Monday, December 31, 2012

Today's Posts

Want To Do Better In Your New Year's Resolutions?

Does the cartoon on the left illustrate how your New Year's resolutions have worked out over the years? Even so, you shouldn't give up. Indeed, you can find new levels of success in your personal improvement goals by looking at them in a whole new way.

My sermon at Faith Bible Church yesterday was the last in a 5-week series on gifts: God's gifts to us of physical and spiritual life; various other gifts God graces us with (righteousness, the Holy Spirit, the fellowship of the church, trials to prove our faith, etc.); the gifts given by the Magi to Jesus; the gift of Christmas itself (being a careful description of the Bethlehem scene); and yesterday's subject, Our Christmas Gifts to God.

That's the first step in overhauling your ideas about New Year's resolutions. Don't make them a matter of self-improvement, targets that you're aiming at in your own wisdom and planning to keep through your own willpower. Take the 12 Days of Christmas (December 25 until Epiphany) and use them for meditation, prayer, and perhaps discussion with loved ones in order to come up with the changes the Lord most wants you to pursue. And then make those your Christmas gifts to Him.

Now I know some Christians are critical of the practice of making New Year's resolutions.  Some because they believe resolutions reflect more reliance upon one's own willpower than upon God's grace to effect change in one's life. Others dismiss resolutions simply because they've failed so many times in the past and have thus grown weary and jaded.

But making resolutions isn't really optional for the Christian. Think for a moment about the Scripture's use of exhortational verbs like "dedicate," "reckon," "count it," "establish," "consider," "purpose," "consecrate," "prove," "remember," "put aside," and many more. All refer to the prayerful making (and keeping) of resolutions to live godly. So, why not use the Twelve Days to go deeper than usual in one's spiritual analysis in order to better serve the Savior in the year to come?

Yesterday's sermon will be up on the Vital Signs Ministries web site in a few days and I encourage those of you who truly desire a higher grade this year with your resolutions to give it a hearing. But here's a few of the basic points for you to consider until then:

* God is a God of grace and, through the cross of Jesus, He is always ready to forgive sin and failure. And He's ready to empower His disciples  to begin again and again. His mercies are new every morning.

* The Latin word behind resolution (i.e. resolve) means to untie. And an awful lot of our obstacles to spiritual growth involve un-tying the knots of bad thinking and bad habits. To untie these knots, we need patience (and other virtues given by the Holy Spirit), better information (Bible study), higher goals (investments in eternity), and better influences (effective fellowship).

* Resolutions are not enemies.We need to embrace the benefits of spiritual growth -- liberation, peace, joy, greater effectiveness in ministry, and so on. We need to see beyond the work to the prize.

Okay, that's enough for now. Like I said, the whole sermon (involving several Scriptures) will be on the website soon. But in the meantime, go ahead and start asking the Lord to show you what Christmas gifts He most wants from you in 2013.

Remembering Chuck Colson

"Chuck Colson did not experience a 'jailhouse conversion.' On the contrary, you could argue that he went to prison as a result of becoming a Christian." 

Eric Metaxas has an excellent BreakPoint piece here that will add to your understanding and appreciation of a truly outstanding Christian hero.

Did You See These?

* British Health Secretary: Policy of Secret Euthanasia is a "Fantastic Step Forward"

Up to 60,000 patients die on the Liverpool Care Pathway each year without giving their consent, shocking figures revealed yesterday. A third of families are also kept in the dark when doctors withdraw lifesaving treatment from loved ones. Despite the revelations, Jeremy Hunt last night claimed the pathway was a "fantastic step forward". (Read more of the Daily Mail report right here.)

* Constitution? Obama Don't Need No Stinkin' Constitution.

In an attempt to seize total control over national security and bypass congress, a frightening new step by the Obama Administration is coming into play. As noted in Friday’s Wall Street Journal in an op-ed by John Bolton and John Woo, a State Department advisory group that is run by former Secretary of Defense William Perry is advising that the U.S. and Russia both reduce nuclear weapons without a treaty, as a treaty would require ratification by Congress. This would allow Obama and his executive branch to unilaterally cut our nuclear weaponry and ignore the treaty clause of the Constitution…(Read more of William Bigelow's article, "Obama Seizing Sole Authority for US Defense," here at Breitbart.) 

* Claims of Wind Farms Saving Energy Dollars Is Hot Air

Wind farms have just half the useful lifespan which has been claimed, according to new research which found they start to wear out after just 12 years. A study of almost 3,000 turbines in Britain – the largest of its kind – sheds doubt on manufacturers claims that they generate clean energy for up to 25 years, which is used by the Government to calculate subsidies.

Professor Gordon Hughes, an economist at Edinburgh University and former energy advisor to the World Bank, predicts in the coming decade far more investment will be needed to replace older and ineffective turbines – which is likely to be passed on in higher household electricity bills…(Read more of Tamara Cohen's news story at the Daily Mail.)

* Media Rides Hobby Lobby Horse; Refuses to Report ObamaCare's Court Stebacks

In their ongoing effort to emulate Pravda, the media are doing their best to prop up Obama administration propaganda. Just as they exaggerated anything resembling good news about the economy during the run-up to the recent election, they are now echoing the administration’s talking points on Obamacare and the HHS mandate. The party line on the “Affordable Care Act” is that it has survived all significant legal challenges and full implementation is inevitable. Stories that don’t fit that line don’t get past the editor.

Thus, we get thousands of stories about the Sotomayor opinion with headlines that suggest it constitutes the demise of all serious challenges to the HHS mandate. Meanwhile, we see and hear almost nothing about 80 percent of the rulings handed down by federal courts during the same month on the same issue. But the lawsuits continue to plod forward. Moreover, the HHS mandate is by no means the only provision of Obamacare still being litigated. And the utterly corrupt MSM does not get the final word on any of these lawsuits. Thank God.
(Read the entirety of David Catron's "MSM Gives Us the Mushroom Treatment on HHS Mandate" at The American Spectator.)

