Wednesday, October 16, 2019



“Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life!!.... Prosper!  Reproduce!  Fill Ocean!” 

That’s God on Day Five of creation, in The Message, a contemporary Bible translation.

As a child, I heard God the more restrained Englishman in the King James Version: “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life… Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas.” 

Just a little more vivid in those modern words.  God is about SWARM! PROSPER! 

“The Bible begins with an orgy of fruitfulness” is how theologian Walter Brueggemann puts it. In his famous (to us minister types) article “The Liturgy of Abundance, The Myth of Scarcity” he reminds us that Creator God blesses everything, EVERYTHING.  By “bless” Brueggemann means God “endows everything with vitality.”  (I like that definition of blessing.). Only when Pharaoh starts hoarding food does the idea of scarcity begin. Will there be enough?  Who gets it?  Fear.

Look around.  Bees, birds and fish – they swarm.  The order of the universe, the blessing of the universe is bounty, vitality, not scarcity.   There is more than enough, life teems, abounds, multiplies.  God wants a world of throng, plenty, tumult. 

Which is, of course, the tragedy of climate change – birds and bees and fish are scarce, disappearing, dying.  Where are the swarms and throngs?

God is about blessing and abundance.  But our selfish actions are curses and extinctions.  As for me and my people, I say, let us chose life, let there be swarm.

(More on swarming: As a Volunteer Guide at the Monterey Bay Aquarium I often say to guests, “Everything in the wild wants three things – find dinner, not be someone else’s dinner, and be part of a family.  Actually that’s my life too.”  These sardines, by swarming, live the life abundant: when one sees a yummy treat and swims toward it, the group follows.  If one senses danger they all turn away.  And it’s like a singles bar, lots of mates close by.  What these sardines are doing is called schooling, or shoaling, or swarming – such great words.  What is your swarm, where is your abundance?)
________ for adult pilgrimages and youth service trips on the Monterey Bay, celebrating God’s blessings and abundance, with a spiritual tour of Monterey Bay Aquarium, service projects, ocean spirituality.  I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook.  Photo of sardine swarm by fabulous diving group PADI.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019



I am currently considering currents as a currency for my ministry.

Ocean currents, river currents, currents in the air, even electrical currents - always on the move, silently, invisibly, irrevocably. They bring life, power, relief, destruction. Currents are the currency of our lives.

(As I write this our power company is turning off the electrical currents peremptorily in much of California because of fire danger. The life and lifestyles these currents support will be much harder for a few days. We lose power here on the coast every winter for days on end - hard and boring, but doable.)

Currents are all about running, “courire” is to run, in Latin. Currents are the “couriers” of the seas, air, wires. In Finding Nemo the California Ocean Current is pictured as a superhighway “running” down the west cost, transporting life from Alaska to Mexico.

“Currency” runs around, moving value from one person or place to another.

All is motion.

Poet and Yale Divinity School Professor Christian Wiman says his calling to be a poet was not a choice - it seized him for a lifetime run. Describing his anguished college decision to leave Econ studies for poetry, he writes, “Could I navigate this strong current and remain myself while losing myself within it?” A current or a calling “moves” us, takes us where it will. It may bring life or loss, or both.

Look at this map of the world’s ocean currents. To describe this system I’ve often used the metaphor of a giant conveyor belt, carrying food, detritus, life, death, renewal, relentlessly, around and around. It even looks a little like a power grid - more currents!

Maybe a better, less mechanistic metaphor for ocean currents is a bustling highway or a relentless marathon runner. Thanks ocean currents for life, climate, beauty. May we navigate all currents, run all races, with endurance and grace.
____ for ocean pilgrimages and service trips on Monterey Bay.  I post these Wednesday ocean devotionals here and on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Do Oceans Separate or Connect?

Do Oceans Separate or Connect?

