On Sunday, I shared with the congregation about the time I was sitting in church on Easter Sunday 1999. The minister said something like this: “Happy Easter! This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. If you are not joyful today—on Easter Sunday—you are most certainly not a Christian.” At that point, I did my best to restrain myself from standing up and walking out. And the worship service went downhill from there. At least, it did for me.

It bothered me that the minister would choose to assign either intention or a sense of moral judgment on the particular feelings I was having at the moment. What he had no way of knowing was that I had recently been in a bad car accident and was suffering from tremendous physical pain unlike anything I had ever known. I was also on a road trip from the California coast, where I had just been to my father’s memorial service, to Park City, UT, which was home at the time. I wasn’t able to spend time with my dad during his final weeks because of the injuries I had sustained from the accident. So, I was feeling anything but joyful that Easter Sunday morning, but decided I would go to church and hope for resurrection and some new light for my life.

I knew after sitting in church that morning that I would never intentionally say anything to make another person feel bad for his or her emotions. I would instead welcome people to church as they are and with whatever emotions they may bring with them.

Since then, I have learned that there is a lot that a person can do in order to allow joy to unfold and blossom in his or her life. A Spiritual Director once asked me, “Alan, what would bring you the greatest joy in your life right now?” By simply answering the question, I opened myself up to allowing more joy to enter in. When I met with her the next month, I told her that being a pastor full-time, watercoloring every day, and living in Hawaii were three of the things that would bring me the greatest joy. That was about 4 years ago…and here I am being a pastor at Koloa Union Church, watercoloring nearly every day and living in Hawaii…and living with more joy than I ever imagined.

Sometimes, just answering the question opens us up to joy. I invite you to give it a try. Go ahead and ask…and answer…and see how God might bring you more joy than you ever imagined!

Aloha nui to all,

Kahu Alan Akana

“A Message from Kahu Alan Akana” is provided most weeks by the Kahu (Pastor) of Koloa Union Church, a congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a member of the Kauai Association and Hawaii Conference.

Join us at 10:30 on Sunday mornings at 3289 Poipu Road in Koloa to hear a full sermon by Kahu Akana.