* Union Thugs Turn to Arson

"'I don't think this was a spontaneous group of kids who did this,' he said during a tour of the site Friday. 'We're really talking about the bad behavior of union bullies.' He estimated that the cost of the damage could run over $500,000." (Here's the Philadelphia Inquirer story.)

* Obama Hates the Rich...But Not the Rich Unions

"While politicians have kept the focus on the fiscal cliff and displaced anger toward law-abiding citizens who own guns, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was able to quietly overturn longstanding precedents to give unions some Christmas gifts that will ultimately hand them a windfall." (Read more of Dr. Susan Berry's "Obama's NLRB Plays Santa to Unions" at Breitbart.)

* Misguided Law Regarding Mentally Ill Endangers Everyone

The city streets are teeming with thousands of mentally ill homeless people capable of psychotic acts of random violence if left untreated, experts warned yesterday. As many as 11,000 of the city’s 33,000 homeless adults have some form of mental illness, said D.J. Jaffe, executive director of the Mental Illness Policy Organization. Of that number, about 3,300 are potentially violent, Jaffe said.

“When untreated, they’re capable of horrific acts,” said Jaffe. “The danger is that they’re so sick that they don’t know they’re sick, and their brain is incapable of regulating their own behavior.”

He urged New Yorkers to be especially wary of people screaming at voices only they can hear, wearing tons of clothes in the summer or eating out of trash cans. “But if you’re walking down the street, you know who’s mentally ill — it doesn’t take a nuclear scientist.”

Jaffe said steps must be taken to strengthen Kendra’s Law — a loophole-ridden 1999 measure intended to allow courts to forcibly treat the dangerously unhinged…(Read the rest of Gary Buiso's New York Post article right here.)

More Unvarnished Cruelty from Dictator Putin

It is hard to overstate the cynicism and cruelty of Vladimir Putin. He is willing to use orphans as his pawns in his public-relations battle against the West. That’s no exaggeration, given that he has just signed a law forbidding Americans to adopt Russian children. Approximately 650,000 of them live in orphanages and foster care including a substantial number who are sick or disabled and are unlikely to ever find a permanent home. Russian orphanages have a reputation for terrible conditions and rampant abuse. They are some of the grimmest places to live in the industrialized world.

If the new law had not been passed, a few of the kids stuck there would undoubtedly have benefitted from being adopted by well-meaning Americans such as Heather and Aaron Whaley of Frederick, Maryland, who say they are devout Christians eager to adopt a 4-year-old Russian girl with developmental issues. But now that is not to be…

Read more of "The Tragic Cruelty of Vladimir Putin" by Max Boot here at Commentary.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Today's Posts

Hey, Santa Passed My Letter On To the Politicians

I pass along two documents for you to peruse on this, the fourth day of Christmas. One is a copy of a letter I sent to Santa. The second is the note that Santa then attached to copies of my letter he sent on to several political leaders.

Dear Santa,

What I most want for Christmas this year may be beyond even your North Pole magic so I’ve decided to ask for just three things – things that are undoubtedly practical, certainly directed for the common good, and do-able even in the current political climate.

1) I would like serious actions taken to protect America’s democracy from voter fraud. We desperately need voter I.D. laws, fair and effective voting machines, non-partisan oversight, harsh penalties for vote fraud crooks -- and tough enforcement of all of these.

2) I would like government funds to the mega-abortion corporation Planned Parenthood completely eliminated.  For crying out loud, it’s a multi-million dollar business that kills preborn boys and girls, zealously promotes and enables promiscuity and, in a dozen other ways, contributes to the decadence of American culture.  So why, when the nation is broke, do we scrape up $350 million from the taxpayers every year to give to this sinister group?

3) Renewed efforts from America’s lawmakers and opinion leaders to defend and promote the U.S. Constitution -- especially its protection of the freedoms of religion, speech, and association.

Please Santa, I’m deeply appreciative of all the wonderful presents you’ve given me over the years, but this year I’m asking for you to concentrate on these three wishes.



And then I print below the note Santa attached to mine before sending it along to Senators Fischer and Johanns, Congressmen Terry, Fortenberry and Smith, and a few others.

Dear Senator Fischer,

I’m redirecting this letter to you as it is more in line with your responsibilities than mine.  However, I pass it along with two personal notations.

First, I can vouch for the character of the letter’s author – at least to the extent that ever since his conversion to Christianity way back in 1970, he’s maintained a place on my “Nice” list. 

And second, I personally (and wholeheartedly) agree with his requests.  Indeed, I especially urge you to act diligently upon his second wish.  As someone with a solid history as a friend of children, I consider Planned Parenthood one of the greatest menaces in modern history.  So anything and everything you do to de-fund this business would be dearly appreciated up here too.

Thank you, 

S. Claus

*** Please note, in the envelope of our latest mailing to our Senators and Congressmen were these two "letters." We hope the format serves to better catch their eye and to emphasize how seriously we take their efforts (or lack thereof) on these critical matters. I'll let you know if there is any response.

Got the Proper Perspective on Work?

One of the values I frequently stress in the sermons I preach at Faith Bible Church is the high calling of a Christian's work. For though it is certainly true that the Fall affected man's (and woman's) work and made it more toilsome and problematic, work itself was a blessing given to Man before the Fall.

Therefore, work is a good and very important thing, a gift that allows us profound satisfaction as we serve as stewards of God's creation; indeed, as we express our being made in the image of God by using our talents to be co-creators with Him.

Work is not to be separated from our religious life. It is an integral part of it. And rather than treat work as merely secular activity or as a necessary means by which to live the "other" parts of our life or as only a platform to evangelize co-workers, work itself should be presented as part of our ongoing worship of God.

But enough from me. Let my remarks just be an introduction to this more thorough and better expressed essay from Sue Bohlin, an ever-relevant essay that she wrote for Probe Ministries entitled, "Your Work Matters to God: A Christian Perspective."

Good stuff.

