Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Heads Up!

Two important Vital Signs Ministries events are on their way, representing
opportunities for spiritual challenge, effective witness, and stimulating fellowship. They are...

* On June 20 there will be 2 letter-writing parties held at othe Hartford home. One meeting is a morning brunch from 10-11:30. And then our regular evening P.A.L. Night will be from 7-8:30. And, of course, your RSVPs are very important.

* The next Vital Signs Book Brunch will be at our home on Saturday morning, June 24 at 10. The book under discussion is the classic by C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength.  Trust me, the relevance of this novel is greater than ever before and a discussion of it (by thoughtful people who actually read the book) will undoubtedly prove to be of significant value. Please let us know soon if you’re interested. 

Friday, May 26, 2023

The Top Five (May 27)

When expressing your alarm at the dire deterioration of Western culture, have you ever heard another person (including fellow Christians)  protest your pessimism with something like this, "Hey, don't go overboard. We live in a fallen world and you can always find bad news if you're going to go out looking for it. Believe me, we're no worse now than ever before."

Uh, really? Here's just a handful of recent happenings that certainly suggest otherwise. 

It turns out that our FBI improperly used warrantless search powers against U.S. citizens more than 278,000 times in the year ending November 2021...It's not just government-funded libraries that are hosting drag queen exhibitions. The First United Methodist Church in Sherman, Texas got into the perverted action by sponsoring a "Pride Prom" which they billed by as a "family-friendly drag show."...Though Republicans make up over 60% of registered voters in Nassau County, New York, a "printer error" is being blamed for over 976,000 voter registration cards (that's every voter in the county) being marked Democrat...

Only 13% of eighth graders in America can pass the citizenship test the U.S. requires of naturalized citizens...Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a "state of emergency" in a totally inappropriate attempt to stop a school choice bill from passing the state legislature...A high school in Missouri allowed a high school yearbook to feature a page extolling casual sex, abortifacient drugs, smoking, drinking, etc...The CEO of Target brags about his company's going all in for the "woke movement," claiming that it represents "just good business decisions, and it’s the right thing for society, and it’s the great thing for our brand...."

The Durham Reports clearly reveal that President Obama and Vice-President Biden knew that the stories claiming Donald Trump's collusion was a complete and malicious hoax. And yet these key "public servants" perpetuated the lie...The totals from 2022 are now in on the loss of U.S. business inventory due to circumstances such as retail theft. It's almost $100 billion. And it's getting nothing but worse...

Communist thug Vladimir Putin is going to put "tactical" nuclear weapons in in Communist Belarus...Under the Biden administration’s direction, the Department of Homeland Security has funneled $40 million taxpayer dollars away from bona fide anti-terrorism programs and into a weaponized operation aimed at destroying the reputations of prominent Christian organizations, several highly respected conservative public policy groups, a major cable news network, and even the Republican National Committee....

An Indiana abortionist committed an abortion on a 10-year old girl and was $3,000 fined by the state's medical licensing board -- NOT for the murderous deed itself, but only for publicly talking about it....And the Los Angeles Dodgers are honoring the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of "queer and trans nuns," during a June 16 event...

Had enough? Me too. Here's this week's Top 5 recommended reads.

* Planned Parenthood's Legacy: It's Worse Than You Think (Denise Harle, Alliance Defending Freedom)

* Surgeon General: Social Media Poses a ‘ Profound Risk’ to Mental Health of Minors (Dan Hart, FRC's Washington Stand)

* The Hate Industry (Edward Ring, American Greatness)

* The Left Has Pushed the Envelope (Victor Davis Hanson, PJ Media)

* The scandal that's hit America and will be bigger than Watergate (Newt Gingrich, Fox News)

And a couple of bonus stories: 5 things conservatives need to know before AI wipes out conservative thought altogether (Dan Schneider, Fox News)...‘They’re Forced to Celebrate It’: Parents of Girls Losing to Boys Speak Out (Suzanne Bowdey, FRC's Washington Stand) and a real doozy, Ex-social worker faked brain cancer to dodge justice after false tip councilwoman molested toddler (Emma Colton, Fox News)

Friday, May 19, 2023

The Top 5 (May 20)

Yes, the news from the culture wars gets more grim by the day. And yet, the Christian's responsibility (better put, opportunity) remains the same; namely, to "shine as lights in the middle of a crooked and perverse generation." Indeed, the final entry in this week's Top 5 is a Vital Signs Blog post I wrote which underscores that very important perspective.

