Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Another Success for Vital Signs' Christmas Card Party

Last night was awfully cold and windy but, inside our home, those arriving for
the Vital Signs Ministries Christmas card party found a warm and welcoming atmosphere, stimulating fellowship with their pro-life colleagues, and carefully prepared resources to help make their advocacy efforts of the evening as effective as possible.

Claire had completed the transformation of our home, making it as pretty and Christmassy as ever. But the emphasis for the night was functionality and so we crammed in tables and chairs enough to take care of 17 of us. We poured the coffee and tea and started quickly to the task. I explained the resources available. They included letter targets, sample messages, and address sheets. There were also Christmas cards I had spent much of the day in preparing beforehand -- cards meant for 17 persecuted Christians in totalitarian countries. Using the remarkable website of Voice of the Martyrs, I had printed off a few Scripture verses and a couple lines of personal encouragement in the prisoners' own languages and pasted them inside each card. I ended up with 4 lovely, colorful Christmas cards with different verses and Bible verses for each prisoner and pasted them inside each one. That made for 68 different cards in all. All that was needed was the signatures and prayers of our guests.

But actually, that job came a bit later in the evening. We started out with prayers for wisdom and for God's protection of the cards while in transit and for each card to pack the power of the Holy Spirit to the recipients. Then we set aside the first first 20-25 minutes to put into Christmas cards our respect, appreciation, and Christmas goodwill to U.S. military veterans. My, how they took to that task! In fact, when we called time, 124 Christmas cards had been finished! We will be handing those out to the residents of the Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home and to select veterans in our December "When Swing Was King" audiences.

Next, we entered the freestyle phase of the evening as our letter-writing crew chose their own topics and recipients. Here's how that broke down. 11 message-bearing Christmas cards were sent to government officials in countries like Communist China, Iran, and Eritrea, urging greater religious freedom for people of faith and conscience. There were also specific appeals for justice in behalf of the persecuted believers in the VOM list.

Also in the works were 23 Christmas cards with requests to companies (like Wells Fargo, Chevron, Bath & Body Works, Energizer, Clorox, the American Cancer Society, and others) who support the mega-abortion corporation that is Planned Parenthood to immediately drop their support. On the other hand, we also wrote 23 Christmas cards expressing our thanks to companies that are friendly to Christian faith and family values like Belk, Interstate Batteries, Scheels, Hobby Lobby, and Chick-fil-A.

27 of the cards had messages to our political leaders Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Ben Sasse, Deb Fischer, and Don Bacon. They offered congratulations and promises of prayer support but they also urged quick action on priorities. Chief among them? The defunding of Planned Parenthood. And finally, 6 Christmas cards expressed the sentiments of the season to Christian heroes Franklin Graham and Joni Eareckson Tada.

That made for a total of 283 Christmas cards!

Plus there were a few taking resources home to help with their prayers and a few more letters.

It was a terrific night.

And, as always, we are praying that others (like you reading this post!) will be moved to let us help you and your friends, church, Sunday School class, Bible study, put into motion your own letter-writing party and thus make way for light shining, truth telling, and prayer stimulating public witness through letters. (Indeed, one invitation has already come through! Who will be next?)

Our deepest thanks to all who made the Christmas card party such a fantastic night of fellowship and ministry -- Pat Osborne, John & Barb Malek, Perly & Sandy Schoville, Don Kohls, Mary Roberts, Allen & Cindy Nelson, Karla Struble, Keith & Carol Moran, Ruth Denzler, and Quint and Carol Coppi. You guys were super!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cuba's Thug-In-Chief Dies: A Few Pointed Responses

Over on my Facebook page, I’ve posted a few items in the last few days concerning the death of Communist Cuba's thug-in-chief Fidel Castro and the wacky eulogies that have come forth from various know-nothings of the Left. I re-post them for the blog here as well as including several other excellent articles I know you’ll find of great value.

1) As an accompaniment to several editorial cartoons I wrote, “Reading the fawning eulogies of Communist dictator Fidel Castro made by reporters and politicians of the left (including, of course, President Obama), I was once again struck by how desperately lacking these ‘progressives’ are in any of these basic things: acceptance of historical fact, genuine empathy for the poor and downtrodden, respect for human rights and religious freedom, journalistic responsibility, understanding of economic realities, and the most simple of moral principles. Alas, there are indeed none so blind as those who will not see.”