A Few Thoughts on the Day's News

* "Free condoms to be dispensed by Philadelphia high schools"

Let's add it up. Abysmal academic performance, major safety concerns, bullying, negative peer pressure, the constant marginalization (if not all out mockery) of traditional religious values, training in promiscuity, and so on. This is what we're paying oodles of money for? And this is where we willingly dump our kids? Sigh.

* "Grim milestone: The 500th homicide in Chicago"

Do you wonder why the mainstream media is AWOL on this horror story? Could it be because Chicago is one of the most Democrat-dominated cities in the country? Or is it because it presents the utter failure of the welfare state, especially in how Nanny State programs have destroyed the family and banished the civilizing effects of religion?

* Regarding voter fraud...

Tip of the iceberg? Of course. So why won't the G.O.P. get serious about protecting democracy? We desperately need voter I.D. laws, fair and effective voting machines, non-partisan oversight, harsh penalties for vote fraud crooks -- and tough enforcement of all of these.

* "Halloween decorations carry haunting message of forced labor in China"

If the West truly had a free press (let alone a press concerned about justice, truth and compassion), this story would be dominating the headlines, airwaves and TV networks.

* "Krauthammer slams Obama for ‘illegal and unconstitutional’ regulatory overreach"

The "regulatory cliff" is as dangerous to democracy as the "fiscal cliff" is to the nation's economy. The Obama administration has been strikingly egregious in making new law -- not by the Constitutional process of working with Congress and the people, but merely by autocratic decree. Freedom is being tortured and will eventually be killed not by bombs but by a thousand paper cuts administered by heartless government-union clerks.

Lose Your Religious Convictions...or Lose Your Business

On the heels of the outrageous (and disastrous) move by radical leftist Sonia Sotomayor denying Hobby Lobby's request for the Supreme Court to protect religious freedom, comes this story.

An Annapolis company whose old-fashioned trolleys are iconic in the city's wedding scene has abandoned the nuptial industry rather than serve same-sex couples.

The owner of Discover Annapolis Tours said he decided to walk away from $50,000 in annual revenue instead of compromising his Christian convictions when same-sex marriages become legal in Maryland in less than a week. And he has urged prospective clients to lobby state lawmakers for a religious exemption for wedding vendors.

While most wedding businesses across the country embraced the chance to serve same-sex couples, a small minority has struggled to balance religious beliefs against business interests.

Wedding vendors elsewhere who refused to accommodate same-sex couples have faced discrimination lawsuits — and lost. Legal experts said Discover Annapolis Tours sidesteps legal trouble by avoiding all weddings...

The story above reminded me of a quote from Professor Mark Rienzi I posted on my Facebook page a few days ago, a quote taken from this excellent NRO article: "Religious freedom is the birthright of every American. A waitress or gas-station owner has as much right to religious freedom as a monk or a nun. The administration has taken an extraordinarily narrow view of religious liberty: that as soon as someone enters the marketplace to earn a profit, he has surrendered his religious freedom."

The First Midfield Prayer Meeting? NU Standout Stan Parker Remembers.

Stan Parker has had a remarkable career. He won his initial fame as an outstanding athlete at Bellevue East High School and then with the University of Nebraska football team. But his years afterward are the most impressive as Stan has proved a devoted husband, dad and Christian servant -- first with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and then with Mission Nebraska and MyBridge Radio.

In this interesting article, Randy York discusses with Stan one of the most memorable moments from his NU football days.

Let’s rewind the clock back to the night before that 1986 game when Nebraska’s and Oklahoma’s teams happened to show up at the same movie theater in downtown Lincoln. “Going into the theater, I didn’t realize I was about to experience a ‘chance’ event that would set up what would happen the next day in the game. I looked across the lobby and saw (OU running back) Spencer Tillman. Spencer had written a letter to (Nebraska I-back) Doug Dubose after he pulled his hamstring and couldn’t play, so I went over to Spencer that night in the lobby of the theater to tell him how much I appreciated him doing that.”

In addition to hearing about Tillman’s skill as a running back, Parker had heard they shared a common faith in Christ. “We left the movie theater that night and went down the street and sat in fellowship for two hours at a yogurt shop,” recalled Parker, who is a longtime ministry partner with Ron Brown, Nebraska’s running backs coach.

“When we left to rejoin our teams at the theater, I told Spencer: ‘Why don’t we pray together after the game tomorrow?’ Spencer looked at me and said: ‘Why don’t we pray together before the game?’”

Parker never will forget when he and Tillman, as captains, met for the coin toss, after which they were immediately joined by a small group of teammates to kneel in the center of the field in honor of the God that blessed them with their ability. “In the midst of all the hype and all the excitement, in those moments we experienced something even greater than the game itself,” Parker reflected.

Parker has been told that day was the first known organized joint prayer in college football…

Here's the rest of the article.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Today's Posts

Goodbye Religious Freedom. Goodbye Democracy.

Will Chip Run? It Depends On the Success of This Book.

Did You Catch These?

Holy Irony -- The Progressive is Now "The Man"

More Persecution of Christians In Iran

and from yesterday, Trust Me, 12 Days of Christmas are Better than One

Goodbye Religious Freedom. Goodbye Democracy.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has denied a request to block part of the federal health care law that requires employee health-care plans to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar emergency contraception pills.

Hobby Lobby Stores and a sister company, Mardel Inc., sued the government, claiming the mandate violates the religious beliefs of its owners.

In an opinion Wednesday, Sotomayor said the stores fail to satisfy the demanding legal standard for blocking the requirement on an emergency basis. She said the companies may continue their challenge to the regulations in the lower courts.

Company officials say they must decide whether to violate their faith or face a daily $1.3 million fine beginning Jan. 1 if they ignore the law...

Will Chip Run? It Depends On the Success of This Book.

Did You Catch These?

