Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Deathly Legacy of Socialism

On this Throwback Thursday I think it’s relevant to remember just how ugly, barbarous, and enslaving Socialism actually is. On this day in 1962,  East German guards machine-gunned a young man who was making an escape attempt over the Berlin Wall into West Berlin. They shot him, shot him again, and then left him to bleed to death as horrified onlookers from the western side of the Wall begged them to provide help. It was just one of the many murders Socialism committed at the Berlin Wall…and that’s not figuring the millions and millions of others perpetrated in the 20th Century by Soviet Russia, her puppet leaders of Eastern Europe, Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, and Communist China.

But more on this particular atrocity — It was on August 17, 1962, that two young men from East Berlin made their desperate break for freedom.  One made it, though suffering terrible cuts from the barbed wire. His friend didn’t. He was shot down by machine guns mounted on the East Berlin side. The young man fell, managed to struggle to the Wall itself, and began to climb over. The machine guns spat more flame and bullets as the man fell back screaming. For nearly an hour, he lay there bleeding to death and crying for help. West German guards threw bandages to the man while an angry crowd of West Berliners implored  the German “security soldiers” to do something to help the dying man. They did nothing and the young man bled to death.

The Socialists of the Soviet Union and East Germany always claimed that the Wall was a protection from the pernicious influences of Western capitalism and culture. Yet they murdered almost 80 people who tried to escape over that dastardly Wall during the years of its existence, 1961 to 1989.

No one was ever shot trying to enter East Berlin. For Socialism must use mind-numbing propaganda, comprehensive repression, and even deadly force to keep its population in line.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Doing One’s Job…And Doing It Well

In yesterday’s “When Swing Was King” program, there were some very tense moments when one of the residents required medical intervention. The lady had slumped over as in sleep – sleeping isn't particularly unusual – but the staff members who were present were quick to notice that something was amiss. They intervened quickly and, motioning us to continue the show, they slid the resident's chair out the door where more aggressive medical care was waiting.

It was a sterling example of why we always insist that staff members be present during those presentations we do for audiences at nursing homes and at some assisted living facilities. In fact, we urge this because 1) staff are better able to discern when someone may need help, 2) staff are trained and experienced in medical intervention, and 3) Claire and I are not supposed to lend any aid at all. If someone suffers seizure or pain or a panic attack, if someone falls, even if someone needs to exit quickly to use the bathroom, they require assistance right then – assistance that we are not allowed to give.  Therefore, staff being present during the program to provide oversight and help for the residents is a must.

Sad to say, however, this basic responsibility is too often ignored. And that puts Claire and I in a very tough spot. More serious still, it leaves the residents of the care facility vulnerable.  That’s why we repeatedly remind staff to have someone present during our shows.  And it’s why, over the years, we have had to actually drop certain facilities from our schedule when they continued to ignore our request.

But that certainly wasn’t the cast at Mable Rose yesterday.  Indeed, there are always one or two staff members watching over the residents (usually 35-40 residents) and often more than that.  And, as proved by yesterday’s quick action, those staff members are not just passively enjoying “When Swing Was King.” They are also keeping careful watch over the residents all the while.  This is professionalism.  This is compassion.  This is the quality of commitment to duty that all care facilities owe to their residents.  So a hearty thank you and “way to go” to go to Carol and Tina and all the rest of the Mable Rose team.

Postscript...Claire and I were on the last song of the program yesterday when the resident had to be taken away. But Tina slipped in and whispered to me, “As you know, we have a bit of a situation here and it would be great if we could keep people calm and out of the way for awhile longer. Could you guys keep going for a bit?”  So, while Claire hurriedly inserted a new key into the computer, I announced that we had a couple of bonus songs for them today.  Applause! And so on we went.  As it turned out, you'll be pleased to learn, we only needed to do one more song before the woman had come round and been taken back to her room.

After the program, we visited with the residents as they left and then began helping Carol and Tina clean up and rearrange chairs.  Always very encouraging, the girls were thanking us and complementing us for the way the program touches the hearts of the residents and for our taking the time to visit with them. We love to hear this validation of the ministry, of course, but we emphasized to them yesterday that we were the ones who had been profoundly moved by the alertness, skill, and kindness they had shown in caring for the people in their charge.  They truly provided us fresh inspiration for which we were very grateful.

