Less is More (Ann Marie Godfrey)

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Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t have time”? Or maybe you have said it yourself. A common theme in the American way of life is busyness. We believe that we are not successful unless we have a million things to do. Somehow when we have three soccer games, a piano recital, and a cross country meet all in one weekend, we think that it is just what normal people do.

This idea of busyness is a total contradiction to the kind of life average Americans enjoyed less than two hundred years ago. After the work and school day was over, that was it. Families enjoyed the simple pleasures of eating dinner and a quiet evening together. There were no practices, extracurriculars, or meetings to rush to. And at the end of the week, Sundays were truly days of rest when no work was done and time was spent with God and family.

Sadly, these simple pleasures have been lost amid the busyness of people in the twenty-first century. For some odd reason, it feels strange when we do not have something we need to do. In fact, we almost seem not to know how to handle free time. So maybe we fill it binging on the next season of a Netflix show, scrolling through our phones, or watching highlights of the football game we already saw last weekend.

We need to learn to say no. We need to allow ourselves time to breathe, time to get outside, time to read a book, time to eat a family meal around the dinner table with everyone. I know, it sounds impossible. However, when we do take that time to step back from the chaos of life, the feeling is remarkable. The stress and pressures of life are relieved, and we are able to truly enjoy the present moment and the people we are with.

Sometimes, less truly is more.

Tattered Canvases (Nate Collins)

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The blazing sun greeted another sweltering, Florida day. My hair was plastered against my perspiring head, so I desperately stumbled towards the local water park. As I entered the sopping oasis, an overwhelming sea of tattoos greeted my sweat-stung eyes, and thus, I realized the suprising fact that I was in fact unique. As a simple blank canvas of skin, I stood out from the masses of tattooed individuals.

Was this good or bad? It was neither. However,​ ​as​ ​opposed​ ​to​ ​years​ ​past, when​ ​a​ ​tattoo was a taboo that ​set​ ​someone​ ​apart,​​ ​ nowadays tattoos seem to synthesize​ ​individuals​ ​into​ ​one ever-growing, ​human​ collective—those​ ​​marked​ ​for​ ​life.​ ​In this club, individuals almost haphazardly ​plaster​ ​their​ ​bodies​ ​with​ ​cliché​s,​ ​spiritual​ ​proverbs,​ ​and​ ​other​ sayings​, from the profound to the meaningless.​ ​And yet, why do we do ​this?​ ​What​ ​drives​ ​us​ ​as​ ​humans​ ​to​ ​alter​ ​or “enhance”​ ​our​ ​original​ ​form?​ ​Is​ ​it​ ​desperation,​ ​rebellion,​ ​stupidity,​ ​or​ ​maybe​ ​even​ ​hope, creativity,​ ​and​ ​adoration?​ On the other hand, what if​ ​our​ ​insatiable​ ​desire​ ​to​ ​improve—and in many cases, to ink—​ourselves, ​stems​ ​from​ ​an irritating​ ​forgetfulness—an amnesia of sorts?​ ​

We​ seem to have the hardest time ​getting​ one simple, albeit exceedingly profound, reality ​into​ ​our​ ​heads:  ​someone infinitely​ ​special​ ​loves​ ​us. We​ desperately ​try​ ​to​ ​fix and craft more pleasing versions of​ ​ourselves with constant hopes of being ​loved. With this in mind, ​I​ ​cannot ​help​ ​but​ ​wonder​ ​if​ ​the best ​​tattoo​ ​is​ ​one​ ​that​ ​overrides​ ​our ​constant amnesia​ ​and​ ​reminds​ ​us day in and day out of the ever-present reality that we​ are loved by God and thus quite truly ​marked​ ​for​ ​life,​​ despite being nothing but a simple, ​tattered​ ​canvas.​

The Drama before the Drama (Lauren Hoaglund)

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Tech week: drama lingo for the final week before a show that all cast members dread and relish at the same time.

You just can’t beat the hysterical laughter caused by lack of sleep or the constant humming from cast members who can’t get the songs of the show out of their heads. It all begins with a Sunday night rehearsal: the rush of the first time the sound cues come in at just the right moment, the set changes pulled off without a hitch, the props you have been pretending to hold finally appearing in your hands.

Monday night brings mics and lights, two of the greatest hurdles we face in the theater department. The loud, vibrating hum of the microphones makes the whole cast shudder and falter on their lines. The bright spotlights make it impossible to see anyone else on stage.

By Tuesday, the exhaustion sets in. Eyes droop throughout the day. Teachers notice you are not quite with them in class. Full hair and makeup are required for this day’s run-through. A few mad scrambles and heart attacks later, you might just find your way to the theater in a timely fashion. When it’s finally time to start rehearsal, the character shoes are pinching a little too tightly, your earpiece starts to give you a headache, and your costumes have begun to lose their initial appeal. Each rehearsal feels a little less comfortable than it did a few nights before. Your timing is off on most of your lines, and your microphone never seems to be working when you need it to be.

