Monday, December 28, 2020

Say What? (The Latest Vital Signs Blog Compilation)

* "'Blueprint for Positive Change' Exposes the Left’s Plans for Conservatives" (Rep. Brian Babin, Daily Signal)

* "The link between sex trafficking, abortion, and Planned Parenthood" (Nancy Flanders, Live Action)

* "Did Americans Come to Love Big Brother?" (Victor Davis Hanson, American Greatness)

* "The year Big Tech became the Ministry of Truth" (Fraser Myers, Spiked)

* "Exiled archbishop appeals for forgiveness after emotional return to Belarus" (Elise Ann Allen, Crux)

* "Rand Paul's 'Festivus Report' Details the Insane Ways Government Wasted $54 Billion in 2020" (Leah Barkoukis, Town Hall)

* "The Perversion of Science" (Ben Shapiro, Daily Signal)

A Whole Season of Christmas

(The following is reposted, with a couple of edits, from 15 years ago!)

Contrary to popular belief, the season of Christmas is not the period from Thanksgiving through December 25th. That idea comes more from modern advertisers and merchandise salesman – the “only so many shopping days ’til Christmas” folks. But the true season of Christmas is not the period leading up to Christmas Day but rather the one leading from it! The Twelve Days of Christmas is much more than the title of a terribly redundant song; it suggests a way that the Advent of our Lord could be better celebrated.

Claire and I believe that Christmas is just too big and beautiful to be contained in one day. We love December and its various anticipations of Christmas, but our real celebration starts rather than ends on December 25th. While so many are weighed down by the post-holiday blues, we're just getting underway! Interested in stretching your Christmas out to its fullest? Here are a few suggestions.

1) The enjoyment of Christmas movies, reading, music, and parties go on apace for Claire and me even after the 25th. This is an extremely helpful exercise for all those people who complain about how fast Christmas comes and goes. Take it easy! When you utilize the whole season (all of December and then the 12 Days of Christmas proper), you'll see you'll have more time for Christmas priorities as well as its most pleasant diversions. Many who adopt this approach find that as they de-emphasize the one day celebration (with its hectic stress on big dollar presents and big dinner preparations), they are much more able to enjoy family, contemplation, and the other more spiritual elements of Christmas.

2) The nobility of celebrating the entire season of Christmas is that it emphasizes extending over spending. Our gift-giving goes a long way beyond Christmas Morning because we open presents each of the Twelve Days. Imagine how much fun that is! And yet the costs of gift giving actually went down with this practice, not up. For even though we are giving each other more gifts than ever, we have become more creative and personal in our selection. We might still buy each other a couple of “pricey” gifts but, with a whole 12 Days to cover, we were forced to come up with other ideas. And those other ideas have proven to be delightful ways of coming together in the spirit of Christmas.

For example, now our Christmas gifts include more personal favors and time spent together. For instance, Claire opens an envelope on the Seventh Day of Christmas which contains a new recipe along with a note declaring that I'm fixing that particular dish for supper tonight. Or it might be a day off from housework, the addresses of three newly discovered websites I know she'll enjoy checking out, or just a promise of a leisurely car ride out in the country. As for my pleasure in gifts, it is centered on inexpensive things anyway like used books, used records, and...let's see; did I mention used books and records already? Anyhow, the point is that whether you use twelve days or one day to celebrate Christmas, the gifts that matter most are ones that underscore things like time, creativity, and personal attention more than mere “stuff.” For us, the extended approach was very helpful in pursuing the better things.

3) Even within the Twelve Days of Christmas, Claire and I have a few special observances, especially St. Stephen's Day (December 26th) and the Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28th). Activities for observing the former should certainly include reading the Acts passages relating to Stephen's selection as deacon, his sermon before the Council, and his martyrdom. It could also involve writing a letter or two to missionaries, witnessing to your Faith, or visiting a widow or someone else in need of encouragement. And Holy Innocents Day, of course, has an obvious significance for pro-life activists like us. It is an excellent time for spiritual exercises and public actions that promote the sanctity of life.

