Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Solzhenitsyn on America's “Decline in Courage”

With the momentous happenings of last week; particularly the straightforward long overdue speech of President Trump to the United Nations, followed by the latest cave in of Washington politicians to Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, the leftist media, and even the rants of unhinged dictators in North Korea and Iran,  I recalled a particularly relevant  passage from Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s commencement speech at Harvard in 1978.

“A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.

Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable, as well as intellectually and even morally worn it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and with countries not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.

Should one point out that from ancient times declining courage has been considered the beginning of the end?”

The Lord Delivers From All Fears

I wanted to share a portion of a letter I received today from a friend and pro-life colleague who lives in another state. It's a timeless message of encouragement regarding God breaking through to answer our needs as we step out in courageous faith.

“Even if you don’t get to have a conversation with anyone, your very presence outside the [abortion] clinic could save a baby’s life.” Those were the words shared with me before I left for [the abortion business] by a woman who years ago had gone there for an abortion. She had told herself before she left that if anyone was outside the clinic when she got there she wouldn’t go through with it. Sadly no one was there and she had the abortion even though it went against everything she believed. Her words encouraged me to think that God could use us even though we may not see the results.

I really didn’t want to go Friday morning, and thought about rescheduling but God had other plans. Before I left I was reading Psalm 34 and asking the Lord to help me be bold for Him and not be hesitant to talk with someone. “I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4) 

Well, he truly did deliver me from my fears and gave me a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel with a young truck driver who was picking up medical waste... As he was just finishing loading up his truck I asked him if he knew what they did inside the building and if it was difficult for him to go in there. He said he tries to shut out his mind and not think about it. I then asked him if he knew about Jesus and had an amazing opening to share the gospel with him. He was so receptive and genuinely interested in the tract Randy Alcorn had written, “How Can We Know We Will Go to Heaven?” he said he would read. 

Please pray for D----- that he would come to know Jesus and be in heaven with us! Most likely he’ll be back to the clinic so I may have more connection with him.

[My friend] J------ and others also had opportunities to reach out and it was an encouraging morning as we were stretched in our boldness. Thanks again for partnering with us in prayer.

Friday, September 22, 2017

September Songs

My, oh my; how the audiences are loving this month's “When Swing Was King” shows!

But, then again, that’s pretty much par for the course for these “sentimental journeys” we take back to the heady days when the residents of the senior care facilities we visit were going to homecoming and proms, gliding over the floor with their spouses at Peony Park or the Music Box, or listening to their favorite songs through radio waves or jukeboxes.

Through our visits to 11 facilities every month, we get to share with our friends laughter and tears, smiles and conversations, hugs and prayers. Wow.

The compliments and thanks that Claire and I receive are overwhelming and we remain oh-so-thankful not only for their kindnesses to us but for God giving us the opportunity to engage in this beautiful, inspiring ministry.

And just what songs are our audiences loving this month? Check out this lineup and then make a date to come join in the fun during one of our 3 remaining shows this month.

1) Glenn Miller Orchestra — “ In the Mood”
2) The Andrews Sisters (backed by Bob Crosby & the Bobcats) — “Begin the Beguine”
3) Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with Frank Sinatra — “This Love of Mine”
4) Benny Goodman Orchestra — “Stardust”
5) Artie Shaw Orchestra with Helen Forrest — “They Say”
6) Larry Clinton Orchestra — “Dodgin’ the Dean”
7) Ella Fitzgerald — “Isn’t It Romantic”
8) Vaughn Monroe Orchestra — “Ballerina”
9) Harry James Orchestra — “You Made Me Love You”
10) Rosemary Clooney — “Hey There”
11) Nat King Cole — “L.O.V.E.”
12) Andy Williams — “Moon River”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Rainy Day Prayer

A Rainy Day Prayer

Prayers were prayed this morning,
Prayers in the driving rain,
Outside a horrid business
Where unborn babes are slain.

This place is a most cruel trap
Where fools are easily caught,
Where violence and lies live
But preborn kids do not.

The sky was dark. Thunder growled.
From the heights, lightening was thrown.
And heaven’s tears fell apace
To mingle with my own.

I know, of course, God’s judgment
Is but for a moment stayed.
And on the Great Day of Wrath
All accounts will be fully paid.

Yet God wants to hear honest prayers.
So I strike the same old drum.
Please rain truth and justice down,
And come, Lord Jesus, come.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Will Someone Please Turn Off the Noise?

When asked what he would like the orchestra to play while he was dining at a London restaurant, playwright George Bernard Shaw thoughtfully replied, “Dominoes.”

In this matter, I’m with Shaw.

It is a crazy, unhealthy feature of modern life — this matter of unrelenting noise. For instance, having television or radio, canned music or internet advertisements blaring at us absolutely everywhere we go. Airports, restaurants, convenience stores, doctor’s offices. the car mechanic’s waiting room, shopping malls, the vehicle next to yours at a stoplight, coffee shops, nursing home and hospital rooms, even church. For crying out loud, the other day I was putting gas in the car and had to try and block out the TV playing inside the gas pump!

