Thursday, February 18, 2021

The February Vital Signs Letter: "The True Emmanuel Moment"

“Now, it may well be that you have heard sermons before that present the pro-life applications of Scriptures like Psalm 139, Jeremiah 22, the Decalogue itself, the royal law taught by Jesus, James 2, and many others. 

But this morning I’d like to examine a text that you may not have connected to the sanctity of human life.  In fact, it is a text that we tend to associate with Christmas in that it tells of the annunciation of the virgin birth followed by Mary’s visit to Elizabeth...”

Read the whole letter right here.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Do You Know These Olympic Champions?

This week I'll be working on #49 in our ongoing series of activity pages designed for 1) the residents of the senior facilities where we present our live "When Swing Was King" shows; 2) those who copy off the pages to pass around to other seniors in their families, neighborhoods, or churches; and 3) anyone else who is looking for an interesting, wholesome way to break the chains of loneliness or boredom. 

But the photo collage below comes from last week's packet, #48. That one -- and all the others -- can be found at this page of the Vital Signs Ministries website. 

And the quiz to go with this particular collage? Can you name the famous Olympic athletes shown? Want a few hints? Well, the names to choose from, as well as the answers, can be found with the rest of #48.


 

A Heavenly Conversation

In the second part of last week's conversation, VSM Director Denny Hartford speaks to Harold Berry, Phil Neal, Larry Harrold, and Dan Hauge about heaven. It is less than 20 minutes but we think you'll find it enlightening and encouraging.
 

Finishing Well

Vital Signs Ministries Director Denny Hartford talks with friends "tried and true" about the adventure of living for Christ in one's later years. It's a 30-minute conversation with Phil Neal, Harold Berry, Dan Hauge, and Larry Harrold that may well bring a bit of inspiration, comfort, or challenge to you. We hope so.
 

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

#47 Is Up, Ready, and Waiting for You!

The great news is that things are beginning to open up (if even just a bit) for our presenting live "When Swing Was King" shows again. In fact, 5 of the senior living facilities and nursing homes (out of our pre-quarantine 12) have invited us back this month. 

Nevertheless, we are still creating our 9-page packets of trivia, quotations, song lyrics, and so on for the residents...and anyone else able to use our website uploads. So, to whet your interest a little further for the latest in our ongoing series, can you name the Hollywood musicals represented by the photos below?

You'll find all of # 47 (just sent out to the facilities yesterday) as well as the previous 46 by following this link:


 

More Clamping Down by the Left (The Latest Compilation Post)

* "10 ways to fight back against woke culture"
(Bari Weiss, New York Post)

* "Biden is the most radical left-wing president in US history, period" (Rich Lowry, Jewish World Review)

* "We Must Break Up Big Tech: It’s The Greatest Private Threat to Liberty in Our Modern Age" (Rachel Bovard, American Consequences)

* "Faithfulness in the Future" (Rick Plasterer, Juicy Ecumenism)

* "Biden's Department of Homeland Sleaze Chief" (Michelle Malkin, Jewish World Review)

* "Twitter Suspends Christian Group for Accurately Describing Biden’s Transgendered Health Official Dr. Levine’s Biological Sex" (Penny Starr, Breitbart)

* "China Doesn't Have to Lift a Finger to Push Biden Around" (Gordon G. Chang, Gatestone Institute)

* "Facebook Bans Bible Professor’s Post Critical of Biden’s Transgender Order" (Lee Weeks, Decision)


Friday, January 29, 2021

Uh, Just Who Is the Mean President?

Yesterday President Biden decreed that U.S. taxpayers must pay overseas abortionists to kill preborn children in their countries.  

This is in addition to Biden’s insistence that Planned Parenthood, the mega-abortion corporation that is already dripping with millions of dollars in excess profits, will receive even more money from U.S. citizens.

These draconian policies are, of course, opposed by more (much, much more) than half of the American public.  Indeed, these Americans find Biden's abortion policies barbaric, disgusting, and unjust in the extreme.  

But it's tragically obvious that President Biden (he who laughingly claims he is still a Catholic), doesn’t care a whit about the convictions or consciences of these Americans…no more than he cares about the democratic process, the teaching of the Catholic Church, or the lives of those hundreds of thousands of preborn boys and girls who will die because of his cruel and tyrannical actions.

And the newspapers said it was Donald Trump who was divisive and mean?  

Lord, have mercy.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Have You Seen the Latest?

