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22 Responses

  1. Reuben says:

    Baseball season is here!

  2. Michael says:

    Reuben,

    For most of my life the beginning of baseball season was the real New Years Day…the restart of the year as the cold lessened and the sun was seen more frequently…the real time to hope for new beginnings and better endings.
    ESPN would broadcast 4 or 5 games on Opening day and I would watch them all…it was drinking deeply of hope incarnated in sport.

    Now, I’m old and seemingly too jaded to embrace it…but perhaps I should try…

  3. Dan from Georgia says:

    A few co-workers and I were talking about sports yesterday. I too treat the onset of the baseball season as a “new beginning” of sorts. I frankly counldn’t care less about the NCAA BB season/March Madness, and once I move out of Georgia, won’t give a second thought to SEC sports, but for me, baseball is so much fun to watch storylines, and to hear by May the baseball wonks cry out “What’s wrong with the Yankees?!?!”

    Then there’s Vikings football….suffering fan here.

  4. Michael says:

    Baseball has such a rich history…though the new ways of play and new rules leave me cold.

    Basketball left me long ago for myriad reasons.

    I was thinking last night that the fact that I can now watch any game I want whenever I want has not enhanced my love of the games…there was much more joy when fandom meant listening to great announcers on the radio and being overjoyed when your team was on TV….I’m getting very old…but NASCAR will be on my tv until church starts…

  5. Reuben says:

    New beginning is a good descriptor.

    The spring is here, the weather changes, the year is truly new.

    I love listening to ball games on the radio. Our play by play announcer is one of the best ever, in my not so humble opinion. But the Rockies are pretty bad, and we don’t get much coverage. When I had TV, I would watch the game with the audio off and listen to the play by play on the radio. It’s a zen place for me. Our field is by far the most beautiful in the nation, with the backdrop of the mountains. Whenever I get the chance to actually be at the field, I spring on the opportunity.

    By the way, it’s winter and 60 degrees outside today. Colorado is a silly state when it comes to weather. There are fire warnings due to how dry and breezy it is. Grumble grumble grumble.

  6. Michael says:

    From The New Yorker:

    Rubén Garcia’s days start early, with a text message from Border Patrol. On a bright day in mid-January, the message arrived a little after 5:45 A.M. Ninety-two people who had crossed the border illegally as part of family units would be released today, the text said. Where would they go?

    As the director of Annunciation House, a nonprofit shelter system, Garcia, who is seventy-five, has welcomed migrants and refugees arriving in El Paso for nearly fifty years. Record numbers of people are crossing the border, many of them into El Paso, one of the country’s busiest ports of entry. Ninety-two people was “very manageable” compared with the number on many other days, he said. Without Garcia’s efforts, “over the years, tens of thousands of people would have been on the streets of El Paso without food, without shelter, without comfort,” Veronica Escobar, the congresswoman who represents El Paso, told me. When Escobar took a congressional delegation to the border, earlier this month, she made sure her colleagues talked to Garcia, whom she refers to as “a saint who still walks the earth.”

    Increasingly, people in positions of power are eager for Garcia’s expertise, even if they don’t always agree with his opinions on immigration; he has met with representatives of both the Trump and Biden Administrations. Last January, when New York’s mayor, Eric Adams, visited the southern border to better understand how to handle the influx of migrants to New York, he sat down with Garcia. “He was basically, like, ‘Why are you sending all these people to New York City?’ ” Garcia recalled. Garcia has white hair and a mild, tolerant manner that belies his underlying steeliness; he has little patience for people who see migrants as someone else’s problem. “This is us encountering our own humanity,” he told me. “This is what we were made for.” He encouraged the Mayor to enlist local faith communities to support migrants until they got on their feet. Wasn’t New York the wealthiest city in the world? Adams seemed unconvinced. “He was, like, ‘Ruben, you don’t live in my world,’ ” Garcia recalled.

    ……………………………………………..
    The increasing political prominence of immigration has also put aid organizations in the crosshairs. This week, Ken Paxton, Texas’s attorney general, announced a suit against Annunciation House, accusing the organization of “astonishing horrors,” among them “facilitating illegal entry to the United States, alien harboring, human smuggling, and operating a stash house.” (The lawsuit stems from a dispute over Annunciation House’s failure to turn over paperwork that the attorney general had requested with one day’s notice.) A ruling against Annunciation House might force the organization to cease operations in Texas.

