Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Sacred Wet Activism

Sacred Wet Activism

How did you celebrate World Water Day this past Sunday March 22? Did you wake with a prayer of gratitude for all things wet?  As you washed your hands and sang Happy Birthday twice, did you turn off the faucet?  Maybe took a shorter shower?  Or thought of those millions of folks with no regular safe water?

I am more aware of Earth Day, April 22 than World Water Day March 22.  But thank you United Nations for establishing World Water Day in 1993.  Good resources and activism,  WASH – Water and Sanitation and Hygiene.

 And thank you Unitarian Universalist churches, who taught me about World Water Day.  And what they call Climate Justice Month, March 22- April 22, Water Day to Earth Day.  It’s their version of Lent, a winter/spring time of what they call sacred activism, a month of reflection/penitence/limits/gratitude. 

Spring into water and earth care, the UUs say, a time of reveling, reckoning, reconnecting and recommitting to climate justice.

This morning I am sad, distracted, lonely, grateful, stuck, wondering, afraid.  I can get out of these feelings by saying thank you water. WASH.  Blessed be water and earth.

 I post these water reflections every Wednesday here and on Facebook.
 Be in touch!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Lost at Sea

Lost at Sea
“Sheltering in place,” sounds so safe and comforting, homebound with a good book, food in the fridge.
But life in this COVID-19 world feels more like being lost at sea in a stormy fog.  Wet danger is everywhere.  We’re not sure where we are, what’s next, or if rescue is coming.  And what about the others in this lifeboat?
Because I experience power and possibility in the ocean, as well as metaphors galore, here’s some Blue Theology (ocean spirituality and stewardship) for this pandemic:
-NY Gov. Cuomo on whether we can “flatten the curve of this disease;” “I don’t see a curve; I see a wave. And the wave is going to break on the health care system, and I am telling you, it is going to be a tsunami.

-The fogbound feeling, for me, and our world, comes from this agonizing uncertainty and ever changing news and plans.  I first heard the phrase “Fog of War” in the film about Robert McNamara and the Vietnam War (check out his “lessons learned.”)   But “fog of war” is a century old military term meaning “uncertainty or ignorance about one’s own capability and that of one’s adversary.  In a fog of war commanders don’t know the real strength and position not only of their foes, but also of their friends.”

-Friends and foes.  As a Christian I try not to divide folks into friend or foe, we’re all in this together, and all children of God.  The Body of Christ has the coronavirus.  When one suffers all suffer. 

-But I am reminded of “lifeboat ethics,” ecologist Garret Hardin’s profound metaphor, from the 1970’s, about how to decide who gets what in this overpopulated, finite and highly fractured world.  He rejected a previous popular metaphor, “Spaceship Earth,” since it implied one commander and a common destination.  No, he said, the rich nations are like a lifeboat floundering at sea with 50 passengers and room for 10 more.  The many desperate swimmers in the ocean are the poor nations.  (I read this then new exciting book in ethics class in seminary.) Who survives?  Who chooses?  By what criteria?

-Well, we clearly don’t have a commander who knows where we are going or what to do (or, like captains of ships, or the ship of state, knows to put the passengers first, to go down with the ship.)

-Where am I, are we, in that image?  On the boat, in the waves?  We hope, in the way that ships traditionally saved women and children first, that we will try today to take extra precautions so the vulnerable elderly and chronically ill might be safe. But…..

-I pondered writing a comforting Blue Theology “Tide-ing” post during this challenging week, something about cool sea creatures. Worried about the future?  Check out this fabulous jelly fish.  I do commend ocean videos as stress reducers – so many doctors have aquariums in their offices because looking at them literally lowers our blood pressure.  Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium website; even though closed, they still have their live cams of penguins, otters, kelp forest, jellies.  Also, on their Facebook Page every morning M-F at 8 Pacific Time, the Aquarium is offering 10 minutes of what they call a “Medit-ocean,” mindful images of ocean calm and beauty.

