Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thinking of the Christian Brotherhood, Grace, and Darrell Scott

Darrell Scott, a former pastor, exemplary mentor, and dear friend of many years is undergoing serious health trials right now and a few of us, in addition to stepping up our prayers for he and his wife, sent along notes of encouragement and thanks. My letter, including as it did reflections on the Christian Brotherhood, Grace Bible Institute, and Pleasantview Berean Fundamental Church may be of interest to those with connections to those organizations. It may even be of limited interest to those who remember the "Jesus movement" of the late 60s and early 70s.

Also, if you would like to share your own testimony about Darrell Scott's ministry in your life, please send it along to us and we will forward it ASAP. Please send it to

Dear Darrell and Barb,

We are so sorry we couldn’t set it up to get together before Christmas but our plans to do so ended up alerting a lot of prayers in your behalf.  That’s a good thing.  Still, we hope (and pray) that you feel well enough soon for us to put that little party back on the schedule.

Until that happens, however, we thought you would like to hear from a few of those folks.  Some of them may have already sent a note while others may do so now that the hectic pace of Christmas has slowed down.  But there are a few who sent brief testimonies to Claire and me so that we could send them over to you guys.  They are enclosed with this note.

But Claire and I wanted to share a few reflections also for we have been so profoundly affected by your ministry, Darrell.  We are honored to be among that very large crowd of people whose lives have been inspired, educated, exhorted, and encouraged by yours.  We will be forever grateful.

I first made your acquaintance in those heady days of the Christian Brotherhood.  It was late spring 1970 and I had just hitchhiked into Omaha from my home in Denver.  Providence took me to the Brotherhood and, within days of my moving in with Buddy Medlock, I attended the Sunday service at Pleasantview Berean Fundamental Church and was captivated by your sermon…and by your warm, engaging hospitality.

I was a new believer and I hadn’t heard much of solid, expository Bible teaching. But I loved it and knew instinctively it was what I needed.  So, right from the beginning I was listening carefully, taking copious notes, asking questions afterward, and as you always encouraged the audience to do, studying the text on my own also. You provided excellent content in the sermon but also a terrific example of how to carefully, patiently study the Word myself.  You also taught me much about the qualities of a disciple.  Humble yet confident in Christ. Winsome but uncompromising with the truth.  Kind-hearted and servant-oriented. Cheerful. Hopeful. Active in evangelism.

Over the years, many people have wondered about the remarkable impact that the Christian Brotherhood had on so many lives.  Particularly, the question comes up of why the Brotherhood had such lasting effect, much more than most of the “Jesus movement” communes and organizations. The sheer number of young believers who went on to formal theological training and professional ministry, for instance, is impressive. But even more so is the steady growth and Christian service of all the others.  We were not only a “thoroughly converted” bunch – we were wonderfully trained and equipped and sent forth as lights into the world.

But what made the Brotherhood so different from the other “Jesus People” places?  My answer has always stressed two things.  1) We had the incredible resource of Grace College of the Bible available to us with such stellar Bible scholars as Abe Penner, Chuck Nichols, Reuben Dick, Bob Benton, J. Doss Quinelly, and Norm Rempel teaching us three or four nights a week.  It was ironic but wonderful – established fundamentalist scholars graciously coming into the city to teach unchurched, counter-culture, sin-scarred youth the glories of the Bible.

But 2) we had another grand resource available to us besides Grace.  And that was Pleasantview Berean Church with its personable and capable pastor, Darrell Scott.  There at the church, we were able to see how this new life we had in Christ was to be lived in practical, social, and long-term ways.  The heavy theology we were learning in those Brotherhood classes and in reading books by Ironside and Pentecost and Chafer was made alive for us in the persons of Berean’s pastor and other keen saints in the church.

Darrell, your teaching was practical theology at its best.  And you lived what you preached.  You were also so patient and kind to us as we learned.  Never did we feel like freaks at Pleasantview.  Never were we treated with anything but acceptance and hospitality and inclusion.  Indeed, Brotherhood youths were welcomed not only into the front pews of the church (we were so happy and eager to learn) but also into the choir, the fellowship suppers, member’s homes, and, for Gene Jost, Phil Miller, John Foster and myself, into the starting ranks of the slow pitch softball team.  We had all found a church home where our Christian discipleship was intensified and encouraged.

Through God’s merciful provision of both Grace Bible Institute and Pleasantview, we young Christians (many of us with sordid backgrounds and lousy educational records) were transformed by the love in action of patient and skilled mentors.  And that’s why so many of us are still pursuing godliness to this day.  And that’s why so many of us owe you such a grand debt.  We love you very much, Darrell, and we are so grateful for your investment in our lives in those years. And we’re grateful too for all the sweet years of friendship that followed.

Denny & Claire

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Denny Reads Chesterton's "The House of Christmas"

In our first attempt at making a video clip for Vital Signs Blog, Denny talks about his discovery of GK Chesterton in a used bookstore many years ago.

Denny then reads Chesterton's superb poem, "The House of Christmas."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Goin' Christmas Crazy?

"Some of you probably thought the Branson tree-lighting I described in last month’s letter would provide more than enough Christmas cheer to last us for the year.  Not hardly."

The December LifeSharer letter is on the web.