    Garcia was born and brought up in El Paso, where he attended Catholic schools. When he was in his twenties, he ran youth-outreach programs for the local diocese, but he hungered for a larger sense of purpose. Garcia and a group of friends began meeting regularly, trying to determine how to lead meaningful lives. It was the mid-seventies, and all around the country young people were embarking on soul-expanding quests. Garcia was emphatically not a hippie—“Chances are, if I had met a hippie, I would’ve said, ‘Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?’ ” he told me—but he was drawn to his faith’s radical practitioners, including Dorothy Day, who opened “houses of hospitality” to feed and provide shelter for the poor, and Cesar Chavez, who incorporated prayers into marches for workers’ rights.

    During the months of prayer and discussion, Garcia kept circling back to the same realization: “The God of Scripture identifies first and foremost with the least among us. And we’re not that,” he said. “That insight was extremely helpful. Because it allowed us to understand that, if you want to find greater meaning and purpose and depth to your life, then go place yourself among the people that God does identify with, and they will teach you. At that time, in El Paso, there were two shelters, and neither of them would let you stay there if you were undocumented. So when we asked the question, ‘In El Paso, in 1978, who would be some of the people that God would identify with?’ The answer was, ‘The undocumented.’ ” That year, the Diocese of El Paso granted Garcia and his friends use of the second floor of a brick building a mile from the border. Garcia wrote to Mother Teresa, whom he had met a couple of years prior, telling her about their work. He says she replied, “Now that you have the building, you can go out and announce the good news.” Thus the name of the project: Annunciation House. In keeping with the tradition started by Day, Garcia and his co-founders referred to the residents of Annunciation House as “guests.” “We had one guest who was undocumented, and then we had two, we had three, we had four,” Garcia said. Volunteers and guests lived communally. Within a few years, they had taken over the first floor of the building, too. Garcia’s co-founders eventually left, but Garcia says he lived in Annunciation House and its network of shelters for thirty-five years, until his parents died, when he moved into their house.

    Several weeks before Paxton sued Annunciation House, I met Garcia at Casa Papa Francisco, a former convent building that, in 2022, was repurposed as a shelter, one of several that the organization runs. Its guests had crossed the border illegally before either being apprehended or seeking out immigration officials to apply for asylum. The building had the tidy but functional atmosphere of a place that many people pass through on the way to somewhere else. A map of the United States was tacked to a wall, near a list of phone numbers for bus companies. In the kitchen, people stood chatting: the daily bus to New York had been cancelled, owing to bad weather.

    Cots are turned on their side inside Casa Rita Steinhagen, one of Annunciation House’s newest hospitality sites.
    Most people who come to Annunciation House shelters stay for a handful of days or a few weeks, before leaving to connect with friends or family or work prospects elsewhere. But some guests stay longer. That day, Garcia was taking two of them to a dentist appointment: Yara, a teen-ager who had arrived from Venezuela with her mother seven months before, and Wilson, a thin young man with lively eyes who had been severely burned in the March, 2023, fire at Juárez’s detention center. Garcia lifted Wilson, who uses a wheelchair, into the front seat of his work vehicle, a white Toyota truck with nearly two hundred thousand miles on the odometer, then hoisted the chair into its bed.

    In Annunciation House’s early days, its blend of religious faith and civil disobedience was not unique. In the eighties, as civil wars—which were in some cases fought by U.S.-funded paramilitaries—ravaged Central America, the Reagan Administration enacted policies that made it difficult for those fleeing violence to claim asylum. Hundreds of congregations of many faiths offered themselves as shelters to undocumented refugees as part of the sanctuary movement. After the September 11, 2001, attacks and the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, the border became increasingly militarized; in 2003, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed Juan Patricio Peraza Quijada, a nineteen-year-old who was staying at Annunciation House. (A judge later ruled that the agent’s actions were justified.) Garcia still bristles when he discusses the shooting, and every year he hosts a memorial Mass for Peraza on February 22nd, the anniversary of his death. Peraza’s death marked “a low point” in Garcia’s relationship with the Border Patrol, he said.

