Dear friends of Vital Signs Ministries, June 2021
Even though it’s only 6 o’clock, this Friday morning is already very hot. Yes, I did bring an umbrella into the coffee shop with me as the weatherman has promised a big rainstorm is on its way but there’s no sign of it yet. My plan for this morning was to write a “newsy” LifeSharer letter for you that described ministry highlights from the past several weeks. However, after going through my prayer journal for those weeks, I realized I wouldn’t have enough space. Therefore, I’m going to give you a snapshot of just one week of Vital Signs Ministries and I hope it encourages you, challenges you, and moves you to frequently lift us up in your prayers. Let’s go…
Last Sunday morning was my last of three straight weeks at Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion where I delivered the morning’s sermon as well as presenting talks for each week’s adult Sunday school class. I have preached at Wellspring on many occasions in the past and the people there are always attentive, encouraging, and delightful to be with. We send them a warm thank-you for their kindness to us.
We then hustled home, had a protein bar and a cup of tea, and loaded up the car with the equipment we use for our Sunday afternoon church service at Aksarben Village Senior Living. That includes our projector, speaker, portable (but still very heavy) screen, microphone stand, camera and tripod, and all the cords. We also take the programs we’ve prepared for each resident on which is printed the order of service, the hymn lyrics, and the Scripture text from the day’s 15-minute sermon. Oh yes; there’s a large batch of Claire’s cookies for the 45 minutes to 1 hour visiting time afterward. We have 2-5 friends on any given Sunday who are part of the fellowship team. Allen and Patrick are our most frequent partners in the Aksarben outreach but we have also had the help of Dick, Keith & Carol, Jim & Jean, Karla, Joanna, Rob & Hope, Ruth, and Don.
I cannot express how delighted we are with this new ministry. As you know, we started in February and even a few of our Board members were concerned about Claire and me taking on another project. After all, we were committing to a service every single week which also required quite a bit of “before and after” work: selecting 3 music videos to be used in each service, editing and uploading them, preparing the handouts, baking the cookies, working with the facility staff, and, of course, studying for and preparing each week’s sermon.
However, though the investment is certainly substantial, our Board members now see that rather than being drained by this new outreach, we are remarkably energized by it. The response from our congregation (18-24 people) has been beyond enthusiastic. And the subsequent ministry we’re offering by uploading the sermons onto the Vital Signs Ministries YouTube channel so that anyone on the net can watch them is growing in significance. Thank You, Lord, for opening this marvelous door.
Okay, enough about Sunday. What about the next day? Well, Monday morning saw Claire, me, Mark, and Keith & Carol in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion mill, holding our beautiful pro-life signs as a moral appeal to the abortionist workers, the people driving by, and, most importantly, to the would-be victims of Planned Parenthood’s barbaric lies, exploitation, and bloodshed. Things heated up a bit when a couple of thugs who were mowing the abortionist’s weeds cursed and threatened me. But they turned out to be (as they almost always do) mere blowhards.
Much more serious was another matter. But let me set the scene for you. You see, a few weeks ago one of the pro-life people (not someone associated with the Vital Signs team) lost his cool and tried to block the abortionist from her parking spot on the east side of the building. The only results of that shortsighted move were to enrage the abortionist workers and to cause them to pursue a more active opposition to our sidewalk counseling efforts. Specifically, they forged a new agreement with the owner of the business property across the alley to prohibit any pro-life presence at all on the east side of the building. And, at least temporarily, the police are enforcing that.
Following that incident, a meeting was called by Nebraskans Embracing Life to address the problem – a meeting in which everyone involved in a pro-life presence there at Planned Parenthood heard very sage counsel from a lawyer from the Thomas More Society and from EPS (the pro-life pregnancy center that is just a few doors away from Planned Parenthood). The keynote of that counsel was an admonition to do things honestly, peacefully, prayerfully, and legally, leaving the east side trespassing questions up to the pro-life lawyers to work out. Failure to do that could well go beyond police intervention. Indeed, it could give fuel to Planned Parenthood’s hopes for a “bubble zone” injunction that could ban pro-life witness from the entire area.
Yet what did we see last Monday morning? Some people who were present at the meeting and knew quite well how their actions might hurt the overall pro-life effort, nevertheless ignored legal advice and went ahead to the east side with signs, preaching, and unnecessary confrontation with a security guard. (By the way, we spoke with them that very morning, even prayed with them briefly, and reminded them of the protocols we had all agreed to. Sadly, that was all to no effect.) What happened? Well the immediate effect was what you might guess; namely, two police cruisers showed up and courteously required them to return to the west side of the building. Could these guys spark further actions by the abortionist that would hurt the overall pro-life effort? We’ll see.
Now, as you know, Vital Signs’ history has included instances when we have engaged in peaceful civil disobedience. But the purposes were always to extend pro-life speech, not endanger it. An example? Our action against the City of Omaha when they were unjustly using an old labor union law to arrest us for peaceful assembly on city sidewalks. Keep in mind too that the risks taken in such instances were always personal ones; the potential penalties did not affect others. For that was before the 1994 FACE Act (“Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances”) and other moves by Presidents Clinton, Obama, and Biden, which have enabled abortionists to win injunctions via liberal judges that can remove the entirety of a public Christian witness near an abortion mill…even for the action of one person. That’s what the Thomas More Society representative was stressing – don’t do something stupid that might end up getting every pro-lifer banned from being within blocks of the abortion business.
