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

Advertisements

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

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

Follow the Leader

Watching my three kids grow up has been fascinating. Their personalities are so different and the way they interact with one another is intriguing at times. One dynamic that comes out is the leadership role. With three kids it often takes on different forms. Aubrey as the oldest tends to exert her authority as the oldest and takes the lead. Kamryn, as the middle child, tend to be the mediator between the younger and older and at times that tends to place her in the leadership role. Then there is Jonah, the youngest and the only boy. He loves to follow his sisters, but there is this drive to lead the way. Mostly, being the “baby”, he ends up in frustration as his sisters go their own way.

Leadership has been on my radar recently. It is such an important role, yet we often find people in leadership that are questionable in their ability to lead. I’m looking at the political world, globally, nationally and locally. It’s not a party issue it’s across the board. We have weak leaders. I look at organizations and companies and I see the same issues, weak leadership. Patrick Lencioni makes a challenging statement about non-profit organizations in his book “The Advantage”:

“Nowhere does the tendency toward artificial harmony show itself more than in mission-driven non-profit organizations. People in those organizations tend to have the misguided idea that they cannot be frustrated or disagreeable with one another. What they’re doing is confusing being nice with being kind.”

Everywhere you turn leadership is challenged. Books are published everyday on leadership. They become best sellers and produce “gurus” who speak around the world on leadership. Still, we struggle to develop good leaders.

Like many things I have come to see that it is a multifaceted and cyclical thing. Many are afraid of leading. Our society has developed a strong aversion to authority and leaders are often chastised. Even in our marriages men don’t lead because of the mindset that leading equals domineering. Organizations choose amendable leaders and they get exactly what they, not necessarily what they need. This leads the way to a growth in leaders that are conflict avoidant and people pleasing. In his book “Mistakes Leaders Make” Dave Kraft says about leaders:

“To be frank, I meet very few leaders who honestly, gracefully, and promptly deal with conflict. I don’t mean this to be unkind, but many leaders are ‘relational cowards.’”

In no way am I a great leader. I will continue to discover those books and attend those conferences on leadership in hopes to grow as a leader. In these two books that I mentioned there are so many aspects to leadership that are absolutely convicting. It’s also painfully obvious that we live in a world that is plagued by poor leadership. Leaders are figureheads, puppets and representatives instead of strong, inspiring, team building visionaries. In another quote from “The Advantage”, Lencioni says:

“At every step in the process, the leader must be out front, not as a cheerleader or a figurehead, but as an active, tenacious driver.”

Demand strong leadership, not dictatorship or cowardice. Seek leaders in our marriages, in work, in government and in every area of life, look for compassionate, sacrificial, confident and bold leaders. This is the key to health and progress. -jason

Mind Over Manners

Something has been replaying in my mind the last few days. Our family stopped off to get some food for a potluck. We walked into the restaurant and I noticed a transgender individual sitting, waiting for an order. I didn’t think twice about this individual, I just went to look at the menu.

In Hawaii there are very open and supportive LGBT policies and views. Perhaps this is why I have never really thought much about my interaction with anyone that was homosexual or transgender. While my personal views hold me to the belief that it is not a lifestyle I should choose, I understand and respect that others do not hold the same belief. I have friends that choose this lifestyle and I love them just as I love any of my other friends. I don’t think I have ever been uncomfortable around an LGBT individual because of their lifestyle choice, until now.

As I stood looking at the food, Kammy comes up to me and in a LOUD whisper says, “Dad! Is that a man or woman?” HUH? How do I answer that? In my adult mind I can reconcile this situation, but how to I explain that to a 5-year-old right in front of this individual? My first thought is, “I don’t know what this person would like to be identified as!” I’m trying to formulate how to address this and she repeats it two more times. By the second time she says it, Jonah jumps in, and his whisper is even louder. “DAD! Is that a man or woman?”

I’m sure it was probably over the duration of only a minute, but it felt like an hour had passed. I rein my mind in and I tell the kids, “Why don’t you introduce yourself?” Before I complete my first word this individual says, “It’s okay. Really. It’s okay.” Geez, I was not ready for that conversation. It was right up there with, “Dad, is that lady pregnant?” Kids, have a way to create some awkward moments.

My mind, in trying to find the best politically correct thing to say, made me forget my manners. My core belief is that all creation is from the Lord and He loves His creation. When asked the greatest commandment Jesus says, love God and the second is like it, love others as yourself. The “right” thing to say overshadowed my core beliefs. It was my mind over my manners.