Will someone please turn off the incessant noise!

George Prochnik, in his book “In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise,” warns of the harmful physical impact of noise. “Noise wreaks havoc on all different parts of our bodies. The heart rate accelerates. We get vasoconstriction…The really scary thing is even if we do habituate mentally to noise, that doesn't change what's happening to our bodies.”

Is noise truly inescapable in our time? Is there no place where we can escape the intrusion of dissonant sound? Must our bodies and brains be forced to suffer the constant stress from clamoring, clattering commotion?

Perhaps not. But it will certainly take effort to turn down the noise in our lives, to listen more attentively to the natural sounds of life: God’s creation, calm conversation, serene music. More radical still, shouldn’t we be making time to relish some peace and…genuine quiet?

William Penn, in a book containing advice to his children, wrote, “True silence is the rest of the mind and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment. It is a great virtue; it covers folly, keeps secrets, avoids disputes, and prevents sin.”

Amen, Brother Penn. A quiet but unqualified amen.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

“A Global Climactic Upheaval”

From Newsweek magazine comes this warning. “There are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production - with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth.”

A headline in the New York Times dealt with the same impending catastrophe: “Climate Changes Endanger World's Food Output.”

And then from TIME Magazine, here’s this. “As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval.”

Pretty ominous sounding stuff, right? So, is Al Gore correct? And is the media hype about today’s global warming crisis spot on?

Well, before you answer, let me tell you that the 3 “old guard” media examples I just cited all came from…the 1970s! Uh huh. The 1970s. And they were all from articles raging about what they predicted was…get ready for it…a cataclysmic ice age! Hmm. I wonder how that worked out for ‘em?

Now, I don’t blame anyone for being concerned about the weather catastrophes our nation is experiencing: the hurricanes and floods, the forest fires, and so on. But the main thing to deal with here is not politics, especially the hysterical and manipulative rants of the left. No, the main thing is to realize the ever-present dangers of living in a fallen planet and thus preparing for one’s inevitable exit from it.  After all, the planet as we know it is doomed. The Bible verifies that. One day this sin-stained, broken earth will be destroyed completely in order for the awesome Hand of the sovereign God to remake it. There will be new heavens and a new earth – perfect, redeemed, and wholly reconciled to God’s righteousness and peace. But that new earth is specifically remade for all who have put their trust in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to pay the penalty of their sins, those who been adopted into His forever family.

But, of course, it won’t be TIME or Newsweek or any of the other politically correct vehicles telling you about that. No, for that sweet message you’ll have to go to an older, more trustworthy source.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

“Making Nebraska the Best Place To Be a Baby” — An Open Letter to UNL President Hank Bounds

Dear Dr. Bounds,

I was delighted to hear your segment during the halftime of the NU-Oregon football game last week and was especially impressed with your promise for both the University and you personally to serve with compassion and skill the “youngest, most vulnerable” of our state’s children. Indeed, you stated your desire to “make Nebraska the best place to be a baby.”  That’s terrific, Dr. Bounds, and thank you so much for your explanation of UNL’s commitment.

Therefore, with the strength of that noble promise to “make Nebraska the best place to be a baby”, can I then assume that you will be working hard to expose the vicious abortion practices of Planned Parenthood in Nebraska, to eliminate funding for this mega-abortion corporation, and to end any assistance or cooperative programs between Planned Parenthood and the state or its university?

I certainly hope so, Dr. Bounds. For, after all, if you are not committed to oppose Planned Parenthood and the other abortionists in our state, the pledge to make Nebraska the best place for a baby rings tragically and hypocritically hollow.

Thank you for your consideration of this oh-so-important matter.

Denny Hartford
Director, Vital Signs Ministries

Catching Up on News You Need to Know

It's been too long since I created a compilation post for Vital Signs Blog, partly because of our schedule and partly because there have been so many hugely significant news events and movements going on. Okay, enough already. I've scanned through 3 weeks of backed up emails, alerts, and bookmarks and now deliver ten articles I think genuinely indispensable. Let's go...

* “Planned Parenthood Killed Over 1 Million Babies in Abortions Worldwide in 2016” (Jonathan Abbamonte, LifeNews.com)

* “In a World of Real Evil, the Left Fights Fake Evil” (Dennis Prager, Daily Signal)

* “Oh Scientia! Oh Mores!” (Jonathan Goldberg, National Review)

* “Stunning testimony: Voting machines can be hacked without a trace of evidence” (Stephen Dinan, Washington Times)

* “Union Bosses Have Too Much Control. It’s Time to Protect the Rights of American Workers” (Rep. Phil Roe, Daily Signal)

“The Devil's Silence” (Erick Erickson, Town Hall)

* “Study: The Liberal Media’s Summer of Pummeling Trump” (Rich Noyes & Mike Ciandella, MRC Newsbusters)

