Monday, January 18, 2021

The 2021 Lincoln Walk for Life: In Photos and Text

There were several elements of this year's Walk for Life (organized by Nebraska Right to Life) that made it an especially moving event. The cultural meltdown of the past year. The corruption, socialist extremism, and slavish dedication to abortion of the incoming administration. The sad awareness that NRL's champion Julie Schmit-Albin is no longer at our side. All of these made the mood more somber than most.

Somber but not despairing. Serious but not anything but defeated.

Indeed, the faith, hope, love, wisdom, and perseverance that has marked the pro-life movement these last 5 decades was on full display at the Walk for Life. And, by the grace of Almighty God, we will see these virtues continue to shine in whatever darkness comes against it. In fact, for more on this matter (and before you scroll down to the photos), you might want to note the remarks I prepared for the crowd in front of the Capitol where the Walk began. Here they are...

“Thank you, Sandy. And good morning pro-life Nebraskans!  As Sandy suggested, Claire and I have been involved in pro-life ministry for a long, long time.  And though it’s always been a tough, controversial, even confrontational undertaking, the days ahead will undoubtedly be tougher still.  Indeed, as we enter a new year dominated by fear, political injustice, cultural chaos, economic meltdown, and moral cowardice, we need to be ready to carry on the fight with greater resolve than ever before.


“And to help encourage you in this mission, I have a little story for you -- one taken from JRR Tolkien’s masterful Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Now, as a Baptist preacher, I’m usually using a different text for public exhortations, but I trust you’ll allow me to take this liberty.  The scene I'm drawing to your attention comes from the last book in the trilogy.  The brave hobbits Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee are struggling through Mordor on their way to Mt. Doom and, in this terrible moment when Frodo is nearly overcome with despair, fatigue, and dread, he turns to his dear friend and moans, ‘I can’t do this, Sam.’

“At which Sam Gamgee, one of the most wonderfully heroic characters in all literature, responds, ‘I know.  It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here.  But we are.  It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo.  The ones that really mattered.  Full of darkness, and danger, they were.  And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy?  How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?  But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.  Even darkness must pass.  A new day will come.  And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer.  Those were the stories that stayed with you.  That meant something.  Even if you were too small to understand why.  But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.  I know now.  Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t.  They kept going.  Because they were holding on to something.’

Frodo then asks, ‘What are we holding on to, Sam?’

“The answer? ‘That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo…and it’s worth fighting for.’

“My friends, we have things good and worth fighting for too – the biblical ideals of truth, justice, and the sanctity of human life. So the decision of these two characters must be, in real life, our decisions too. Oh yes; we have a God-given opportunity to be heroes just like Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin, Aragorn and Gandalf, and all the rest of that noble fellowship of the ring. We too must carry on with our part in the adventure story God has written us into.  True enough, it’s a story that has real danger, real enemies, and real sacrifices. And yet it has spiritual rewards that are unimaginably rich and fully deserving of our boldest efforts.

So, what do you say? Let’s get after it.”

 


There were some noteworthy highlights of the Walk for us. Meeting new friends is super. and, seeing old friends is always a delight. Among the latter group were Julie Lostroh, Barb McPhillips, Sandy Danek, the Maleks, the Coppis, the White family, Sue Stich, Gov. Ricketts, Congressman Bacon, Congressman Fortenberry, Lt. Gov. Foley, and dear friends from Faith Bible Church where I was the "perennial guest speaker" for 7 years. 

In addition, the church we attend now (Grace Bible Church) set a record for attendance. For in addition to Claire and me there were 10 others: Stephen, Jeff, Joanna, Sheri, Scott & Laura Powers (and two of their kids), and Rob & Hope Golden. Joanna was also joined by her sister Robin.

Also, activity at our literature table was brisk this year, not only because everything we have there is always free, including even the Why Pro-Life books by Randy Alcorn and the Narnia buttons that were new this year). Thank you to everyone who came by.





In Behalf of the Whole Team...The Hartfords Receive NEL's Life Achievement Award

Last Saturday night presented us an emotionally-charged experience indeed as
Claire and I were honored to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from Nebraskans Embracing Life. 

