Church

I, LORD.

7b9a1d97a9799e28a8114d1d32b8aedeThe author of this honorable mention selection from our Lenten writing contest has requested to remain anonymous.

We hope you are encouraged by this truth: the LORD shows up.


“I waited patiently for the LORD.”

Patiently.  A laughable description, and an adverb rarely used about even my best actions. My constant state of edginess suggested maybe a slight edit would make the verse a more accurate reflection of my life.

“I waited for the LORD.”

After all, the writer of Psalm 40 ascribes patience to the waiting, but the author of Psalm 130 seems more realistic when he leaves out that detail. So why should I, a 21st-century frazzled working mother and no Hebrew poet, impose the higher standard of patience? Waiting itself should be sufficient. Yet, even after removing the pesky willingness to endure, something about the phrase still rang untrue. More begged to be deleted.

“I, LORD.”

And there it was – the fully edited, honest version of how I lived my life. Not patiently, not even waiting. I had simply become my own god and, as such, lorded my thoughts and desires over everyone around me.

Waiting for the Lord to fill those wants seemed like an utter waste of time. My recurring antiphon was something more akin to “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” so I sought control of the blessings I would receive. As lord and master of my life, I could arrange the aspects of my career to best fit what I enjoyed doing by referring to those things as gifts from my Creator. I could convince and cajole the people in my congregation to worship, give, budget, and plan in the ways that I determined best for the Kingdom of God. I could badger and ridicule my husband and children into being people that I was proud to call my own flesh and blood. I could manipulate, gossip, rant, and belittle, all for the greater good, of course. So I did, with a mighty refrain of “God’s will be done.”

Imagine my shock when the blessings I was sure would be mine did not occur. God’s will had not been done.

Or so it seemed. It turns out that I had misplace a capital letter ‘g’.  My will, as my own god, remained unfulfilled and my desired blessings were largely unrealized. But the will of the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – had been done perfectly.

Uncomfortably for me, part of His will was to bless me through my own self-inflicted suffering.

He allowed me, like Jacob of the Old Testament, to be a complete heel, grasping desperately at my brothers and sisters in Christ in order to yank them below me so that I received positions of honor. To win the favor of those I respected, I stirred up an appealing concoction of my best attributes in hopes of persuading them that I was worthy of their returned admiration. I covered my sins with false acts and words of piety, thinking I would fool not only those around me, but my Father. I was flailing about in disbelief. 

As I struggled in the darkness against a mire of my own making, I failed to realize I wasn’t the only one there. God was with me. He was the One who wrestled me into that place. He never removed His Word from me. Day in and day out it was spoken in my presence. 

Attendance to preaching and the reading of the Scriptures is inked into my daily schedule as a church worker. Even so, I failed to hold fast to Christ. Instead, I fell prey to Satan’s oldest trick, the one he used to tempt both Eve and Jesus. I listened to God’s word with alterations and deletions. At best, I simply let my mind wander during daily Matins, staff devotions, family prayers, and the Divine Service. At worst, I used the time to fixate on the faults of those standing in the same holy space hearing and speaking the Gospel. I revised God’s Word to include only that which validated my own truth. 

God would not, however, let my edits stand. There is more to the first verse of Psalm 40. It continues, “He inclined to me and heard my cry.” As I blubbered over the loss of selfish blessings, the Holy Spirit worked on my defeated heart to reveal that God had been inclined to me all along – inclined upon the cross for the forgiveness of each and every one of the sins I had committed against Him and those whom I should love.

So I returned to the first half of the verse and waited patiently for the Lord. He showed up about eleven minutes late in the vessel of my apologetic and overbooked pastor. I held fast to the promise that the Lord would not despise my broken and contrite heart and spoke aloud the painful truth of my sins. My pastor laid his hands upon my head and spoke aloud an even greater truth: “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Amen.

“He Will Return” – Contest Winner

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!returnofchristicon

On this blessed Easter Day, it is our pleasure to share with you the winning submission to our Lenten writing contest.

We asked all of you to reflect on the prompt, “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1), and your responses were overwhelmingly rich in wisdom and that special brand of perspective that comes from personal experience. You gave us much to ponder and contemplate this holy season, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to learn from all of you.

When it came down to the actual judging, it took two rounds of sorting and ranking for us to narrow down the entirety of the submissions to a final five. “This is hard!” was a constant refrain from those doing the reading and sorting. Thank you to everyone who participated and made the judging so difficult.

