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

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

Good Deeds, Great Lesson

Last week a very close friend called me to meet up. He was in from California and wanted to share with me a financial company that he had been trying to establish himself in.

When I got to the little cafe he was sitting there with a business associate. This other gentleman was very nice and friendly. He was there to be the spokesperson for this financial program. My friend mostly sat back and listened.

During the presentation the gentleman mentioned building assets to pass on to the next generation. He said, “That’s our goal, building wealth that we can pass on to our kids.” I stopped him with a skeptical and screeching, “Weeeeelllll….” In recalling the story this is where my wife rolls her eyes.

I continue by reflecting on the dynamic of passing on wealth. Earlier we were talking about the fantasy world that people live in and how it seems to be growing with younger generations. I reflected on stories my parents told me and stories many of you have heard from your parents who were in that builder generation. Starting off as a young married couple, living in a small apartment, sleeping on a twin bed, eating sardines and rice for dinner. That generation gave blood sweat and tears to get where they are now. In turn, they wanted to build wealth for their kids so their kids wouldn’t have to go through what they went through. “Yet”, I pondered out loud, “how much of what they went to built the character of who they are now and what they have become?” Perhaps this is what feeds the unrealistic expectations of the next generation. I hear comments from the older generation toward the younger that they are too lazy. Shoot, I feel too lazy when I see what my parents do!

Eyes wide open because I am hijacking this presentation, the business associate says, “Yes, that is why we need to educate them.” I agreed wholeheartedly and added, “We need to teach them about Jesus and a Biblical understanding of money.” The wheels are spinning in his head, I can see it. “Well..”, he replies, ” sometime people pass on their wealth to their churches.” My eyes squinting in thought…I respond with a low, ‘Hmmm…about that….”

At this point he probably is wondering why in the world my friend set this meeting up.

I went on to question if there is a similar thing. I had been preparing for my sermon that Sunday and the scripture describe a comfortable church that was absent of the Holy Spirit. I shared way too much and way too passionately for a financial presentation, it just spewed out of me.

It was not my intention to hijack the meeting. He was a good guy and they were sharing a very significant product on a very important topic. It did make me think a lot about how well intended things like providing financial security for the next generation can have its detrimental effects.

It’s not a bad thing to provide financially for generations to come, its actually a very good thing. It’s also good to think about what impact that might have in the long run. What lessons and character traits are being overlooked when a good deed, results in unwelcome results? Never stop doing good and never stop helping others pursue greatness in themselves. -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.

 

 

CAGED

CAGED

When I helped chaperone Kammy’s field trip to the zoo I was reminded of some of my feelings about the zoo. I remember visiting the zoo in San Francisco thinking, “We humans are pretty arrogant that we think capture animals and stick them in cages for our entertainment.” Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the zoo. In situations that animals cannot fend in the wild, I am glad there are zoos that will take them in and care for them.

As I walked around the zoo I noticed the construction in certain areas and the recent renovations of some. Rusty and Violet are on my kids favorites list. Last week we were not able to see them, but they have a nice set up, hammocks, regular feedings, toys, and any comforts they could ask for. Some of the other exhibits have similar luxuries that I imagine are not afforded for in the wild.

I imagined other animals in the wild that have to find their own food and may not have a regular shelter over their heads. I thought about how good some of these animals in the zoo have it. Then I remembered once again, they are captive. They may have many things, but freedom is not one of them.

Living in Hawaii is tough financially. People figure out how to make it work, but many struggle. Sometimes the struggle is just the reality of an individuals life, other times financial hardships and debt come out of choices, and often choices of luxury. We see on our social media that our friends have a nice house, or got the latest car, they dine at the new trendy restaurants and have the privilege of many other luxuries in life. Some can genuinely afford it, others may be living beyond their means.

Our financial struggles become a prison, whether it is debt, overtime hours, the second job, or perhaps even illegal pursuits. We enjoy the luxuries of life within the confines of our walls of debt and financial hardship. Perhaps the walls even look like stress, health issues, broken marriages, or many other manifestations of the consequence of living beyond your means. With all the indulgences of life, are you free? For some, the answer is “yes”. That’s a wonderful blessing! For others, you might assess and realize that there is a sheet of glass between your luxuries and freedom. -jason

 

 

Distracted

Just got back from volunteering in Karmyn’s class. I have the opportunity to go in every Monday and read with the children. There are different levels and series of books that move these Kindergartener’s through their reading development. Some of the kids might actually read better than I do, while others need a little extra support to get to where they need to be.

Often I chuckle when I watch the kids. They are so easily distracted. Take one kid I was working with today. Sweet boy, always smiling, always happy when I see him. While I was walking the kids to school he was walking in barefoot. “Where are your slippers?” I asked. “Oh, I forgot to bring them.” He causally says with a big smile. His mom came back later to bring them. He was the first I read with this morning and after we were done, I asked him to call the next child. “Taj, can you get Harley for me?” I ask. “Okay!” I watch him as he weaves his way to his desk to put his folder away. The slap bracelet in his bag catches his attention and he gives it a couple of good slaps on his wrist before putting it back and closing up his bag. He realizes he forgot to get something out so he opens his bag again and digs through his folder. Out come some forms. When he finally gets his bag closed and put away, he works his way over to the teacher. Along the way his attention is pulled to things that are on other peoples desks. He stops to read them. Eventually after touching a few things along the way, he hands his forms over to his teacher and makes his way to the group sitting in the front of the class. I watch him as he weaves his way to the far side of the group where Harley is sitting. His line seems to be heading toward the right direction, he makes eye contact with the student, then he pulls a 180 and spots his friend at the opposite end of the group, where he makes his final destination. I laughed to myself as I got up to call the next kid to read. Totally something one of my children would do. So easily distracted.

Not just kids. We can too, and on an even larger scale. What are some of your goals you had when you were younger? Where are you on that path now? What were your goals in having children? Where are you in your parenting now? Career? Finances? Ministry? Family?

Maybe we had aspirations to “make a difference in the world”. Then mortgages got a hold of us, and even more so because we got distracted by wanting the bigger house. Making a difference shifted to making more money. When we had kids we may have said, “I just want us to be healthy and happy.” Then they get older and education becomes more real and every other parent is talking about private school and extra curricular activities. Time to build deep bonds with your children might have been replaced with overtime to afford tuition and sports or other activities on the weekends because they need to be “well-rounded.” I think about pastors and how easily building a church business instead of a church body has distracted many.

Have you been distracted from your final destination? It’s not to late to reset the course. May you reach the goals you set before you. -jason

What Does Your Garden Grow?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does your garden grow? -jason

A Pake Full of Posies

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

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

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

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

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