The Week's "Must Reads"

The week’s must-read articles? Here’s my picks:

On Cuba:
* “Why We Isolated Cuba for 53 Years” (Lee Edwards, Daily Signal, The Heritage Foundation)

On the North Korea/Sony Mess:
* “On North Korea, Obama Leads from Behind” (John Hinderaker, PowerLine)

Regarding the Spirit of Lawlessness:
* “Obama issues 'executive orders by another name’” (Gregory Korte, USA TODAY)

* “Two Pa. Legislators Indicted for Voter ID Bribes in a Case the State AG Refused to Prosecute” (Hans von Spakovsky, Daily Signal)

On Other Fronts of the Culture Wars:
* “Different standards for 'gay' bakers and Christian bakers” (Michael F. Haverluck,

* “Holder Decrees Crossdressing Protected Under Federal Law” (J. Christian Adams, PJ Media)

Affairs of the First Family
* “Mrs. Obama's Tall Tales of Racialized Victimhood” (Michelle Malkin, Town Hall)

From Vital Signs Blog:
* “Goin' Christmas Crazy?”

* “Light & Warmth Through Christmas Cards”

* “What a Difference You Can Make”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Light & Warmth Through Christmas Cards

Vital Signs Ministries' annual Christmas card party last night turned out to be a lively success. There were only 9 of us (Larry & Deb, Quint, Ruth, Allen & Cindy, Carol E., Claire and I) yet in 90 minutes we produced a remarkable amount of correspondence designed to lift spirits, encourage action, and draw people closer to the Lord Jesus. It was a splendid Christmas experience.

Among our Christmas card recipients were 16 Christians who have been persecuted and unjustly imprisoned for their faith in such places as China, Iran, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Eritrea. Using the resources of The Voice of the Martyrs' superb website, we had prepared messages to these saints before the party began and we then glued those messages inside lovely, colorful Christmas cards. The messages (again, thanks to VOM) included Scripture verses in the prisoner's own language. All 16 of these prisoners were sent three cards, each card with a different Christmas scene, each card with a different message inside, and each card signed by three of us.

We also wrote Christmas cards (with appropriate messages inside) to Senator-elect Ben Sasse, Governor-elect Pete Ricketts, Congressman-elect Brad Ashford, outgoing Congressman Lee Terry, Mayor Jean Stothert, and others. Also, we all signed thank you Christmas cards to Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Norm Geisler, Joni & Ken Tada, Ben Carson, and others.

And finally — hold onto your Santa hat — we wrote Christmas cards to every resident of the Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home! That’s right, over 100 veterans, spouses and widows will be receiving beautiful Christmas cards today as Claire and I will take them over personally today. The handwritten messages inside expressed our warmest Christmas greetings, thanked them for their loyal service to our nation, and shared our desire that the holy light of Jesus’ birthday would brighten their hearts in this precious season, bringing them special joy and peace and spiritual strength.

Also part of the evening were prayers for each of the persecuted Christians as well as prayers that God would protect each Christmas card along its way. We prayed too for all the others to whom we sent cards, asking the Lord to use them for His purposes. And, of course, we also had some time to enjoy conversation, cookies, and coffee together. It was a terrific evening, full of Christmas cheer and productivity.

Everyone present last night had one other request to make to the Lord before we left. And that was for similar letter-writing parties to become a regular activity for churches, Sunday school classes, and other groups of Christian friends. Let's remember that raising our voices in the King's service of encouragement, advocacy, enlightenment, and challenge is a necessary and ongoing responsibility for the believer in Christ. And prayerful letters are a marvelously effective means of carrying those voices way beyond our own neighborhoods. This why Vital Signs Ministries has hosted letter-writing parties for over 30 years.

How about you? Perhaps you're interested in joining us for our next letter-writing evening? Or maybe you'd like a little help in setting up your own. Either way, give us a call or email or FB message and we'll do our very best to help make it happen. Thanks. And merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

What a Difference You Can Make

Dick Wilson knows I don’t read the local newspaper so he recently passed along a copy of a column called Annie’s Mailbox. I don’t know what this usually presents (I think it’s an advice column) but on Thanksgiving Day, there was reprinted there a very moving piece written by a RN who serves as an activities director for a nursing home in Tennessee.

Being involved as we have been with ministries in senior centers throughout Vital Signs’ history (the latest activity being our “When Swing Was King” shows in 12 facilities each month), I can testify to the insightful, compelling truths of the column. Check it out.

Dear Readers: Today is Thanksgiving. If you know someone who is alone today, please invite him or her to share your Thanksgiving dinner and help make the occasion truly special.

Today we'd like to run a piece that has appeared in this space several times. It was written by Judy Vekasy, a registered nurse and director of activities in a nursing home in Savannah, Tenn. Here it is:

In this season of thanksgiving and just plain giving, I have some suggestions for those who need something to be thankful for or those who need someone to allow them to give. Nursing homes are full of opportunities.

You say you can't do anything. Can you read? Good. Read to me. My eyes aren't what they used to be.

Can you write? Good. Write a letter or a card for me. My hands are shaky.

Can you sing? Good. Help me with the words and I'll sing along.

Can you tell me about your job? I was a nurse once myself.

Can you listen? Wonderful. I'm starved for conversation.

Can you bake a sponge cake or zucchini bread or angel biscuits or make fudge? They aren't on the nursing home menu, but I remember how good they were and I would like to taste them again.

Do you play checkers or dominoes or rummy? Fine, so do I, but there is never anyone who has the time. They are understaffed around here, you know.

Do you play the violin or the flute or the piano? My hearing is poor, but I can hear any kind of music. Even if I fall asleep, you'll know I enjoyed it.

Once we were somebodies, just like you. We were farmers and farmers' wives and teachers, nurses, beauticians, stockbrokers and electricians, bankers and sheriffs and maybe a few outlaws, too.