And I thought I'd pass that inspiration around, especially to those of you who do magnificent, important, but perhaps unheralded good works to the best of your ability. Never forget that God sees your efforts and, as they are done in the Spirit and in His strength, they will be abundantly rewarded in the life to come.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The “Back to School” Agenda You’re Ignoring

“I am convinced that the battle for human­kind's future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being. There teachers must embody the same selfless dedication of the most rabid fundamentalist preacher, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey hu­manist values in whatever subject they teach, regardless of the educational level -- pre­school, daycare, or large state university. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new — the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism, resplendent in its promise of a world in which the never-realized Christian ideal of ‘love thy neighbor’ will finally be achieved."

(John Dunphy, “A Religion for a New Age,” The Humanist magazine, 1983. Quoted in God's Prophetic Voice to America by Dr. David R. Reagan)

The Evil Done by Quiet, Civilized Men

“The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.”  (C. S. Lewis, Preface to the 1961 edition of The Screwtape Letters)

What Did Elijah, Moses, and Jesus Talk About?

“So we are not to be surprised that Elijah and Moses, meet­ing with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration had this [Jesus upcoming crucifixion] as their key topic of conversation. ‘And behold there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elijah; who appeared in glory, and spake (and continued to speak) of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.’

Of course they talked about it, because they had a stake in this. It was important for them not merely as a theological proposition, but the salvation of Moses and Elijah rested upon this single point — the coming death of Jesus on Calvary's cross. The disciples who were there that day had a stake in this too, because if Jesus had not died upon the cross they too would have had no salvation. And let us say to each one who reads this: we have a stake in this, for there is no salvation possible to us unless Jesus died on Calva­ry's cross.” (Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality)

The wood engraving represented here is "Crucifixion" which Gustave Dore did in his illustrations for The Bible in London in 1866.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Quick Slice of the Slanted Media

And you still don’t believe the “mainstream media” (that near monopolistic consortium of the networks, the AP, the Democrat organs, and the giant tech manipulators like Google and Yahoo) are determined to ignore facts, fairness, and faithfulness to journalistic ethics in their rabid zeal to destroy Donald Trump? Then take a look at this review of today’s headlines of fake news from Yahoo. That’s right, just from today.

“Melania, Ivanka and Ivana Trump Wear High Heels, a Symbol of Everything That Is Beautiful and Horrifying About Them” (Newsweek)

“Do Republicans Want a Dictator? More than Half Would be Happy for Trump to Postpone 2020 Election” (Newsweek)

“Donald Trump’s Favorite Poll Gave Him Some Good News—His Approval Rating Actually Rose” (Newsweek)

“Trump's support among his base is collapsing” (Business Insider)

“The Partisan Presidency” (US News & World Report)

“45 Reasons Michelle Obama Will Always Be Our Style Icon” (PopSugar)

“Obama's Former Photographer Reminds Trump What It Looks Like to Respect Women” (PopSugar)

“Trump shares dubious Twitter poll saying he's better than Obama” (Yahoo News)

“The Gender Pay Gap in Trump's Administration Is Even Worse Than We Originally Thought” (PopSugar)

“Why Did Donald Trump Ignore Ivanka? Al Gore says President is Controlled by Carbon Polluters”

“Al Gore Has The Best Promoter Ever For His New Climate Movie — Donald Trump”

“Trump gets a folder of good news about himself twice a day” (Yahoo View)

“Photos capture Trump playing golf during 'working vacation’” (Washington Post)

“What Does Melania Trump Do at the White House?” (Newsweek)

“Trump Clearly Has No Clue How to Stop the Opioid Epidemic” (Fortune_

Trump's feud with Mitch McConnell ‘is breathtaking in its dysfunctionality’” (Business Insider)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

August Is Amazing with "When Swing Was King"

Our August program is underway and, as always, it is delighting the lives of the senior citizens who take our "sentimental journey" back to the heady days of the big band era. We started off on Tuesday with a show at Heritage Point (where we rarely get any cooperation at all from staff -- but the audience sure loves us!) and then on Wednesday we had a special program for 42 members of the Horizon group at Lutheran Church of the Master off 108th and Center. Then today we resumes our regular monthly schedule which you can check out right here.

