Dear friends of Vital Signs Ministries,                  January 2022

            Andy Williams used to sing of the Christmas season, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  Well, we certainly agree but around here it is also the busiest time 

of the year with Yuletide 2021 being particularly so.  Indeed, after last night’s Epiphany dinner party when Claire and I sat down and “wrapped up” the season by reviewing its highlights, we concluded it was one of the most memorable of all. 

            * 8 presentations of the Christmas “When Swing Was King” show.

            * Hosting 7 dinner parties.

            * Adding the singing of Christmas carols to our prayers and pro-life witness outside the abortion business.

            * 10 Christmas-themed sermons, most at our Aksarben Village church services but with presentations also at Grace Bible Church (2x), Herman Community Church, a NEL gathering, and a group of recovering addicts at a downtown treatment center. 

            * Nearly 30 “Christmas out” events which included meeting friends for lunch or breakfast or just coffee.

            * Baking cookies and making “Santa Mix” candy to take to 8 of our neighbors.

            * Organizing a Christian Brotherhood reunion brunch.

            * Hosting our book club to discuss Jan Karon’s very Christmassy novel, Shepherds Abiding.  (Claire’s Orange Marmalade Cake for the occasion was especially well-received!)

            * Of course, tossed in for good measure was excellent music, books (both new titles and beloved “old friends”), and focused times of prayer and conversation as every night from December 1 through Epiphany we went through items taken from 2021’s Thanksgiving Jar.  It was truly a splendid Christmas.

             However, there is one other element of our season that we take quite seriously and that’s a spiritual discipline with a distinctly “forward” view.  This is our New Year’s Resolutions, also known as our Christmas Presents to Jesus.  You have probably heard me speak of this before but let me give you a quick description of how it works. For many years now, Claire and I have taken time to thoughtfully and prayerfully prepare our resolutions. Then, to help us better keep them, we not only talk them over with each other, but we also make quarterly evaluations of how we’re doing. These evaluations are invaluable in our keeping those vows we’ve made to God fresh and focused throughout the year. Among the ongoing areas of resolution for us are Bible reading, prayer and devotions, diet and exercise, home projects, family, reading, purposefulness in friendships, Vital Signs activities and projects, Thanksgiving Jar, correspondence, attention to one another, hospitality, church involvement, and writing.

            Like all years, we did better with some resolutions than with others.  Like all years, we were greatly encouraged with God’s faithfulness to help us succeed in certain areas as well as to readily supply forgiveness and fresh starts with those things where we didn’t grade so well.  And like all years, we know that our growth in the Lord was substantially healthier and heartier than had we not bothered with resolutions at all.

            Okay, the next items in this month’s letter are a brief description of a close call we recently experienced at the abortion business and then some quick alerts to “coming attractions” for Vital Signs Ministries.

            First up, that close call. Here is how I described it in a Facebook post, “During this morning’s pro-life witness at the barbaric business which is Planned Parenthood, we experienced a dangerous assault when a woman narrowly missed us with her black SUV. In her effort to throw a ketchup-laced cardboard box containing the remains of her breakfast at us, she came within just a couple of yards of hitting me with her vehicle. Our subsequent prayers included gratitude for God’s deliverance and sincere requests that this violent woman find the mercy of God that forgives sin and transforms lives. But yes, to try and protect others in the future, we did contact the police later and filled them in on what happened. Interestingly enough, it turns out that the license plate number doesn’t correspond to the vehicle she was driving…which suggests perhaps why she wasn’t concerned that we get the plate number. The policewoman’s advice was to call 911 right away next time because such action does constitute a serious crime.”

            As you can easily guess, such incidents cause us to stay ever fervent in prayer when we’re out there.  In fact, one of the common refrains in our intercession is, “Lord, please protect us from Your enemies today.  Protect us physically and spiritually and defeat all the devil’s plans to harm us or hinder our ministry.  Keep our feet from stumbling; keep us alert and in the Spirit; and keep us from injury from both mad drivers and bad drivers.”  (By all means, please feel free to lift up a few similar prayers for us as we continue to confront the culture of death through this peaceful, winsome witness.)

            This near-miss stimulated me to do a Bible study on “rage” which proved to be most enlightening and, somewhat surprising, very encouraging too. I think I’ll make it the subject of an upcoming sermon…or maybe one of these monthly letters.

            And now, before I close this letter, the FYI alerts I mentioned.

            1) The Walk for Life sponsored by Nebraska Right to Life will again take place in Lincoln and we would love to see you there — Saturday, January 29, beginning on the north steps of the State Capitol at 10:00 a.m. You can always find us in the crowd by the colorful banners we hold and we will, of course, be present at the Vital Signs literature booth at the UNL Student Union following the Walk. The year’s speaker is the award-winning actress, Ashley Bratcher.

            2) We are nearing our 1-year anniversary of the Sunday afternoon church service at Aksarben Village Senior Living. We are as delighted as ever at how God has developed this teaching/worship/fellowship ministry despite problems with staff there and frustrating virus “protocols.”  Your prayers are probably more important than ever so please continue…maybe even step ‘em up a bit! Also, beginning in February, we will be adding to our service the celebration of communion on the first Sunday of the month.

            3) The next Vital Signs Book Brunch is scheduled for Saturday morning, February 19th at 10 o’clock. And unless there’s too many to handle, it will be at our home. The book under discussion will be Eugenics and Other Evils by G.K. Chesterton. This fascinating, enlightening, and well-written 185-page book is more relevant today than it was when first published exactly 100 years ago. I’ve no doubt that both the reading and the discussion will be of great value to you. However, please note 3 important things: A) The book can be easily and cheaply found. Indeed, Kindle readers can download it for free. B) RSVPs are of serious importance. C) And please – read the book! It’s still a wonder to me how so many people love the idea of joining a book club, yet cannot be bothered with actually reading the books. Sigh.

            4) Finally, among our resolutions for the coming year is to try and carve out some more time for writing projects. Of course, I do quite a bit of writing already — the monthly letters, sermons, articles for the Vital Signs Blog and The Book Den, a lot of personal correspondence – but I’m aiming this year at a few other projects. Some of those would be fresh writing as in turning notes from selected sermons into prose and penning a couple more short stories for a now-unfinished collection. Other projects would be putting into print scattered articles from days gone by including publication of the trivia, quotations, and song lyric excerpts we collected for last year’s activity packets for seniors. But again, these projects will all require time and we’re pretty unsure as to where we might find some! Your prayers are greatly appreciated in this area, as in all others.

            That’s it; I have to go get the mail, finish a few letters, and then head over to the first of 7 “When Swing Was King” shows that Claire and I have scheduled for January. Thanks so much for reading this letter. And thanks for all the support, prayers, and encouragement. It means more than the world to us.

But be doers of the word,
and not hearers only.