We're not all senile — just old and needing more help than our families can give us. This home, whatever its name, is "home" to us, and you're an invited guest. Please come. The welcome mat is always out and not just on Thanksgiving. I hope you will keep this and read it again in January, February, and every other month of the year. We'll still be here, and our needs will be the same.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Anne Frank's Poem, "St. Nicholas Day"

Once again St. Nicholas Day
Has even come to our hideaway;
It won't be quite as fun, I fear,
As the happy day we had last year.
Then we were hopeful, no reason to doubt
That optimism would win the bout,
And by the time this year came round,
We'd all be free, and safe and sound.
Still, let's not forget it's St. Nicholas Day,
Though we've nothing left to give away.
We'll have to find something else to do:
So everyone please look in their shoe!?

(Anne Frank, "The Diary of a Young Girl," December 6, 1944) 

The last line of the poem refers to the practice in the Netherlands (and beyond) of children leaving shoes outside their bedroom door on the eve of St. Nicholas Day in hopes that the dear fellow would drop in them a few coins or pieces of candy — or, for naughty children, a lump of coal.

The poem radiates young Anne's hope and courage and cheerfulness, virtues that were sorely tested in the extremity of her family's circumstances. Thus, the poem serves as a timeless lesson of perseverance amid great dangers and difficulties. It is indeed a relevant exhortation for all of us on this St. Nicholas Day.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Catching Up

Okay, you are back from your Thanksgiving travels and a bit rested from the holiday's hectic activities. Below are a few excellent articles (and cartoons) that you might have missed in those days. They include news and commentary from the culture wars AND a couple that deal with the ongoing work of Vital Signs Ministries.

* “How Obama blatantly disregards the law” (Paul Sperry, New York Post)

* “Enough with The Ferguson Pandering” (Lloyd Marcus, American Thinker)

* “Media Ignore 224 Teenagers Killed in Chicago Since Michael Brown’s Death” (Warner Todd Houston, Breitbart)

* “A Very Special Christmas Tree Lighting” (Denny Hartford, Vital Signs Ministries)

* "A 'When Swing Was King' Christmas Road Trip"

* “A Milestone Sunday: Saying Goodbye”

* “A Culture of Lies: The changes after Ferguson will likely be for the worse.” (George Neumayr, The American Spectator)

* “Be afraid: This is the real Obama” (Joseph Curl, Washington Times)

* “How to Replace Obamacare: Affordable Care Act opponents must make their goal the enactment of a better plan.” (James C. Capretta, National Review)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Milestone Sunday: Saying Goodbye

Tomorrow is a significant milestone for us.

I came the Sunday morning before Christmas as a guest speaker to Faith Bible Church, a small congregation on Omaha's near south side that had been without a regular pastor for a couple of years. In fact, they were strongly considering throwing in the towel and merging with a large suburban church.  As a favor to a new friend, I agreed to provide “pulpit supply” to the church for a few Sundays in January. And then that stretched into the spring. And then that stretched into…7 years!

Never an actual member because of a doctrinal difference with the denomination, I was not involved in the leadership of the church nor did I ever seek (beyond the biblical teaching of my sermons) to direct the future course of the church. I was content to be their “perennial guest speaker,” offering ongoing series of expository sermons to “build up the Body for the sake of ministry.”  However, even though my “real job” remained Director of Vital Signs Ministries, leaving my only duty at Faith Bible Church to be delivering the Sunday sermon, the church soon began to describe me as their teaching pastor. And I tried hard to live up to that. Not only did I take my sermon preparation seriously (12-15 hours of study and prayer and writing out my text), but I couldn’t help but get involved in the lives of the people in other ways too. Thus, I ended up teaching other classes, hosted letter-writing evenings, counseled (and confronted), frequently entertained parishioners in our home, did hospital and nursing home visits, led special activities, performed funerals, spoke at AWANA, and so on.

As many of you know, I had done quite a lot of preaching and teaching in the years since my conversion to Christianity in 1970 (including a lot of “pulpit supply” at Pleasantview Berean Church here in town and Tabernacle Baptist Church in George, Iowa) but providing week after week sermons for this length of time has made for quite an experience. Both Claire and I are grateful for the opportunity to serve in this way. And we have made many friends that we will stay in contact with for the rest of our lives…and beyond.

But the time has now come to turn the page. Our obligations related to Vital Signs Ministries have continued to grow and, for the last couple of years now, it has been increasingly difficult to pursue them as we should while still taking those extra hours a week for sermon preparation. In particular, our “When Swing Was King” presentations, hospitality ministries, cyberspace outreaches, and writing projects all need more attention. Therefore, I informed the leadership of Faith Bible Church (and then the congregation) last August that I would be leaving.

And tomorrow is our last Sunday, thus the milestone designation. May the Lord lead Faith Bible Church in the next stages of its ministry. May the Lord guide Claire and I to our new church home. And may He give us joy and effectiveness as we persevere in our many duties with Vital Signs Ministries.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A "When Swing Was King" Christmas Road Trip

There’s nothing quite like the “When Swing Was King” Christmas show. 13 songs featuring the original crooners, canaries, and big bands of the swing era. More than 250 beautiful and interesting pictures playing on the screen. And an intriguing, fun commentary that heightens the holiday excitement for the residents of the nursing homes and senior centers for whom we present it...completely free of charge.

But the surprising news? We’re delighted to announce that, in addition to the regular 13 facilities where we bring “When Swing Was King” every month plus two extra showings this December that we have scheduled for senior groups at Country Bible Church and Glad Tidings Church, Claire and I are taking the show on the road to central Nebraska next week!

December 3rd and 4th will be a Christmassy sleigh ride for us as we take the program to senior facilities in Holdrege, Gothenburg, Doniphan, and Grand Island.

Your prayers for safe travel, success with the technical aspects of the program, and spiritual blessing as we visit with residents are deeply appreciated. Indeed, prayers are deeply appreciated for all of our December presentations of “When Swing Was King.”

