Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What Else Is "When Swing Was King" Producing?

A very important goal of our “When King Was Swing” ministry in nursing
homes and other senior centers is to develop quality, ongoing friendships with residents, residents’ families, and staff.  It is why we present the program in the same facilities every month, why we include time for personal visits before and after each show, and why we continually invite volunteers along to help us involve more residents in those visits.

Though we remain disappointed at the lack of “visitor helpers,” our efforts have been blessed.  We have thus won not only a loyal fan base for “When Swing Was King” but, over these last four and a half years, we have made a lot of genuine friends too. We have been able to express that friendship in various ways; always presenting “When Swing Was King” free of charge to the facilities; making a framed photo of a Navy PV-1 Ventura bomber for Glen; giving tapes of Stan Freberg’s radio show to Michael; sharing a compilation tape of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin songs with Minnie; bring cookies and candy to the LCC staff on Christmas morning and on many other visits; and so on.

We are rightfully wary about about accepting gifts from residents but there have been times when we know it’s okay. The walnuts from Tom. The root beer barrel candies from Evelyn. The honor of conducting Doc’s funeral and preaching the gospel there. Being asked to pray at the bedside of dying friends. Bernie’s personal signature on the book about the experiences of his outfit in World War II.

But, not surprisingly, it is the gifts we receive of the audience’s enjoyment, their applause and complements, their urging us to come back soon, and all of the wonderful stories they tell – those are the priceless gifts we will forever treasure.

One of the newest extras created by our “When Swing Was King” outreach are oral history interviews we are doing with selected residents.  Claire and I schedule a personal visit, bring along the recorder, and invite our friends to tell stories of their lives and special interests.  We then have a CD that can be given to the resident and his or her family members.  In some cases, we believe that groups like the Nebraska Historical Society will be interested as well.

Our first project involves Michael, an engaging fellow who was a popular musician here in the Omaha area. Michael played almost every night for over two decades – even though he had a full-time job at Union Pacific!  When we first asked Mike if he would like us to interview him, he cried with joy.  And when we were thanking him after our first session, he said, “No, I should be thanking you.  In fact, it is a double thank you – for taking the time and for helping me remember all these stories.”  Mike is 78 and not in the greatest health. He is blind, cannot get out much anymore, and the many friends he once had have drifted away. He told us a few days after our first interview that it had been the highlight of his year!

It is another example of how “When Swing Was King,” as delightful an entertainment program as it is in its own right, opens doors for other ministry too.  No wonder we thank the Lord every day for the blessing of being involved in it.  But perhaps you can see how your involvement could expand this blessing even further.  Your prayers, your financial support of Vital Signs Ministries, and your direct participation in helping us build friendships with the residents of nursing homes and other senior living facilities can be of immeasurable worth. Please consider it prayerfully.

Doomsters vs Boomsters? In Which Camp Are You?

Who do you side with, the Doomsters or the Boomsters? Have you, for instance, bought into the alarmism over population growth? Do you believe in the violent end of society as we know it because we’re running out of oil? Do you still feel the chills when you remember what your public school teachers taught you from the books of Paul Erlich and Rachel Carson?

Then you need to check out the calmer, more sensible perspectives from people who value reality over panic, genuine scientists who bring evidence to the table instead of political and ideological fixations.

A great start — and, I mean, a really great start — is to watch these two short videos. They are enlightening to the max. They’re also very well done, using both facts and fun to communicate remarkably important messages. Theses quick films are entitled “Why Haven’t We All Starved to Death” and “Why Haven’t We Run Out of Oil?” They are produced by Passing Lane Films from Pacific Research Institute. They are written and directed by Erin Michelle Kruger and are based on “Environmental Alarmism in Context: Hysteria’s History” by Dr. Amy Kaleita with Gregory R. Forbes. 

(Thanks to Stephen Hayward over at Power Line for the alert.)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Aping Culture vs Changing It

The Christian who thinks that one must be like culture
in order to positively influence culture is sadly ignorant
of history, the true substance of conversion, and the clear teaching of the Bible.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1,2 — NASB)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why A Pro-Life Witness Outside Abortion Clinics?

Giving public witness to the sanctity of life in this culture is certainly not easy.  And testifying against the horror that is abortion outside a business where preborn boys and girls are actually killed? Well, that is particularly disheartening, disgusting, and disillusioning.

So why do I do it?  Indeed, why have Claire and I and many of our close friends participated in sidewalk counseling and pro-life witness outside abortion mills for 32 years and counting?  Here are 5 quick reasons.

5) The presence of peaceful, prayerful pro-life advocates outside an abortion clinic has a profound and ongoing effect on those going inside, on the workers, on the people walking or driving by.  It provides multiple and memorable messages regarding the wrongness of abortion, the availability of alternatives, and the offer of forgiveness through Christ’s gospel. 