    Then, in 2014, Garcia says, representatives from the Border Patrol and from the El Paso office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement requested to meet with Garcia. “I’m, like, What the hell are they wanting? Because, at that point, there wasn’t really a relationship,” Garcia said. The officials wanted to discuss a shift in migrant populations. Instead of single adults hoping to find work under the table, many border crossers were now families planning to apply for asylum. Instead of attempting to evade the Border Patrol, they were seeking out agents, and ICE didn’t have the capacity to house family units while their cases were pending. (U.S. immigration courts currently have a backlog of more than three million cases.) “They said, ‘We want to release them to Annunciation House—will you take them?’ And that’s when I was able to say to them, ‘With certain conditions,’ ” Garcia recalled. He asked that the asylum seekers be released with papers that enabled them to travel, and that Annunciation House’s volunteers not be enlisted to monitor guests. “No enforcement,” as he put it. (An ICE representative was unable to confirm Garcia’s account of the 2014 meeting before publication. C.B.P. did not respond to a request for comment.)

    That meeting marked the beginning of Garcia’s new relationship with the border-enforcement agencies. Nowadays, once asylum seekers either are apprehended or turn themselves in to Border Patrol, they are processed into the immigration system, and, if released, brought to Annunciation House’s network of shelters, where they are fed, housed, and provided assistance to travel onward. “Otherwise, you’re going to see people sleeping in the streets,” Garcia said. (In the Rio Grande Valley, a similar support network is run by Sister Norma Pimentel.) Even as Garcia works closely with federal agents, Annunciation House rarely accepts government funding, relying instead on donations. “That’s given us a lot of freedom,” Garcia told me. Most important, it means that Annunciation House can help not just those who have pending asylum cases but also people who are undocumented. A few years ago, Garcia says, when ICE tried to officially recognize Annunciation House as a partner in its work, Garcia turned down the offer. “I’m sorry, no offense, no offense—but I couldn’t do it,” he told me.

    As we sat in the dentist’s waiting room, Garcia explained that, during the Trump Administration, as the number of migrants continued to rise, Annunciation Houses’s resources grew strained. In one year, Garcia told me, ICE released more than a hundred and fifty thousand people to the organization’s shelters. “The reasons are always the same—I can’t feed my family, I’m afraid. It’s just that the numbers have gone up,” Garcia said. (According to a D.H.S. report, under the Biden Administration, C.B.P. has taken more than six million migrants into custody, deported approximately four million, and released more than 2.3 million while their cases were pending; the majority of those who arrived as families were released.) Annunciation House had always run on a shoestring budget, and the COVID-19 pandemic made things even harder; volunteer levels dropped, even as border crossings rose, after a brief lull in 2020, to record numbers. “We were doing all of it, and the city and county were doing none of it,” Garcia said. “We just couldn’t keep going at that pace.” In 2022, Garcia shut down Casa del Refugiado, one of Annunciation House’s satellite shelters, which had a capacity of more than a thousand beds—at the time, one of the largest shelters on the southern border.

    The situation put El Paso, a city that has traditionally welcomed immigrants, in a bind. Declaring a state of emergency because of the migrant crossings would unlock state and federal funds, but some local lawmakers feared that doing so would accord with Governor Greg Abbott’s rhetoric about a migrant “invasion” at the border. The city did eventually issue a disaster declaration, and opened shelters of its own, but the money came with strings attached. “When the City of El Paso declared a disaster,” the El Paso County judge Ricardo Samaniego testified before the House Judiciary Committee, last February, “we did not get the resources that we needed but instead saw the state send Texas National Guard, the placement of concertina wire lined haphazardly in certain areas, and pseudo barriers of tanks and cargo containers.” “With the disaster declaration, you get the money. And you get the razor wire,” Garcia said.

    Abbott’s busing program, in which chartered buses take migrants to cities elsewhere in the country, has also helped relieve the pressure on El Paso. Abbott was criticized for using migrants as pawns in order to make a political point. But Garcia pointed out that busing migrants away from border cities also helped make their plight visible to more people: “So, one-fourth of the population of Venezuela—probably six million people—has left Venezuela. But those six million people aren’t here. They’re in Colombia, they’re in Ecuador. Those countries have absorbed many, many more people than have come here. But our reaction—the richest country in the world!—has been that we’re overwhelmed. As long as the Venezuelans are overwhelming Colombia, we don’t give a shit. We don’t raise a finger. We only pretend to be concerned when they start showing up here.” Many Americans seemed to think of migrants as someone else’s problem; what if, instead, we considered them our collective responsibility? “All of us have skin in this game,” he said. But, as rhetoric around migration grows more heated, the humanitarian work done by organizations like Annunciation House becomes more fraught. An anti-immigrant activist recently filmed volunteers aiding migrants in Arizona, accusing them of “aiding and abetting the cartels.”