But, yes; there still might be a chance for a Christmas version of “When Swing Was King” to warm the hearts of the seniors (and others) at your church for there are Sunday mornings in December that are not yet scheduled. That may change at any moment, though. So, if you’re interested, please contact us ASAP.

A Very Special Christmas Tree Lighting

Want a happy "Christmassy" story, one that delightfully illustrates our longstanding beliefs that 1) Christians can yet influence culture towards winsome, wholesome ways and 2) a personal letter remains a remarkably powerful tool in that quest?

Then check out the November letter from Vital Signs Ministries that tells a story of a delightful Christmas tree lighting.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Picks of the Weekend

If you were watching college football or hanging the Christmas lights this weekend, you may have missed these important articles. Here's a second chance.

* “Major blowback from Obama's insult to Australia at the G20 in Brisbane” (Thomas Lifson, American Thinker) As Lucianne Goldberg notes, "Without the Internet you wouldn't know this.")

* “Fools of the Week: Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News” (Eric Bolling, Fox News)

* "Renewable Energy Will Never Work, But Can Nuclear?" (John Hinderaker, PowerLine)  Hinderaker writes about “two of the most interesting articles I have read in a very long time. The first is by two Google engineers who were charged with thinking creatively about how to replace fossil fuels with renewables. After four years, Google shut down the project. The engineers concluded that it simply couldn’t be done.” Very interesting article.

* “The Microaggression Farce: The latest campus fad, which sees racism everywhere, will create a new generation of permanent victims.” (Heather MacDonald, City Journal) This is a longer piece but well worth reading for anyone who wants to understand why we're losing the next generation to the culture wars.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Pick of the Weekend

Here's a few articles from around the web that you don't want to miss.

* “Clamping Down on Religion” (In this brief but important article, NRO’s Kathyrn Jean Lopez interviews Ed Clancy, director of outreach and evangelization for Aid for the Church in Need.)

* “The lies that are central to Obama’s agenda” (Kyle Smith, New York Post)

* “Officials say U.S. military readiness for war, competitive edge worsening” (Andrea Shalal & David Alexander, Reuters)

* “One Nation Under Godlessness: A high school in Colorado Springs bans students from meeting outside class for prayer and fellowship.” (Michelle Malkin, NRO)

* “Joe Wilson Was Right” (Jack Cashill, American Thinker)

* “India’s war on women turns deadly: Thirteen women have died as a result of the latest mass sterilisation camp.” (Carolyn Moynihan, Mercator)

* “Obama Is Now Lying About His Lies” (Peter Wehner, Commentary)

* “HHS still doing business with firm that twice defrauded Medicare” (Sarah Westwood, Washington Examiner)

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Awesome Power of Music!

You want an idea of why we are more excited than ever about "When Swing
Was King," Vital Signs Ministries' outstanding outreach into nursing homes and senior centers?

Then, by all means, check out the clip and the article below. And then check in with "When Swing Was King."

Caring for patients with dementia will probably be one of the biggest human dignity issues of our century, as the proportion of elderly grows across the globe. It seems disgraceful to warehouse them in nursing homes, but often there are few alternatives.

So I was really delighted to see a ray of light in a new documentary, Alive Inside, which won the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for an American documentary. It features the power of music to raise patients out of their torpor. Sometimes the effect of placing earphone and an iPod on an unresponsive patient slumped in a wheel is little short of miraculous…

Michael Rossato-Bennett, the director of the award-winning documentary, “Alive Inside,” says his life was transformed by making the film. “I hope it will bring the story of Dan’s work to the world and awaken hearts and minds to the healing power of music. Music has great lessons to teach us about what it means to be human. I learned that from the sweet and vulnerable souls I met making this film.

Through music, we have the power to help millions of people awaken to who they are and what they can be. Music gives us the ability to reach a population that might otherwise be unreachable. It allows us to touch hearts and ignite souls. Through music, we can help the old and the aging sustain their humanity and by doing so, inevitably, we’ll prove our own.”

Read more of the Mercator article by Michael Cook, “Bringing the elderly back to life with music.”

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Congratulations, Conservatives. Now What?

Here's an idea. Copy the picture above (or some creation of your own) and print it off to make “congratulation cards” to the conservatives you supported in Tuesday's elections. On the inside (or simply the back side if you go with a postcard format), tell them the four things on which you want them to press "fast and furious" as soon as they take office. (Those items, of course, will be different for the various offices your candidates won.)  And keep a copy of your card so you can refer to those priorities in your next communications.

It’s not enough to get these folks elected. Nor is it enough to applaud them (or ourselves), or feel satisfied and happy. The job of governing with principle, efficiency, and wisdom is now at hand. Our prayers, encouragement, and perseverance to keep our political representatives accountable are more important than ever.

By the way, what are the priorities I’m sending along? Well, to Ben Sasse, Joni Ernst and others heading to the U.S. Senate that I prayed for, cheered on, and supported in various ways, those priorities are:

1) The de-funding of the mega-abortion business that is Planned Parenthood.

2) Increased military might in order to better protect America from her enemies.

3) Protecting the Constitution from activist ideologues being appointed to the Supreme Court.

4) Much stronger protections against vote fraud.

In my card to those winning in Congressional races, since it is not the duty of Congress to confirm judicial nominees, I substitute #3 for “Dismantling ObamaCare."

So, what do you say? Send in your cards and letters today. We mobilized for their election. Let’s stay mobilized to insure these folks govern the way they promised.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"I Will Never Forget"

“You know, I understand what you’re saying.  And you’re right, I know you are.  And I appreciate your being here and all that you’re offering to help me and my baby.  Really, I do.  But you just can’t get around my immediate problem and so I’m afraid I don’t have any choice.  That’s not how I want it and I wish I could undo some stuff but I can’t.  So, yes; I know this is sin, a very serious sin, and I hope somehow, somewhere my baby will forgive but I have to do this.  Because if I don’t go through with the abortion, I’d never fit in to my prom dress.”

