Trip to Paradise: Top Tips for a Vacation in Oahu.

Marriage and Family

2019 marks a significant year for my family. Jennifer and I celebrated 25 years of marriage, our daughter turned 16, and we recently moved our son to attend university. To add some icing to this cake of big events, we decided for the whole family to take a trip to Hawai’i. I am so glad we did. What an amazing time of making wonderful memories!

Why Oahu? I am familiar with this island. Many years ago, I was able to take a trip there to visit my sister who was living there at the time. Of all the places I have journeyed around the globe, my mind will often float back to one of the most beautiful places I have ever experienced, and I will share more about that spot here in just a moment. I also like that this island is easy to navigate, with a mix of downtown vibe, to a feeling of being on your very own beach or trail. Here is a quick list of the top tips for a vacation in Oahu.

I like the East Shore (Windward)

First tip, focus on the East Side of Oahu. No doubt the entire Island is beautiful, it’s Hawai’i for goodness sake, but this side is over the top. When you drive from Honolulu to the east side on the H3, you will drive through the Tetsuo Harano tunnel. When you pop out on that side of the island, I guarantee every time you will audibly say, “wow!”

Years ago, I experienced one of the most incredible places I had ever seen, the East Shore, near Bellows Field Beach – and it is still the same! You will find beaches like Lanikai, Kailua, Waimanalo, and Makapu’u, and they are absolutely stunning. There is a mix of crystal clear water, white powdery sand, black lava rock, and lush green mountains. One beach park is fondly named Sherwood forest and it truly has beautiful trees nestled near a white sandy paradise. This side of the island is home to the old 80’s Magnum P.I. series “Robbin’s Nest” and we drove past this spot many times while exploring. There are great hikes like the Makapu’u lighthouse trail, and other pillbox hikes. Talk about first gear recharge time!

Live like the locals

The second tip I would give is, stay and live with the local community. There are many ways to find places to rent – pick your favorite and go for it. We found a delightful upstairs apartment in the east side town of Kailua. The couple we rented from had an awesome upstairs studio apartment that would sleep us all comfortably and had a great kitchen. Our host was so kind and had ample gear for just about anything we wanted to do: snorkel gear, boogie and paddle boards, beach towels, umbrellas and more.

Kailua was quaint, with local flair, like a weekly food market with fresh food and hot food vendors, live bands and art. But the town also had tons of familiar spots: Starbucks, Target, Whole Foods and the like. This made it easy to pick up fresh milk, bread, eggs and fruit for the apartment. We enjoyed our pad’s kitchen for quick breakfasts as we began our daily tour, and then the grill for dinner and oven fresh cookies at night. Our host had a variety of Hawaiian treats like pineapple, macadamia nuts, and coconut cookies.

Our Kitchen Window

Another we way we worked to experience the community was to go to church on Sunday. We went to church at Kailua Baptist Church. It was such a good time! The fellowship was sweet and we made some quick friends for sure – and even experienced the Lord’s Supper together. In the town of Kailua, the “Aloha” lifestyle is real and I would definitely return to this spot to have as our home-base in Oahu for sure!

Pearl Harbor/Downtown/Aloha Bowl

Third tip, make a loop in the downtown area. Any trip to Oahu must include a visit to the historic location of Pearl Harbor. They do a masterful job of having static displays, murals and other guides to help you understand what you are looking at in the bay. There is also a very well done movie about the day of the attack, the bravery of the men and women of the armed forces, and the consequences for all from that day. During our visit, the actual USS Arizona Memorial was closed for repairs and it had been closed for some time. Regardless, we had a very meaningful ride in a navy vessel out and back along ship row.

Downtown Honolulu is like visiting any large metropolitan city, mass transit, high end shops and malls, restaurants and the like. The only difference is no other city also has its own beach like this, Waikiki. There was a very convenient mall, the International Market Place, where we were able to park our rental car. This mall is centrally located and convenient for seeing any of the sites of Honolulu. Quite frankly, Downtown/Waikiki isn’t really our favorite thing to do – but it is a site to not miss for sure, with incredible views of the Royal Hawaiian and Diamond Head. There is supposed to be a free fireworks display on Friday nights on Waikiki Beach, but on our night out it fizzled somehow – but hey, the views were still great and we found a great spot for dinner.

