Monthly Archives: March 2018

An Angel Choir (Nate Collins)

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The grim atmosphere of this night displays a façade of unending boredom and bleakness. An occasional breeze rustles the ragged, jagged boughs of surrounding trees and forces begrudging, weathered leaves into a dizzying flight through the nocturnal void. Instantly, a shimmer of sonic bliss pierces the night and casts the accompanying gloom into oblivion’s endless depths. Soon, these ethereal utterances expand into a cascade of melodic harmonies, emanating from within a warm, cozy house.

Here, in the battlefield of his room, a young man sits entrenched. On a throne of seemingly endless chaos consisting of dirty clothes, shoes, school books, and many other miscellaneous oddities, he wages an intense battle. Deep within the recesses of his mind, he has receded into a realm of vivid vibrations and splendid sounds. Thus, armed with his weapon of choice, he unleashes a war-cry against the oppressive demons of the night. His dexterous fingers, engaged in a well-practiced dance, support this rally. And so, this tango proceeds atop a worn dancefloor of wood and metal, strings and frets.

It extends to his other hand, which whirs back and forth between the sparkling strings. At times he strums boisterous chords; other times he elicits soothing arpeggios and crooning licks from the careworn instrument. Regardless of the tune, and even regardless of whether his beloved guitar or his unceremonious voice dominates the room, the young man unleashes his troubles into the night to be heard by no one. And yet, as he transitions songs, he sometimes swears that the unobtrusive noises of the night are actually the whisperings of an angelic choir.

A Little Pink Ain’t Never Hurt Nobody (Pierce Moffett)

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That fateful November I stood with six other guys staring at a smoking pile of dirt in our youth leader’s yard. Buried in the dirt, lay our Thanksgiving turkey. Our leader had managed to convince us somehow that burying a turkey on top of coals in the ground was a good idea.

As one of the guys took a shovel to dig out the turkey, he noted that the ground above it was cold. Even though the ground (not to mention the turkey) was supposed to be warmed by the coals buried beneath, it was frigid. Despite this painfully ironic omen, we trudged on with the process. We managed to lift the turkey out of the ground without breaking the aluminum foil seal that we had created around the turkey. Sadly, this was perhaps the only thing that we would do correctly.

We noticed as were walking back to the house that the turkey continued to leak juices, which were supposed to have cooked off. Again, we just trudged on. We placed the turkey on the table with the highest hopes of success. After all, the turkey was only about twenty pounds, and the fire was probably hot enough before it was dumped in the hole. Surely, seven hours is long enough for a turkey of that size to cook? Well, with images of beautiful roasted turkey in our brains, we undid the covering around the bird.

Most people say that a turkey should be about 160 degrees Fahrenheit before it is safe to eat; our turkey was 120 degrees. Not wanting to be let down, we cut the turkey to look for ourselves and see if it was safe to eat. After all, most of those home meat thermometers are always off by about a few degrees, right? The color of the turkey was mostly white. “A little pink ain’t hurt nobody” is what we kept telling ourselves as we put the turkey on our plates. That was one of the biggest mistakes any of us had ever made. That night we learned the hard way that, yes, “a little pink can hurt somebody.”

Remembering Winter (Daniel Collins)

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I could not see. Every step more snowflakes landed in my eye. Snow crunched underneath my shoes as my brother, my cousin, my uncle, and I tore up the snow-covered trails that morning. Before us was a vast winter land of white. We ran and ran, plowing through untouched powder, flinging snowballs at each other as we ran. We knocked the overburdened branches with snow to send snow cascading onto the runner behind us. It was a joyous day. The higher up on the mountain, the deeper the snow. Instead of dealing with the usual jagged rocks, we were landing on blankets of powder. It would not have been surprising to turn a corner and discover the lamp post from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Our hands may have frozen, but our spirits were soaring. We ran and ran, across the snow-covered hills. Snow hung in the bare trees. It covered bridges, logs, and rocks. It poked us in the eyes and piled into our shoes. We ran like giddy kids that day in a winter wonderland.