Read the rest of this month’s Vital Signs letter right here.

Does Culture Trump Politics?

Liberals expend tremendous effort changing the culture. Conservatives expend tremendous effort changing elected officials every other November — and then are surprised that it doesn’t make much difference. Culture trumps politics — which is why, once the question’s been settled culturally, conservatives are reduced to playing catch-up... 

In 1986, in a concurrence to a majority opinion, the chief justice of the United States declared that “there is no such thing as a fundamental right to commit homosexual sodomy.” A blink of an eye, and his successors are discovering fundamental rights to commit homosexual marriage.

What happened in between? Jurisprudentially, nothing: Everything Chief Justice Warren Burger said back in the ’80s — about Common Law, Blackstone’s “crime against nature,” “the legislative authority of the State” — still applies. Except it doesn’t. Because the culture — from school guidance counselors to sitcom characters to Oscar hosts — moved on, and so even America’s Regency of Jurists was obliged to get with the beat... 

If the culture’s liberal, if the schools are liberal, if the churches are liberal, if the hip, groovy business elite is liberal, if the guys who make the movies and the pop songs are liberal, then electing a guy with an “R” after his name isn’t going to make a lot of difference...

Read the rest of Mark Steyn’s compelling article, “Why the real battle for America is over culture, not elections,” in the New York Post.

Friday, October 10, 2014

"Annual" Tree Lighting Event Cancelled After Just One?

You're kidding me, right? After just one event, the "annual" Christmas Tree Lighting at the Andy William Moon River Theater in Branson has been tossed aside.

Well, not without a polite protest and an effort, however mild, to get the theater folks to reconsider.

Below is the note I sent to the Branson newspaper, a few radio stations, the Chamber of Commerce, and the tourism bureau. We'll see what happens.

Last year we had a wonderful time at the First Annual Christmas Tree Lighting outside the Andy Williams Moon River Theater. Though the event received almost no promotion at all, there were around 300 people on hand (even before the matinee audience exited the theater) to enjoy the festivities, including remarks and music from the Lennon Sisters, the Osmonds, and other Branson stars. We also enjoyed delicious cookies handed out by the cutest of Santa’s elves.

We are planning a return to Branson this fall and were looking forward to attending the Second Annual Christmas Tree Lighting. However, a call to the theater office resulted in the news that there wouldn’t be one. Wow. That was a bummer. We were told there had been “a change of hands” and so the event was off. That’s really unfortunate for with a minimum of effort, the tree lighting could provide a lot of community unity as well as positive publicity for the theater and the Branson area. Plus, it could make for a great kickoff to the Christmas season, completely true to the tradition that Branson’s Christmas begins when Andy Williams says it begins!

So, what do you say? Is there any way that the powers that be might reverse their decision? It seems a pity that such a neat idea should fade away after such a promising start. Perhaps we’ll have to bring cookies from our home here in Omaha and pass them out in front of the tree there, in sad recognition of a lost opportunity.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Is the Fleetwood Mac Tour a Good Idea?

I see that Fleetwood Mac is back on tour.

In fact, I just watched clips of three songs they performed live for the Today show and though interesting, it confirmed my longstanding conviction; namely, that after a certain period of time rock and roll singers should retire and let their body of work stand at its apex, not in an unending anticlimax consisting of reunion tours, albums of re-interpreted standards, and concerts with younger, full-throated, "backup" singers whose voices are miked-up to help cover the aging voices of the stars.

Rock singers, do yourselves a favor. Do interviews. Act. Write your memoirs.

But please, stop singing.

By the way, note the debonair yet stately look of Mick Fleetwood in the photo above. (He's the tall fellow on the left.) Do you note the resemblance to our old friend, the late Calvin Miller? One of his later photos is here on the right.

Calvin, as many of you know, was a dear pastor, preacher, writer, teacher, artist, and family man whose career included a long stretch here in Omaha as the pastor of Westside Church, a large Southern Baptist congregation. We still miss him.

And as hep a cat as Mick Fleetwood most likely is, I can assure you the multi-talented, extremely personable, and devoutly spiritual Cal Miller beats out even Mick Fleetwood on cool.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

"When Swing Was King" Moves Into Fall

We opened this month's "When Swing Was King" schedule yesterday afternoon at Brookestone Village to a large and engaged crowd. It was a great time and we so appreciate the residents and their love for our programs. We also love the staff the Village. Rarely do we see such involvement from even nurses and aides in getting residents to and from the show. And the activities staff -- Sarah, Lynn and Miriam? They are superb.

Here, by the way, is the revised song list for October.

1) Glenn Miller Orchestra (Vocals by the Modernaires) -- “Perfidia”
2) Harry James Orchestra (Vocals by Kitty Kallen) -- “I’ll Buy That Dream”
3) Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra -- "Sophisticated Lady"
4) Benny Goodman Orchestra -- "Somebody Loves Me"
5) Paul Weston Orchestra (Vocals by Dean Martin) -- "I'll Always Love You"
6) Artie Shaw Orchestra -- "Begin the Beguine"
7) Chick Webb Orchestra (Vocals by Ella Fitzgerald) -- "Love and Kisses"
8) Glen Gray & the Casa Loma Orchestra -- "Ballin' the Jack"
9) Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra (Vocals by Helen O'Connell) "All of Me"
10) Ted Weems Orchestra (Vocals by Perry Como) -- "Fools Rush In"
11) Lawrence Welk Orchestra -- "Champagne Time"
12) Roy Rogers -- "San Fernando Valley"

Monday, October 06, 2014

Dispatches from the Culture Wars

Here are a few key stories (and one astounding video clip) from the latest VS collection. You'll notice that many of them deal with the corrupt media but, trust me, they are important reads all.

