Monday brought news of devastation from Paris, France. The Notre Dame Cathedral, a historical icon, was engulfed in flames. Destroyed spires and ravaged roof, the beloved cathedral stood in an unprecedented state of destruction. Still, among the ashes and through the billows of smoke, there was a glimmer of hope. The cross on the altar remained unscathed, a beaming symbol amidst tragedy.
Standing in the rubble, staring at the ruins of our sin feels like being in the Notre Dame Cathedral. There is damage in every direction. Our relationships tarnished; our reputations tainted by sin. Permanently stained by ashes and polluted with smoke, our lives are much like the demolished cathedral.
We recall our eagerness to shout, “Crucify him!” with the crowd; our enthusiasm to place the crown of thorns on Christ’s innocent head; and our encouragement to pierce his side. Reliving these events, we are painfully aware of the cost of our sins. Created to be perfect, we were once the beautiful crown of God’s masterpiece. Now, we are charred by sin and it’s hard to imagine that beauty ever existed within us.
Among the debris of our lives, however, lies a promise of hope. Through the devastation of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the cross stands. When the flames overwhelm us and darkness envelops us, the cross stands. When tragedy strikes and smoke suffocates us, the cross stands. When fear overcomes us and we are completely brokenhearted, the cross stands. We know Easter is coming.
The plan for rescue has long been in place. Jesus—the one we sentenced to death—has saved us. The empty cross stands, reminding us that Jesus rose victoriously.
For many of us, the gospel message was shared within the confines of our own homes. Reciting a dinner prayer was a daily ritual, and singing “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of our lungs was not abnormal. From little on, we were taught about the Father’s love for us and we always understood the symbolism of the cross. Our relationship with God was formed through baptism and our parents continued to faithfully instruct us, ensuring that the next generation would know their Savior.
These experiences, however, are not included in everyone’s story. Many were raised to believe that Jesus was an inspirational leader, and that God is nothing more than an elaborate myth. They were brought up by parents that prioritized sleep over worship and insisted that the Big Bang Theory was a viable claim. There was not a focus on Christ and now they find themselves spiritually lost.
Understanding the juxtaposition of these experiences helps us understand our role in spreading the gospel. God has commanded us to make disciples and we strive to accomplish this through our ministry. Our theme this year is “Generation to Generation.” Focusing on those who have not been given a foundation with Christ as cornerstone, we work to ensure that our clients hear the gospel message and know their Savior. Our advocates embrace the opportunity and spread Our advocates are embracing the opportunity and spreading the gospel from generation to generation.
And the impact from these conversations does not stop there. The powerful gospel message permeates through our clients as they build the foundation for the children they are raising. Through the Holy Spirit, the people we serve are brought to faith and are able to equip the next generation.
The work we do, though physically impactful, extends far beyond pregnancy tests and packages of diapers. Through this ministry, we are changing and saving lives. We are supporting families and standing alongside of them as they make life-affirming decisions. By encouraging our clients through the words of the gospel, we are ensuring this message is being spread from generation to generation.
“Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created,” (Esther 4:14).
*Translation is not direct*
If I had to count the number of times that I have felt dangerously out of my depth, I would imagine the number would be somewhere around 3,898,706,412. When God presents me with challenges, I consistently respond with, “You picked the wrong girl. You must have me confused with another Megan. You have the wrong one.”
These moments, when life has culminated in what feels like a category five natural disaster, you can feel as though you are incapable. Sure, you have had trouble in the past, but something about this challenge feels insurmountable. This one feels daunting, completely impossible.
For me, one such challenge involved completing my college degree. Taking 17 credits, managing three jobs, and leading two clubs—I was sure I would fail. There were several instances where I seriously considered catching the next plane to Bora Bora.
Perhaps you can relate. Maybe for you, these doubts stem from being a parent to a child with special needs. Listening to the specialist describe the challenges ahead, you think, “Lord, you have the wrong mom.” Your paralyzing fear leaves you feeling entirely inadequate and unable to provide the support you know your child needs.
Maybe your uncertainty comes from the new promotion you received. Reading the description of your new responsibilities, you find yourself saying, “Lord, you have the wrong employee.” Your anxiety makes you believe that you will disappoint your team.
Maybe your concerns are connected with a parent recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Reading the materials provided by the doctor, you are sure, “Lord, you have the wrong child.” Your inability to provide a solution makes you certain that you are incapable of caring for your dad.
These fears are not small, they are not insignificant, they are not unfounded. They are, however, unnecessary. They are unwarranted because God has prepared you.
Read that again. Then read it once more.