Other guests at the dinner program at St. Vincent Catholic Church (the program was also live-streamed) included Gov. Ricketts, Lt. Governor Foley, Congressman Bacon, and a whole host of pro-life colleagues with whom we have been blessed to work with over these many years: John & Mary Ann Kellogg, Ann Marie Bowen, John & Karen Miller, Joe & Louise Ferrante, Larry Donlan, Mike Steil, Steve & Carolyn LaGreca, John Sieler, Sister Renee Merkes, David Zebolsky, and a few others. 

In accepting the award, we presented the following remarks. I started off, "One of my favorite quotations of all time comes from my dear friend that many of you also know, Rick Duncan, a constitutional law professor at the UNL Law School.  Like others of us in this room, Rick was a later convert to Christianity and I remember with great fondness this remark he once made at a pro-life event.  Rick said, 'You know one of the neatest things I’ve discovered is this -- in Christianity your heroes can also be your friends.' 

"Well, believe me, Rick’s observation is particularly relevant this evening as Claire and I humbly yet very gratefully accept this NEL award because it comes from the hands of some very special hero-friends. Some of you (I'm smiling especially now at Ann Marie Bowen) go back with us to the old days of Metro Right to Life, before we started the Omaha Christian Action Council which, of course, was long before we had ever imagined starting the AAA Crisis Pregnancy Center.  We also remember so many of our beloved friends from those days that have already gone on to their reward: Rita Gradoville, Mary Ann Tiehen, Jo Elworth, Joyce Schuster, and others.

"So we accept this award, dear friends, in behalf of the whole team -- for all of you, for all of the steadfast champions who have stood alongside us with Vital Signs Ministries, even for the Christian pro-life friends we have made in our travels in England, Eastern Europe (especially Belarus), Africa, and all the other places we’ve been.  

"We are blessed beyond measure in being part of a forever family of heroes because of the grace of God poured out upon us. Thank you so much for this honor…

And then Claire added, "Several months ago, Vital Signs Ministries hosted one of our book brunches in which we listened to a Peter Kreeft video about JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. And in our discussion afterwards, we talked about the difference it makes to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ but also the crucial importance of friendship for those engaged in the grand adventure of heralding truth, justice, and such holy causes as defending the sanctity of life.  There is no doubt that we have remained in this struggle through the years because we have taken full advantage of one of God's greatest gifts; namely, the friendship of like-minded brothers and sisters. 

"One dramatic picture of how helpful this is looking down the line of friends when I'm standing in a public pro-life witness at an abortion business. Several such friends are sitting right here in this room tonight.  In such situations, I look to those friends as a joy, a comfort, and a sanity check. I'm reminded of who I am, the Lord I serve, and what a blessing it is to be part of such a company of Christian 'doers of the Word.' Yes, the comfort of seeing those friends reminds me that we in the pro-life movement are truly on the side of the angels. And that’s a very good place to be! Again, thank you very much."

Yes, thank you so much for the honor, NEL, and for a truly wonderful evening.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Gandalf on Stewardship...

Do you remember the response of The Lord of the Ring's hero Gandalf to the cowardly and despairing Denethor?

"The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?"

And indeed, as we enter a new year seemingly dominated by fear, political injustice, cultural chaos, economic meltdown, and moral cowardice, must we not be inspired by JRR Tolkien's character and commit ourselves, with God's grace, to prayerfully care for "all worthy things that are in peril," those things of truth, beauty, and holiness "that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come?"

Now is not the time for Christians to hunker down and hide. Indeed, there never was nor ever will be such a time. No, our duties (which should also be seen as our glorious opportunities) are to consistently herald the truths of Scripture and to make sure that our personal lifestyles and relationships thoroughly reflect the same.

For we, like Gandalf and his fellow adventurers, are stewards. 

"Did you not know?"

Monday, December 28, 2020

Say What? (The Latest Vital Signs Blog Compilation)

* "'Blueprint for Positive Change' Exposes the Left’s Plans for Conservatives" (Rep. Brian Babin, Daily Signal)

* "The link between sex trafficking, abortion, and Planned Parenthood" (Nancy Flanders, Live Action)

* "Did Americans Come to Love Big Brother?" (Victor Davis Hanson, American Greatness)

* "The year Big Tech became the Ministry of Truth" (Fraser Myers, Spiked)

* "Exiled archbishop appeals for forgiveness after emotional return to Belarus" (Elise Ann Allen, Crux)

* "Rand Paul's 'Festivus Report' Details the Insane Ways Government Wasted $54 Billion in 2020" (Leah Barkoukis, Town Hall)

* "The Perversion of Science" (Ben Shapiro, Daily Signal)

A Whole Season of Christmas

(The following is reposted, with a couple of edits, from 15 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. But the true season of Christmas is not the period leading up to Christmas Day but rather the one leading from it! The Twelve Days of Christmas is much more than the title of a terribly redundant song; it suggests a way that the Advent of our Lord could be better celebrated.

