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The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: September 12, 2020
Update on the wildfires in the west…
Fires continued to rage in southern Oregon, where hundreds of homes have been razed, as well as east of Salem, where two bodies have been found, and along the state’s coast. More than 900,000 acres have burned, nearly double a typical season. Hundreds of thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate, including parts of the Portland suburbs, where fires were still on the move.
In California, firefighters continued to battle the blazes of a remarkable wildfire season, including the August Complex burning in the Mendocino National Forest that is now the largest fire in the state’s recorded history.
In Washington, hundreds of homes and other structures were at risk of wildfires that continued to burn, even as a deadly stretch of dry winds from the East began to ease. Hilary Franz, the state’s commissioner of public lands, said the state was searching for help from elsewhere in the country.
One of our blogging friends, Michael Newnham aka The Phoenix Preacher, lives in Phoenix, Oregon and has been posting on Facebook about his own difficult and challenging experiences with regard to the wildfires. Here is a picture of his community from this week of devastation:
Please keep Michael and his family in your prayers, along with the millions of other people affected by these fires and their aftermath.
Here are some wise words he posted on his blog this past week before having to flee his home.
1. If there is nothing distinctly Christian about how you approach politics, there’s probably nothing distinctly Christian about how you approach anything else…and your faith is basically fire insurance…
2. The doctrine of justification by faith alone has come to mean that intellectual assent to a set of propositions allows you to enter heaven after living like hell for a lifetime…I don’t blame the doctrine, I blame the models…
3. I laugh when people who can’t tolerate minor discomfort and inconvenience talk about persecution…I suspect the martyrs gag…
4. Some of the people struggling most during the pandemic are the “fixers”… remember that you’re only responsible to be faithful, not for outcomes…
5. The reason why Christians have no problem with the President’s character is the same reason they have no problem with abusive and corrupt clergy…
6. No matter who wins the election, we will be no more moral or holy as a church or a country…because elections are not how you gain in those graces…
7. No matter who wins the election, we will all lose…because we have been trained to be constantly angry without pursuing peace and how to hate without hope of reconciliation…not because of lofty ideals, but for ad dollars…you think you’re being informed, but you’re really being played…
8. I’ve tried to shrink my circle to avoid strife…soon, all my friends will have tails…
9. When there are so many things to worry about, I find myself worrying about nothing at all…if things are that overwhelming, they’re above my pay grade…
10. I refuse to feel guilty about enjoying “insignificant” things or occasionally ignoring “significant” things…the ability to prudently do both are gifts from God…
Update from Jeff Dunn:
Jeff’s wife continues to improve and will be going to rehab. The doctors are pleased with her progress. Jeff thanks all the iMonks out there for their continuing prayers and encouragement.
How I’ve felt lately…
Europe tries to help Moria migrants…
Germany says 10 European countries have agreed to take 400 unaccompanied minors who fled Greece’s largest migrant camp when it was gutted by fire.
Most will go to Germany and France, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told reporters on Friday.
Close to 13,000 people had been living in squalor in the Moria camp on Lesbos.
Families have been sleeping in fields and on roads after fleeing the blaze on Wednesday, as authorities struggle to find accommodation for them.
Near the ruins of Moria, residents of the island blocked roads to stop charities from delivering aid and said they were against the construction of new tents.
But the Greek military later used helicopters to reach the site and have begun setting up replacement accommodation.
After visiting the area, European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas announced that the devastated camp would be replaced by a modern facility at the same location.
The Moria camp was initially designed to house 3,000 migrants. People from 70 countries had been sheltered there, most from Afghanistan.
So now, we have “worship protests”?…
A battle of wills between a California musician known for a series of open-air Christian worship concerts around the country and the city of Seattle, which denied him a park venue for a Labor Day concert, ended with a two-hour “worship protest” being held one block north of the park.
A group of local pastors located an alternate site on a blocked-off portion of Meridian Avenue North only hours before the 6 p.m. concert was set to begin. They got permission to hold the rally with the proviso that it be called a “worship protest.”
Sean Feucht, 37, the rally organizer, laughed about the conflict with city officials while welcoming the crowd of 800 to 900 people.
“Welcome to Seattle’s largest worship protest,” he said at the beginning of a two-hour set. “Turn to each other and say, ‘Welcome to the protest.’ In this city, that makes it a legal gathering.”