It is our joy to share with you our five favorite submissions over the next several weeks, starting with our contest winner, Emily Olson. Congratulations, Emily, on winning a museum-quality giclée print of artist Edward Riojas’ cover art for the second edition of He Remembers the Barren, and thank you for reminding all of us that, whatever our station in life, we are all waiting for the same, certain thing: Christ’s returning to us.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!


I am not a patient woman.

I am impatient in my daily vocations. I drum my fingers on the steering wheel at stoplights. My frustration rises when my children ploddingly put on their shoes before school. I shift from one foot to another when my son prattles on about superhero plots and I need to make some calls. My temper grows short when dinner isn’t coming together quickly enough for my taste. I frustratedly text my husband “ETA?” when he’s two minutes past his expected arrival home.

And my impatience seeps past the everyday struggles to keep schedules and order. The relentless passage of time presses upon my flesh and my heart. I want our financial goals met now. I want sick and despondent friends and relatives healed and soothed immediately. I want to know my marriage will last and thrive for many decades and our children will grow to faithful and joyful adulthood. I want to know that I matter and those that I love matter. I want to know that we are not forgotten. Too often, this means I reach for my gleaming phone, impatient for another hit of dopamine, desiring connectivity amidst the gaping hole of mortality that hovers over us all.* Too often, this means I am angry and irritable, eating my bread anxiously and toiling miserably, fallibly trying to make this world and us and me matter.

So I sit in the pew, cognizant of the nervous flit of my thoughts, the selfish grasping of my desires, and the ultimate hardness of my heart. I am like Jonah, huddled in the back of a boat, trying in vain to hide from God.  I am like the citizens of Babel, mucking about in the mud of my own internal universe, enthralled at my own dirty and miniscule tower. I am like Pharaoh, obstinate and brittle, trapped in my pride. I do not deserve Christ. Yet here I am, unworthy and hopeless. I am seeking the only salvation possible.

Jesus comes to me.

“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).

The pastor speaks His forgiveness.

“In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The faith granted at my baptism hears the name of the triune God and listens.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”

The Word enters my frail ears and kindles my weak faith.

“And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost’” (Luke 15:4-6).

Jesus enables my quivering voice, and I sing, my heart breaking. Jesus has done what I never could.

“Yes, Father, yes, most willingly
I’ll bear what You command Me.
My will conforms to Your decree,
I’ll do what You have asked Me.”
O wondrous Love, what have You done!
The Father offers up His Son,
Desiring our salvation.
O Love, how strong You are to save!
You lay the One into the grave
Who built the earth’s foundation. (LSB 438:3)

I stand and file out into the aisle, and I step, haltingly, toward the altar.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand
Christ our God to earth descending
Comes our homage to demand. (LSB 621:1)

Jesus comes right to my mouth, my tainted, impatient, sinful mouth. His scarred body touches my tongue, and I swallow. His blood spilled for the world splashes down my throat. I am cleansed and forgiven, again. I am restored and made new.

From the moment water and the Word combined to make me God’s child, He has relentlessly pursued me. Hopeless and impatient me falls away and falls apart again and again. And over and over, Christ inclines His loving ear to me and hears my desperate cry (Psalm 40:1). I know that the One thing needful will never leave me nor forsake me (Luke 10:42, Hebrews 13:5). Christ has promised, and He is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). He never fails. Amidst all of life’s incompletes and suffering, He remains, the Eternal Rock.

In the Word and in the Sacrament, I am immediately, and right now, with Christ.

I am not a patient woman. But Christ is patient and persistent, forgiving and loving. He will return to me again. I believe this. And so I wait.

By Emily Olson


* Idea acknowledgment to Peter Kreeft, quoted in 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke (p.46).

Contest Details

Andy Bates and Sarah Gulseth of KFUO Radio’s “The Coffee Hour” chatted with us last week about our Lenten writing contest.

Listen here for details on what we’re looking for in your submission on the prompt, “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

Remember, this contest is for anyone who breathes, has chromosomes, and reads the Bible.

Submit your entries to katie@katieschuermann.com by noon on March 25th to be considered for the grand prize: a museum-quality giclée print (14.7″ x 18″) of artist Edward Riojas’ cover art for the second edition of He Remembers the Barren.

Happy pondering and writing!

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Writing Contest: He Remembers the Barren

Dearly beloved readers:

The generous folk at Emmanuel Press are joining us in sponsoring a writing contest this Lent.

The purpose? To reflect on the goodness of the Lord as we wait on Him.

