EASTER: Time for Strengthening Families; Teaching Next Generation About the Truth

A message from the desk of Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling:

All of life makes sense in light of what we commemorate this Friday and celebrate this Sunday.  Do your children know that?  Are you taking advantage of what this week offers to not only build and honor your family’s traditions but also to build your family’s faith?  Are you purposefully using this week to help your children share their faith?
ImageAs we pause this week to reflect on the final week of Jesus Christ’s earthly life and ministry, it’s almost overwhelming.  The events range from high celebration on Palm Sunday to agony on Good Friday to overwhelming joy on Resurrection Sunday.  Forgiveness of sin and eternal life—hope for this life and the life to come—were secured through Jesus’s finished work on Calvary and His glorious victory of death and the grave. But what do your children and grandchildren think about Easter
Here are some ideas for you to consider as you prepare to make this weekend’s commemoration unusual rich for you and your family.  The ideas aren’t unique with me.  They are readily available online.  The ones I’m including here come from Lynne Thompson and Kim Wier of Engaging Women Ministries.
For the youngest in your family, have them put one chocolate heart in a hollow plastic egg and explain that this is because Jesus came to give us a new heart toward God.  Let the children hand these eggs out to friends, neighbors and even strangers.  Some recommend putting a note inside with the chocolate with a message taken from John 14:1: “Don’t let your heart be trouble.  Believe in God; believe also in Me.—Jesus”
For those ages 4 to 7, have a neighborhood egg hunt with a twist.  Hide one empty egg, representing the empty tomb.  Whoever finds that empty egg and calls out, “He is not here! He has risen, just as He said!” receives the grand prize.  Ending the hunt with gathering all the children together and telling the Easter story tops of the event.  Be sure you define terms you might use such as crucified, disciples, resurrection.
ImageOlder children can begin experiencing the joy of giving—just as Christ gave His life for our sins.  Perhaps a visit to a hospital or nursing home or rehab center is in order. With your child’s involvement, decide on a budget to buy some Easter lilies and Easter cards.  Have the child present these to some of those who are spending Easter weekend in these facilities.  Be sure the Easter card expresses the hope we have in Jesus’ resurrection.
And I love this idea for teens.  Have a family sunrise service.  Weather permitting hold it at a park or nearby lake.  Sunrise services aren’t all that common any more.  Take a Bible, hymnbooks, maybe even a guitar.  Have the teen read the resurrection accounts from the Gospels with Mary and others’ sunrise visits to the tomb only to find it empty and then to realize that Jesus was there—alive!  Sing praises together, worship together as a family before going to church.
One tradition every family can have is inviting others to share Easter in their home.  Invite friends and neighbors to join you for church and then for your family’s Easter meal.  Spend a few minutes at the table reminding everyone why we have this special day—and reiterating that Truth in the prayer.  Make sure your guests receive special Easter cards—maybe even handmade ones.
There’s much more that you can do to build the Truth of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday into your children in particular.  Attend a Good Friday service, watch some Easter videos depicting this week of Jesus’s life.  On Saturday talk with your children about why we as Christians so look forward to celebrating Jesus’s resurrection on Sunday.  Point out that spring is about new birth, new beginnings, just as Jesus died on the cross and rose again to give us a new birth, a new beginning.  Jesus death, burial and resurrection makes
Strong families are made—on purpose.  Strong families use every opportunity to teach the next generation the Truth about Jesus Christ and His great love and sacrifice on behalf of sinful man.  Strong families seek to show by example that Christianity is real, that it is about Jesus and others.  I trust you will endeavor this week to purposefully strengthen your family by making sure they know, regardless of their ages, that all of life makes sense in light of what we celebrate this coming Friday and Sunday.