But get this! The lawyer also shared at that meeting some really astounding news. He explained what a huge difference it makes to would-be abortion clients when there are praying, pro-life people outside an abortion business. That’s why it is absolutely critical to protect as much as we possibly can the chance to be there with our signs, our roses, our banners, and our mere presence. Indeed, here’s his amazing revelation — any time there are praying pro-life people outside an abortion “clinic,” the number of abortion appointments can decline by 1/3 or even 1/2. “Now,” he quickly added, “I know you may be skeptical of those numbers. You may believe they are simply based on wishful thinking. But the fact is that these figures have come from the abortionists themselves — even though they certainly don’t want the truth to be known. No, these figures have been dragged out of abortionists through cross-examination in trials over the years. And over and over again, they are forced to admit the astounding effectiveness of pro-life pickets. So, by all means, remember that your #1 priority is just to be there! Don’t do anything that might endanger that.”
Great advice? You bet. And great news about the impact of our public pro-life witness over the years, right? Thank You, Lord. So, please be in prayer for us in this crucial element of Vital Signs Ministries. And pray too that all of our pro-life colleagues follow the excellent advice we received in that meeting.
Okay, what else did this past week bring? Well, on Tuesday we presented a “When Swing Was King” show at Pacific Springs with 21 residents in attendance. We had a marvelous time with memory-making music and photos plus, of course, the chance to keep enriching our friendships with our WSWK fans. Sad to say, however, that the fallout from the virus quarantines continues among senior living facilities. Thus, we have been allowed to return to only 4 facilities from our pre-Covid schedule of 12. Obviously, this is another prayer item; namely, that we get into many more places soon.
And speaking of friendship, the iron-sharpening fellowship of the Hartford Cafe (a group of 4-9 who meet at our house at 6 A.M. every Tuesday) goes on as does the more intensive Thursday morning group which meets at 6 down at Paradise Cafe in Regency. Those two slots in our schedule are of the utmost value to us for, even though we always have an awful lot on our to-do list, these times of purposeful fellowship with fellow-soldiers of the Lord provide not only a “sanity check” in the midst of the world’s madness, but they also bless us with encouragement, accountability, wise counsel, and stimulation to ongoing love and good deeds in the Lord’s work. For consistent discipleship, strong friendships with godly men and women are absolutely indispensable.
Another expression of God’s gifting Claire and me with “saintly sojourners” came on Tuesday night as we hosted the Vital Signs Board for dinner at our home and then our quarterly Board meeting. We were missing three of the team but we did have Allen, Patrick, Don, John, Mary, and Matt to go over VSM finances (healthy), our last quarter activities (busy and productive), and our upcoming plans.
However, there was a bonus blessing in our meeting in that our conversation also included answers to four questions we posed to the Board members: 1) Can you give a few one-word descriptions of Vital Signs’ work over the last 40 years? 2) Over that time, what are some of Vital Signs’ most significant achievements and/or ministries? 3) What have been some of the low points along the way? And 4) What have been some of the surprises? The subsequent discussion was really something special and, though there were some solemn and soul-searching moments, the cumulative effect was provocative in all the best ways. In fact, it was so profoundly enlightening and encouraging that I may well make them the foundation of an upcoming LifeSharer letter.
Well, I can see that my “week in review” is already running out of space — and I’m just getting to Wednesday! So let me quickly list some of the rest of this past week’s activities. I started in on Wednesday with my sermon study for Aksarben Village; there’s work on our social media pages almost every day; and there’s always correspondence and planning and intercession. Also, like most of you, there’s a lawn to be mowed and watered, bushes and flowers to be tended to, and plenty of household jobs. And, finally, I’m fitting into my schedule nowadays more intensive training for another mountain climb. That means my prayer walks (7.5+ miles), laps around Fr. Flanagan Lake on the bike (16.5 miles), and twice-daily exercises I was taught by a physical therapist a few years ago.
Oh yes; another large chunk of this week’s work has been our efforts to make Keith and Carol Moran’s 50 Anniversary party a big success. That party (with 56 guests) will take place tomorrow on the lovely, spacious grounds of Dick Wilson’s home. Featured will be a marriage renewal ceremony, a lovely PowerPoint retrospective, a BBQ lunch, a gorgeous cake, and a lot of fun. We’ll let you know how it turns out.
And until next time, dear friends, keep looking up. Our redemption draws nigh!
P.S. Among the most helpful items on the Vital Signs Blog are compilation posts I put on every few days. These are designed to help those who want to stay current with major issues and events in the culture wars, yet who also want to avoid information overload. So in these compilation posts, I pass along a few of the web’s most important, most accurately researched, and best-written articles from the alternative media. Staying informed without being completely inundated – that’s the key.
P.P.S. Remember those 13-15 minute sermons from our Aksarben services can be found at the Vital Signs Ministries YouTube channel. Just click on “Videos” for the whole set to date…and more. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNrqE6LIoKOjSWamUGrFhGQ