* "In 2013, Millions Of Americans Face Obamacare Tax Hikes" (Sally Pipes, Forbes)

"Judge says Oklahoma can end Planned Parenthood contract" (Steve Olafson, Thomson Reuters News & Insight)

* "The president’s Obama-centric view of the world" (Ed Rogers, Washington Post)

* "Fathers disappear from households across America" (Luke Rosiak, Washington Times)

* "Obama Claus Gives You 90 More Days To Collect Your $50,000 Reparations Check" (Lee Stranahan, Breitbart)

* "Ex-TSA Screener: Officers “Laughing” At Your Naked Image" (Paul Joseph Watson,

* "Obama Playing Chicken With Economic Disaster" (Kevin Glass, Town Hall)

* "People are Buying Guns and Ammunition for a Reason" (Neil Snyder, American Thinker)

* "Chicago Tribune, Six Other Papers Drop Associated Press" (Warner Todd Huston, Breitbart)

Holy Irony -- The Progressive is Now "The Man"

Progressivism, liberalism holding coarse superstitions, is the dominant cultural force today. The last election showed this. We are not, as is often said, a center-right country. Indeed, there are two Americas now, and one is in charge of the other. 

This inversion of the earlier order means that progressivism is (Holy Irony, Batman!) The Establishment. 

So, where are all the "Question Authority" bumper stickers? 

(Jack Niewold, Author of Frail Web of Intention)

More Persecution of Christians In Iran

E-mail the head of Iran’s judiciary now to demand urgent medical treatment for Pastor Irani, and plead for his release from unjust imprisonment. Follow this link to use the CWS e-mail form.

Also, please be aware that the "amazing breakthrough" that the above clip mentions (Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani's release from prison after many years) is in grave danger of closing up once again. There are reports that Pastor Nadarkhani was again detained by Iranian police on Christmas Day.

Prayers are very much in order as are letters in the prisoners behalf. For more specific information on how to be a voice for the persecuted church, check out Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, and other like-minded organizations.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Trust Me, 12 Days of Christmas are Better than One

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.

No, the true season of Christmas is not the period leading up to the holiday; it's the period leading from it! 

It is Claire's and my conviction that Christmas is just too big and beautiful to be contained in one day. So though we love December and its many and various anticipations of Christmas, our real celebration starts (not ends) on December 25th.  While so many are weighed down by the post-holiday blues, we're just getting underway!

Are you 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 after the 25th.  This is an extremely helpful thing for all of you who complain about how fast Christmas comes and goes.  Hey, take it easy.  Stretch things out a bit and be cool. When you utilize the whole season (December and especially the 12 Days of Christmas proper), you'll see you'll have time for Christmas priorities as well as the holiday's pleasant diversions.

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!  Yet the costs of our Christmases these last couple of decades have gone way down, not up. For we have become more creative and much more personal in our selection. For instance, Claire opens an envelope on, say, the Seventh Day of Christmas and inside she finds a recipe with a note declaring I'm fixing that 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. 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." And for us, an 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 together our New Year's resolutions.  I know some Christians are critical of the practice of making New Year's resolutions.  And I assume it's because these critics think resolutions reflect more reliance upon one's own willpower than upon God's grace to effect change in one's life.  I strongly disagree. Making resolutions should be an ongoing feature of a Christian's lifestyle. Think for a moment about the Scripture's use of exhortational verbs like "dedicate," "reckon," "count it," "establish," "consider," "purpose," "consecrate," "prove," "remember," "put aside," and many more. All refer to the prayerful making (and keeping!) of resolutions to live godly. So, why not use the Twelve Days to go deeper than usual in one's spiritual analysis in order to better serve the Savior in the year to come?

5) And finally, we recognize that all things must come to their completion and the Christmas season is over for us when that Twelfth Night finally comes round. However, there's one more very important Christmas event for Claire and me -- 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. We do so with a final Christmas party.  We have dinner and meaningful conversation with a select group of friends. But we end the evening by having our friends help us wrap up the figures of our oldest nativity set, each person sharing a testimony or a prayer relating to each character. It is always an inspiring ritual.

So, there's a few ideas from our home to yours about how you can avoid the post-Christmas blues. Indeed, we believe that as Christmas is extended in time, it is made better -- more relaxed, more properly focused and more effective as a witness to the world. Why not give it a try?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Today's Posts

A Free (and Exquisite) Christmas Song for You!

For a limited time only, a dear pro-life colleague is offering a unique and lovely version of "Carol of the Bells" as a Christmas gift to friends of Vital Signs.

He offers the song for free but with an encouragement to consider a donation to Vital Signs.

Here's the deal as put by our friend himself:

Dennis and Claire have been my dear friends for over 40 years. It gives me great joy to share this music with those of you who support Vital Signs Ministries.

Each month we will be offering a different song as a free download. This month’s selection is a new instrumental arrangement of Carol of the Bells.

The guitar is played by Ron Cooley and the recorder is played by Roxanne Layton. They have both toured with Mannheim Steamroller for many years. Tim Tyler of Omaha wrote and produced the beautiful string arrangements you will hear underneath the other instruments.

I play the piano and wrote the song arrangement.

These songs will be provided to Dennis & Claire for free, but I will be asking you to please consider helping to uphold them financially as they seek to continue ministering to “the least of these.”

100% of all gifts you send to goes directly to Vital Signs Ministries. I hope you enjoy the music... :)

May God Bless You this Christmas Season!

To download your own free copy of "Carol of the Bells," simply go to the front page of the Vital Signs Ministries web site. Scroll down on the right sidebar and you'll see the link.

The Passing of Christmas

Dear Virginia,

Because you have been such a loyal friend of Christmas, I wanted to write a personal letter to try and explain the sad news I’ll be announcing at a press conference tomorrow.  Virginia, I’m retiring.  I’ve already deleted my database, put the sleigh up on Craig’s List, and changed forever into civilian clothes. Mrs. Claus and I have sublet our cottage here to a Russian drilling crew (they insist they own the North Pole anyway) and we’ve sold the workshops to a Chinese toy manufacturer.  For ourselves, we’ll be moving to Malta, at least for awhile.  There are at least some remains of civilization on that island; the health care system is top notch; and the climate may well help my arthritis.          