Pro-Family, Pro-Liberty Organizations Share Christmas Message in State Capitol

“Merry Christmas” sign and nativity set greet visitors this season

MADISON—Each year for the past 18 years, Wisconsin Family Council (WFC), the educational arm of Wisconsin Family Action (WFA), has displayed a Merry Christmas sign in the State Capitol Rotunda. The sign not only wishes everyone a Merry Christmas, but reminds viewers of the real reason for the season—Jesus Christ—in direct contrast to the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s FFRF) sign recognizing the Winter Solstice and declaring that God does not exist.

Today, Wisconsin Family Council once again put up the sign in the capitol while Wisconsin Family Action placed an accompanying nativity display.

“Celebrating Christ’s birth is a Christian celebration, an American holiday and a Wisconsin tradition,” said Julaine Appling, president of WFA and WFC. “The Germans who played such an important role in settling our state brought this great tradition with them.”

The First Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits government from interfering with religion and guarantees citizens the right to exercise their religion, including celebrating Christmas, both in the privacy of their homes and in the public square.

Appling continued, “Thousands of visitors come to our beautiful state capitol during the holiday season to enjoy the gorgeous Christmas tree with all the handmade ornaments. We are honored to have our display in the rotunda as a silent but powerful witness to the truth of Christmas and to offer hope to all those who see it.”

The sign and the nativity will be on display on the First Floor Rotunda from today through December 31, 2013.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

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ImageWFA/WFC president Julaine Appling

 

The Original Pioneers of Religious Freedom; All for the Glory of God – Are You Ready?

ImageA Thanksgiving message from the desk of WFA president Julaine Appling:

I want to take this opportunity, first, to wish you and your family a very blessed Thanksgiving.  I also want to, as the Scriptures say, put you in remembrance, of what this uniquely American holiday is all about.  I urge you to share the story with your family; don’t assume they are learning it somewhere else or that they are somehow absorbing it by osmosis.  It’s each generation’s responsibility to consciously, purposefully pass on this incredible true story of the history of our nation and God’s blessing.  So please even if you think you know all the details of what I’m going to say next, listen closely with the intention of telling others the truth about America’s Thanksgiving celebration.  I believe it is especially important today; we are losing so much of who we have been as a people and religious freedom is under threat like never before.   We have much to gain from rehearsing this great story.

ImageAlmost four centuries ago, in 1621, the Pilgrims set aside 3 days of feasting and celebration to thank the Lord for His provision and protection throughout the previous year and for a bountiful harvest. At that celebration, from which we derive our present-day Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims gave thanks despite the hardship and deprivation they experienced during their first year in the New World.

Most of the Pilgrims buried one or more loved ones during the previous harsh New England winter. They lived in conditions that, by today’s standards, were barbaric to put it nicely and probably not even comparable to living conditions in Developing Countries. The New World was inhospitable, dangerous, unfamiliar and for many, fatal.

That first year in the New World was absolutely devastating, until Squanto befriended the Pilgrims and taught them how to survive, how to cultivate the land and grow their own food. Governor William Bradford said Squanto was “a special instrument sent of God for [our] good…and never left [us] till he died.”[1]

The Pilgrim’s relationship with the Wampanoag Tribe is a legacy of integrity and friendship. It was a friendship that lasted throughout the lifetime of the original inhabitants of Plymouth and significantly contributed to the survival of the Pilgrims. In fact, about ninety Indians joined the Pilgrims for that first Thanksgiving.

I cannot look back on the story of the Pilgrims and their Thanksgiving feast without being struck by the apparent incongruity of the conditions those brave pioneers lived under and their attitude toward those conditions. My gas and electric bill goes up and I think I have it hard.

What could possibly move people to such dire straits that they sail to an unknown land and brave terrifying conditions to scratch a meager existence out of foreign soil? Religious persecution that makes them seek a place where there is true religious freedom. Most of the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower were religious refugees, hunted by the British government because of their opposition to the Church of England.

They were Puritans; part of the movement to purify the Church of England from rituals and practices which the Puritans believed were unbiblical. Because of their desire to purify the church, they were political and social outcasts—the original pioneers of religious freedom.

