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Resilient Hope

By |2022-05-04T00:24:18+00:00April 18, 2022|Blog, Hope|

BECKY KIERN | CONTRIBUTOR Think of your favorite book, film, or TV series: if there were no conflicts or obstacles to overcome, what would remain of the story? Would we know the name Harry Potter if there were no curse to battle; Jane Bennett if there was no pride (or is prejudice her vice, I can never remember) to overcome; Frodo without an evil ring to destroy, or Cinderella without a cruel step-family from which to escape? Conflict may be the driving force for story development, but the best stories are not simply fables of conflict avoidance. What pulls on our heart strings is the resilience and growth these beloved characters undergo in response to the adversities they face. Will Luke Skywalker give into his father and the power of the Dark Side? Will Elsa choose to stay isolated in her ice castle or will she choose to love and be loved by her sister? Conflict may provide the impetus for a story, but the resilience of a character is what teaches us to have courage, value friendship, or to love another.

Let Earth Receive Her King

By |2022-05-04T23:30:53+00:00December 2, 2021|Blog, Christmas|

BECKY KIERN|CONTRIBUTOR Joy to the world! Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing. Joy to the world! the Savior reigns; Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sounding joy. No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found. He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love, And wonders, wonders, of His love. -Isaac Watts, 1719 Everlasting Joy Sometimes things become so deeply embedded in the zeitgeist, the cultural experience, that we forget its intended meaning or purpose. A quick search on Spotify for “Joy to the World” shows recordings by everyone from Mariah Carey to Kenny G, Ella Fitzgerald to George Strait. There is no doubt that for years this song has been a beloved Christmas staple, embedded in American culture. I have to admit a smile comes across my face when the beauty of the redemptive promise blares at unsuspecting shoppers during the holiday season. As “Joy to the World” begins to be played on airwaves, in commercials, and sung in our churches, it is good to take a moment to ask what was the songwriters original intent? Let Earth Receive Her King Writing at the beginning of the eighteen century, a time when most church worship centered around the poetry of the Psalms, Isaac Watts’s “Joy to the World” finds its roots in Psalm 98. This uncredited psalm of praise, found in book four of the psalter, centers around a joyous celebration of Yahweh’s kingship. The Lord, Yahweh, has “made known His salvation” (Ps. 98:2), “revealed His righteousness” (Ps. 98:2), and “remembered His steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ps. 98:3). Yahweh’s faithful righteousness thus produces “joyous song and praises” (Ps. 98:4) in “all the earth” (Ps. 98:4). Although not originally written as a Christmas or Advent hymn, “Joy to the World” becomes arguably the perfect Advent song....

The Delight and Direction of Work

By |2022-05-04T23:25:18+00:00September 13, 2021|Blog, Work|

BECKY KIERN|CONTRIBUTOR My journey into the workplace began in 1996 on a warm summer’s evening. Since I was not yet old enough to drive, my Mom drove me to the neighbor’s house, where I was to spend the evening babysitting. She had the windows rolled down and the radio blaring as I sat in the passenger seat, filled with a mixture of excited pride and absolute terror. Twenty five years later, my work resume has included everything from answering phone calls in the back of a ham store (ham juice ruined my favorite shoes, but that’s another story), to working alongside some of the world’s finest heart surgeons. Some seasons of life have included work which was so fulfilling I woke up excited to get to the day’s task; while work in other seasons was so vexing, I dreaded going to bed at night, knowing the next day held hours filled with frustration. Often when our labors are difficult, discouragement creeps in and we find ourselves asking, “Does any of my work matter?” or “What is the purpose of all this hard work?” Created to Work In the beginning of the Biblical narrative, Genesis 1:1 introduces God, focusing primarily on His work as Creator. He is described as first creating the heavens and the earth before turning his attention to the creation of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. In Genesis 1:26, Moses continues to explain the creation narrative by recounting God’s words, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”                   So God created them in his own image,             in his own image he created him;             male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over every living thing.” After giving Adam and Eve His blessing, God called them both to do two things: to build a family together and to work. When all was good, when Adam and Eve walked freely with God, before shame, toil, broken dreams, or altered plans had entered into the world, humans were made for and instructed to work. Our work has dignity, because through it, we reflect the goodness of our Creator....

Grieving Loss and Reordering Loves

By |2022-05-05T00:12:17+00:00September 10, 2020|Blog, Grief|

When 2019 ended, I raised my glass and rejoiced at the conclusion of one of the hardest years of my adult life. I was thrilled to enter into 2020, seeing it as a new year filled with new potential. The first half of my year was planned to the max with travel, speaking engagements, conferences, teaching Bible study groups at my local church, and the publication of my first solo writing project. There was excitement, joy, and expectation; after a season of wandering, I felt as if I finally had direction and was gaining traction. During the first weekend of March, I was on a trip with friends in South Carolina when I got word of the first COVID-19 infection in Nashville, my hometown. As I traveled home on Monday morning, I found myself walking through empty airports and flying home on empty planes—the spring of 2020 had officially begun. Over the course of the next two weeks, my 2020 calendar went from full to numbingly blank, as every event I was attending or leading was (understandably) canceled. I spent hours on the phone with friends, crying about lost events, anxious about firings and furloughs. And I, like so many, had to learn to work from home in a job which was never meant to be done through a flat, cold, computer screen. On Monday, March 23rd I finally hit a wall. It became apparent that no amount of wealth, education, or social connection could prevent the experience of loss. This beast was going to deeply affect us all in some way. Any semblance of control seemed to be slipping away, and—if I am honest—the collective experience of loss left me feeling as if I were swimming against a rip tide of grief and fear....

Our Light and Life: The “I Am” Statements of Christ

By |2022-05-05T00:23:36+00:00August 13, 2020|Blog, God's Word|

Some of my most treasured childhood memories are of the post-dinner stories my grandfather told. Most of the time he was a man of few words, but without fail, after he finished eating, his pushed his chair back, linked his fingers together, and rested his hands on top of his post-retirement pot belly. As a smile spread across his face, he looked at us and asked, “Did I ever tell you about the time . . .” Through his stories, he transported us back to 1940s Jackson Square, to the French Quarter beignet shop where men in tuxes and women in ballgowns dropped white sugar all over their carnival attire. He took us on grand adventures such as sleeping under picnic tables while hiking the rim of the Grand Canyon and working odd jobs on the home front while older family and friends fought across Europe and the Pacific. It’s been fifteen years since I heard him tell a story or seen his full-bellied laugh, but I can remember those precious moments like they were yesterday. Those stories taught me my family history, and later in life his stories helped me understand parts of who I am. Knowing Ourselves by Knowing God “Who am I?”  Is there a question more central or universal to the human experience? These three little words, this tiny question, can take a lifetime to unravel. For generations, poets, songwriters, sociologists, and anthropologists (just to name a few) have attempted to romanticize or research their way to a deeper understanding of human and personal identity. For those of us who are Christians, the question is also warranted. God invites His people to freely ask identity questions, knowing in His kindness He already gave us the answers in His Word. As we study God’s Word, as we begin to digest God’s divinity, His story and promises, we are invited to understand the fundamental truth: there is no real knowledge of self without a knowledge of God. And at the core we cannot truly answer the question “Who am I?” until we have answered, “Who is He?”...

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