Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The "When Swing Was King" Newsletter Swings Towards Christmas!

Beginning this Thursday Claire and I start into our “When Swing Was King” Christmas shows. Because of the enthusiastic, warm-hearted response we have received over the years (yes, even more intense than the regular “WSWK” presentations), our Yuletide is more wonderful than ever. For a little over a year now we have added a quarterly newsletter to our outreach in all the eleven senior care facilities where we take “When Swing Was King” every month. Those newsletters include a personal note from us, quotations and Scriptures, and a whole lot of big band trivia.

Here’s a few examples from our latest newsletter.

Did You Know? — Originally written to honor America’s military serving far from home, the beautiful song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” has become a favorite for many generations now.  However, the song’s final phrase (“if only in my dreams”) was considered too sad and no one in the business wanted to record it. But when songwriter Kim Gannon sang the song for Bing Crosby (while they were playing golf), Bing loved it and promised to make it a hit. And, of course, he did. By the way, the song on the flip side of that Decca record was a lovely but sad song too – “Danny Boy.”

Did You Know? — In 1957 Elvis Presley made “Blue Christmas” into a hit on the pop charts. However, it had been taken to #1 once before. And that was on the Country charts in 1950. The singer? None other than Ernest Tubb!

The Music Man’s Christmas Song — Meredith Wilson is best remembered for his hit musical The Music Man. But he also wrote other stuff including one of the most famous Christmas songs of all time. In 1963, the song was incorporated into his musical, Here's Love which was based on the classic holiday film Miracle on 34th Street. Unfortunately, the play bombed. But the song, already very popular from recordings by Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and many others is going strong to this day. That song? You know it well --  “It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”

If you'd like to check out the whole 4-page, big print newsletter, you'll find it right here.

Friday, December 01, 2017

The Face of God: A Christmas Reflection

"The Face of God: A Christmas Reflection" (by Denny Hartford)

It was a story the old shepherd loved to tell, the story of that night when the skies were ablaze with a heavenly light and an angel direct from the throne of God had announced the news for which Israel had yearned for centuries.  The old man told the story well – the sudden terror, the adventure of fleeing down the mountain and searching Bethlehem for the baby in a manger, the overwhelming joy when they finally discovered the new family, and the spiritual peace that flooded their souls as they reflected on the Savior’s humble entrance into the world.

Emmanuel.  God with us.  The face of God that even Moses was not allowed to look upon, they had been allowed to see up close, unveiled, welcoming.

The shepherd didn’t exactly know how it would be accomplished but he believed both the angel’s message and the things that had been explained to them by Joseph and Mary. He believed this Child was the spotless Lamb of God Who would take away the sin of the world. Just think of it.  Here at last was the Son of David, the long-awaited Deliverer Who would save all people who turned to him, even Gentiles, from the wages of sin. It was magnificent, a world-shattering event. And yet he, a poor shepherd of no account, was a part of this wondrous story.

It is no wonder then that the shepherd never tired of telling his story. Even as the years went on and many sufferings came upon him – Herod’s soldiers murdering his newborn son, the early death of his wife after a long illness, and his own body broken when, defending the flock from wolves, he had toppled from the cliffs of Migdal Eder -- he never tired of telling the story of that blazing night and of the world’s Savior lying in a manger.

Oh, how I wish that dear shepherd was alive tonight.  How I wish I could apologize to him for my disrespect and disbelief, for my mocking the tears that welled in his blind eyes whenever he spoke of that great adventure.  How I wish he could see the tears in my eyes now and the excitement in my voice as I tell him that I’m sorry for my arrogance and disdain.  For this afternoon, on a grassy hillside outside Jerusalem, I met Jesus, He Who was once the child in that manger. And I accepted the invitation of Jesus to trust in Him for my salvation and be born again. In that very instant, I too knew the peace the old shepherd had discovered on that blazing night of the King’s advent.

Yes, I would love to hear the old shepherd tell his marvelous story at least once more and to laugh and thrill and weep along with him as he tells it. For then he would know that his willful, wayward son, the rebellious son for whom he so long prayed, now understands and appreciates his father’s experience of so many years ago. For today, the old shepherd’s son also saw the face of God -- up close, unveiled, and welcoming.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Bravely Bear His Banner

Banners in the Old Testament are military standards. They first appear in Numbers1:52 and 2:2 in the directions God gave to Moses for the arrangement of the Israelite camps in the wilderness. Those banners, specifically and publicly, identified the tribal armies to which each Israelite belonged. Thus the banner represented identity, strategic organization, purpose, and inspiration for battle. And it is these practical elements that provide the foundation for the metaphorical use of banner in later Old Testament Scriptures. Let’s take a few moments to consider these four elements.

1) Identity. The soldier finds fellowship, accountability, and stimulation to strive harder by being part of a solid corps of soldiers. Therefore, the corps flag, as a visual symbol of all its values, is deeply cherished and carefully protected. Psalm 20:5 emphasizes the blessing of identifying with God in His victories by erecting banners. “We will sing for joy over Your victory and, in the name of our God, we will set up our banners.” A similar expression is seen in the exultation over Zion’s new and forever glory in Isaiah 62:10. “Build up the highway, remove the stones, lift up a standard over the peoples.”

But the banner isn’t only displayed after the victory. No, it is also unfurled preliminary to and during the battle itself. Indeed, the banner of God can serve as a prophetic announcement of His holy, conquering purpose. Babylon, for instance, is warned in Isaiah 13:2 and 3, “Lift up a standard on the bare hill… I have even called My mighty warriors, My proudly exulting ones to execute My anger.” Ethiopia and the other nations are also warned of judgment by the appearance of the Lord’s banner in Isaiah 18:3. “All you inhabitants of the world and dwellers on the earth, as soon as a standard is raised on the mountains, you will see it.”