2) “Against All Hope: Denny Reviews One of His Favorite Books” (Denny Hartford, The Book Den)

3) “Journalists Hail Castro’s Achievements, ‘George Washington,’ ‘Folk Hero to Most of Us’” (Brent Baker, MRC News Busters)

4) “Fidel Castro Finally Dies” (Paul Mirengoff, Power Line)

5) “13 Facts About Fidel Castro” (Paul Mirengoff, Power Line)

6) “5 Terrible Responses to Fidel Castro's Death From World Leaders” (Anthony L. Fisher, Hit & Run)

7) “Castro’s Socialism and Death” (Daniel Greenfield, Front Page Magazine)

8) “Castro, Chavez, and bad luck” (Glenn Reynolds, USA Today)

9) “Trudeau’s turn from cool to laughing stock” (Terry Glavin, Maclean’s)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Post-Holiday Posts

You say you're sick and tired of the schlock poured out by the old guard media and that you're looking instead for some relevant, fact-based articles about the world you live in?

Glad to hear it.

One of our jobs here at Vital Signs Blog is to provide Christian activists with informative, enlightening, and helpful articles from trustworthy sources. Here is the latest batch that we heartily recommend.

* “Make religious freedom great again: Undoing the damage of the Obama administration” (Ryan T. Anderson, Mercator)

* “Do sex education programs work? No, says major new study” (Philippa Taylor, Mercator)

* “Putin Imperils Religious Freedom” (Cliff May, Town Hall)

* “France Bans Ad Featuring Kids with Down Syndrome Because it Might Make Women Who Aborted Their Disabled Kids Uncomfortable” (Frank Camp, Daily Wire)

* “Pair charged in explosive device at elementary school; planned to shoot cops, start race war” (Carol Robinson, Alabama Media)

* “HUD Gives Poor More Rent Money to Live in ‘Higher Opportunity’ Areas With ‘Lower Poverty’” (Judicial Watch)

* “Protecting life, not punishing women: Overturning Roe v. Wade does not mean women will be thrown into prison for having an abortion.” (Tim Bradley, Mercator)

* “Abortion Activists Destroy Pro-Life Pregnancy Center in Suspected Arson, Set Center’s Chapel on Fire” (

* “BREAKING: Late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart calls it quits in Maryland” (Cheryl Sullenger, Life Site News)

* “More young people contracting ‘old-age’ conditions including varicose veins due to sedentary lifestyles” (Katie Forster, Independent)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Now That Trump Has Won

At the Vital Signs Ministries Pie Social a few days ago, we made available for signatures the open letters we were sending to Nebraska Senators Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, 2nd District Representative-elect Don Bacon, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and President-elect Donald Trump. The 4 basic points of those appeals can be seen in the sample letter below.

We encourage you to use this letter as a model (and a stimulant) to follow with your own letters and cards and phone calls to these folks. Indeed, why not do what we did and print such letters up and make them available for your family, friends, Sunday School classes, Bible studies, co-workers, etc to sign as well?

Dear Senator Fischer, 

Back in September, Donald Trump organized a pro-life coalition that he said would help him achieve four specific and critically important goals: 1) Nominate Justices to the Supreme Court who would be pro-life and strict constitutionalists; 2) Pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act; 3) De-fund the mega-abortion corporation that is Planned Parenthood; and 4) Make the Hyde Amendment permanent.

As pro-life Nebraskans, we enthusiastically applaud these goals, believing that they represent common-sense moral progress in our efforts to create a more just, more compassionate, more nurturing culture. And we write to urge you to please dedicate your own efforts to help President Trump keep his promises. 

Thank you. You are all in our frequent and fervent prayers.


Vital Signs Ministries and all those signing below…

Christmas Lights, Christmas Letters

As you may know, one of the Vital Signs Ministries activities that has been going
on for more than 3 decades now is our quarterly letter-writing parties. At these events we use the powers of both prayer and pen to promote issues of life, justice, religious freedom, and Christian chivalry. A special Christmas-themed letter-writing party will be held at the Hartford home on Tuesday night, November 29th from 7 to 9. We will concentrate our efforts with letters and Christmas cards directed to political representatives, business leaders, retired and injured members of the military, and Christians imprisoned for their faith around the world. Everything is provided -- envelopes, stamps, addresses, bullet points for your messages, and, of course, hot drinks and dessert treats.