* “Rep. Trent Franks: Life is a gift, Iceland, no matter what” (Rep. Trent Franks, Washington Examiner)

* “Seattle's Mayor Resigns After Fifth Allegation of Child Sexual Abuse” (Christine Rousselle, Town Hall)

* “Why ‘Dunkirk’ Is the Hit of the Summer” (Suzanne Fields, Town Hall)

Monday, September 04, 2017

The Very Ground Has Changed

Returning to Kirksville and Novinger, Missouri for a family reunion a couple of weeks ago brought back a flood of memories.  Of course, I grew up in Denver, Colorado and never lived in Missouri myself  but this was home for Dad and Mom -- where they grew up, where they courted, where they embarked on their new life together. To add to the sentimental significance, these two towns were the backdrop for my mom’s diary which we discovered after her death six years ago. We edited the text of that diary, added photos of her and Dad, added photos of the towns and illustrations of things she mentioned, and created an album which is one of our living room treasures.  Therefore, though the memories this Missouri visit stirred in me were not of a direct origin, they were nevertheless vivid and dear.

I was thinking this morning of one memory in particular, one that occurred sometime in the mid-1970s when Claire and I were with my parents visiting the farm where Dad grew up. I had been walking around the dilapidated structure that had once been his home.  The small house had seen service as a hay barn since the time Dad had left it in the Depression when he was 17.  Even as such, it was now falling apart and rotting away.

Meanwhile, Dad was walking around in what I supposed had been pasture or maybe part of the cornfield he had tended as a kid.  But as I came up to him, he was slowly wandering about with a mournful, perplexed look.  “What’s up?”  I asked.  He looked at me thoughtfully. And then, with a slight, wistful smile, he said, “Son, the ground has changed here.  The very ground has changed.”

Dad then explained how he had at first wondered if his memory was playing tricks on him.  But no, he had carefully worked it out, even measuring his strides from the house to the spot where he now stood.  It was as solid and flat as a coin.  “It’s as level as can be right here but, believe you me, there used to be a slope here, one steep enough so’s we kids could slide down it when it snowed.  I know I’m not mistaken.”  He then looked around again and repeated in a pensive manner that deeply touched me.  “Yes, Dennis; the very ground has changed.”

Now I’m sure one of the reasons this particular memory returned to me was because of a conversation Claire and I had engaged in while driving through Missouri that morning.  We had talked about the moral devolution that has occurred in our lifetime, a tragic cultural decline in which America (and the West in general) has become uglier, meaner, more chaotic, more perverted, more enslaved to base, brutish philosophies.

Here’s just one illustration of that change, a striking one that I came across while reading a book recently given to us by Harold and Donna Berry. It’s an excerpt of a speech given at a prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C. by Earl Warren who, just the year before, had been appointed as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. As you read these lines, try to imagine the violent, hateful rants which such a speech would trigger from today’s media, Hollywood celebrities, establishment educators, leaders of the Democrat Party, and others in the self-appointed cultural elite.

Said Chief Justice Warren at that prayer breakfast, “I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Saviour have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses. Whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay or the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the same objective is present: a Christian land governed by Christian principles...I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their express belief in it...I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion.  I like also to believe that as long as we do so no great harm can come to our country.”

You see what I mean?  We live in a much different America today. Indeed, “the very ground has changed.”

But is this the end of the story?  Of course not.  For the Christian (that is, the person who has put his complete trust in Jesus as payment for his sins), there is a forever victory awaiting.  This is the Christian’s secure inheritance, the final realization of the blessed promises God has made in His covenants with those who believe in and follow Him. And the comforting, motivating knowledge of that superb destiny -- plus the existential power of the indwelling Holy Spirit – provides believers all they need to respond to all of the “ground changing” challenges before us. Those challenges, by the way, are the same they’ve always been for God’s people.  1) Do not be dismayed. Look to heaven’s graces for present support. Keep things in their proper perspective. Keep things in their proper priority.  2) Resist the world’s efforts to pour you into its molds.  Keep yourself unstained by the world.  Don’t give in to it.  Don’t even compromise with it.  3) Challenge the culture by wisely, winsomely, and courageously setting the light of Christ on a hill where people can see it, where spectators will know that truth, holiness, mercy, and liberation are still available to those who humbly seek God’s face.

Yes, though the very ground be changed, we need not be alarmed or dismayed for Jesus is the Cornerstone. He is the Savior Who is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He is the Prime Mover Who remains ever unmoved. And, by His gracious power, He offers spiritual solidity to all Who are His. “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.”  (Isaiah 26:3-4) A similar pledge is made in Psalm 40:2; namely, that the faithfulness of God will set our feet upon a rock and make our footsteps firm.

So be of good courage as you walk in His paths. For no matter the shifting sands of fashion and philosophy; no matter the erosion of culture; no matter the shaking of the world (whether by its own drunken reeling or even by divine judgment), the Christian’s position and calling remain the same.