This month's songlist? It's a doozy!

1) Glenn Miller (featuring trumpet solo by Bobby Hackett) — “A String of Pearls”
2) Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters — “Don’t Fence Me In”
3) Harry James — “Pennies from Heaven”
4) Nat King Cole — “On the Street Where You Live”
5) Lawrence Welk — “Circus Polka”
6) The Mills Brothers — “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You”
7) Artie Shaw — “Sweet Lorraine”
8) Larry Clinton (with vocalist Bea Wain) — “My Reverie”
9) Ray Anthony — “Embraceable You”
10) Tommy Dorsey (with vocalist Frank Sinatra) — “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”
11) Benny Goodman (with vocalist Matha Tilton and trumpet solo by Ziggy Elman) — “And the Angels Sing”
12) Judy Garland & Gene Kelly — “The Bell’s are Ringing For Me and My Gal”

Is America Finished?

Will America, because of its basic foundations as a Christian nation, receive a pass from God’s judgment for the audacious sins it now commits; nay, even promotes?  

Though the United States still has references to God on its money, in its pledge to the flag, and in several other cultural expressions — and though it still allows Christian activity (of a superficial and highly marginalized sort) — will the righteous Lord of hosts forego His wrath on our nation’s apostasy, blasphemy, sexual perversions, wholesale assault on preborn children, and other acts of rebellion that were, just a few decades ago, unthinkable?

Before you answer, consider God’s response to the treachery of His chosen people, Israel, in the 8th Century BC.

“For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen because their speech and their actions are against the Lord, to rebel against His glorious presence. The expression of their faces bears witness against them and they display their sin like Sodom. They do not even conceal it. Woe to them for they have brought evil on themselves.”  (Isaiah 2:8-9, NASB)

“Their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flute, and by wine; but they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord, nor do they consider the work of His hands. Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst. Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure; and Jerusalem’s splendor, her multitude, her din of revelry and the jubilant within her, descend into it.”  (Isaiah 5:12-14, NASB)

“Shall I not do to Jerusalem and her images just as I have done to Samaria and her idols?”  (Isaiah 10:11, NASB)

Is America past the tipping point?  Is its fate already determined?  Or could the holy Hand of judgment be stayed even at this late hour?  I happen to believe there is a chance for recovery 1) because America is still here.  And 2) because of the immense and ever-fresh mercy of God. Where there is life, there is hope. And Scripture is clear that God desires to show mercy on the repentant. He desires to pour out blessings on those who, even at a late date, turn to him in humble faith. So, yes; I believe there remains the opportunity for America’s repentance and thus her restoration. But, make no mistake, the nation is in the most desperate peril. She must not delay that change of heart even for a day.

Please remember also that personal repentance must precede collective repentance.  The message of Isaiah’s warnings printed above are not solely for ancient Israel nor, in the application to our day, are they meant just for “the other guys.” No, indeed; they are very much pointed to you and me as well.  We too are called to repent of our cowardice and compromise, our license and laziness, our failure to let His light shine into every area of our lives and also, through our actions, into every area of the culture.

Earnest appeals to God (through the cross of Christ) for forgiveness, refreshment, and restoration are, in the individual case, always answered.  That is a wondrous, joyful reality with eternal effects for each individual regardless of what occurs in time and in culture.  But then again, if enough individuals act in sincere repentance, the nation can enter into great blessings as well.  Let us fervently pray (and act) to that end.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Light-bearing Letters vs Darkness Unopposed

Sure, we all know the old maxim that it’s far better to light a candle than merely curse the darkness.  But both the state of the culture and the compromising mediocrity of the modern Church suggest we haven't been very diligent in applying the exhortation.

However, Vital Signs Ministries still takes this charge quite seriously.  And though we do so with seriousness of purpose, we also do so with lightness of heart for it is in the Lord’s Name and in the power of His spirit that we act.