A bonus for my bargain shopping family is a quick trip to the Aloha Bowl Flea Market. Open a couple of days each week, vendors set up their goods around the perimeter of the bowl – everything from inexpensive t-shirts, souvenirs, and hats to more expensive items like jewelry and handcrafts. The kids enjoyed it, so much that we had to make a return visit later during our stay in Hawaii. There are snacks and treats as well to enjoy.

Diamond Head/Hanauma Bay

In the Shadow of Diamond Head.

Fourth travel tip to Oahu, check out more iconic spots to visit: Diamond Head State Park and Hanauma Bay. The hike up Diamond Head is not hard, but it is also a bit of a climb, especially the “stairway.” The payoff is the view. Not only is the crater itself beautiful, but the view from the top across the sprawling downtown area is incredible!

Diamond Head Tunnel

For the visit to Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay arriving early is the key. Parking is limited at both locations, and both will have big crowds. We decided early in our trip to not vary greatly from our home time, which meant getting up early and hitting the road for the day would not be too painful.

Hanauma Bay State Park is a beautiful location for snorkeling in a natural reef among brightly colored sea-life. As we were continuing our quest of getting up early and hitting the road, we arrived at Hanauma Bay early enough to be allowed in by the staff before being charged for our visit. There is a visitor center, restrooms and snack shacks. For us, this was a quick visit in the early morning with other things planned for that day.

North Shore/Dole Plantation

One final tip is to explore the entire Island. There is so much we were simply not able to do – waterfall hikes, museums, other beaches, boat or helicopter excursions. But, we did trek across and around the island. One way to tag the good stuff in the island is to experience the goodness of a “Dole-whip!” The historic Dole Pineapple Plantation is a neat spot, centered on the Island. It would be easy to tag this on the way to say North Shore or Turtle Bay.

Speaking of the North Shore, the town of Haleiwa is a cool surfboarding town with lots of hip stores, board shops, and great restaurants. We spent the greater part of a day strolling the streets, checking out the local beaches, and having some great food at Teddy’s Bigger Burgers and Matsumoto Shave Ice.

We also had an incredible sunset Luau on the West Shore at Paradise Cove. The food was very good (buffet) and the entertainment from the time the gates opened throughout was exceptional. The sunset views on this side were definitely worth the drive across the island!

And a final word about Paradise

Many of our friends and family commented as we prepared for our trip, “Have fun in paradise!” No doubt this place is incredible. But here is what we also experienced (reality check) – disappointment. We did not always get along, sometimes we were grumpy, the food or idea/location we selected was bad, there was traffic, and as always jet lag stinks. Even worse we saw the pain of this old world, from homelessness to the lack of care for God’s creation.

So in this paradise setting, I found my heart longing for the new life to come – a place not marked or marred by man’s choice to do their own thing apart from God. Jesus said to the dying but believing man beside Him on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Folks, this place is at the top of my list on the planet – and there are greater things in store for those in Christ Jesus. Confess Him as Lord of your life.

60th Anniversary – Key Marriage Success Factor

Marriage and Family

Over the summer, my parents celebrated 60 years of marriage.  Congrats Mom and Dad!  1958 was a little while back!  I am so happy for them.  My family gathered for a fun time to let them know how thankful we are for them and this testament to their love and commitment.  I am mindful of the truth of the Bible as it says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22

There is no question that milestones like these, ones that really stand out, should drive us to step back and ask questions.  How did they do this?  I am simply trying to live to be 60, let alone be married for 60.  Are they really happy?  Are they simply just driven, or have an extra measure of grit?  Are they really in love?  How do you even describe love at a 60th anniversary?

But I think it is best to simply keep this post focused on one key success factor for marriage.  A key factor that I have seen displayed for my 47 of their 60 years of marriage.  A key factor that to me becomes more precious everyday personally, in my marriage and in ministry.  A key factor that when absent leaves relationship and interactions lacking or worse, deteriorating.  Kindness.  Be kind.

Kindness speaks to others’ needs before my needs.  Kindness speaks to being slow to anger.  Kindness speaks to respect.  Kindness speaks to bold tenderness.  Kindness speaks to being steady – even keeled.  Kindness speaks to care with words and deeds.  Kindness speaks to forgiveness.