I’m sure I am probably going to get some backlash for this post. I’m sure there are many beliefs our there and you all would handle the situation differently. For me, I think the next time I’m in that situation I would walk Kamryn over and I would say, “It is not polite to ask a person if they are a man or a woman, but we can introduce ourselves and say, ‘Hi, my name is Kamryn.’” In my opinion transgender, homosexual, heterosexual or whatever other classification is out there, we must see a person beyond their sexual preferences. That’s what I want my kids to know. That’s what I want to teach them. Maybe then they won’t stumble on their mind over their manners. -jason

A Literate Heart

I have the opportunity to volunteer in Kamryn’s class for an hour on Mondays. I have been asked to sit with the kids and walk them through their reading program. There is a broad spectrum of literacy in the Kindergarten class. Some kids are still challenged by sounding out most words, while other kids can read with efficiency and proper emphasis on punctuation. This morning I asked a couple of the kids to tell me what the story was about. Some could read the words fairly well, but at the end of the story they couldn’t tell me what it was about. Reading comprehension is still developing in a few of them.
Literacy is more than just reading the words and we all walk through stages of literacy in many areas of life. Some people have given their lives to a profession to become highly literate in their field. I dabble with small auto repairs, but for larger jobs I would have to lean on the literacy of a trained mechanic. When I consider many things in the world, I can see how illiterate I am. Unfortunately, many illiterate people take to social media and give their opinion in harmful ways. Sometimes it even comes from someone that is completely literate in one field of study, and interject careless opinion into an area they know little about.
We can know basic facts, we can absorb the abundance of information that flows through our electronic devices, but without a deeper understanding of these facts, we are illiterate. We know the words, but we don’t know the story.
We are reading through the Bible in two years at our church. It has been a great experience for many so far. As a staff we are looking at ways to get our church to go deeper into the understanding of the Bible. We can read through the whole Bible, we can memorize verses, we can recite Bible stories, but without understanding we remain Biblically illiterate. Without study and understanding you will not get past the words, to discover THE Word. Teachers and preachers are trained and taught to develop literacy of the Bible, but ultimately the Holy Spirit guides all into the literacy of God’s Word.
Let’s be a literate people, especially with our world of social media and “instaopinion” applications on our phones. Seek understanding. Don’t just read words, know the story, this is the literacy of the heart. -jason
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:2

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

Jesus Christ Trumps Any President

Jesus Christ Trumps Any President

Recently I posted a couple of articles on my Facebook page and got some strong responses. The articles really centered on Donald Trump. On both sides of the spectrum you find strong opinions and arguments for and against a vote for Trump from well-respected Christian leaders. So how should we vote as Christians? This is what I have felt the Lord has spoken to me, perhaps what He has led me to, will guide you as well.

To me it rest on the absolute sovereignty of God. Do you believe that the Lord is absolutely sovereign? Do you believe that His will is perfect? If you do, then the next president cannot be decided unless the Lord has ordained it in His perfect plan for His creation.

Recently Emily and I have been discussing 1 Samuel. The people of Israel wanted a king. Samuel argued that they had a king, God. They insisted and God not only appointed, but He anointed Saul. Even in His sovereign action, 1 Samuel 15 says that God regretted. Why did He regret? Did He make a mistake? Well, no. God, grieved. He gave the people exactly what they wanted, an earthly king. They turned from God and so did their king. He regretted, or grieved the fact that He had to do it, it was part of the plan. No mistakes.

I’m certain many will disagree with me, but this is not a Christian nation and our presidential candidates, in my observation, are not Christian. They may identify as Christian, but I believe like most of America it is more of a cultural practice or family tradition, not a proclamation of a regenerate spirit.

So how should we vote? Here is what I have concluded. Voting is significant. It’s your right as a citizen, but I also believe it is your duty. God is sovereign over all things, and He can use even our individual votes to direct that. In absolute faith of God’s sovereignty, it really isn’t about getting “our candidate” into office. It is about obedience to God. Here is what I recommend:

1) Know your candidates the best you can. Research. See where they stand on certain policies. Be informed.

2) Understand how they align with Biblical values and commands. Rest assured you will not find a candidate that completely aligns with scripture. As Christians we should understand where to stand on issues of our country as God’s Word instructs us.

3) Take it to the Lord in prayer. Seek His guidance. Ask for His direction and be sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

4) Vote your convictions. Where you believe the Lord is directing you.Trust in His sovereign will and in obedience cast your vote.

5) Don’t judge anyone else’s decision for a vote. Unless there is blatant sin in a persons action to vote for a certain candidate, keep your personal convictions to yourself.

Remember brothers and sisters, this is not our home. 1 Peter 2 reminds us to be subject to every human institution for the sake of the Lord. He also reminds us that we are sojourners and exiles in this world. The promise of the Lord is that He will judge all creation in His righteous and perfect way and time. We are to persevere and follow Him. As long as we are following Him, seeking Him and committed to the ways of our Lord, we can have peace. The prophecy of Isaiah is clear on the promises of God,

“’No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,And their vindication is from Me,’ declares the Lord.”

No weapon formed against you shall prosper, not even a crazy, lying, or completely carnal president. Our God reigns! -jason