Our candle-lighting ministries include our pro-life witness and sidewalk counseling outside the abortion mill; visitation and entertainment in the nursing homes; information and exhortation via speaking, writing, and the internet; and a variety of other evangelistic and discipleship activities. We also light candles by encouraging citizen advocacy -- a practice that includes quarterly letter-writing parties like the one we hosted last night.

Our letter targets last night included, as one would expect, the defunding of Planned Parenthood and principled, courteous protests of anti-life and anti-family actions recently committed by businesses, television programs, and publications. Also on the table were such issues as corruption, vote fraud, education and welfare reform, religious freedom, and a few more.  And, as always, there were also several thank you cards sent along to people who are lighting candles themselves.

We invite you think about the topics mentioned and to scan through a few sample letters (taken from the 65 written last night) which I post below as inspiration for you to write a couple of letters yourself. Also, think about joining us for our next party and even to imagine the profound light that could illuminate the cultural darkness were you to organize a letter-writing party for your own church, small group, Sunday School class, whatever.

Here's the promised sampling.

1) Dear Mr. President,
Stay the course!
Drain the swamp!
And please keep as priorities the need to expand religious freedom, to protect the sanctity of life, and to reduce the coercive power of government.

Thank you.

2) Dear General Mattis,

I’ve been keeping my attention on this transgender debate with amazement.  I have 2 grandsons in the Marines and 1 granddaughter in the Air Force, and they do not want to be taking showers with the opposite sex no matter what gender those persons, at that particular moment, “identify with.”

It’s hard for me to grasp that this is actually something that needs debating in our military.  I am asking you as a brave soldier to nix this folly of counter-productive political-correctness.

Praying you will stop the madness and not allow transgenderism to weaken yet further our military’s readiness.


3) Dear Ms Grossman,

Because of Weight Watchers’ continued sponsorship of the disgusting Fox TV show “The Mick,” I will not be buying your products or utilizing your services.  When even a particularly irresponsible and offensive episode (one in which Planned Parenthood was promoted and the outrageous lie touted that the mega-abortion business provides health care to 3,000,000 women) doesn’t bother your company, it’s time for the public to spend their money elsewhere.

Please reconsider and drop “The Mick.” Give your advertising dollars instead to more family-friendly, wholesome, culturally enriching programs. That would be better for the culture…and better for Weight Watchers too.

4) Dear Governor Ricketts,

A couple of quick but very fervent questions: 1) Why haven’t Nebraska’s conservative officeholders yet gone after defunding Planned Parenthood…as other states have effectively done?

And 2) Why haven’t Nebraska’s conservative officeholders boldly promoted welfare reform that includes work requirements as other states have effectively done — work requirements that help the economy as well as those needy individuals who get forever stuck in the welfare cycle?

These are questions that are not only on my mind a lot, but that come up frequently in conversations. So, what are the answers?

Crucially curious,

5) Mr. President,

I recently read a description of several of the winners of the National Endowment for the Humanities latest history scholarships for youth.  Projects extolling Margaret Sanger.  Rachel Carson.  Mother Jones.  And so on.  As the opening line of the article stated, “Well, we’ve had our first glimpse of Trump’s NEH and it looks a lot like Obama’s NEH.”

Could you please redouble your efforts to drain this particular part of the swamp by eliminating this largely useless, wasteful, and counter-productive agency.

And then do likewise with the NEA.

Thank you so much, Mr. President.  Stay the course.  You’re in our daily prayers.

6) Dear John Bryant,

I am writing to express my disappointment in your company’s decision to pull advertising from the conservative website Breitbart. I have 4 children and we would prefer not to boycott Kellogg’s. Please don’t choose sides in the culture wars.

Thank you.

7) Dear Mr. Legere, (T-Mobile)

I recently learned that your company was one of those sponsoring Fox Television’s remarkably insensitive, offensive, and deliberately misleading episode of “The Mick” in which the show’s characters promote Planned Parenthood by claiming (quite falsely) that the mega-abortion business provides health care for 3 million women.  Of course, that’s a canard that has been proven to be grossly wrong….over and over.   But then supporters of Planned Parenthood, the gigantic business whose main business and primary profits are the violent destruction of preborn boys and girls, have forever suppressed the truth about Planned Parenthood’s origins, business practices, profits, and criminal actions.

