We’re turning toward more light … may the gloom of our nation match this gradual increase of light.

A cat with (more than) life:

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — A pet cat believed killed along with her owner in a huge mudslide has been found three years later.

The Animal Shelter Assistance Program in Santa Barbara County says the calico named Patches was brought in as a stray last month and a microchip scan revealed her identity.

Patches had been missing since Jan. 9, 2018, when a rainstorm on the vast burn scar of the Thomas Fire sent a debris-laden torrent crashing down through hillside neighborhoods of Montecito, northwest of Los Angeles.

Twenty-three people were killed, including cat owner Josie Gower. The devastation of the debris flow was so terrible that the bodies of two victims were never found.

A pandemic of what?

The coronavirus hasn’t been satisfied with unleashing a serious, contagious disease that has altered everyday life around the planet. In its overachieving way, it is also responsible for increases in anxiety and depression, teeth-grinding, anger, sleeplessness, migraines and another physical ailment being noted by orthopedists and podiatrists:

“There’s a pandemic of broken toes,” said John Keeling, an orthopedic surgeon in Chevy Chase, Md. He estimates the number of broken toes seen at his office has tripled or quadrupled.

Ben Pearl, a podiatrist whose practice is Arlington Foot and Ankle, said he has “absolutely” seen an increase in broken toes, “and the short reason is that with the pandemic, people are spending more time at home.”

Jane Andersen, a podiatrist with Chapel Hill Foot & Ankle Specialists, said she has also been treating more patients with plantar fasciitis, tendinitis and even ingrown toenails. “There are little trickle-down effects from pandemic and isolation that are happening,” Andersen said, “and broken toes is only one of them.”

Beautiful story about Tony Oliva:

The Class of 1964 at Hitchcock High School in South Dakota was 26 strong. They decided on a senior trip in late April that would take them 275 miles east to the Twin Cities, and would include a Twins-Cleveland matinee on April 28 at Met Stadium.

The small delegation actually had a chance to stand out in the audience, since the attendance that afternoon was 4,390.

The Twins won 9-8 in 10 innings, with Tony Oliva finishing the 12th game of his rookie season with two hits, two walks, two runs scored and a .370 average.

Even more so, Tony claimed last week that he noticed a "beautiful flower'' among the Hitchcock seniors in that small crowd.

Gordette Oliva laughed sheepishly and said, "You did not, but thanks, Tony."

This is what actually occurred for Antonio Oliva from the Pinar del Rio region in Cuba to meet Gordette DuBois from Beadle County in South Dakota on that spring afternoon in the Twin Cities:

"We were waiting in the parking lot after the game to try to get some autographs," Gordette said. "And one of our chaperones said, 'I'm told that a number of players are staying at the same hotel as us. Might as well wait back there for autographs.' "

This was the Maryland Hotel, now a condo building, on La Salle Avenue. Oliva was among the players and, with minimal English, he greeted the Hitchcock Blue Jays, and offered his best autograph.

Through interpretation, and under the watchful eyes of chaperones, Tony was able to relay this message to Gordette: "I'll give you an autograph if I can get your phone number."

That was that, and Gordette didn't give it much more thought, until she was called to the phone one night and there was a man with struggling English on the line.

"We had a party line of six families,'' Gordette said. "Our ring on the farm was two shorts, three longs, two more shorts. We all loved baseball and the Twins in South Dakota. And when people found out this rookie that everyone was talking about was calling a girl from Hitchcock … you could hear those clicks from other phones being picked up to check if it was 'him'.

"Of course, nobody could understand what he was saying. I hardly could."

One of the more heart felt responses to the insurrection at the Capitol:

Late last night, I was overcome with grief. The tears were not expected.

It is impossible to digest properly all that happened yesterday. As I write in my forthcoming book Stuck in the Present, we need the longer view of history for that, so I am heeding my own counsel.

Over the years, I have heard warnings to not take the American experiment in democracy for granted. It is sturdy in one sense, but still fragile. I remember hearing that each generation of Americans must commit to it. I thought it was good to issue such a warning but was never too worried. No longer.

Have things been this bad before in America? An argument can certainly be made for that and the antebellum period is the one historians typically mention.

Are our cluster of present problems unique to the more modern period of American history? Again, I think the 1960s offers another example of serious strife and deep division.

My deepest sadness, however, is not over our country’s present chaos and strife.

My deepest sadness is over the state of the Christian faith in America.

For many decades I have witnessed Christians who are apathetic about knowing God’s Word, loving one’s enemies, an unwillingness to suffer for Christ in the most modest of ways, prayerlessness, and much more.

Most Christians are poorly prepared for times of crisis. We love the church programs that meet our insatiable desires. We adore our celebrity pastors. We are biblically and historically illiterate, but more than willing to offer our superficial opinions on the most vexing issues of the day.

This sad state of affairs is due to a lack of making long-term discipleship and serious grounding in the Christian faith our priorities. These simply do not take place in many churches (or parachurches for that matter). We have sown the wind and are reaping the whirlwind. We should not be surprised where we find ourselves.

If he could be remember the password:

(NEXSTAR) – There’s one password San Francisco programmer Stefan Thomas probably should have memorized. It’s standing between him and $240 million.

Thomas holds a small hard drive, called an IronKey, that contains the keys to a digital wallet containing 7,002 Bitcoin, the New York Times reported Tuesday. That amounts to exactly $242,546,164.27.

But Thomas can’t seem to figure out the password — and he only has two more chances to get it right. The IronKey only allows users ten guesses.

Thomas said he lost the paper where the password was written years ago. He’s already tried eight of his most commonly used passwords.

“I would just lay in bed and think about it,” Thomas told the Times. “Then I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it wouldn’t work, and I would be desperate again.”