YOU. Yes, you with the crippling anxiety. You with the self-doubt. You with the uncertainty.
He has designed you for this very moment. You have been created to navigate through these troubled waters. He has spent time preparing you, training you to be a skilled sailor. God has given you these challenges because he knows you can handle them.
He knows this because He was the one who knit you together. He was the one who formed you. He was the one who built your bones, crafted your DNA, and constructed your features. He knows you because he made you.
Your Heavenly Father also knows that you are not alone. Because while he has allowed these challenges to enter your life, he has not abandoned you. He understands that these appear to be big problems, but He knows that He is so much bigger.
Jesus reminds us of this truth in Matthew, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” (Matthew 19:26).
His words in Esther and Matthew are reassuring us that we can handle these challenges. We can overcome these obstacles. We can conquer these fears.
Remember these words when you experience job relocation. Meditate on these truths when your colicky baby refuses to sleep. Read these passages when the doctor informs you the cancer has returned.
Because these are the moments for which you were created.
When you hold your baby those first moments it’s hard to imagine there will be battles ahead. When I had my firstborn, my great aunt told me to enjoy all the moments, especially before she could walk and talk. I would learn soon enough that shortly after a toddler learns to talk, they learn to say no.
As time passes, and especially if other children join the family, it is easy to become weary of the discipline. Notoriously as soon as you start nursing the baby, the two year old decides to climb on a chair and into mischief. Your first efforts, verbal scolding and even cajoling, often do little to encourage a change in behavior.
The first obstacle is mustering the stamina and strength to deal with the endless battles each hour brings. The second is to keep your composure as a Christian mom while doing so.
Now that I have teens I see the importance of facing the battles, even and especially the ones we’ve faced and dealt with a hundred times before. I don’t want to face them. I don’t want to put the emotional effort into the barrage of excuses of why this particular rule doesn’t make sense.
But I’ve found discipline is worth fighting for, and though they aren’t quick to admit it, older teens respect you more for sticking to the rules you decided were worth fighting for. Several times after a battle, one of my teens has sent a text letting me know I am loved and they are just struggling.
It’s a pretty safe bet that if we don’t instill Christian values our kids aren’t going to “pick them up” elsewhere. The world and the army of evil are battling for our children.
We don’t discipline to make them into puppets or to earn favor or to make us look good. We discipline our children to teach God’s rules are not meant to be a burden, but a blessing. And we discipline to teach our children self-control and to look outside of their own interests to notice others. These are lifelong issues.
Even if our children turn away at some point, it is our job as Christian moms to stand firm. We love, certainly and unconditionally while continually standing on the truth of God’s ways.
When you don’t see the intended outcome with your 18 month, 2, 15 or 32 year old don’t give up, but rather pray and gently, but firmly press on, heeding the apostle Paul’s advice to the Galatians: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (6:9).
Press on and fight the battles. Your son(s) and daughter(s) are worth fighting for.
This article was written by Amber Swenson.
“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”
Reading those lyrics may have invoked a vivid childhood flashback for you. Perhaps you immediately attached the melody and sang along as you pictured your younger self, spinning in a circle, tightly grasping the hands of your friends. United, you sang, “Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”
We all fall down. Sin, death and the Devil bring us down—and not in the playful way we experienced singing this song. No—this fall is far less graceful and far more painful. Envision the worst injury you have witnessed in sports. Picture Lawrence Taylor enveloping Joe Theismann, Kevin Ware crashing to the hardwood floor, or Zach Miller pounding the turf. (For those uneducated in gruesome athletic injuries, just imagine bones placed in unnatural positions and facial expressions that would make you cringe).
These images describe the falls we take with every sin we commit and every temptation we accept. These falls are debilitating, and without assistance, we cannot come to our feet. There is no amount of mental fortitude or physical determination that can make us stand. Only God’s outstretched hand can give us the strength to make a comeback.
And (thankfully), that’s exactly what God does—He gives us His hand and pulls us up. Throughout the Lenten season, we are thrown to the ground as we remember how our thoughts, words, and actions nailed him to the cross. Then Easter comes and the risen Lord lifts us higher than we could ever imagine.
His complete triumph and unwavering hand serve as the hand, reaching out to save us. With this, we are able to be like the children singing “Ring Around the Rosy,” and immediately rise again. We are able to take help and live as redeemed children of God.
Today, as we begin the Lenten season, we come to our Savior in repentance and humbly seek his outstretched hand. We remember the sacrifice that was made and recognize that only He can provide the strength to stand. Unlike the childhood tune, “we all fall down,” is not the end of our story.
