Dear friends of Vital Signs Ministries, January 2019

Alas, our Christmas is finally over. Well, perhaps I should say it is almost over because although we had our Epiphany party last Monday night (the party that normally closes out the season for us), Claire has had to stretch out her Christmas tea for all the girls in her family to January 12th this year. So, the decorations will stay up until that event is completed. And that’s just fine with me.

This Christmas, I’m pleased to say, was as delightfully busy and blessed as ever. We hosted 10 different brunch or dinner parties including one that was a book discussion of Shepherds Abiding, Jan Karon’s Christmas novel from her Mitford series; our quarterly Governing Board meeting; a Christmas Day One brunch for eight; and the Vital Signs Christmas card party where 10 of us produced over 140 cards to persecuted believers, politicians, businesses, and others. In total, we entertained 75 guests at these shindigs. But a much higher number were served through our Christmas “When Swing Was King” shows where we entertained, encouraged, and inspired almost 300 people in 12 different senior care facilities.Thank You, Lord.

Our December also included the longstanding tradition of singing Christmas carols on those mornings that we were praying at the abortion mill. And, in our Christmas season sidewalk counseling, we were overjoyed when a woman who listened to us decided to leave the Planned Parenthood and instead go for help at the EPS pro-life pregnancy center down the block.Jesus, please continue to pour out all needed graces to her.

We enjoyed a lot of other social activities during the Christmas season: a quick breakfast at Boys Town with the Morans; an afternoon dessert with the Harrolds; the December meeting of our Notting Hill Napoleons book club; a visit with Harold Berry in Lincoln; a luncheon meeting of the Business and Professional Persons for Life; a New Year’s Eve party in Lincoln with Claire’s family (which included my officiating a brief wedding ceremony for Claire’s brother Casey and his bride Colleen); and a luncheon performance of the Central High Bell Choir during Joslyn’s “Holiday Under Glass” series we enjoy every year with the Coppis.

And while I’m touching on music, I should also mention that our Christmas was enriched by a late November performance of Phantom of the Opera down at the Orpheum; “Christmas at the Cathedral” featuring the Omaha Symphonic Chorus and the Omaha Symphony; Advent music which included Bach’s “Sleepers Awake” Cantata (also at St. Cecilia’s Cathedral); and listening over and again to Winter Night, Patrick Osborne’s extraordinary new music CD.

Another very interesting night was spent at The Bookworm where I had been invited to join one of the store’s regular book clubs who had read my novel The Christmas Room. Claire and I had a most engaging time with these 8 strangers as we talked about writing, the characters and morals in the book, and about things relating to my own experience in coming to Christ.

Oh yes, the season also saw us completing our 4thquarter evaluations of our Christmas Resolutions for 2018 and then carefully and prayerfully laying out our resolutions for 2019. This is an important foundation for our ongoing spiritual disciplines and very helpful in moving us forward.We are tremendously grateful that God grants us forgiveness for past sins and failure even as He keeps providing ever-abundant mercies for fresh starts as we grow in wisdom, strength, courage, and service in His Name.

I’ll close this Christmas review on a sweet note by mentioning the distribution of Claire’s decorated sugar cookies, assorted candies, and her superb chocolate chip cookies. Of course, because they are far from being allowed on our Paleo diets, we can’t even taste these goodies. But judging from the responses, Claire’s skill set is still very much intact. This season’s cookie and candy platters went to 7 neighbor households, 2 to our nearby police precinct, 2 to the firefighters of Station 43, to Anderson Print Group, a half dozen packages to my Panera pals, and 3 platters to the nurses and other staff members of Life Care Center. This last is a Christmas morning tradition we’ve kept up since when my mom lived there. That’s 9 years.

So, as I mentioned, it has been a delightfully busy season.

Coming up in January? There are all of the regular duties – on the streets, keeping up with the blogs, presenting all the “When Swing Was King” shows, and engaging in the various discipleship and hospitality and prayer ministries.Also this month I’ve been invited to give a brief talk to the Assure Women’s Center staff and we will again man a literature booth at the Walk for Life in Lincoln sponsored by Nebraska Right to Life on Saturday, January 26th. And this year Claire and I are also headed to Washington, D.C. to participate in the national March for Life there on the 18th.

And finally, I’m ending this month’s letter with an answer to a specific request; namely, to occasionally mention at the conclusion of these monthly letters books I would recommend to the readers among VSM LifeSharers. Claire thinks that’s a good idea too. I will start, however, a bit differently than in future letters by first directing those of you who are interested to an article of longstanding that you can find on the Vital Signs Ministries website. It’s titled The Indispensables and it lists those books related to the Christian life that I have found of the highest and most valuable quality. Second, I will list here the top picks from my 2018 reading. Fiction — Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, 4 of Jan Karon’s Mitford novels, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat, The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington, and Emma by Jane Austen. History — The two volumes of Memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant, Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, Deadly Times: The 1910 Bombing of the Los Angeles Times and America’s Forgotten Decade of Terror by Lew Irwin, and The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 by Joseph J. Ellis. Culture and politics — Crisis in the Arts by Andrew Klavan. Theology and the Christian life — The Best Is Yet to Come (a book about biblical prophecy) by Tony Evans, No Little People by Francis Schaeffer, Creed or Chaos by Dorothy Sayers, The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn, Happiness by Randy Alcorn, and Heaven, Your Real Home by Joni Eareckson Tada.

Okay, that’s it for this month’s letter. Happy New Year to you all and thanks so much for your ongoing encouragement, prayers, and support.

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