* "The Salt That Has Lost Its Savor: The Woke Church and the Undoing of America" (Larry Alex Taunton, American Spectator)

* "The River of Forgetfulness" (Victor Davis Hanson, American Greatness)

* "Don’t Worry, It’s Just Corporate Fascism" (David Marcus, Federalist)

* "The tragic rise of Andrew Cuomo amid COVID-19 -- a real American crisis" (Janice Dean, Fox News)

* "Refuse to Be Silenced" (Kurt Schlichter, Town Hall)

* "Technically (Not) Speaking: The Conservative Purge Begins" (Tony Perkins, CNS News)

* "Ignoring And Ridiculing Election Fraud Concerns Will Not Make Them Go Away" (Stella Morabito, Federalist)

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

From Claire's FB page...

The photos below show Denny with Dr. Greg Zielke, Dave Brown, and Ryan Lee at Tabor College in Hillsboro,  Kansas.  shortly after Denny presented a pro-life talk at their chapel service.  That talk today a fascinating and enlightening exposition of Luke Chapter 1. We then enjoyed visiting with Greg & Dave over lunch at the college cafeteria.  And the other photo? That's the college's old administration building constructed in 1920.

By the way, our visit to Tabor had two interesting bookends. On one side was our spending Friday night through Sunday noon in Wichita where we enjoyed visits with Denny's little sister Sherry and her family. And then after leaving Tabor, we had to try and avoid the worst of the heavy snowstorm that hit eastern Nebraska. We did that by driving to Kansas City and getting a motel room by the airport, waiting for the next day to brave I-29 back to Omaha. That proved to be a good idea. But we are home again and back at it, thankful for the Lord's blessing us, using us, and protecting us.




Monday, January 18, 2021

The 2021 Lincoln Walk for Life: In Photos and Text

There were several elements of this year's Walk for Life (organized by Nebraska Right to Life) that made it an especially moving event. The cultural meltdown of the past year. The corruption, socialist extremism, and slavish dedication to abortion of the incoming administration. The sad awareness that NRL's champion Julie Schmit-Albin is no longer at our side. All of these made the mood more somber than most.

Somber but not despairing. Serious but not anything but defeated.

Indeed, the faith, hope, love, wisdom, and perseverance that has marked the pro-life movement these last 5 decades was on full display at the Walk for Life. And, by the grace of Almighty God, we will see these virtues continue to shine in whatever darkness comes against it. In fact, for more on this matter (and before you scroll down to the photos), you might want to note the remarks I prepared for the crowd in front of the Capitol where the Walk began. Here they are...

“Thank you, Sandy. And good morning pro-life Nebraskans!  As Sandy suggested, Claire and I have been involved in pro-life ministry for a long, long time.  And though it’s always been a tough, controversial, even confrontational undertaking, the days ahead will undoubtedly be tougher still.  Indeed, as we enter a new year dominated by fear, political injustice, cultural chaos, economic meltdown, and moral cowardice, we need to be ready to carry on the fight with greater resolve than ever before.


“And to help encourage you in this mission, I have a little story for you -- one taken from JRR Tolkien’s masterful Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Now, as a Baptist preacher, I’m usually using a different text for public exhortations, but I trust you’ll allow me to take this liberty.  The scene I'm drawing to your attention comes from the last book in the trilogy.  The brave hobbits Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee are struggling through Mordor on their way to Mt. Doom and, in this terrible moment when Frodo is nearly overcome with despair, fatigue, and dread, he turns to his dear friend and moans, ‘I can’t do this, Sam.’

“At which Sam Gamgee, one of the most wonderfully heroic characters in all literature, responds, ‘I know.  It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here.  But we are.  It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo.  The ones that really mattered.  Full of darkness, and danger, they were.  And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy?  How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?  But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.  Even darkness must pass.  A new day will come.  And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer.  Those were the stories that stayed with you.  That meant something.  Even if you were too small to understand why.  But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.  I know now.  Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t.  They kept going.  Because they were holding on to something.’

Frodo then asks, ‘What are we holding on to, Sam?’

“The answer? ‘That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo…and it’s worth fighting for.’

“My friends, we have things good and worth fighting for too – the biblical ideals of truth, justice, and the sanctity of human life. So the decision of these two characters must be, in real life, our decisions too. Oh yes; we have a God-given opportunity to be heroes just like Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin, Aragorn and Gandalf, and all the rest of that noble fellowship of the ring. We too must carry on with our part in the adventure story God has written us into.  True enough, it’s a story that has real danger, real enemies, and real sacrifices. And yet it has spiritual rewards that are unimaginably rich and fully deserving of our boldest efforts.

So, what do you say? Let’s get after it.”

 


There were some noteworthy highlights of the Walk for us. Meeting new friends is super. and, seeing old friends is always a delight. Among the latter group were Julie Lostroh, Barb McPhillips, Sandy Danek, the Maleks, the Coppis, the White family, Sue Stich, Gov. Ricketts, Congressman Bacon, Congressman Fortenberry, Lt. Gov. Foley, and dear friends from Faith Bible Church where I was the "perennial guest speaker" for 7 years. 