Becoming a parent is an exciting, joyous, overwhelming, terrifying, and anxious experience. Or so I have heard. Though I have cared for children through several jobs, I have yet to become a parent. So, I have enlisted the help of several seasoned professionals for this piece. Today, we are discussing the adventure of parenthood through the lenses of mothers at various stages in the journey!
Here are the things that no one tells you about being a parent, and the things you never imagined you would do as a parent!
“I didn’t receive much advice before becoming a mom, most of raising my children was trial and error! My mom once told me to be careful about punishing my children after I grounded one of them. She said by grounding them, I was basically grounding myself! She was right. Longest week ever!”
-Lorna, mother of two grown children
“No one told me how much my children would teach me about relationships. Before I became a mom, I never realized how much I would intensely and instantly love them the second they were born. This love taught me more about God’s love, and the love I have for my husband. Children taught us to manage our changed relationship and challenged us to make each other a priority. Being a mom has also taught me about my relationship with myself. I never realized that I would have to “re-discover” myself once they were semi-independent. The truth is, parenting never gets easier, the challenges just change.
On a lighter note, there have been several things I never thought I would do, but motherhood has pressed the issue. I never thought I would sit by idly while my two-year-old daughters played in a mud pile at the park (also never imagined taking pictures to document the moment)! Using my children’s first and middle names to communicate that I meant business is a technique I never thought I would need, and finally, I never dreamt I would cut up hot dogs for a tank full of crayfish!”
-Mel, mother of two sets of identical twins (ages five and eight)
“I never thought I would be the parent who packs anything and everything before leaving the house, but I totally am!”
-Bethany, mother of two-month-old
“You never stop worrying about your children, even when they leave your house. Your heart is always with them, and it will break with every trial they encounter. No one tells you how challenging it will be to endure these heartbreaks.”
-Carol, mother of two grown children
“I remember thinking, ‘I would never do/say that with my kids.’ Oh how ignorant and high and mighty you can be when you’ve never been a parent. You can plan how you want things to go in your life as a parent, but life can really get in the way... things can very suddenly take an unexpected turn, but it’s important to stay in God’s word and go with the flow as long as it doesn’t compromise your faith.”
-Sarah, mother of four children (ages one, three, five & eight)
Sometimes, between everyday stresses and responsibilities, we inadvertently lose sight of what is important. Cooking dinner or cleaning the house becomes the priority, instead of connecting with those we love. While managing your career and maintaining your household is important, prioritizing quality time with your spouse or your significant other is essential. Here are seven date night ideas to refresh and reconnect!
For the Hopeless Romantics: Skate the night away at Red Arrow Park! Spend the night holding hands and taking laps around the ice. Skate rentals are available and a warming house, complete with Starbucks, will provide the perfect break when it becomes too chilly!
For the Brew Masters: Visit the World’s First Crowdsourced Brewery! Mob Craft Brewery features craft beers that have been created from fan suggestions! Each month, the brewery receives submissions and places the ideas on their website. Fans then vote for their favorite by pre-ordering the beer. The flavor with the most pre-orders wins and is brewed! Experience this unique process with a tour of the brewery and taproom! Each tour includes a branded pint glass and two complimentary pints of beer!
For the Intent Investigators: Use the knowledge and skills you have learned from those Criminal Minds binges on Netflix! Breakout Games in Milwaukee has several Escape Rooms, perfect for relationship building! Work together to solve the puzzles, crack the codes, and breakout! Game times vary, so visit the website before you make the trip!
For the Lifelong Learners: Learn how a Wisconsin classic, the cheese curd, is made at the Clock Shadow Creamery! Visit the creamery for a tour and learn about the history of cheese making, the production process, and sample fresh cheese curds! Sounds like a day well spent!
For the Kids at Heart: Enjoy a childhood pastime, mini-golf, on your own terms! Spend an evening at Nine Below, an indoor mini-golf course in Milwaukee. Unlike traditional courses, Nine Below offers “Maker’s Golf,” where participants design their obstacles. Players spend the first hour building and the second hour playing the course. Following the game, players can celebrate victory at the indoor beer garden!
For the Comedic Couples: Laugh out loud at Comedy Sportz! Featuring the elements of a sporting event, these shows include two teams, four competing players, and a referee. Every show is entirely different, with players making everything up on the spot. Shows take place every weekend, Friday through Sunday.
For the Sports Fanatics: Go behind the scenes at Miller Park with an exclusive tour! Groups on the Classic Tour will experience the Visitor’s Clubhouse, bullpen, Club Level, Uecker’s Broadcast Booth, and more! Visit the Brewers’ website for available dates and times!
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you,” John 15:12.
