Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Fire and Rain

Fire and Rain

“Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone…I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain….but I always thought that I’d see you again.”

It wasn’t just yesterday morning.  Actually it seems like forever, but it was just last Friday when the Soberanes Fire forced us and our neighbors to leave our Big Sur home with an hour’s notice.  As I write, the fire still burns out of control, over 25,000 acres, 3000 firefighters, growing in all directions.  Our house in Palo Colorado still stands as of today, but 20+ of our neighbors, some very very dear friends, hear from far away that their homes are gone and think, “I always thought that I’d see you again.”

I’m staying in a lovely home in Carmel of kind friends.  I walked early Sunday morning to the corner store to get the NY Times (can’t usually walk to the store from my remote house!)  It was a little surreal to see this charming village, skies eerily green through the smoke.  As I walked the aisles, James Taylor came on the sound system, “I walked out this morning, and I wrote down this song.  I just can’t remember who to send it to.  I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain….”

At first I got mad – Fire and Rain!? I know full well there’s a damned fire raging and I know we’re getting no rain soon in this crazy climate, in November if we’re lucky.  How dare you play that song when a fire is threatening me and the land I love and devastating dear friends?

Then I indulged in some James Taylor memories and affection.  I remembered reading something about the song’s Suzanne, a tragic story, the plans they made put an end to you. I recalled Taylor’s own long painful journey through addiction and recovery.  Moving through the stages of grief, I remembered concerts, sing alongs, you’ve got a friend.

I thought, OK, yes, he is just stating the simple truth:  I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.

I usually write something in these Wednesday posts about the ocean and spirituality, Blue Theology.  Oceans are wet.  Fire is not.  The ocean is actually helping to put out this fire.   Helicopters are pulling buckets of water out of the ocean and dropping it on the roaring flames.  Oceans are saving lives.

I went to a funeral today of a beloved church matriarch, Lois.  The family announced after the service that we would process from the church to the cemetery along Oceanview Blvd in Pacific Grove.  “We will drive by the sea because Lois loved the ocean; let’s take that route with her one last time.”  This view of Asilomar is near her house, and she is buried close to her beloved sea.

So while I wait and worry, hope and despair, I’m taking walks by the sea.  I’m remembering that the ocean can help douse a flame of pain or sorrow.

A friend wrote of their destroyed home: “We got the hard news tonight that the fire has taken what we have put our hearts into building at Rocky Creek. It took the structures but it did not take the creative life we built there with family and friends….We accepted the risk of knowing that the land belonged to greater force and that someday we may be faced with this. A risk we full heartedly accepted. The day has come and we are now on our knees at the power of the wild.”

I’m not ready to tie this up in a neat bow of “lessons learned” and “the phoenix will rise” and “the wildflowers will be spectacular next year from these searing flames.”  Lives and landscapes have been forever painfully changed.

Walk by the sea and let the ocean help douse the flames.

(Chad King photo of Asilomar, NOAA)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Blue Blessings

Blue Blessings

Did you know we had Blue Theology swag?  Here are some teens from Catholic parishes in Castroville and Watsonville whom we are hosting this week at the Blue Theology Mission Station.

We’re watching the Aquarium’s summer deck show, “Turning the Tide” about this area’s multicultural history of fishing and eventual conservation; Native Americans in tule boats, Japanese abalone divers, Chinese squid fisherman with lanterns, Sicilian sardine fishermen – all reenacted in the Great Tide Pool.   Informative and inspiring.

Every youth or adult who takes part in our program goes home with a beautiful Blue Theology bag, water bottle, notebook and non-plastic pen all emblazoned with our whale tale logo.  Branding.

So much fun to see 25 kids and adults walking around the Aquarium with their bags proclaiming they are pilgrims more than tourists, blue theologians.

Our great local Bishop Garcia had come to a ministers association meeting and shared his concerns about the many kids and teens living in migrant agricultural worker camps on the Central Coast.  We said:  How about Blue Theology days of learning and serving God through ocean stewardship?  After some very creative fundraising and remarkable sharing of ideas and faiths, we came to this week, where each day kids come on a school bus from different parishes.  Monday was Greenfield in South County.  After a morning at the Aquarium, the youth spend a couple hours doing citizen science, counting sand crabs at Asilomar Beach for a big study on climate change.