* The Durham Report Leaves No Doubt: The FBI Is A Mortal Threat To Democracy (John Daniel Davidson, Federalist)

* Pro-Life Groups Challenge Trump’s Suggestion That Florida’s Heartbeat Ban Is ‘Too Harsh’ (Mary Margaret Olohan, Daily Signal)

* America's men are in crisis and it's rooted in one big lie (Senator Josh Hawley, Fox News)

* Israel under Fire and The West's Pusillanimous Response (Richard Kemp, Gatestone Institute)

* The Christian Pilgrimage: My Hand in His (Denny Hartford, Vital Signs Blog)

And a bonus link -- The Administrative State: The Lawmakers No One Votes For -- The unchecked power of the administrative state presents a serious threat to liberty, democracy, and republican government. (Lathan Watts, Alliance Defending Freedom)

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The Christian Pilgrimage: My Hand in His

Rather than considering the Christian life an inevitable movement between highs and lows, the far healthier perspective (that is, the one that is more biblically-centered) is to consider the Christian life an ongoing pilgrimage in which our hand must always hold fast to the hand of our Lord as He lovingly, unerringly leads us to heaven. Our emotions may be fluid and fickle, and we will experience seasons of dryness and sadness, yet this is when our grip on Jesus’ hand must be more firm and tenacious than ever. And, of course, we must be diligent not to release our grip when things seem to be more pleasant and comfortable. 

Remember the opening verse of the great hymn, “Jesus Paid It All”? “I hear the Savior say, ‘Thy strength indeed is small. Child of weakness, watch and pray. Find in Me thine all in all.’” By the power of the Holy Spirit, our pilgrimage can be steady and blessed and fruitful, no matter what comes our way. The weakening of our bodies, the wounds that come from loss and disappointment, the wolves that are ever abroad in this decadent world – all of these assail us with regularity and increasing force. Yet in Christ, we truly can find our “all in all.” 

In Him we can find confidence, joy, and the supernatural power to rise above circumstances as we exercise faith towards our Lord and love in action towards others. We cling tighter to He Who is our help and hope -- and we keep moving forward. Moment by moment. Step by step. One act of kindness, one recitation of a Scripture verse, one word of encouragement to others, one smile in anticipation of the heavenly rewards awaiting us, one fervent prayer…at a time.

Our pilgrimage is a journey, but we are not alone. We have the loving help of Jesus Christ, including the blessed gifts of His Word and the fellowship of His other adopted children. And never forget that our pilgrimage has a destination -- a glorious, wonderful, and forever destination that isn’t actually an end, but an exciting and eternal beginning.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,  and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’” (Revelation 21:1-4)

By the way, I write these words after a week which included visits to my little sister who is suffering from severe and accelerating dementia plus another very difficult day in which we sat with a friend in the emergency room for 10 hours after having to call the rescue squad for help. There were yet other visits to ailing friends in hospital and in a rehab center as well. It was also a week with prayers and a public pro-life witness outside an abortion business, writing letters to friends dealing with various challenges, and many conversations with elderly friends living in care facilities following our “When Swing Was King” shows and our Sunday afternoon church service at Aksarben Village Senior Living. 

However, it was also a week with such happy moments as the wedding of two remarkable friends and a successful, inspirational fundraising banquet for Assure Women’s Center. And, more in the middle as concerns emotions, the week saw a lot more of what you could call “pedestrian” activities: mowing the lawn, getting the car fixed, reading, sermon preparation, editing material for the Vital Signs Ministries website, meal preparation…you get the idea.

In other words, it was a week one might understandably interpret as moving from highs to lows, from happy moments to horrid, from successes to sorrows. But that would be an illusion for, as I’ve explained above, the true perspective is to see the Christian life as an ongoing series of adventures – a step by step pilgrimage with the Lord Jesus Who will give us all we need to pass each test, to escape every temptation, to take advantage of every opportunity to lay up treasures in heaven. 

We are not straws in the winds of fate. We are not slaves to our surroundings or emotions. We are warriors on a mission. And no matter the specific challenges we encounter, His purposes and enabling power remain constant.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let’s hold firmly to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

“Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12: 1-3)

Saturday, May 13, 2023

"We Had a Dog...and a Radio!"

Our “When Swing Was King” audiences are always enthusiastic in their praise of the program and, with the social graces that mark that generation so much more than those that are following them, they are very expressive of their appreciation. And we never tire of hearing their compliments and thanks nor the stories that the WSWK songs and photos stimulate.

Nevertheless, the response from Joe, the lone gentleman in yesterday’s audience at Immanuel Courtyard Assisted Living, was particularly moving to us for he not only seemed transfixed with every number, but his endearing smile and sparkling eyes throughout the program really touched our hearts. And in our conversation afterward, Joe was terrific fun. “Oh, oh; that was wonderful! That was so beautiful. I knew so many of those songs and I loved even the ones I didn’t remember so well. And those pictures! They were so real – just like visiting my family and old friends…I felt like I could almost reach out and touch them! What wonderful, wonderful memories! Oh, if you could only start and play it all over again!”

Our subsequent conversation covered Joe’s family history, his work, the unique cane he was using (which he made and decorated himself), and more of his commentary about his life-long love of music. My favorite observation of his? “You know, when I was a young boy, my family was poor. Very poor. But I didn’t know that – that didn’t bother me. And you know why? It was because there was love in our home. And because we had 2 things which we all loved, two great blessings that made me feel like I was rich – a dog and a radio! And oh, how my father loved that radio – the music and the programs – but mostly the music. And so we loved music too. And I think the dog did too! Oh, yes, we were rich because of that music and you and your wife brought all that back to me today! Thank you, thank you. Please come back soon!”