4) Another important element of our Christmas season is taking time to consider, pray about, and discuss our New Year's resolutions. Now, I know some Christians are critical of those who make New Year's resolutions. That's unfortunate. I assume it's because these critics believe making resolutions suggests a dependence upon one's own strength rather than God's grace. Wrong. Making resolutions is most definitely a biblical practice. Think for a moment about the Scripture's use of exhortational verbs like reckon, count, establish, consider, dedicate, consecrate, remember, put aside, purpose, gird your mind, and many more. All refer to the prayerful making (and keeping) of resolutions to live godly. An evaluation of one's life is always in order as is a careful plan of action to be more effective as a “doer of the Word.” After all, this is a key purpose of the Sabbath rest God instituted. So, why not use the Twelve Days to go deeper than usual in your spiritual analysis so that you can better serve the Savior in the year to come?

5) And finally, all things come to their completion. The Christmas season is over for us when Twelfth Night comes around but there's one more important Christmas event. That is our celebration of Epiphany on January 6th. Epiphany is the holiday when the manifestation of Jesus is celebrated in much of the world, the day when we remember the visit of the magi as well as the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. It is also the gift-giving Christmas for much of the eastern world. Claire and I use Epiphany as a way to close our Christmas season and we do so with a final Christmas party. Most significantly, we take time with our friends to wrap up the figures from our main nativity set, each person sharing a testimony or a prayer relating to each nativity figure. It is always a very moving time of fellowship.

So, there you go -- a few ideas from our house to yours about how Christmas can be extended in time and, we believe, elevated in spirit.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

He Was Born to Die (Harold Berry)

For many years now, Claire and I have been among the many who are honored to have Harold Berry as a friend and mentor. Whether our conversations over coffee have taken place at the Grace Bible College snack shop, or the Burger King on South 13th Street, or the senior facility in Lincoln where he now lives, I have always found Harold to be a source of wisdom, kindness, good humor, and a steadfast love for the Savior. And so we are very pleased that his friendship continues to challenge and encourage us.

Case in point? The brief speech below was written and delivered by Harold for a Toastmasters group that he has recently joined. It is just one example of the many ways he continues to serve the Lord Jesus: writing for Back to the Bible, intercession, counsel to friends, evangelism, leading Bible studies and hymn sings, learning, and looking eagerly for the Lord's return. Here is his latest Toastmasters talk.

Born to Die

It’s hard to believe than anyone is born to die. You were obviously born to live. When your mother looked into your newborn eyes her last thought was how long you would live. You didn’t come to die; you came to live. Advertisers know this and spend millions of dollars hawking anything that might extend your life a little longer. 

Not so with Jesus. 

He came for the sole purpose of dying for you and me. He was and is God but had to take on human flesh in order to die for mankind. He was fully God and fully Man. Why did He do this? The Bible makes it clear it was because of His love for us. First John 4:10 says, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

As the Creator of the universe and King of kings, one would think Jesus would have a birth reflecting royalty. Not so.

He was born in a stable and placed in a crude manger that slobbering animals ate out of. His birth was first announced to lowly shepherds. The mother of Jesus considered Him as her Savior. Luke 1:47 records she said, “My Spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Luke 2:24 reveals the sacrifice they made when Jesus was eight days old was due to their poverty-- “either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Even the brothers of Jesus did not believe He was the Messiah; that is, the Christ. Some do not believe that Mary and Joseph had children after the virgin birth of Jesus, but Luke referred to Jesus as her “firstborn” (Luke 2:7).

If you have only one child you would likely not call the child your “firstborn.” (See also Matthew 13:54-56.) Also, in this regard some translations in John 3:16 refer to Jesus as God’s “only begotten” Son. The words “only begotten” do not refer to His birth. In the book of Hebrews, Isaac is referred to as Abraham’s “only begotten” son (see Hebrews 11:17). Isaac was not Abraham’s only son nor even his oldest. The expression refers to a special relationship, not to birth.