Wednesday we take a much-needed break from the chaos of the rehearsal pace. Time to finish all of the homework for the entire week in one night and hope that it all works out. Move on from the fact that, even though you have told them a million times that it is tech week, the teachers still chose to give you a mound of homework. Try to get to bed before midnight and maybe, just maybe, you will be able to make it to Friday.

Thursday. Well, Thursday is make or break. This is it. Welcome to dress rehearsal. Get there early and be ready for pictures. Center yourself before the run-through and take a few deep breaths. When you walk on stage, make it count. This is your last time to drop a line, forget an entrance, break into an unplanned giggle, or miss a quick change. Get it all out. This is the last time you can do these scenes before people are standing in front of you. Then, before you know it, it’s over. Just like that.

This year I have had the privilege of playing the part of one of my favorite characters in musical theater, Maria in The Sound of Music. This part has challenged me, excited me, and scared the ever-living daylights out of me. Every time I open my mouth to sing those first notes of “The Sound of Music,” I get a little light headed. My head spins, and then all of a sudden it stops. I see the spotlight and hear the music and before I know it, I’m singing.

I wanted to explain tech week so everyone will realize what Mrs. Eubanks, Hannah Jane, the tech crew, stage hands, and cast of a Westminster show actually go through. The headaches, the joys, the laughs, the sobs–I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

New Home, Same God (Will Green)

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It’s crazy to me how God uses our environment to shape the people we become.

Birmingham has been my home ever since I was born at Brookwood Hospital in 1999. For most of my early childhood, my family lived in Helena near those huge, blue water tank things off I-65. The only memory I really have during that time of life was that Santa himself would ride down my street on a fire truck, which was the coolest thing ever. When I was about four or five years old, my family relocated to Meadowbrook on the opposite side of town to be closer to my dad’s job and our school (Oak Mountain Classical, at the time). At Christmas I was pretty bummed to learn that Santa was too busy in Helena to come to Meadowbrook as well. However, it was in Meadowbrook that I met one of my best friends, Weston Padgett. Because we lived in the same neighborhood, we became very close and would anxiously sit in the gym at school each day hoping to hear 19 and 33 called at the same time, which meant that we were hanging out after school. Years later, God brought the Blythe family to Birmingham as well. Brayden Blythe and I became close friends partly because we were in church together and also because he lived very close to my house. We could easily hang out and spent countless hours venturing through our neighborhood. Honestly, I could tell many other stories of guys who have influenced me, such as Pierce Moffett, Mason Greer, Wiley Boone, Parker Mixon, and the list could go on. It just amazes me how God has used Birmingham to shape me and to influence my family. However, the story is beginning to shift towards a new location as my dad has taken a job in Atlanta, Georgia. Next summer my family will move and start a new chapter to our story in a new city. Looking back, I see all that God has done here in Birmingham during the first years of my life. It makes me all the more excited to see what will unfold in Atlanta as he continues to make me the man he wants me to be.

Created to Learn (Sam Howerton)

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In England there is a boarding school where it is completely optional to attend classes. It’s called Summerhill, and according to the Telegraph, it is “the most progressive school on the planet.” I know what you may be thinking: “Wow, I’d love to go to that school!” Or maybe you’re thinking, “I would never go to class!” In fact, you might be surprised at how well Summerhill’s approach actually worked.

After several weeks, the students began to attend class. Why? It is simple: they wanted to learn. We can all relate to this in a way. Usually when summer break is nearing its end, we begin to look forward to school starting again – even if we won’t always admit it.

The desire to learn is brought about by boredom or the lack of brain stimulation. Research suggests that the human response to boredom is to do or learn something new. So naturally, boredom provokes the need to engage the mind in some sort of activity, and school is a great way to accomplish that.

Our desire to learn is natural; God created us as learners. Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.”  So if you find yourself ever wanting to go to school, you aren’t weird. You’re normal! God created us to be curious beings who want to learn.

Un été passé en France (Camilla Lemons)

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When people hear that I spent part of my summer in France, their initial reaction is to ask why I went and what I did while I was there. However, I have found this question really difficult to answer due to the one-of-a-kind experience I had. Rather than vacationing in France or going on a mission trip, I attended the Fixed Point Institute for Applied Apologetics, which is a ten day conference for high school seniors and college students. At the Institute, Larry Taunton, acclaimed author and founder of Fixed Point Foundation, equips students to articulate their faith in an increasingly secular culture by teaching them what it means to think like a Christian.

While this is a topic that is often discussed on a theoretical level in Christian communities such as Westminster, the Institute focuses on the practical application of what it means to seek first the kingdom of God in one’s vocation. Students hear from faculty members–which included everything from a professional South African rugby player and an Islamic polemicist–on how they are living out their faith in the lifestyle to which God has called them.

