Dear friends of Vital Signs Ministries, July 2019
Imagine the scene – at the intersection of 103rd and Fort, police cars and fire trucks lit up like a fireworks display (and with their sirens and horns sounding just as loud) are trying desperately to make their way through the traffic in order to get to where they are immediately and critically needed. But the progress of these first responders is severely impeded by civilian drivers who pay no attention whatsoever to the lights and alarms. Such knuckleheads are usually oblivious to the loud, dramatic activity around them. And that’s certainly bad enough. But sometimes these civilian drivers are knowingly obstinate as they simply refuse to yield the right of way. The result is a dangerous delay for the first responders because, as you know, sometimes mere seconds can mean life or death for people in need.
Sadly I witness such scenes frequently because my exercise and prayer regimen involves a couple of hours walking laps around a large parking very near that intersection. And right up 103rd Street are both the police department’s Northwest Precinct and Station #43 of the city’s Fire and Rescue squad. But no matter how often I see this happen, I’m always freshly angered at how careless and stupid people can be in failing to yield to the emergency vehicles. Why such irresponsible behavior? Well, as I said, it’s normally because drivers are more occupied with their smart phones, their radios, other passengers, or whatever else, than they are with driving safely and aware. But again, sometimes it’s a more purposeful perversity; that is, a stubborn insistence on having “my own way.” I’ve seen drivers of this sort speed up, swerve around, even yell curses out the window at the first responders for getting in their (the civilians’) way! It’s really incredible.
It doesn’t seem to matter to these dopes that their obstruction is delaying the rescue squad from perhaps getting to a drowned child in need of resuscitation, or the firefighters from getting elderly residents out of a burning apartment, or the police protecting a woman from a brutal attack by home invaders. No, they don’t give a rip for the safety of the first responders and the others around them, let alone the desperate people at the other end of the 911 call. All that matters is keeping their own schedule and, heaven forbid, they surrender the 20 or 30 seconds it would take to stop and let the emergency vehicles go their way
This situation has prompted a lot of thought and prayers these last few years as I ponder the things it reveals about modern society: an ever-escalating frenzy of lawlessness; unbounded selfishness; carelessness and gross irresponsibility that actually crosses over into criminal behavior. After all, the most dangerous thing we do in our lives is taking our car out onto the highway where we hurtle along at high speeds just inches away from other vehicles. So how dare we take any degree of concentration away from the critical tasks of driving conscientiously and defensively? And I’m not merely talking about avoiding alcohol and weed. Oh, no; thepolice would remind us that all distracted driving can have lethal consequences: texting, phone calls, putting on makeup, arguments, “schooling” other drivers, dancing along with the music or, for that matter, just being so far into our own heads that we’re not paying keen attention to our driving and what’s happening around us.
Okay, I’m guessing some of you are now thinking, “This is a rather unusual LifeSharer letter” and maybe asking even “Is Denny’s purpose this month to warn us about the need for greater driver safety?” Well, not exactly; although I’m not at all apologetic about having deep concerns about what is a very serious problem. After all, as a pro-life activist I’m concerned about all threats to human life and the statistics grimly emphasize that people are being routinely maimed and killed by DUI drivers, texting drivers, speeding drivers, and all of the other types of careless drivers. Also, as some of you remember, I lost my own father in 1985 through the stupid selfishness of a drunk driver whose disregard for the laws and other people’s safety resulted in him hitting my dad’s vehicle at over 100 miles per hour. So, yes; if this letter is an encouragement for you to be a more careful driver and one who passes along that exhortation to your kids and grandkids; that’s terrific. And if this letter is an encouragement for you to pray more frequently about things related to this topic; that is, the safety of first responders, increased enforcement of traffic laws, more aggressive actions against impaired drivers; that’s great too.
But I do have another purpose for this letter, one that notes the connections to our pro-life ministry. For, like the first responders at that intersection, we too have a mission that is generally ignored by the public and which is also aggressively opposed by the rude, the crude, and the lawless. Furthermore, ours is a profoundly spiritual mission that involves saving lives, telling the truth in a world that loves lies, providing loving encouragement and hope to the lonely, and seeking to rescue souls from an eternity without Christ. In doing so, we too sound alarms that are disdained and ignored, even by those who claim to be in accord with our principles. So, what are we to do? In the face of public ingratitude, indifference, and opposition, is it worth our carrying on?
I think you can guess what our answer is. But let me first tell you about a couple of conversations I had at the end of one of my walks recently that lend encouraging precedent to our answer. These conversations, by the way, were direct answers to prayer. You see, I had earlier witnessed a couple of these traffic snarls as firefighters and the rescue crew tried to get through the intersection and I had been recording a few of my thoughts on a little device I carry during my walks. I suppose I was even then considering writing a LifeSharer letter about it. But I decided I would ask the Lord to let me talk to a firefighter and/or a police officer that very day in order to hear their views on the matter.
