Dear friends of Vital Signs Ministries,                                      March 2024

            This month’s letter is one of those that fits more into the “newsy” category than an essay or devotional. And that’s okay because 1) those of you who do want to read my commentaries on theological and cultural matters can find them on Vital Signs Blog and/or our website. Those would include the most recent entries — “Abortion Shame? Not Very Often;” “About That Thanksgiving Jar;” and “A Murderous Change in Language” and 2) the readers of our LifeSharer letters seem to prefer the “newsy” editions. As it was once said, “Yes, Denny, we enjoy reading about what you’re thinking, but we enjoy even more reading about what you’re doing!” And so, because February had quite a bit of the “doing” stuff, let’s get right to it.

1) Our presence outside the evil Planned Parenthood abortion mill continues apace. We gather for prayers together and to present a winsome, peaceful witness against the barbaric injustice which is abortion. For we are convinced, that even with all of our other pro-life activities, it is crucial to maintain a pro-life witness at the very doors of death — a witness that proclaims in the public square the sanctity of human life, that offers alternatives to abortion to would-be clients, and that continues to warn abortion profiteers of the eternal doom that awaits all who reject Christ’s gospel. Finally, this pro-life witness serves to demonstrate to a watching world that there are yet Christians who take seriously such biblical exhortations as “Rescue those who are being taken away to death and those who are staggering to the slaughter. Oh, hold them back!” (Proverbs 24:11) and “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean. Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil; learn to do good. Seek justice; rebuke the oppressor. Obtain justice for the orphan; plead for the widow’s case.” (Isaiah 1:16-17)

            Our numbers are few (just 4 of us on Monday mornings, maybe 8 to 12 on Saturday mornings), but what solid ambassadors for Christ are each one of them. And what a distinct privilege, and practical help, and much-welcomed “sanity check” it is to serve alongside such saints. Of course, your prayers for these Christians are most welcome, especially those who are out there the most: Bev, John, Barb, Mark, Don, Ruth, Isaac, Dick, Matt, Keith, and us.

            2) One of the most wonderful “wow” moments of the year for Claire and me was on February 9 when we helped serve over 250 special needs people at the extravagant

Night to Shine, the super-festive, super-fun “prom event” created by the Tim Tebow Foundation and hosted locally here by King of Kings Church. Claire and I were honored to be part of the Red Carpet Team who wildly cheered and applauded each guest and their “buddy escorts” as they entered. The grateful excitement these teenagers and young adults showed for this lively, loving welcome was really off the charts! It was a “wow” moment indeed. But we had also volunteered for the clean-up crew afterward and that turned out to be a couple of hours of moving heavy tables and other furniture. It certainly lacked the glitz, glamour, and fun of the earlier part of our evening but it was work that had to be done. In that regard, it was like a lot of our regular Vital Signs tasks! So, the question is, will we volunteer again for the Night to Shine if we’re still here on the planet next year? There’s absolutely no doubt about it. Sign us up!

            3) We had, as we always do, a terrific time at Wellspring Church in Papillion on February 18 when I addressed the adult Sunday school class with an exposition of the abortion related passage in Exodus 21 and a review of the strong, consistent pro-life history of Christianity from the Church Fathers through the Reformers down until our own day. I was also able to talk about the extreme dangers of the pro-abortion petition initiatives being conducted in Nebraska and many other states that would enshrine unlimited abortion in state constitutions. (You can read more about this dire threat on the Vital Signs website – “Unlimited Abortion in Nebraska’s Constitution?”) I then spoke at the Wellspring worship service with a sermon entitled “Gardening Tips” which explored several of the Scriptures which use agricultural metaphors. (That sermon, by the way, can be found on the Wellspring Facebook page.)

            4) As you well know, we take correspondence very seriously around here for it is an important way to practically and consistently shine the light of truth in this darkened culture.We do this with the Vital Signs quarterly letter-writing parties, but Claire and I do an awful lot of it ourselves every month. We write letters of advocacy to political leaders, businesses, and media. And we write a lot of friends, pro-life colleagues, and staff members of Christian ministries. And since the February LifeSharer, we have written 67 such letters and cards.

            We were also privileged on February 15 to help a local church launch their own letter-writing ministry. And we are trying to enlist members of the Business and Professional People for Life (on whose board I serve) to get more involved in this grassroots ministry too.

            Oh, one more point about letters. Have I ever mentioned before that Claire and I write letters to one another? We do. And we can testify that it is a powerful way to help keep a marriage tender (but stronger), more aware, more accountable, more encouraged, and yes, more romantic. It’s not really a difficult thing either. You don’t need to be a Shakespeare or Lord Byron. Ours are usually one-page notes written every two or three weeks — notes that we leave on the table for the other to discover upon awakening. They are so meaningful that we each keep them in a folder to re-read every once in a while. It is a valuable practice that we recommend quite highly to other couples, no matter how long you’ve been married.