The Institute is located in France for good reason: first, because issues such as the rise of Islam feel much more real there than in the mountains of North Carolina; and second, the goal is for students to enjoy a short retreat from their familiar world in order to engage it more thoughtfully and effectively upon returning. However, this conference is set apart from typical Christian camps by its focus on engaging fundamental Christian truths rather than eliciting an emotional response from its participants. Overall, the Fixed Point Institute is a fruitful experience where students grow personally, academically, and spiritually while on an incredible trip to France.

A Good Start (Rachel Faulk)

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The sun had just edged over the horizon on an early September Saturday when I embarked on the one-and-a-half-hour drive from Birmingham to Moulton. All along I-65 the trees were just starting to turn yellow as fall set in. It was officially cross country season.

Crisp air greeted the team as we arrived at our first cross country meet of the year: Chickasaw Trails. As a senior, I have run the course numerous times, but for many of our younger runners, it would be their first time on the course—for some their first race ever.

It was a beautiful day for a race. Despite the absence of several members of the varsity team who were taking the ACT, everyone ran their best. For some, that meant a first or second place finish (Hallie Porterfield and Hunter Wright); for others, the top 30; still others, simply finishing the race or running the whole way. It was not about getting a certain time or place; there was no pressure for anyone. It was just about having fun and getting to compete. And even if running isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, it’s still great to enjoy the joys of being part of a team and working hard to cross the finish line knowing you did your best.

An unexpected bright spot for the day came when the middle school girls’ team placed third out of twenty-eight teams bringing home their first trophy of the year.

Prospects are bright for this year’s cross country team, which will hopefully foster a love for the sport in younger runners to keep the tradition going for years to come.

Floyd Mayweather: Out of Retirement to the Pinnacle of a Career (John Richardson)

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Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. has enjoyed the most successful boxing career ever. He is the wealthiest boxer ever to have lived, reaching an astounding net worth over one billion dollars. Mayweather had a long and prosperous pro boxing career, achieving a total of fifty wins and zero losses. This was done through five different weight classes against multiple world champions.  Mayweather ultimately finished his career in an unusual fashion. He came out of retirement to fight the former UFC champion Connor McGregor. This final fight went for 10 rounds and ended in the TKO of the young UFC champion. The fight generated hundreds of millions of dollars and sent a boxing legend into a final retirement. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has raised the bar of what a professional boxer can achieve, and many fighters will look up to him for generations.

Autumn Longing (Harriette Adam)

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She sits outside in the blazing hot sun until a cloud shields her for a moment to let her have shade.  A cold finger touches her spine, a soft cool breeze. The breeze sends a chill through her body. She takes a quick breath in to smell the air. Fall. The summer rain storms roll in, dragging the cool air into the atmosphere. The trees shed their crunchy leaves, which softly dance in the wind, landing on her path of red, orange, yellow, and brown. She brings out her boots, scarves, sweaters, and other fall trends.

She gazes upon the little monsters, mystical creatures, and fictional characters, who race freely around the streets going door-to-door giddily shouting, “Trick-or-treat!” They fill their mouths and plastic pumpkins with the sweet loot they have received and scamper along to the next house.

As time passes and the density of the forest thins, the haunting ghosts, evil decor, and stringy cobwebs are replaced with plump turkeys, rosy-cheeked pilgrims, and Native Americans with crops in hand. She gathers around the table with her large, loud family enjoying the traditional Thanksgiving meal. She laughs and talks for hours of past stories with them.

Yet she is in a daze as her eyes catch a glimpse of the glowing golden leaves falling away from the leafy giant. She knows autumn must come to an end soon. She will have to wait another year.

Dangers of a Second Amendment Culture (Anna Bader)

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The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution reads, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” There has been a lot of debate concerning the pros and cons of this particular amendment. Some would argue that the right to carry firearms gives a sense of safety and security and decreases crime and the chance of a criminal attack. Some studies support this theory. One study found that criminals retreat 55% percent of the time when people draw their guns in self-defense (connectusfund.org).

Others argue that the Second Amendment leaves people feeling ill at ease instead of safe. They think it increases crime and the potential for gun-related incidents. The same study mentioned above found that a gun-carrying person is 4.5 times more likely to get shot during a criminal attack (connectusfund.org).

Moreover, the fact that many citizens of the U.S. are likely to carry a firearm has increased fears of a senseless shooting during routine traffic stops. This can be especially dangerous to foreigners unfamiliar with America’s gun culture. For instance, on July 15, 2017, 40-year-old Justine Ruszczyk from Australia was shot by a police officer one month before her wedding. Ruszczyk had called the police because she felt threatened by a stranger and ran towards the sheriff’s vehicle hoping to receive help. The police officer, fearing an attack, shot the young woman in what he believed to be self-defense. Many felt that her death could have been avoided had the Constitution prohibited the private use of firearms and therefore limited the fear of hidden firearms and senseless shootings.