But your company doesn’t have to play that game.

Therefore, I write to urge you to use your influence as a major sponsor to dissuade the program’s blatant misleading of their audience.  For if your business continues to promote such offensive, untrue, and socially damaging programming, the public has little recourse except to 1) turn off the program, and 2) turn off its advertisers.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

8) Dear General Mattis,

Enough please of the political correctness and gender experimentation and the use of the American military as a sophomore social project.  Please.  Let’s get back to a strong, wise, and on target approach to defending America and her historic ideals.


Friday, July 21, 2017

From Whence Cometh Progress?

From an article in the Iona Institute archives:

“In the West we are doing our best to destroy our Christian heritage but in China, Chinese intellectuals are coming around to the view that it is precisely this heritage that has made the West so successful. Former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, Dominic Lawson, in a review in the Sunday Times of Niall Ferguson's new book, ‘Civilisation: The West and the Rest’, carries a quote from a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in which he tries to account for the success of the West, to date.

He said: ‘One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.’”

Monday, July 17, 2017

Doing Justice

Praying and winsomely presenting hopeful pro-life options to people who have abortion appointments continues to be an important part of Vital Signs Ministries (as we were doing on this very warm morning) as does the ongoing entertainment and visitation outreach we conduct in the senior care facilities (as we will be doing on this very warm afternoon).

“Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.” (Psalm 82:3, NASB)

“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.” (James 1:27, NASB)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Just Go As Far As You Can

Climbing a mountain doesn’t happen quickly. Indeed, it is a slow, laborious process which challenges the hiker’s strength, patience, resolution, and perseverance. And faithfully living out our lives for Jesus requires these same virtues.

The 14, 265 foot Mt. Quandary almost did me in last week.  In fact, there were several times that I decided I wasn’t going to make the top. There was no way. It was too steep, too far away. Yet I had made a vow to the Lord (and to Claire and especially encouraging friends like Dick, Pat, John, and Allen) that I would “go as far as I can.” And that vow I wanted to diligently keep.  So, I kept getting up after every rest, prayed for strength, and proceeded to go a little further.

My wish, of course, was to get to the summit.  But that wish, that hope wasn’t my immediate goal. No, my goal throughout that very difficult morning was only to get a bit higher, to be faithful to my pledge, to put one foot in front of the other for a wee bit longer.

You know, there's an important lesson there. For this is all that God asks of us in any test – not necessarily to be successful in how we might define success, but only to be faithful to do our best.  To obediently, keep on the course He has set before us and lean upon Him for strength, endurance, wisdom, and joy.

In a real sense, the journey is the destination.  It is all that He requires of us. It's the only thing we have to deal with for our success, our reward – those matters are all in His capable hands and set for His perfect time.  And what an assuring, comforting, even motivating force that can be.

That I did eventually make the summit of Mt. Quandary was a special gift of His grace, one which reinforced the lesson for me. One foot before the challenge at a time...simply doing what you can do. Then God works with our efforts to bring about blessings in our lives that are way beyond our own abilities. Sometimes they're even beyond our hopes.

So, please be encouraged, dear saints of God, to keep the Faith in whatever trials and tests the Lord has allowed in your lives. Anxiety, loneliness, illness or disability, loss of freedom, disappointment, a ministry without visible results, being wrongfully defamed, unjust treatment...whatever. Our Father merely asks you to hold onto His Hand, take one step at a time, and rest assured that His love and grace will take you into a glorious, victorious future.

Don't look at the mountain's peak. Instead, look immediately ahead, call upon His Name for help...and go just a bit further.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Summer "When Swing Was King" Newsletter

Follow this link to read the latest “When Swing Was King” quarterly newsletter. It is filled with Big Band trivia, quotes and Scriptures dealing with summer, a spotlight on “Stardust,” and a personal note from Denny & Claire.  These fun, inspirational letters have proven to be a real hit this year with the audiences at the 12 senior care facilities where we present “When Swing Was King” every month. Check it out.

