Thursday, July 21, 2016

Happy Birthday Number 65: The Mt. Bierstadt Climb

The following is a pictorial review of my 65th birthday climb of Mt. Bierstadt, outside Georgetown, Colorado.

1) Before heading up into the mountains,
we stopped in Golden to refresh the flower decorations on my Dad's and Mom's grave.

2) It was a brisk, strong wind that was blowing in the Rockies Sunday evening. This was the view northwest from our hotel in Frisco.

3) Monday morning, the 4th of July, we drove back down to Georgetown and then up the Guanella Pass road towards the trailhead where I would start my hike up Mt. Bierstadt the next day. This was one of the molting mountain goats who said hey to us on the way.

4) And on the same morning, one of the marmots also greeted us. Hey to you too, little buddy.

5) One of the many waterfalls in the area.

6) The view of the Sawtooth and Mt. Bierstadt from the Guanella Pass trailhead.

7) Looking north from the trailhead. (This is still on the 4th of July.)

8) July 5th, 6:23 AM. (My 65th birthday.) I put on my pack and begin my way through the willow marsh atop a frosted-over wooden platform.

9) Down deeper into the valley towards Scott Gomer Creek.

10) I decide it's too early to get wet crossing the creek so I look upstream to find a place I can jump across. I find a spot about 400 yards east.

11) Still in the wet marsh area, I'm looking north here towards one of the small lakes in the valley.

12) The trail through the sage begins to dry up a bit which makes for easier hiking. But I'm well aware that I haven't yet begun much of an ascent.

13) The narrow path now begins a fairly gentle climb.

14) Well underway now, I definitely feel the difference between my regular walking on a level parking lot in Omaha and hiking up a Colorado mountain that reaches over 14,000 feet. Whew! The view of the Sawtooth and Mt. Bierstadt is terrific...but pretty daunting too.

15) It's a tough go, but I'm still making a good pace here. But the summit looks farther away than ever. And, just as important, it looks considerably more difficult than I was led to believe.

16) Have I used the word daunting yet?

17) It's still a hike, but it's becoming increasingly steep. Also, I'm certainly feeling the altitude. The pack isn't heavy but I'm stopping more often to rest my legs and catch my breath before moving on.

18) I've brought along my regular prayer lists and the Bible verses I'm currently using for memorization and meditatiion. However, I don't get around to using them. My prayers are too focused on asking God to supply the strength, patience, and persistence required...not to get to the summit, but just to get a little further. I manage to pray for a few people and ministries and other things. And I'm thrilled by what I'm seeing and...just by making it this far.

19) The view north. It has been partly cloudy and cool so far. But I'm sweating pretty good. And what skin is showing is well lathered with sun screen.

20) The path is giving way to rocks.

21) One of my favorite photos of the trek. This is looking from the shadow of Bierstadt towards the mountain ranges north.

22) And another beauty. This is looking westward.

23) I'm really beat now but, thank the Lord, He is sustaining me so far. Most of the others who started the trek have already turned around. Time, nausea, headaches, lack of breath, fatigue, and the dangers that come with rock scrambling are taking their toll.

24) I've nearly given up several times yet I'm still on the way. And now, there's a new surge of energy, daring, and sheer fun as I start scrambling over the rocks towards the summit. I just might make it yet!

25) I've made it to the top! But it's an awfully scary place for a guy like me who has vertigo! This photo shows Abyss Lake over the cliffs and way down yonder to the south. I'm thrilled to be here...but I'm far from comfortable.

26) I shared my summit experience with this fearless and agile little guy.

27) It's official. I've made the 14,065 to the peak of Mt. Bierstadt! Thank You, Lord!

28) Among Claire's prayers (she was still down in Frisco) were that someone would be on the summit when I was to take a couple of photos. Well, a young couple, Blake and Miriam, showed up. We had a nice visit on our precarious perch and we took each other's pictures. What a birthday!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Opie Taylor, Where Are You When We Need You?

As if we needed yet another example of how self-involved, nerdy, and slavishly addicted to computer-generated amusement is American youth, along comes the phenomenon of Pokemon Go, the raging fad that promised to get kids out of doors yet still couldn’t get them out of their own heads. We shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, we have been allowing, even encouraging, kids to spend their leisure time (and they have plenty of it) plugged in first, to the television, then to videos, and then to even deeper psychological connections created by increasingly interactive smart phone games.

I thought about how stark a contrast Opie Taylor was to today’s American kids when I recently caught one of the reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. In this episode, aired originally in 1964, Opie found $50 alongside the road. After waiting the established period of one week, he was allowed to keep his treasure. Well, the primary lesson of the story concerned how willing Opie was to return the money to its rightful owner, even though he had the legal right to keep it. He wanted to do the right thing. The episode was typical of the show, emphasizing as it regularly did such moral values as kindness, fairness, humility, patriotism, courage, loyalty, good manners, and so on.

