Story: Dry Season

March 26, 2023

Ezekiel 7:1-14
John 11:1-45

A dry season had come to the ohi’a forest, and one ‘apapane was worried about it.

She still considered herself young, but she’d long since left the nest, and for most of her life things had been rather predictable in her forest. That is, there would be rain, and there would be sun, and there would be clouds, and there would be rain again. It was often hard to tell when any of those things would happen, but she knew that they would happen, and if it seemed to rain for a long time, the sun would come again.

That season, however, had been very sunny, and the nights had had mostly clear skies. Clouds had spread across the sky sometimes, but they’d been high up and they hadn’t been the sources of rain. She’d been accustomed to sipping water from the tops of leaves from time to time, but she hadn’t been able to do that for several days. That was all right; she could satisfy her thirst with nectar, but she could tell that the trees were beginning to suffer from the dryness themselves.

Trees that went into blossom produced fewer flowers. Other trees simply didn’t go into blossom, or seemed to be putting it off. She was doing all right for now, but she wondered – she worried – about what would happen if this went on. Would there come a day with no flowers at all?

She sang a sad little song as she settled into a branch to sleep overnight. It was a song about sadness and fear and just a hint of hunger and thirst. The ohi’a heard the song, and when it was done, the tree sang its reply in the breeze rustling its leaves.

The ‘apapane didn’t really hear the tree’s song, she was asleep. Instead, the song became something of a dream, and in the dream she saw the sun leaping from the horizon, speeding across the sky, and diving below the opposite horizon – and then it all happened again, faster and faster. She realized, in wonder, that she was seeing days race by in seconds. Those days included sunshine and clouds and rain, but each one took just a brief time before the sun was flying across the sky with the next day again.

Then, in her dream, came a series of days in which the sky stayed blue and the rain didn’t fall. Day after day, and in her dream she saw the flowers fade and wither on the ohi’a. She wondered if this was a sign that the end was near… but then, in her dream, the sun rose one morning behind clouds, and as the sun raced invisibly across the sky, the clouds streamed rain upon the waiting trees below.

As the dream went on, she saw long dry periods and long wet periods, but they both came to an end, turning to rain if they’d been dry and to sun if they’d been rainy.

“Do not fear, little one,” she heard the tree sing as the dream drew to a close. “Do not fear.”

She woke to see the sun rising again, now at its normal pace, and the tree now silent in the still air of the morning. She shook herself awake, and saw that overnight the tree had produced a new set of blossoms – not many, but plenty for breakfast.

“Thank you, tree,” she said, though she wasn’t entirely sure she’d heard the tree singing or not. Still, it’s good to give thanks for breakfast.

“Thank you,” she said again. “I won’t fear.”

Good things and bad things come to us in life. The bad news is that the good things will come to end from time to time. The good news is that the bad things will come to an end, too. Do not fear, because the best news of all is that God’s love is the good thing that never ends.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

I write these stories first, and then tell them from memory – well, memory and invention – which explains the differences between the text I prepared and the story I told.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

Story: The ‘Amakihi’s New Feathers

March 5, 2023

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17

The ‘amakihi was concerned. He was about 15 months old, feeling something like an adult – I know that’s young for a human being but he was an ‘amakihi, and they grow faster. Come to think of it, they haven’t got quite as much growing to do. He could fly. He could find food. He could sing. All in all, he had a pretty good ‘amakihi life.

He didn’t want it to change.

His feathering was still that of a younger ‘amakihi, which is basically a medium green with some hints of yellow. Some birds might think it dull – the bright red i’iwi might say so – but he rather liked it. It matched the leaves of an ohi’a tree rather nicely. Sometimes he thought of that as safety from circling i’os. Sometimes he thought of it as a fashion statement. Anyway, he liked his feathers, their color, and their shapes.

He didn’t want it to change.

But… it was starting to change and he knew it.

Already he’d had a couple of his big wing feathers fall out and grow back, and more were coming. He’d been through feather molting before, and he knew what was coming. The wing feathers would go and grow, and then the smaller feathers on his head and chest. Even with the first wing feathers he could see the change in color. They were less green, more yellow, and he knew that when the new feathers came on his chest they’d be bright yellow in the sun.

And he didn’t want it to change.

He couldn’t think of a single thing to do about it, so he went to his grandmother. “Tutu,” he said, “what do I do? My color is changing and I don’t want it to!”

“What’s wrong with it?” she asked.

“Nothing, but I like how I am now. I don’t want to change.”

“You don’t want to change?” she asked, and when he said no, she took to her wings and called, “Follow me!”

The first thing they saw was a butterfly flitting through the air. When they landed, there was a caterpillar on the branch. “One of these,” said Tutu, “made a big change to become one of those,” and she pointed her beak at the butterfly. “Do you think it was worth it?”

“To fly? Yes, I do,” said her grandson, and flew off after Tutu again.

They took a look at an ‘amakihi nest, where two young birds had hatched, grown, and taken their first flights over the previous several weeks. They were about ready to leave for a life of their own. “Did you want to stay in the nest?” asked Tutu.

