A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

Love and Gratitude On Sunday, I talked about how expressions of gratitude impact people around us. In her book, Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, Diana Butler Bass writes about the impact that gratitude has on the people who observe it in others. She refers to work done by social psychologists who monitor the affects on the brain and bodily functions when someone observes another person expressing gratitude. One such psychologist is Jonathan Haidt, who observed a calming response, as well as related impulses, such as awe or self-transcendence. Amazing! Our bodily functions, our emotional states, and our spiritual wellbeing actually change when we observe another person expressing gratitude! Our Scripture readings on Sunday point us toward love and gratitude when it comes to bringing our offerings to God. According to Psalm 50, it is gratitude that makes our offerings acceptable to God. Mark 12 reinforces this and also adds that love for God and others is the most important thing we can offer to God. In the story of the poor widow who places two half-pennies in the temple offering, Jesus makes it really clear that her offering is valuable and worthy because she gave from love and gratitude. There is an important lesson here for us: our offerings to God are also valuable and of great worth to God when we give with love and gratitude. God is not concerned so much with the size of the gift; God is concerned with the love and gratitude that are offered in our giving. Another lesson from the story is that we can actually give everything to God. Just like the...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

Gratitude: More Than a Feeling On Sunday, I shared a story from Diana Butler Bass’ most recent book, Grateful: The Transforming Power of Giving Thanks. Diana was working as a professor of religious studies and history at the college where we both attended as undergraduates. She enjoyed her job and did good work. However, she wasn’t treated very kindly by some of the other faculty at the college. She also felt that some of the expectations of the college administration in regards to theology and personal piety were rather stifling. One day the President of the college called her into his office and told her that she was simply not a good fit for the school. He told her that she was being “let go,” even though he admitted that she did wonderful work and was an excellent teacher. Before she walked out of the room, he said to her probably the last thing she wanted to hear. He said: “One day you will thank me for this.” Let me just say that she was not having any feelings of gratitude towards him at the moment! About a week later, Diana told a friend about it. She said, “Can you imagine the nerve of him? That one day I’ll thank him?” After her friend listened to her, he gently said to her, “You know, he’s right.” He went on to tell Diana about a similar situation when he was fired, and how he eventually thanked his boss who fired him after he learned gratitude. Diana was surprised to hear that gratitude was something that could be learned. She asked...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

A Time for Gratitude and Rainbows   I want to begin by thanking my church family for taking such wonderful care of me the past week and a half while I have been recovering from vascular surgery on my leg. I am deeply appreciative of the meals, fresh produce and groceries that people have dropped off, as well as the prayers on my behalf. The surgery was necessary because of poor circulation in my leg due to a major vein not working properly. The surgeon removed most of that vein, and other veins have now taken over to keep the blood properly flowing in my leg. My surgery was successful and I am healing well. However, my leg is still quite tender where the incisions are still healing, and so I will be working mainly from home while keeping my leg elevated as often as possible, and not driving much until my leg feels better. I am supposed to walk a little more each day, and hope to walk to the church by the end of the week. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to call if you would like to talk or make an appointment to see me in person. After one very long day of heavy rain at the end of August, I was so grateful for sunshine! I walked outside into the yard and saw a double rainbow right on the parsonage! “A pot of gold,” I thought. “What a treasure: this place I call home, my church, my community, my art, this island, my family and friends, my life. I am truly blessed!” As I...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

A Note from Kahu Alan Akana Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35) On Sunday morning, I talked about the increasing noise in our society. I am astounded at how noisy our lives have become, especially compared to that of our grandparents’ generation. When my maternal grandmother was born on a farm in south-central Montana in 1900, there were no cars driving by, no airplanes flying over, and no electricity or running water in the home. My grandmother grew up with the sound of farm animals, the stream which ran through their property, birds, and chores. Today, there is the constant noise of cars, machines, appliances, as well as the noise of our cellphones which we often carry with us wherever we go. It seems that the amount of noise and the noise level just keeps increasing, and the trend seems to be continuing. When the author Diana Butler Bass was asked by a student in January 2001 what she thought the 21st century would be like, her instantaneous reply was: “Noisy. It will be noisy.” And, so far, I think she has been right on target! Making time for peace and quiet seems to me to be more important than ever. Jesus certainly took time to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. In our reading on Sunday from Mark’s Gospel, we find Jesus getting up early in the morning while it was still dark and spending quiet time alone in prayer. This is sometime hard for us...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

“Who Is Wise and Understanding?” Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. (James 3:13,17)   On Sunday morning, I reflected with the congregation upon one of my favorite movies of all time: Forrest Gump. I’ve watched it more times than I can count, and each time I find myself thinking very, very deep thoughts about some of life’s simplest and most important things. Forrest was given the label “stupid” as a child. He also had a badly curved spine, which caused him to wear metal leg braces, and so he couldn’t walk like the other children at school. To say that he was teased and tormented would be a gross understatement. Fortunately, Forrest had a mother who loved him unconditionally and saw the potential in him. She made sure he stayed in his regular school and she constantly encouraged him to be and do his best. For me, one of the most profound scenes was when Forrest’s mother was at home on her deathbed. Forrest first asks, “What’s the matter, Momma?” She replies: “I’m dying Forrest.” “Why are you dying, momma?” “It’s my time; it’s just my time…. Don’t you be afraid sweetheart. Death is just a part of life, something we are all destined to do…. I happen to believe that you make your own destiny. You have to do your best with what God gave you.” “What’s my...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

“Make a Joyful Noise” O come, let us sing to the Lord;      let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving;      let us make a joyful noise to God with songs of praise! (Psalm 95) On Sunday morning, I told the congregation about a special song that comes from a special place. “Mokuhulu” is a song about four beautiful villages along the Puna Coast on Hawai`i Island—the home of my ancestors and a place I have visited many times. When I first read the English translation of the song, I felt like I was there, for I could not only see the place in my mind; I could also smell the seaweed…and taste the coconut…and feel the rain and the water on my skin…and hear the music! Here is an English translation of the song: Mokuhulu in the shade of the breadfruit And coconut trees / This verdant home Of rain-rustled lehua–of the lehua flower Kaimu in the fragrance of delicious seaweed In the sweet song of the sea– This ocean home on the hilled-up sand Kalapana, the coconut trees Bent low for Queen Emma This place well-known to visitors Kapa`ahu, this pool for swimming This tingling-cold water So thrilling to the touch To sing the summary refrain from Puna Comes the fragrance That is carried here to me I have visited all of the places that are mentioned in the song as a child and a young adult. Except for just a small part of Kaimu, all of the rest of these villages are buried under lava....