Better Than Life (Gracie Eddins)

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Several months back a man from my church passed away. He was thirty-three years old. He had a beautiful wife, a four-year-old daughter, and a two-year-old son. For seven years, he constantly fought a rare, incurable form of sarcoma known as DSRCT, which eventually spread throughout his entire body. He would often update us on Sunday mornings on how various treatments were going, and he became our church’s most frequent and longed-for prayer request. It is not often that someone knows that they only have a few more weeks on this earth with their kids and their wife, but this was the situation that he found himself in. I am not going to pretend that I knew him or his family well; in fact I am not sure that I ever did more than introduce myself. However, from a distance, like so many others, I saw the process of his body weakening.

At the funeral I was proud to be a part of our small, yet well represented church family. We all sat together in about six rows, and our pastor performed the funeral. I felt a unity in our church body that I had not experienced before. His brothers shared many funny memories and stories that showed the strong character and uncommon faith of this man. Then they showed a video that was made before he passed.

He started the video by saying, “The Lord has been so good to us on this journey.” Even this statement gives a window into his faith that was unwavering even when he knew what was ahead of him. He discussed the joy that his children and wife were to him and also his fear that his young kids might not remember him. He relayed a story of him rocking his daughter right after she was first born and processing that he might not be around for her to know that he loves her. He would say over and over, “I always want you to know and I never want you to forget how much I love you.”

He claimed that never had he heard God so clearly speak to him as he did in this situation. He heard God say, “I always want you to know and I never want to forget how much I love you” back to him. He experienced God in such a clear way. God had not promised him healing or put that on his heart, but God had always promised that he loves him. He said, “In a way, healing is not what I want most; knowing that my father loves me is what I want most.” The psalmist says, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you” (63:3). This man was able to say that he knew this to be true. He knew that to die and experience all of Christ and all of His love would be better than to stay on this earth and live out his life with his young family.

I don’t think I have ever been so encouraged in my faith than by his story and by observing God fulfill his plan through his life. I cannot even comprehend this amount of faith at this point in my walk with Christ, but I know that these are the situations and stories where passages like “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” become more than just words. This is where there can be no more passive, cultural Christianity. This is where you have to decide: Do I truly believe this to be true–that nothing this world has to offer can be better than experiencing the fullness of the Lord?

Even the best things of this man’s world–walking his daughter down the aisle, growing old with his wife, seeing his son mature in his own walk with Christ–none of it would be as good as eternal life with Christ. He believed this to be ultimate truth; he lived it out; and now he is in heaven experiencing the full glory of his savior with no more sickness, pain, or sorrow.

I hate typing that in one simple sentence, it’s so much more of a big deal that I think we like to admit. I think truly processing eternity with Christ is unnerving, confusing, and convicting. One day, if we have surrendered our life over to Christ, we will be in heaven experiencing the fullness of Christ. This is completely overwhelming and exciting, and frankly, I am not entirely sure of the best way to process this fact. Reflecting on the funeral, this hit me in an incredibly real way that I had never experienced before.

Haughtiness and the Spirit of Revenge (Olivia Clement)

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I grabbed the back of a rolling chair and pulled it into the group of high school seniors that were already seated in a circle. Looking around, I observed the twenty or thirty kind faces around me, all glistening with sweat from the Georgia summer heat. This weekend was reserved for us to learn Scripture and worship together at one of my favorite places, Camp Highland. So, there we sat, waiting for our leader to say the first word and begin her lesson.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them,” she read.

My mind immediately began to wander. I assumed this was the lesson that I had already heard so many times before. Vengeance is the Lord’s, love your enemies, do not repay evil for evil, and so on. However, sandwiched between these familiar verses was a statement that caught my attention.

“Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil.”

It seemed to me that some random verses about humility had been misplaced in a passage about revenge. I know that every word of the Bible is placed to serve a valuable purpose, so why does Romans 12:16-21 tell us to be humble and lowly in a message about revenge?

Here began a lesson that the Lord has continued to teach me ever since that hot day in August. Haughtiness and pride create an attitude that anyone who has hurt us should be punished. Haughtiness sneers, “Wow dare they hurt me!” The truth is, none of us deserve to be treated fairly. In sin we deserve death. Still Christ ensured that we would not have to endure God’s revenge when he died on our behalf. When we realize our lowliness, our own capability to be terribly evil, we stop condemning others for their offenses.

If everyone were to take revenge on evil people, someone would have to take revenge on me. Throughout the past months, the Lord has been teaching me lowliness, and therefore my inability to judge other people. I was undeservedly forgiven. From this truth God reminds me frequently that I am in no place to withhold forgiveness from others.