* “Wait, There’s a Problem with Christian Medical Missionaries?” (David French, NRO)

* “Assisted Suicide ‘Out of Control’ in Netherlands” (Nick Hallett, Breitbart)

* “Rand Paul on Plan B” (Ramesh Ponnuru, NRO) You're wrong, Senator. And, because your medical training makes you know you're wrong, it brings up a troubling lack of character.

* “Mia Farrow’s dirty profits—a hidden payoff in corrupt Ecuador trial” (Phelim McAleer, New York Post)

* “‘Face the Nation’ Leaves Out Netanyahu's Criticism of Obama” (Trey Sanchez, Truth Revolt)

* “Princeton Professor: Cultural Elite Can No Longer Tolerate Christians” (Ginni Thomas, Daily Caller)

Friday, October 03, 2014

The Great Divide

...I also believe it is entirely rational to fear the possibility of a major Ebola outbreak, of a threat to the president and his family, of jihadists crossing the border, of a large-scale European or Asian war, of nuclear proliferation, of terrorists detonating a weapon of mass destruction. These dangers are real, and pressing, and though the probability of their occurrence is not high, it is amplified by the staggering incompetence and failure and misplaced priorities of the U.S. government. It is not Ebola I am afraid of. It is our government’s ability to deal with Ebola.

Over the last few years the divergence between what the government promises and what it delivers, between what is says is happening or will happen and what actually is happening and does happen, between what it determines to be important and what the public wishes to be important—this gap has become abysmal, unavoidable, inescapable. We hear of “lone-wolf” terrorism, of “workplace violence,” that if you like your plan you can keep your plan. We are told that Benghazi was a spontaneous demonstration, that al Qaeda is on the run, that the border is secure as it has ever been, that I didn’t draw a red line, the world drew a red line, that the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups involved not a smidgen of corruption. We see the government spend billions on websites that do not function, and the VA consign patients to death by waiting list and then cover it up. We are assured that Putin won’t invade; that the Islamic State is the jayvee team of terrorism; that Bowe Bergdahl served with honor and distinction; that there is a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia.

While the public remains pro-Israel, our government negotiates with Israel’s enemies. While the public wants to reduce immigration, the preeminent legislative objective of both parties is a bill that would increase it. While the public is uninterested in global warming, while costly regulations could not pass a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate, while the scientific consensus behind the green agenda is, at the very least, fraying, the president says that climate change is the greatest threat to the United States. While Americans tell pollsters their economic situation has not improved, and that things are headed in the wrong direction—while even Democratic economists acknowledge the despondent state of the middle class—the president travels to Chicago to celebrate his economic recovery.

These disjunctions and confusions, these missteps, scandals, and miscalculations, have hurt Obama’s approval numbers. They endanger the Democratic Senate majority, contribute to the widespread sense of disorder and decay, shatter trust in government and in public institutions. They have put into stark relief a political class dominated by liberal partisans, captured by ideas and interests removed from those of ordinary Americans. The stories of ineptitude or malfeasance that appear in the daily newspaper are more than examples of high ideals executed poorly. They are examples of the pursuit of ideas—of equality and diversity and progress and centralization and environmentalism and globalization—to absurd and self-destructive limits…

Read the full text of "The Case for Panic," Matthew Continetti's superb article in the Washington Free Beacon here. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Let the "Light Rain" Fall On You Too

“Light Rain” is a beautiful little film (4 very worthwhile minutes) that was directed by Neil Horner and produced by Stephanie Wrate. It is based on a true story told by Bob Perks and was donated to The Macmillan Cancer Support to recognize the work they do for families dealing with cancer.

Do check it out. The resultant blessing and inspiration will make you glad you did.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Where Did It All Come From?

There are really only two options in the end. Either there is a personal God Who made everything (carefully, purposefully and in keeping with His moral character) or everything is mere meaninglessness, an absurd collision of matter and chance to which the only authentic response is despair.

How incomparably sweet then that the revelation of Holy Scripture corresponds to the overwhelming evidence of the world, the moral conscience, and the universal longing of the human heart in acknowledging that God is there…and He is not silent.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Darkness All Around? Let the Wind Blow.

Here’s just a few of the headlines from this evening’s Drudge Report:

* Army officer is told not to enter his daughter's high school because he's wearing his uniform
* Satanists to Hold Controversial Black Mass in Oklahoma
* Homeland Insecurity: Americans feel less safe than any time since 9/11, poll finds
* Welfare recipients can use debit cards for marijuana
* Professional Investors are Preparing for a Stock Market Crash
* Firefighters Say They Were Sent Home for Refusing to Remove Patriotic Stickers
* Ted Cruz: ‘Saturday Night Live’ Skits Illegal Under New Campaign Finance Proposal
* Long-term unemployed still at record levels

So, what to make of it all? Here’s a couple of very important things to remember.

Psalm 2:1-4 (NASB) — “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!’ He who sits in the heavens laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, ‘But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.’”

Isaiah 41:10 (NASB) — “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

John 14:27 (NASB) — [Jesus says] “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

What security, hope and joy one can possess even in the midst of such a wacky, wicked and suicidal culture when they know their sins are forgiven because they've trusted in the finished work of Jesus' cross, the Savior Who paid the penalty of our sins. And given that peace (as well as the exciting, eternal inheritance that awaits us), the Christian finds strength to hold on, to fight back, and to light up the darkness with truth, justice and the liberating power of the gospel.