However, what I found most interesting about this particular program — and what seemed so dramatically unlike contemporary culture — was what Opie was considering doing with his money. He wasn’t thinking about Pokemon objects, computer games, video games, smart phone apps, iTune downloads, or graphic novels strong on violence, sexual images, and mysticism. No, Opie’s plan was to save most of the money (that’s pretty radical in itself) and spend the rest on one or more of the following: a bike, a baseball glove, an erector set, a football helmet, or what he finally decided on, a fishing pole. All involved wholesome, healthy, active, even intergenerational play. For Andy and Barney had already agreed to help with the erector set. And the show frequently featured Opie fishing with his friends and his father, playing ball with both as well.

I’ve thought about that program throughout the week, usually when I spot some kid walking along, head down, eyes fixed on the tiny screen of his phone. But I’ve also thought about Opie when I pass by ball fields and swimming pools that are empty of children, streets without bikes, sidewalks without skateboards, yards without kids playing tag, cowboys and Indians, or hide and seek.

Alas, all the kids are inside, luxuriating in the air conditioning and plugged into their electronic devices.

Opie Taylor, where are you when we need you?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Speaking Out Against Planned Parenthood

Claire and I held our large, winsome pro-life signs outside the Planned Parenthood abortion mill this morning as we prayed against the ongoing slaughter of the innocents committed by the abortion industry. It's all we can do there. The abortion clients park in the back parking lot where we cannot address them directly. So, we rely on our signs, praying as we kindly wave to them that they might stop for a moment and speak to us. We also wave to all those driving by, hoping that our witness will be a blessing of truth to them that the Holy Spirit will use throughout their day.

And we sometimes get the chance to speak to employees. Today my basic message was, "You know the Bible makes it very clear that Jesus loves the little children. And the Bible also is clear that Jesus does not take at all kindly to those who hurt children. This, of course, is what Planned Parenthood does. Indeed, you guys are not only hurting kids, you're destroying them. Please, for their sakes and for the sake of your own soul, stop this violent madness. We are praying for you today to quit this terrible job and to turn to Jesus Christ who died on that cross to pay for all of our sins...all of my sins and all of yours too. But you must receive that sweet gift of salvation by turning to him in faith. Please, do this today and walk away from this wicked business."

For more information on how you can be a part of a national prayer campaign against the violent injustice of Planned Parenthood, please follow this link for details about the "3 for 5" Prayer Team.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"When Swing Was King" Celebrates a Birthday!

Six years ago this month, Claire and I created a little Power Point presentation featuring big band music and photos as a party program for my Mom and a few of her friends who, like her, were residents of the Life Care Center, a nursing home at 6032 Ville de Sante Drive in Omaha. That party proved to be a big hit, so much so that we planned a second that would include anybody in the facility who wanted to attend. And then we made it a monthly event. And, within weeks, we were presenting what we titled “When Swing Was King” at several other senior care facilities here in town…always completely free of charge.

It took off even more dramatically after that, resulting in the outreach that it is today — a unique, highly relevant, extremely popular program that combines entertainment, inspiration, memory stimulation, and personal visitation from established friends that is presented to the same 12/13 senior care facilities every month!

Add in the special showings we’ve made to care facilities, churches, and other groups (including audiences in Lincoln, central Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas), and the number of “When Swing Was King” presentations we’ve done since that party for Mom is very close to...wait for it...800.


Well, in celebration and thanksgiving, the staff and residents of Life Care Center in Omaha threw a birthday party for the “When Swing Was King” outreach in the cafeteria this afternoon following today’s show. It was a splendid affair, complete with enthusiastic applause, complements from residents and staff (including the LCC Director), a warm-hearted thank you speech from the Activities Director, and a gorgeously decorated cake.

Needless to say, Claire and I were thrilled and honored and greatly encouraged. Thank you so much Sarah, Kathy, Martha, Gloria, and all the rest of the LCC staff we know so well for this swell party. And thanks also to all of the residents of LCC who are such good friends to Claire and me as well as being stalwart fans of “When Swing Was King.”

By the way, here's the playlist from the current edition of “When Swing Was King.” Please feel free to drop in on us at any showing. The schedule is right here.

1) Glenn Miller Orchestra — “American Patrol”
2) Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (vocals by Frank Sinatra) — “Dolores”
3) Artie Shaw Orchestra — “Frenesi”
4) Benny Goodman (vocals by Ella Fitzgerald) — “Goodnight, My Love”
5) Jan Garber Orchestra — “I’ll See You In My Dreams”
6) Doris Day — “You Oughta’ Be in Pictures”
7) Guy Lombardo Orchesta — “Embraceable You”
8) The McGuire Sisters — “Something’s Gotta’ Give”
9) Freddy Martin Orchestra — “Dancing In The Dark”
10) Bing Crosby (backed by the Xavier Cugat Orchestra) — “You Belong to My Heart”
11) The Mills Brothers — “Standin’ On The Corner”
12) Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra (vocals by the Artie Malvin Singers) — “So Rare”

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Few "Don't Miss" Articles

There are a still a few journalists worthy of the name -- men and women and publications that care about truth, relevance, character, and moral virtue. Here are a few from recent days that I heartily recommend.

