Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Holy Spirit, Ocean Breath

Holy Spirit, Ocean Breath

Take a deep breath.  And then say thank you to this beautiful spiral.  It’s a microscopic, one-celled ocean plankton, and just now, in the last five seconds, it kept you alive.

We’ve long known that trees and other land plants produce oxygen; if we want to breathe  But at least half the oxygen we breathe, some say 70%, comes from ocean plants. So care about ocean health also.  Whether you live in Monterey or Montana, this ocean dinoflagellate, a kind of plant plankton, inspires you, literally is in your spirit, your breath.
, we should keep planting trees.

“Plankton” simply means “drifter” (the Greeks thought the “planets” drifted through the universe, same word.)  There are plant plankton (phytoplankton) and animal plankton (zooplankton.)  Some animal plankton drift only as babies and then “settle” (crabs, clams, teenagers.)  Some drift their whole lives (jellies, hydromedusae, Jack Kerouac.) 

Plant plankton are all drifters, floating in the upper part of the water for precious sunlight so they can photosynthesize and give off oxygen.  One of my favorite stations as a volunteer guide at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the fancy powerful microscope with a camera in it so you can see these drifters close up.  We used to call it the “Plankton Lab.”  Now it’s called “Tiny Drifters.”

At my recent retreat in France on the Holy Spirit the nun professor said the French word  should be “saint soufflĂ©” holy breath, not esprit.

A woman on the deck at the Aquarium told me she was there on doctor’s orders; the air in her Central Valley hometown was too polluted; with her respiratory condition she needed ocean air. 

Come on retreat with us at the Blue Theology Mission Station at the Pacific Grove Christian Church, and breath in some good ocean air, God’s ocean spirit.
______________ for info on retreats, service trips, renewal time.  I also post these Wednesday reflections on ocean stewardship and spirituality at

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Practice Openminded Daily Serenity

Practice Openminded Daily Serenity

Every day for the past year I have driven past this PODS container on the way to and from my rural Big Sur home.

I hate it.  Poor me. I am so lucky to live in this remote redwood canyon of handmade homes and funky people.  But this commercial plastic homage to how much STUFF we all have drives me crazy.

We are an isolated independent community. We leave each other alone.  We don't have the greatest social skills.  But we do have a neighborhood email list.  For months I contemplated what I could write that would be kind but also direct on the subject of this eyesore.

Finally I wrote, "Is there a nice way to ask the folks with this PODS container to cover it or move it?  Or should I just, like so many things, rise above it and let it go?"

Many wise responses from various neighbors, basically on the point - let it go, accept.  One said he too hates it, but he tries to visualize it as a giant piece of granite washed down the hill over millions of years, with wildflowers in its crevices, and a dwarf perched on top.  Or a stage set for a Prince concert, who is about to do a sound check.  Take a sad song and make it better. 

Their responses inspired me to make up a better mantra for that horrific PODS container, which for months I had been calling a "Piece Of Despicable S***."

Now I drive by and say to myself- "Practice Openminded Daily Serenity."  PODS.

(The PODS owner did respond, but it was not what I wanted to hear, so I let it go….)

This coming weekend our Blue Theology Mission Station will host 27 middle school kids and 8 adult chaperones from 10 different congregations of the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ.  We will do a pilgrimage walk to the Aquarium, and have a spiritual tour there, do two beach clean-ups on Cannery Row and Asilomar beaches, visit the Pt. Pinos Lighthouse, oldest continuously operated lighthouse on the west coast, 1853, and consider God as our lighthouse.

And generally contemplate the idea - God loves the ocean and wants us to love it better.

How to love God's creation better?  Maybe by reducing our stuff?  Asking for guidance?  Getting along better with our neighbors? Practicing Openminded Daily Serenity? Learning to accept pieces of s**** and transform them....Other ideas?
Check out for dates this summer for youth service trips and adult pilgrimages along Monterey Bay.  I am looking forward to two days this month with a clergywoman taking a sabbatical trip down the coast on the subject of pilgrimage – we will pray, sing, do spiritual tour of the Aquarium, and take a nice long walk around Point Lobos.  Be in touch if you want to plan some kind of ocean pilgrimage.  I post these Wednesday “Blue Theology Tideings” here and at  (This week on Thursday, power out from the storm.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Hands of Lula Lutris

The Hands of Lula Lutris

When I first laid eyes on my new granddaughter Lucinda (nickname Lula) born last week, I was struck by the way she held her hands up near her face - she reminded me of a sea otter! 

I held her in my arms (as I would never pick up a wild otter) and she felt like the otter plush toys we sell at the Aquarium, soft and warm and cuddly and a little squirmy, full of life.

Cradled in my arms, she looked up at me like otters floating on their back in the cold ocean.  They hold their hands up out of the water to keep them warmer -  there is less insulating fur on their hands than the rest of their body.  Keeping paws close to their face also helps them break shells open on their chest and eat the meat quickly before sea gulls grab their yummy abalone and crabs.  When otters become mothers, they use those elevated hands to hold onto their own babies on their chest, keeping them, like the food, nearby and safe and out of the water. 

Were Lula's hands like that in the womb for 9 months, close, warm, ready for action, protective of her face?  Is there a slight hint of a fighter, not just protecting the face but ready to hold off danger?  Not yet, I don't think, but otters and our little Lula are not just cute and soft, but strong and smart, protective and assertive. 

OK, maybe imagining a bit there.  But our Lucinda, Lula, is a survivor, like sea otters. 

What's in a name?  Sea otters are called scientifically "enhydra lutris," literally "in-the-water otter." Lucinda means "light bearer" and Lula means “abundance.”  So much life and light in the "lu" sounds.  

Like those in-the-water otters, Lula began wet.  She too found life in sea water, the amniotic salty inner ocean that rushes and buoys inside every pregnant womb. 

The Aquarium refers to some especially popular animals, like otters, penguins, white sharks, as "charismatic animals" - they inspire interest, compassion, activism, visitors. 

We welcomed a new charismatic animal into our family this week.  After I got home from my grandma visit, I mailed her a plush baby otter.  Lucinda Lula Lutris, sister to all critters, daughter of all creation.
_________ tells you more about our learning/serving youth group service trips and adult pilgrimages from the Christian Church of Pacific Grove, alongside the Monterey Bay.  Bring your baby or grandparent and we will bless them by the bay!  I post these devotionals on ocean stewardship and spirituality every Wednesday here and on Facebook.