The Mayflower Compact, signed by Pilgrim leaders, beautifully illustrates the motivation behind the Plymouth Colony.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together and a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and perseveration and furtherance of the end aforesaid.”[2]

There it is in black and white: for the glory of God, the advancement of the Christian faith and the honor of king and country. Look at the priority here: God’s glory, Christianity and country. Isn’t it interesting how the natural means of achieving these three purposes is a civil body politic? Amazing!

I could not have said it better. As Christians we do not and cannot exist in a vacuum. The means through which we worship God, pursue a Christian life and live in peace with our fellow man is through the administration of a God-ordained institution—government.

This was their purpose, to practice their faith freely, raise their children in the ways of the Lord and live in peace. They believed in this goal so fiercely that after that first terrible, fatal winter, when a ship came and offered passage back to England, not a single, surviving Pilgrim abandoned the New World for the old one. Not a single one!

What courage! What faith! What perseverance! Despite the setbacks, despite the hardship, despite the danger, despite the discomfort, they would not be deterred from their purpose—to establish a government where they could live, worship God and raise their families freely.

Do you and I have that courage today? Do we possess the faith and perseverance to carry on in our purpose despite the opposition, for the sake of our children? It’s a sobering question—one that I am faced with daily.

ImageLook at the results in our lives today. Almost four centuries of freedom, struggle, prosperity, pioneering, hardship and courage, through the grace of God, have given us the liberties we enjoy today: the freedom to worship God freely, to speak our minds, to vote for our leaders, to provide for ourselves and our families.

When I look at those freedoms today, I can honestly say it was worth it. Every ounce of sweat and blood was worth the America we enjoy today. I am grateful for God’s providence, for his protection for this City on a Hill. And I am ready, with you, to defend and advance those freedoms in my lifetime, so that the next generation can enjoy the liberty our ancestors handed down to us.

Statewide Pro-Family Group Commends Menards; CLOSED on Thanksgiving

Press release from Wisconsin Family Action:

Wisconsin-based home improvement center remains closed on Thanksgiving

ImageIn an open letter to John Menard, Jr, CEO of Menard, Inc., Wisconsin Family Council president Julaine Appling commends Mr. Menard and his corporation, in particular the Menards stores, for bucking the recent trend of keeping retail stores open on Thanksgiving and other major holidays. Following is a statement from Julaine regarding the letter.

“I’ve been dismayed by how many retailers are treating our major holidays like any other buy-and-sell day. I don’t shop a lot, but when I walk into major stores and see signs boasting of being open all day Thanksgiving, I am not impressed—and I suspect I’m not the only one who feels that way.

“As Wisconsin’s premier pro-family organization, we believe it’s important that we publicly acknowledge and thank Mr. Menard for his decision to put families ahead of profit that might be made this Thursday. It’s a truly commendable action given the direction we are headed in this country. Perhaps Mr. Menard’s decision will embolden others to follow his lead.

“Late last week I was in one of those stores that is boasting about being open all day Thanksgiving. A friend of mine who works in the store was on duty (she’s scheduled to work the holiday). When I expressed to her my disappointment about this decision, she said, ‘You know, the founder of this company would never have done this. I don’t understand why his heirs and current management think this is good. Is it just greed?’

I couldn’t answer that question, but I certainly understood what she was saying. Much of corporate America, historically, was founded by people with strong family values and a deep respect for the traditions of this great country. Today, it seems much of that is lost and everything is about increasing the corporate bottom line. I don’t think that’s a good trend for our state and nation.

“I am hopeful that many people will not shop on Thanksgiving. Instead, I trust families and friends will gather and spend the day together enjoying each other and truly giving thanks to God for His incredible blessings on this land. And I also hope that Menards in particular here in Wisconsin enjoys one of the best ‘Black Fridays’ in its history!”

The Open Letter to John Menard, Jr. is available online HERE.

