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Summer Review, Upcoming Events and Letters

Dear friends of Vital Signs Ministries,                                          September 2017

These monthly letters cover quite a bit of ground: exhortation, Bible study, personal reflection, history, cultural commentary, and, of course, news from what we’ve been up to in the ministry. Last month, for instance, I dealt with a Christian’s walk along the paths of God. The month before I told about my latest 14er climb and included a devotional related to that. But given the fact that we just reviewed our summer activities at our quarterly Board meeting and have that list immediately at hand, I’ll post here a portion of that review. I’ll then close with announcements of things coming up and 3 sample letters from our recent correspondence.

* The first item I should mention from our Board meeting is that Vital Signs Ministries ended the quarter in the black! That’s been a rather unusual feature in recent years and so we were really delighted and encouraged. We are so grateful to those of you who support our ministry financially. Thank you very much.

* Of course, many of our activities this summer are things that we always do: the prayers and public pro-life witness outside Planned Parenthood, the ongoing correspondence, the daily internet postings (especially Vital Signs Blog and Facebook but also posts on The Book Den, special articles to the email lists like the recent “The Very Ground Has Changed,” and an occasional video clip like one we recorded last week on the double standards of the government schools), and the monthly visitations to 11 senior citizen facilities with “When Swing Was King.”

* I preached sermons at Sunday morning services of Grace Bible Church and Lighthouse Baptist Church.

* We hosted at our home a conversation of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and then another on Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters which included our first participant via Skype.

* We hosted several parties where we showed our guests David Payne’s one-man play about C.S. Lewis and then discussed it.

* At our last letter-writing party, we produced 65 letters and cards. I’ve also created a detailed correspondence schedule that is based upon our prayer lists. This will help Claire and I do even better in making personal contacts with LifeSharers, pro-life colleagues, and other friends.

* We have sent a letter (again) to several pastors explaining how important and easy it is to create a “salt and light” ministry of letter-writing. We invited them to attend one of VSM’s letter-writing parties and/or to let us show them how to organize their own event.

* I spend most of 2 or 3 days every month in updating the “When Swing Was King” programs, making each one as fresh and relevant as can be. That involves changing a few songs, changing a whole lot of photos, and doing new research for the narration. Also, we are continuing to use WSWK as a foundation for ongoing friendship and the development of other services. That latter category includes a) distributing our quarterly “When Swing Was King” newsletter, b) doing special lectures like “Piety on the Plains: A Church History of Omaha” which I’ll be presenting at 5 facilities next month and “Reel to Real: What Hollywood Got Wrong about the Wild West,” which I gave to audiences at Pacific Springs (August) and at Heritage/Sterling Ridge (last week), and c) special showings of “When Swing Was King” for church groups like the one we did last month for 42 members of the seniors group at Lutheran Church of the Master.

* Upon request, we sent more than 300 card/bookmarks from our “3 for 5 Prayer Campaign Against Planned Parenthood” to a pro-life colleague in Lincoln.

* Writing projects? In addition to things already mentioned, I recently completed a Christmas story entitled “The Winter in the Woods” and have started another one. I’m also using notes from my Christmas sermons from over the years to write chapters for a possible book.

* Among the many personal meetings Claire and I have enjoyed this summer were Claire’s discussions with a few friends over Jan Karon’s Mitford books. That is a ministry outreach that she may well expand on in the coming months. I have my regular iron-sharpening coffees at Panera or Bruegger’s with close friends (early Tuesday, early Thursday, and Thursday lunchtime). And there were also lunches recently with Jim Eckman, Chuck Tschetter, and Barnabas Ministries president, Dale Fremodt. We also joined Board members John, Pat, and Quint at a prayer breakfast featuring Dennis Prager.

* Claire and I attended the national G.K. Chesterton Conference in Colorado Springs.

* On September 11th, we took cookies and thank you cards from Vital Signs Ministries to our local police and fire stations. (See this letter’s postscript for what we wrote.)

* And on the home front? Let’s see…Claire celebrated her 65th birthday with an adventurous and taxing 5-mile hike at Hitchcock Nature Trails over at Honey Creek. She also stays in shape by working on the lawn (except for the mowing) and by walking with me when she can…We captured and then relocated a possum mother who had nested in a decorative flower pot under our deck…I made the summit of Colorado’s Mt. Quandary (14,265 feet) on my 66th birthday. Plus, I’m nearing 850 miles so far this year in walking my regular course… And we remain deeply and delightfully committed (over 3 years now) to our Paleo diet.

