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What's Happening at Vital Signs Blog?

Dear friends,                                       August 2013                    

Although we still have a few weeks of it, this has been quite a summer for us -- a summer made all the more intense by the pace of activities, the ongoing devolution of the culture, and several funerals. It’s a summer that has made us yearn all the more for the triumph, the splendors, the reunions, the purity of heart, and the presence of the Savior that awaits us in God’s holy heaven. Oh, what a sweet (and forever) day that will be!

But, until He calls us home, we have our tasks here. And, by His grace, we will continue.

For this month’s letter (in a size 11 type that allows us to get it on 4 pages), we are offering a quick selection of items published at Vital Signs Blog the last few weeks. Many have asked us to do this more often; that is, to let those of our LifeSharer friends who are not connected to cyberspace still get an idea of what we’re sending out to our international audience through the blogs. Okay, you got it.  Nearly every week I post anywhere from 15-25 different posts on Vital Signs Blog, some of them involving a compilation of several links to other internet articles. Most of those are also posted daily on Facebook. Also, a few are uploaded every week onto a giant site called Blogs Lucianne Loves while others are occasionally picked up by various sources. A few even end up permanently residing on Vital Signs Ministries web page or, after being translated into Russian, on the VSM Resources site. 

In recent weeks the subjects covered on Vital Signs Blog have, of course, included various pro-life issues, the increasing attacks on natural marriage, the persecution of the Church, and reports from the culture wars. In addition, there have been posts on biblical exposition, economics, politics, church music, the Zimmerman verdict, and “sexed up” Monster High dolls. And then, there have been the ones you’ll read here. The first deals with the nature of American liberalism; the second is a short reminder of why we take part of our time each month to pray and protest outside the Planned Parenthood abortion mill; and the final two describe recent activities involving “When Swing Was King.”

1) "The Only History That Is Worth a Tinker's Damn" 

"History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history that we make today." That's Henry Ford as quoted in an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 1916.

Of course, the portion of that quote which has gone down in...uh, history, is the first line. But it is actually the last line that is the most relevant to modern culture.

Indeed, it's pretty obvious that the cultural "powers that be" (politics, academia, Hollywood) are determined to escape what they believe are the shackles of the past. They are progressives through and through who believe that civilization is like detergent or breakfast cereal -- only the "new and improved" brands should be allowed on the shelves. Everything else should go to the trash bin.

Therefore, the virtues of Western culture, no matter how beautiful, ennobling or indispensable for a society's health (the U.S. Constitution, religion, marriage, family, etc.) are ignored if not actually mocked and vilified. 

History is thus made an ally of this bold social transformation. Well, a distinctly progressive version of history, that is; a twisted form of history that is much more propaganda than precision. It is a thing that is quite willing to drastically distort the actual record, to carefully omit (even conceal) those things that do not fit with the desired political conclusions, and to engage in outright invention -- all to create an ideologically favorable product.

"History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history that we make today."

Yes, the words are Henry Ford's. But the sentiment is alive and well in the hearts of today's progressives.

2) Why Protest Planned Parenthood?

This morning Claire and I and a few friends stood on the sidewalk in front of a Planned Parenthood facility, a facility in which occurs the barbaric abortion of preborn boys and girls. The killers who ply their grisly trade there use super-sharp knives, high-powered suction machines (25-30 times more powerful than your home vacuum cleaner), and various types of poisonous chemicals to insure "fetal demise." 

But, as horrible and blasphemous as are these crimes against humanity, the employees of Planned Parenthood are engaged in even more than this. For instance, they work against any and all restrictions to abortion. They promote a "sex education" campaign which enthusiastically promotes and enables premarital sexual activity (even among the very young). They work zealously for the weakening of parental authority, the marginalization of natural marriage, and the outright elimination of those moral values that are the hallmarks of Judeo-Christian culture.

To be sure, these pernicious practices of Planned Parenthood are well worth our peaceful, prayerful protest and we will continue our efforts to enlighten others of their dastardly deeds.

3) A Grand Sunday

What a grand day we had yesterday. We started things off with a leisurely drive up to Herman (about 10 miles north of Blair) where I had been asked by Pastor Doug Russell to preach the Sunday morning sermon. It turns out that Doug had been a student at Grace Bible College back in the 1980s and had joined us in a pro-life witness at an abortion mill in south Omaha then. We had a good time reconnecting and the church family was also very gracious, hospitable and encouraging.

Herman Community Church is one of the very few churches that support Vital Signs Ministries and so we were particularly honored to be a part of their service. Also, it was great to touch base with several other friends that we've known over the years. Thank you so much, Herman Community Church, for your wonderful reception yesterday and for your generous support of our work.

