Church

A Great, Big, Giant YES

We become so used to hearing noes from God when it comes to our request for children.

We even become conditioned to hearing noes when it comes to our request for relief from the physical pain and expensive medical procedures that often accompany our chronic diseases. We grow up in our suffering and recognize the Refiner’s fire for what it is, and we cling all the more to God’s promise to work the burning for our good and for the good of our neighbors.

We expect the fire, and, in good faith, we accept it.

I guess that’s why it’s always such a sweet, pleasant surprise when God gives a yes.

Oh, now, I’m not talking about a yes to the gift of children nor to the gift of physical relief. No, I’m talking about a yes to the gift of vocation.

You see, it seems the more I pray for children, the more God gives me books to write. (Don’t get me wrong! I do not believe these gifts to be interchangeable, nor is a book better than a baby. But still. This is how it is today in the life of Schuermann.)

In this particular case, God has said yes to House of Living Stones, my very first fiction book and Concordia Publishing House’s (CPH) first, bold push into the choppy waters of the Christian fiction industry. We’re both excited and nervous; we’re both eager to put a Lutheran stamp on a largely un-Lutheran market; we’re both small fish in a big sea; and we both need your help.

Though the Christian fiction market is big, our church is small. There is risk in publishing a book outside of one’s Fach, but that risk is worth taking when it means our brothers and sisters in Christ will have a little story to read and enjoy that teaches, confesses, and celebrates the Good News of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our sins.

So, dear friends, could you please help out a small writer and a small publishing company by preordering a copy(ies) of House of Living Stones? This book is for men and women alike, so it would be the perfect thing to put in your special someone’s Christmas stocking or your bestie’s gift bag. Truth be told, it would make me the happiest writer alive if you bought a copy of this book for yourself and holed up in an armchair at your favorite coffee shop with a mocha or cup of chamomile in hand and indulged in a little Lutheran read-fest of your own.

If this book does well, then maybe CPH will be able to launch more rich tales of our delightful, quirky, faithful church heritage into those perilous, choppy waters. This is good news for our church and for all of you talented writers out there currently crafting the next novel of import.

November is not too far away, but you can preorder House of Living Stones today and save 20% by using the promo code YHS at checkout!

In the meantime, click on the book icon below and enjoy a little taste of the fictional but all-too-real life of our zany, fun brothers and sisters in Christ at Zion Lutheran Church in a small town not too far away from your own…

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Symposium Schedule

What do IVF, embryo adoption, and miscarriage all have in common?

They’re topics which will be addressed at the Infertility Ethics Symposium at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis on Saturday, November 8th. Please, do everything you can to make sure your pastor can attend.

Here is an itinerary of the day’s events as well as descriptions of the papers which will be presented.

You can find out more information about the symposium as well as how to reserve your pastor’s spot by visiting LCMS Life Ministry’s website.

It’s time for the Church to speak on these things.

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The Failure of Sex Education in the Church

One of the aspects of barrenness that is so awkward is the fact that the “success” of your marital relations (more modernly called your “sex life”) with your spouse is often scrutinized by those around you, either privately in their own minds, or quite publicly to your face. The joining of two fleshes into one in the bonds of holy matrimony used to be treated with such modesty and respect. No one would dare ask you whether you’re “doing it” right or if you’ve tried such-and-such a method. But the sexual revolution changed all that, and in numerous Christian publications we read that the act is a beautiful, natural part of marriage and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We should celebrate our gift of sexuality and teach the children in our Church all they need to know to be prepared for utilizing this gift. But is this what the Bible says? When we blush at the questions about what’s wrong with our reproductive organs, is that for a good reason, or are we just prudes?

Linda's bookLinda Bartlett, former national president of Lutherans for Life, has just published The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity, which exposes the myths that our generation, as well as our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, have been taught to believe about what children should know to be prepared for marriage, the marital act, and procreation.

Bartlett begins by giving the necessary history of how the Church,  during the mid-20th century, put too much trust in “experts” instead of the inspired Word of God and willingly traded in our biblical understanding of manhood, womanhood, procreation, parenting, and purity for a more “scientific” approach to teaching children about the intimacies of marriage. Falsified, inaccurate, and even perverted studies on the “sexuality” of the human male and female conducted by Alfred Kinsey were presented to universities, medical associations, and church bodies as facts which could not be ignored by enlightened academics. Christianized versions of the sexual revolution’s message were then (and still are) passed down to schools and parents to share with children.

