through this process so for the most part we just trusted the experts.

Almost four years later I look around our house and I think, “We should have put the stairs here” or “we should have put a window there.” I continue to find all the imperfections that might be expected when you go with the lowest bid. I begin to plan all the wonderful renovation projects I want to tackle some day, maybe.

On one hand I could have regret and remorse of how “we should have” done it. We could have possibly spent more time planning and developing to get it perfect, but would it have been?

When I look around at our house I am grateful. We have a place to live. All these things that may have been better, I wouldn’t have noticed till we moved in anyway. Some times you just have to move in to see what it’s like before you can know what to change.

I understand the desire to have everything perfect. Who wouldn’t want everything to be just the way they want it. Let me save you the suspense, perfect is not a reality. The desire to have everything perfect causes delays or even brings a stop to moving forward with life. We can get so captivated by the fantasy of perfect we miss out on something great.

In the Christian faith, the power of God’s grace makes me overwhelmed with gratitude. Christ moves into our imperfect hearts and transforms us. We walk with Jesus, not because we are perfect and deserve it, but because we are move-in ready just the way we are. The Spirit does the renovation and often we don’t even see the imperfections till He moves in. Ephesians 2:8,9 speak clearly to this:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Could be a home, could be a job change, could be a relationship. You are uncertain, it’s not quite perfect, not quite the way you want it. Sometimes you have to just make the decision to move in and work with what you have in gratitude. This job, home, relationship, or whatever else it is, it may not seem move-in ready, but it may be time to be ready to move in. There are things we can work on that we won’t see till we get there.

Reflect on the love and grace of Jesus. He’s ready to begin renovations, He doesn’t wait for perfection. In that same love and grace, we move forward in life. With gratitude for what we have we realize that life is imperfect and as we move forward we realize we often only find growth when we are willing to move in first.  -jason

 

 

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

 

Regular Maintenance

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

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

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

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

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

Permanently Temporary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Realities

This past week I started my new job. It was a tough couple of days, much harder than I expected.

It was a process of saying goodbye to co-workers and friends from my previous employment so it didn’t really hit me. I remember one of the last things I said before I left was, “It doesn’t feel like I’m leaving. I hope I don’t drive here next week on accident!”

I didn’t. I made the drive in the opposite direction. Kind of symbolic in a way. When I checked in at my new job, reality hit me. Reality caught me with a cheap shot right in the face. I don’t usually feel lonely, but I did that first day. Suddenly it was real, I won’t be back at the church I worked at for the last 4 1/2 years. This was my new reality. Honestly, it kind of sucked.

That day I got home and Emily’s friend was over. She worked with Emily a while ago, but had to leave the island and seek out treatment for cancer. Frequent and on going medical procedures, hair loss, lifestyle changes and permanent impacts on her life were her new reality. I’m certain the adjustment was tough, I just cannot imagine. Here she was, months later, pressing on, keeping a positive attitude in her new reality.

My father had part of his leg amputated when he was in his 20’s. Most people don’t even realize he has a prosthetic leg. Again, how does someone deal with that? How do you go on? He did. He got married, raised children, had a successful career, still went hunting and fishing regularly and accepted his new reality.

So many people are encountering new realities that take an adjustment. Change is inevitable. Sometimes it is as simple as switching jobs, other times it’s drastic, like physical impairments or loss of a loved one. We face the new reality, then we learn to move forward in it.

Have you faced changes recently? What’s your new reality?

The change and challenges may seem insurmountable, but do not lose heart. You will get adjusted to your new reality. Remember also, change is inevitable, so keep looking forward and be prepared for the next part of the journey.

The best path to take is the one that the Lord lays out ahead of you. There may be oppression, there may be deserts, there may be many challenges, but when you know the final plan, it’s all worth it. When you seek the Lord with all your heart each moment of life becomes the reality that leads to one glorious destination. No fault of man, no poor choice, no hurdle of life will keep you from the grace of God. (cf. Romans 8:38-39)

Embrace your new reality and discover the possibilities that lay ahead on the journey. I know for me I will get settled, find my place, and by the grace of God, bring Him glory in my work. Know also that you are not alone, not only does the Lord desire for you to call to Him, but I want to walk with you in the changes of life, the hurdles, and the challenges. In whatever way I can, I will support you in your new realities. -jason