“Of course not,” he said.

“But that was a change.”

“I suppose it was,” he said.

“Life is filled with change,” said Tutu. “Some are big, like the caterpillar that becomes a butterfly, or the ‘amakihi that leaves the nest. Some are smaller, like the bright yellow feathers that are coming to you. Perhaps you’ll become a parent, and that’s a big change, and perhaps there will be a lava flow in our forest, and that’s a big change.”

“So what do I do?” he asked.

“Make the best new you as you grow and change,” said Tutu gently. “Find delight in new things where you can, and make delight when the new things come hard. You’ll always be a new you. Be a loving and caring new you.”

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

I tell my Sunday morning stories from memory of what I’ve written. Memory and what’s written… rarely match.

Photo of an ‘amakihi in mature feathering by Bettina Arrigoni – Hawaii Amakihi (male) | Palilia Discovery Trail | Mauna Kea | Big Island | HI|2017-02-09|12-21-50.jpg, CC BY 2.0,

Changing, Changed, Changeless

“Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?'” – John 3:4

You knew, Nicodemus, and Jesus knew you knew
that humans do not live a static life.
They grow, adapt. They shift and change.
Sometimes they even make a brand new start.

Sometimes they start as fresh as wandering wind,
as pure as water droplets glistening.
Where do they go? Who knows? The wind
goes where it will, just like the Holy Spirit.

Though none can set or stay the Spirit’s way,
one thing remains more firm than stone,
more sure than night or day. Yes, God so loved the world
not to condemn, but raise in radiant life.

A poem/prayer based on John 3:1-17, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year A, Second Sunday in Lent.

The image is Nicodemus by JESUS MAFA, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved February 28, 2023]. Original source: (contact page:

Story: Growing Memories

November 13, 2022

Isaiah 65:17-25
Luke 21:5-19

Last week’s story was about a kolea who came back from a summer in Alaska to find Pohoiki completely changed by lava. It was a hard thing to accept that this is how an island grows. He saw a landscape that had been green and growing transformed into one that was rocky and barren.

He might have taken more comfort if he’d talked with a tree – though I’m not sure whether even a kolea really knows how to listen to a tree.

The trees whisper on the wind. They let their soft voices swirl about on the breeze like a sigh. A lot of what they say is simply, “Do you remember?” and “Yes, we remember,” and the memories float through the forest.

Higher up Kilauea, surrounding the crater we call Kilauea Iki, there are a lot of trees and they have been watching that crater for a long time. “Do you remember?” they sigh, and yes: they remember. They remember when it sloped down into a notch. Trees and bushes sprouted along the sides and the bottom. They remember when lava fountained over a thousand feet into the air and poured down into valley. They remember watching the lava pooling and the lava pool rising. They remember that when the lava stopped fountaining and flowing, the valley floor was four hundred feet higher than it had been. They remember watching parts of the flat surface crack and tilt as the liquid rock cooled to solid.

“Do you remember?” they sigh. Yes, they remember.

They remember when it was just black rock, steaming in the rain, baking in the sun.

They remember when ohi’a seeds fell upon that hot rock and did nothing. They remember watching seeds landing on the rock in a small crack and doing their level best to sprout and grow, but even the pushing of their roots could only find a couple grains of sand. They remember when the first ohi’a landed in a spot where cracking and rain had created enough – just enough – small bits that a root could take hold and begin collecting rainwater. They remember when the first of the little ohi’a plants – so small, those plants – they remember when the first of them had enough soil and water and sunshine and strength to form flowers and set its own seeds to scatter.

“Do you remember?” they sigh. Yes, they remember, and that includes the small trees, some no more than inches high, that you’ll find one here, one there, on the floor of Kilauea Iki.

The kolea, I’m afraid, didn’t think to ask the trees, and he was in the wrong place to ask them down at Pohoiki if he’d thought of it, and he may not have understood what they said to him if he’d asked.

But the trees along the steep sides of Kilauea Iki remember, and they sigh their memories just the same way they scatter their seeds: cast out upon the blowing wind.

“Do you remember?” they ask, and they answer, “Yes, we remember.”

On the flat black surface of the Kilauea Iki crater, roots crack the rock into soil, shoots stand ever higher above the stony surface, ohi’a blossoms flutter crimson in the wind, and they share their seeds and their memories upon the blowing wind.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story above was told from memory of this prepared manuscript. In my opinion, I told it better than I wrote it this time.

Photo of an ohi’a blossom in the Kilauea Iki crater by Eric Anderson, 2016. The Kilauea Iki eruption took place in 1959.

Story: Growing

November 6, 2022

Job 19:23-27a
Luke 20:27-38

This story took place a few years ago here on Hawai’i Island. I suppose it could have happened at various times here on Hawai’i Island – I would guess something similar has happened a good number of times here on Hawai’i Island.

A kolea flew back to Hawai’i after spending the summer in Alaska. This wasn’t the first time he’d done it. Like most kolea, he had a destination in mind. For four seasons he’d come to the same beachfront in Puna. For four seasons he’d had a good spot to hunt for crabs in tide pools and then for bugs and worms just inshore. There were people who came and went, but you may have noticed that people come and go in a lot of places and he came to ignore them. So when he spotted the mountains of this island he made his way toward Puna.

