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

Play It Safe

A couple weeks ago I attended an active shooter training at work. The Honolulu Police Department did an excellent job in educating and encouraging us to consider strategies and tools to help make the school a safer place in the event of an active shooter. While it was a very good and relevant training, I thought to myself how unfortunate it is that we even have to think about these things.

Later that week Emily and I watched one of our favorite shows, Alone, on the History channel. Ten people are dropped off all alone in the wilderness, this time in Mongolia. The participants run their own cameras and a couple of them are filming in the middle of the night with night vision. They are in their sleeping bags while rumblings and calls of what sounds like large animals are right outside their make shift shelters. In seasons past that fear for personal safety has push contestants to “tap out”.

The idea of safety is interesting. It really is a construct of society. In some ways an illusion. A social psychologist named Azim Shariff developed a theory that religion, and specifically God, was the creation of man to enforce accountability on people as communities began to grow too large to oversee. His study on the effects of a belief in God and cheating show that belief often curbs the temptation to cheat. In effect, the creation of a God creates with it a sense of safety. I must add, while this may be  accurate and astounding data, it falls short to disprove the existence of God.

With recent and growing concern over gun control, I have been so torn by both sides. When you look at it, they are promoting two views of safety.

On one hand you have George Young Jr. of Hilo, HI. He sued the State of Hawaii because he was denied an open carry license. By the laws in Hawaii he is technically able to obtain a license should he prove the need. As an older man who has years of fire arms training in the military and law enforcement, he feels the need for protection. Having a weapon makes him feel he can keep himself safe.

On the other hand you have others that say laws that allow the government to control the individuals ability to own a firearm will minimize danger. In this perspective people are trusting that the government will keep them safe.

In any event, safety is a matter of perspective. We think about the past and wonder why things aren’t like they used to be. It was much safer then, or was it? It’s what you believe is keeping you safe. This is true with kids. Jonah talks about lava and robbers. Are this real threats? Well, in some regard, yes. Our job as parents is to help Jonah and our girls feel safe.

Do you feel safe? It’s all a matter of perspective. Safety is in many ways a construct of the mind. Even in Christianity people may feel safe in their belief in God. With a true understanding of Biblical teaching, safety is assured for the believer in eternity, not in the flesh. Does that mean that God doesn’t protect our physical bodies? No, He can, but it’s not an assurance.

Perhaps we sometimes need to set aside certain realities and just “play” it safe. -jason

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

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

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

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

Casual Sex, Serious Consequences

My youth sexual education was mostly peer influenced. Ignorant conversations about sex with peers, pornography and even public media moving closer to pornographic imagery, these are the things that I was exposed to. The eighties had an uptick in movies like Casual Sex and Porky’s that painted a very loose picture of sex. In today’s movie scene we mock the 40-year-old virgin and are appalled in sitcoms with the character who has not had sex in a month. This is normal behavior in our societal standards. I am convinced this type of thinking strongly contributes to the sexual misconduct that is being uncovered recently. It may be casual sex, but there are serious consequences.

Admittedly this is not a parallel comparison, but it is interesting to me that when there is a deadly shooting many look to change in policy and overarching value shifts. It’s a community problem. When there is sexual deviancy, we don’t look at societal influence but focus solely on the individual. We need to, in all situations, look at both the part and the whole.

On an individual level we can look at biology. Men, we have all heard, have sex on their minds constantly. I’m not sure how that is measured and how valid some of those statistics are, but I did get some interesting information at a recent conference. The presenter was speaking on brain chemistry of boys and girls. She stated that boys experience a burst of dopamine at the anticipation of sex, greater than the actual act of sex. This is why pornography is a mega industry that will continue to find its way in the hands of adolescent boys everywhere. On an individual level, for men in particular, we must understand this propensity for irrational thoughts and action when it comes to the chemical effects of perceived sexual encounters.

On a larger scale, how do we address this information? I believe we need to reevaluate our societal views and values on sexuality. This is not a religious plea, it’s a plea for humanity. Our openness and loosening of moral principles in the area of sexuality are NEVER excuses for sexual deviancy, but we must not neglect the pathways we create.

In seminary we studied about Emperor Nero. Scary dude. One area that was discussed was his twisted sexual appetite that only grew over time. My theory: The anticipation of a sexual encounter fueled his desire for more and as the all powerful emperor of Rome, it required more perversion and extremely deviant behaviors to achieve that.

Fast forward to today. Sexual misconduct is being uncovered and exposed in many high profile people. We are appalled as a society and we should be. How could this happen? Well, look at the world we live in. A sexualized society of casual sexual encounters and we are normalizing this. High profile men who are absorbed by their power and status push the limits of that anticipatory pleasure seeking rush. It happens once. They want more. The Nero effect unfolds. It takes more and they push things further.

Sexuality is not the only value system that is weak and destructive to our society. Certainly there are many others. This one area of casual sex is threatening our society. Personally, I have seen how deceptively destructive it is to relationships. We must demand that the beautiful expression of sex be preserved in a committed, monogamous and loving relationship. The way we value sex directly impact how we value people and relationships. This is the fabric of community. There is absolutely NO excuse for sexual misconduct, but I urge you all to consider how casual sex has serious consequences.  -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