Ah, the blessings of “When Swing Was King”!

The Top 5 (May 13)

This very challenging week has included a quick trip to Wichita to see my little sister Sherry who is suffering from severe dementia, and then discovering a friend in such distress that we had to call the rescue squad and then spend the day with her in the hospital. Alas, the sadness and difficulty of both of those situations is ongoing. There have been a few other trials too but, for the child of God, there are always blessings aplenty as well. One needs only to lean into His abundant grace, stay the course through faith in His word, and anticipate that glorious and forever victory that will soon be ours.

On the news front? The border crisis becomes worse and worse while President Biden laughingly insists there's nothing at all wrong. And yet, if there IS anything wrong, it's Donald Trump's fault!...The vandalism against pro-life pregnancy clinics now includes the grotesque bodies of decapitated animals scattered on the lawns...A special needs student at a California high school was called a "bigot" by her teachers for not using preferred pronouns, objecting to participating in a lesson about "scissoring," and refusing to get undressed near male teachers...In Colorado, a school created a secret club for sixth-graders that claimed too be an art club but turned out to be a gender and sexuality awareness club where radically obscene matters were presented to the kids...Communist Belarus is escalating its already horrendous persecution of Christians (Example: 7 young Protestants were arrested, handcuffed, detained at the police station for over 8 hours, fined  and handcuffed the seven, took them to Central District Police Station, and then fined about two months' average wage each. The crime? They were caught talking to others on a city street about the meaning of Easter.)

This week's Top 5?

* A Pastoral Response to Gender Confusion: Caring for Those Caught in the LGBTQ Religion (Jesse Johnson, Master's Seminary Blog)

* How anti-Semitism became unleashed in the West (Melanie Phillips, Jewish World Review)

* Prayer as Thought Crime: Stop and pray on the street in front of an abortion facility in England or Wales and you could find yourself under arrest. (Alliance Defending Freedom)

* The Culture War Isn’t The Most Important Issue Of 2024, It’s The Only Issue (John Daniel Davidson, Federalist)

* Weaponizing Death (Victor Davis Hanson, Daily Signal)

Saturday, May 06, 2023

The Top 5 (May 6)

What a week, huh? For instance, there were those Hawaii tourists who drove straight into a boat harbor by following their GPS directions. The good news is that they were rescued and no one was seriously hurt. The bad news is that Western culture, following the crazy political-correctness that is the left's version of GPS, is driving towards a much more catastrophic end.

A few cases in point -- How about the skyrocketing rates of church vandalism, legislation targeting church sacraments, and the FBI and other government agencies going after people of faith? One example from this week was Saint Francis Health System, the 12th-largest hospital in the U.S., being told by the feds that its solitary candle in the chapel was a safety hazard and, unless it was snuffed out forthwith, it would lose its ability to accept Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

More men, dressed as women and claiming to be such, are taking home more of the championships in women's athletic contests. And the media, once champions of women's sports, applauds.

The Democrats are intensifying their attacks on the Supreme Court, one of the few institutions it doesn't already dominate. 

Teachers are leaving the government schools in droves because of uncontrollable students and the ridiculousness of gender politics.  But the administrators? They're staying put.

Democrats in Oregon passed a bill that, among other things, would allow minors to undergo sex reassignment surgery and obtain abortions without their parent’s permission.

Oh yes, to deal with the severe shortage of young citizens going into the military, the U.S. Navy hired a "nonbinary" drag queen to be a "digital ambassador." Yeah, that'll work.

Government school teachers in Colorado passed a resolution calling for an end to capitalism because capitalism "inherently exploits children, public schools, land, labor, and resources." Also in Colorado, the Democrats there voted against a measure that would enhance criminal penalties for indecent exposure in view of a minor. Why? Because some claimed it could be used to ban drag queen shows.

The thug wanted for murdering 5 people in "execution style," (including an 8-year-old child) is an illegal alien who has been deported 5 times.

And finally, it turns out that the saintly American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars (including millions in offshore Caribbean accounts) and doling out six-figure salaries to employees -- while giving just 2% of its budget to pet shelters!


Let's move on to my Top 5 for this week.

* American Maoism. Rage meets self-pity as the permanently offended root out false thought. (Daniel J. Mahoney, American Mind)

* Patriots Are Starting to Hate America, Too. (CNN, of all places, just released a survey that shows something true.) (Scott McKay, American Spectator)

* Unrigging Our Elections (Mark and Mollie Hemingway, American Mind)

* To Protect Free Speech, We Must Preserve Language. It may at times seem tedious or trivial, but those committed to speaking and living the truth must not disengage from the conflict over language. (Lathan Watts, Alliance Defending Freedom)

* Beyond Fate: How America Can Fulfill Its Destiny and Illuminate the Path to a Better World (Armstrong Williams, Daily Signal)