Thank You, Lord.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Shadow Is a Passing Thing

“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.”

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

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"When Swing Was King" Produces Sweet Things

There were several sweet moments from today’s “When Swing Was King” at LCC in north Omaha. One involved a fellow who regularly refuses to come to the nursing home’s entertainment programs because, in his words, he “always gets bored but then hates to leave early because it seems rude.” So the activities director and her assistant started applauding when he wheeled himself down to the WSWK show. And not only did he stay throughout the program, he told us afterward that he loved it. “It was great, absolutely wonderful!” he said. “When did you say you’ll be back?”

Another delightful moment came when M….(94 in less than a month) came in to tell us she was sorry she had to miss the program but they were busy with her in her room. “I just wanted you to know that I would have been here if I could. And to thank you for coming every month and please keep on doing it.” We ended up having nice conversations with both of these residents and a few others besides. A really great time. Thanks, Lord.

Of course, you are (as always) invited to come along and enjoy the program and help us visit the residents of any of the 11 nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other senior centers where we present “When Swing Was King” every month. (We’re adding a 12th facility in September.) The schedule is right here.

And the program this time around?

1) Glenn Miller Orchestra, “A String of Pearls.”
2) Duke Ellington Orchestra, “If Dreams Come True.”
3) The Andrews Sisters, “Begin the Beguine.”
4) Artie Shaw Orchestra, “Night and Day.”
5) Ozzie Nelson Orchestra, “I Must See Annie Tonight.”
6) Clyde McCoy Orchestra, “Sugar Blues.”
7) Ella Fitzgerald, “Blue Moon.”
8) Benny Goodman Orchestra, “Stardust.”
9) Frank Sinatra, “The Coffee Song.”
10) Larry Clinton Orchestra featuring Bea Wain, “Heart and Soul.”
11) Les Brown Orchestra, “The Continental.”
12) Fred Astaire, “The Way You Look Tonight.” (Photo theme:  A review of the career of this great American dancer, singer and actor.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Defense Secretary: "The World Is Exploding All Over"

Yesterday, Chuck Hagel tried to reassure Americans with these comments. “The world is exploding all over. And so is the United States going to continue to have the resources, the capabilities, the leadership, the bandwidth to continue with the rebalance toward the Asia Pacific? And the answer is yes.”

Okay, forget the weird inclusion of “bandwidth” that Hagel is proud of the USA having plenty of. Wonder instead just where is the evidence for his optimism. After all, his boss and the rest of this Democrat administration has continually disappointed and disrespected America’s allies, emboldened and enabled America’s enemies, divided and demoralized the American people, and distracted and dismantled the U.S. military.

Alas, there’s only one thing true of the Defense Secretary’s analysis — the world is exploding all over.

Remember how the crowds cheered wildly when Barack Obama promised he would fundamentally transform America? Well, the crowds aren’t cheering anymore. Not since we have learned (to our regret and shame) just what the fellow envisioned.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shakin' It Up (A Pro-life Mini-Drama)

The following is one of the brief pro-life plays I've written over the years that you can find on this page of the Vital Signs Ministries website. They were written for performance in churches but they can, of course, be used in a variety of venues. And, yes, you may feel free to perform those plays without paying royalties.

Shakin' It Up

The scene is a high school cafeteria.  A few friends are sitting around a table with their sack lunches.  The scene opens on their conversation.

Abe: "Can you believe that guy?  That was the most awesome presentation I think we've ever had!"

Steven: "No kidding.  This high school will never be the same since Mr. Tanaka showed up.  Imagine the nerve of the guy."

Teresa: "How did he get away with it in the first place?  I mean, doing an all-school assembly about abortion from a pro-life perspective?  That's impossible, isn't it?"

Steven: "Guess not.  He just pulled it off!"

Abe: "Well, here's the deal.  Planned Parenthood has been in here to do assemblies every year I've been here, right?  Sure, they sometimes brought in some ditzy politician to say something completely bland about abstinence, but everybody knows it's always the same message.  (Abe goes into a falsetto, nasal voice.)  'Use a condom, and our low-dose birth control pills, kiddies, and then when they fail...which they most certainly will, by the way... you all come to Planned Parenthood and we'll take care of you but good!'"

Teresa: "And didn't I have a heck of a time getting out of going to those presentations. Remember how my dad threatened a lawsuit before Dr. Bell would allow me to be excused."

Abe: "There you go.  Some freedom of choice. Well, from what I heard, that's exactly what Mr. Tanaka pulled too.  He had all this evidence about Planned Parenthood having a complete monopoly on these sex-ed assemblies and he insisted through some lawyers that they either kick Planned Parenthood out completely or they allow him to present an alternative view."

Steven: "And what an alternative?  Man, he was electric!  I mean, you gotta' figure everybody was expecting a boring sermon and then Tanaka comes out and really shakes it up."

Teresa (Laughing.): "No kidding; how many of those kids guessed a pro-life talk would include a film clip from ‘Blade Runner’ or a music video from Nick Cannon?"

Steven: "My favorite moment was when he used Eugene O'Neill's play 'The Abortion.'  That was super-cool.  I was watching Ms. Nelson-Rice and she was burning up.  You know, O'Neill is one of her favorites and you could tell she hadn't even heard of that play!"

Teresa: "Speaking of surprises, what about when he was quoting all of those early feminists who were against abortion?  That was great."

Abe: "And Marshall McLuhan!  Who knew he was a pro-lifer?"

Teresa: "Don't forget the quotes from Mother Teresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Phil Simms, and the Bible.  Wow, you could feel the sense of tension in the whole gym."