We had to take a "rain check" on a lunch invitation from Pastor Russell and his family because we had to get back to Omaha to pick up our repaired Oldsmobile (thanks to Jeff Bledsoe from Christian Car Care) and to finish preparations for a special performance of "When Swing Was King" at Word of Hope Lutheran Church in Ashland.

I managed to finish the "WSWK" program in time for the evening event but a wrong turn (my bad) and then incorrect directions from Google Maps (Google’s bad) threatened to make us late for the party. But we made it. Long time friends Wilson and Sandy Metz welcomed us and showed us around (Wilson, a veteran leader in the Omaha area of Christian men's ministries is now the pastor of the church.)

With a "WSWK" poster and the lure of dessert treats, the church had used the local paper and word of mouth to promote a fun evening for seniors throughout the area. But this was the first such event the young church had sponsored and so no one knew what to expect. It was a very pleasant surprise then when the guests began to arrive in a steady stream. By the time we were scheduled to start, the church was full!

Wilson gave us a very kind introduction and we were off. The set up was fantastic -- two large screen, overhead TVs on each side of the sanctuary and two large speakers. It really helped the crowd get into the swing of things (pun quite deliberate). They loved the music, the photos, the commentary. And, though only a few of the audience were from the church, the whole bunch stayed afterward for the desserts, drinks and conversation. The people were very gracious and Claire and I found ourselves in a sea of complements, expressions of appreciation, and invitations to return. They weren't even above bribing us by sending us home with peach pie!

It was a swell evening and it certainly appeared to be a very effective "community attraction" event for the church. Maybe your church should consider it too. After all, we're willing. And we're cheap -- a peach pie will do the trick!

4) "I Knew Every One of Those Songs!"

Here are the most common things Claire and I hear from the audience members after our "When Swing Was King" shows: "Thank you so much. I loved it." -- "That brought back so many memories. Thank you." -- "Oh, that was such wonderful music. And the pictures were delightful too. I always enjoy myself so much at your program." -- "The things you tell us about the songs and the musicians are so interesting. Thank you for taking all that time just for us."

See the threads that run through these comments? Gratitude. Kindness. Courtesy. Respect. Indeed, it is such a delight for us to enjoy the fellowship of people who so charmingly practice the social graces of an age almost gone. And we get to experience that 13 times every month. Neat, huh?

There are a lot of other things we hear too. We are told stories of their adventurous lives, stories about families, careers, war, travels, changes, triumphs and loss, dancing and romancing, happiness and sorrow.

And then there's this line, one we hear from an audience member or two almost every time we present a "When Swing Was King" program -- "I knew every one of those songs!" It is a heartwarming thing to hear. For we know it stands for something besides pride, something even beyond the comfort of familiarity.  Indeed, it stands as a positive testimony to the significance of the life they have lived. The world has passed them by.  It doesn't remember (let alone honor) the times they lived, the achievements they made, or the culture they enjoyed. But suddenly, Helen Forrest begins to sing or Harry James begins to blow, and they remember, "Yes, we were there. Life wasn't always easy and we worked hard but there were good times too.  And we appreciated them.  And, even if no one else is around with whom I enjoyed those days, these songs help me to remember and cherish them."

No wonder they're grateful to people who are trying to keep the music and memories of earlier times vibrant, fun and available to them. No wonder they so quickly become our friends, knowing that our efforts in bringing them "When Swing Was King" reflect not just our respect for the art of that era but for them as important, valuable persons.

"I knew every one of those songs" thus becomes the highest compliment they could bestow, a warm acknowledgement that each song we have selected is relevant and appreciated. And yet, there is one other element to this phrase that I think makes it so common and so meaningful. It's not a surprise to anyone that many of the residents of senior living facilities struggle with memory loss. It's both a part of physical aging (little can be done about that) and an inevitable product of lifestyle changes that have reduced mental stimulation. But something can be done about that. And with the music, the visuals, the stories, and the warm conversations that make up the ministry of "When Swing Was King," we do our best to give these seniors a variety of meaningful and fun memory stimulants.

Everyone finds satisfaction in remembering. Everyone likes to scratch the itch, to fill the hole, to put back in their mind that elusive item that's just past their reach. But for seniors, those who live daily with various levels of the frustration of forgetfulness, how terrific it is to discover that, by golly, "I knew every one of those songs!" It's a vindication, a proof that not everything has slid into the mist.

Wanna' join in this pleasant process of stimulating, reminding, befriending? The monthly schedule for "When Swing Was King" is always up at the Vital Signs website. We (and they!) would love to have you.


Okay, that’s it for this month’s letter. Maybe it will encourage you to drop by Vital Signs Blog more often. There’s a lot happening there. And, of course, there’s a lot happening in other areas too. In fact, we’re pleased to say that we are probably busier now than at any previous period in Vital Signs Ministries’ history. And your prayers, your financial help, your encouragement are all invaluable reasons why this is so. Thank you so very much.

Blessings in Christ,