Interested? Then give us a call or send along a email. By the way, if the house can't hold us, we will shift the event to a local restaurant party room. So your quick RSVP would be a great help.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Post-Election Roundup #3

While the old guard media cries foul, wrings their hands, and doubles down on their distorted, smug, and unfair "reporting," the alternative media lives in the real world. Get the straight skinny with these insightful -- and fact-based -- articles on politics and culture.

* “The Stupefying Hypocrisy of the Luxury-Peddling New York Times” (Heather MacDonald, National Review)

* “President-Elect Donald Trump: ‘I’m Pro-Life, The Judges Will be Pro-Life’” (Steven Ertelt,

* “Five thoughts on the election” (Fr. Shenan Boquet, Life Site News)

* “Donald Trump Just Made These 10 Things Cool Again” (Sean Davis, Federalist)

* “‘I Won’” (Kevin D. Williamsom, National Review)

* “The GOP’s Trump Card in the States” (Steven Malanga, City Journal)

* “As National Debt Nears $20 Trillion, Senator Takes Aim at Government Waste” (Rachel del Guidice, Daily Signal)

* “California jumps the shark” (Joel Kotkin, Orange County Register)

* “Pope fails to reply to 4 cardinals’ urgent plea for clarification, so they go public” (John-Henry Westen, Life Site News)

* “Bare, Ruined Choirs: How Barack Obama wrecked the Democratic Party” (John Podhoretz & Noah C. Rothman, Commentary)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Rollicking Roundup of Post-Election "Must Reads"

Each one of these articles is terrific. I guarantee you'll find them quite helpful in both expanding your own understanding and in better expressing yourself to others.

* “The unbearable smugness of the press” (Will Rahn, CBS News)

* “Coming Media Discoveries” (Peter Kirsanow, National Review)

* “Law, Order, and Trump” (Heather MacDonald, City Journal)

* “Why Trump won” (Barry Shaw, Arutz Sheva, Israel National News)

* “The Great Liberal Freakout” (Steven Hayward, Power Line)

* “The People Are Laughing at the Liberal Media” (Cliff Kincaid, Accuracy in Media)

* “At Every Level of Government, the Democratic Party is Dead” (Rick Moran, PJ Media)

* “Donald Trump and the Rejection of Progressivism: Americans voted against the Left’s contempt for the Constitution.” (Myron Magnet, City Journal)

* “Republicans flip three governors’ seats: Victories raise party’s total to 33, largest amount since 1922” (Valerie Richardson, Washington Times)

* “The USS Zumwalt Can't Fire Its Guns Because the Ammo Is Too Expensive” (Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics)

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Reviewing the Branson Excursion

Claire and I are back from Branson and, despite the hoopla generated by the hooligans running for President, we are feeling rested, refreshed, and recommitted to the blessed honor we have of raising Christ’s standard through Vital Signs Ministries.

There’s a lot to do right away – plan for the VSM Pie Social on November 11th (details at the end of October’s LifeSharer letter which is right here), create the next November “When Swing Was King” volume,  catch up on correspondence, and finish work on a grand Christmas letter-writing party we’re having on November 29th (details right here).

There was some work in our Branson schedule, especially Claire’s work on a major project we’re calling “Sentence Sermons” and, for my part, a lot of planning and reading.  But we did well in making sure that our “working vacation” included plenty of “vacation” as well.  Among the highlights?

* We did a lot of hiking along Table Rock Lake. Claire took her longest walks ever on this beautiful trail – 5.3 miles. And she did it 4 times!  However, she quickly beat her record by joining me for a walk through Dogwood Canyon that was 7.8 miles!  I also threw in some long walks around the RecPlex and through the very hilly town of Branson.  My walks followed my usual pattern of 7.5 miles and so, with getting in 9 days, I added about 68 miles to my 2016 total. (My present total for the year, after another 4 hikes since I returned home, is now 1302.2 miles.)

* Reading.  The books I brought along for Branson were, with one exception, excellent – informative, challenging, and inspiring. The good ones were Randy Alcorn’s hand in Hand; Francis Schaeffer’s The Church Before the Watching World; Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life by Colin Duriez; and the Lew Wallace classic, Ben Hur.  The bad one was our literary club selection for the month, The Oxbow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark.  This was one of the most dreadful novels I’ve ever read.  No kidding.  But the others I most heartily recommend.  Of course, Claire had to read Oxbow too but she also got some time in a re-read of Randy Alcorn's exciting novel, Deadline.