-I called this post “Lost at Sea.” Which doesn’t just mean literally lost.  It also means dead, died at sea.  The tsunami will only get larger.  What to do?  Build more boats?  Hold on to the side of the boat?  Pull others into the boat?  Who knows where this foggy storm will take us?  It’s a big scary ocean out there.

I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

She Starts for the Blue Ocean

She Starts for the Blue Ocean

“I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze,
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch her until she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.

“Then someone at my side says: ‘There! She’s gone!’
Gone where? Gone from my sight – that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side,
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of her destination.
Her diminished size is in me, and not in her.

“And just at the moment
when someone at my side says: ‘There! She’s gone!’
there are other eyes that are watching for her coming;
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:
‘There she comes!’”

*.   *.    *.   *.   *.  *.  *. 

Leave a tender moment alone.  Let the mystery be.  Just read this poem and reflect on life, death, ocean journeys.

Or/And: Stir into the water of this moving poem some Blue Theology, ocean spirituality.

-Many hospices and funeral homes hand out printed copies of this poem.

-A not-original last line is often added – “And that is dying.”

-Its title is “Gone from My Sight,” written probably by Luther Beecher, often credited to Henry Van Dyke, both cool 19th century divines.

-If Van Dyke wrote it, he’s also the author of the English words to “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” – “Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest.”

-It wasn’t just the Vikings who saw death as an ocean journey.

-The death journey is not always as peaceful as this pic.  Still, a moving image and possibility -  we move from this coastline, over the depths, to a new shore.

-The world is round, so is the ocean, vaster than our little shore, our limited sight.

-There she comes, death as coming, not (just) leaving.

-Great phrases like “bear her load of living freight,” “her diminished size is in me, not in her,” “other eyes watching for her coming.”

-What moves you in this poem?
I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook has details of pilgrimages and service trips along Monterey Bay.  Sail on silver bird!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

It is Well with My Wells

It is Well with My Wells

Every time we drink a glass of water, we say thank you to a well, to the mystery of water deep underground, and the marvels of human engineering.  We receive a gift  - life-giving water “welling up” from the depths. 

For the first time in all my decades of doing a ministry of Blue Theology (ocean stewardship and spirituality) I’ll be preaching in a few weeks about wells.  Sure, I mostly focus on saltwater.  But water is water. 

You preachers know I am working with the amazing story of the meeting at a well between an unnamed Samaritan woman and Jesus.  They exchange water at what was even then an ancient and hallowed meeting place and source of life.   She gives him a drink in the noonday sun.  He gives her “living water welling up from the deep” and says she will never thirst again.  I like to think they each gifted the other, that both were thirsty, and both went away quenched.

Here’s what I’ve got so far - prayers and suggestions welcome.

-Wells are meeting places, often with and for women.  Women are the main drawers and carriers of water worldwide.  Many Bible stories tell of women at wells, Hagar, Rebekah and this unnamed woman.  Women share stories at wells, quench themselves and others.  Who are the women who have drawn and carried water for us?

-Wells often have names - Jacob’s well, Abraham’s. Where I live, 20 families draw from a well that neighbors crafted ourselves 50 years ago (later with professional help.).  We first tapped into a local creek and so we still call it the Brandon Creek Mutual Water System. 

But we all call other wells by name. Thirsting, like that Samaritan woman, not just for ground water, but spiritual water, living water.  What are the names of your living water wells?  Church? Prayer? Wise Ones?  In the spirit of the letter W, I name my spiritual wells - Wise Words, Women, Worship, Waiting, Walking.  When I drink from these waters, it is well with my soul, and with my wells.

-Wells mean abundance, “welling up.”  Our curious English language uses the same word,  “well,” for a deep water conduit, and “well,” that is, done satisfactorily.  Other languages have different words for these two “wells.”  But are these two English wells so different?  They seem to come from a common root, and “well done” and “drink from the well” both signify abundance, productivity, possibility.

Then of course there are wishing wells.  More W’s.  Water and wishes.  That might be another sermon.