Since they are teens, we’ve got lots of food – pancake breakfast when they arrive, yummy lunch packed in those cool bags, big BBQ at church at the end of the day.  Throughout the day we stop for prayer along the bay, silent meditation under the fish roundabout in the Aquarium (other visitors stop and notice!) and at the end of the day the Diocese staff leads worship based on Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change.

In my installation last week as Minister for Blue Theology I said our ministry is one of bridging, advocating and guiding.  We are doing all three with this group; sharing Christian ministry across old divisions, guiding the youth, some of whom have limited experience of the sea, into ocean stewardship, and hearing the powerful advocacy words of their Pope.

Many blue blessings this week.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Gifts from the Sea

Gifts from the Sea

I wish I were smiling in this picture!  I really was so very happy to be installed as Minister for Blue Theology last Sunday at La Selva Beach Community UCC.

At least it shows you some of the many gifts I have gotten from the sea over the years, symbols of so many memories and blessings and friendships.
-The fish cloth is from Mombasa Kenya, Indian Ocean, I got it in 1969.
-The shells are from my mother’s collection and mine – Florida Gulf of Mexico shells from the early 50’s, Indian Ocean shells, whelk from Martha’s Vineyard 1960, anemone from Big Sur coast 1995.
-Todd Evans brought me back from El Salvador the enamel fish cross (near my hand) in 2004 after he heard me talk about Blue Theology at his retreat center Wellspring.
-The Blue Blessings Bowls: Anne Swallow Gillis gave me one, and one was a wedding gift (1979) and is by an artist who also worked on Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party.  Where did I get the other one?
-I’m wearing two stoles.  My Blue Theology one that Sandy Johnson made me ( and one that Patricia Wood gave me on Sunday.
-Wonderful altar and chancel art by Sally Williams of the La Selva church.
-One bottle of water is left on the altar from the 40+ that folks brought for the Gathering of the Waters part of the service.  Each person poured and spoke aloud the names of many local creeks and taps and beaches and bays.  Two friends sent me water in the mail – Kathryn Schreiber sent a jar from her “Holy Temple” Point Reyes National Seashore, and Sandy Johnson (of stole fame) won the prize for “water from farthest away” - from Minnehaha Creek.  Minnehaha feeds into the Mississippi, which provides water for 2/3 of the US.  She posted a sweet picture of her granddaughter helping to collect the water.  That’s another gift – they spent a day together and sent me water.
-This photo itself – Evelyn Vigil took it afterwards.
-Many other gifts – wonderful friends and colleagues and family and new people who were there.  Bountiful reception spread.
-I made an insert for the Order of Worship that is a “Sampler” of some of these BT posts and some history of the ministry – let me know if you want one.
-The ministry was affirmed, I was authorized, and I will now be held accountable (the 3 A’s) as a UCC Minister for Blue Theology.  Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Wild Call That May Not Be Denied

A Wild Call That May Not Be Denied

“I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied…”

On Sunday I will be installed as “Minister for Blue Theology” at the La Selva Beach Community UCC church.  (All invited!)  Here’s part of my sermon, “God is Blue.  And Wet.”

The ocean calls, it beckons. I can almost hear it, just three blocks away.  If the waves were crashing with a high tide I probably could hear its call.  (Pick up my big conch shell).  Now I hear it.  It’s calling.  The ocean is always calling.  Night and day, it calls.  Just as the moon pulls the tides through space, we feel the ocean pulling us, calling us to its side.  Come.

John Masefield wrote those haunting words, “I must go down to the seas again….” in his poem “Ship Fever.”  He was a sailor and a poet (and English Poet Laureate from 1930 until his death in 1967.)

I know this poem from when I was a child.  I think my mother recited it to me, as she did so many, often at bedtime.  (“It was many and many a year ago, in a kingdom by the sea….”)

Deep calls to deep, says the psalm poet of the Bible.

The ocean has a voice, a presence, a power.  For Masefield it has a wild voice, lifting in him a longing that is like a fever, the ship fever that gives the poem its title.

“I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife…”

My call to ocean ministry is not a vagrant gypsy life (I hope!)  but I will commit to following the gull’s way and the whale’s way, and of course God’s way.  It’s a wild call and a clear call that cannot be denied.

(Photo: Shannon Lyday, NOAA’s SIMoN photo library.  This is a whale whose way I’ll follow!)