A New Creation

Guest Editorial by Leimana Koehler.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

In those few moments at baptism, when I was underwater, I remember feeling the change blooming in my heart. Then out of the water I came, CHEE-PONO! I was finally free! Free from Satan’s captivity and a new creation, a blank canvas, a shiny new pair of shoes, a new tender shoot of a budding plant. Brand spank’ in new! I felt great! And relived! I was finally in God’s kingdom! Now on to the tough part: STAYING in God’s kingdom. One of my first major challenges as a disciple was realizing that I am a new creation.

Leimana Koehler with Felicia

Soon after my baptism, I was still dancing hula pretty seriously. I was excited by the new changes in my life but was struggling at how to balance it all and truly make God number one. Eventually I, along with the rest of my hula class, was asked to travel to Kauai and perform what my Kumu “teacher” calls our “Pahu dance”. Basically, it meant that I would go to Kauai and participate in a very old Hawaiian style ritual that would signify my completion of one phase in my hula journey. I was deeply honored and very excited at the prospect of attending. Imagine traveling along the same paths as my ancestors, admiring the beauty of Kauai and learning more about my culture to share with Kama’aina and Malihini alike. I was thrilled! As I began to prepare for this journey, my heart was being tugged by the very faithful and reliable Holy Spirit. I didn’t understand, It wasn’t like I was really worshiping anything, I mean I loved God first so what did the rest matter? It did matter!

Romans 6:4 “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life.” I really didn’t understand, and I was in desperate need of some discipling and advice. So, I talked to Linda aka “the sledge” and she laid it out to me in a very simple but convicting way. You see, hula is the native dance of the Hawaiian people. It was created to entertain, tell stories and to worship. The hula that I was involved in combined all three, and unfortunately there were times where I was worshiping things other than God. For example, I would ask the land for permission to enter it or take something from it; I participated in dances which sometimes involved worshipping Pele; and I idolized both my Kumu and my Halau. Linda challenged me on my culture in general. I had a really deep sense of respect, love and pride for the Hawaiian culture that competed with my love for God.

You see, I grew up in a somewhat traditional Hawaiian household. I ate local food, loved being barefoot and going to the beach, and I learned Hawaiian things. Growing up I can only remember participating in three American things. Other than that, my brothers and I did only Hawaiian things. I actually once spent an entire week just learning about Kamehameha the Great from birth to death. I could recite to you Kamehameha’s most famous battle cry. I could also tell you stories about the Mo’o in Wailuku River and the epic battle between Kamapua’a and Pele. I knew all these things, and I was so proud until that moment when Linda challenged me. All this knowledge and experience was worthless before God. I felt worthless before God. None of these things were important, none of this knowledge relevant.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. Philippians 3:7-9.

I began to panic. Who was I? How do I identify with myself? It was only then I realized just how much my culture was deeply rooted in my heart. I only associated myself with my culture. When you take that away, what did I have? Nothing. I seriously did not know who I was. Galatians 6:15 “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, what counts is a new creation.”

I began to pray, and I asked God for guidance and understanding. It was during this time. I grew in conviction and decided to talk to my Kumu about the trip to Kauai. I clearly outlined that as much as I wanted to attend this trip, I would not worship anything or do anything that goes against God. If that meant I was not allowed to attend, so be it. That was difficult for me, but I prayed that if God didn’t want me to go then maybe when I get to heaven he could make a trip just like that for me. With my convictions deeply planted in my heart, I began to truly grow into a new creation. My Kumu, who is a very understanding man, agreed to let me attend. Although we had different beliefs, he respected mine and would not force me to do anything I didn’t want to do. I soon realized that I would have to give up hula from his halau for God. I was sad, but I was resolved to be obedient to God who I truly loved more than anything. I finally realized that before anything else, I am God’s daughter. I am a Disciple. Everything else just isn’t relevant to these two facts.

Matthew 22:37-38 “Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ this is the first and greatest commandment.” After all was said and done, God blessed me in an amazing way. Soon after all this had taken place, unbeknownst to her, Mahe approached me and asked if I wanted to do a hula for a church “bring your neighbor day”. I was unsure at first, but then agreed to do a simple hula. Originally, just Mahe, Karyss and I were going to perform it. Then, suddenly a few more sisters stepped forward and wanted to learn hula too. All of a sudden, I was leading the Kingdoms first hula ministry. To this day, I am so deeply honored to even be allowed to dance hula in the kingdom. I am also very deeply humbled to be leading this ministry that I love very much. I was honestly prepared to give up hula forever for God, but I truly believe that God saw my heart and the hearts of others and allowed us to worship him through Hula. I was so happy to be able to do something I love for God. Finally, one of my skills proved useful! Finally, the old has gone and the new has come.

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