The Branson Getaway and More
Dear LifeSharers, November 2013
Yes, this is the November letter even though some of you will be receiving it after you've already flipped your calendar. Sorry for the delay. We will be sending something else out in a couple of weeks (something specifically tuned to Christmas that I've been working on) but this letter will concentrate on some of the highlights from this past month.
This list of highlights begins with our vacation in a condo outside of Branson, Missouri. We enjoyed a couple of weeks there that lapped over into November. It was a much-needed time of rest and recuperation but we also managed to fit in some work, a little entertainment, a bit of exercise, and a lot of enjoyment of the beautiful Ozark autumn. It was the longest vacation we have ever taken but yet one of the cheapest too. For both the condo and the rental car were paid from reward points (an awful lot of them from airline miles) that had stacked up on our Visa card.
We talked. We prayed. We read the Bible and other books. We drove around the country. We drank steaming cups of tea while looking over the gorgeous forest view from our third floor deck. We fixed meals. We took walks. Claire did some sewing. It was peaceful and really rejuvenating. We did do a few Branson-type things, though. We spent time at the College of the Ozarks; we had lunches at Vasken's Deli and White River Fish House; we ate breakfast one morning at Billy Gail's; we twice savored the carrot cake at Dino's; and we were in attendance at the first annual Christmas tree lighting outside the Andy Williams Moon River Theater.
Interestingly enough, we were not always alone for these activities. Indeed, one of the neatest blessings of our vacation was that we were able to share parts of it with several people we love. My sister Sherry and her husband John came over from Wichita for a couple of days. It was too short a time but we made the most of it and had a lot of fun. Then too we spent a very pleasant evening with our godson, Scott Lawson, who lives up in Springfield. We went to the Oldfield Opry with Scott (a regular Saturday night music jam performed by talented amateurs in a little bitty town about 30 miles northeast of Branson) and then had a late supper together. Also on hand for a few days were our good friends Allen and Cindy Nelson who arranged a few days in Branson after their Estes Park plans had been changed by the flooding out there. We had some great times together -- talking, praying, attending a free drama presented by students at the College of the Ozarks, dining out, and more.
But the most delightful, inspiring time of fellowship we had during these weeks were the hours we spent with my Aunt Farris (age 90) and some of my cousins who live up in Crane, Missouri. We visited up there a couple of times during our stay, the first time with Sherry and John (Sherry hadn't seen Farris in many years and so that was one of the main reasons she had made the trip) and a second time when Claire and I visited for hours and had a big dinner with Farris, my cousin Susan and her husband, Roy. But it was the first visit that provided the single most compelling and memorable moment of our vacation and that was sitting in the living room listening to my cousins Eva and Belinda (and my Aunt Farris) sing an exquisite rendition of the classic gospel song, "If It Wasn't for the Lighthouse." I'll treasure that moment forever.
What else did we do in Branson? Well, we did a little shopping – Claire bought a pair of shoes, some specialty soaps, an umbrella, some candles, and I bought a few books. We also stocked up on jars of jam and apple butter (made by the students at College of the Ozarks) for use as Christmas presents. Also, as I mentioned earlier, we spent some of our time working on Vital Signs Ministries projects. Among those tasks were reviewing the year, prayers of both thanksgiving and supplication, selecting the new template for the VSM website, planning for 2014, etc. Oh, one more thing -- we took two evenings to go through the diary my Mom kept in the days she was being courted by my Dad. I chose certain quotations from the diary and read them to Claire as she typed them. We will now add to those diary excerpts old photos of my parents, scenes from 1940s Novinger and Kirksville (in northeast Missouri), movie posters of the films they saw together, and a few other items in order to make a neat Christmas present for my siblings and extended family.
But every vacation must end. Ours actually did a little sooner than we planned because I needed a computer to finish the next "When Swing Was King" program and Claire's laptop had gone kaput a few days earlier. But it turned out that there was one more terrific experience awaiting us before we made it back to Omaha; namely, meeting Keith and Carol Moran for lunch in Kansas City at Oklahoma Joe's barbecue restaurant and gas station! It was an absolutely perfect exclamation point to our vacation. Thanks, Morans!
As the Lord worked things out, it was quite timely and important to have had that vacation when we did since November's schedule has been so packed and problematic. That's because we're carrying extra "When Swing Was King" presentations until January...and because we have again been dealing with problems with our cars (the '95 Olds of mine and the '99 Buick of Claire's)...and because Claire has been down sick for several days of November, first with a hacking cough and then with severe intestinal pain caused by a reaction to the antibiotic she had taken for the cough! Yipes. That girl just doesn't do drugs well. But I'm very pleased to say, that at the time of this writing, she seems to be on the mend.
Despite these things, God's grace is (as it always will be) sufficient for our needs. And we're grateful to Him for making even this shortened, tough month a very productive one. For besides 12 "When Swing Was King" presentations and the connected visits with the residents of these nursing homes and senior care facilities, November's tasks have included our prayerful presence several times at the Planned Parenthood abortion mill; speaking to 2 groups of AWANA kids (there will be another 3 groups next week); leading a letter-writing night at our church which resulted in over 50 letters and cards; speaking to 2 groups of students (junior high and high school) from Omaha Christian Academy; doing my regular sermon preparation and preaching duties at Faith Bible Church; and beginning the transfer of pro-life articles from Vital Signs Ministries' old website to a brand new one.
There have also been the regular duties on Vital Signs Blog. I took a break (mostly) from the blog for the two weeks we were in Branson but I jumped back in full force since then. Among the topics covered on the blog in November were the tragically-misnamed birth control pill, the persecuted Church, the evils of Planned Parenthood, the evils of ObamaCare, drunk driving deaths on the rise, Christian activism, the disastrous deal with Iran, ways to help relief efforts in the Philippines, euthanasia, protecting children from cyberspace stalking, Red China's brutal "one child only" policy, meditations on Thanksgiving, and many more.
Of course, all of these Christian pro-life activities depend on the ongoing generosity and faithful prayers of our friends on the Vital Signs LifeSharer list. Thank you so much. We remain profoundly grateful for each and every one of you. May God bless you abundantly in the coming Christmas season.
Postscript #1) A few days after challenging the OCA audience to pursue pro-life ministries ("visit the widows and orphans in their distress"), we got this note, "Hi my name is ---- and I'm from Omaha Christian Academy. Some of my friends and I would love to get involved with the work you do in the retirement homes in the area! Please let me know of any opportunities you have where we could serve. And thank you for your time." We've already responded and are looking forward to this connection.
Postscript #2) The sermon series I've been preaching has been "The Life of David" and has required a lot of work but it has been really meaningful and challenging to me. I hope the congregation is getting even a portion of the blessing that I have.
Postscript #3) One last Branson note -- we celebrated our 42nd anniversary down there. Thank You, Lord, for all of these precious years together.