Jesus predicted His death and even His resurrection from the dead on the third day, but His disciples did not understand and were not believers until after His resurrection. Even the half-brothers born to Mary and Joseph after His virgin birth did not believe in Him (see John 7:5). No wonder, can you imagine growing up with a perfect brother!

At Christmastime we remember the One who was born to die. How does one know, of all the world religions, what to believe about how to get right with God and be ready for eternity? As you think of Jesus, I remind you, No one else has died to pay for your sins and mine. In John 14:6, Jesus is recorded as saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In Acts 4:12, the apostle Peter wrote, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” As you think of other religious leaders, remember, only the grave of the Lord Jesus Christ is empty. 

The heart of my Christmas message is: What will you do with the One who was born to die for you?

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Bit More Christmas Poetry

We have sent over to our "When Swing Was King" senior living facilities the latest in our poetry reading experiment. And, like the previous 3 editions, we are also posting this on Vital Signs Ministries' You Tube channel. That way the activity directors can use that method for small group showings or, in the case of independent living residents, just simply provide the link so they can go there on their own. It's the same principle as posting our ongoing activity pages on the Vital Signs Ministries website. Thus, whoever wants to participate in our services can...even if they're clear across the country. 

 Anyhow, here's the latest...about 22 minutes of Christmas poetry.

Another Catching Up on AMI (Articles of Major Importance)

* "They Don’t Have Trump to Kick Around Anymore" (Conrad Black, American Greatness)

* "The Biggest Political Blunder in American History" (Steve McCann, American Thinker)

* "Thousands of pastors go into hiding amid China’s rising persecution, attempts to eradicate Christianity" (Jackson Elliott, Christian Post)

* "The Future of Christian Marriage" (John Stonestreet & Shane Morris, BreakPoint)

* "China Is Not Rising, It’s Faltering" (Andrew Latham, Federalist)

Thursday, December 17, 2020

"A Christmas Reflection"

Moved by a conversation with friends this morning, Claire and I decided to post a short story (a very short story) that I wrote as part of Vital Signs Ministries’ Christmas letter of 3 years ago.  We offer it again as a Christmas meditation on truths that are as crucial to celebrate as ever.  And though it is a fictional tale, it is certainly illustrative of the hundreds of testimonies of its kind that we've heard in these last 40 years of pro-life work. We also present it as a fresh thank you for all the prayers, encouragement, and financial support people have given to Vital Signs Ministries to pursue its mission over these many years to cherish, defend, and promote the sanctity of human life. So, here is “A Christmas Reflection.”

Darren tightened the last nut on the kickstand with a mild sigh of satisfaction. He then positioned the bike right in front of the Christmas tree so that Jill would see it as soon as she came down the stairs and turned into the living room. He smiled broadly at the thought. Jill will be so excited and happy. And, because the snow wasn’t slated to start until later on Christmas Day, he knew she would ask him to let her ride it as soon as it was light outside. And, of course, he would say yes, for he was looking forward to that thrill as much as she would.

He turned off the lamp, leaving the only illumination in the room to the colorful brilliance of the Christmas tree. As always, Janey had done a beautiful job decorating the tree, but the effect of those Christmas lights now reflecting off both the ornaments and the chrome of the bicycle’s fenders was particularly dazzling. Profoundly moving too. In fact, Darren had to wipe away a couple of tears as he imagined the joy and gratitude his daughter would feel tomorrow morning when she entered into Christmas.

He loved her so. And because Jill was his only daughter and the child who had come so far after the three boys – 13 years after Joe – she had won a very special place in his heart. And now, with Gary living with his young family in Texas, Harris in grad school in Oklahoma, and Joe serving on the USS Ronald Reagan currently in the south Atlantic, Jill was all they had close to them.

Darren sat down on the couch to relish the moment and to enjoy for a few more minutes the beauty of this Christmas scene. He let his mind sweep back through these last 9 years. Oh, he had loved raising the boys – well, it wasn’t always a fun job – but Jill had brought to Janey and him such different, such intense blessings. Like hearing her recite her poem during the Christmas program at school last week. And helping her with her report on Squanto and the Pilgrims last month. And seeing how bravely she dared (and conquered) the waves coming onto the beaches of Galveston last summer at the family reunion.

