On my first Sunday back from my sabbatical (July 24), my prayer that Sunday included a saying I learned while in Hawaii: Live Pono. “Pono” is not a word that translates easily from Hawaiian to English. But it is fair to say that it is a small word that covers a lot of territory.
If I only told you that “pono” means “righteousness”, then I would only be giving you a very limited definition. “Pono” is more of a way of life that asks each person to respect human life. Beyond that it asks us to respect creation—the world and all that inhabits it. “Pono” writes Rick Bacigalupi, Emmy Awardwinning producer of Toward Living Pono, “ is living righteously, with a conscious decision to do the right things in terms of self, others, and the environment.” There is a focus on being positive and supportive of others and in ways that don’t negatively impact the world around us. It’s about living moral and ethical lives because of the respect we have for others, our world and ourselves.
I stayed in a hotel in Kihei on the island of Maui and the hotel was near an elementary school. I passed by this school every day and on one of the walls at the entrance of the school is a sign that reads “LIVE PONO.” What a great message for children to see every day when they come to school.
What a great message for us all! Living pono seems to me to be exactly what Jesus had in mind for us. I sensed in my travels around the island and in my encounters with native people on the island that in very real and deep ways the Hawaiian people knew this long before anyone ever explained who Jesus was or why Jesus mattered. You can imagine what a joy it was to find my tired and weary self surrounded by the incredible beauty of that island and to feel in very powerful ways the message of “live pono” as a follower of Christ.
On the first full day I had in Maui, I met Elizabeth after she got off work and she took me to an overlook to see Honolua Bay, which is a very popular place on the island to snorkel. And then we walked down a little trail to the edge of the ocean and we sat and took in the beauty of that place, enjoying every minute of peace offered there. Knowing of my enjoyment of scouring beaches in search of shells and other interesting things that wash ashore, Elizabeth said to me, “don’t take the rocks. The people here consider them sacred and they don’t disturb them.” You can pick them up and look at them, but out of respect, put them back where they were.
I don’t worship rocks, or trees (contrary to what some people say about those of us who live in Asheville), but I do try to live with a respect for God’s creation and to respect what others believe to be sacred. I was a guest there and as such, I did not mess with the rocks.
Maybe it would be good for those of us who profess our faith in Christ to add a little more “living pono” into our life with Christ. Wonder what difference that would make for us?
Thank you all for the time away and for the time needed to rest, breathe deeply, read, see new places and do new things. Thank you for respecting my sabbath time and for the prayers and good vibes you sent my way. Thank you for being who you are. I am glad for the time and now glad to be home. And I give thanks for you, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
May God Bless and Keep You.I wish you peace.