The Bible says:

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”  Ephesians 4:32

Kindness defined – “the quality of being warmhearted, considerate, humane, gentle, and sympathetic.” (logos)

I have shared through the years with couples the x-factor to displaying kindness.  Here’s the thing.  You can’t work this up.  You can’t simply try harder at being kind.  It really doesn’t work well.  Sure some people have gentle temperaments etc., I understand.  But, here’s what I have seen.  I have seen mean people have their heart tenderized by the Lord Jesus.  He moves in, takes over.  Simply, He becomes Lord of their life.

It is not normal for people to display “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control.”  It literally involves a take-over, a remodel that reminds you and me that at our best, we are still fixer-uppers.  But a life displaying the fruit of the Spirit shows evidence that He is alive and well in us.

*Disclaimer – Reality Check
Listen, life is hard, people are difficult, plus you don’t always feel good or like everyone all the time.  You will not be perfect, you will need to back up and ask for forgiveness, or pray for a do over.  Sin.  But, the point is, there is a way, there is a path and even a standard that we can at least aspire to.  Am I even trying?  Do I address a problem by focusing on the other person, or on myself?  I read recently, “I am not kind to others because they are, but because I am.”

Mom and Dad, thanks for displaying kindness.  I love you and I thank the Lord for you and I pray he blesses you with many more years filled with joy.

Thanks for hanging out on the blog with me.  I am grateful!  If you desire to dig deeper in your relationship, check out some of these encouraging people:

Dr. Tate Cockrell

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Dr. Gary Chapman

Peace!

Family Values

Marriage and Family, Personal Growth

A couple of years back, the Griffin crew headed up to one of our all-time favorite spots, Red River, New Mexico.  It is a great mountain town in the Enchanted Circle of New Mexico.  We have skied there, hiked there, shopped there, fished there and yes, have had intense go-cart and putt-putt golf competitions.  Recently a family who is dear to us headed up that way, and I made mention of two great hikes, one up to Middle Fork Lake and the other to Lost Lake. 

From Lost Lake you can scramble on up to the top of New Mexico, Wheeler Peak.  Both lakes are beautiful, but you have to pick a direction.

In life, knowing your direction is key.  Core Values, that is the direction or vector you choose in life for yourself, your family or for an organization can either be accidental, or they can be thought through and chosen.  Either way, you are definitely headed somewhere.  Wouldn’t it be better to choose your direction?

For my family, there are identified values.  These guide our heading – which by the way, we may not know the ultimate destination or outcome until we get there – but these values set the course.

Here are our Griffin family values:

Lifelong learning

We are committed to the pursuit of learning and stretching ourselves – about God and all He has created, from history, cultures and languages, to the arts, sciences and nature.

Launching pad

Our family is a launching pad, for each of us – to go, explore, build relationships and community, and challenge ourselves through mistakes and success.

Christ-likeness

Our desire is to be like Jesus – to obey His commands to love God and love our neighbors.  To be filled with the Spirit and display the fruit of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control and most of all, love.

Unconditional love

In a world filled with pain, painful choices, and the pain we may endure or cause, regardless, we are committed to unconditional love and acceptance.  We are committed to a bold love that can say “no”, that challenges, rebukes, corrects, forgives and restores.

Joy

We pray that our home is filled with much joy and laughter!  Life is hard – why make it more difficult by being unkind?  Slow to speak, slow to anger – a gentle answer turns away wrath.  Peace.

 

There you have it.  These values keep us on the path to what I believe will continue to be a very fulfilling and rewarding future.  Which trail will you choose?

Take 5

Leader Resources, Marriage and Family

You are familiar no doubt with the phrase “let’s take five” – to take a five or ten minute break before returning to work.  Most places of occupation have some type of work break through the day.  These short bursts of breaks are effective in many ways, from quick energy boosts to regained focus (coffee doesn’t hurt either).  In an even greater sense, you are likely able to accrue longer periods of time to be away to get some valuable rest and relaxation.

Recently, I traveled with my family to the Florida gulf coast and wow, was it a stunning place!  The combination of miles of powdery white sand and incredible crystal clear waters provide for hues of vivid color that look as if edited with a image filter.  But even more, the beauty of that time, even time in traffic (thanks Alabama) with my family was a huge boost; a massive recharge to my soul.