2) Organization. Throughout history, military commanders have used the various banners of their armies to help conduct strategic movement during a battle. Though a being a whole and unified army, it is composed of different parts and the skillful coordination of their action is critical to success. The individuals within the corps do not necessarily need to know the overall battle plan, they simply need to stay close to their standard and obey their orders.

3) Purpose. In some cases, the military banners of an army represented specialized talents, training, or tasks. For example, an infantry corps played a different role in battle than did pikemen or archers or cavalry. In the same way, the Lord often gives Christians different banners to carry, banners that signify their unique callings and spiritual gifts. Nevertheless, they serve in a common cause, under a common Commander, anticipating a common inheritance.

4) Inspiration. Bonds forged by love and trust and shared ideals are tremendously strong. And those bonds yield courageous, sacrificial devotion. Historical examples abound of the honor involved in carrying the flag in battle. One standard-bearer falls but another picks it up and moves forward. Through the cries and confusion, the smoke and shells, the flag continues to wave, inspiring and guiding soldiers in their advance.

All four of these elements are relevant in the “banner verse” that’s been on my mind lately. It is Psalm 60:4. “You have given a banner to those who fear You that it may be displayed because of the truth.” As a believer, one who fears God with proper reverence and love, I am fully identified with Him…and He with me. Scripture teaches that because I have trusted in Christ as my Savior, I am one of His beloved disciples. And that service carries the responsibility of being a bondservant, a faithful witness, a dedicated soldier. And especially applicable to these tasks is His gift to me of a holy banner -- a banner which needs to be publicly displayed.

My identity isn’t static or platonic, it involves function. I am a standard-bearer, responsible to show forth in the public square (as well, of course, in my private life) His truths concerning righteousness, justice, and the offer of grace through the atoning work of Jesus. I must bear this banner for others to see and do so boldly, consistently, gratefully, and joyfully.

God is working out his will in history. And, amazingly, I am honored to be a part of that. In the spiritual rebirth that comes through receiving Christ, God has not only forgiven my debt of sin, He has redeemed me, transformed me, and (through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit), equipped me for every good work…including bearing His banner in my corner of the battlefield.  All the banners of the Lord display His character and the glorious truth He offers to men. Like the lights we are given that are not to be hidden under a basket, the banners we are given or not to be stowed away in the trunk of our car to be unloaded only when we attend church. No, the Lord’s banners are for public display. Therefore, if we fail to raise His standard, we are living in flat out disobedience.

“You have given a banner to those who fear You that it may be displayed because of the truth.” So don’t neglect your high calling. Bravely bear His banner.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

“The Only History That Is Worth a Tinker's Damn”

“History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history that we make today.”

That's Henry Ford as quoted in an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 1916.

Of course, the only portion of that quote which has gone down in...uh, history, is the first line. But it is actually the last line that is the most relevant to modern culture.

Indeed, it's pretty obvious that the cultural powers that be (politics, academia, Hollywood) are determined to escape what they believe are the shackles of the past. They are progressives through and through who believe that civilization is like detergent or breakfast cereal -- only the “new and improved” brands should be allowed on the shelves. Everything else should go to the trash bin.

Therefore, the virtues of Western culture, no matter how beautiful, ennobling or indispensable for a society's health (think of the U.S. Constitution, Christianity, marriage, family, etc.) are ignored if not mocked and vilified.

History is made an ally of this bold social transformation; that is, a distinctly progressive version of history, a twisted thing that is much more propaganda than it is precision. It is a thing that is quite willing to drastically distort the actual record, to carefully omit (even conceal) those things that do not fit with the desired political conclusions, to engage in outright invention -- all to create an ideologically favorable product.

“History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history that we make today.”

Yes, the words are Henry Ford's. But the sentiment is alive and well in the hearts of today's progressives.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Os Guinness on the Reformation, Covenants, and Passing On the Torch

A couple of weeks ago I very much enjoyed watching the Trinity Forum’s presentation of Os Guinness speaking on the Reformation's ideals and effects. His talk (and the response to it by Joseph Loconte) was remarkably cogent, enlightening, and corrective. Indeed, I can't thank Trinity Forum enough nor can I recommend the presentation more highly.

Below I embed the entire video from the Trinity Forum website knowing that it takes time to listen carefully to the talk…but knowing also that it is well worth it.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Words to Live By (From Billy Sunday and Fr. Edward Flanagan)

Last month I gave my talk, “Piety on the Plains: A Religious History of Omaha,” to audiences at 5 different senior citizen facilities with nearly 120 people involved. It was, we are delighted to report, very well received. And Claire and I had a great time following up with wonderful visits with the residents afterwards.

The talk covers a lot of ground – the earliest missionary activity in the area, church beginnings, the impact of such groups as the Sisters of Mercy and the Immanuel Deaconess Institute, Christian radio, notable events and persons, and much more.  And since that review included the 6-week revival crusade in 1915 led by baseball player/evangelist Billy Sunday as well as the founding of Boys Town by Fr. Edward Flanagan, we handed out a double-sided sheet of quotations from those two leaders.  We thought you might find those quotations of value too so…here they are.

From Billy Sunday:

“The trouble with many men is that they have got just enough religion to make them miserable. If there is not joy in religion, you have got a leak in your religion.”

“Some homes need a hickory switch a good deal more than they do a piano.”

“Better die an old maid, sister, than marry the wrong man.”

“If there is no hell, a good many preachers are obtaining money under false pretenses.”

“Hypocrites in the Church? Yes, and in the lodge and at the home. Don't hunt through the Church for a hypocrite. Go home and look in the mirror. Hypocrites? Yes. See that you make the number one less.”

