Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Praying the Ocean Icons

Praying the Ocean Icons

I’m writing a brochure (maybe an app?) called "How to Have a Quiet Spiritual Visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium."  I've already collected tips on where to find places to sit in the dark and pray ("Pretend the seat in the cephalopods exhibit is a prayer bench and meditate on the octopus.")  Also a list of all the inspiring wall quotations ("Read the Thoreau quotation – ‘In wildness is the preservation of the world’ -  several times and ask God to bless and keep the wildness in the sea and the wildness in your soul.")

Now I'm locating "icons" to venerate.  Icons are small intense holy paintings that many people include in their spiritual practice by contemplating them long and intently, not for their artistic value, but as “doors between this world and another, between humankind and God,” as one author puts it.  To contemplate an icon is “to gaze into heaven.”  Such images are “visual prompts for our prayers.”

This Kelp Forest round window is a “visual prayer prompt,” helping this young worshipper gaze into heaven, and opening for her the door to another world.  When I saw this medieval Italian painting of the Creation at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC I experienced a new heaven and earth.  Note how the earth is round and blue.

The writer of Colossians calls Christ the “icon,” the visible image of the invisible God.  A door, a prompt.  I call these blue circles “icons of paradise.”


Visit our Blue Theology Mission Station in Pacific Grove for an individual retreat or a group learning/serving trip about ocean stewardship and spirituality.  Icons galore.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Write Today!!

Write Today!!

This fabulous photo by my friend JR Sosky makes me want to jump right in to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

It's the 25th anniversary of our Marine Sanctuary, designated and protected in 1992.  I love it that NOAA calls these large protected ocean waters "Sanctuaries."    Obviously they know their Bible and have studied Leviticus: "You shall keep my sabbaths and revere my sanctuaries.  I am the Lord."

But this lovely bay scene, and those revered Sanctuaries, might become a thing of the past if our Department of Energy has its way: they want to do away with current regulations that outlaw offshore oil and gas drilling in these waters (and the 15 other National Marine Sanctuaries) and they want to rescind new Sanctuary protections from the past ten years.  That would include the amazing Davidson Seamount in our Sanctuary, a huge underwater volcano off the Big Sur Coast that we added to protected waters in 2009.  The three other California Marine Sanctuaries were also expanded in the past 10 years. 

Will they still be revered?

We all have a chance to comment on these proposed changes in ocean protection, but only until this coming Monday, August 14.  (It doesn’t matter where you live – these are “National” Marine Sanctuaries.)

Here’s how:
-National Marine Sanctuary Foundation: has a good letter with background info that you can simply sign and your support will become part of the public comment. 
-Monterey Bay Aquarium: <<>> has helpful talking points and a link to comments.
-Or you can submit your own comment directly at <<>>

Personal testimonies are the most effective.  In my comment I wrote that from my personal experience as an ocean volunteer I knew that over 2 million people visit Monterey every year to see a clean safe ocean.  That tourism is Monterey County’s second highest economy, after agriculture.  That the California economy is thriving on alternative energy, not more fossil fuels.  That as Chair of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council I had seen the wide community support and extensive process that had led to designation and expansion.  And that as a person of faith I believe God calls us to be good stewards of all of creation. 

That I revere this Sanctuary.  I hope you do too.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

“That you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast.” (Isaiah 66)

“That you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast.” (Isaiah 66)

Who is the happier harbor seal in this picture – post-partum mom or nursing pup? 

Mom is surely relieved to have birthed the 25 lb. newborn. 

But little pup is pretty blissed out too.  Enjoy that yummy milk your Mom’s giving you; it’s got the highest fat content of any mammal, 45%.  You only get one month for that fatty feast, little one, and then you’re on your own.   So drink up.

I saw this scene over and over this past April at Point Lobos State Reserve.  Scores of moms and new pups, beach maternity wards. (Dad’s work was done 9 months ago.) 

Seals spend half their time on land, hauling out to give birth, as well as to regulate their temperature, molt, and find safety in numbers.  But they are skittish, and will scatter quickly at human noise or presence, using up precious energy. 

Moms sometimes even leave the pups alone, in caution or simply to feed. But the pups lack “protective wariness” about humans, or dogs.  From stress, infection, premature birth, malnourishment and predation, half will die in the first year.

So we watched from a safe distance, atop granite and cypress cliffs.  We knew we didn’t want to go to jail for violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act.  But even with posted signs warning us to stay away and to be quiet, it was hard not to ooh and aah.  We tried to follow Billy Joel’s wise words: “Leave a tender moment alone.”

I got home and looked up “God as nursing mother” in my Bible concordance.  Several choices.  Here’s my favorite, from Isaiah 66:

“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.” For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”  Isaiah 66


(Come to Pacific Grove and enjoy our Blue Theology retreats for youth and adults.  You’ll see harbor seals every day, at Point Lobos, or a couple blocks from the church, and babies every April. I post these “Blue Theology Tide-ings” every Wednesday here and on Facebook.)