I now see why God decided to put those verses in Romans 12.

Around the World in Fourteen Days (Will Green)

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In January of 2017, my girlfriend Haley and her family moved to East Asia. Obviously, this was a pretty big move for them. It was also a new journey in our relationship. We had known that this move was coming eventually, but the day it finally came was quite scary. However, we knew that everything was in God’s hands. FaceTiming everyday became the new norm. Poor connection and calls failing were always expected. It was really hard, and it was only summer. I became convinced that waiting until she came back in July of 2018 would be entirely too long without seeing her in person.

So I decided that a trip to East Asia would be necessary. In early June at the beach, I began begging my parents to let me go to East Asia to see her for Thanksgiving. As one could guess, my attempt at convincing my parents to allow me to fly around the world was difficult. However, after several days of plaguing them with questions, they gave in.

I already had the money saved and was ready to buy my tickets. After receiving my Chinese visa, I was packed and ready to be on my way. Soon I arrived at Atlanta airport ready for a long, tiresome journey to the other side of the world. My anticipation had been building for months. Then just like that, we were together. Finally, we were able to carry on a conversation without the interruption of a poor connection. Finally, we were in the same time zone. We had two weeks to have insane and unbelievable adventures. Two weeks to just hang out and be together.

Before I knew it, I was back on a plane to America. It was sad, but it was worth it to spend time with Haley. Now it’s back to FaceTiming and looking forward to July when she finally moves home.

Geisterfahrer (Anna Bader)

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The telephone rang. I leisurely threw my half-eaten apple towards the trash can by the door and cheered when it hit its target. I picked up the phone and answered the call with the fake-cheerful tone of a manipulative car dealer. “Johnson’s Hauntingly-Scary-Spook-Store, what can I do for you today?”

“Mr. Johnson?” asked a familiar voice on the other end.

“Jack, my boy, is that you? Ha ha! I haven’t heard from you in a while! How’s it goin’?”

Silence answered me. I waited for a few moments and was about to hang to up the phone, assuming that Jack had ended the call, when his suddenly grave voice sounded once more from the speaker.

“Mr. Johnson, sir, it’s your daughter. She, uhm… she – “

“- she what? Tell me, kid, what’s wrong?!” I pressed, at once alarmed. I did not like the tone of his voice.

“There was an accident, sir,” he returned, “Kate, she – We can’t find her anywhere, sir. She’s not in her car, nor anywhere around it. It’s like she vanished into thin air, sir.”

“What happened? An accident, you say?”

“A ghost driver, I think. He got away.”

“Where?”

“Atlanta, sir. Interstate I-285.”

“Atlanta?! But that’s three hours from here!”

“Yes, sir, I know, but we really need –”

He broke off suddenly and I could hear multiple voices shouting in the background.

“Jack? What’s going on?” I called. I heard Jack inhaling sharply and the sound of his feet running over asphalt. There was a horror-filled, gut-wrenching scream – “KATE!” – and then, just like that, the connection broke.

“Jack? Jack! Jack, can you hear me? Jack, what’s wrong, what happ-” I cursed, threw the phone onto its receiver, and grabbed my keys.

I hurried to my car, slammed the door shut and was on the highway in just a few minutes. My heart pounded in my chest, and my mind was racing. What had happened? Was she hurt? Was she… alive?

The drive felt like an eternity. My growing panic became so intense that I could feel my insides going numb. I felt empty, unable to feel any kind of emotion as I stared at the road ahead of me. Were those my white fingers clutching the steering wheel? Was that my pale face staring at me from the reflection in the window? I was a ghost haunting my own body.

From somewhere far away I heard a woman’s voice in the radio, repeating an alert over and over again: “Warning! There is a wrong-way driver on the Interstate 285 to Atlanta. I repeat, Geisterfahrer alert…”

Rage inflamed in my chest. ‘That might just be the same idiot who took my daughter,’ I thought to myself and grabbed the steering wheel even harder. I accelerated the car. The interstate was oddly empty, not one car to be seen. I had been so lost in my thoughts that I had not noticed before. The sun had gone down and in addition to the darkness a heavy mist crept over the street so that I could not see much farther than ten feet in front of my car. A ghostly stillness surrounded me. I felt like I was in one of those spooky movies, where everything went dead silent and the air was buzzing with expecting tension when all the sudden out of nowhere a monster would jump out of the darkness.