“I believe that a long step toward public morality will have been taken when sins are called by their right names.”

“Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.”

“Religion needs a baptism of horse sense.”

“Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in.”

“I believe the Bible is the word of God from cover to cover.”

“God likes a little humor, as is evidence by the fact that he made the monkeys, the parrot -- and some of you people.”

“Some persons think that they have to look like a hedgehog to be pious.” 

“The inconsistency is not in the Bible, but in your life.”

“If you live wrong you can't die right.”

“Churches don't need new members half so much as they need the old bunch made over.”

“Try praising your wife, even if it does frighten her at first.”

“If you don't do your part, don't blame God.”

“When I hit the devil square in the face some people go away as mad as if I had slapped them in the mouth.”

“To train a boy in the way he should go you must go that way yourself.”

“It is not necessary to be in a big place to do big things.”

“Yank some of the groans out of your prayers, and shove in some shouts.”

“The Bible will always be full of things you cannot understand, as long as you will not live according to those you can understand.”

And from Fr. Flanagan…

“The work will continue, you see, whether I am there or not, because it is God’s work, not mine.”

“When parents fail to do their job, when they allow their children to run the streets and keep bad company, when they fail to provide them with good examples in the home, then the parents, and not the children, are delinquent.”

“Without God at the beginning, there can be only confusion at the end.”

“A true religious training for children is most essential if we are to expect to develop them into good men and good women — worthy citizens of our great country.”

“No race that does not take care of its young can hope to survive — or deserves to survive.”

“Our country needs good men and good women who have learned to love God above all things, and their fellow man for the love of God.”

Monday, October 30, 2017

3 Big Mistakes the Enemy Made at Pearl Harbor

Here’s something I ran across while reading a copy of The Seahorse, the official newsletter of the U.S. Seagoing Marine Association that Dick Wilson sometimes passes along to me. The item concerned Admiral Chester Nimitz’s response to his initial review of the damage done following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet. Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat — you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war.

On Christmas morning, Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters everywhere you looked. As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, ‘Well, Admiral, what do you think?’ Admiral Nimitz's reply surprised him. He said, ‘The enemy made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make. Either that or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?’ The young man had no answer. So Nimitz explained.

He said, ‘Mistake number one: The Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk, we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

Mistake number two: When the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow everyone of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.

Mistake number three: Every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That's why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.’

President Roosevelt had chosen the right man for the right job. We desperately needed a leader that could see silver linings in the midst of the clouds of dejection, despair, and defeat.”

The Scandal of Grade Inflation. It's Even Worse Than You Think.

“A professor at the University of Georgia has adopted a policy that puts a premium on stress reduction.  Hoping to avoid the ‘profound consequences’ of stressful situations, he has set out a policy that includes all tests being open-book, and designed to be completed in half the time allowed.  Those exams will be designed to assess a ‘low level mastery of the course material.’  If students are unduly stressed by a grade, they may contact the instructor and indicated the grade the student considers ‘appropriate, and it will be changed.’ 

There are more provisions in the policy, to prevent  those profound consequences of stress, including only positive comments made in class about presentations.  The professor acknowledges that the policy ‘might hinder the development of group skills and mastery of the class material,’ but ‘ultimately these are your responsibility.’

How did Chesterton put it?  ‘Standardization by a low standard.’”
(Mark Pilon, Gilbert Magazine)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Grace Is the Message in the Voice of God (A Quick Look at Psalm 19)

Psalm 19 is one of the most well-known and well-loved psalms because of the poetic declaration which introduces it. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3, NKJV) However, as lovely and profound as the opening verses are, they are but an introduction to two other sections of the psalm which emphasize the proper response to nature’s glorious revelations of God’s power, beauty, wisdom, and goodness.

To be sure, the first response to the order and beauty of nature should be praise and thanksgiving to the God Who made it and Who reveals truths about Himself through it.  We are to humbly worship the Lord Whose voice is communicated so universally, so constantly, and so majestically.  But the second section of the psalm teaches something even more important; namely, that we should recognize that God has extended and clarified His revelation by means of the written Word.  Indeed, it is in the law given through Moses and the prophets (and eventually through the divinely inspired writers of the New Testament) that the Lord reveals much, much more of Himself, His purposes, and the requirements He lays down for men and women to obey.

It is in verse 7 that the psalmist begins this second section. “The law of the law is perfect, restoring the soul.” David goes on in the next verses to describe God’s law as sure, right, pure, clean, enduring, true, righteous, desirable, and everlasting.  And those who appreciate and carefully follow God’s laws, David explains in these verses, will be made wise, will rejoice, will be enlightened, will be protected, and will receive great rewards.

So is it a good thing to appreciate the power of God in the thunderstorm and earthquake, to rejoice at the beauty of God in the sunrise and the waterfall, to be amazed to the point of worship at the intricacy and orderliness of the stars and seas and squirrels?  Of course.  God desires just such responses as these to His voice as expressed in His creation.  Yet more relevant, more important still are our responses of awe, thanksgiving, and loyalty to the moral law of God that is expressed directly and perfectly in His Word.

This thought is then expanded in the third and concluding section of Psalm 19 as David addresses the ongoing sanctification of His people; that is, our day-to-day gratitude for and obedience to the spiritual sharpening His written Word provides.

David begins this third section with the provocative question of verse 12: “Who can discern his errors?”  The possessive used (“his”) applies to man, not to God, as the Hebrew word translated here as “error” is used elsewhere to describe going astray, wandering, misleading, engaging in sin and folly. David is thus asking (of himself as well as others), “Who can fully understand one’s moral failure? Who can figure out why men act against their own self-interest by rebelling against God? Who can comprehend the huge distance between God’s holiness and man’s shallow and self-centered choices?”