Wausau and the Multiplied Power of One

The multiplied power of one works.   Just ask citizens in Wausau.
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A couple of weeks ago Wisconsin Family Council learned that the administration of the Wausau School District had pretty much unilaterally decided to make some changes to their music program.  The two most attention-getting changes were first that the district’s elementary schools would no longer have a winter or Christmas or holiday concert and second that music sung by the district’s choral groups, including the elite and extremely popular Master Singers, could not have as much religious music as it had had in the past.  The second decision resulted in a very popular, long-tenured, music faculty member and director of the Master Singers saying the options the district gave him for music selection were unacceptable and he immediately suspended rehearsals for the group.
The administration, led by District Superintendent Kathleen Williams, claims they sought legal counsel in making their decisions about the music selection.  What the administration did not do is consult with the school board, and they certainly did not consult with parents.
ImageWhen news of these changes became public, the citizens and students quickly began letting each other know that they did not agree with the administration’s actions.  Facebook pages appeared, petitions began with signatures rapidly collected, all manner of media reports were sent out, phone calls were made to board members and the administration.
Originally, this matter was going to be taken up at the board’s regular meeting which was this Monday.  Soon after the public ramping up began, however, we heard the school board had decided to take up this matter at a special meeting devoted specifically and exclusively to this issue and they set the date for last Thursday evening.
The collective effort was truly a great example of “the multiplied power of one.” As one person reached out to another to explain, encourage support, enlist help, the numbers of people involved and willing to take action on this issue quickly multiplied.  In fact, the school board, realizing they had hit a nerve, decided not to have the meeting in their normal board room but rather to hold it in Wausau East High School’s auditorium, which seats well over 500 people.
Thursday night showed what happens when “the multiplied power of one” works.  By the time the meeting started at 6:30, the room was filled.  The media were there in full force. Everyone knew this was significant.
I was among the hundreds of people in that auditorium.  I saw high-school students, young parents, middle-aged parents, grandparents and even some great grandparents.  The crowd was truly a cross-section of Wausau School District.
WSD studentDuring the public comment portion of the meeting, somewhere between 40 and 60 people spoke.  Out of all those who spoke, only two agreed with the administration’s decisions.  All the rest made their case for why the administration had made the wrong decisions.  One by one they came up to the microphone and added their single voice to the hundreds, and yes, thousands of concerned Wausau citizens.
Before the night was over, the board passed three resolutions related to this matter. They passed a resolution authorizing the individual elementary school principals to make their own decisions regarding having a concert in December.  They passed a resolution returning the music selection policy to what it had been before the administration took it upon itself to change it; and they called for the formation of a committee to do a thorough review of all related policies and make recommendations to the board.  The board also openly requested that a consideration regarding a performance review of the superintendent be added to the agenda for the next meeting.
In addition to these board decisions, the superintendent made it clear that she and others had met with the Master Singers director, and they had agreed that Master Singer rehearsals would resume effective the next Monday.
I firmly believe none of these resolutions or the wildly welcomed announcement about the resuming of the Master Singers would have happened without “the multiplied power of one.”  In this instance, the religious freedom of the students and parents was respected in the school board’s decisions.  But if the citizens had not individually cared enough to get involved to protect their religious freedom, the administration’s bad decisions would have carried the day.  Don’t ever, ever doubt the reality of and the importance of “the multiplied power of one.”

Not-so-silent Night in Wausau; Parents Call for Supt. to be Fired/Apology to Music Teacher

ImageIt was a not-so-silent night at the special meeting held by the Wausau School Board and administration last night to address the recent decision to limit “religious” music performed at annual Christmas concerts.  The Wausau East High School auditorium was packed with concerned parents, taxpayers, students, and alum who voiced their strong opposition to the new policy; only one supporter spoke last night.  The meeting lasted nearly 4-1/2 hours.