4) A pro-life witness outside an abortion business insures that men and women – even those who ultimately decide to commit the abortion – will forever remember that someone was there to plead with them, “no, don’t do this.”  They will retain in the memory of their abortion experience that someone was standing up for their child…and for the mother’s spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being. That provides a tremendous incentive for repentance, a motivation to seek forgiveness and healing from the God Who delivered His Son to die for mankind’s sins.

3) Being regularly at an abortion clinic and coming face to face with the persons availing themselves of the demonic opportunities for child sacrifice fuels, as nothing else can, one’s zeal and commitment to fight against abortion on all other fronts. Political action?  Spiritual intercession?  Crisis pregnancy work?  Pro-life education?  Chastity campaigns?  Efforts to de-fund Planned Parenthood?  Conversion of the arts to provide for effective sanctity of life expressions?  All of these (and more) are powerfully stimulated by being there at the very doors of death, being regularly challenged by what the stakes are in this fight.

2) Pro-lifers outside abortion mills save lives by dissuading people from aborting their children.  Even when they are not aware of their impact, pro-life advocates provide an impressive force for life that changes minds.  Would-be abortion clients are challenged in their conscience and end up driving by.  Even clients inside the place change their minds and leave.  And, among the dozens or hundreds or thousands who drive by and see peaceful protestors who carry pictures of babies and words like “Choose Life” and “Mother and Child: Love Them Both” and “Life: What a Beautiful Choice,” there are countless numbers of people whose consciences are challenged. Do you not expect that the Lord will tend those seeds of winsome truth and that they will not be relevant in future meditations, conversations, and especially when people are pressed by abortion temptations? Oh yes, the presence of pro-life advocates provide illumination and spiritual challenge that goes far beyond what we can imagine.

1) Because my honor as a Christian is at stake.  Where such brazen, violent injustice is occurring, how can I refuse the opportunity to testify against it?  What does it mean to the reputation of the Church (not to mention her sense of moral priority) if children are brutally murdered in our neighborhoods without us raising our voices in principled protest?  How much is our evangelism and discipleship tarnished and weakened if we do not take seriously such charges as Jeremiah 22:3 and Isaiah 1:16-17:  “Thus says the LORD, ‘Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.’” And “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean. Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Reprove the ruthless. Defend the orphan. Plead for the widow.”

Fewer and fewer American Christians bother nowadays to go in front of abortion mills to pray and give pro-life witness. That is an ominous warning of how far we have been co-opted by the world around us.  We have become indifferent, callous, distracted, and cowardly. Nevertheless, the grace of God remains available to us all – grace that forgives and cleanses, grace that yields wisdom and strength, grace that yet can bring personal and cultural revolution.

Our marching orders are quite clear. We read them in the Scriptures already listed. And in others like Psalm 82:3,4: “Vindicate the weak and fatherless. Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.  Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.” And Proverbs 24: 11,12: “Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.” And James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

As I said at the beginning of this column, giving public witness to the sanctity of life in this culture is certainly not easy.  But it remains extremely high in the values expressed by our Lord.

And that’s why, by the grace of God, we continue to do it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

"If You Take Away Religion, You Can't Hire Enough Police"

Clayton Christensen from the Harvard Business School talks about the foundational values to culture that religion provides.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The New Year Starts for "When Swing Was King"

The newest volume of "When Swing Was King" made its debut yesterday at Life Care Center and we're on again today at Immanuel Courtyard as we swing and sway into our regular monthly schedule for 2015. (See the schedule right here.)

The song list is, as always, an impressive one:

1) Glenn Miller Orchestra (Ray Eberle, vocals) -- "The Nearness of You"
2) Bob Crosby & the Bobcats -- "Skater's Waltz in Swing Time"
3) Count Basie Orchestra (Helen Humes, vocals) -- "And the Angels Sing"
4) Benny Goodman Orchestra -- "Let's Dance"
5) Chick Webb  Orchestra (Charlie Linton, Louis Jordan, Ella Fitzgerald, vocals) -- "There's Frost on the Moon"
6) Charley Barnet Orchestra -- "Night Clow"
7) Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- "Chinatown, My Chinatown"
8) Artie Shaw Orchestra (Helen Forrest, vocals) "All the Things You Are"
9) Les Brown Orchestra (Doris Day, vocals) "Sentimental Journey"
10) Desi Arnaz -- "The Lady in Red"
11) Harry James Orchestra -- "Deep Purple"
12) Gordon MacRae -- "Oklahoma"

Also impressive are the 250 or so photographs that are part of this "When Swing Was King" volume. Really nice. And then there's the accompanying commentary too. I mean, where else do you get terrific music from the big band era plus interesting trivia about the songs and musicians...and even about Carol Heiss, the Victor Taking Machine Company, National Biscuit Company's part in popularizing Benny Goodman, and TD's Clambake Seven?

Want to get in on the fun? And, by doing so, give your spirits a lift by visiting seniors and other residents of care facilities who would love to have you come by? Then just check that schedule link above and give us a call or e-mail. Claire and I would love to have you join us too.