Friday, January 14, 2022

100 Years Ago, Chesterton Wrote a Book for Today

The next Vital Signs Book Brunch is scheduled for Saturday morning, February 19th at 10 o’clock. And unless there’s too many to handle, it will be at our home. The book under discussion will be Eugenics and Other Evils by G.K. Chesterton. 

This fascinating, enlightening, and well-written 185-page book is more relevant today than it was when first published exactly 100 years ago and I’ve no doubt that both the reading and the discussion will be of great value to you. 

However, please note 3 important things: 

1) The book can be easily and cheaply found. Indeed, Kindle readers can download it for free. 

2) RSVPs are of serious importance. 

3) And please – read the book! It’s still a wonder to me how so many people love the idea of joining a book club, yet cannot be bothered with actually reading the books. Sigh.

The Latest "Wow" Articles (Part 3)

* "Social Media Censors Ignore Islamist Hate Speech and Incitement to Murder" (Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute)

* "Woke Capitalism, Unilever Edition" (John Hinderaker, Power Line)

* "Homeland Security launches 'climate change professionals program' amid historic illegal border crossings surge" (Peter Aitken, Fox News)

* "'I Can't Answer That': Asst. FBI Director Refuses To Answer Ted Cruz Questions About January 6" (4-minute You Tube clip)

* "The ungracious --- and their demonization of the past" (Victor Davis Hanson, Jewish World Review)

* "American Traitors: Academics Working for China" (Gordon G. Chang, Gatestone Institute)

* "CNN shifts COVID narrative to ‘what many independent-minded Americans have been thinking’ all along" (Brian Flood, Fox News)

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Latest "Wow" Articles (Part 2)

* "McConnell Fact-Checks Biden" (Scott Johnson, Power Line)

* "More COVID School Closures Spell the End of Teachers Unions Empire" (Lindsey M. Burke & Corey DeAngelis, Heritage Foundation)

* "Taliban orders beheading of store mannequins as Afghan women fume over Biden 'betrayal' -- Afghan women feel 'like the whole world is abandoning them" (Charles Creitz, Fox News)

* "Biden’s War on Unvaccinated Is Un-American" (Armstrong Williams, Daily Signal)

* "Mike Rowe on record 4.5M quitting their jobs: This will impact 'every single American'" (Kristen Altus, FOX Business)

* "Cell phone radiation expert says FCC 'in denial' of health risks, demands 'full, independent investigation'" (Yael Halon, Fox News)

The Latest "Wow" Articles

* "'While Reagan healed the sick, Biden has infected the healthy!' -- The Gipper's top economist Art Laffer slams Joe Biden for doing 'exactly the opposite' of what's needed to tame inflation, as it rises to 7% - the highest for 40 years" (Keith Griffith, Daily Mail)

* "More Government, Less Religion -- the Progressive Doctrine" (Star Parker, Daily Signal)

* "The Woke Plans to Rebuild Notre Dame" (John Stonestreet and Glenn Sunshine, Breakpoint)

Saturday, January 08, 2022

A Perfect World? It's Coming!

The final song in our next “When Swing Was King” program is Judy Garland’s gorgeous 1939 rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  It is, as you well know, a hauntingly beautiful song, one that underscores the human yearning for home, beauty, innocence and wonder.  Our audiences love it…and we do too.

Nevertheless, it must be said that when the song ends, the listener is left only with the yearning, a sweet wishful longing that there might be a place of safety and bliss “somewhere over the rainbow” instead of this dark, troublesome, and increasingly decadent world we live in now. Actually, there are many songs that touch our hearts in this same way, songs that resonate with our oh-so-human longing for beauty, love, purity, peace, perfection.  “There’s a Place for Us.”  “Somewhere, My Love.”  “Rainbow Connection.”  “A Summer Place.”  “Up, Up and Away.”  “Moon River.” “Bali Hai.” “There’s a New World Coming.”

What is behind this? I believe Randy Alcorn points to the answer in his marvelous book, Heaven. Writes Randy, “We are homesick for Eden. We're nostalgic for what is implanted in our hearts. It's built into us.”  He adds, “Desire is a signpost pointing to heaven…I’ve never been to heaven, yet I miss it. Eden is in my blood. And the best things of earth are souvenirs of Eden, appetizers of the New Earth.”