And see how well you do on the Big Band quiz that’s in there.

(Don't worry — the answers are on page 3.)

Friday, July 07, 2017

Another Birthday. Another 14er.

To celebrate my 65th birthday on July 5th 2016, I returned to Colorado (the land of my admittedly misspent youth) and hiked up the 14,065 foot Mt. Bierstadt. For almost two years I had been doing a lot of walking here in Omaha (over 7 miles a day, several days a week) but I soon learned that walking a level, paved course wasn't nearly enough to prepare an elderly fellow for the challenge of hiking far above timberline. Yet, by the gracious permission and provision of God, I managed to make the summit.  (The pictorial review of that adventure can be viewed here.)

And so...for my birthday this year, I decided to try again. Here, in photos and brief descriptions, is the story of our quick trip trip to Golden, Breckenridge, and Mt. Quandary.

1) After a lovely day driving out to Denver, a day including conversation, prayers, in-car picnics, and a Louis L'Amour audio book, we went on into Golden, the town where I went to Junior High School and where my Father's and Mother's bodies are buried. Claire and I stopped to buy some fresh decorations for the grave and then spent a little time at the cemetery before heading on to Breckenridge.

2 & 3) Claire found us a great studio apartment to stay in Breckenridge and at a surprising price. It allowed us to fix our own meals, enjoy an unusual but pleasant shower, and experience a delightful view of the mountains. Early the next day (Tuesday), we ate breakfast at the Columbine Cafe and then found a place along Main Street to watch the 4th of July parade. To be honest, we found last year's parade in Frisco to be bigger, more fun, and more decidedly Americana, but this one was okay. The photos below show the town's fire engine, a high school marching band, and a portion of the very large crowds that the event drew.

4 & 5) Following the event, we drove south on Colorado 9 into the long grassland valley that is South Park in order to check out the trailheads for the two hikes I was considering. Along the way were the towns of Alma and Fairplay. Just south of Hoosier Pass, we stopped to snap a few photos. The first is looking south into the valley. The next photo is facing west and shows Claire with the gorgeous backdrop of North Star Mountain.

6-10) After our drive, we returned to Breckenridge. It was a refreshingly cool evening in which to saunter around and soak up some of the Rocky Mountain atmosphere we both love so much. The following photos were taken on the grounds of Beaver Run Resort where we were lodging -- or in the forest nearby.

11) And now the hike. I had chosen Mt. Quandary, mainly because of the information we had learned the day before from a forest ranger we met on our drive west of Alma towards Kite Lake where you begin the trail for Mt. Democrat. Because of the late snows in Colorado this year, the road was worse than usual (it's never good) and that meant that people were having to park 1.5 miles away from Kite Lake. The prospect of adding 3 miles onto the already daunting hike made my decision for Quandary pretty easy. The photo below shows Mt. Quandary, named by a group of miners in the 1860s who were unable to identify a certain mineral they had found.

12) I was up at 4:30, breakfasted and out of the hotel by 5:15, and actually on the trail just before 6. I took this photo maybe a half hour later to capture the exciting moment when the sun first slipped above the mountains.

13) The newly awakened sun illuminates this steep (but clear and well-travelled) part of the trail. It's a big help emotionally because I had been unpleasantly surprised by the sharp ascent I had encountered so early in the day.

14) It was really exhilarating when the sun rose high enough to brighten up the whole mountain.

15) Here's a look up the valley showing the Blue Lakes reservoir fed by Monte Cristo Creek. At the photo's left is the north face of North Star Mountain and deeper into the valley is the rise to Mt. Wheeler.  On the far right is Mt. Quandary. The trail is a bit rocky here but still quite clear. I would soon encounter a lot “rockier” going.

16) I've been hiking for 80-90 minutes before getting beyond timberline and getting my first real clear “peek of the peak” that is my goal. I've inserted an arrow so you will notice some of the hikers that are already ahead of me...way up yonder.

17) I meet another hiker on the mountain. Cute, isn't she?