Virginia, I know this may seem like an abrupt and drastic move but, trust me, I really had no other choice.  I’m deeply saddened to think of the heartbreak the cancellation of Christmas will bring to good-hearted supporters like you.  Yet I also believe that the true friends of Christmas will sympathize with my plight. I have, of course, been grieved and frustrated over the increasing commercialization of the holiday.  That’s been going on for decades.  But the demands from the children of the last couple of generations have driven me over the edge.  Virginia, you and I both can remember when you were thrilled and very grateful to receive a doll, a Laura Ingalls Wilder book and some candy. Your brother felt the same way that Christmas when I left him a football, some Lincoln Logs and a couple of oranges.  But now children are absolutely insatiable. You simply cannot give them enough. And even a magic bag isn’t without a bottom.

And then there are the kinds of presents they crave!  There’s no way I can leave them the horrid things they ask of me.  Little girl dolls dressed in sexually suggestive outfits.  Grotesque and gory video games.  Rap music which glorifies savagery against women.  Movies full of blasphemy and brutish violence.  There’s no way I could give an impressionable child such nasty, noxious things.  And as a result, I’ve lost a big chunk of my market share.  Back in the 1950’s baby boom, I really had to hustle to keep up with demand.  But, in recent years, my trip takes a quarter of the time because I have so few children who want the presents I have to give.  To keep from laying off the elves, I’ve kept production high but we have completely run out of storage space. Our overstock of board games, baby dolls, puzzles, fire engines, books – I could go on and on – is crushing us.

But the present crisis, Virginia, has arisen from still other matters -- key among them being a vociferous committee of elves which started with grumbling, then moved on to organized protests, and ended up by forming unions connected, respectively, with the AFL, the SEIU, and the Teamsters.  The subsequent demands from union leaders are not only irrational, they are downright immoral.  For instance, I refuse to allow, under my name, the manufacture of gifts which I believe to be decadent and culturally destructive.  Nor will I provide health coverage plans that would cause me to violate my religious convictions. Virginia, I shudder to think of the hard-working elves who have been loyal to the spirit of Christmas having to sign up for unemployment but the troublemakers have left me no other option. So, alas, I am shutting down Christmas altogether.

The fun, the festivity and the faith is gone.  Even if I could somehow solve the market share problem and the labor problem (big ifs, indeed), there are plenty of other matters also pressing hard against Christmas.  You know about some of these, Virginia, like the movements of secularism, paganism and consumerism that insist traditional Christmas give way to Holiday Break, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Black Friday, and so on.  But you probably haven’t heard about the harassment coming at me from those who claim (without genuine scientific evidence, I might add) that the pixie dust that I’ve used for centuries has dangerously depleted the ozone layer. And there’s the increasing clamor of animal rights groups who argue that the pace required to travel the whole world on Christmas Eve constitutes reindeer abuse.

And, Virginia, unless you noticed it on Drudge, you also wouldn’t know about the post-election Executive Order from the White House. It insists that American children receive X amount of presents regardless of whether they’ve been naughty or nice.  Reads the order, “An equitable redistribution of wealth cannot be achieved if the recipients are to be judged by merit, initiative or moral character.  A just society is an entitled society.”

Yet that wasn’t the only change that the White House order contained – not by a longshot.  I was informed (in no uncertain terms) that were I to persist in gifting American children there were several other requirements.  I had to slim down.  I had to decry the practice of children leaving me and the reindeer cookies or anything else that wasn’t within the First Lady’s dietary guidelines. I had to stop smoking.  To help out the atrociously inept Post Office, I had to agree to a subcontract which would cede to them 1/3 of my U.S. deliveries. Furthermore, I had to yield authority of all North Pole operations to OSHA, EPA, NRLB, HIPA, IRS, the UN, and other alphabet agencies to be named later.

And, one more thing, I had to change the color of my red suit to blue.

So you see how things stand, Virginia.  Post-modern forces have long made it extremely difficult to practice Christmas in its traditional, warm-hearted ways.  But those forces no longer constitute influential pressure alone, they have now become intolerant to the point of coercion. Christmas has been a wonderful blessing to the world but the powers that be are now forcing it to become the antithesis of what it was. I cannot be a part of that evil evolution. So, yes, Virginia, there still is a Santa Claus.  But Christmas…Well, Christmas itself has passed away.

We Survived the Mayan Apocalypse. But We're Still in Deep Trouble.

Okay, the date for the Mayan Apocalypse has come and yet the world seems intact. I guess we're good.

Or are we?

For just because the planet remains spinning on its axis doesn't mean that civilization is healthy, happy and enduring. Indeed, a quick look at these news stories should scare you a lot more than any ancient calendar.

* Pope says future of mankind at stake over gay marriage (Telegraph)

* American Dream Fades for Generation Y Professionals (Bloomberg)

* Now sick babies go on death pathway: Doctor's haunting testimony reveals how children are put on end-of-life plan (DailyMail)

* ObamaCare mandate may force nuns devoted to the eldery to leave U.S. (LifeSiteNews)

* Georgia rebuilds Stalin monuments (AFP)

* U.S. on alert for Islamist ire to ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ (Washington Times)

* US alarm at foreign state acquisitions (US Politics and Policy)

* America's Problem Is a Contempt for Life, Not a Love of Guns (Pearcey Report)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Today's Posts

A Sad Sign of Our Bad Times

Aborted Babies Are Surviving. The Proposed Solution -- Lethal Injections Before the Procedure.

Planned Parenthood Video Promotes Sadomasochism

Historic, Ground-Breaking Appointment Ignored by Media

Outrage! American Citizen Rev. Saeed Abedini Imprisoned in Iran.

Religious Freedom Wins One Against ObamaCare Mandates

A Sad Sign of Our Bad Times

If you think you've got the stomach for it, here is a 2-minute video ad from a "health clinic" in the Bronx that reveals just a bit of how decadent and demented is our post-Christian culture.