Valentine’s Day, for many, feels like nothing more than a Hallmark holiday. A day synthetically designed to increase flower sales and market subpar chocolate boxes. While I cannot disprove this theory, if you are cynical about this February holiday, I would encourage you to rethink what this day means for your life. Valentine’s Day, at its very core, is a celebration of love. Behind the cheesy greeting cards and bouquets of roses is a sentiment of love. Consider embracing this and sharing the love with those around you. Move beyond the commercialized version of Valentine’s Day and replace it with one more meaningful.
Make your husband breakfast. Bring your wife coffee. Send notes in your children’s lunches. Call your parents. Text your friends. Surprise your sister at work. Have Happy Hour with your brother. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway. Think about things you can do to love those in your life, and then do those things! Valentine’s Day does not need to be defined by extravagant bouquets or expensive gifts. The little things mean just as much, if not more.
If you would like to spread the love even further, consider helping our clients. Making a ten-dollar donation will supply a pregnancy test and consultation for an abortion-vulnerable woman, volunteering a few times a month will support families overwhelmed by an unplanned pregnancy, donating baby items will empower parents by helping them provide for their family. Furthermore, partnering with WELS Lutherans for Life means giving spiritual encouragement. God’s love is being shared daily through our organization. Men and women are being uplifted by the words of the gospel. They are learning of love that is everlasting, one that will not fail. These families are surrounded by grace and reminded of their Heavenly Father’s love for them.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day by spreading the love. Whether that means going to dinner with your spouse, baking cookies with your children, grabbing coffee with a friend, or making a donation. Make Valentine’s Day more than just a Hallmark holiday, make it an opportunity to love one another.
If you cannot speak like angels,
If you cannot preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus;
You can say he died for all.
If you cannot rouse the wicked
With the judgment’s dread alarms,
You can lead the little children
To the Savior’s waiting arms.
Let none hear you idly saying,
"There is nothing I can do,"
While the multitudes are dying
And the master calls for you.
Take the task he gives you gladly;
Let his work your pleasure be.
Answer quickly when he calls you,
"Here am I. Send me, send me!"
There seems to be this belief that if you are not a pastor or teacher, you are not qualified to share the gospel. You do not have the same level of training, and besides, you would probably make a mistake. You simply are not equipped.
This, of course, is entirely untrue. God has prepared you. He has given you the gifts to serve Him and work in His kingdom. You do not have to speak like angels or preach like Paul. You simply have to be yourself and use the unique gifts God has given you.
Our volunteers are evidence that God equips His believers, and uses individual gifts and abilities to accomplish His purpose. Two of our volunteers, Jean MacKain and Vicki Randant, were kind enough to share their experiences and explain how God has used them to serve.
Explain your position at WELS Lutherans for Life
Jean: I am a receptionist for our pregnancy clinic. My role includes greeting clients, answering the phone, managing paperwork, and other tasks as needed. I also work in the Baby Boutique, sorting donations and organizing inventory.
Vicki: I am an advocate. In this position, I talk with clients and give them information regarding their options. I work to understand their situation and provide them with support.
What is your favorite part of volunteering?
Jean: Meeting our clients. I enjoy welcoming them to our clinic and talking with them. Each client has a unique situation, and I love finding how we can best serve them.
Vicki: Sharing Jesus with our clients. Spiritual support is the most important thing we can provide.
How has the organization progressed since you started?
Jean: I started volunteering eleven years ago, and there has been a lot of progression. We doubled in size, started offering parenting classes, and added ultrasounds. God has truly blessed us.
Vicki: Well, I have certainly seen a lot of growth! I have been volunteering since the beginning, back in 1982. Our first location was in a second floor suite. Clients would have to go down two flights of stairs to give their specimen! I am thankful our current location has provided adequate space and the opportunity to grow our services. Now, we provide so much more for our clients. Expanding our services has really allowed us to serve more people, and that has been great!
How would you encourage those interested in volunteering?
Jean: Do not be afraid! You will receive training and there will always be someone to help you! If you do not have the answer, there will be someone who does! Additionally, we have something for everyone! Whatever your gifts may be, we have a place for you here!
Vicki: Give it a try! We will be here to support you, and God will be with you the whole time! He will work through you and bless your time here!
There is a place for you at WELS Lutherans for Life! Consider how you can use your God-given gifts to serve His kingdom!
These crazy cold temperatures have been keeping everyone inside this week. While staying home can start out fun, being trapped inside can quickly have you going stir crazy! Fend off your cabin fever with these 53 ideas!
Hopefully these suggestions help you fend off the cabin fever! Only 141 more days until summer!
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