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 as stimulants in my prayers for friends while down here in the Ozarks is this one: “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.” (Psalm 84:11)

How wondrous and sweet a promise is that?  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 every good thing we need.  But let’s go a bit farther with this idea.  Remember Jesus’ words to the disciples?  “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him?”  (Matthew 7:11)  And the apostle James teaches us 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.”  (James 1:17)

Of course, it’s crucial to understand that these promises do not mean that God is our butler or an errand boy.  He is not a genie who is obligated to supply whatever we wish.  No, God is the omniscient sovereign Who knows what is for our forever good, for what will most bless and exalt us (and glorify Him through 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 about why His distribution of blessings seems uneven, sometimes even unfair?  Yes.  Do we chafe at the waiting process, the denial of self, the suffering that must often precede 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 sweet mercies should confidently rest.  We can rely upon Him to give us what eternity will sparklingly reveal were the very best gifts we could have ever received.  Our natural perspective is so limited by desires for comfort and happiness and success.  But the Lord urges us to look further ahead and to calmly trust in His kind providence.  And, make no mistake about it, 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.

Yet is there not another challenge these verses present besides the need to faithfully await that glorious day to come when we get to open all our gifts?  Yes, indeed. These verses have very existential applications too. For instance, the context of James 1:17 shows that the good gifts from the Father of lights center upon the strength and wisdom He provides for His children to escape temptations.  God’s good gifts sanctify us. They allow us to turn from evil and to “prove ourselves doers of the word” instead.  Also, Jesus’ question recorded in Matthew 7:11 is to encourage specific prayers of faith regarding our maintaining holy, unselfish behavior.  And finally, the wonderful praise of the sons of Korah in Psalm 84:11 emphasizes that the good things of God are given to “those who walk uprightly.”  Careful, consistent, and humble dedication to God’s Word keeps the channels of His blessing clear to be poured out upon us.

How comforting these truths are.  And yes, of course, they are challenging too.  But they remind us of what a great and glorious and gracious God we serve, One Who gives us all good things to empower our service to Him today and yet which will be completed and added to in the forever life beyond.  So keep praying, dear friends.  Keep trusting  And let there be a fresh spring in your step as you walk uprightly along His paths toward glory.

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)

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.

Sincerely,

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.

Thanks.

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 other...one 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, then...you 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.

video

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.