In the next verses, David underscores the deliberate nature of sin. For instance, the Hebrew adjective which describes sins in verse 13, translated in most versions as  “presumptuous,” describes an insolent, defiant attitude towards God. We do not merely stumble into sin – we often look, evaluate, and then jump headlong into it.  This willful disobedience must be contritely admitted to God before we can move towards forgiveness and a fresh start. And that’s just where King David, long acquainted with God’s tender mercies towards the penitent, goes next. “Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins. Let them not rule over me. Then I will be blameless and I shall be acquitted of great transgression.”

David lifts up his prayer to a gracious God.  For though he has known God’s voice in creation and he has known God’s voice even more particularly pronounced in His law (including its warning against sin), yet he has turned aside from God.  He has failed to consistently heed those warnings. He has sinned, even defiantly so. David takes responsibility as he calls sin and transgression by their right names.  Yet, even at this, all is not lost!  For God’s holiness can be satisfied through the mercies He offers to honest, humble worshippers. And it is on the basis of God’s grace (demonstrated in the symbolic sacrifices of the Temple but eventually to be fulfilled in the complete atonement provided by the death of the Messiah to pay our penalty) that David confidently appeals for acquittal of sin and restoration of fellowship with God.

The suggestion that there is no or little grace expressed in the Old Testament is a silly idea and Psalm 19 is but one example of hundreds that show the real story.  In fact, Psalm 19 emphasizes God’s grace being provided in several ways. First, David praises the awesome power of God’s revelation in nature. That God thus reveals himself is a grand expression of His grace to mankind. Second, there is what’s often termed as “common grace” that God’s creation provides for all men. By His orderly creation, all mankind lives on a planet that makes sense, that allows for family and food production and navigation and thousands upon thousands of other blessings. That too is grace. Third, Psalm 19 acknowledges God’s grace in the revelation of His character, will, and wisdom through the written law.  In particular, David is grateful that God’s law is liberating and enlightening and empowering.  That’s sanctifying grace. Fourth, God’s Word extols His grace that provides salvation to man…and even eternal rewards for their faithfulness to walk according to His Word.

As I said at the beginning, Psalm 19 certainly deserves to be appreciated for the moving testimony about God’s created order with which it opens.  But there’s much more truth to embrace there. Indeed, Psalm 19 is a glorious song about the profound voice of God – a voice which continually expresses God’s amazing grace to mankind. Through creation…through the Word…through the existential power of the Holy Spirit -- God lovingly uses all three to express His character, His offer of atonement for sin, and His provision for strength to walk closely beside Him towards the life to come.

What's Going On?


Here's the latest in my offerings of the best in news and commentary:




* “How Churches Die” (Stephen Hayward, Power Line)


* “The Tower Amid the Ruins” (Richard Fernandez, PJ Media)



Monday, October 16, 2017

A Prayer and a Declaration

A few days ago I wrote a brief essay called “Nothing Good Does God Withhold” and posted it on Vital Signs Blog. (You can read that here.) As a followup to those thoughts -- stimulated, in part, by reading Joni Eareckson Tada’s “Holiness in Hidden Places” -- I recorded this prayer while walking along Table Rock Lake outside Branson, Missouri. It’s a declaration (a spiritual vow, you might say) as well as a prayer which deals with the Christian’s trust in God in the midst of life’s trials.

Mark it down. 

One day I will be delivered from any and all infirmities, injuries, sickness, and anxieties.  And I will be delivered from them forever.  Indeed, because I have believed in Jesus as my Savior and therefore experienced His forgiveness of my sins and my adoption into His family, my future is brighter than words can ever express. And that future includes the transforming of my body, mind, and environment. I will then know health and vitality and focus and joy in completeness. I will also experience peace of unimaginable quality and abundance.  My relationships will be sweet, fulfilling, and free of goodbyes. And again, all of these gifts will be mine to enjoy throughout eternity.

Therefore, dear Lord Jesus, when You ask me now to deal with sickness or injury, with loss or anxiety, with fear or grief, please pour out Your mercies so that I not give in to my flesh but instead depend upon Your sovereign will.  Help me to remember and rely upon Your character, Your power, Your wisdom, and Your deep and abiding love for me and, in so doing, to believe with confidence that You know what is best for me from Your eternal perspective.

Lord, You have promised me every good and perfect gift.  You have promised to withhold no good thing from me as I strive to walk uprightly before You.  So please provide all needed graces for me to rely upon Your goodness to me even in the midst of today’s trial.  Jesus, You will heal me in Your perfect time.  And, in that appointed moment, You will embrace me and reward me and direct me to the place in Your kingdom You have lovingly prepared especially for me.  I know this and I trust in Your care for me.

Lord, in that moment of forever victory, I will be satisfied.  There will be no regrets, no second-guessing, no recriminations – only understanding and appreciation of how You worked out Your plans in my life.  So, dear God, I pray today that You will help me to look forward to that wondrous, liberating day and endure more patiently the trials You have allowed me to experience.  Let me trust You to give the strength and understanding I need so that I do not cave in but rather endure this by Your Holy Spirit.  Thank You for Your mercy.  

These things I declare and pray in the Name of my loving Savior, Jesus Christ.

A Post-Branson “Catch Up” (Part Two)

Here's more of the best reads on the web from recent days.

