Wednesday, February 14, 2018

40 Pregnant Days (or Weeks)

40 Pregnant Days (or Weeks)

What do all of us, and Jesus, and this bat ray have in common?  The amazing number 40!!

As a Jew, Jesus knew all about Noah’s faith during 40 days and nights of rain, and the endurance of Moses and Miriam leading their people for 40 years in the desert. Jesus began his own public ministry with a 40 day wilderness retreat, which inspires the season of Lent we begin today.  40 day/year prep times, all leading to new epiphanies, new covenants. 

In the Bible 40 is shorthand for a really long time, or enough years for an old generation to pass into a new one.

But did Jesus know that he, just like all of us, and this bat ray, had already spent 40 WEEKS in another intense preparation time?  40 weeks of dark waiting and miraculous feeding?  That would be the 40 weeks of his gestation inside his mother Mary's womb.

Did the ancient people honor the number 40 because it is the average length in weeks of a human pregnancy?  Did the women scribes say, 30 days and nights in the dark ark before the rainbow? No, let’s make it 40.

Animals have incredibly varied lengths of gestation, from just a few weeks (guppies) to 18 months (elephants.)  Quite a few sharks and rays are about the same length as humans – 9 months.  Another example of God’s very diverse creation.  “I won’t create everything the same, I like diversity.  But mothers and babies and mysterious waiting, that seems like a good idea all around.”

Animals at the Aquarium sometimes have babies.  Right now we have one very special pregnant mom.  Never before have we had this animal pregnant on exhibit.  She arrived solo, quickly started gaining weight, we did an ultrasound – she is eating for more than one!

But I can't tell you what animal she is yet, because the Aquarium wants to share it first.  Like a woman carefully choosing the right moment to share her Good News.  OK, I'll wait, but hint: it's a TWO YEAR pregnancy for this mystery animal.  Stay tuned.  And hold her in your prayers, a long wait.

I know I wrote about pregnancy during Advent.  Lent is also a pregnant time, a time of faith focus, waiting, setting one’s sights towards Easter, new life.  There is so much pregnant new life on land and sea.  Take your own 40 day, 40 week, (40 year?) journey, in the dark, to new life.
We are celebrating our annual Blue Theology Sunday at the Christian Church of Pacific Grove on Feb. 25.   3 of our BT lay leaders will share how their faith has been deepened by this ministry – join us!  I post these devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook.Want to visit Monterey Bay for a service trip or pilgrimage?

(One more fun fact about 40: Bat rays can swim/fly underwater up to 40 miles per hour!  And they mate on the move too, that’s what I call feeling the earth move!  Today is also Valentine’s Day.)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Good Morning, California, How Are You?

Good Morning, California, How Are You?

My views from the Amtrak train, near Point Conception, on the isolated coast between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. 

What a way to see our California coast!  For so many miles, over 3 hours, the Amtrak Coast Starlight train, which I took this week from Salinas to LA and back again, travels within inches of the coast, with no roads or buildings in sight.  Just us happy train passengers and the unpopulated coast.

When I drive to LA, my route is farther inland, Highways 101 or 5, many towns and “services.” But the Amtrak trains leaves “civilization” behind and follows the coast.  There is something magical about these hours of track and rhythm and coast and dunes and water.  Nothing else, no people or buildings, only the sea.

Point Conception is the marker between Northern and Southern California, so named in 1602 by Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino, because he passed from the calm warmer waters of the south to the rough and rocky coast of the north, on December 8, which he knew was the day the church had told him the Virgin Mary was conceived, hence the name. 

Geography named for a sex act! 

Frankly, I don’t really care much about the conception details of Mary, or Jesus for that matter, so-called immaculately or not.  But I do appreciate the reminder that when we create new life, everything changes!  So when we come to the place where the warm and calm waters of Southern California change to our Northern California dramatic granite cliffs and much more fertile seas, it makes sense to name that point after these holy conceptions, where the old becomes new. 

Point Conception is the dividing line. One of many places where we see how varied are these divine landscapes, and how precious are the borders.

I took this train trip this week to visit in LA our son Owen and his fabulous new wife Sophie, and to give a talk about oceans and climate change at the inspiring First Christian Church of North Hollywood. 

I will write later about my time worshipping and speaking at this very eco-conscious church and our profound conversations. 

But for now, let me simply lift up the train, the coast, the rhythm of the rails, and conception.    

I invite you to find a place in your neighborhood where conception happens, new life.   And then let someone else do the driving.  See where the water is near you.  Look out the window.  Maybe take a little nap.

From the Point Conception darkness rolling down to the sea.
__________________  Youth and adult pilgrimage service trips are booking for spring and summer 2018.  Experience ocean stewardship and spirituality in Pacific Grove.  Get on board!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Quiet Safari

The Quiet Safari

We Aquarium guides are talkers.  We always have something to say, ever ready with the accurate scientific fact, the helpful conservation tip, quick directions to the bathroom.

But we were left speechless, 15 of us from our Thursday shift, along with spouses and friends, when we took a two-hour trip on Monday with the great tour company “Elkhorn Slough Safari.” Their skilled captain and naturalist recommended a trip during a very low tide on the mudflats and tidal waterways and the rarely revealed eelgrass of this vast precious Monterey Bay wetlands.

We’ve been well trained by the Aquarium – we think we know all there is to know about these animals and their habitats.  But when we saw those many hundreds of birds, otters, seals, sea lions in their natural habitats, we just watched.  Couples whispered – look, a merganser.  Old friends shared binoculars and quietly IDed birds.  Click click of fancy cameras.  But hardly a noise.

I think of safaris as jolly noisy affairs, happy companions oohing and aahing. But our guides reminded us that the Marine Mammal Protection Act forbids animal disturbance.  And that we were more likely to see birds close up if we stayed quiet.  Of course we oohed and aahed.  But so gently, no bragging about seeing it first or how long our bird list was.

The slough kept us kind and affectionate.  It was thrilling to see amazing birds and mammals in their own homes.  But as special for me was the mood in the boat.

Sloughs do that, oceans and coastlines do that.  They calm us down and focus us up. 

Every Thursday morning you can find us gabbing away.  But this trip reminded us, from Ecclesiastes, that there is a time to speak, and time to refrain from speaking.  

Robert Sardello, in his book Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness, writes: ‘Silence knows how to hide. It gives a little and sees what we do with it….In Silence everything displays its depth, and we find that we are a part of the depth of everything around us.’”

We still have a few open dates for summer 2018 Monterey Bay Blue Theology adult pilgrimages and youth group service trips –  We encourage our groups to add an extra Elkhorn Slough trip to their visit, a soft, silent spiritual safari. 
I post these Blue Theology Tide-ings every Wednesday here and at 
Please hold me in prayer this Monday as I speak at the big, creative North Hollywood Christian Church on “The Ocean and Climate Change” as part of their Earth Care series. 

Elkhorn Slough photos: Becky Stamski, Steven Lonhardt/ NOAA MBNMS