In addition, the church we attend now (Grace Bible Church) set a record for attendance. For in addition to Claire and me there were 10 others: Stephen, Jeff, Joanna, Sheri, Scott & Laura Powers (and two of their kids), and Rob & Hope Golden. Joanna was also joined by her sister Robin.

Also, activity at our literature table was brisk this year, not only because everything we have there is always free, including even the Why Pro-Life books by Randy Alcorn and the Narnia buttons that were new this year). Thank you to everyone who came by.





In Behalf of the Whole Team...The Hartfords Receive NEL's Life Achievement Award

Last Saturday night presented us an emotionally-charged experience indeed as
Claire and I were honored to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from Nebraskans Embracing Life. 

Other guests at the dinner program at St. Vincent Catholic Church (the program was also live-streamed) included Gov. Ricketts, Lt. Governor Foley, Congressman Bacon, and a whole host of pro-life colleagues with whom we have been blessed to work with over these many years: John & Mary Ann Kellogg, Ann Marie Bowen, John & Karen Miller, Joe & Louise Ferrante, Larry Donlan, Mike Steil, Steve & Carolyn LaGreca, John Sieler, Sister Renee Merkes, David Zebolsky, and a few others. 

In accepting the award, we presented the following remarks. I started off, "One of my favorite quotations of all time comes from my dear friend that many of you also know, Rick Duncan, a constitutional law professor at the UNL Law School.  Like others of us in this room, Rick was a later convert to Christianity and I remember with great fondness this remark he once made at a pro-life event.  Rick said, 'You know one of the neatest things I’ve discovered is this -- in Christianity your heroes can also be your friends.' 

"Well, believe me, Rick’s observation is particularly relevant this evening as Claire and I humbly yet very gratefully accept this NEL award because it comes from the hands of some very special hero-friends. Some of you (I'm smiling especially now at Ann Marie Bowen) go back with us to the old days of Metro Right to Life, before we started the Omaha Christian Action Council which, of course, was long before we had ever imagined starting the AAA Crisis Pregnancy Center.  We also remember so many of our beloved friends from those days that have already gone on to their reward: Rita Gradoville, Mary Ann Tiehen, Jo Elworth, Joyce Schuster, and others.

"So we accept this award, dear friends, in behalf of the whole team -- for all of you, for all of the steadfast champions who have stood alongside us with Vital Signs Ministries, even for the Christian pro-life friends we have made in our travels in England, Eastern Europe (especially Belarus), Africa, and all the other places we’ve been.  

"We are blessed beyond measure in being part of a forever family of heroes because of the grace of God poured out upon us. Thank you so much for this honor…

And then Claire added, "Several months ago, Vital Signs Ministries hosted one of our book brunches in which we listened to a Peter Kreeft video about JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. And in our discussion afterwards, we talked about the difference it makes to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ but also the crucial importance of friendship for those engaged in the grand adventure of heralding truth, justice, and such holy causes as defending the sanctity of life.  There is no doubt that we have remained in this struggle through the years because we have taken full advantage of one of God's greatest gifts; namely, the friendship of like-minded brothers and sisters. 

"One dramatic picture of how helpful this is looking down the line of friends when I'm standing in a public pro-life witness at an abortion business. Several such friends are sitting right here in this room tonight.  In such situations, I look to those friends as a joy, a comfort, and a sanity check. I'm reminded of who I am, the Lord I serve, and what a blessing it is to be part of such a company of Christian 'doers of the Word.' Yes, the comfort of seeing those friends reminds me that we in the pro-life movement are truly on the side of the angels. And that’s a very good place to be! Again, thank you very much."

Yes, thank you so much for the honor, NEL, and for a truly wonderful evening.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Gandalf on Stewardship...

Do you remember the response of The Lord of the Ring's hero Gandalf to the cowardly and despairing Denethor?

"The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?"

And indeed, as we enter a new year seemingly dominated by fear, political injustice, cultural chaos, economic meltdown, and moral cowardice, must we not be inspired by JRR Tolkien's character and commit ourselves, with God's grace, to prayerfully care for "all worthy things that are in peril," those things of truth, beauty, and holiness "that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come?"

Now is not the time for Christians to hunker down and hide. Indeed, there never was nor ever will be such a time. No, our duties (which should also be seen as our glorious opportunities) are to consistently herald the truths of Scripture and to make sure that our personal lifestyles and relationships thoroughly reflect the same.

For we, like Gandalf and his fellow adventurers, are stewards. 

"Did you not know?"