Are just what are some of these myths?

  • Children are sexual from birth.
  • Children should be taught about sex, and with the proper terminologies, beginning in early elementary school.
  • If children are not taught about sex early on, their naiveté could make them prey to sexual predators.
  • Parents aren’t trained to properly teach their children about sex. The schools are the best environments for this to take place.
  • Boys and girls should be taught about puberty and sexuality while in the same classroom, since there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
  • Sex education will help prevent unplanned pregnancies, STD’s, and abortions.

The Church was naive in its promotion of sex education in the parochial schools, Bartlett points out, but not malicious. We were deceived into believing that we are “sexual from birth,” and this brainwashing had the complete opposite effect on our Church members as what was intended. It cleared the way for the acceptance of fornication, homosexuality, birth control, and even abortion as a normal part of life for those who are simply expressing their sexuality – being who they thought they were created to be.

But that’s not how we were created, Bartlett reminds us. The solution to the mess we are in now is our Baptism. This is where we received our true identities as children of the Heavenly Father, not sexual beings created to express our sexuality, but holy beings, created to live holy (not sexual) lives. “It is important,” Bartlett says, “for the Body of Christ to see each member as fully human as opposed to sexual and, therefore, an instrument for God’s purpose and glory whether a child or adult, single or married, in this circumstance or that,” (pg. 108).

Because Bartlett presents such shocking evidence of our deception, she presents her case in the form of a patient dialogue between herself and her readers, including over 100 questions and then answering almost every objection one could think of to the notion that there is anything wrong with the way the Church has been educating her children. Her love and concern for her Church family flow through each section as she gently reminds us all that, “Even well-intentioned sex education in the Church leans the wrong way if built on the wrong foundation,” (pg. 129).

If you have children, if you teach children, if you are related to children, or if you once were a child, this book is for you.

Infertility Ethics Symposium

Thank you to Andy Bates and KFUO’s His Time show for interviewing Dr. Jeff Gibbs and me this morning on the upcoming Infertility Ethics Symposium at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.

You can listen to the interview here.

Reporter Online also recently published a helpful article which explains why the LCMS Life Ministry and the Concordia Seminary Life Team are co-sponsoring this important and timely event.

You can read the article here.

Cow Choir

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I stood next to the electric fence, its current of energy clicking like a castanet around the perimeter of the rolling pasture. I had just finished my morning run, and my senses were feasting on the lush humidity of green grass, mud puddles, and cow pies. I couldn’t help but sing.

I am Jesus’ little lamb,
Ever glad at heart I am;

A nearby heifer lifted her head and swung my way.

For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need and well provides me,

Another spotted girl on the southern slope abandoned her to-go breakfast and ambled towards the music. Then, another. And another. The heifers were peeling off one by one, now, defying the herd mentality for music. Perhaps cows and musicians are kindred spirits?

Loves me ev’ry day the same,
Even calls me by my name.

IMG_3446 copyAt this point, six black-and-white heifers stood silently before me in a line, their shoulders hunched together like shy teenagers at a party. I was singing about the wrong animal, but they didn’t seem to mind. At least the Hero was correct. I started in on stanza two.

From somewhere behind me, a screen door opened and slammed shut, and soon two boyish pairs of bare feet were braving the gravel driveway to come stand at my side. Apparently, cows are not the only creatures willing to leave breakfast for a good hymn-sing.

“Let’s sing the Offertory,” I suggested to my short companions. They didn’t hesitate, their sweet voices floating over the sun-streaked countryside like birds on a breeze.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not a way from Thy presence,
And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.

I looked over my shoulder to see the thirteen-year-old in braids who had quietly emerged from the farmhouse to join our choir.

Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation,
And uphold me with Thy free Spirit. Amen.

The cows stared at us, quiet and motionless. They didn’t applaud, but they also didn’t leave.

“I think they like our music,” I said.

The older boy leaned over and whispered, “They must be Lutheran.”

The cows didn’t protest.