His coffee had gone cold but Darren sipped it anyway, caught up more in the past than the present. His mind flipped through a lively variety of images depicting life with their precious daughter. Was it only last year that she made the local paper for the Easter poems she wrote for residents of the nursing home? And the bravery she showed when she broke her arm. What a trooper she had been. And there were the endless hours spent with her dolls in the playhouse he had built in the back yard, the way she loved to dress up for the special teas with her grandma and aunts, and her passion for being read to before bed. What a lovely and loving child she was – tender and curious and engaging. How grateful to God he was that….

Darren’s breath stopped and he swallowed hard as another memory suddenly thrust its way into this sweet Christmas moment. And with this remembrance, the tears started to flow freely. For Darren was now recalling that July morning long ago when he and Janey had driven up to the Planned Parenthood. They had finally made the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy. No, that’s not exactly correct. Darren fought back a convulsive sob as he admitted to himself the truth. They had decided to terminate Jill’s life. He buried his face in his hands and wept.

Had anyone asked them before Janey’s pregnancy test came back positive, they would probably have said they were against abortion. It certainly seemed, on the face of it, to be a cruel and unnatural act – an evil one even. But when they had worried over Janey’s age, their family situation, the fluidity of his position with the company right then, and the move they had been working on to a larger home on a nice acreage somewhere…well, everything was against having a baby at this stage of their life. They hadn’t felt very good about it, of course, but they figured an abortion was simply making the best of a bad situation.

However, Darren’s unease about the act (so invasive, so violent, so final) had only increased during the drive to the abortion clinic that day. For starters, they had left the house in the dark hours of early morning because they were driving to another city. There was an abortion clinic in their own city but Janey refused to even consider going there. She didn’t want to chance being recognized. That suggested to Darren that she wasn’t anywhere near the guilt-free attitude she had tried to portray. And then there was the troubling quiet of the drive. He had attempted some small talk at first but when he received stiff one-word answers or, more frequently, complete silence, he began to realize that this abortion wasn’t going to be the simple solution they had hoped.

And then finally they approached the neighborhood where the GPS was directing them to the Planned Parenthood. But as they drove down the street, two striking scenes arrested their consciences. On their left was a day care business and though there were no children present in the yard, Darren’s eyes viewed with stunning sorrow the swing sets, jungle gym, and small basketball hoops. He couldn’t help but imagine his boys climbing, running, and playing in such a place. His boys who had enjoyed such an active, happy childhood. His boys who had been allowed (no, make that welcomed) into his and Janey’s world. He knew that Janey was probably seeing and thinking the same things.

But then a bit further down the street and just as the GPS voice announced, “Your destination is on your right,” they saw a small group of pro-life people on the sidewalk. There were only 6 or 7 of them but they certainly made for a winsome sight, a strong contrast to the dark mood that had filled his and Janey’s hearts for the last month. Some of the pro-lifers held large pictures of infants emblazoned with phrases like “Please Let Me Live” and “Life: It’s a Beautiful Choice” and “We Can Help You & Your Baby.” A couple of the men in the group held colorful banners with similar messages. Darren slowed the car and pushed up his turn signal. But he didn’t turn in. Indeed, though stopped right in the middle of the street, he didn’t move the car at all. Instead, he looked through unbidden tears at the photos of the babies and then to the appealing smiles of the pro-lifers. He felt Janey’s tenseness beside him and figured she was feeling the same sense of dread and conviction.

Darren turned to his wife and reached for her hand. “Honey, we shouldn’t be here, should we? These people are right. Life is a beautiful choice. It was for Gary, Harris, and Joe. And it is for this little one too.

Beside him Janey dissolved in tears but she squeezed his hand and vigorously nodded her head. “Oh, thank you, Darren. Thank you so much. Ever since we got into the car, I’ve been praying for God to somehow stop us. I guess I’ve known all along this was terribly wrong. But it was like we had got on a slide and couldn’t find the strength to stop ourselves. But those people…well, they were the answer to my prayer, weren’t they? Thank you so much, Darren, for not turning in.”