Thanks to all of you for your good “well wishes” to me after my announcement last week of my retirement from the public and program ministry of Blue Theology.  Obviously I will still be writing, drawing from so many wondrous wet wells.  Stay thirsty, my friends.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020



After much discernment I have decided to retire from active ministry with the Blue Theology Mission Station at the Christian Church of Pacific Grove. It’s been a “fluid” 12+ years.  Such a blessing to work with the good folks of the Christian Church – we have hosted hundreds of youth and adults on service trips and pilgrimages about ocean stewardship and spirituality.  The youth programs will continue under the good leadership of Rev. Dan Paul.

I will continue as a weekly guide at the Monterey Bay Aquarium – been there every Thursday for 22 years!  My retirement project is to keep working on editing a collection of 100 or so of my Blue Theology “Tide-ings” devotionals from the past 5 years, to be called, “Deep Calls to Deep.”  Suggestions and prayers welcome.

If you only read my weekly devotionals on the Blue Theology Mission Station FB page, I invite you to friend me on my personal FB page, or to look at – I will still be writing and reflecting on this spiritual wonder, the sea.

(Serious pic of me at my installation at the La Selva UCC church, where I will continue as member.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Bird Preacher and Bird Poet

Bird Preacher and Bird Poet

Heron and egret, wise and wild.  I saw them both last week as I walked with friends along Monterey Bay. 

Poet Mary Oliver saw “Some Herons” at dawn on the magic waters she loved and she called them “preachers” and “poets,” gowned, ready for a whole long sweet day.

We recalled her poem as we stood in silent awe, grateful for the birds’ sermon and verse.

Some Herons

A blue preacher
flew toward the swamp,
in slow motion.

On the leafy banks,
an old Chinese poet,
hunched in the white gown of his wings,

was waiting.
The water
was the kind of dark silk

that has silver lines
shot through it
when it is touched by the wind

or is splashed upward,
in a small, quick flower,
by the life beneath it.

The preacher
made his difficult landing,
his skirts up around his knees.

The poet's eyes
flared, as poet's eyes
are said to do

when the poet is awakened
from the forest of meditation.
It was summer.

It was only a few moments past the sun's rising,
which meant that the whole long sweet day
lay before them.

They greeted each other,
rumpling their gowns, for an instant,
and then smoothing them.

They entered the water,
and two more herons--
equally as beautiful--

joined them and stood just beneath them

in the black, polished water
where they fished, all day.

Come hear avian sermons and verse along Monterey Bay.  Take a youth service trip or adult pilgrimage.  I post these ocean devotions every Wednesday here and on Facebook.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Deep Calls to Deep

Deep Calls to Deep

These four wise ones from the East, who traveled far, from Boston, Southern Cal, Kentucky, stood in awe before the million gallon tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (with their new hammerhead shark friend) and thanked God for the chance to dive deep into their – preaching?

Yes, three Episcopal priests and my dear UCC colleague Kent Gilbert are a peer group in the sermon enrichment program from Virginia Theological Seminary, called, appropriately, “Deep Calls to Deep.”

In this year long program, “Preachers nourish their passion for preaching through voice and embodiment work and through deepening their connection with the Holy Spirit.
The call to preach comes from the depths of God and meets us in our own depth.  In order to respond from our own depth we need to nurture our body, mind and spirit, revitalizing, in peer groups, the vitality and hope that fueled your preaching ministry when you first began this wonderful yet challenging work of proclamation.”

(These wise preachers could have spent their mid-program retreat in wintery Virginia, but they took their Lilly money and came to Monterey!  Wise ones indeed!)

My job was to take them deep into Blue Theology, the wisdom and wonders to the sea.  Actually the Monterey Bay Aquarium and later the tidepools of Asilomar Beach did all the work – we just dove in! 

Sometimes we volunteers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium are told not to be too “preachy” about ocean conservation.   But at the same time they teach and encourage us to tell stories of hope, to be inspiring, and to “make the ask” for how guests might change their behavior to promote ocean health.  Sounds like “vital proclamation” to me!  Preach it brothers and sisters!