* “The Left’s New Plan to Gut Religious-Liberty Protections” (Margot Cleveland, National Review)

* “The Bergdahl Deception” (Scott Johnson, Power Line)

* “Conservatives Fault Senate Republicans for Slow Confirmation of Trump Nominees” (Casey Ryan, Daily Signal)

* “Tech vs Trump: the great battle of our time has begun” (Niall Ferguson, The Spectator)

“Harvey Weinstein Helped Pay for Bill Clinton’s Legal Fees During Monica Lewinsky Scandal” (Joshua Caplan, Gateway Pundit) (And, near the end of the article, you’ll see who else in Hollywood helped pay Bill’ s bills.)

* “Hollywood's Masculinity Deficit” (Andrew Klavan, PJ Media)

* “Harvey Weinstein—Shameless Communist Propagandist to Boot” (Humberto Fontova, Town Hall)

* “Are you weak if you make your man a sandwich? This is why real men don’t marry feminists” (Suzanne Venker, Fox News)

* “Scalia's Legacy” (Mona Charen, Jewish World Review)

* “WSJ Editorial Board Accuses ‘Beltway Media’ And Democrats Of Trump Dossier ‘Coverup’” (Chuck Ross, Daily Caller)

* “As monopolies, airlines just want to ‘own it all’” (Kevin Burke, The Hill)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Post-Branson "Catch Up"

Being in Branson the past couple of weeks for a family reunion and then a week of our traditional autumn working vacation, not to mention the extra duties I've embraced because of Claire's broken ankle, I have neglected compiling a selection of “must read” posts for awhile.

I remedy that now with these gems:

* “America’s abortion extremism” (Sheila Liaugminas, Mercator)

* “President Donald Trump Defends Defunding Intl Planned Parenthood: We Must ‘Protect the Unborn’” (Steven Ertelt, LifeNews.com)

* “Weinstein Dropped $100K at 2017 Planned Parenthood Gala” (Katie Yoder, MRC NewsBusters)

* “5 lessons Harvey Weinstein can teach us about Hollywood” (Michael Cook, Mercator)

* “Trump’s Great Call on UNESCO” (Paul Mirengoff, Power Line)

* “Google Honors Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards as a “Modern-Day Hero” (Micaiah, Bilger, LifeNews.com)

* “Don’t Call Climate Skeptics ‘Deniers,’ Call Us ‘Correct’” (Christopher Monckton, American Spectator)

* “Never Forget: Muslim Hate Crime Hoaxes” (Michelle Malkin, National Review)

* “Boy Scouts Are Now Allowing Girls to Join” (Henry Rodgers, Daily Signal)

* “Actress Elisabeth Moss Will Star in New Movie Glorifying a Network of Secret Abortionists” (Micaiah, Bilger, LifeNews.com)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Nothing Good Does God Withhold

Among the Scriptures I’ve been studying, thinking about, and using in my prayers of intercession is this Psalm 84:11. “For the Lord God is a sun and a shield.  The Lord gives grace and glory.  No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (NASB)

How wondrous and sweet is that promise. Imagine, absolutely no good thing will He withhold!  Because God is ever gracious to His children and because He is our guide (sun) and protector (shield), He gives us, as it is written in 2 Peter 1:3, every good thing we need pertaining to life and godliness.  Wow.

But let’s go even farther with this idea.  Remember Jesus’ words to the disciples as recorded in Matthew 7:11. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him?” And the apostle James writes in 1:17 of his epistle that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

Of course, it’s crucial to understand that these promises do not mean that God is our butler. He is not an errand boy or a genie who is obligated to supply whatever we wish.  Oh, no; God is the omniscient sovereign Who knows what is for our forever good, those exact things that will most bless and exalt us for all eternity.  Thus, we can trust His character as well as His power to give us what is truly best for us…always.

Do we get frustrated when it seems that God doesn’t answer our prayers?  Sure.  Do we wonder why His distribution of blessings seems uneven, sometimes even unfair?  Yes.  And do we chafe at the waiting process, the denial of self, even the suffering that often precedes what will be the “proper time” of our exaltation, as it’s put in I Peter 5:6?  Certainly.  But the verses I cite in the beginning of this note are among the many which remind us of the unshakeable foundation upon which our trust in God’s mercies must confidently rest.  We can rely upon our Savior to give us what eternity will sparklingly reveal were the very best gifts we could have ever received.

Our natural perspective is limited, even distorted, by our desires for temporal comfort and happiness, for peace and success.  But the Lord urges us to look further ahead than those temporal conditions and to calmly trust in His kind providence.  And, make no mistake, God is looking forward even more than we are to the day when He completes His gift-giving to us, to that victorious day when all things are reconciled to Him and we enter into the everlasting splendor of the new heavens and new earth.  And, in the meantime, we hold on to such glorious truths as Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” and 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”

Before I close my comments on Psalm 84:11 and the other “good thing” Scriptures mentioned earlier, let me also emphasize their existential applications; that is, their relevance to our walk in the Spirit today.  For instance, the context of James 1:17 shows that the good gifts that come from the Father of lights center upon the strength and wisdom He provides His children to escape temptations.  God’s good gifts sanctify us. They allow us to turn from evil and to instead “prove ourselves doers of the word.”   Also, Jesus’ question recorded in Matthew 7:11 is to encourage specific prayers of faith for maintaining holy, unselfish behavior.  And finally, Psalm 84:11 emphasizes that the good things of God are given to “those who walk uprightly.”  That’s a very important condition for the blessings.  Careful, consistent, and humble dedication to God’s Word keeps the channels clear so that He will pour out upon us all needed mercies.