Darren smiled. It was the first sincere smile he had enjoyed for weeks. “Let’s go home, okay?”

Janey wiped tears away and smiled back at him. Her whole countenance had changed. He saw relief and gratitude but also happiness and resolve. “Yes, of course. Let’s go home. But two things before we do, okay? I’d like to get some breakfast. You know, I haven’t eaten hardly anything for two days and I’m really hungry. But first, could we thank these people for being here?”

Darren had thought of doing that too and so he started moving the car slowly towards the curb. He pushed the button which lowered the window on Janey’s side of the car as two women came over. There was a brief but joyous conversation. And when Darren and Janey pulled away a few minutes later, heading toward the Panera restaurant they had passed on the highway, they had a lot of information the pro-lifers had given them including contacts for a pregnancy care center in their town and a pastor they could contact for ongoing help.

It ended up that Darren and Janey gratefully used those contacts in the following weeks. The pastoral contact had led them to switching churches and, through the pregnancy center, Janey had found another doctor as well as new friends who had been a great help in awakening their desire to know and serve God. And, of course, most important of all, that momentous meeting with the pro-lifers on the sidewalk had protected Jill from the barbaric destruction that Planned Parenthood had been so eager to commit. “Dear God,” Darren whispered, “thank You so much for delivering Jill…for delivering all of us!”

The cold coffee was gone. And Darren’s tears had dried. It was way past time for him to get to bed. He would, after all, need all the energy he could get to handle Jill on that bike tomorrow morning. But he couldn’t pull himself away just yet from the pensive beauty of the Christmas tree and its lights reflecting off the chrome fenders of that beautiful bike.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Poetry, Anyone?

As long as the senior living facilities remain closed to our doing live "When Swing Was King" shows, we will continue to create for our friends there our weekly 9-page activity packet of trivia questions, photos, song lyrics, quotations, and a personal letter. (You can find all 42 of them on the Vital Signs Ministries website.) But we have recently started another project for them -- poetry reading. We send this to the facilities on a DVD copy but also post them on the Vital Signs Ministries YouTube channel. 

We have done three of these so far, each about 20 minutes. And I'm posting the latest one, a Christmas-themed edition, right here just in case you have friends or family members that might find poetry of some interest, comfort, or inspiration. 

Who knows? You might even like it.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Our Activity Packets Are Celebrating Christmas!

As most of you know, with the severe quarantines in senior living facilities, all 12 of our monthly “When Swing Was King” shows have been cancelled -- since last March! What a tragic situation this is for people already facing isolation, loneliness, depression, and acute boredom. Well, one of the things we have done to provide at least a bit of relief to our friends there was to begin creating activity pages that offer entertaining quizzes, points to ponder, song lyrics to finish, photos that take them back, and personal notes from Claire and me in each 9-page packet. We are getting ready to send out our latest...Number 41 in the series. Wow.

You can utilize these packets in your own ministry to seniors, baby boomers, and
anybody else who you think might be dealing with boredom and/or the frustration of being marginalized right off the page. Just go to this page of the Vital Signs Ministries website and you can print off any (or all) of them there. Indeed, by downloading the packets, you could even send them via email to friends and family members wherever they might be.

Here's the link to that VSM website page.

And, yes, these two photo collages are part of the quizzes found in one of our activity packets...#40, to be precise.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Will Yours Be a Car Wash Christmas?

While leaving a speaking engagement in a nearby town the other night, I drove by a car wash that had this posted on a big sign, “Need a Christmas gift idea? Give free tokens!”

I smiled at what I figured was a quirky kind of joke. But, after a few minutes, I thought again. Maybe it wasn't a joke at all. With the modern Yuletide so awash in remarkably garish, gratuitous and expensive gifts, maybe these guys have gone in a completely different direction -- opting instead for something as mundane and impersonal as car wash tokens.

Is this what Christmas has come to?

