Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Pregnant Molly

Pregnant Molly

I know how you feel, Molly, my sister.  Your back aches, abdomen stretched tight, churning inside you - will this pregnancy ever end?  You are really ready to give birth to your babies!  Not long until Birth Day. 

This molly fish will soon give birth to as many as 150 babies, all born “live,” meaning fully developed, ready to go, “viviparous.” Many fish are “oviparous,” laying eggs that hatch later and far from Mom.  But mollies, guppies, perch, some sharks all give “live birth.”

I love how many different ways there are to have babies in God’s creation.  Lay eggs or give live birth, sexual or asexual reproduction, do it just once in your life (octopus) or over and over (mollies), start birthing at 8 weeks (mollies) or 20 years (loggerhead turtles.)  There’s no end to all the ways new life blooms. God clearly loves diversity and variety in all things, even birth.

At this “pregnant” Christmas time of year we here at the Blue Theology Mission Station ( are telling wet birth narratives from oceans and rivers. Last week we shared the gospel of pregnant whale travelers.

Actually, all birth stories are wet.  We viviparous human children of God emerge from 9 months in an inner sea, our mother’s amniotic fluid that is the same salinity as the ocean.  Creation’s eggy births are also wet, fed by juicy nutritious yolks.  31 years ago I had a blessed Advent pregnancy and when my “waters” broke, it wasn’t just Norah that was wet. 

“Molly” is of course not just the name of this tiny fish, but a nickname for Mary.  This season we remember a Mary who, like this molly, bravely waited, not knowing what exactly was coming next, but trusting that it was good and right.  And wet.  Even in dry Palestine, on that holy night, Mary and Jesus were wet.  Stay wet, my friends.


I post these devotions on ocean spirituality and stewardship every Wednesday here and at, as part of my Ministry for Blue Theology.  I also write a separate weekly column on “Ocean People” at The Back Road CafĂ©, and last week, inspired by my whale tale, I wrote about the “friendly whales” of Baja and Don Pachito Mayoral, the first human they reached out to in 1972.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Young Pregnant Travelers

Young Pregnant Travelers

‘Tis the season when young pregnant mothers must leave home to give birth. 

Mary and Joseph have a long dangerous trip south, walking from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Will they find a warm place and will they arrive safe before the baby comes?  Can Mary and the baby survive the birth and then the journey home, with a forced detour to Egypt?  What dangers lurk on these long roads?

Pregnant California grey whales also head south this time of year, likewise in search of a warm safe birth place. Another dangerous long pregnant trip, swimming day and night, eating very little, from Alaska to Mexico, a tiring journey, past hungry orcas and entangling old fishing nets.  They left their Bering Sea summer feeding grounds in September, and this past week we saw the first ones passing Monterey Bay and off Pt. Lobos. Will they get to the warm safe lagoons of Baja before their babies come?  In the days of commercial whaling, the ships, like robbers on a Galilean road, waited for the pregnant moms’ predictable arrival and the lagoons turned red with blood.  Might those days return?  And will the whales make it safe back north in the spring past the nets and orcas?

Pregnancy and birth are a dangerous journey even if you stay home.  Many of us mothers recall the scary unknowns of pregnancy, the middle of the night labor.  Mercifully most of our stories don’t approach the forced marches of Mary and Joseph or the 12,000 mile round trip of the grey whales.

Rev. Elizabeth Hambrick-Stowe wrote a great book called “Expecting,” about pregnancy and faith.  She says, “We Christians are a pregnant people.” We experience God at work in us, calling us to bring new life to the world.  In this season of travel and new birth I hope we all arrive warm and safe, delivering new hope to the world. 

May we, like the baby in Mary’s womb, and this grey whale, leap for joy.

This Advent season I’ll be sharing weekly ocean birth stories here at the Blue Theology Mission Station.. We Christians celebrate one holy birth, but I believe every birth is a miracle, and that God manifests herself whenever new life appears.  May this Advent bring all kinds of miraculous new birth to you, and to the sea.  I post these Blue Theology Tide-ings about ocean stewardship and spirituality every Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017



“You’re in the inspiration business.  Would you give a talk to Aquarium volunteers and staff about the ‘inspiration’ part of our mission statement – ‘To inspire conservation of the ocean?’ We do OK on the conservation part, but what is inspiration?”

So I gave that talk at the Aquarium, some years ago.  I had already been a volunteer guide there for a while, but I had only just revealed to the staff that I was a minister.   (My clergy colleagues know how it is sometimes easier to be a ‘civilian.’)  It was then they sought my “inspiration” on inspiration.

I’ve been suggesting in these weekly posts this month, November Gratitude Month, some ways to say Thank You to the ocean.  (Plastic Straws Suck, “Still In” on Climate Action, Marine Thanksgiving Parade.) 

Here’s my last suggestion; Be Inspired and Be an Inspiration.

-Breathe in, literally, in-spire.  For every four breaths, thank the ocean for three of them.  Ocean plants created 75% of the oxygen we all breath, on the coast and inland.  Say thank you all day as you breathe.

-Spend time by water.  Half an hour by a creek, a morning cleaning up an urban stream, walk in wonder by a lake or bay, visit Pacific Grove and our Blue Theology Mission Station.  “If there is magic in this world, it is contained in water.” (Loren Eiseley)

-I told the story in my inspiration talk of the pastor who was late and lost for a talk at a unfamiliar church.  Panicking, she saw a car with the bumper sticker “To believe is to care, to care is to do.  United Church of Christ.”  She knew that car was going where she wanted to go, “I’ll follow that car!” and it led her right to the church.  I challenged the Aquarium community to be that kind of saving beacon in the dark to the lost and the late, looking for hope.

-I preached my heart out that night at the Aquarium about how faith communities can serve as trusted partners with ocean science and conservation groups.  And the first question was, “Since you are a minister, you obviously don’t believe in evolution.  How do you square that with your volunteering here at the Aquarium, a science based organization?”  I paused, breathed in (in-spired!), and said that I believed that evolution was one of God’s really good ideas, that God gave us brains for a reason and was happy when we used them.  (Corny, but true.) The audience took a huge breath in relief.  Moral: sometimes you have to keep saying it over and over, don’t assume, find creative ways to inspire others, keep shining the beacon in the dark for the lost and the late.

-Best inspiration: spend a day poking around water with a kid.

We’re booking 2018 inspiration time by the sea for youth and intergenerational groups and clergy renewal time at our Pacific Grove Blue Theology Mission Station.