            5) The Business and Professional People for Life (BP4L) hosted their quarterly luncheon for 56 people on February 22 with Claire and I involved in organizing and promoting the event, taking the reservations, serving as the liaison with the German-American Society who provide the venue and meal, helping with emcee duties, assisting the luncheon speaker, and providinga review and evaluation of the event. Our speaker, Connie Boesch from Abortion Dialogue Academy, was excellent.

6) Our Sunday afternoon church service at Aksarben Village Senior Living on February 25 was a significant and happy milestone — our three-year anniversary! What a remarkable ministry this has proven to be to the residents there at Aksarben Village…and to us!  Indeed, this has become our church. Worship through the most excellent and varied music. Brief but practical, Bible-centered sermons. Prayers. The Lord’s Table. And “true heart” friendships that have blessed us in so many ways. Thank You, Father. Our anniversary celebration, by the way, included two gorgeous and scrumptious cakes made by Olga Bevza and her sister Olena Serafino, young friends of ours from Ukraine. We so appreciate their love for God and desire to make Him known. And they are superb bakers, specializing in cakes, macaroons, and Ukranian sweets. We even made a short interview of Olena for the anniversary party and that added another nice surprise to this special day. Special thanks go to our team members for that day — Don, Allen, Ruth, Tom & Lila, and Deb.

7) We were challenged to fight back against the pro-abortion ballot initiative through a breakfast program sponsored by Nebraska Family Alliance on February 8 in Lincoln. More important still, Governor Jim Pillen, Nate Grasz, and others passed along very helpful advice, making the large audience better equipped for the battles ahead. Also, we were honored by the chance to visit friends like Sandy Danek, Toni Clarke, and, as shown in the photo alongside, Ron Brown.

8) “When Swing Was King.” What more can I say about this outreach when every single show we do is a uniquely fun, uplifting, and popular event for our audiences? February’s schedule saw us presenting 13 shows (3 of them down in Lincoln) and the response, as usual, was fantastic. Of course, the best effects of “When Swing Was King” occur in those facilities where we enjoy enthusiastic partnerships with staff. And making our “honor role” in that regard are Megan at Sterling Ridge, Lynn at Brookstone, Anne Marie at Immanuel Courtyard, Vicky at Immanuel Village, and the whole staff at both Newport here in northwest Omaha and Legacy Arbors in Lincoln.

            9) Our February has also included the usual share of hospitality and friendship activities and these are of critical importance to us: coffee with John every Thursday; meals with Rick and Kelly, Harold and Mary Dee, Jim and Jean, LaVern and Marlene, Mark and Gary and Dean, Dick, Sharon, Keith and Carol, Mark and Bonita, Kevin and Theresa, Larry and Deb, Barb, Bev, Isaac, Ruth, and probably a few others I’m forgetting. Friends — good friends of godly character — are absolutely indispensable to a successful Christian life and mission. Therefore, we are continually thanking and praising God that He has given us so many of these treasures!

            10) Other items to mention? Well, we had a somewhat trying month regarding some health issues but the Lord mercifully upheld us in keeping on schedule and then a blood test of mine last week suggested that the doctor’s worst concerns were probably unfounded. Also in our February agenda was Claire reading Jan Karon while I was involved with Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, C.S. Forester’s The African Queen, and an unusual novel inspired by C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters which was written by none other than former Nebraska Attorney General, Don Stenberg. That very interesting book is Eavesdropping on Lucifer. I was also tasked (most willingly) to read an unpublished manuscript of a long-time pro-life colleague from Washington D.C. who now lives in Texas, Christy Anne Collins.

            11) To give a fuller picture of our schedule, I should also mention that we continue in Tim Tebow’s daily devotional, Bible reading, prayer regimens for evening and in the car, our Thanksgiving Jar discipline, our Paleo diet, and physical exercise. And this month, in addition to my Bible studies for sermons and blog posts, I’ve been exploring the dangers of the “cross-less gospel” that has, in recent years, become a theological fad for a small (and ever-splintering) group. Oh, Lord; may You keep me humbly clinging to that “old time religion” that emphasizes the inerrancy of Scripture, the substitutionary atonement that Jesus graciously bought for us through the cross and resurrection, and the power of the Holy Spirit to let us grow in our understanding, faith, character, and anticipation of heaven’s splendors.

            Okay, I told you this would be a pretty “newsy” letter and it has certainly been that.But all of these actions are undergirded and encircled by your prayers, support, and encouragement. Please know that we do not take your partnership at all lightly. And wehope you don’t either! Indeed, we are, in a more literal sense than any of us usually imagine, “in this together.” God bless you all and your families…and your various ministries for His Kingdom.

Postscript: Coming up in March (besides our usual tasks) are the next Vital Signs letter-writing parties at our house at 7 PM on March 11 AND at 10 in the morning on March 12. Also, our quarterly Book Brunch is coming up Saturday morning, March 23 at 10, also at our house. The book under discussion is a very good one, No Little People: Sixteen Sermons for the 20th Century by Francis Schaeffer. Are you in?

And we begin the month with a quick trip down to Wichita to see my little sister Sherry whose dementia is steadily worsening. Prayers for her are always deeply appreciated.

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