It's an ad that exploits Christmas, Santa Claus, and Jose Feliciano's classic song "Felize Navidad," in a wicked parody, one which makes light of (indeed, even glorifies) "safe" sex and drug use.

So long, America. It was nice known' you.

Aborted Babies Are Surviving. The Proposed Solution -- Lethal Injections Before the Procedure.

And you want to seriously claim a culture of death hasn't enveloped us?

For the first time ever in Denmark, a survey has shown how many foetuses show signs of life following a late term termination, according to Kristeligt Dagblad. Previously, conventional wisdom has suggested that 10 per cent of foetuses gasped or showed other signs of life following a late term abortion between the 12th and 22nd week of pregnancy.

But statistics from Denmark’s second largest maternity clinic at the Aarhus University Hospital Skejby show that out of 70 late terminations between August 2011 and November 2012, 11 – or 16 per cent – showed signs of life. Translated into national figures from 2010, during which 877 foetuses were terminate after the 12th week, the statistical figure for life signs in aborted foetuses would be 140.

That means the possibility of suffering. And here’s the proposed remedy:

The Danish Infant Death Association says parents should be given the possibility of choosing a potassium chloride injection to stop the foetal heart before a termination in order to ensure that the foetus is stillborn. The method is in use in the United States and elsewhere.

Wesley J. Smith writes, "I didn’t know that. Note the use of the term 'stillborn,' which implies a natural death when this is anything but. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly."

(LifeNews report)

And for those Americans who might insist that such horrors couldn't happen here -- please remember this. When in the Illinois Senate, Barack Obama repeatedly voted against protecting newborn babies who survived abortion. And the first four years of Obama's tenure have showed us his zeal for abortion has not abated one bit.

Look out, America. If President Obama and Planned Parenthood are not stopped, such outrageous cruelties could start happening here...even more than they already are.

Planned Parenthood Video Promotes Sadomasochism

American Life League's STOPP International reports:

Is there any perversion Planned Parenthood will not present to young, vulnerable people as “play”?

Judging from the home page of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, apparently not.

The “healthcare” organization features a video storehouse known as “A Naked Notion with Laci Green,” by sporting a picture of a young lady flagging a condom. Click the link to watch the videos, and you will be greeted by “Getting Kinky—BDSM 101,” an instructional rave created in partnership with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England that attempts to make sadomasochism sound like a harmless, pleasant romp in the park...

And remember…your tax dollars help pay for this kind of stuff. Planned Parenthood, the mega-abortion business that makes profits of about $80 million a year, receives another $350 million from taxpayers!

You think it might be time to de-fund this bizarre business?

Contact your Congressmen, Senators, local politicians, and news editors today. In fact, why not forward this news item to them and ask for their quick action in opposing the Obama administration's plans to give even more government money to Planned Parenthood.

Historic, Ground-Breaking Appointment Ignored by Media

Over at Publius' Forum, Warner Todd Huston reports on the non-reports regarding Senator Tim Scott.

On Monday, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley announced that she was appointing U.S. Congressman Tim Scott to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jim DeMint. When he is sworn in on January 3, Scott will be the lone African American of either party in the Senate but this historic news didn’t seem to interest ABC or CBS as neither mentioned the news that night...

One would think that the “diversity” of this story alone would be of interest to the big networks. After all, we have a female Governor who is the daughter of Sikh immigrants appointing the only African American to the Senate. We also have a Senate seat that is famed for having once been occupied by Strom Thurmond, a one-time Dixiecrat, segregationist turned repentant Republican. And we have the first black Senator from a southern state since Blanche Bruce of Mississippi in 1881. This is almost “diversity” overload.

Perhaps one mitigating factor for the old networks is that all of this “diversity” was wrought by Republicans?

To its credit, NBC did spend some time on this historic appointment. A whole 24 seconds...

Outrage! American Citizen Rev. Saeed Abedini Imprisoned in Iran.

The cruel horrors of Islamic intolerance are exposed yet again (the examples are reported almost daily -- but only in the conservative media) in the case of Iran arresting a man solely because of his being a Christian, holding him incommunicado, and threatening he and his family with the harshest of penalties.

And did I mention the man is an American citizen?

Fox News does a thorough and excellent job in reporting the details of this outrage.

Where are the rest of the West's journalists?

Religious Freedom Wins One Against ObamaCare Mandates

There was a significant victory for religious freedom yesterday in the lawsuit against ObamaCare by Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College.

And while it remains terribly sad that we even need to speak about the enemy of religious freedom being the United States government, the news of the circuit court's decision is a hopeful sign that at least part of the culturally-destructive program pushed so hard by the administration and the Democrat Party might be averted.

Keep praying and speaking out.

Here's a comprehensive look at the matter by National Review's Kathyrn Jean Lopez. It's the best article I've seen yet.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Today's Posts

The Shadow Will Not Last Forever

Frodo sighed and was asleep almost before the words were spoken. Sam struggled with his own weariness, and he took Frodo's hand; and there he sat silent till deep night fell. Then at last, to keep himself awake, he crawled from the hiding-place and looked out.

The land seemed full of creaking and cracking and sly noises, but there was no sound of voice or of foot. Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while.

The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was a light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master's, ceased to trouble him.

He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo's side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.

(From The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien)

White House Wants to Cut Charitable Contributions

Our post-Christian, progressive government will brook no competition...even in providing for the needy. Therefore, it moves to weaken and eventually eliminate altogether charities and churches and rich philanthropists. The needy (and that will be an ever-increasing portion of the population) will have only the government to go to.

Case in point? Read Chuck Norris' "To Hell with Charity, Part One."

Kids Singing "Joy to the World" Are Bullies

A group of parents in Missoula, Mont. are upset over the religious nature of Christmas songs performed at a local elementary school — alleging the songs about the Baby Jesus [are] unconstitutional and a “form of bullying.”

The parents, who declined to be identified, are threatening to sue the Missoula County Public School District unless songs like “Joy to the World” and “Good Christian Men Rejoice” are replaced with secular tunes. ...