In the “happy golden days of yore,” giving presents required some personal investment. Dad made you a little wagon; Momma knitted you a scarf; Grandma baked you a pie. Even after Christmas began to be commercialized, shopping for family and friends was a time-consuming activity -- not because there was so much to buy but because you were searching for just the right gift, something you knew the recipient needed or wanted.

That kind of Christmas shopping is almost nonexistent nowadays. It no longer involves thinking carefully about what to buy. And making something by hand? Good grief -- forget about it. We've lost the time. We've lost the talents. We've even lost the desire itself to expend our own efforts in the creation of a Christmas present. No, just give ‘em a gift card to a department store or to an online company.

One of the causes for this condition is that the commercialization of Christmas I mentioned earlier just got further and further out of hand. One Christmas gift wasn't enough for little Timmy. He now had to get 2 presents, then 4 presents, then 11 presents. And the Christmas lists expanded too. No longer were parents expected to give presents to just their kids (and maybe a little tip for the milkman and the paperboy) but to practically everybody they knew.

So no longer could the gifts be very personal. How could they be? Dad can only whittle so many flutes and Mamma only sew so many dresses. Furthermore, you were coerced by advertisers, storekeepers, peer pressure, and an distorted doctrine of what true affection required (one's worth was measured in quantity of dollars spent) into a whole new system of “celebrating” Christmas. The modern holiday no longer emphasized reveling with friends and family -- and sharing gifts with those closest to you something reflective of your personal devotion to them. It emphasized instead the mania of Black Friday, excessive spending, debt, stress, and resentment. The giving of gifts became one of the banes of Christmas rather than one of its blessings.

Can we go back? Can we recover some of those warmer, truer, healthier Christmas customs? Of course. It might take some courage. It might take some explanations. And it might take some sacrifice. After all, baking cookies takes longer than buying an iTunes gift card. But if we want our lives (and those of our family members and friends) to find in Christmas some genuine affection, spiritual meaning, and moral stimulation, we need to concentrate again on quality, not quantity.

Our country can't afford anymore to keep Christmas according to Madison Avenue. The consuming spirit of consumerism (pun intended) has ruined our economy and spoiled our culture. And though it has left in its wake a false sense of entitlement, irresponsible expectations, and a secularized and commercialized Christmas ethic, we can start rebuilding. Recall for a moment the intense warmth and hope you feel when watching It’s A Wonderful Life, White Christmas, or Miracle on 34th Street. Those feelings have nothing to do with Christmas presents but rather with the invaluable treasures represented by romance, family, redemption, community, and festivity.

With love, reason, and inventive effort, we can indeed recapture some of that warmth and bring it into real life. Perhaps, like me, you're unable to whittle or knit. Fine. But can you bake a pie? Decorate cookies? Throw a party? Sing a song? Tell a story? Write a personal Christmas card? Or, at the very least, spend some time trying to select a personal gift for your loved one rather than take the prosaic path of the gift card -- or the car wash tokens?

Merry Christmas!

(Note: This article was originally posted on Vital Signs Blog in 2011.)

And the Truth Telling Goes On...

Despite the location, despite the cold temperatures, and despite the increasing darkness and chaos of the surrounding culture, there was an especially triumphant spirit among the pro-life intercessors who were outside the Planned Parenthood abortion business this morning. 

And that triumphant spirit was particularly authentic and valuable because the Christians displaying it are not at all heedless of what's going on in the world. Indeed, they do not have their heads stuck in the sand. They have not surrendered to the spirit of the age. They do not seek their comfort and peace of mind through mindless entertainment nor the type of pleasant, accommodating pietism so commonplace in the Church today.

No, the triumph that we relished this morning came from our embrace of the sovereignty of Almighty God, the deliverance from the penalty of our sins offered by Christ's atoning death in our behalf, the glorious (and forever) future that is the inheritance of every born again Christian, and the ever-present power of the Holy Spirit which allows us (in whatever circumstances) to speak the truth in love to the culture. It was around these wonderful truths this morning that we prayed together, shared Scriptures, conversed, and sang Christmas carols -- all the while presenting a winsome pro-life witness to those driving by. 