I recently walked from sea to sea.  Not 3000 miles across the US, but 85 miles west along northern England’s Hadrian’s Wall, from Tynemouth on the North Sea to Bowness-on-Solway on the Irish Sea.  I dipped my hand into each sea, as I began and ended, a blessing and baptism.
“Sea to shining sea” is of course a sweet phrase from “America the Beautiful,” but other nations use the same phrase.  Canada’s national motto “A mari usque ad mare" means “From Sea to Sea.” The Psalmist uses water to show God’s power and presence; "God shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth."
It seems we North Americans use their ocean geography as a way to establish boundaries, these are the nation’s limits.  But Oceanic people experience the ocean as a connector.  Their ocean voyages formed their first identity and they continue to ply the sea for food and adventure – for them the ocean does not so much separate as invite.
I got this idea from Anglican Bishop of Polynesia Winston Halapua and his new fabulous book, Waves of God’s Embrace: Sacred Perspectives on the Ocean.  He writes,The waves flow. The currents on the surface and deep beneath the surface move. The creatures of the sea — the whale, the shark, and even the jellyfish and the plankton — move. The wind moves on the waves. The dance of people takes up the dance of waves expressing strong relationships — the interconnectedness of energies.”

The two much smaller seas, North and Irish, framed my walk, connecting my first and last step.  They reminded me of all the ways the one world ocean is connected, wave to wave, sea bird to sea bird, shining sea to shining sea.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019



They died at sea, bodies falling into the dark depths they loved so well. 

My heart goes out to the friends and families of the 34 scuba divers who died early Monday morning in a horrific fire, on a boat named Conception, off the Channel Islands near Santa Barbara.

So many divers whom I know, when I have described my Blue Theology ministry of ocean stewardship and ocean spirituality, have told me, eyes lighting up, how diving is for them a spiritual experience, that underwater they feel close to some mysterious higher, or actually deeper power, filled with silent awe and wonder.  “That’s my church,” they say.  They are also generous folks, evangelists almost for their spiritual practice.  When I served on the Citizen’s Advisory Council for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Diving Representative offered all of us Council members free diving lessons.

Which I took, but it turned out I was not a strong enough swimmer or brave enough – snorkeling is my preference.

And fabulous snorkeling I did off those same Channel Islands 12 years ago from a boat almost identical to the one named Conception that burned in minutes this week.  It was even the same company, Truth Aquatics out of Santa Barbara, and with a group of Point Lobos State Park Docents we too spend three days sailing around the five islands, snorkeling, hiking.  Our boat was the Conception’s sister ship – the Truth.  The crew gave us a serious and comprehensive safety lecture.  We slept in bunks like those the divers did, below deck, stacked and close.  We saw wonders and beauty beyond imagining.  I came home with memories and a sweatshirt that read “There is No Substitute for the Truth.”

The Channel Islands are near California’s Point Conception, the marker between Southern and Central California, where warmer and colder currents meet, a magical spot.  So named by Spanish explorer Vizcaino in 1602 when he sailed by on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Conception, the supposed date Jesus’ mother Mary was conceived.

The boat “Conception” was meant to “begin” a fabulous journey and adventure for those 34 divers.  Some were young, a teenager, some seasoned divers in their 60’s.  All were surely excited about this new beginning.  Instead it was a tragic ending.  We for whom resurrection offers promise can hope that their deaths were more a “passing” than an ending.  But the pain and loss are as deep as the sea.

God bless all lost at sea.
_______________ for info on our church’s youth service trips and adult pilgrimages along Monterey Bay.  I leave Friday for three weeks in the UK, including a seminary conference, “Blue Planet, Blue God,” at Cambridge University– others doing Blue Theology!  And then walking across England, Hadrian’s Wall, Newcastle to Carlisle, 90 miles in 7 days, from North Sea to Irish Sea with a dear walking friend.  I may post some pics, but probably not these regular Wednesday postings.  Hold my knees and feet in your prayers!  Photo: Steve Lonhart, NOAA