* Another really neat part of our vacation was time spent with family and friends. We had two splendid visits up in Crane, Missouri with my sweet Aunt Farris and her daughters Belinda and Debbie and Belinda’s husband, Wayne.  We also were treated to a delicious dinner by my cousin David and his wife, Heather.  We also had a lovely luncheon conversation with Paul Richard, a Facebook friend who is now a face to face friend.  And we enjoyed several shorter conversations along the way with people we met.  Most particular in this category was a friendship I formed through early morning coffees at Panera with a journeyman country musician, J.C. Bullock, and another with Jack, a good old boy who expertly (and inexpensively) reheeled my boots.

* We attended church twice at Williams Memorial Chapel on the campus of College of the Ozarks. It’s the kind of church we would definitely attend if we could.  Bible preaching.  Prayers.  Responsive reading.  A gorgeous, spacious atmosphere that naturally encourages reverence and quietude of spirit.  Exquisite and inspiring music that is provided by a student choir and congregational hymns – none of the performance-based, loud, emotional coercion, and frequently insipid syrup that has become such a dominating part of most evangelical services nowadays. Sigh.

* We also ate lunch at the College's Keeter Center a couple of times.  It’s our favorite vacation restaurant not only because of the quality of food, the pretty surroundings, but the fun we always have in talking with students.  Of course, Branson is a great place for restaurants but, with our Paleo diets, we only rarely go out.  But our meals at home were delicious…and relaxed…and cheap!

* One of our favorite Branson activities is feeding the ducks on the Taneycomo
down by Branson Landing. In fact, we did that three times!

* We did a little shopping: clothes at Belk's and White House Black Market, apple butter and a sweatshirt at the College of the Ozarks, groceries at Country Mart and Price Chopper, and homemade pork rinds at Whiskers Country Corner.

* We spent several pleasant hours at Silver Dollar City listening to the Homestead Pickers (our favorite, shown at left) and the Horse Creek Band.  We watched enthusiastic and skilled couples at a barn dance -- very cool. With three kids joining us, we rode a water raft and got all wet.  We looked over the work of many cowboy artists and pioneer craftsmen.  And then that evening we enjoyed dinner at Shindigs while listening to the music of John Walter Morrison.

* We put together two Christmas-themed jigsaw puzzles.  We wrote 70 postcards. We took drives through the country.  We relaxed and drank tea and coffee and apple cider.  We talked and prayed and enjoyed the beauty of the Ozarks.  We did a lot of reviewing and evaluating the past year, including giving grades on how our New Year Resolutions have turned out.  And we did a lot of planning for our work with Vital Signs Ministries in the coming months.

* And finally, there was a nice ride home to Omaha, blessed with more conversation and, thanks to Daniel Heiser, listening to the Focus on the Family radio adaptations of C.S. Lewis’ The Magicians’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Fantastic!

It was a really terrific couple of weeks.

(Postscript. If you're interested, there are a few more photos of our time in the Branson area over on our personal Facebook pages.)

A Special Christmas Card Party

A longstanding tradition with Vital Signs Ministries is the P.A.L. Night, a heart-
driven, hands-on, letter-writing party in which we use the power of the pen to address issues of the sanctity of life, religious freedom, and justice as well as to send greetings and thank-yous to those deserving. In recent years, that last category has included our letters and cards to persecuted Christians around the world, U.S. military veterans in hospitals or other care facilities, missionaries, various pro-life heroes, and senior citizens.

It is a very effective ministry and it doesn’t require great writers or people with encyclopedic knowledge of political and cultural issues. No, our letter-writing parties are remarkable do-able, inspiring, and even fun. And this year’s Christmas-themed event will be especially strong in all three areas. So please plan on making stimulating fellowship a kickoff to your Christmas season by joining us in shining our lights through winsome letters and cards.

This special Christmas letter-writing party will be on Monday evening, November 29th at 7:00 at the Hartford home. Stationery, Christmas cards, stamps, addresses, and the relevant information needed to write principled messages will be provided…as will coffee, tea, apple cider, cocoa, and plenty of Christmas cookies! Please come. And please let us know so that we can best prepare. Thank you!