“He Restores My Soul: Writings on Cross and Comfort” Book Review

I could not put this book down. Yet, I had to put the book down. The stories of these 12 women’s lives were so engaging, profound, and thought-provoking that I had to set book down after each chapter to let it all soak in.

“He Restores My Soul,” edited by Katie Schuermann, is a collection of 14 different snippets of sufferings from the eyes of Psalm 23. Many times when we hear Psalm 23 we think happy thoughts of the Good shepherd who comforts and protects us, his happy little sheep. However, we have crosses to bear in this life and our Good Shepherd, Jesus, isn’t just the comforter of us, his sheep. He is the protector, the one who wields his staff, even on us, to protect us and keep us in his fold. These sufferings in life could tear us apart, and they would without the Good Shepherd. Instead our uncomfortable sufferings drive us to the one place where we can receive comfort, the arms of the Good Shepherd. Those arms in the form of Word and Sacrament are what wraps around us, protects us, forgives us, renews us, and strengthens our faith so that we can face the trials and tribulations ahead.

I recommend this book to anyone that has seen suffering in their life…oh hey, that’s everyone! Let it (or rather the Shepherd it points us to) be a comfort in the midst of our crosses.

“Never Forsaken: God’s Mercy in the Midst of Miscarriage” Book Review

“We are never forsaken in the midst of our suffering and loss. God’s Word provides us with comfort and assurance that He is surely with us, even while we pass through the fires of life.”

In this devotional book published by Concordia Publishing House, Deaconess Kathryn Ziegler Weber explores the journey of grief for women who have experienced early infant loss. She draws upon her own experiences and the experiences of eight other women as they talk about about their journeys of grief and finding hope and comfort in the Gospel of Christ. She guides her grieving reader through the questions, the doubt, the shame, the hurt, and the loneliness and points us to the cross of Christ where we receive the only true comfort and hope: the comfort of God’s mercy because of His Son’s death and resurrection.

I read this book as a grieving mother and also as as deaconess. This is not an easy book to read, because we experience and hurt along side nine other mothers.

For those of us that read this book as a mother who has lost a child due to early infant loss, no matter how long ago, the stories are so similar that we read it as if it is our own. But we are not left without hope as we read. There are devotions, scripture, and hymns to comfort us along the way helping us to heal and look towards our loving Savior.

As a deaconess, I have looked forward to this book to be published. It is a much needed resource to use with grieving mothers (and fathers) who have lost their young children.

To all the pastors out there, I recommend this book as well. It helps to provide the prospective of women who have had early infant loss and can help give you the words, scripture, and hymns to help care for grieving couples in your congregation.

We are not alone. We have a loving Savior who intimately knows our grief and we have sisters in Christ who weep with us in our loss as we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

(Weber, Kathryn Ziegler. Never Forsaken: God’s Mercy in the Midst of Miscarriage. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2018.)

Anthems of Zion Series by Katie Schuermann

When I was in high school/college/seminary I did a lot of reading and movie watching. I liked being cultured and enjoyed getting wrapped up in both fiction and non-fiction stories. I had my own special rating system: the number of Kleenex used during the book or movie up to five would lead to my rating. So, if I blew (literally) through 5 or more tissues I’d give a 5-Kleenex rating. If I only blew through one tissue, it would receive a one-Kleenex rating, which is a very low rating. The 5-Kleenex rating was good measure because it meant the book or movie touched my soul. 

The past few years I have put my rating system to the wayside because I was coming up with only 0 and 1-Kleenex ratings. Maybe it was because the mugs taking over my cupboards said “adulting is hard” and “today I need a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus”. Life had hit me full-blown as I discovered there is a lot of suffering in this world, not just my neighbor’s suffering, but my own as well. Many movies and many books truly encompass that suffering, and yes, they get it and pull at my heartstrings, but they only provide temporal remedies to that suffering whether it be justice in the courts, talented doctors fixing that cancer, false preachers giving the law, “pray more and you will be healed”. 

All this is good and well, but there is no eternal comfort in the temporal solutions until this fiction series by Katie Schuermann came out. For once Christian Fiction has got it right! This series brought out a lot of pain and suffering that we see: loss, sickness, gossip, abuse, addiction, temptation, you name it, it is in there. But throughout all these books, along with the Lutheran humor we have come to know and love, Schuermann points to Christ and his overwhelming forgiveness, compassion, and mercy through the cross. Sadly, and oddly I have found next to none of Christ any other place in the fiction realm. I recommend these books not only to all my Lutheran brothers and sisters, but also to my other brothers and sisters in Christ and even to my friends who don’t believe, because it is only through Christ where this eternal comfort can be found. 