How comforting these truths are.  And challenging too.  But they remind us of how glorious and gracious is the God we serve, One Who gives us all good things to empower our service to Him today and which will be completed and added to in the forever life that awaits us. So keep praying, dear friends.  Keep trusting.  And let there be a fresh spring in your step today as you walk uprightly toward glory.
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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Solzhenitsyn on America's “Decline in Courage”

With the momentous happenings of last week; particularly the straightforward long overdue speech of President Trump to the United Nations, followed by the latest cave in of Washington politicians to Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, the leftist media, and even the rants of unhinged dictators in North Korea and Iran,  I recalled a particularly relevant  passage from Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s commencement speech at Harvard in 1978.

“A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.

Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable, as well as intellectually and even morally worn it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and with countries not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.

Should one point out that from ancient times declining courage has been considered the beginning of the end?”

The Lord Delivers From All Fears

I wanted to share a portion of a letter I received today from a friend and pro-life colleague who lives in another state. It's a timeless message of encouragement regarding God breaking through to answer our needs as we step out in courageous faith.

“Even if you don’t get to have a conversation with anyone, your very presence outside the [abortion] clinic could save a baby’s life.” Those were the words shared with me before I left for [the abortion business] by a woman who years ago had gone there for an abortion. She had told herself before she left that if anyone was outside the clinic when she got there she wouldn’t go through with it. Sadly no one was there and she had the abortion even though it went against everything she believed. Her words encouraged me to think that God could use us even though we may not see the results.

I really didn’t want to go Friday morning, and thought about rescheduling but God had other plans. Before I left I was reading Psalm 34 and asking the Lord to help me be bold for Him and not be hesitant to talk with someone. “I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4) 

Well, he truly did deliver me from my fears and gave me a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel with a young truck driver who was picking up medical waste... As he was just finishing loading up his truck I asked him if he knew what they did inside the building and if it was difficult for him to go in there. He said he tries to shut out his mind and not think about it. I then asked him if he knew about Jesus and had an amazing opening to share the gospel with him. He was so receptive and genuinely interested in the tract Randy Alcorn had written, “How Can We Know We Will Go to Heaven?” he said he would read. 

Please pray for D----- that he would come to know Jesus and be in heaven with us! Most likely he’ll be back to the clinic so I may have more connection with him.

[My friend] J------ and others also had opportunities to reach out and it was an encouraging morning as we were stretched in our boldness. Thanks again for partnering with us in prayer.

Friday, September 22, 2017

September Songs

My, oh my; how the audiences are loving this month's “When Swing Was King” shows!

But, then again, that’s pretty much par for the course for these “sentimental journeys” we take back to the heady days when the residents of the senior care facilities we visit were going to homecoming and proms, gliding over the floor with their spouses at Peony Park or the Music Box, or listening to their favorite songs through radio waves or jukeboxes.

Through our visits to 11 facilities every month, we get to share with our friends laughter and tears, smiles and conversations, hugs and prayers. Wow.

The compliments and thanks that Claire and I receive are overwhelming and we remain oh-so-thankful not only for their kindnesses to us but for God giving us the opportunity to engage in this beautiful, inspiring ministry.

And just what songs are our audiences loving this month? Check out this lineup and then make a date to come join in the fun during one of our 3 remaining shows this month.

1) Glenn Miller Orchestra — “ In the Mood”
2) The Andrews Sisters (backed by Bob Crosby & the Bobcats) — “Begin the Beguine”
3) Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with Frank Sinatra — “This Love of Mine”
4) Benny Goodman Orchestra — “Stardust”
5) Artie Shaw Orchestra with Helen Forrest — “They Say”
6) Larry Clinton Orchestra — “Dodgin’ the Dean”
7) Ella Fitzgerald — “Isn’t It Romantic”
8) Vaughn Monroe Orchestra — “Ballerina”
9) Harry James Orchestra — “You Made Me Love You”
10) Rosemary Clooney — “Hey There”
11) Nat King Cole — “L.O.V.E.”
12) Andy Williams — “Moon River”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Rainy Day Prayer

A Rainy Day Prayer
(DAH)

Prayers were prayed this morning,
Prayers in the driving rain,
Outside a horrid business
Where unborn babes are slain.

This place is a most cruel trap
Where fools are easily caught,
Where violence and lies live
But preborn kids do not.

The sky was dark. Thunder growled.
From the heights, lightening was thrown.
And heaven’s tears fell apace
To mingle with my own.

I know, of course, God’s judgment
Is but for a moment stayed.
And on the Great Day of Wrath
All accounts will be fully paid.

Yet God wants to hear honest prayers.
So I strike the same old drum.
Please rain truth and justice down,
And come, Lord Jesus, come.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Will Someone Please Turn Off the Noise?

When asked what he would like the orchestra to play while he was dining at a London restaurant, playwright George Bernard Shaw thoughtfully replied, “Dominoes.”

In this matter, I’m with Shaw.

It is a crazy, unhealthy feature of modern life — this matter of unrelenting noise. For instance, having television or radio, canned music or internet advertisements blaring at us absolutely everywhere we go. Airports, restaurants, convenience stores, doctor’s offices. the car mechanic’s waiting room, shopping malls, the vehicle next to yours at a stoplight, coffee shops, nursing home and hospital rooms, even church. For crying out loud, the other day I was putting gas in the car and had to try and block out the TV playing inside the gas pump!

Will someone please turn off the incessant noise!

George Prochnik, in his book “In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise,” warns of the harmful physical impact of noise. “Noise wreaks havoc on all different parts of our bodies. The heart rate accelerates. We get vasoconstriction…The really scary thing is even if we do habituate mentally to noise, that doesn't change what's happening to our bodies.”

Is noise truly inescapable in our time? Is there no place where we can escape the intrusion of dissonant sound? Must our bodies and brains be forced to suffer the constant stress from clamoring, clattering commotion?

Perhaps not. But it will certainly take effort to turn down the noise in our lives, to listen more attentively to the natural sounds of life: God’s creation, calm conversation, serene music. More radical still, shouldn’t we be making time to relish some peace and…genuine quiet?