The prize? A museum-quality giclée print (14.7″ x 18″) of artist Edward Riojas’ cover art for the second edition of He Remembers the Barren:

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The contest rules? They are simple:

  • Who: Any person with a continental U.S. shipping address may submit an entry.
  • What: Write a reflection (no more than 800 words) on the following prompt: “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).
  • When: All entries must be submitted via email to katie@katieschuermann.com by noon on March 25, 2019, to be considered. There are no rules for formatting or style, but submissions will be judged on quality and content by both Emmanuel Press and the hosts of this blog.
  • Where: It will be our pleasure to publish the winning entry right here on this blog on Easter Sunday. One runner-up will also be published the following week.

We are certain your entries will be as distinct as God’s good gifts are specific. We wait eagerly for your submissions.

Sincerely,

Your HRTB Team

Why you should go to church tomorrow

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I know you are tempted not to go to church tomorrow, but please do. Jesus wants to give you the gifts of His Word and Holy Supper there, and His gifts are far better than any old carnation or corsage or greeting card.

Yes, you may have to endure the awkward, faltering “Happy Moth– Oh, I’m sorry” greeting at the door, but you will be fine. Just remember how many times you have misspoken to people, and thank God that He forgives both you and them.

You may grow red-cheeked before the tongue-tied usher handing out carnations, but red looks good on you. The man understandably doesn’t know what to say in the face of your childlessness, so rejoice in his recognition of your plight. Graciously give him a polite smile and nod of the head, and move on for both of your sakes.

You may very well be shamed and shunned by the pastor’s preservice announcements, children’s message, and sermon anecdotes, but there are worse things to endure in this life. You know it is true, for you, with God’s help, have already endured them. Mother’s Day shenanigans in the Divine Service are nothing compared to the death of your children. This too shall pass.

You also may cry during the service, but you will not be the first nor the last to do so. The Church is made up of cross-bearing criers, and you have nothing to hide. No one will begrudge a barren woman tears on Mother’s Day. Just be prepared to grab the tissues that are passed your way, and welcome them as the gift of love that they are.

By all means, go to church so that you may pray these words:

Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will.

Go to church so that you may sing with all the people of God:

Lord, have mercy.

Go to church so that you may confess:

I believe in Jesus Christ…who was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Go to church so that you can hear the prophet promise:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from your idols I will cleanse you (Ezekiel 36:25).

Go to church so that you can be exhorted by the apostle:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another (1 Peter 4:10).

Go to church so that the evangelist may remind you of Christ’s command:

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12–13).

Go to church so that you may take and eat, take and drink:

For the forgiveness of your sins.

Go to church so that you may return thanks to the Lord for all His benefits to you:

He recalls His promises and leads His people forth in joy with shouts of thanksgiving. Alleluia, alleluia.

Go to church so that you may be blessed by God Himself through your pastor:

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

The Lord look upon you with favor and + give you peace.

Go to church so that you do not miss out on what really matters: receiving Christ’s gifts. Being thus refreshed, I think you will find that you can celebrate your sisters’ joys, and they, in turn, will learn to bear your burdens. This is what we do. Together. Even tomorrow.

Especially tomorrow.

 

He Restores My Soul

Emmanuel Press and I have been working hard on a little project the last few months. It brings me great pleasure to share with you — Finally! — that we are collaborating with a host of experienced female writers to bring you a new book, He Restores My Soul, set to release in October of 2018.

He Restores My Soul is primarily a book of empathy and encouragement for the cross-bearing Christian woman. Utilizing the timeless, rich comfort permeating Psalm 23, each chapter applies the theology of the cross to a particular kind of suffering, pointing the reader to a firm faith in God’s promises and a resounding joy in His mysterious work of conforming us “to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).

Various topics addressed within the pages of He Restores My Soul include living the Christian faith in the public arena, carrying a child in the womb who is not expected to live, mothering while working, regretting an abortion, struggling against same-sex attraction, caring for aging parents, children leaving the faith, living with mental illness, suffering from depression and chronic diseases, and raising children apart from one’s own upbringing.

Who are the other writers, you ask? Follow Emmanuel Press and me on Facebook in the months ahead to learn more.


About Emmanuel Press

Established by Rev. Michael and Janet Frese in 2004, Emmanuel Press is a publishing house dedicated to producing works essential to confessional Lutheran theology, including theological books, liturgical and catechetical resources, and ecclesiastical greeting cards. Emmanuel Press brings together treasures of Christian literature, exceptional artwork, and a clear confession of faith. Learn more at www.emmanuelpress.us or contact directly at emmanuelpress@gmail.com.

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