I held my breath, a strange feeling spread in my stomach, when suddenly, without warning, the headlights of a car appeared right in front of me in the mist, like the glowing eyes of a beast. I pulled the wheel hard around in the last moment to avoid a collision as the other driver violently honked at me. I was too shocked to return the gesture.

For a moment I was tempted to turn around and chase the wretched ghost driver, for I felt it was my duty to avenge my daughter. But then, as if on an unspoken command, the fog began to retreat, and I was able to see the street more clearly once again. The blood froze in my veins. A second ghost driver was headed directly at me, and behind him another one and another – there were too many to count. I screamed and squeezed my eyes shut. My heartbeat stopped as I heard my scream ebb into the screams of a hundred tires screeching over the road.

I did not open my eyes.

Getting Connected (Lauren Brannan)

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One of the common issues I have seen related to missions’ work and service at Westminster is that although there is plenty of desire and emphasis put on this, it can often be hard to find a way to get connected. There are so many ministries out there that need help, but trying to find a place to serve that best uses your skills can feel overwhelming.

As I have been trying to find a ministry myself that I can help with, I have found that many people face the same problem. However, one specific ministry I have found that can help with this is the Christian Service Mission downtown. This ministry was founded to help people in need, from those affected by natural disasters to those needing assistance with housing and food.

Christian Service Mission not only addresses people’s physical needs, but also point them back to the Creator. This ministry is spread out all over Birmingham and is also connected with many local ministries, making it a great place to start looking for service opportunities.

So even if you can just go down there for an hour to help package food and clothes for others, this ministry is definitely work looking into, and by going and helping out, it can help make you more connected.

The God of Quiet (Eden Morris)

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Psalm 62:5   “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.”

Christmas is my favorite holiday by far! All December you can see me blaring Christmas music, loudly singing, shopping, and dancing around the Christmas tree covered in sparkly, handmade ornaments. But this year as my church was celebrating the first week of Advent I realized: Christmas is intended as a time of rest and a time to prepare for the Lord to speak to us.

We cannot hear Jesus if our ears are filled with the music of a tradition humans have created. Humans have distorted Christmas into a busy time full of stress about putting together Christmas parties, putting up decorations, making delicious food, buying presents, and so much more. We lose sight of what Christmas is really about–the coming of our King as a humble baby to save us.

Do you remember the Bible story where Jesus went to the home of Mary and Martha? Martha became so caught up in cleaning the house, cooking, and making everything perfect that she lost sight of Jesus dwelling in her home ready to pursue her. Mary, on the other hand, pushed away all the traditions her culture set before her, drew close to Jesus, and prepared her heart for what He had to say to her. Jesus praised Mary for being still and tuning into God instead all of the other things demanding her attention.

So next Christmas season, enjoy your family and the time you have with them. Enjoy all the Christmas parties, music, and the magic of this season. But in doing those things, let Jesus be the center. Take time out of everyday to enjoy Jesus in the quiet and realize His relentless love is always pursuing you. Rest in this truth!

 

Steps to Success (Evelyn Godfrey)

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Through the past years, the Westminster girl’s varsity basketball team has definitely made a name for themselves. This year’s team consisted of one senior, four juniors, five sophomores, and two freshmen. However, the team has made it a long way since the beginning of the program. Former player Olivia Godfrey said, “I hoped it [the basketball team] would go places, because we put in a lot of hard work.” Early as a basketball team, the varsity girls suffered a lot of losses. In Olivia’s freshmen year, the school’s first official year with a varsity team, they had no wins. They did not get their first win until 2013. In 2016, the Varsity team also had their first year of graduating any seniors from the team. Those five seniors stuck with basketball through all the losses and paved the way for future players. The team went through many coaches until finding Dana Gache, who pushed them harder to succeed. “Coach always said ‘we need to learn how to win,’” Olivia said. After taking this advice, the wins started to accumulate. The team found its first spot in the Area Championship in 2015 and proceeded to win not long after in 2017. Because of those five girls who fought for success, the girl’s varsity program is flourishing. Olivia said, “I liked being the pioneers.” She and many others can now witness what has become of all their hard work and the foundation they created.