Claire and I believe that Christmas is just too big and beautiful to be contained in one day. We love December and its various anticipations of Christmas, but our real celebration starts rather than ends on December 25th. While so many are weighed down by the post-holiday blues, we're just getting underway! Interested in stretching your Christmas out to its fullest? 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.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

He Was Born to Die (Harold Berry)

For many years now, Claire and I have been among the many who are honored to have Harold Berry as a friend and mentor. Whether our conversations over coffee have taken place at the Grace Bible College snack shop, or the Burger King on South 13th Street, or the senior facility in Lincoln where he now lives, I have always found Harold to be a source of wisdom, kindness, good humor, and a steadfast love for the Savior. And so we are very pleased that his friendship continues to challenge and encourage us.

Case in point? The brief speech below was written and delivered by Harold for a Toastmasters group that he has recently joined. It is just one example of the many ways he continues to serve the Lord Jesus: writing for Back to the Bible, intercession, counsel to friends, evangelism, leading Bible studies and hymn sings, learning, and looking eagerly for the Lord's return. Here is his latest Toastmasters talk.

Born to Die

It’s hard to believe than anyone is born to die. You were obviously born to live. When your mother looked into your newborn eyes her last thought was how long you would live. You didn’t come to die; you came to live. Advertisers know this and spend millions of dollars hawking anything that might extend your life a little longer. 

Not so with Jesus. 

He came for the sole purpose of dying for you and me. He was and is God but had to take on human flesh in order to die for mankind. He was fully God and fully Man. Why did He do this? The Bible makes it clear it was because of His love for us. First John 4:10 says, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

As the Creator of the universe and King of kings, one would think Jesus would have a birth reflecting royalty. Not so.

He was born in a stable and placed in a crude manger that slobbering animals ate out of. His birth was first announced to lowly shepherds. The mother of Jesus considered Him as her Savior. Luke 1:47 records she said, “My Spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Luke 2:24 reveals the sacrifice they made when Jesus was eight days old was due to their poverty-- “either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Even the brothers of Jesus did not believe He was the Messiah; that is, the Christ. Some do not believe that Mary and Joseph had children after the virgin birth of Jesus, but Luke referred to Jesus as her “firstborn” (Luke 2:7).

If you have only one child you would likely not call the child your “firstborn.” (See also Matthew 13:54-56.) Also, in this regard some translations in John 3:16 refer to Jesus as God’s “only begotten” Son. The words “only begotten” do not refer to His birth. In the book of Hebrews, Isaac is referred to as Abraham’s “only begotten” son (see Hebrews 11:17). Isaac was not Abraham’s only son nor even his oldest. The expression refers to a special relationship, not to birth.

Jesus predicted His death and even His resurrection from the dead on the third day, but His disciples did not understand and were not believers until after His resurrection. Even the half-brothers born to Mary and Joseph after His virgin birth did not believe in Him (see John 7:5). No wonder, can you imagine growing up with a perfect brother!

At Christmastime we remember the One who was born to die. How does one know, of all the world religions, what to believe about how to get right with God and be ready for eternity? As you think of Jesus, I remind you, No one else has died to pay for your sins and mine. In John 14:6, Jesus is recorded as saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In Acts 4:12, the apostle Peter wrote, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” As you think of other religious leaders, remember, only the grave of the Lord Jesus Christ is empty. 

The heart of my Christmas message is: What will you do with the One who was born to die for you?

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Bit More Christmas Poetry

We have sent over to our "When Swing Was King" senior living facilities the latest in our poetry reading experiment. And, like the previous 3 editions, we are also posting this on Vital Signs Ministries' You Tube channel. That way the activity directors can use that method for small group showings or, in the case of independent living residents, just simply provide the link so they can go there on their own. It's the same principle as posting our ongoing activity pages on the Vital Signs Ministries website. Thus, whoever wants to participate in our services can...even if they're clear across the country. 