18) Here's the first of 3 snow fields that needed to be traversed. Because I hadn't packed in spikes (I was, in fact, wearing tennis shoes), it was super slick and a bit tricky. I had the day's first fall here.

19) I took this shot after making it through the first snow belt. It looks east and back down the mountain towards Highway 9. I've put in an arrow marking where the hikers parked their vehicles. If it looks like an awful long way away, believe me, it was longer still!

20) The goal is in sight. Yes, it's a sharp ascent through a lot of rocks and still quite a long distance off...but I can at least see it. However, for some time already, I've been praying for strength just to make it a little further, then a little bit further, get the idea. Tackling 14ers as a 66-year old Clydesdale (I'll explain the reference when you ask me) is a tough go.

21) Looking across the rocks of Mt. Quandary towards the northeast towards Gray's Peak and Mt. Evans.

22) Here's a loooong look down the south face of Mt. Quandary towards the Blue Lakes Reservoir. What a crazy place for a guy with vertigo to be hanging out, huh? The reservoir is at 11,700 feet while where I'm standing (nervously holding my camera out) is somewhere around 13, 500 feet

23) I've been climbing for almost three hours but there's still quite a way to go. And every time I look up, it seems farther away! (The truth is that I know it's farther away than even what it looks -- because the actual summit is a little ways past this “false summit” that you can see from the trail.) 

24) Talk about a tough job! There were four young people (2 guys, 2 gals) scraping away rocks, shoving big rocks into place to make “stairsteps,” and filling in the worst of the snowmelt ruts.

25) A breathtaking view to the southwest.

26) The final snow field is ahead. Just past it is the way to the top.

27) Atop Mt. Quandary looking west. I'm almost moved to tears with the beauty, the immense relief of finally making it, and the deep sense of gratitude to my Lord in giving me this amazing gift.

28) It's a party atmosphere at the summit yet, at the same time, there is a shared sense of solemn awe. Here is a 360 degree video clip.


29) The highlight of my birthday? I guess so!

30) I hang out at the summit for quite awhile -- resting, eating a bit, taking more water, and being almost overwhelmed by all elements of the experience. I also take a few more photos including some, like the one below, that again begs the question, “What in the world is a guy with vertigo doing up here?”

31) Okay, on the way down now, I occasionally look back and wonder how on earth I just managed to get up there!

32) It was a hard and slow climb down. It took two hours just to get back to timberline and, with my legs going “all noodly” on me, it took even longer for me to make it back to the car. Thank You, Lord, for bearing me up through the ordeal and for giving giving me patience, hope, and encouraging friends like these to cheer me up on the way down.

Because we had several things going this weekend (including a wedding reception for Jake and Tricia Malek on Saturday, teaching a Sunday School class and preaching the sermon at Lighthouse Baptist Church on Sunday morning, writing the monthly letter of Vital Signs Ministries, etc.), we left Breckenridge early Thursday morning and got into Omaha in the early evening. Our way home was helped by listening to an audio copy of Who Built That: Awe-Inspiring Stories of American Tinkerpreneurs by the incomparable Michelle Malkin. Terrific.

To all of you who prayed for my protection and for success in this venture, I express my deepest thanks.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Notes from Dennis Prager’s Omaha Talk

Thursday morning Claire and I joined Pat Osborne, John Malek, Quint & Carol Coppi, Jim & Jeanne Lawson (and another 150 or so conservatives) for a breakfast talk by columnist and radio broadcaster, Dennis Prager.  Sponsored by The Answer Omaha Radio and held at the Hotel RL, the event seemed to be a success on several levels. Kudos to 1420 AM.

Dennis Prager was certainly in fine form Thursday morning and his observations and exhortations regarding the culture wars were enthusiastically received by the audience. Want a few highlights of his talk? Well, I transcribe below some of the notes I took on the back of a bank envelope.

* Prager reminded us that he opposed Donald Trump’s nomination throughout the primaries. However, he supported Trump enthusiastically in the general election although frequently he presented the choice between Clinton and Trump to something like the choice of two doors. Behind one of them, you were guaranteed, was a man-eating lion while, behind the other, there only might be a man-eating lion. People of moral values thus had a clear choice for Donald Trump. That being said, Prager told the audience that he “is amazed at the great job Trump has done” so far.