They said they have no problem with Frosty the Snowman or Santa Claus — but the real reason for the Christmas season has no place in school concerts, they argued.

But no, Virginia; there's no war on Christmas.

Boehner: Tough on Conservatives, Putty to the Prez

John Boehner’s no national dictator, we now know, set to ruin the economy by forcing it off the fiscal cliff…No, Boehner’s got other ways to screw up the economy, ones that have the happy effect (for him) of keeping the government vortex flowing and sucking in all the money it can. 

The modest, emotional, cigarette-smoking Speaker of the House, you see, uses force only against conservatives who wish to stop the vortex, not against his ideological “opponent” over at the White House who argues for an even louder sucking sound in our economy.    

Outmaneuvered, outsmarted and outrageous, the new, old, white face of the GOP, Mr. Speaker Boehner, isn’t negotiating with Barack Obama on the myth called the fiscal cliff.

Rather, he’s capitulating…

Read more of John Ransom's column here.

Christmas with "When Swing Was King" -- An Appreciation and a Personal Invitation

The ministry of “When Swing Was King” is never without moments of profound tenderness and compelling joy.  They occur in the hearts of residents as they connect to the music, the pictures, the history, and the memories.  And they occur sometimes in the residents’ conversations with one another, with family members, with facility staff, and with Claire and me.  There is always some laughter. Sometimes there's a few tears.  There are always stories.  There are always warm expressions of appreciation.

And there is always, in our hearts as we drive away, a deep sense of the privileged honor it is for us to serve people in this way. Thank You, Lord.

Because we go to the same facilities every month (some for 2 ½ years now), we have made some pretty tight friends.  And we have lost some of those friends: Glen, Rita, George, Doc, Marta, and several others, including, of course, my Mom.  You can see how "When Swing Was King" is a ministry that is emotional and intense for us, stimulating a deep appreciation of each program, each conversation, each touch. 

Christmas amplifies this intensity even further.  Memories related to Christmas are not only more deeply etched in our soul, they are more poignant and beloved – even the ones that underscore a sense of loss.

Therefore, even though our regular performances of “When Swing Was King” are hailed by our audiences as wonderful and warm, the Christmas edition really takes things over the top.  The pictures are chosen not only to reflect the 1940s and 1950s but the exquisite beauties of Christmas that are common to all eras.  There is a festive and welcome feeling when one looks at candles, colored lights, snow-covered rural churches, and Christmas trees. The music of the Christmas edition is special too. It's a nice mix of fun and faith (Yes, Virginia; the two can be compatible!) and so it includes winter songs, Santa songs, homecoming songs and yes, sacred songs that speak explicitly of the ultimate “Reason for the season.”

I do not use the microphone to preach a sermon. But neither am I afraid to include in my WSWK commentary an appreciation of the religious significance of the holiday. It's only common sense. It's Christmas, for crying out loud.

For instance, I refer to the historical foundations of the holiday; namely, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, He Who was the Lamb of God Who would one day bear the sins of mankind. I talk a bit about the profound religious truths contained in the Christmas carols. For a couple of them, I explain the story of the song's origins.  And, every time Frank Sinatra concludes his 1947 rendition of “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” (the 4th song of the program), I remind the audience: “That, of course, is the timeless message of Christmas – ‘Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.’”

All elements of this "When Swing Was King" edition are appreciated by our audiences and, while we love people grabbing our hands and thanking us and telling us it's the most wonderful Christmas program they've ever seen, what we are most blessed by is hearing the chorus of voices (even in the memory-impaired facilities) sing out the words of "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "O Holy Night" and "Let It Snow" and "White Christmas" and all the others.

Yes, we are absolutely thrilled at the powerful ministry that "When Swing Was King" has proven to be...month after month. But there's something about Christmas that, as I noted above, takes it over the top.

If you would like to experience a bit of what I'm talking about, there are still several Christmas editions of "When Swing Was King" coming up at senior facilities here in our area. Give us a call or check the schedule at the Vital Signs Ministries website to see when.

Or you could always drop in to the gym at Faith Bible Church (1555 S 27th Street, north of Martha two blocks and one block east of the interstate) next Sunday morning at 9 o'clock. Claire and I will be doing the Christmas edition of "When Swing Was King" in full that morning (45-50 minutes) and serving up fresh breakfast pastries, coffee and tea to go along with it.

After the program, you can zip on over to your own church or, if we dare to ask, please consider sticking around to be part of the worship service there at Faith Bible Church. We don't try to produce worship stage shows at Faith (we feature only a keyboard, a drum and a song leader), but you will find a remarkable fellowship of Christian activists there from a variety of backgrounds, all walks of life, and with experiences in all kinds of relevant ministries for the Kingdom. And the sermon you'll hear will be relevant, interesting, and carefully reliant on the text of Holy Scripture. Rare stuff.

So why not give it a try? At least for a special Christmas break from the routine? The rolls, donuts and the Christmas edition of "When Swing Was King" will be served up at 9. We hope you can make it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Today's Posts

Conformed to the World -- Is That What I Deserve?

Advertisers once told me I deserved a break today -- meaning a McDonald's hamburger. But advertisers now tell me I deserve a generous retirement portfolio, a Lexus, Direct TV (with the NFL package), a smart phone, and a Disney World vacation.

Yesterday's Sunday school discussion centered on living a life "overflowing with gratitude" (Col. 2:7) vs the anxiety and dissatisfaction which inevitably results from a life shaped by consumerism, fashion, status, advertising, peer pressure, and a false sense of entitlement.

It's way past time for Christians to develop a truly counter-culture lifestyle, one that joyously and triumphantly rejoices in the blessings (both now and forever) of our salvation rather than having our values defined by Sunset Boulevard, Madison Avenue, or Pennsylvania Avenue.

A Very Christmas-y Weekend

It had been quite a week. Blogging. Getting the LifeSharer letter out. Hosting a dinner party. A meeting in Lincoln. A speaking engagement. Writing.  And 7 (count 'em, 7) presentations of "When Swing Was King."