    Later in the afternoon, Garcia visited a former church building that Annunciation House was converting into a shelter. He planned to name it Casa Rita Steinhagen, in honor of a Minnesota nun and peace activist who served time in prison for protesting the School of the Americas, a U.S. Army training program for Latin American military officers. The shelter will use FEMA money as part of its operating budget, only the second time Garcia has accepted government funding. (It will remain separate from the rest of Annunciation House’s operations.) The church’s sanctuary was already cluttered with cots and stacks of boxes containing blankets from the Red Cross. “You’ve got enough blankets, at least,” Garcia told a volunteer. She eyed the boxes appraisingly. “Just enough, probably,” she said.

    As we headed back to Casa Papa Francisco, Garcia checked his phone—another text from Border Patrol, then a call from a volunteer trying to sort out the disrupted bus schedules. Amid the constant work of coördination, Garcia began to muse on his eventual retirement. He’s decided that, when the time comes, he’ll step back all the way; he doesn’t want to become one of those people who hovers over what he’s built, unable to leave it behind. “Maybe then I’ll become a hippie,” he said. ♦

    See more photos at: https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-the-southwest/el-pasos-saint-of-the-border-negotiates-a-new-reality

  7. Linn says:

    Michael,
    I read that article in your list earlier this week and I was appalled. I am beginning to think that Texas is going to secede. To further curl your hair:
    https://julieroys.com/trump-promises-a-revival-of-christian-power-in-speech-to-national-religious-broadcasters/

    If Trump wins, there may be a new “confessing church” forming!

  8. Michael says:

    Linn,

    I believe the time to form the confessing church is now…before the real persecution from the orange demon begins…

  9. Michael says:

    The radio/tv network that won “station of the year” at that gathering runs my area…

  10. Muff Potter says:

    ‘Whatever you did to the least of these, you did also to me’
    — Jesus of Nazareth —

  11. Captain Kevin says:

    I read that Trump promising revival article. I thought I was gonna hurl. Don’t the people cheering and applauding know that he doesn’t even understand the Christian faith, and only says these things because he want their votes? It’s sickening.

  12. Captain Kevin says:

    May Ruben Garcia be blessed and protected, and may his tribe increase.

  13. Terry says:

    Linn – RE the Roys article – The people who replaced “Let’s Go Brandon” with “Let’s Go Jesus” on t-shirts don’t know what that phrase meant anymore than they know who Jesus is.

  14. Janet LinnBrideofChrist says:

    Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills is back in the news again. Newsweek and several others reported that Speaker of the House Mike Johnson invited Jack Hibbs to give a ‘guest invocation” or opening prayer before the US government session. A petition was then signed by members of congress claiming that Jack Hibbs is a ‘radical, hate mongering and divisive” person and that the Calvary Chapel pastor doesn’t meet the high standards required to lead our US government in prayer and condemning Mike Johnson for his choice of Hibbs. I’m wondering how Mike Johnson ever even met Jack Hibbs?

  15. Michael says:

    Linn,

    Many Calvary Chapel pastors have been connected to far right politicians through the efforts of Rob McCoy and that little weasel from Turning Point U.S.A…Charlie Kirk.

    Christian Nationalism packs the pews and the bank accounts…

  16. Kevin H says:

    Janet Linn,

    I’ve got an article coming this week where I speak of the Jack Hibbs’ types and call them out what I believe them to be.

    It should be fun. 😉

  17. Michael says:

    I asked ChatGPT who we were…

    “The Phoenix Preacher is a popular blog and online community that focuses on discussing issues related to Christianity, particularly within the context of American evangelicalism. The blog covers a wide range of topics, including theology, church leadership, current events, and personal reflections on faith.

    The Phoenix Preacher was founded by Michael Newnham, who is a pastor, author, and blogger. He started the blog in the early 2000s as a platform to share his thoughts and engage in discussions about various aspects of Christianity. Over time, the blog grew in popularity and developed a dedicated following.