Toward Pohoiki.

When he reached it, he hardly recognized it. As I said, this was a few years ago, and in the time that he’d been in Alaska the 2018 eruption had sent lava flowing across lower Puna from Leilani to Kapoho. The edge of the flow stopped at Pohoiki. Mounds of a’a had turned his favorite section of the beach from a gentle slope to a seven or eight foot high wall at the water’s edge. It was still cooling underneath; he could feel the heat when he came near to try landing.

The lava flow had left some things just the same. There were still human parking lots and structures, there were trees. There were broad stretches of flat ground that he knew he could still find food in. But there was also a brand new stretch of beach made of black sand and rocks that clattered and hissed when the waves drew back to the sea.

He landed and watched the water for a while, where it crashed against the new rock and where it piled up more sand gradually on the beach.

“What happened?” he said to himself.

He may not have meant anyone else to hear, but a saffron finch replied. “Lava came,” she said.

“It’s not the same,” he said.

“No, not much,” she agreed. “It’s even changing each day. That black beach keeps getting bigger.”

“Everything’s dead and gone,” he moaned, “buried under that warm rock or getting covered with that black sand.”

The saffron finch looked at him, puzzled. “What are you talking about? There’s still grass. There’s still trees. There’s still bugs and worms to eat. Life goes on.”

“How can it, when it’s so different?”

The saffron finch thought. “Do you remember hatching?” she asked.

“Not really,” he said.

“Well, are you the same as you were then?”

“Definitely not,” he said. “I had to grow a lot and get these feathers before I could ever fly here.”

“So you grew,” said the saffron finch, “and in some ways you still grow.”

“Of course,” said the kolea.

“This island also grows,” said the saffron finch. “I don’t suppose it’s quite alive the way you and I are alive, but it grows. Where it grows, it creates space for plants to grow, and bugs to grow, and eventually for you and I to grow.”

“But it’s different and I liked the old way better,” said the kolea.

“You and I grow and others may not like it,” said the saffron finch, “but we grow in our own way. You might as well let this island grow in its own way, too.

“Because it will grow in its own way no matter what you say.”

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The recorded story above was told live during worship from memory of this text. Between memory and improvisation, they are not identical.

Photo of lava rock and black beach sand at Pohoiki (2018) by Eric Anderson.


I was putting the final touches to the sermon on Sunday morning in my study at Church of the Holy Cross. My brain was slowly turning to think about the children’s message – though I consider ideas through the week, the final story takes its final shape on Sunday morning.

It may not be the least anxiety-provoking method in the world, but that’s how it goes.

The usual calm of the morning suddenly vanished. Above my head, I heard the voices of the mynas suddenly rising in volume and intensity. The metal roof began to pound and thump as they beat their wings at one another, resonating like a great drum at me as I sat wondering below.

I’ve heard myna arguments before, but never anything quite this shrill, quite this loud, and frankly, quite this amplified.

Whatever the conflict was about, it seemed to involve several birds, each of them screeching with might and main. The pounding doubled and redoubled. The voices multiplied. Nobody was willing to give in, it seemed. It went on and on.

Suddenly, the source of the sound began to move. Slowly at first, and then accelerating, the screeches and pounding moved from my left to my right, sliding down the slippery slope of the aluminum roof toward the edge. I looked left in time to see the birds drop from the gutter to the sidewalk, still screaming at one another, but with the wingbeats now slowing their unplanned descent to the ground.

For a few seconds more the argument continued unabated, then abruptly ceased. Silence fell. Then the birds, as one and without a sound, took to their wings and flew off.

I promptly threw out all the ideas I’d had for a children’s message to talk about the mynas whose argument ended like this:

“Well, that’s not where I thought this argument was gonna go.”


“Do you remember what this argument was about?”


“Maybe we should take this up later?”


“Somewhere where it isn’t quite so slippery.”


They all knew what the future was supposed to be: a winner to the argument. Instead, the future turned out to be an embarrassed group of dusty mynas.

The future, I told the children, is not always what you expect.

In reflecting on the reflection, however, I realized that the future wasn’t what I expected, either. The image of a group of fighting mynas sliding down the roof had never occurred to me until I heard them doing it.

In the midst of our work and efforts, in the midst of our dedication to service and our commitment to creativity, in the midst of our solemn self-reliance that is so common and yet so foreign to nearly every faith tradition I’ve ever learned about, the subtle (or screeching) movements of the world around us may yet become the inspiration, or the direction, or the guide for our continued journeys. For if the mynas were surprised to find themselves dumped off the roof onto the parking lot, so was I. And if the mynas were surprised to find that a change in circumstance had wiped away their argument, so was I.

The future doesn’t always hold what we think it does. Our lives of faith don’t always look like what it think it will, either. The world may, from time to time, teach us where to go. The Divine may, from time to time, give us the ingredients for our imagination.

The photo of a common myna is by Ilan Costica – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,