Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Marine Stations of the Cross: Mocked and Stripped

Marine Stations of the Cross: Mocked and Stripped

Asilomar’s dunes were once stripped and mocked, just as Jesus was stripped and mocked on his way to the cross. 

We Christians who follow the call to be good stewards of God’s creation can spend Holy Week walking “Environmental Stations of the Cross.”  As Jesus falls under the weight of the cross, we name the crushing force of pollution.  When Simon of Cyrene relieves Jesus briefly of the heavy cross, we recall environmental saints who pick up the load for a time – Francis of Assisi, Rachel Carson.

This coming Holy Week 15 youth visiting our Blue Theology Mission Station from First Christian Church, Eugene will take a “cross walk” here at Asilomar, and help resurrect the dunes with native plants.  Their service project will remind us that Holy Week does not end at Calvary, but blooms anew at Easter.

The traditional Fifth Station of the Cross is “And when they mocked him, they stripped him of his cloak…” (Matthew 27:31)

With the youth we will confess that we too mock the divine, God’s blessed gift of our planet home.  We strip her surface with destructive agriculture and ravaging coal mining.  Hurricanes and El Ninos, fueled by our climate change, savagely erode rivers and coasts.  We clear cut forests and ocean floors, trawling for paper and rockfish.  Stripped.

But small resurrections are happening here at Asilomar, this “Asylum by the Sea,” a regular stop on our Blue Theology pilgrimages for youth and adults.

Dunes are essential for costal health; high and deep they prevent coastal erosion, recruit sand for eroded beaches, provide niche habitat for dune plants and animals.  For decades Asilomar’s dunes were unprotected from hikers, trash, dogs, invasive plant species. 

But State Parks ecologists started protecting the dunes, removing invasive ice plant, planting native vegetation, building graceful boardwalks to the beach.  For years our Blue Theology youth have worked alongside the rangers and a great local group, Return of the Natives, in this restoration resurrection work.

People had stripped the dunes of their integrity, mocked them. 

But the dunes are rising, the natives are returning, the stripped surface is being restored.  Look – the tomb is empty!  Easter dawns over the dunes.

A prayer from the Franciscan Action Network:
O gracious God, all too often human life and the rest of your creation are stripped of the integrity, beauty and dignity with which you have endowed them.  This happens right before our eyes, and yet we don’t recognize it as part of the modern Calvary.  Like the Roman soldiers throwing dice for our seamless garment, we may even be willing accomplices in your passion, seeking a short-term gain from ecological destruction of the very fabric of life on our planet.  Touch our hearts so that we recognize the wrong that we are doing and change our ways.  Amen

I write these Blue Theology devotionals every Wednesday here and at  We have 7 groups coming to Pacific Grove this spring and summer, and four already for next summer.  Always room for more, as well as individual guided retreats. Come walk with us! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"If Life Gets Too hard, There's Always the Ocean"

“If Life Gets Too Hard, There’s Always the Ocean”

US and UK army vets, wounded physically and mentally on the dry battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan are finding deep healing by getting wet, specifically surfing.  One third of all vets suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders, but organizations like Warrior Surf are helping vets learn to trust, breath, focus and even get a good night’s sleep, by surfing together.

In a new film, “Resurface” by Josh Izenberg (available on Netflix) one vet, double amputee Bobby Lane, says, “When I came back from Iraq, I started drinking a lot to help me with those issues, memories, pain.  Then I was just drinking to get to sleep, but sometimes you don’t want to close your eyes.”  Bobby had never surfed, but joining Warrior Surf helped him find peace.

“After that first wave I have such an overwhelming respect for the ocean, it is so gentle and so fierce.  When I caught that wave, I felt like a part of me died and I felt like I was reborn.  Now I see it, if life gets too hard, there’s always the ocean.”

Warrior Surf was founded by another veteran having a hard time learning to live again after Iraq.  A surfer before the war, when he went back to the sea he could calm down, trust, breath.  His therapist had already suggested a support group with other vets, and when he told his group about surfing they wanted in.  They found surfing teachers who were vets and could understand their challenges.  Soon their families wanted to join in.  A new healing community was born.

