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Give Thanks to the Lord

By |2022-11-07T22:20:17+00:00November 24, 2022|Blog, Thanksgiving|

BECKY KIERN|CONTRIBUTOR O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, planes formed of old, faithful and sure. He will swallow up death forever; and the LORD GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, It will be said on that day; “Behold, that is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”  (Isaiah 25:1, 8-9) There is nothing like the excitement of children around the holidays. Just the other day while on a video call with my niece, she excitedly showed me a count-down chain she and my nephew had just finished creating. She explained how each little paper circle represented a day of school they must complete before they get to start Christmas break. Christmastime is almost here, and she can’t wait. Likewise, the Christmas season stirs up a variety of emotions in adults as well. Gathering with family and friends can bring us much joy, laughter, and gratitude. But the season can also bring painful memories and tears as we grieve those who won’t celebrate the holidays with us this year. Hard emotions born from life lived in a fallen world often compete with the joy of the season—emotions such as grief, fear, doubt, weariness, loneliness, cynicism, or despair. They may wrestle for our affections and attempt to steal our hope and joy. But Advent knows better!...

The Joy of Advent

By |2022-11-07T22:06:34+00:00November 21, 2022|Blog, Christmas|

BECKY KIERN|CONTRIBUTOR O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, planes formed of old, faithful and sure. He will swallow up death forever; and the LORD GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, It will be said on that day; “Behold, that is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”  (Isaiah 25:1, 8-9) There is nothing like the excitement of children around the holidays. Just the other day while on a video call with my niece, she excitedly showed me a count-down chain she and my nephew had just finished creating. She explained how each little paper circle represented a day of school they must complete before they get to start Christmas break. Christmastime is almost here, and she can’t wait. Likewise, the Christmas season stirs up a variety of emotions in adults as well. Gathering with family and friends can bring us much joy, laughter, and gratitude. But the season can also bring painful memories and tears as we grieve those who won’t celebrate the holidays with us this year. Hard emotions born from life lived in a fallen world often compete with the joy of the season—emotions such as grief, fear, doubt, weariness, loneliness, cynicism, or despair. They may wrestle for our affections and attempt to steal our hope and joy. But Advent knows better!...

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....

Standing on Their Shoulders: Our Sisters in the Faith

By |2022-10-03T15:15:46+00:00October 3, 2022|Blog, Book Club Recommendations, Reading|

Last fall, my sister and I had the great opportunity to travel up the beautiful Rhine River valley. Armed with a shared love of history, we ventured down side streets, through museums, and into countless churches in search of as many Reformation era sites as we could find. In Strasburg, we made a point to visit the church where John Calvin served as pastor from 1538-1541. While standing in the lovely church courtyard, my mind started wandering. We had visited a number of sites which gave account for men who had served and suffered for the Lord's church, but what about our church mothers? What history has been recorded of the women who have helped shape our church history—the women upon whose shoulders we now stand...

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