 Anyhow, here's the latest...about 22 minutes of Christmas poetry.
 

Another Catching Up on AMI (Articles of Major Importance)

* "They Don’t Have Trump to Kick Around Anymore" (Conrad Black, American Greatness)

* "The Biggest Political Blunder in American History" (Steve McCann, American Thinker)

* "Thousands of pastors go into hiding amid China’s rising persecution, attempts to eradicate Christianity" (Jackson Elliott, Christian Post)

* "The Future of Christian Marriage" (John Stonestreet & Shane Morris, BreakPoint)


* "China Is Not Rising, It’s Faltering" (Andrew Latham, Federalist)


Thursday, December 17, 2020

"A Christmas Reflection"

Moved by a conversation with friends this morning, Claire and I decided to post a short story (a very short story) that I wrote as part of Vital Signs Ministries’ Christmas letter of 3 years ago.  We offer it again as a Christmas meditation on truths that are as crucial to celebrate as ever.  And though it is a fictional tale, it is certainly illustrative of the hundreds of testimonies of its kind that we've heard in these last 40 years of pro-life work. We also present it as a fresh thank you for all the prayers, encouragement, and financial support people have given to Vital Signs Ministries to pursue its mission over these many years to cherish, defend, and promote the sanctity of human life. So, here is “A Christmas Reflection.”

Darren tightened the last nut on the kickstand with a mild sigh of satisfaction. He then positioned the bike right in front of the Christmas tree so that Jill would see it as soon as she came down the stairs and turned into the living room. He smiled broadly at the thought. Jill will be so excited and happy. And, because the snow wasn’t slated to start until later on Christmas Day, he knew she would ask him to let her ride it as soon as it was light outside. And, of course, he would say yes, for he was looking forward to that thrill as much as she would.

He turned off the lamp, leaving the only illumination in the room to the colorful brilliance of the Christmas tree. As always, Janey had done a beautiful job decorating the tree, but the effect of those Christmas lights now reflecting off both the ornaments and the chrome of the bicycle’s fenders was particularly dazzling. Profoundly moving too. In fact, Darren had to wipe away a couple of tears as he imagined the joy and gratitude his daughter would feel tomorrow morning when she entered into Christmas.

He loved her so. And because Jill was his only daughter and the child who had come so far after the three boys – 13 years after Joe – she had won a very special place in his heart. And now, with Gary living with his young family in Texas, Harris in grad school in Oklahoma, and Joe serving on the USS Ronald Reagan currently in the south Atlantic, Jill was all they had close to them.

Darren sat down on the couch to relish the moment and to enjoy for a few more minutes the beauty of this Christmas scene. He let his mind sweep back through these last 9 years. Oh, he had loved raising the boys – well, it wasn’t always a fun job – but Jill had brought to Janey and him such different, such intense blessings. Like hearing her recite her poem during the Christmas program at school last week. And helping her with her report on Squanto and the Pilgrims last month. And seeing how bravely she dared (and conquered) the waves coming onto the beaches of Galveston last summer at the family reunion.

His coffee had gone cold but Darren sipped it anyway, caught up more in the past than the present. His mind flipped through a lively variety of images depicting life with their precious daughter. Was it only last year that she made the local paper for the Easter poems she wrote for residents of the nursing home? And the bravery she showed when she broke her arm. What a trooper she had been. And there were the endless hours spent with her dolls in the playhouse he had built in the back yard, the way she loved to dress up for the special teas with her grandma and aunts, and her passion for being read to before bed. What a lovely and loving child she was – tender and curious and engaging. How grateful to God he was that….

Darren’s breath stopped and he swallowed hard as another memory suddenly thrust its way into this sweet Christmas moment. And with this remembrance, the tears started to flow freely. For Darren was now recalling that July morning long ago when he and Janey had driven up to the Planned Parenthood. They had finally made the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy. No, that’s not exactly correct. Darren fought back a convulsive sob as he admitted to himself the truth. They had decided to terminate Jill’s life. He buried his face in his hands and wept.

Had anyone asked them before Janey’s pregnancy test came back positive, they would probably have said they were against abortion. It certainly seemed, on the face of it, to be a cruel and unnatural act – an evil one even. But when they had worried over Janey’s age, their family situation, the fluidity of his position with the company right then, and the move they had been working on to a larger home on a nice acreage somewhere…well, everything was against having a baby at this stage of their life. They hadn’t felt very good about it, of course, but they figured an abortion was simply making the best of a bad situation.