“But which one is the pastor?” he asked.

“I know,” the younger boy piped up. “The bull is the pastor.”

I contained my smile. “I bet you’re right. God calls men to be pastors, so it must be the bull.”

“But that one’s the organist,” the older boy confirmed, pointing to the first heifer to join our songfest. One strand of grass hung awkwardly from the corner of her mouth. The thirteen-year-old giggled with delight.

“Yes, I think she is.”

We sang a few more hits from Lutheran Service Book before waving goodbye to our cow kin. As I headed into the house to claim my own spot at my hostess’s table, I couldn’t help but thank God for dairy farms, Missouri breezes, the hospitality of dear friends in Christ, the faith of little Lutherans, and the gift that is the Church’s song.

Some days, in the fellowship of Christ, I almost feel like a mother.

 

A Shout-out to the Singles

124426 copyTo all of my sisters and brothers in the house who grieve not only the absence of children of their own but also the absence of a spouse:

Remember this?

Well, our wait for Adriane Dorr Heins‘ book is over.

Hello, My Name is Single is finally available through Concordia Publishing House, and you can order it here.

I have a confession to make. I had the chance to sneak an early peak at the book (okay, read it all the way through) a couple of months ago, and – let me tell you – it is a delight!

In her book, Heins serves up a rich feast of Christ’s comfort—a tasty meal brined in Holy Writ, peppered to perfection with the Lutheran Confessions, and paired with Heins’ signature, zesty wit—prepared especially for those yearning for the gift of a spouse. Though “Single” is the name written on the place card, Heins generously invites all of us to the banquet table to partake of the peace and joy which alone are found in our Lord Jesus and His Church.

Heins begins the meal with a salty appetizer, “You are not defined by being single. No, you are a child of God: whole and perfect, broken no more,” and quickly refreshes the palate with a clarifying sorbet, “We are not alone, and we don’t live as though we are. We are one with Christ, even if we have no spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend or any friends at all, and He is the one who gives us our value, our worth, our meaning.”

The crunchy salad course whets the appetite for something meaty, “The time and ability to serve the Body of Christ is one of our best and most needed gifts as singles,” which Chef Heins delivers with an experienced hand: “And so it all boils down to this: All of us – single or married – want to place our importance and our worth on something we can control, rather than find it in Christ. We want something that’s not ours to have (at least not yet), and so our Good Shepherd responds to us in a way that teaches us again what His good and perfect will for us is.” *

And as for dessert, well…Did you really think I would give the best part away in a single (pun intended) blog post?

Nope. You’ll have to get the book yourself to find out what’s on the menu.

So, pick up your copy today (along with a fork), and down the hatch!

* (Hello, My Name Is Single by Adriane Dorr Heins, 7-24)

Warfare against the Enemy

P1060754The enemy was swift, a stealth narthex ninja pervading the unsuspecting Sunday crowd. In silence, he tracked his foe below eye level like the invisible eleventh plague.

I heard a cry, the grievous moan of a fallen warrior, and I spun around on my black-sandaled heal to find my pastor wounded, crumpled on the gray tile floor in a pool of his own, thick blood.

His leg was missing.

“Noooo!” I howled, lurching for the scene, but the enemy was too quick, too skilled, too bent upon his prey. He raised his saber high and abruptly, mercilessly went for the kill.

I won’t soon forget the violent sight of my limbless pastor bleeding on the floor, nor the sound of the nearby churchy witnesses gasping and hiding their faces behind shaking hands.

But not all hope was lost.

The enemy, in his reckless drive towards victory, had committed one fatal mistake. He had paused in his final strike, and I, as a result, had caught a glimpse of his red-and-black weapon. It was not just any saber. It was a rolled up edition of The Lutheran Witness.

In that moment, I did what any self-respecting Lutheran woman would do. I reached for the shield of choice, the only one which could deflect the blows of such a force. I reached for the large-print edition of The Portals of Prayer and held on for dear life.

“Aaaaahhhhh!!!” The enemy cried, rushing towards me like a mad bull towards a quivering red cape, but I held strong.

“Fzzzzzzzzz,” the electric forcefield of my Portals of Prayer pulsed, deflecting blow after blow from my three-foot-high foe.