I first learned about Warrior Surf and other groups like it from the book Blue Mind by Wallace J Nichols, an intriguing celebration of “your brain on water.”  He recounts the many scientific studies in neuroscience, psychology and sociology about the healing power of water.  Simply living near the ocean, spending time in any kind of water, or even painting your room blue not only improves happiness, creativity and reduces stress, but actually can heal. Nichols has listed all the peer reviewed research studies, therapy programs and medical endorsers in a project called “Blue Mind Rx.”

Filmmaker Izenburg says surfing heals trauma and stress several ways. The ocean is cathartic and as Bobby says, seems to wash negative emotions away.  Surfers in the film describe being in “the zone,” focused and completely in the present tense; they say this alleviates their painful memories.  Also that surfing simply exhausts them - insomnia is one of the most insidious aspects of PTSD.  “Surfing,” he says, “is a drug free sleep aid.”

I write here each week about our Blue Theology Ministry, where we encourage folks to heal the ocean, and learn how the ocean can heal us. When youth and adults spend a day or a week at our Pacific Grove Mission Station we share how we can heal the ocean of the damaging effects of climate change, pollution, overfishing and other human caused injuries.  But we also encourage all people to experience the healing power of the ocean in their own lives, by walking along the shore, as Jesus and so many holy ones have, or even by diving in and feeling the power and uplifting awe of the deep.  Perhaps we should offer “surfing as a spiritual practice!”

In my own much easier life, I too benefit from that Blue Ocean Rx.  When life gets hard, there’s always the ocean.
_____________  I write here and on Facebook every Wednesday.   Our summer service trips and pilgrimages in Pacific Grove are almost full, but think/pray about an overnight, with a spiritual visit to the Aquarium and a walk by the sea.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

It's Time, Again, To Say No

It’s Time, Again, to Say No.
The ocean can’t speak for itself, so it’s time (again!) for us to speak out, and write, on behalf of ocean protection.  The Trump Administration plans to open over 90 percent of America’s outer continental shelf for offshore oil and gas exploration and development. 
The deadline for public comment on this proposal is this coming Friday March 9.
“The President’s offshore oil and gas plan is an outrage—a huge step backward,” says Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. “Our remarkable ocean ecosystems, and all of us who depend on them, deserve better.
“We’ll win this fight,” Julie says. “California has a diverse and thriving coastal economy because the benefits of a beautiful and healthy coastline far outweigh the risks of offshore oil development. We’re also leading the way to a clean-energy future. That’s where progress and prosperity lie.”
Our Blue Theology Ministry promotes creation care and God’s love of all creation, great and small, wet and dry.  If you are a person of faith, I encourage you to frame your comments in the language of faith. 
In my comment I told Interior Secretary Zinke that because I am a Christian, I am compelled to “tend and care for the garden,” to be a good steward of all of God’s creation.  Oil and gas drilling directly threatens ocean ecosystems.  Continuing to extract fossil fuels is causing climate change, already threatening all living beings. 
I also wrote that I follow Jesus, which means I must care deeply for “the least of these.” The poor and the powerless are the ones most seriously impacted by sea level rise and “climate chaos” (the new phrase scientists now use instead of “climate change”) and the poor have the least resources to fight it. 
My faith demands that I oppose this proposal.
For more info or to comment:
-Read the proposal and comment directly:
-Monterey Bay Aquarium statement and talking points: for sample letter. 
-Text “Oceans” to 52886 to tell Secretary of the Interior Zinke to protect our coast.

You can also say in your comment that clean energy makes more sense than fossil fuel, that nearly every coastal state governor opposes this plan, that oil spills threaten our coastal economies like fishing, research, education, recreation and tourism that generate $8 billion a year, that if Secretary Zinke can exempt Florida from this drilling plan (which he has) because their economy depends of tourism, why not the other coastal states……
Oh, it is so tempting to give in to anger or despair.  I know I do. 
Please, just write.  Do something, however small, to support ocean protection.  Support Save Our Shores or the Aquarium or other ocean conservation organizations.  Come visit our Blue Theology Mission Station for a day or a week for an ocean pilgrimage or service project on Monterey Bay. 
Actually, the ocean does have a voice, and has been speaking for some time about the damage and destruction wrought by our extractive energy practices and climate chaos.  Our call is to listen, to write, and to act.
____________  I write these ocean devotionals and pleas for action every Wednesday here and at  I’m also going to DC for the June 9 Ocean March, “The Ocean is Rising and So Are We.”  Want to go with me?