But things didn't slow down at the weekend. Indeed, this past weekend was, even more than most, a whirlwind of activity.

We were up early on Saturday to make final preparations for Claire's Christmas tea scheduled for later in the morning (an elaborate annual party she hosts for the girls in her family), and to print off Christmas carol lyrics for use outside the abortion mill.

I was at the Planned Parenthood abortion mill until a bit after 11 -- which was just about the time Claire's tea was getting underway. And so while she entertained, I zipped up to my branch office (Panera's on west Maple) to do some writing and some study for Sunday's sermon.

Claire's party was, as it has always been, a smash hit. Her niece Dani wasn't able to come Saturday but the other regulars (Denise, Gaylene, Theresa, Claire Nicole, Sophia, and Grace) all packed into one car and drove up from Lincoln. Plus, this year's tea had a new guest, Claire's niece-in-law, Carrie who lives here in Omaha. Conversation, laughter, stories from the Aylward heritage, a gift exchange, and a terrific high tea menu featuring a variety of hors d'oeuvres and drinks, apricot-glazed sausage, salad, cheese course, nuggets from Chik-fil-A, Christmas cookies and the really nifty strawberry Santas shown in the photo above.

I returned around 1:45, in time for a pretty quick visit with the girls before they all took off. The rest of Saturday involved (for me) more sermon and Sunday school preparation plus a little revision of the current "When Swing Was King" program and (for Claire) experimentation for the next day's cookie exchange party with neighbors.

Sunday morning was taken up with the Sunday school class, the sermon ("The Mystery Men of Christmas" -- Matthew 2:1-12), and visiting afterwards. The afternoon was (for Claire) cookie baking and (for me) watching the Broncos defeat the Ravens. Then around four the neighbors began to arrive for the cookie exchange we had initiated. It went better than we even hoped.

6 of the neighbors we invited didn't show but 2 of those were out of town and had told us they couldn't make it. However, 10 of our neighbors DID bring cookies to exchange and, when informed that we had cocoa and coffee, all 10 settled in for about an hour and a half of visiting. Some of the neighbors had never even met each other. Others only knew enough to wave hello to if out in the yard. So, to be honest, we were delightfully surprised to see the conversations flow as nicely as they did. Very cool.

Claire wrote on her Facebook page, "As folks were leaving, they were very thankful for the time together. Some neighbors said it was nice to now know someone’s name. We always said we need to get the neighbors together and we were all glad we finally did. We had plenty of cookies so we took a plate over to our neighbors to the south of us because they just got back from a family gathering out of town. Next event – neighborhood picnic!"

It was a very simple thing (the procedure we used is outlined here) but the neighborhood will be a more hospitable, more interactive, even a safer place because of it.  Just another way of shining the light, building friendships, and opening up possibilities for further impact.

The Newest Chemical "Answer" to Unplanned Pregnancies...Isn't.

Plan B and Ella, among other drugs, have been touted lately as being the answer to unplanned pregnancies. If you have unprotected sex, it’s no problem. Just pop one of these pills on the “morning after” and you are good to go. Or so women have been told.

Since their release, various groups have been attempting to loosen the requirements to obtain these drugs. They have been successful in changing them from prescription to over-the-counter...

But just what's missing in most of the media discussions on this topic? For instance, what are the side-effects of these powerful drugs? What about long term health problems to the women using them? Are the drugs entirely contraceptive or do they sometimes cause very early abortions? And perhaps the most obvious to be considered, given the vaunted claims of the drug manufacturers, are these drugs really reducing the rate of unwanted pregnancies?

Barb Malek, author, blogger, and one of the directors of the AAA Center for Pregnancy Counseling, understands that such questions are critically relevant and she's not afraid to examine them closely.

Check out her essay right here.

Nurses Ordered by Hospital Bosses to Abort Babies.

...Promoted from that team to a supervisory position over all the nurses, the new assistant manager announced that – since she and others had to help with abortions – she saw no reason why every nurse shouldn't help. Hospital officials agreed, and passed a new, mandatory policy to make it so. The assistant manager quickly set up a training program that would give each nurse on the unit hands-on experience in how to assist with and clean up after abortions.

"As long as you work here," she told the 12 nurses who openly protested, "you're going to have to do it. If you don't, you're going to be fired or transferred out."

"We were all shocked," Fe says. "All these years I've been a nurse, I was never told to help kill children."

But the managers remained adamant. Hospital administrators supported them…

When even their own union declined to help them, Fe wrote a letter to hospital officials saying that she and her coworkers would not participate in abortions. She passed it around for the other nurses; 15 signed it. She gave the letter to her manager, who took it to the director of nursing.. Response was swift. A meeting was called for the next day, with each of the signing nurses, the labor board, a union official, the managers, and "an expert on ethics" scheduled to be on hand.

The day of that announcement, Pastor Terry Smith, of Life Christian Church in West Orange, New Jersey, returned from a trip. A staff member told him that one of his parishioners – Fe – had called, shared what was happening at the hospital, and asked for advice. The pastor immediately phoned Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council.

"I'll be all over this," said Deo, who hung up and called Alliance Defending Freedom. Shortly afterward, staff attorney Matt Bowman was on the phone with a local allied attorney, Demetrios Stratis, enlisting him to help defend the nurses. The two immediately called Fe.

"I remember... I was driving and speaking to them three-way," says Fe, who had just been convincing herself the nurses' case was hopeless. "I didn't know a thing about conscience law – it was very, very new to me." The two told her she had a legitimate case, and offered to defend her. Best of all, Stratis said he could be on hand for her meeting with the managers the next day.

"Is there a catch?" Fe asked. Visions of sky-high attorneys' fees danced in her head.

"No catch," Stratis said. "We're pro bono lawyers." Fe drove home in a daze...

Want to know what happened next? Read the rest of "They Said No" from Alliance Defending Freedom.