Abe: "Even guys like Sally and Carmello who are so pro-choice -- they told me afterwards that Tanaka had scored some heavy points.  Sally was quick to remind me she wasn't changing her mind, and I quote, 'about a woman's choice being paramount,' but she did admit that maybe being pro-life had more going for it than she thought."

Steven: "Chalk up one for the good guys, huh?"

Terry: "Hey wait.  You know what was the very best moment?"

Abe: "Yeah, I think I know what you're gonna' say."

Terry: "It was when Mr. Tanaka pointed out that in those Planned Parenthood sessions, he had never been allowed to make any opposition statement or even ask any questions. But he was different. He believed in freedom of expression and so he would gladly allow anyone to respond to his presentation..."

Steven: "...if, that is, when Planned Parenthood conducts their assemblies in the future, they must allow the very same courtesy."

Abe: "And nobody moved!  Man, you could have heard a pin drop, huh?"

Terry: "The quiet you heard in that gym, fellas?  That was the sound of truth winning a round. And in a public school no less!"

Abe: “And all because a bold Christian did his homework and then took the risk of standing up for what's right!"

Steven: (Raising his milk carton.) "To Mr. Tanaka, a man who is shakin' things up for life.”  (All raise their milk and "clink" cartons.) 

Scene fades.

A Few Not-To-Be-Missed Articles

* “Obama’s Treachery and Republican Silence” (David Horowitz, NRO)

* “The American Left: Friends of Our Country’s Enemies” (Ron Radosh, PJ Media)

* “A teachable moment in foreign policy” (Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post)

* “Bullies for Social Justice: A vision of America that is neither just nor reasonable.” (Janice Shaw Crouse, The American Spectator)

* “The West is ignoring the practitioners of 'disproportionate’ violence” (Charles Moore, Telegraph)

Friday, August 01, 2014

In Vitro Fertilization's Monstrous Secret

The research scientists (like those at the Yale School of Medicine who presented an intensive study a few years ago) tell us that around 80-85% of the embryos transferred during in vitro fertilization never make it to birth.

And since nearly two million kids have been born through IVF methods (as has been boasted by specialists in the field), that means that at least 10,000,000 embryos involved in IVF transfer didn't make it.

That's why I again post this brief article originally written for a Vital Signs' radio program. I'm afraid it is as relevant as ever.

What Happens to the "Extra" Embryos?

Amid all the talk about the ever-increasing availability of in vitro fertilization techniques, one issue is almost never mentioned; namely, what happens to all those extra embryos?

Well, to be frank, almost none of them make it.

Despite whatever warm feeling one might have towards infertile couples who are being helped to conceive a child through in vitro fertilization, it is important to understand this fact. In vitro fertilization generally creates multiple embryos to ensure a greater probability of success. And, yes, most of the little humans thus created...die. Either those embryos die as a result of the limitation of the female body to accommodate them or, in many instances, they are never implanted in the first place.

In the case of the embryos left over in the storage facilities of fertility clinics, different fates await them. They can, for instance, be frozen for some unspecified purpose in the distant future (the storage frequently being lethal itself) or they can be sold or donated to scientific research, a monstrous end from which none survive. Many IVF clinics merely incinerate the tiny guys and gals when they die, treating them no better than medical waste. Others, trying to be less crass, give the embryos some kind of funeral.

But no matter where the tiny bodies end up, they’re simply dead bodies, not living, growing human beings. And nothing, not even the heartbreak of being unable to naturally conceive children, can justify such brutal pragmatics.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Real Story of Obama's "Small-Minded" Speech

Uh, about that video clip of a public speech in which Barack Obama insists that "ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs." You know, the clip that is going the rounds of your e-mail and Facebook friends? 

I’m afraid the video clip manipulates Obama’s speech pretty badly. Yes, he did say these things in a speech in Belgium last March, but the context of his remarks shows that he was criticizing this attitude rather than promoting it. The strength of the clip, of course, is that the doctored version may well be what the President believes. But it’s not exactly what he said. The particularly offensive line (“ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs, that order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign”) is said in reference to Europe’s history of divine monarchs, not to his own opinions.

Here’s the full text of the President’s speech. But I print below the most relevant portion.

“…And it was here in Europe, through centuries of struggle, through war and enlightenment, repression and revolution, that a particular set of ideals began to emerge, the belief that through conscience and free will, each of us has the right to live as we choose, the belief that power is derived from the consent of the governed and that laws and institutions should be established to protect that understanding.

And those ideas eventually inspired a band of colonialists across an ocean, and they wrote them into the founding documents that still guide America today, including the simple truth that all men, and women, are created equal.

But those ideals have also been tested, here in Europe and around the world. Those ideals have often been threatened by an older, more traditional view of power. This alternative vision argues that ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs, that order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign. Often this alternative vision roots itself in the notion that by virtue of race or faith or ethnicity, some are inherently superior to others and that individual identity must be defined by us versus them, or that national greatness must flow not by what people stand for, but what they are against…”

Again, what President Obama and his cronies are trying to do ("fundamentally transform" the United States) is certainly sinister. And this speech, even in its actual form, isn't a good one and his version of history, as usual, is wrong. For instance, the ideals of conscience and free will (which Obama himself feels compelled to trample over) did not evolve over centuries but were applications of Christianity. And confusing the initial colonists with the framers of the Declaration of Independence was inexcusably muddled. But I was particularly miffed at his use of the world "colonialists" over the one historically used, "colonists." The former is certainly much more pejorative. Again though, I fear it does reflect Obama's misunderstanding and even disdain for America's philosophic foundations.

Nevertheless, this doctored clip doesn't help us oppose Obama's socialist ideology. Barack Obama's actual words and actions, not distortions of the same, are what we must vigorously and prayerfully oppose.