    One of the defining features of The Phoenix Preacher is its commitment to transparency and authenticity in discussing both the positive and negative aspects of church life and the Christian faith. The blog often addresses controversial issues within the church, such as scandals involving church leaders, theological debates, and social justice issues.

    The Phoenix Preacher also serves as a community hub where readers can engage with each other through comments and discussions on blog posts. This sense of community has been instrumental in creating a supportive environment for individuals grappling with questions of faith and navigating the complexities of church life.

    Overall, The Phoenix Preacher plays a significant role in facilitating dialogue and reflection within the Christian community, offering a platform for honest and thought-provoking discussions about faith and its intersection with various aspects of life.”

  18. Michael says:

    The Serpent’s Dance: A Tale of Shadows and Power

    I. The Pulpit and the Podium
    In the dimly lit corners of our collective consciousness, where shadows merge with secrets, we find two unlikely bedfellows: corrupt preachers and Donald Trump. Their dance is one of smoke and mirrors, a tango of deception that leaves us questioning our own sanity. Let us step into this murky ballroom and unravel the threads that bind them.

    II. The Preacher’s Whisper
    Picture a small-town chapel, its walls adorned with faded frescoes of saints and sinners. The preacher stands at the pulpit, his voice a honeyed blade slicing through the air. He speaks of salvation, of redemption, while his fingers trace invisible patterns in the dust. His congregation hangs on every word, their souls hungry for solace.

    But behind the stained glass windows, the preacher’s pockets bulge with ill-gotten gains. His sermons are a smokescreen, veiling a life of excess and indulgence. The collection plate overflows, yet the hungry remain unfed. The preacher’s eyes glint with a hunger of their own—a hunger for power, for control.

    III. The Trumpet’s Blare
    Now shift the scene to a grand arena, its seats filled with fervent admirers. The spotlight falls on a man with a shock of golden hair—the Trumpet. His words crash like thunder, promising greatness, invoking a mythical past where America was untarnished. His followers cheer, their hearts ablaze with fervor.
    Yet, beyond the glare of the stage lights, the Trumpet’s empire crumbles. His towers of gold conceal debts and deceit. His tweets are daggers, aimed at foes real and imagined. His rallies are orgies of adulation, where truth is a casualty. The Trumpet revels in chaos, his power fueled by division.

    IV. The Veil Lifts
    The preacher and the Trumpet share a secret pact: the art of illusion. They weave narratives that defy reason, casting spells upon the masses. The preacher invokes God, while the Trumpet invokes a nation’s wounded pride. Both thrive on fear—the fear of damnation, the fear of decline.
    Their followers cling to faith, desperate for salvation. They ignore the contradictions, the whispers of corruption. For in this dance, belief trumps truth. The preacher’s Bible and the Trumpet’s Twitter feed become sacred texts, their words etched into the collective psyche.

    V. The Final Waltz
    As the music swells, the preacher and the Trumpet twirl, their shadows elongating. The pulpit and the podium merge, and we glimpse the heart of their symbiosis. It is not about morality or policy—it is about power. The preacher craves dominion over souls; the Trumpet craves dominion over a nation.
    And so, they dance—a macabre waltz of hypocrisy and charisma. We, the audience, watch from the sidelines, torn between revulsion and fascination. For in their twisted union, we see reflections of our own desires and fears.

    VI. The Curtain Falls
    As the final note fades, the preacher and the Trumpet bow. The applause is deafening, drowning out the truth. But somewhere, in the quiet corners of our hearts, we know: the serpent’s dance continues. And we, mere mortals, must choose whether to join the masquerade or tear down the veil.

  19. Janet LinnBrideofChrist says:

    ‘The Serpents Dance’: A Tale of Shadows And Power….What is the origin of this? It’s chilling. I feel like it could be about Hitler or Trump. Is referring to the antichrist?

  20. Michael says:

    That’s me working with AI on Trump and corrupt pastors…I think it worked well…

  21. Captain Kevin says:

    Wow, Michael, that is incredibly frightening!

  22. JTK says:

    The AI clearly doesn’t pick up the crusty, sardonic wit, pissy attitude and cat devotion of our beloved blogmeister…

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