Running the Red

It was me. I was the idiot driver that you shook your head at a couple weeks ago.

My family and I were invited to a day at the pool and I was trying to plot out the route in my head. While carefully and strategically downloading my mental map, I drove straight through a red light. Emily almost passed out and the woman that was about to drive through the intersection honked her horn and gave me “the look”. I totally deserved that.

This was actually the second time in my life I did something like this. Once I drove right through a STOP sign. Teren and I had been over at Trav’s house till the sun came up the next morning. It was time to head home. Although no alcohol was consumed, sleep deprivation had me impaired. While driving Teren home my mind was fixed on our conversation, I went right through a normally busy intersection. Thankfully, it was very early in the morning so no one was around.

This is no lighthearted matter. Just the other day in Honolulu’s Chinatown, a woman was killed and two others injured when a car ran the red light and struck them.

In my situation, my eyes were fixed on the road, but my mind wasn’t. When we become preoccupied or unfocused we become unaware of the lights and signs that are warning us. These signs may be in the form of health symptoms, emotional distress, relationship issues and a variety of other things. We are on the go and our bodies, our brains, the people and circumstances around us are telling us to STOP. Without realizing it we just drive through the intersection. I thank the Lord for His protection that no one was hurt when I ran the red.  As it was in recent news, the outcome can be deadly.

We can look so far ahead that we don’t see what’s right in front of us. We may be under the influence of some intoxicating emotion or way of thinking and become impaired. More recently, people become distracted by cell phones and other things. Perhaps we might just not be in a condition to be moving forward and we have limited faculties. The road your are on may come in the form of relationships like marriage, family and friendships. Your journey could be your career or professional goals. Stopping before you move forward might save you from a tragic accident and allow you to safely arrive at your destination.

Pay attention to the signs in your life that might be telling you it’s time to stop. Take a pause. Take a minute to see the cars going in the opposite direction. Allow people to cross your path safely before you continue on your journey. Don’t run the red. -jason

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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

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

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

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

Wea U Stay?

When I lived in California my ears would perk up when I heard someone speaking pidgin. Talking with friends over the phone would frighten some of my friends that aren’t from Hawaii, but it would transport me back to my island home. Often the conversation would begin with, “Wassup? Wea u stay?”

Even though I am back home pidgin still has the same effect on me. Seems pidgin is phasing out of our society because it is frowned upon so I don’t feel like I hear it as much. 

When I started this new job it felt a little weird. It’s not quite your place and you are stranger to everyone. One person made me feel welcomed. She is the custodian responsible for the building I am housed in. She is a sweet local woman that is always smiling and joyful and speaks some serious pidgin! There’s all kinds of pidgin, as some may not know. Her’s is this soft, warm pidgin, reminds me of the Uncle on Rap’s Hawaii feeding his chickens. Makes me feel at home.

What makes you feel at “home”? With so much going on in our lives we are running from place to place. We can sometimes be strangers in our own world and sometimes we just need to return “home”. Living in Hawaii I meet a lot of transient people. People are led to the islands through the military, employment opportunities or just adventure. Often I hear them mention that certain things remind them of home. When they catch the smell of a certain flower, taste a certain food, or hear a certain accent from back home, it’s like they are transported. You can see the escape to joy on their face.

No matter wea u stay, you might need to return “home” for a bit. Talk to a childhood friend, listen to a song that transports you to a happy time in the past, take a lunch break and eat something that reminds you of the good ol’ days. Wherever you are, take a break today and return “home”, if even just for a few minutes. Escape to that joy of home. -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

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