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

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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

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

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

 

 

Watch Your Step

Watch Your Step

Last week I turned over in bed and discovered one of my children had climbed in with us. It was Aubrey. I can’t remember the last time Aubrey came into our bed in the middle of the night. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep, but Aubrey is just too big now. I picked her up and carried her back to bed. Now I lay in bed, still dark and I suddenly feel wide awake. I look at the clock 3:55. Then I get the thought to hike Koko Head. I had thought about doing it one morning, but could never get up in time. Well, I’m up. So I pack some water, put on some shoes and head out.

As I’m walking in the dark I have my little flashlight directing my way. Alone hiking up a dark hill I have a lot of time to think. My thoughts turn to the Lord and I confess my burdens to Him. I stop for a rest. Turn around and sit on the track and shine it down the hill. My little flashlight can’t see very far. Hmm…kind of like life.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The imagery is placing you in a dark setting, a place where you need the light. You are navigating through by the light of God’s Word. Like the flashlight I used to hike with, you can see maybe a few steps in front of you, you might not see your final destination. You stay focused on what you can see, right in front of you, that’s all you need to see for now. Just like the Koko Head Trail, if you have a misstep, it could be disastrous.

It was a good word for me. Maybe you too feel like it’s hard to see what’s ahead, maybe it seems like you are walking in the dark. Focus on the steps in front of you. Take it one step at a time. If you can’t even see that, pause and turn your thoughts to the Lord. Sincere time in prayer and scripture will be your guide. The truth of God Word is the avenue of the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Matthew 6:34 also says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Be encouraged friend. With the Lord directing you, you will reach the top, there will be a sunrise over the darkness and the view from the top of the Lord’s mountain is breathtaking. Watch your step, don’t look too far ahead, be strong and courageous. You WILL get to the top. -jason

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Fear Factory

My children, like most children are afraid of the dark. This only happened recently for Jonah. A few months ago we would read a couple books, sing a song, pray and I would say good night and shut his door and he would go to sleep. Soon he started asking for a nightlight and it progressed to leaving the door open. Now he will randomly call for us, even with the nightlight on, the door open and the hall light on, because he’s afraid.

This morning Jonah woke up at 5am and sat in the bathroom with me while I brushed my teeth and shaved. I asked him why he woke up so early and he said because he’s scared. When I asked what he’s scared of he said, “I don’t know”.

Isn’t that true for many of us? We are afraid, we have fears, but we don’t quite know what we are afraid of. Like children, the more we learn and discover, the more our potential for fears grow. Our minds are fear factories. With the ubiquitous and instantaneous connection to information our minds are flooded even more than ever with information. All that information is processed and some of it feeds our fears. Nuclear threats, economic forecasts, natural disasters, violent crimes and even medical crisis all get processed in the fear factories of our minds. In the world of psychology they have labels for a variety of fears. In the Peanuts Christmas movie Lucy is trying to diagnose Charlie Brown: “Are you afraid of responsibility? If you are, then you have hypengyophobia. How about cats? If you’re afraid of cats, you have ailurophasia. Are you afraid of staircases? If you are, then you have climacaphobia. Maybe you have thalassophobia. This is fear of the ocean, or gephyrobia, which is the fear of crossing bridges. Or maybe you have pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?”Charlie Brown asks, “What’s pantophobia?” Lucy responds, “The fear of everything.”

It is almost certain that we all have fears. The strongest of women and the toughest of men all have their fears. Some of us understand it, some of us don’t. Many times we try to mask it. I believe this is the appeal of horror shows. Some of these shows are absolutely horrendous! Regardless, people love them, I believe, because it gives them a tangible fear to distract from the real fears inside.

With so many verses in the Bible on fear, I believe we need to start with Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” It is the renewing of your mind, a work of the Spirit, which will keep you from thinking in the way of worldly fears, but will find peace and comfort in the perfect will of God. It is then that we can understand the promise of God in 2 Timothy 1:7, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

We all have our fears and they may not disappear forever, but when we are walking with God His Spirit delivers us from fear. This Christmas may you rejoice in the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. With the grace of God that is delivered to man through Jesus, we can renew our minds from fear factories to peace and love. -jason

New Beginnings

Going to a new church was surprisingly filled with levels of anxiety. Surprising because it really was not a new church, it was a church that I had been a member at before I left for California in 2005. Pulling into the parking lot was familiar but different. In just a few years there had been so much that had changed in my life: married, three children and so much personal growth. Funny, growth often comes with the acknowledgement of how much more growing needs to take place. Friendly faces are scattered across the parking lot, many I know from years ago, some exactly as I remember, some I recall with some uncertainty. They have a nursery and a Sunday school for my girls, a wonderful resource for Emily and I to focus on our Sunday worship and oddly a slightly cold feeling as I reminisce of moments in our country church when Aubs or Kammy would just run up to me during a sermon and I would carry them up and continue my message. None good or bad, just different, appropriate for each setting. We are grateful to see that there are warm and loving volunteers to welcome our children into their care. When we enter the sanctuary scenes flash from the archives of my memory. I remember time spent in the balcony as good friends operate the sound and lighting, I am taken back to a monologue that I delivered for a Christmas performance. Then on that very stage I sat with the Senior Pastor and the former Youth Minister. We watched as the empty seats slowly filled, more faces from my past visiting my memory once more, searching for names to attach to faces. Behind us the authoritative sound of the organ and the choir fill the large space. The combination of the commanding music and the spotlight shining on the stage send ripples into my nerves and the anxiety is revisited. I stare down at the program in my hands and again my thoughts drift to my country church and the fond memories there. I smile to myself as I recall standing in front of no more than a dozen, slippahs on my feet, stained pants that represent the battles of parenthood and a partially wrinkled shirt, no bulletins, no commitment to a set order of worship, sometimes not even music planned. With hymnals on the seats I would ask, “Does anyone feel led to share a hymn of worship?” and almost certainly someone would speak up and we would worship together in song. I am brought back to the present by the majestic organ, beautiful, powerful sound. As the service got underway and the parts were played and the schedule unfolded, a peace came over me, there are new beginnings in life, some may be new experiences in old places, some may be old experiences in new places and while often times there will be differences I am resting in the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the center of it all. New additions to my family, new residence, new employment and new place of worship, if I live by the understanding that “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me and the life I now live in the flesh I life by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me”(Galatians 2:20), I rest assured that my foundation will always be the same. Wherever life may lead, wherever the Lord may call, lean upon Jesus Christ for all things. Call upon the name of the Lord, in repentance and humility, in belief of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh and you find your hopes, your dreams, your expectations secured in the knowledge that the Will of the Lord is good and perfect beyond our understanding. We are excited to be with the Olivet Baptist Church family, many I already knew as brothers and sisters in Christ, many I am meeting for the first time. I am also grateful that my brothers and sisters from Kahalu`u will always be apart of the family of God, a bond that is not broken as long as we walk in the Light of Jesus Christ. Here’s to new beginnings! May you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, as the firm foundation of which you live your life, so no matter where you go, no matter what changes, no matter your experiences, your feet will always be planted on the solid Rock of Jesus.