Well, the Lord answered that prayer in a delightful way. For at the very end of my last lap, one of the firemen came up to where he had parked his pickup on the higher level of the lot where I was walking. I struck up a conversation by introducing myself and shaking his hand. He said he had often seen me walking round the lot and was pleased to actually meet me. I told him what I’d been thinking about and how I commiserated with he and his colleagues about their difficulties of getting through the civilian traffic at the intersection. I explained, “You know, when we were kids my parents taught us to say a prayer whenever we heard a siren, asking God to help whoever might be in trouble. And I still do that. But when I became a Christian – that was when I was a young man and still lived in Colorado – I added to those ‘siren’ prayers a request that God would protect and empower the police and fire crews too. But, I gotta’ tell you, after constantly witnessing what happens down at that intersection, my first prayer nowadays is that, before all else, you guys all get safely to where you need to get!”
He laughed and agreed that was a pretty good prayer. He also thanked me for those prayers and for our support. He then shared his own frustration at the lack of cooperation from civilian drivers and told a story about how a guy recently tried to pass the long fire truck (accompanied by siren and flashing lights) that was heading to a call on a Saturday night. The fellow (cold sober as it turned out) finally seemed to realize what he was doing and swerved back. But he did so too sharply and rammed into the back of the fire truck! “Oh yeah,” the firefighter said, “People out there can really get crazy.”
So why do you put up with it, I asked. What keeps you going? His answer wasn’t a surprise but still I found it moving. “It’s a matter of duty, isn’t it? That’s the job and it’s what I signed up for. But, don’t get me wrong; despite all the hassles, I really do love my job. And that’s because I love helping people. I know it’s worthwhile.” I left him with added thanks for his service in our behalf and a promise that Claire and I would bring them some more cookies soon. (We do that periodically for our neighborhood firefighters and police.) I also promised that we would keep praying for them. He thanked me for that and for stopping to talk to him. “You made my day. See you around.”
But another engaging conversation awaited me for as I rounded the corner on my way home, there was a policewoman in the parking lot that is across the street from the precinct building. She was transferring packages and a bouquet of flowers from her cruiser to her own vehicle. I asked her if she had a minute and I again introduced myself and began to relate some of the things I had just shared with the fireman. She too was very nice and was grateful for my empathy, my encouragement, and my prayers. She confessed to often being bothered by the civilian drivers refusing to yield to emergency vehicles. And she explained that people seem to be more distracted and clueless than ever before. But she then smiled and said, “Of course, that’s not the toughest part of the job!” As I started to close the conversation, she came closer to the fence and thanked me for stopping to talk to her. “You know, this was a really timely blessing.” “Why’s that?,” I asked. “Because,” she answered, “Today is my last day on the job — 33 years on the OPD! And so your kindness and encouragement is especially nice.” I told her I would pray for her as I walked home, asking God to pour out all needed mercies for this next stage of her adventures. Thank You, Lord for answering my prayer and giving me neat conversations with two interesting and very pleasant public servants. Keep them safe and cause them to look up to You for all they need here…and for the life to come.
So, back to Vital Signs Ministries and the question I asked earlier: “In the face of ingratitude, indifference, and opposition, is it still worth our carrying on?” I’m pleased to say that our answer is in strict keeping with the testimony of these two first responders. For that answer is a most definite yes!
The answer is yes because it’s not merely our duty to serve God by fulfilling the tasks He has set before us the best we can, it’s also our honor and joy. The answer is yes because we love truth and justice and life and we’re thrilled to lift up these virtues in His Name, both in the public square and in our personal lives. The answer is yes because we enjoy offering to people mercy and assistance and the glorious news of the gospel; that is to say, that forgiveness of sins (sins of any kind and in full total) is freely available to anyone who trusts in Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. And this remains true even when those to whom we seek to minister ignore, reject, or even strike back against us. The answer is yes because we are, like the faithful believers throughout history, “looking for the city to come” and investing our lives in the forever rewards of heaven.
And finally, the answer is yes because we are greatly privileged to stand alongside many heroes who constantly provide us with stimulating fellowship, encouragement, sanity checks, examples of lives well lived, and generous support. We are deeply grateful for you all. And so, as God gives us strength to do so, we will keep sounding the alarms to culture through our various ministries; we will brave the interfering traffic that would deter us from our mission; and we will do what we can to rescue, inspire, and help others.
In closing, let me remind you of how important are your prayers to the Father for Claire, myself, the Vital Signs Ministries team, and our various activities. There are the regular things, of course: our presence at the abortion mill, the dozen “When Swing Was King” presentations every month, the writing and discipleship and hospitality exercises, the letter writing parties, the book discussions, the intercession and advocacy. But coming up in the next days and weeks are a few specific items about which we would appreciate your prayers. Those include speaking engagements at a church, a pro-life organization, a crisis pregnancy center banquet, and a whole slew of others already set up for us when we travel to Great Britain in October. Also, there are a couple of short trips to Colorado coming up fin July and September for family events and for the 50th reunion of Bear Creek High School’s esteemed Class of ’69. (Well, some of them were esteemed anyhow!)
As always, thank you for every donation, every prayer, every word of encouragement, every recommendation to others.