Donald Bloesch in his Theological Notebook (1989) writes, “Man’s greatest affliction is not anxiety, or even guilt, but rather homesickness – a nostalgia or ineradicable yearning to be at home with God.”

I couldn't agree more with these remarks. Indeed, two of my favorite authors C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton also speak of his matter eloquently and often. The undeniable fact is that man is created in the image of God and is wired for paradise. We lost Eden through sin but God, in His great mercy and to glorify His Name, has offered mankind something even better than Adam’s garden. Through the promise of the gospel, the Lord offers us the wholeness, security, love, and bliss which will be ours forever in the New Jerusalem. Wow. And wow again.

So, while I certainly wouldn’t suggest you stop loving songs like “Moon River” or “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” I do urge you to remind yourself often of the rock-solid reality that is our eternal inheritance, one that the apostle Peter describes as “imperishable and undefiled [which] will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” And, in celebration of that immeasurably wonderful home that awaits us (a home that our Lord Jesus is personally creating and customizing for us!), may I offer you a song full of confident, joyful expectations of that stronger, weightier, infinitely more beautiful home beyond. Take a couple of minutes and listen to "I'll Fly Away."

Monday, January 03, 2022

So, How's Our "Little Church" Going?

Yesterday was our first Aksarben Village church service of the new year and it was a delight – a splendid example of how valuable an element of Vital Signs Ministries this has become since we started it last February.  

True, the congregation is smaller than at our highest point as the fears of the virus, the hassles of the protocols, the fact that members of the memory unit are not longer allowed to attend, etc. have all taken their toll.  There is also the reality that we’ve lost 2 of our congregation to more intensive nursing facilities and 2 to the welcome of heaven itself.

Still, we had 12 of our friends on hand for yesterday’s worship service (plus 4 of us from Vital Signs) and we had a wonderful time with an Epiphany-oriented sermon about the magi’s worship of the Messiah and 3 terrific music videos.  

That’s how we do church service here and both we and the Aksarben residents love it.  I search high and wide for inspirational music presentations from various formats, ages, and places around the world.  And, since we pass around handouts each week with the song lyrics, several of the residents join in the singing.

Yesterday’s selections?  “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand” performed acapella by The Allen Family down in Branson; “Is He Worthy?” beautifully performed by a small youth choir from Charity Baptist Church in Inchon, South Korea; and “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” performed at a Great Hymns Concert in Cape Town, South Africa by Loyiso Bala, Neville D, and the late Ivan Siegelaar.

And, as always, our ½ hour service is then followed by a rich time of visiting as we pass around cookies, coffee, and lemonade.  The friendships formed through this combination of Word, worship and warm-hearted conversation have become of eternal significance and we are so, so grateful to God for leading us into this particular outreach.  

Of course, Claire and I maintain all the other aspects of Vital Signs Ministries, including the street witness at the abortion mill, “When Swing Was King, and all the rest.  Therefore, squeezing in the sermon prep, the song search, the baking of cookies, and everything else needed for the Aksarben Village church service, has made for some pretty intense weeks this past year.  But we are so pleased and encouraged by all that the Lord is doing there and so we can’t help but look forward to the next steps in this grand adventure.  Thank You, Lord.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Bleak Midwinter Posts (#2) -- More Excellent Articles

 * "The Worst Media Misses of 2021" (Brittany Bernstein & Isaac Schorr, National Review)

Bleak Midwinter Posts (#1) -- A Communist China Edition

 * "Apple Removes Bible and Qur’an from China" (John Stonestreet & Maria Baer, BreakPoint)

"Why U.S. giants keep caving to China" (Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Axios)

A Whole Season of Christmas

(The following is reposted, with a couple of edits, from 16 years ago!)

Contrary to popular belief, the season of Christmas is NOT the period from Thanksgiving through December 25th. That idea comes more from modern advertisers and merchandise salesman – the “only so many shopping days ’til Christmas” folks. Oh, no; the true season of Christmas is not the period leading up to Christmas Day but rather the one leading from it! And for Claire and I, the Twelve Days of Christmas is so much more than the title of a terribly redundant song; it presents particularly marvelous and memorable opportunities to celebrate the Advent of our Lord.