I want to throw a shout-out to the author, Katie Schuermann. Thank you! Thank you for the return of my Kleenex ratings. I can officially say that all three books of your trilogy receive 5-Kleenex ratings!

*Picture comes from cph.org where you can buy all three books.

Mercy Musings: Thy Strong Word

Thy strong word did cleave the darkness;

At Thy speaking it was done.

For created light we thank Thee,

While Thine ordered seasons run. (LSB 578, v. 1)

Alleluia, alleluia! Praise to Thee who light dost send!

Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia without end! (refrain)

Recently I have found a new interest in something I would never have dreamed of being interested in: lifting. You can thank Kim Salander for this one! I have always been a weak person. I don’t know if it is because of the way God built my body, or if it is because I never lift anything heavy. I did have two older brothers and now a husband who get to do the heavy lifting, after all! Despite that, I now lift, and I seem to keep breaking personal records almost every time I go to gym. I will not say I am a strong person, not yet at least! But as I keep going to the gym consistently, I continue to be strengthened.

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Research has also shown that people who lift are more healthy, and their ailments heal better and quicker. That is why physical therapy has a lot of strength exercises (maybe no barbells, but strength exercises nonetheless.)

When I traveled to Ethiopia I was unable to work out. I found doing squats on the plane was not very appropriate, and when I was spending all hours awake working or touring there was no time for pushups. I found I lost a lot of strength that I had built up over the three months previous.

It struck me what a great metaphor lifting has to our faith walks. Think about it. The Bible is the weights. The more we remain steadfast to and in God’s Word through daily scripture reading, weekly Church (where we hear and receive Christ himself), the more we are strengthened and certain of our salvation. When we fail to be strengthened, Satan steps in and tries to steal us away from the faith.

From the cross Thy wisdom shining

Breaketh forth in conqu’ring might;

From the cross forever beameth

All Thy bright redeeming light. (v. 4)

However, there is one area where the metaphor does not quite work: we don’t have to spiritually “lift”. God does all the lifting for us, we just receive the benefits when we hear the Word of God. When we go to the spiritual “gym” (the Word and Sacraments) we don’t have to sweat, breathe heavy, or even strain. God does all of that for us. He did the hard work by dying on the cross for our sins. Now we just get to sit back and take in all the good things for us! Thy, Word, oh Lord, is strong!

Thy strong word bespeaks us righteous;

Bright with Thine own holiness,

Glorious now, we press toward glory,

And our lives our hopes confess. (v. 5)

Mercy Musings: What is a deaconess anyways?

Newsletter Article for October 2014

There are a few brave souls in Hope and Hillsboro who have asked me, “What is a deaconess, anyways?” I have answered their questions with great enthusiasm because I love to talk about deaconesses and their work. I assume that most of you are too scared or embarrassed to ask me the same question, and that is okay because I would be too. But here I write and am telling you “Don’t be scared!” because you aren’t the only one. In fact, to be quite honest, it took me two full years of classes at seminary to fully understand WHO a deaconess is and WHAT she does. Therefore, I figured that for multiple months in the future (or until you get sick of reading articles about deaconesses) I hope to enlighten you as to who I am as a deaconess so you can better understand my role in the congregation and community as a whole.

First of all, as I eluded to before, there really is no clear definition of deaconess. That is a good thing! It leaves room for flexibility. When someone asks me what a deaconess is, I usually end up giving each person a different answer depending on their context. For example, if a Catholic asks me what a deaconess is, I answer, “She’s pretty much a Lutheran Nun…like Mother Teresa.” I must admit, I hate saying that one because I’m not really a nun…I think my husband is pretty great ;).

If you go to the dictionary it most likely will say something like this: “n. a woman belonging to an order or sisterhood dedicated to the care of the sick or poor or who is engaging in other social-service duties, as teaching or missionary work.” (dictionary.com)

I have also heard and seen a lot of people talk about what a deaconess is not. THAT is one  of my biggest pet peeves. Saying that a deaconess does not preach Sunday morning is like defining an Optometrist as someone who does not perform open-heart surgery.

The best technical definition I heard was from a dear deaconess friend and mentor of mine. She said that a deaconess is “a theologically trained woman who is called to either a church, institution or the mission field, working under a pastor, bringing the mercy of Christ to suffering people.”

I’ll leave you with this thought about how a deaconess fits in to the life of the Church: God comes to us in a heavenly, vertical relationship. He comes to us through His Word and Sacraments giving us the gift of life and salvation. As a direct result we are compelled to care for our neighbor, the world around us (a horizontal relationship). A deaconess focuses on the relationship with our neighbor. She longs to care for those who are sick and in need. She mobilizes the Church to reach out to people in need always pointing those we care for to the altar by showing and sharing Christ’s love and mercy.