* “America’s Worst President?” (Myron Magnet, City Journal)

* “It Took 19 Tortured Interpretations of the Law to Let Hillary Off the Hook” (Rachel Alexander, The Stream)

* “Rigged 101” (Rich Lowry, Jewish World Review)

* “Potential Trump VP on abortion: 'Women have to be able to choose’” (Vaughn Hillyard & Carrie Dann, NBC News)

* “Obama and Company Decline to Speak Honestly About Dallas” (Paul Mirengoff, Power Line)

* “Socialism’s Support for Abortion Drove Whittaker Chambers to Faith” (Jonathan Leaf, The Stream)

* “Orgy of Guilt” (Mona Charen, Jewish World Review)

* “Media Ignore the Tsunami of Black Violence against Cops” (Colin Flaherty, American Thinker)

*  “The meaning of the baby bust” (Joel Kotkin & Wendell Cox, Orange County Register)

Uh, About Those Entertainment Choices

Scripture warns us of the dangers of loving the world (I John 2:15), of being stained by the world (James 1:27), of being friends of the world which is hostility towards God (James 4:4), of being defiled and entangled by the world (2 Peter 2:20), and so on.  Nevertheless, modern Christians tend to disregard these critical warnings, especially, it seems, when it comes to the entertainment choices they make. We may wish that there were more wholesome choices when it comes to TV or movies or video games or sports or books but if there aren’t…well, we end up taking whatever the world is serving.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Christians need not be slavishly dependent on the world to provide us entertainment. We have been liberated…and for holy purposes. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” (Titus 2:11,12)

And do we not have better choices before us than the schlock of modern TV and films?  Are there no good books, books that are wholesome, informative, funny, inspiring?  Are there not movies available that don’t require us to compromise our values or sear our consciences?  And what of the radical idea of actually getting involved in life ourselves rather than spending all our leisure hours in being spectators? Are there no opportunities for sports and hobbies and arts and conversation and enjoying God’s creation?

Come on; let’s get unplugged from the world and instead make sure that our Christianity is enlightening and empowering…even our leisure time.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Sifting Through the Rubble

Looking for some insightful commentary about the disastrous events of this past week? Here are five of the best I've read.

* “The Fatal Flaws in Comey’s Theory of Why Clinton Shouldn’t Be Prosecuted” (Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review)

* “This Bananas Republic” (Kevin D. Williamson, National Review) (“Mrs. Clinton couldn’t get indicted if she tried…But it is worth considering the context. The context is this: America is a lawless state.”)

* “Obama’s false racism claims are putting cops’ lives in danger” (John R. Lott Jr.,  New York Post)

* “Heather Mac Donald Talks (with Rush Limbaugh) About Her Essential Book: The War on Cops”

* “Uncovered documents show aborted babies used for government research started decades ago” (Carole Novielli, Live Action News)

* “How a rolling sexual revolution is crushing freedom: A strong voice from Europe warns that 'sexual liberation' is anything but.” (Gabriele Kuby, Mercator)

Thursday, July 07, 2016

The "Paradise Portfolio" -- A Surefire Investment Plan

If you were to believe the advertisements of many brokerage firms and insurance companies, you would think that a safe, even luxurious, future was yours if you simply sign on the dotted line with them. But that certainly doesn’t make sense for those who can hardly keep up with expenses now.

The truth is in the numbers; a fellow who lives from paycheck to paycheck just doesn’t have enough to build up a cushion for retirement.

Now don’t get me wrong. Financial planning, frugality, savings, and prudent investments are all good things.  But the best investment plan of all – and the only surefire one – is the one explained by Jesus when He explicitly told us to lay up our treasures in heaven.  This is a fantastic opportunity for us!  Indeed, all of God’s children are saved from the penalty of sin through faith in God’s grace alone.

However, the Scriptures are also clear that believers will receive heavenly rewards by living lives of obedience, trust, and love.  And that heavenly savings account (I’ve taken to calling it my paradise portfolio) is completely safe from thieves, natural forces, and all the sin-stained politics of this earth.

This investment plan, by the way, has nothing to do with your income, your pension, your Social Security or Medicare.  It has only to deal with your faithfulness to God.

No, after paying our bills, we may not have a nickel left over to put into stocks, bonds, or precious metals. But we can always make investments in heaven, adding every single day to that glorious paradise portfolio that the Lord is saving for us as part of our forever inheritance.

Now that is great news.

(Denny Hartford, from the latest letter from Vital Signs Ministries)