On Twitter, Thomas called the saga “a painful memory” and said he hopes “others can learn from my mistakes.”

“Test your backups regularly to make sure they are still working. An ounce of foresight could have prevented a decade of regret,” he said.

The story of the week is the Dave Ramsey story and his sarcastic response is disturbing. It is unacceptable. He needs some tov.

But inside the company’s $42 million headquarters, which opened in 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee, Ramsey’s orchestration of what he calls a “predictable and reliable and safe and godly” company has been under stress from COVID-19, and Ramsey’s demands for unquestioning loyalty.

Ramsey’s intolerance for dissent has created what former employees call a cultlike environment, where leaders proclaim their love for staff and then fire people at a moment’s notice.

Ramsey Solutions, former employees and their spouses say, is run more like a church than a business. A review of court documents, company emails and recordings of staff meetings backs up these sources’ claimsthat company leaders attempt to exert control over employees’ personal lives.

At a staff meeting in July, Ramsey railed at his staff after an employee sued Ramsey Solutions for firing her for having premarital sex, which is against company policy, and said he would pay the price to protect what he had built out of love for his employees.

“I am sick of dealing with all this stuff,” Ramsey bellowed, according to a recording obtained by Religion News Service. “I’m so tired of being falsely accused of being a jerk when all I’m doing is trying to help people stay in line.”

This followed by John Stackhouse on Christian leadership:

I’ve had reason recently to consider patterns of Christian leadership among evangelicals around the world. And among fast-growing churches, a paradigm emerges: If you succeed in this marketplace, you’ll have great clothes, fine cars, big houses, and high status. From Hillsong Plexiglas pulpits to the prosperity-gospel thrones of African Indigenous Churches to Latin American Christian temples (including a monstrous literal temple in Saõ Paulo), apostolic leadership holds out great promise.

Then one encounters the Apostle Paul recounting all the terrific treats of his paradigmatic ministry (in 2 Corinthians 11:24-25): “Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning.”

(And that short, nightmarish passage is lifted out of a longer list of afflictions.)

Here, Paul says, is what genuine apostolic ministry entails. You can expect to be beaten—beaten hard, beaten often.

From Nigeria to China today, pastors are being beaten. Even rank-and-file believers live under the shadow of imminent physical danger of the worst sorts.

I wonder how many pretty-boy pastors would sign up for that job if instead of looking forward to affording excellent sneakers they could look forward to a beating. And then another. And another after that.

Likewise, I wonder how many students would aspire to become public teachers of Christianity—theologians and such—when such a position would require being punched, not just disagreed with or even maybe (horrors!) disrespected.

Checking some Kuyper at the door of Janel Kragt Bakker:

In Sioux County, the corner of Northwest Iowa where Dordt University is located, Reformed Christians of Dutch ancestry are the majority. As a college student in the 1990s, I experienced Kuyperian values embedded in the community, with its network of Christian schools and social organizations and its centeredness on the institutions of the local church and nuclear family, as largely positive, if somewhat provincial. But from the vantage point of 2020, in light of Sioux County’s overwhelming support for Donald Trump, as well as my own exposure to stories from non-white, non-Reformed residents of Sioux County about their experiences of trauma and marginalization, I see the picture quite differently. For many in this community, the “Reformed worldview” seems to fit hand-in-glove with white identity politics.

Equity and political pluralism are not possible when power is not shared by minoritized communities and when social systems of oppression are not dismantled, in my current view. The basileia tou Theo that Jesus referenced so frequently in the gospel narratives is better represented by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other liberationists’ vision of the “beloved community” than by Kuyper’s vision of the “kingdom of God.” Jesus never described the basileia tou Theo as an empire which his followers were to build, but rather as the realm of God’s justice, love, and peace, where the first are last and the last are first—which his followers were invited to receive as a gift and welcome in the posture of children.

One of the neo-Kuyperian professors who led our Dordt College delegation to the conference commemorating Kuyper’s lectures at Princeton was known for his conviction that “ideas have legs.” Those of us rooted in particular religious traditions have a responsibility to reckon with and seek to repair the harm caused by our heroes as well as the harm committed in their names. A spirit of humility is essential in this reckoning, as we acknowledge that our actions too, which seem well-intentioned or even virtuous to us, may be judged harshly by outsiders or future generations. But the inevitability of our own shortcomings is not an excuse for refusing to tell the truth or failing to hold those who have abused power, ourselves included, to account. Thankfully, our traditions also contain a wealth of resources for the work of lament, repentance, solidarity, and repair.

Speaking of church and state, s ee this story about Putin and the church?

In his addresses on New Year’s, Eastern and Christmas, Vladimir Putin has devoted ever more space to matters of faith, reflecting the growing importance that religion plays in his vision of state construction and articulating a civic religion that leaves less space for the heads of traditional denominations, Andrey Melnikov says.

The editor of NG-Religii points out that in making his religious comments, Putin “always” ensures that they reflect “an inter-confessional balance” despite their very specific moral messages and the way those serve the development of the Russian Federation (ng.ru/faith/2021-01-07/100_rel070121_2.html).

But because his words do so, the religious affairs expert continues, the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church which has prided itself as the chief articulator of such ideas in the past has seen its role in Russian public life decline. It can no longer aspire to be the ideological department of the Putin regime. It is only an appendage.

The most important aspect of this development is that Putin now speaks “in the role of the spiritual leader of the nation” as well as its political head. He talks about ideas like miracles and the expectation of miracles while making clear that victory over the pandemic is all about “the mobilization of the possibilities of a powerful state.”

By speaking in this way, Melnikov argues, the Kremlin leader has reduced the ROC MP to the role of a supportive choir. Putin defines what is spiritual and thus makes “the idea of power the real sacred force,” not religious faith as such. In doing so, he is introducing new ideas about faith and power.