Let's face it -- Christmas is just too big and beautiful to be contained in one day. True, we love December and its various anticipations of Christmas and we engage in a whole host of Christmassy activities during that month. (Check out the December LifeSharer letter right here to see a few.) However, many of our most enjoyable and fruitful celebrations begin rather than end on December 25th. Indeed, while so many people (even Christians) are weighed down by the post-holiday blues, we're just getting underway! 

Are you interested in stretching your Christmas out to its fullest? Well, here are a few suggestions.

1) The enjoyment of Christmas movies, reading, music, and parties go on apace for Claire and me even after the 25th. This is an extremely helpful exercise for all those people who complain about how fast Christmas comes and goes. Take it easy! When you utilize the whole season (all of December and then the 12 Days of Christmas proper), you'll see you'll have more time for Christmas priorities as well as its most pleasant diversions. Many who adopt this approach find that as they de-emphasize the one day celebration (with its hectic stress on big dollar presents and big dinner preparations), they are much more able to enjoy family, contemplation, and the other more spiritual elements of Christmas.

2) The nobility of celebrating the entire season of Christmas is that it emphasizes extending over spending. Our gift-giving goes a long way beyond Christmas Morning because we open presents each of the Twelve Days. Imagine how much fun that is! And yet the costs of gift giving actually went down with this practice, not up. For even though we are giving each other more gifts than ever, we have become more creative and personal in our selection. We might still buy each other a couple of “pricey” gifts but, with a whole 12 Days to cover, we were forced to come up with other ideas. And those other ideas have proven to be delightful ways of coming together in the spirit of Christmas.

For example, now our Christmas gifts include more personal favors and time spent together. For instance, Claire opens an envelope on the Seventh Day of Christmas which contains a new recipe along with a note declaring that I'm fixing that particular dish for supper tonight. Or it might be a day off from housework, the addresses of three newly discovered websites I know she'll enjoy checking out, or just a promise of a leisurely car ride out in the country. As for my pleasure in gifts, it is centered on inexpensive things anyway like used books, used records, and...let's see; did I mention used books and records already? Anyhow, the point is that whether you use twelve days or one day to celebrate Christmas, the gifts that matter most are ones that underscore things like time, creativity, and personal attention more than mere “stuff.” For us, the extended approach was very helpful in pursuing the better things.

3) Even within the Twelve Days of Christmas, Claire and I have a few special observances, especially St. Stephen's Day (December 26th) and the Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28th). Activities for observing the former should certainly include reading the Acts passages relating to Stephen's selection as deacon, his sermon before the Council, and his martyrdom. It could also involve writing a letter or two to missionaries, witnessing to your Faith, or visiting a widow or someone else in need of encouragement. And Holy Innocents Day, of course, has an obvious significance for pro-life activists like us. It is an excellent time for spiritual exercises and public actions that promote the sanctity of life.

4) Another important element of our Christmas season is taking time to consider, pray about, and discuss our New Year's resolutions. Now, I know some Christians are critical of those who make New Year's resolutions. That's unfortunate. I assume it's because these critics believe making resolutions suggests a dependence upon one's own strength rather than God's grace. Wrong. Making resolutions is most definitely a biblical practice. Think for a moment about the Scripture's use of exhortational verbs like reckon, count, establish, consider, dedicate, consecrate, remember, put aside, purpose, gird your mind, and many more. All refer to the prayerful making (and keeping) of resolutions to live godly. An evaluation of one's life is always in order as is a careful plan of action to be more effective as a “doer of the Word.” After all, this is a key purpose of the Sabbath rest God instituted. So, why not use the Twelve Days to go deeper than usual in your spiritual analysis so that you can better serve the Savior in the year to come?

5) And finally, all things come to their completion. The Christmas season is over for us when Twelfth Night comes around but there's one more important Christmas event. That is our celebration of Epiphany on January 6th. Epiphany is the holiday when the manifestation of Jesus is celebrated in much of the world, the day when we remember the visit of the magi as well as the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. It is also the gift-giving Christmas for much of the eastern world. Claire and I use Epiphany as a way to close our Christmas season and we do so with a final Christmas party. Most significantly, we take time with our friends to wrap up the figures from our main nativity set, each person sharing a testimony or a prayer relating to each nativity figure. It is always a very moving time of fellowship.

So, there you go -- a few ideas from our house to yours about how Christmas can be extended in time and, we believe, elevated in spirit.