And this intensely stimulating fellowship continued over coffee and tea over at John & Barb's later. That was terrific too. What a critical help in life is having friends like these. Thanks Matt, John, Barb, Bev, Isaac, Patrick, Quint, Mary, Allen, Ruth, Don, and Mark. And thanks to all of you who pray alongside with us in this important ministry. 

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

A Fantastic Flurry of Christmas Cards!

Well, it was quite a two-day run for Christmas cards around here. For instance, the annual Christmas card writing party of Vital Signs Ministries was held in the Hartford home on Tuesday night, December 1 with 16 of us packed into our living and dining rooms. Upon arrival, Claire having decorated for the holiday season the weekend before, our guests found Christmas bursting out all over. And, regarding the card party, we were all set up for action. The coffee was brewed, the cookies laid out, and the colorful Christmas cards, envelopes, pens and colored pencils, address sheets, and Christmas-themed coloring pages for the kids were all arranged on the tables. Quint opened in prayer and off we went.

Our “target list” for the party included public officials, first responders, heroes of the Faith, and, using first names given us by activity directors at some of the senior living centers where we present (or used to present!) our “When Swing Was King” shows, we sent several, different Christmas cards each to 40 quarantined seniors. We took our usual 90 minutes of concentrated letter-writing and, being the experienced, diligent, and proficient people they are, we ended our party with 170 Christmas cards! Wow.

But actually Tuesday’s Christmas card party had been preceded by another
successful one; namely, the inaugural letter-writing outreach of Grace Bible Church. In that case, 21 people gathered in the yet-to-be renovated section of Southroads Shopping Center where the church will be headquartered in the near (we hope!) future. And though we didn’t have any Christmas decorations to provide atmosphere, there was Christmas music playing, flavored coffee and Christmas tea, and delicious treats provided by Claire and Paula. Those things, added as they were to the enthusiastic spirit of the Christmas card writers – many of them rookies in the art – made up for the lack of tinsel and colored lights. We shared a few letter-writing tips, passed out the address sheets, prayed for the Lord’s help in our efforts, and got busy.

The recipient list for this church-oriented party was different than the Vital Signs activity in a couple of significant ways. Our first responder list, for instance, was centered on the police, firefighter, and rescue squads of the geographic area in which the church lies. That was also true of the 20 names we had been given by a nearby assisted living center. Also, we wrote the missionaries that Grace Bible Church supports as well as several church folks who have been absent because of virus concerns and other health challenges. And like at the Vital Signs party, there was a bit of coloring and artwork created by the kids present to help adorn our cards. 

The result?  Well, a good time was had by all. That’s important. Even more so, however, was that 124 Christmas cards were sent out, all accompanied by our goodwill and earnest prayers. And as people filed out, we were delighted to hear several ask the question, “So, when are we going to do something like this again?” Thank You, Lord.

However, this two-day run of Christmas card writing isn’t the end of the work for there remain two more parts of this ministry to make it complete. The first is my writing up an insert to go into the cards we're delivering tomorrow to all of the residents of the senior living centers.  This insert is designed to alleviate any confusion (as in “Why am I getting a Christmas card from someone I don’t know?”) and to strengthen yet further the ministry we are already engaged in with the residents of these 3 senior facilities. 

And the second part of the Christmas card party that is yet to be finished? Why, that’s your part! For even if you were not present at either party, it’s not too late to get into the Christmas action by writing a few cards on your own. Write friends and family. Write thank yous to those who have ministered to you. Write letters of advocacy and challenge to public officials, business leaders, and media. And, of course, if it would be helpful to you, please feel free to refer to the address list used at the Vital Signs Ministries letter-writing party. It can easily be found on our website. Just look for “The Latest Address List” under the Taking Action section. And for members of Grace Bible Church, we suggest you use the church directory for appropriate addresses.

Writing Christmas cards? Come on; it’s a splendid way to shine the light of Christ in this holy and joyful season.