Over and over those who were upset by the religious music policy called for the dismissal of Supt. Kathleen Williams, who apparently instituted the policy without board knowledge or approval, and an apology to Mr. Phil Buch, the beloved director of the elite choir, Master Singers.

ImageWFA president Julaine Appling spoke at the meeting, “Schools are to be a reflection of the community…. It is incumbent upon administration, it is incumbent upon school boards to reflect in their decisions, and in the process by which arrive at their decisions, community values.”  She continued, “As school board members and as administration, it is very important that you stay in touch with, and reflect in that decision-making process, what this community values.”  “Some portion of this problem is the age-old issue of communication.  I believe much of this situation could have been addressed had the process been openly communicated all along the way. What you’re seeing tonight in this auditorium are parents and citizens who say ‘we woke up one morning and found out that what we thought was happening, isn’t what’s happening.’”  Addressing the school board directly, Appling stated, “You don’t get crowds like this if the issue isn’t important to the people.”

The Wausau School Board passed a resolution last night to leave holiday concerts up to the music teachers at individual schools, reversing the controversial policy that limited “religious” music.  They also passed a resolution that returns the music selection for concerts policy to what it had been prior to the controversial change.  An additional resolution was also passed to form a committee to study this issue and make recommendations to the Board for policy changes and refinements.

One school board member asked that consideration of a performance review of the superintendent be added to the board’s regular meeting which is this coming Monday.

The Master Singers will resume rehearsals on Monday.

Alliance Defending Freedom Represents Wausau Parents/Students, Sends Letter to WSD

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Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a defender of 1st Amendment rights and strong advocate for religious liberty, is representing the parents and students in the Wausau School District who are standing in opposition to the District’s limitations set on “religious” music at annual Christmas events.

A letter was sent by ADF legal counsel to the Wausau School Board and Administration, “Every federal court to examine [this] issue has determined that including Christmas carols and other religious music in the school choir programs fully complies with the First Amendment.”  ADF furthers, “[We] urge you to immediately rescind the new practice instituted by administration officials.”

Read the full context of the letter HERE.

Wausau School District Holds Special Meeting Tonight; WFA President Interviews Wausau Parent

The Wausau School District (WSD) has decided to limit “religious” music performed at annual Christmas concerts.  Three choices were given to the music education departments in the district:
1.  For every five secular songs, one religious song may be performed.
2.  Eliminate all holiday music from the concert.
3.  Postpone concerts until after December.

The backlash from this decision has resulted in the school’s elite choir, the Master Singers, disbanding, and the remaining school concerts being cancelled. As can be expected, parents and students alike have stepped up in protest and the WSD has called a special school board meeting TONIGHT, October 10, at 6:30 p.m. at the Wausau East High School.

Parents in the WSD have also started a Facebook page, Wausau School District Cancels Christmas, with up-to-date information and a petition to sign in opposition to the decision made by the WSD administration.

WFA urges concerned parents and citizens who live in the Wausau School District to attend the meeting tonight.  Julaine Appling, WFA President, will be at the meeting and may speak on this issue.

WFA president Julaine Appling interviewed concerned Wausau parent, Meg Ellefson, on WVCY’s Home Front program this week.  Listen to the interview HERE.

Listen HERE to Julaine’s interview on WSAU.

Read more about this issue HERE.

WFA Testifies Against Common Core – Stating “Real Concerns” of WI Families

ImageJulaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, testified at the first Common Core State Standards Initiative hearing held before the Select Committee for Review on October 3, 2013 in Madison at the state Capitol.

I would be remiss if I did not remind you that educational standards do not ensure learning or student success.
Time and again we have seen that quality, committed teachers are the real difference-makers. They can take
ridiculous standards and poor textbooks and ancillary curricula materials and still turn out students who have
mastered grade-level concepts—and much, much more. That is not to say standards are not important; but it is
imperative we keep standards in proper perspective. They are, or certainly should be, minimums, not maximums—learning “floors,” not “ceilings.”