Feucht had originally planned to hold a sunset concert at the picturesque 20-acre Gas Works Park on Seattle’s Lake Union. The concert was part of the #LetUsWorship movement, a series of protests against COVID-19 bans on singing and large group meetings in churches.
The musician held a similar event in August in the city’s CHOP (Capitol Hill Organized Protest) district, where the fact that few worshipers had worn masks raised eyebrows at Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s office.
The governor has allowed outdoor worship gatherings of up to 200 people as long as masks are worn even while singing, people stay 6 feet apart, and there are no choirs or musical performances involving more than two people.
Feucht’s concerts, which have drawn thousands of spectators and worshipers at 21 gatherings around the country, ignore all those guidelines. The events, a mix of Christian concert, healing service, guerrilla street theater and spectator mosh pit, feature the kind of public singing forbidden under many COVID-19 regulations.
“We want to come and bless this city,” Feucht told reporters before Monday’s concert. “We’ve not had one COVID case tracked back to our concerts. This is about blatant discrimination against Christians. They’re not doing this with other demonstrators.”
It was all, he said to the crowd minutes later, about the freedom to worship.
“Politicians can write press releases, they can make up threats, they can shut down parks, they can put up fences,” he said. “But they can’t stop the church of Christ from worshiping the one true God. We are here as citizens of America and of the kingdom of God and we will not be silenced.”
…“[We have] declared a new Jesus movement,” he said on a recent podcast with lifestyle supplement entrepreneur David Harris Jr. “We feel this call to target cities under extreme turmoil, despair and brokenness. That’s why we’ve gone into downtown Portland a block from the riots; we’ve gone into CHOP in Seattle. God’s really writing a different story there. There’s a lot of people wanting to experience God in these cities.”
On Friday, Feucht and his team will head on the road for 14 more rallies, starting in Fort Collins, Colorado, and followed by concerts in Colorado Springs, Minneapolis and, on September 16, Kenosha, Wisconsin, site of recent riots involving the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a black man. Feucht’s last rally will be on October 25 on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
R.I.P Lou Brock
Hall of Famer Lou Brock, who died at age 81 at a local hospital Sunday afternoon after being in ill health, will be remembered for many accomplishments. He was the National League’s all-time leader in stolen bases with 938. He had 3,023 hits. He was a first-ballot electee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He was the “Base Burglar,” who came to the Cardinals in 1964 via a trade in which the Cardinals ripped off the Chicago Cubs.
But he also was known as one of the toughest baseball players that his former teammates had ever seen and that was before he encountered diabetes which caused him to have his left leg amputated. Before he suffered multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer), before he suffered a stroke, before he suffered a heart ailment.
None of those medical foes were able to vanquish Brock. Death was the first and only opponent to defeat him. “Isn’t that the truth?” said former Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver.
…On June 15, 1964, the Cardinals acquired Brock, a raw, 24-year-outfielder from the Chicago Cubs in a trade that cost them popular righthander Ernie Broglio, who had been a 18-game winner for them the prior season although he was 3-5 in 1964 and perhaps injured.
Immediately, the trade was not well received by the Cardinals’ players. “We thought it was the worst trade ever,” said Gibson at the time.
After all, Southern University product Brock had batted only .263, .258 and .251 in his 2½ years with the Cubs, albeit hitting some prodigious home runs.
But Brock, not counted on for power but as a table setter for the Cardinals, would hit .348 the rest of the 1964 season and steal 33 bases as the Cardinals rallied to win the National League pennant on the last day of the regular season and went on to beat the New York Yankees in a seven-game World Series to bring St. Louis its first World Series title since 1946.
Brock hit .300 in that World Series and then, showing he was at his best when the lights were brightest, batted .414 with seven stolen bases in the 1967 World Series, which the Cardinals won in seven games from Boston. He also hit .464 with seven more steals and a record 13 hits in the 1968 World Series loss against Detroit.
…From 1965, Brock began a stretch of 12 seasons where he averaged 65 steals and 99 runs scored a year, featuring his record-setting season in 1974 when he set the then major-league stolen-base record of 118 while finishing second in the voting for National League MVP.
…Brock’s No. 20 was retired by the Cardinals in 1979. He later became a businessman, a broadcaster, a special base running instructor, a minister and, finally a survivor.