William Penn, in a book containing advice to his children, wrote, “True silence is the rest of the mind and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment. It is a great virtue; it covers folly, keeps secrets, avoids disputes, and prevents sin.”

Amen, Brother Penn. A quiet but unqualified amen.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

“A Global Climactic Upheaval”

From Newsweek magazine comes this warning. “There are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production - with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth.”

A headline in the New York Times dealt with the same impending catastrophe: “Climate Changes Endanger World's Food Output.”

And then from TIME Magazine, here’s this. “As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval.”

Pretty ominous sounding stuff, right? So, is Al Gore correct? And is the media hype about today’s global warming crisis spot on?

Well, before you answer, let me tell you that the 3 “old guard” media examples I just cited all came from…the 1970s! Uh huh. The 1970s. And they were all from articles raging about what they predicted was…get ready for it…a cataclysmic ice age! Hmm. I wonder how that worked out for ‘em?

Now, I don’t blame anyone for being concerned about the weather catastrophes our nation is experiencing: the hurricanes and floods, the forest fires, and so on. But the main thing to deal with here is not politics, especially the hysterical and manipulative rants of the left. No, the main thing is to realize the ever-present dangers of living in a fallen planet and thus preparing for one’s inevitable exit from it.  After all, the planet as we know it is doomed. The Bible verifies that. One day this sin-stained, broken earth will be destroyed completely in order for the awesome Hand of the sovereign God to remake it. There will be new heavens and a new earth – perfect, redeemed, and wholly reconciled to God’s righteousness and peace. But that new earth is specifically remade for all who have put their trust in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to pay the penalty of their sins, those who been adopted into His forever family.

But, of course, it won’t be TIME or Newsweek or any of the other politically correct vehicles telling you about that. No, for that sweet message you’ll have to go to an older, more trustworthy source.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

“Making Nebraska the Best Place To Be a Baby” — An Open Letter to UNL President Hank Bounds

Dear Dr. Bounds,

I was delighted to hear your segment during the halftime of the NU-Oregon football game last week and was especially impressed with your promise for both the University and you personally to serve with compassion and skill the “youngest, most vulnerable” of our state’s children. Indeed, you stated your desire to “make Nebraska the best place to be a baby.”  That’s terrific, Dr. Bounds, and thank you so much for your explanation of UNL’s commitment.

Therefore, with the strength of that noble promise to “make Nebraska the best place to be a baby”, can I then assume that you will be working hard to expose the vicious abortion practices of Planned Parenthood in Nebraska, to eliminate funding for this mega-abortion corporation, and to end any assistance or cooperative programs between Planned Parenthood and the state or its university?

I certainly hope so, Dr. Bounds. For, after all, if you are not committed to oppose Planned Parenthood and the other abortionists in our state, the pledge to make Nebraska the best place for a baby rings tragically and hypocritically hollow.

Thank you for your consideration of this oh-so-important matter.

Denny Hartford
Director, Vital Signs Ministries
Omaha

Catching Up on News You Need to Know


It's been too long since I created a compilation post for Vital Signs Blog, partly because of our schedule and partly because there have been so many hugely significant news events and movements going on. Okay, enough already. I've scanned through 3 weeks of backed up emails, alerts, and bookmarks and now deliver ten articles I think genuinely indispensable. Let's go...

* “Planned Parenthood Killed Over 1 Million Babies in Abortions Worldwide in 2016” (Jonathan Abbamonte, LifeNews.com)

* “In a World of Real Evil, the Left Fights Fake Evil” (Dennis Prager, Daily Signal)

* “Oh Scientia! Oh Mores!” (Jonathan Goldberg, National Review)

* “Stunning testimony: Voting machines can be hacked without a trace of evidence” (Stephen Dinan, Washington Times)

* “Union Bosses Have Too Much Control. It’s Time to Protect the Rights of American Workers” (Rep. Phil Roe, Daily Signal)

“The Devil's Silence” (Erick Erickson, Town Hall)

* “Study: The Liberal Media’s Summer of Pummeling Trump” (Rich Noyes & Mike Ciandella, MRC Newsbusters)

* “Rep. Trent Franks: Life is a gift, Iceland, no matter what” (Rep. Trent Franks, Washington Examiner)

* “Seattle's Mayor Resigns After Fifth Allegation of Child Sexual Abuse” (Christine Rousselle, Town Hall)

* “Why ‘Dunkirk’ Is the Hit of the Summer” (Suzanne Fields, Town Hall)

Monday, September 04, 2017

The Very Ground Has Changed

Returning to Kirksville and Novinger, Missouri for a family reunion a couple of weeks ago brought back a flood of memories.  Of course, I grew up in Denver, Colorado and never lived in Missouri myself  but this was home for Dad and Mom -- where they grew up, where they courted, where they embarked on their new life together. To add to the sentimental significance, these two towns were the backdrop for my mom’s diary which we discovered after her death six years ago. We edited the text of that diary, added photos of her and Dad, added photos of the towns and illustrations of things she mentioned, and created an album which is one of our living room treasures.  Therefore, though the memories this Missouri visit stirred in me were not of a direct origin, they were nevertheless vivid and dear.

I was thinking this morning of one memory in particular, one that occurred sometime in the mid-1970s when Claire and I were with my parents visiting the farm where Dad grew up. I had been walking around the dilapidated structure that had once been his home.  The small house had seen service as a hay barn since the time Dad had left it in the Depression when he was 17.  Even as such, it was now falling apart and rotting away.