There is an end to this story, one which defies all laws of physics and copyright. The enemy’s parents soon intervened, corralling boyish violence towards the family van, and, according to the promises we the Baptized hold dear, the pastor did indeed miraculously resurrect in time for Sunday lunch.

The moral of this story?

Well, I can make no promises as to whether or not the Portals of Prayer always succeeds in overcoming The Lutheran Witness in force and power nor as to whether or not the size of the font matters in the end, but I can say this:

A childless pastor and his wife sure know how to have fun with Little Lutherans after church.

 

Infertility Ethics Symposium – Saturday, November 8th

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Calling all LCMS pastors, seminarians, commissioned ministers, deaconesses, and parish nurses!

We certainly live in a “brave new world,” especially when it comes to infertility medicine.

In vitro fertilization, embryo adoption and assisted reproductive technologies…What is the Church to do? How can the Church steer congregations through the ethically murky waters of infertility medicine? What comfort can we as the Church offer to those who suffer from infertility and miscarriages?

LCMS Life Ministry and the Concordia Seminary Life Team are helping start the conversation by sponsoring an Infertility Ethics Symposium for pastors, seminarians, commissioned ministers, deaconesses, and parish nurses on Saturday, November 8, at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Won’t you please join us?

Admittance is free.

Contact LCMS Life Ministry at 314-996-1711 or tracy.quaethem@lcms.org for more info as it becomes available.


Symposium Schedule:

8:30 a.m. – Opening Worship – Rev. William Weedon (Homily: Prof. John Pless)
9:00 a.m. – “Be Fruitful and Multiply: When It Doesn’t Work” – Rev. William Cwirla
10:00 a.m. – coffee break
10:30 a.m. – “Survey of Reproductive Counseling Practices in the Lutheran Church” – Rev. Dr. Kevin E. Voss
11:30 a.m. – “IVF: from Created to Creator” – Rev. Dr. James Lamb
12:30 p.m. – lunch
1:45 p.m. – “Embryo Adoption: Helping or Hurting My Neighbor?” – Rev. Dr. Robert W. Weise
2:45 p.m. – “Pastoral Care for Those Experiencing Infertility” – Rev. Christopher Esget
3:45 p.m. – break
4:00 p.m. – “The LCMS and Infertility Ethics” – Rev. Peter Brock
5:00 p.m. – Closing Worship – Rev. William Weedon (Homily: Dr. Jeff Gibbs)
5:30 p.m. – Gemütlichkeit

True Love

heartWe’re confused about something in this generation. There’s the mistaken belief that loving someone means permitting them to do whatever they want, that love equals acceptance and tolerance.

Case in point, religion according to Lady Gaga instructs us to embrace and celebrate people as they are today – to tolerate and accept their feelings and actions – because they’re simply born that way. “I’m beautiful in my own way,” she sings. “I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way. Don’t hide yourself in regret. Just love yourself, and you’re set.” She expounds, “Oh, there ain’t no other way.”

If this were true, then a government which loves its citizens would provide a hotel room rather than a jail cell for the man in his forties who desires to bed preteen girls. After all, he was simply born that way.

If everyone is “on the right track, baby,” then we would not limit abortion to just babies in the womb. We would cease such unloving discrimination by age and, instead, allow adults to abort other adults who don’t fit into their own life plan.

If “loving yourself” is all that’s required to be set in life, then paying taxes to support the livelihood of policemen and firemen and soldiers and other civil servants would be bogus.

If we are to avoid hiding ourselves “in regret” for our in-born passions, then racists and terrorists and sociopaths should be hired to run our daycare facilities, schools, and businesses.

If “there ain’t no other way” than loving yourself, then parents should not be bothered with loving and protecting their children. They should create as many embryos through IVF as they want and do with them whatever they want. The important thing is to see their own desires answered and their own dreams fulfilled, not those of their kids.

Lady Gaga, in her effort to trumpet and memorialize and idolize the very passions with which we are all born, endorses the very opposite of love, for true love doesn’t tolerate and accept and serve the self. True love denies the self and its passions and dies for the good of their children.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13 [ESV]).”

Sometimes, the greatest act of love we barren mothers can perform for our children is to suffer the absence of them rather than create them to die.