Now, that’s a long song!
A musical composition designed to take well over 600 years to play has gone through its first chord change in seven years.
Entitled “As Slow as Possible” (ASLSP), the composition by the late American composer John Cage is due to be played out over 639 years at the St. Burchardi church in Halberstadt in Germany.
Needless to say, no one will hear the piece in its entirety but the project has garnered quite a following, with many masked fans flocking to the church over the weekend to witness the event. For those unable to attend in person, there was a livestream.
The performance started in 2001 on an organ specially built for the super slow-paced recital. During that time, there was a pause that lasted for 18 months, while the most recent note change took place in 2013.
If all goes to plan, the performance will come to an end in 2640. Fans will have a relatively short wait for the next momentous occasion, however, as the next chord change is due in February 2022.
The really, really bad news you may not have heard…
The global Living Planet Index continues to decline. It shows an average 68% decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016. A 94% decline in the LPI for the tropical subregions of the Americas is the largest fall observed in any part of the world.
Why does this matter?
It matters because biodiversity is fundamental to human life on Earth, and the evidence is unequivocal – it is being destroyed by us at a rate unprecedented in history. Since the industrial revolution, human activities have increasingly destroyed and degraded forests, grasslands, wetlands and other important ecosystems, threatening human well-being. Seventy-five per cent of the Earth’s ice-free land surface has already been significantly altered, most of the oceans are polluted, and more than 85% of the area of wetlands has been lost.
Species population trends are important because they are a measure of overall ecosystem health. Measuring biodiversity, the variety of all living things, is complex, and there is no single measure that can capture all of the changes in this web of life. Nevertheless, the vast majority of indicators show net declines over recent decades.
That’s because in the last 50 years our world has been transformed by an explosion in global trade, consumption and human population growth, as well as an enormous move towards urbanisation. Until 1970, humanity’s Ecological Footprint was smaller than the Earth’s rate of regeneration. To feed and fuel our 21st century lifestyles, we are overusing the Earth’s biocapacity by at least 56%.
These underlying trends are driving the unrelenting destruction of nature, with only a handful of countries retaining most of the last remaining wilderness areas. Our natural world is transforming more rapidly than ever before, and climate change is further accelerating the change.
Read an article about this report at CBS NEWS.
To be fair, something like this is true of any biblicist…
Mark Galli to be confirmed in Catholic Church…
Our friend Mark Galli will be confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church this Sunday. Here are some details from RNS:
CHICAGO — On Sunday (Sept. 13), Mark Galli will stand before Bishop Richard Pates in the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus in Joliet, Illinois, to hear these words:
“Francis, be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Pates will then dab Galli’s forehead with anointing oil (using a cotton ball instead of his thumb due to COVID-19). And with that, Galli — who has chosen his confirmation name after St. Francis of Assisi— will become a Roman Catholic.
The first inkling came in 1994 when he served as editor of a magazine called Christian History and wrote a cover story on St. Francis of Assisi, whom he admired for his message of simplicity, poverty and submission to church authority even when he knew the church was not always right.
In the intervening years, Galli has slowly moved away from the evangelical mainstream. He started out a Presbyterian, then became an Episcopalian and an Anglican. For a time he attended an Orthodox church.
Two years ago when Galli expressed an interest in attending the course of study for Catholic converts called Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, his teacher John Ellison, himself a convert, knew Galli’s mind was made up.
…“I want to submit myself to something bigger than myself,” Galli said.
“One thing I like about both Orthodoxy and Catholicism is that you have to do these things, whether you like it or not, whether you’re in the mood or not, sometimes whether you believe or not. You just have to plow ahead. I want that. If it’s left up to me, I am one lazy son-of-a-bitch. I will not do anything unless someone comes along and says, ‘You need to do this. This is really important. This will shape your life. Come on, Galli. Get off your butt.’”
Mark Galli was born into a Catholic family, so this change is more of a reversion than a conversion. He entered the world of evangelicalism at age 13, when his mother had a spiritual awakening while watching a Billy Graham rally on TV. When Gail and I visited Mark and his wife several years ago, we attended their Anglican church with them. And now he has completed the circle, returning to the church tradition of his youth. We wish him Godspeed on his continuing journey.