If you’re like me and serve in ministry, we are awful good at guilt tripping ourselves that this time away is not okay, or a waste or idle.  How could we take a break when there is Kingdom work at hand?  True, there is no off switch on the mandate we are given; but in order to avoid personal burnout, moral failure, and/or the neglect of our families these times are critical.  Thankfully I serve at a church and with a group of ministers who understand the value of the recharge!  Thank you Jesus for your example of going off to the hillside to spend time alone with the Father.

I learned a very valuable and handy concept from one of my good friends about how to think about time and how we invest it.  Jeremie Kubicek penned a book from his insights in dealing with leaders and their management of time called 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There is Never Enough Time.  And no, we are not talking simply about how to handle your schedule and appointments.  Rather, Jeremie helps us explore our presence behind the schedule – where’s your focus and attention?  He explores and unpacks how to maximize the types of time we have every day, every month, and every year.  He shares these times of focus in the form of gears, like selecting the right gear at the right time in a car.

Which takes me back to family vacation.  Through the concepts of this book, I not only understand the importance of the gears and what gear vacation time is, but how to use this gear/time to the fullest by how I set my mind during it.  I fully engaged the right gear for the right time.  When I returned to work, I returned with my soul energized and refueled with my most important relationships – to God, and to my family – empowered.

Premarital Counseling Assessments

Leader Resources, Marriage and Family

Through the spring and early summer, odds are you have attended a wedding or two and perhaps led the ceremony.  Such good times!  And as you know, these times of immense excitement also bring anxieties about the readiness of the couple for this lifelong journey.  I have experienced this concern from the couples wondering if this is right and if they are ready.  But there are others who also want the best for them and want to help them be prepared, including their families and ministers.

If you are responsible for working with couples on this important part of the journey, there are tools out there that are great resources to assist you!

These premarital counseling tools can help you:

  • Assess couple preparedness/success for marriage:  Wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly assess strengths and weaknesses for this particular couple in the area of finances, romance, communication styles or family background to name just a few?  Wouldn’t it be a blessing to have a “dashboard” warning so to speak of issues that could cause grief for this couple in the years ahead?
  • Manage the counseling sessions: It can be intimidating for ministers to think of how to structure premarital counseling – what should be covered, how long the sessions should be, how to find and ask the right questions, and give the right coaching exercises.
  • Launch the couple with tools for the future:  How fulfilling would it be to give resources and concepts to the couple for the journey ahead!  Assessments like the ones I’ll mention give practical help to daily life like budgeting, dating and romance, conflict management, healthy communication and spiritual growth!

Back in 1995 I was introduced to my first premarital counseling assessment called Prepare-Enrich and I have used it for many years.  It is extremely helpful and very thorough asking the couple to individually rank “most like me, least like me” type questions about finances, physical intimacy, family background, personality, communication and conflict management to name a few.  The concept is this, while you could spend hours asking questions of the couple about the previous list, you would then also need to work to figure out what are areas of strength and what areas need attention because they could cause trouble.  For this assessment and the next, they do this task for you.  This is not about ease, but rather about precision.  Why talk in length about financial management if the assessment shows this is not a great area of concern for that particular couple?  I also like that it allows me the opportunity to simply reflect back to the couple, “Here is an area that we need to address, because you indicated disagreement about this statement on the assessment.”  This is far different than, “I think you have a problem here.”  There is cost involved and an amount of training to be a facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich tool.  Walter Mullican here in Oklahoma is a great contact for how that works.

But, I have added a new assessment as an option and I have been using it most recently with my premarital couples.  Developed by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, it is called SYMBIS, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts.   I like the fresh view that it gives in its format and delivery, and while much of the content would be the same as mentioned above (as with all premarital content), how it shares it is fresh and I believe unique.  In short, the bonus for me with SYMBIS is that its up to date personalized report for the couple is thorough and available for them through the sessions.  The facilitator report and guide is also very thorough and walks you through each session’s content.  Prepare-Enrich is also thorough and provides workbooks and reports, but to me it seems to take a bit more searching for and connecting of the areas that need to be addressed.  As with Prepare Enrich, there is training and cost involved to become a SYMBIS facilitator.  Dr. Parrott leads the online training through recorded video segments and brief content mastery quizzes.  Either way you go on the assessments, the cost is worth it, the training is worth it.  You’ll be glad you did, and the couples certainly will be as well!

Share in the comments of any tools for this aspect of ministry you have found useful!  Keep at it!