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LORD, THEE I LOVE WITH ALL MY HEART

LORD, THEE I LOVE WITH ALL MY HEART

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LORD, THEE I LOVE WITH ALL MY HEART. Illustrated by Kelly Schumacher. Sioux Falls: Kloria, 2019. 28 pages. $11.43.

Kloria Publishing has found its niche. They take theologically-rich hymns and make them presentable to children. The way they do this is by letting a gifted artist visually depict the story that the hymn tells. First it was Jonathan Mayer with “God’s Own Child I Gladly Say It”, then it was Jason Jaspersen with “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, and now they’ve employed Kelly Schumacher to tackle Martin Schalling’s hymn “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart.”

Using the medium of colored pencils Kelly Schumacher depicts the story of a young girl who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. You follow the girl and her family from the onset of the disease all the way to her bodily resurrection on the Last Day and everlasting joy.

Though you might describe the terminal illness of a child as “harsh” the artwork is anything but. The colors are soft and the lines are not sharp, though the images remain vivid and clear. This is what Christ’s “precious blood” has accomplished for us. It changes the way we look at the circumstances of our life, because His blood has changed everything about us.

The story of the girl is poignant and the artistic rendering of it is insightful. On the page with the lyrics “Lord Jesus Christ, My God and Lord, my God and Lord, | Forsake me not! I trust Thy Word.” is an image of mom and dad standing in a bathroom before a mirror with a hair clippers shaving off their daughter’s hair. It’s a stunning image to pair with that text and it was the page that grabbed me the most. On the opposite page is a picture of the young girl, paging through the family Bible. Shaving off your daughter’s hair would certainly have all the features of feeling forsaken by God, but His Word tells otherwise, which is why Christ remains front and center of the hymn, the artwork, and our faith.

There are a two places where Schumacher uses layered imagery in the book. One of them I understood almost immediately, the other one prompted me to reach out to Schumacher for an explanation, which she promptly supplied. I won’t share the explanation with you in this review, because I think the artwork should work on you for a bit before just dismissing it as not understandable or seeking the ready answer from the artist herself. Also . . . after receiving the explanation, I think there are plenty of readers who will easily connect it to the text without consulting with the artist as I have done.

The only criticism I have for this book would be on the page with the words “Lord, let as last Thine angels come, | To Abr’ham’s bosom bear me home, That I may die unfearing.” The angels are depicted as gentle women and young children. This is consistent with the “soft” theme of the book, but Scripture doesn’t describe angels this way. This is not to say that Schumacher is wrong, or that she has misrepresented Scripture, because she hasn’t. Scripture hasn’t provided us with an exhaustive look at all the ranks of angels. If I had Schumacher’s artistic skill-set and were tasked with visually depicting this hymn, I’d have depicted the angels as men. Much in the way that you might imagine a police-officer or firefighter receiving a child from a car wreck or burning home.

I love what Kloria is doing. I love their hymn selection, I love the seriousness of the artwork, and I love the high quality nature of their books. The pages are thicker than your average children’s book, thus making these books durable for repeated use in the hands of destructive children. Also, as with their other books, the melody line of the hymn is printed in the back.

This book should be in church libraries, it should be on the minds of all godparents who are looking for gifts for their godchildren, and it should be used by parents to sing to their children throughout the day. I maintain my stance adopted in my last review of a Kloria book, “Support Kloria Publishing with your patronage. It would be good for the entire church if they were profitable enough to produce an entire library of hymns set to artwork like this.”

Rev. Timothy A. Koch, Pastor of Emanuel Lutheran Church, South Dakota.

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