* "The modern university is a wisdom-free institution."

* The left does not represent liberalism.  Indeed, the modern left is decidedly anti-liberal.  Examples?  Think of the ideals of Harry Truman, John Kennedy, or Henry Jackson (patriotism, optimism, strong national defense, freedom of speech, opposition to big government and government handouts, traditional moral values, etc.) vs. the whining, value-free authoritarianism of Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi.

* The left is actively, purposefully undermining the ideals of Western civilization.

* America’s historic trinity of ideals?  Liberty.  In God We Trust.  E pluribus unum.

* The left represents the legacy of the French Revolution – godless, intolerant, and violent.  It demands equality by denying liberty and justice.

* The Democrats are now all the same.  Republican candidates (at every level) must run against the Democrat Party and its positions and tactics.

* “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  (Proverbs 9:10)

* The question, not merely to ponder, but to excite action on our part should be, “How American is America going to be?”

* The left is, by valuing everything according to race and class, is proving itself racist and elitist.

* “Hysteria is to the left what oxygen is to biological life.”

* Canada is already lost.  So is Europe.  Are we next to fall, the last great hope on earth for freedom?

* The left does not hate evil.  They hate carbon emissions and pro-life advocates and Israel and conservative speakers on college campuses…but they don’t hate evil.

* “The university, at least for students in the humanities and social sciences, is a fraud.”

* A key problem in America? The grandchildren of Jews and Christians do not know Judaism or Christianity.

* The problem with Congress is democracy -- for voters today are addicted to government handouts.  Today’s Democrats do not, as did JFK, put the interests of the nation before the wants of the individual.  No, they literally pay for votes by promising more and more free benefits to voters.

A Weekend Roundup: News & Commentary You Shouldn't Miss

* “Mueller’s Empire” (Scott Johnson, Power Line)

* “Aftermath Of Alexandria Shooting Showed The Left’s Cultural Bullying At Its Worst” (Mary Katharine Ham, The Federalist)

* “The Double Murder of Otto Warmbier” (Michelle Malkin, Daily Signal)

* “Nonprofit Tracker Smears Dozens of Conservative Organizations as ‘Hate Groups’” (Rachel del Guidice, Daily Signal)

* “Welcoming Persecution?” (Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism)

* “Oh, the Humanities!” The Scrapbook, Weekly Standard)

* “Potemkin Progressivism” (Roger Kimball, American Greatness)

* “Harry Potter and the millennial mind: How J.K. Rowling shaped the political thinking of a generation.” (Lara Prendergast, The Spectator)

* “The Danger of Incrementalism” (Rick Plasterer, Juicy Ecumenism)

* “Finding the Way Back on Immigration Isn’t Going to Be Easy for Democrats” (Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review)

* “Obama’s Feds Tried to Hack Indiana’s Election System While Pence Was Governor” (Richard Pollock, Daily Caller)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Audiences Love "When Swing Was King"

Comments from today’s “When Swing Was King” presentations:

1) “You know, I’m missing a College World Series game to come here. But that’s okay because I sure didn’t want to miss one of your shows.”

2) After assuring one woman that we would be back next month, she replied. “Oh, you can’t come back soon enough for us. You could come every week as far as we’re concerned. And you could show the same program too. We just love it!”

3) First lady: “I’m glad we got here early and got some good seats.”
Second lady: “But they never get very many people in here [the theater] for a program.”
First lady: “Maybe normally. But trust me, for THIS show the place will be packed.”

4) Fellow: “Oh, this is that big band thing. I hear it’s a pretty good show.”
First Lady: “Oh, you haven’t been to one of these yet? You’re in for a treat!”
Second lady: “Yes, of all the programs they bring in, this is the best.”

5) “Don’t mind me crying a little. It only is because your program is so beautiful that it makes me cry. The music, oh my. How wonderful it is to hear it again. And the pictures are wonderful too. And all the work in finding the history behind all those songs. It is just great that you do this for us. Thank you so much.”

6) “I never want your show to end.”