Too often in attempts to improve upon the standards already being employed in our public education system, we fail to sufficiently subject these standards, as well as implementation methods and systems and assessment tools, to the scrutiny they inherently deserve. In our rush to provide our children with the “next best thing,” we can at times miss our intended target and create for ourselves additional, albeit unintended, new problems.

And so it is with Wisconsin’s adoption of Common Core State Standards.

Read the ENTIRE testimony HERE.

THE LIE “America is just a capitalistic, imperialistic bully.” At a Public School Near You?

Looking back, my childhood was almost idyllic. I spent my first 12 years in Atlanta and the rest of my growing up years in Michigan.  I had loving parents who were married to each other.  I never knew poverty.  I lived in a great neighborhood with lots of kids and everyone knew each other.  Mom didn’t work outside the home, but she sure worked hard in it. We ate family meals together more often than not.  I went to a Bible-preaching church pretty much anytime the doors were open.
ImageSchool time came.  I went to the local public school; Christian schools and home schooling weren’t even in anyone’s vocabulary.  Mom and Dad chose where they would live, both in Georgia and Michigan, based on the public school system.  We prayed in our schools—every morning.  We pledged the flag—all of us—no one stayed seated.  We even read from the Bible—every morning.  We were taught a love for America.  We were taught America represented freedom, hope and opportunity for all of us and for those “huddled masses yearning to be free” from all over the world. For the most part, I loved school and felt very secure there—until the day came when we had an announcement over the PA telling us we would be having a special drill—in case of a missile attack.  “A what?  From where?”  I wondered as I took cover under my desk.
Mom picked me up from school that day and on the way home talked to me as an elementary student about Cuba, Castro, Kruschev, the Soviet Union, Communism and the Cold War.  It was the first time I felt unsafe in my home and my school.  In a sense, some of the innocence of my childhood was gone.
From my perspective, nothing could destroy America—especially not a madman on a tiny island in the Caribbean Sea, or some man whose name I couldn’t even pronounce living on the other side of the world.  And, we did avert those external threats and crises then.
But what I didn’t know for years later was that the philosophy and worldview of the Castros and Kruschevs of the world had taken firm hold in my homeland—and that those ideas, slowly worked into the fabric of our society, would one day destroy us without a missile ever being fired.
We’re on the brink of a new school year here in Wisconsin and around the country.  Hundreds of thousands of innocent children will go to public schools soon where the majority of their teachers have been taught well the ideas of those who first struck fear in my young heart that America was vulnerable to attack.
ImageThese students will sit hour after hour hearing about tolerance, diversity, multiculturalism.  They will learn that America is just a capitalistic, imperialistic bully.  They will be taught that government is the answer to everything, no matter the question—that they are dependent on government for everything.  Individuality and independence will be suppressed, but a collective, dependent mindset will be fostered. They will be told that earning money and becoming wealthy is evil; that personal wealth is wrong, and that the government should redistribute your money to those who don’t have what you have.
They will hear Planned Parenthood talk about sex outside of marriage as normal and natural—and a personal right and really just another form of recreation.   Kindergarteners will have read to them that “Heather Has Two Mommies,” and about “Daddy’s Roommate,” and be told that’s normal and natural, while impressionable older students will be unwittingly lured into so-called “safe zones” where homosexuality will be presented as also normal and natural.
Every day these students will have reinforced the idea that human life evolved from some primordial muck; that they are just animals higher up the food chain.  They will hear mocking and scoffing at the idea of a Creator God.  Prayer and any other display of religion will be forbidden and called a violation of the separation of church and state.
ImageNo, this isn’t what my generation experienced, but it is what students in our public schools are experiencing much of the time.  It’s today’s “missile threats”—and it’s much more dangerous than the threats I endured.  Protecting young people today requires way more than a drill and a dive under a desk.  Parents—be aware.  Make the right decisions.  Exercise your right to make educational choices for your children.  Their innocence and America’s future hang in the balance.