Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Easter Seals

Easter Seals

Easter morning.  Newborn harbor seal pups and their moms at Hopkins Beach on Monterey Bay. 

On this protected beach, off limits for nearly 100 years (I took this photo through a strong fence,) the seals know they are safe from human hunters of the past and excited tourists of today.  This is their home year-round, and their birthing place each April.

They are Easter Seals!  For the moms, the dark days of groaning in travail are over.  For the pups this is a blessed birth-day when all things are made new.

Monterey Bay itself has been reborn as an Easter empty tomb in recent decades, as vast stretches of beach and ocean have been set aside as reserves and sanctuaries (a nice holy word) and a move toward ecosystem management has set an overflowing dinner table for more and more creatures. 

Last year during Holy Week our Blue Theology Mission Station welcomed 15 youth from two Oregon Disciples of Christ congregations.  They helped restore new plant life on the Asilomar dunes, cleaned up beaches, saw the mystery of whale and dolphin and these baby seals.  Their Maundy Thursday’s foot washing was the caress of the sea at a beach worship in the dark.

“St. Francis invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness… Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty.

“Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”  (Pope Francis, Laudate Si, 12)

“Consider the lilies of the field…Yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.”  (Matthew 6)

“Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
 Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.” (Song of Solomon 8)

Happy Eastertide from the Blue Theology Mission Station!
I post these devotions on ocean spirituality and stewardship every Wednesday here and at Come and sea the resurrection!  Info on group visits for youth and adults:

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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.

A few years ago during Holy Week 15 youth visiting our Blue Theology Mission Station from First Christian Church, Eugene took a “cross walk” here at Asilomar, and helped resurrect the dunes with native plants.  Their service project reminded 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 confessed 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 several already for next summer.  Always room for more, as well as individual guided retreats. Come walk with us! 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

In Every Neighborhood There is a Naturehood.

In Every Neighborhood There is a Naturehood.

I’m sitting in my car outside our church waiting for a meeting.  There is a lovely bush alongside the white clapboard church.  It has sweet little white flowers.  I used to know the name of this bush – I have forgotten it.  But I do still know, despite the noise of traffic and the hardness of asphalt and walls, and all the wires along the street, that this little bush is my “naturehood” in this neighborhood.

That’s a public service announcement from the US Forest Service, “In every neighborhood there is a ‘naturehood.’”   (For such as this, I am happy to pay my taxes this week.)

From their website, “ More than 80 percent of Americans live in cities, but fortunately, families don’t have to leave the city to take their kids on an adventure to the forest. According to research done by Euro RSCG, 88 percent of children today say they like being in nature, and 79 percent wish they could spend more time there. Additionally, children who play outside have lower stress levels and more active imaginations, become fitter and leaner, develop stronger immune systems and are more likely to become environmentally conscious in the future.”

A struggling plant on the edge of the sidewalk.  A towering tree in the back yard.  For lucky me, still here in my car, the ocean is just a block away, and when I finish writing this I’m going to go look at the newborn baby harbor seals at Hopkins Marine Station Beach on Monterey Bay.

But we all have naturehoods closer that we think.  A park, an open space, a stream or lake, some green or blue, all the amazing wildflowers this spring. They revive our souls, connect us deep to deep, invite us into the green and blue circle of life.

Find your naturehood and spend a little time there today.  Give it a little love and water.  Invite others to care for and nurture it, tend the garden.  Say thank you.  Such an original blessing.
__________________  Our youth service trips and adult pilgrimages along Monterey Bay include a visit to the seals (and this month, babies) and much more of God’s ocean naturehood and how to steward it.  Be in touch, still some openings for this summer.  I post these devotionals on ocean stewardship and spirituality every Wednesday here and on Facebook.