However, Darren’s unease about the act (so invasive, so violent, so final) had only increased during the drive to the abortion clinic that day. For starters, they had left the house in the dark hours of early morning because they were driving to another city. There was an abortion clinic in their own city but Janey refused to even consider going there. She didn’t want to chance being recognized. That suggested to Darren that she wasn’t anywhere near the guilt-free attitude she had tried to portray. And then there was the troubling quiet of the drive. He had attempted some small talk at first but when he received stiff one-word answers or, more frequently, complete silence, he began to realize that this abortion wasn’t going to be the simple solution they had hoped.

And then finally they approached the neighborhood where the GPS was directing them to the Planned Parenthood. But as they drove down the street, two striking scenes arrested their consciences. On their left was a day care business and though there were no children present in the yard, Darren’s eyes viewed with stunning sorrow the swing sets, jungle gym, and small basketball hoops. He couldn’t help but imagine his boys climbing, running, and playing in such a place. His boys who had enjoyed such an active, happy childhood. His boys who had been allowed (no, make that welcomed) into his and Janey’s world. He knew that Janey was probably seeing and thinking the same things.

But then a bit further down the street and just as the GPS voice announced, “Your destination is on your right,” they saw a small group of pro-life people on the sidewalk. There were only 6 or 7 of them but they certainly made for a winsome sight, a strong contrast to the dark mood that had filled his and Janey’s hearts for the last month. Some of the pro-lifers held large pictures of infants emblazoned with phrases like “Please Let Me Live” and “Life: It’s a Beautiful Choice” and “We Can Help You & Your Baby.” A couple of the men in the group held colorful banners with similar messages. Darren slowed the car and pushed up his turn signal. But he didn’t turn in. Indeed, though stopped right in the middle of the street, he didn’t move the car at all. Instead, he looked through unbidden tears at the photos of the babies and then to the appealing smiles of the pro-lifers. He felt Janey’s tenseness beside him and figured she was feeling the same sense of dread and conviction.

Darren turned to his wife and reached for her hand. “Honey, we shouldn’t be here, should we? These people are right. Life is a beautiful choice. It was for Gary, Harris, and Joe. And it is for this little one too.

Beside him Janey dissolved in tears but she squeezed his hand and vigorously nodded her head. “Oh, thank you, Darren. Thank you so much. Ever since we got into the car, I’ve been praying for God to somehow stop us. I guess I’ve known all along this was terribly wrong. But it was like we had got on a slide and couldn’t find the strength to stop ourselves. But those people…well, they were the answer to my prayer, weren’t they? Thank you so much, Darren, for not turning in.”

Darren smiled. It was the first sincere smile he had enjoyed for weeks. “Let’s go home, okay?”

Janey wiped tears away and smiled back at him. Her whole countenance had changed. He saw relief and gratitude but also happiness and resolve. “Yes, of course. Let’s go home. But two things before we do, okay? I’d like to get some breakfast. You know, I haven’t eaten hardly anything for two days and I’m really hungry. But first, could we thank these people for being here?”

Darren had thought of doing that too and so he started moving the car slowly towards the curb. He pushed the button which lowered the window on Janey’s side of the car as two women came over. There was a brief but joyous conversation. And when Darren and Janey pulled away a few minutes later, heading toward the Panera restaurant they had passed on the highway, they had a lot of information the pro-lifers had given them including contacts for a pregnancy care center in their town and a pastor they could contact for ongoing help.

It ended up that Darren and Janey gratefully used those contacts in the following weeks. The pastoral contact had led them to switching churches and, through the pregnancy center, Janey had found another doctor as well as new friends who had been a great help in awakening their desire to know and serve God. And, of course, most important of all, that momentous meeting with the pro-lifers on the sidewalk had protected Jill from the barbaric destruction that Planned Parenthood had been so eager to commit. “Dear God,” Darren whispered, “thank You so much for delivering Jill…for delivering all of us!”

The cold coffee was gone. And Darren’s tears had dried. It was way past time for him to get to bed. He would, after all, need all the energy he could get to handle Jill on that bike tomorrow morning. But he couldn’t pull himself away just yet from the pensive beauty of the Christmas tree and its lights reflecting off the chrome fenders of that beautiful bike.