Meanwhile, Dad was walking around in what I supposed had been pasture or maybe part of the cornfield he had tended as a kid.  But as I came up to him, he was slowly wandering about with a mournful, perplexed look.  “What’s up?”  I asked.  He looked at me thoughtfully. And then, with a slight, wistful smile, he said, “Son, the ground has changed here.  The very ground has changed.”

Dad then explained how he had at first wondered if his memory was playing tricks on him.  But no, he had carefully worked it out, even measuring his strides from the house to the spot where he now stood.  It was as solid and flat as a coin.  “It’s as level as can be right here but, believe you me, there used to be a slope here, one steep enough so’s we kids could slide down it when it snowed.  I know I’m not mistaken.”  He then looked around again and repeated in a pensive manner that deeply touched me.  “Yes, Dennis; the very ground has changed.”

Now I’m sure one of the reasons this particular memory returned to me was because of a conversation Claire and I had engaged in while driving through Missouri that morning.  We had talked about the moral devolution that has occurred in our lifetime, a tragic cultural decline in which America (and the West in general) has become uglier, meaner, more chaotic, more perverted, more enslaved to base, brutish philosophies.

Here’s just one illustration of that change, a striking one that I came across while reading a book recently given to us by Harold and Donna Berry. It’s an excerpt of a speech given at a prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C. by Earl Warren who, just the year before, had been appointed as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. As you read these lines, try to imagine the violent, hateful rants which such a speech would trigger from today’s media, Hollywood celebrities, establishment educators, leaders of the Democrat Party, and others in the self-appointed cultural elite.

Said Chief Justice Warren at that prayer breakfast, “I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Saviour have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses. Whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay or the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the same objective is present: a Christian land governed by Christian principles...I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their express belief in it...I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion.  I like also to believe that as long as we do so no great harm can come to our country.”

You see what I mean?  We live in a much different America today. Indeed, “the very ground has changed.”

But is this the end of the story?  Of course not.  For the Christian (that is, the person who has put his complete trust in Jesus as payment for his sins), there is a forever victory awaiting.  This is the Christian’s secure inheritance, the final realization of the blessed promises God has made in His covenants with those who believe in and follow Him. And the comforting, motivating knowledge of that superb destiny -- plus the existential power of the indwelling Holy Spirit – provides believers all they need to respond to all of the “ground changing” challenges before us. Those challenges, by the way, are the same they’ve always been for God’s people.  1) Do not be dismayed. Look to heaven’s graces for present support. Keep things in their proper perspective. Keep things in their proper priority.  2) Resist the world’s efforts to pour you into its molds.  Keep yourself unstained by the world.  Don’t give in to it.  Don’t even compromise with it.  3) Challenge the culture by wisely, winsomely, and courageously setting the light of Christ on a hill where people can see it, where spectators will know that truth, holiness, mercy, and liberation are still available to those who humbly seek God’s face.

Yes, though the very ground be changed, we need not be alarmed or dismayed for Jesus is the Cornerstone. He is the Savior Who is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He is the Prime Mover Who remains ever unmoved. And, by His gracious power, He offers spiritual solidity to all Who are His. “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.”  (Isaiah 26:3-4) A similar pledge is made in Psalm 40:2; namely, that the faithfulness of God will set our feet upon a rock and make our footsteps firm.

So be of good courage as you walk in His paths. For no matter the shifting sands of fashion and philosophy; no matter the erosion of culture; no matter the shaking of the world (whether by its own drunken reeling or even by divine judgment), the Christian’s position and calling remain the same.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

3 Classic Essays From Another Time...But For Ours Also

Will the people called by His Name continue to slumber through the culture wars, indeed, through the rapid devolution of Western civilization? Or might they, by the grace of God, still wake up?

To help encourage that last possibility, I urge you to pass along to friends and members of the pastoral staff at the church you attend these three classic essays.

The first two are speeches given by Alexander Solzhintsyn, respectively, to Harvard University’s graduating seniors in 1978 and the audience at the bestowing of the Templeton Prize in 1983. And the third essay comes from Erwin Luther, “America’s Spiritual Crisis.”

Yes, it would be terrific if we could get our friends reading, thinking about, talking about, and applying to their lives the lessons taught in the works of Chesterton, Lewis, Schaeffer, Alcorn, and others. But perhaps we can start their engines in that direction by encouraging them to start with these three brief, but immensely profound essays.

What do you say? We can at the very least read (or re-read) them ourselves.

Why Is Modern Art So Bad?

Artist and illustrator Robert Florczak gives an illuminating, persuasive, and illustrative answer in this excellent Prager University video.

The Moral Fogs We Live In

“Millions of people in America live in moral fogs.  The issues are not clear to them.  They cannot face the light that makes them black or white.  They want grays and neutral tints.  They move in a sort of spiritual twilight. Modified immorality on the basis of cleverness guides millions of people.  Modified dishonesty within the letter of the law is the practice of millions more.  Surely the time has come, because the hour is late, when we must decide.  And the choice before us is plain, Jehovah or Baal.  Christ or chaos.  Conviction or compromise.  Discipline or disintegration.” (Peter Marshall, from his once-famous 1944 sermon, “Trial by Fire.”)

You can actually listen to Marshall preaching this soul-stirring sermon (and, by all means, you should) right here.

“As Long As We Do So No Great Harm Can Come To Our Country”

For a valuable perspective on America’s devolution, consider TIME magazine’s 1954 report of comments made by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Earl Warren, an Eisenhower appointee the year before, at a Washington prayer breakfast.

“I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Saviour have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses. Whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia...or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay...or the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut...the same objective is present: a Christian land governed by Christian principles...

I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their express belief in it...I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion.  I like also to believe that as long as we do so no great harm can come to our country.”

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)