* More on the home front…We have enjoyed several partial family reunions this summer and fall. We had dinner with a couple of Claire’s cousins. We stayed at my youngest brother’s home when we were in Colorado. Claire and I joined her family to celebrate her brother Tim being inducted into the Pius X Athletic Hall of Fame. We had a couple of days in northeast Missouri with a few of my cousins and other kin. And we have been involved in planning a reunion of all of my siblings in early October…And there’s always housework, time spent with neighbors, a lot of reading (including our read through the Bible in a year program), and a lot of praying.

Okay, what about what’s coming up?

* To commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, Vital Signs Ministries (with the kind cooperation of Harvey Oaks Baptist Church) will be hosting a showing of the award-winning 1953 film, Martin Luther, starring Niall MacGinnis on Friday night, October 20th.

* And, just in case you think we’re not ecumenical enough, we will also be hosting home parties in October and November featuring films of our friend Chuck Chalberg as he creates the incomparable persona of G. K. Chesterton.

* The always festive, always fun Christmas card edition of our quarterly letter-writing parties will be on November 28th at our house -- unless we have too big a crowd.

Okay, that’s it for this month except for three sample letters from our recent correspondence that we print below as a postscript. The first is the basic message we wrote in those cards to the firefighters and police that I mentioned. The second is an example of the letters we frequently write which express pro-life advocacy or deal with other matters of justice, religious freedom, etc. It is an open letter to the President of UNL which was sent to his office as well as posted on Vital Signs Blog. And the third letter was one of many sent to CEOs of companies advertising on a profane and pernicious television program.

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P. S. First letter: 

To our local firefighters and rescue teams,

On this September 11th when we remember the cowardly attacks by vicious jihadists, we also remember and sincerely applaud the courage, professionalism, and willingness to sacrifice that was shown in those terrible days by America’s first responders. I was in Poland on a mission with Joni and Friends ministering to disabled kids and adults on 9/11 and so was allowed the opportunity to see how profoundly the people of Europe joined in America’s sorrow and anger and resolve. But I saw too how impressed they were at the brave service shown by America’s police, firefighters, EMTs, and ambulance crews. The Europeans learned what we already knew (but too often take for granted); namely, that America’s first responders are true heroes. These cookies and this card are modest but sincere tokens of our ongoing gratitude for your service.

Denny & Claire Hartford (Vital Signs Ministries)

Second letter:

Dear Dr. Bounds

I was delighted to hear your segment during the halftime of the NU-Oregon football game last week and was especially impressed with your promise for both the University and you personally to serve with compassion and skill the “youngest, most vulnerable” of our state’s children. Indeed, you stated your desire to “make Nebraska the best place to be a baby.” That’s terrific, Dr. Bounds, and thank you so much for your explanation of UNL’s commitment.

Therefore, with the strength of that noble promise to “make Nebraska the best place to be a baby,” can I then assume that you will be working hard to expose the vicious abortion practices of Planned Parenthood in Nebraska, to eliminate funding for this mega-abortion corporation, and to end any assistance or cooperative programs between Planned Parenthood and the state or its university?

I certainly hope so, Dr. Bounds. For, after all, if you are not committed to oppose Planned Parenthood and the other abortionists in our state, the pledge to make Nebraska the best place for a baby rings tragically and hypocritically hollow.

Thank you for your consideration of this oh-so-important matter.

Third letter:

Dear Ms. G….

I recently learned that your company was one of those sponsoring Fox Television’s remarkably insensitive, offensive, and deliberately misleading episode of “The Mick” in which the show’s characters promote Planned Parenthood by claiming (quite falsely) that the mega-abortion business provides health care for 3 million women. Of course, that’s a canard that has been proven to be grossly wrong…over and over. But then supporters of Planned Parenthood, the gigantic business whose main business and primary profits are the violent destruction of preborn boys and girls, have forever suppressed the truth about Planned Parenthood’s origins, business practices, profits, and criminal actions.

But your company doesn’t have to play that game.

Therefore, I write to urge you to use your influence as a major sponsor to dissuade the program’s blatant misleading of their audience. For if your business continues to promote such offensive, untrue, and socially damaging programming, the public has little recourse except to 1) turn off the program, and 2) turn off its advertisers.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.