In honor of my new deep friends, here’s a piece called “Down and Deep” I wrote a year ago:
Christian language seems to love UP, rising, lift up your hearts.  I want more DOWN. I love my higher power, but I want a deeper power. What's the difference, up or down?  From the sea I have learned to love the down.  From my own female body I have come to cherish the dark and deep.

Many hymns and prayers still assume we live on a flat earth.  Praise God above ye heavenly hosts.  God on high. Hosanna in the highest.  So quaint and so wrong.

God and God's creation are more deep than high.  Deep oceans of course but also deep space.  I mean deep deep deep. I don't think deep space ever ends.  If God is everywhere, then God is deep.

Take a deep breath.  Not a high breath.  In-spir-ation is deep, dark, down.

I prefer people who are deep, wise, profound (literally, deep) to people who are high, and mighty.  Wisdom looks down, not up.

Creation stories are not just in Genesis but in Job: “Have you entered into the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?  Have you seen the gates of deep darkness?” God asks Job.

"They tried to bury us - they didn't know we were seeds." The ocean and my deep dark body teach me that we are seeds, God waits and ferments, foments in the dark.  Growth is hidden.  Yes, we need light but no growth happens without dark depth.

"Lift up your hearts" - "Let your living heart beat deep within you."
"As Christ rose" - "As Christ dove deep."
"Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing his wings"- "Depth and dark with all Christ brings, deep dark healing in his fins.”

“Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest.”
Our Blue Theology Mission Station proclaims all things deep and dark as we walk by the Monterey Bay and learn how to preserve Gods’ deep creation.  Youth service trips and adult pilgrimages.  I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Still Waters

Still Waters

We set out enough glasses for all 35 women, and pitchers of cool, fresh, local water.  We recalled how women in much of the world are the drawers and carriers of water.  We each poured a glass, served each other, stood in a circle, and silently, safely, drank as one, quenching our thirsts.  We prayed together - For what do we thirst?  Many responses: safe, abundant water for all, justice, friendship, solitude, relief from pain.  After each, we prayed, “And let all who thirst, come to the water.”

God leads me beside still waters.  In Hebrew it’s “mai menochot,” literally “restful waters.”  In the pastoral metaphor of the 23rd Psalm, waters that are still are a place to rest, and a safe place (unlike a wadi or a raging stream) to quench our thirst. 

I’ve been writing the past few weeks here about a retreat on “Living Waters” that I recently led with the fabulous women of First Congregational UCC, San Jose.  The first night was about still waters (followed by moving/living and deep waters.)

I shared some of these my ocean devotions on silence, stillness, thirst.  And we pondered the word “still.”  In early German and English, like Stille Nacht, Silent Night, still means quiet, restful.  How still we see thee lie.  But still is also an adverb meaning constant, persisting, I’m still standing.  Words like sty, stool, stall, stable, all come from the same cognate, a place where you put something and want it “still” to be there when you get back. You “install” something like a washing machine or a minister and you likewise hope they’ll stay working with you for a while.

So still means quiet, but it also means continuous.  Seems contradictory, silent and persisting.  But actually they both mean go on without change or ceasing, keep on keeping on. Safe places, quiet people, still waters, still go on, with persistence, faith, trust.

We United Church of Christ folks have a motto, “Never place a period where God has placed a comma - God is Still Speaking.”  Meaning God did not act only in the past – no, creation is ongoing, God just keeps keeping on.  Still. Today.

We women on retreat wondered if we might also put a comma right inside this our favorite phrase.  God is Still, Speaking.  God is still, safe, offering rest, like those still waters.  As well as active, still at it, speaking, never letting us go.

Where do we find restful waters in our lives?  What are the still places where we can quench our many and various thirsts? I am more and more seeking still water in my life, where my soul may be restored, my cup will overflow my thirst, in God’s wet house, forever.

(Pic is of pilgrims walking the still low tide waters to the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne.  Safe, restful, and quenching every pilgrim’s thirst.)
I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and at  Our church in Pacific Grove, CA offers adult pilgrimages and youth group service trips on ocean stewardship and spirituality along Monterey Bay.  Come and Sea!