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.

Cursive: Not a Waste of Time (Sam Howerton)

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“Cursive handwriting will no longer be taught in schools because it’s a big, old waste of time.” So reads the title of a 2013 article on E! Online by John Boone.  In it he argues that typing on a computer is a skill of more importance than knowing how to write cursive. He quotes Morgan Polikoff, assistant professor of K-12 policy and leadership for the University of Southern California: “It’s much more likely that keyboarding will help students succeed in careers and in school than it is that cursive will.” Boone continues to argue that spelling should be taught in more depth rather than cursive, which is reasonable. But according to Boone, cursive writing should be abandoned completely.

However, Linden Bateman, former State Representative for Idaho, argues in favor of teaching cursive, explaining how “more areas of the human brain are engaged when children use cursive handwriting than when they use the keyboard.”  Boone, however, goes against this point, simply stating, “there are plenty of other ways that kids can develop hand-eye coordination that doesn’t involve spending a year of their prime development time learning a new alphabet.”

Although this could certainly be a valid point, according to Suzanne Baruch Anderson, an occupational therapist for the Beverly Hills Unified School District in California, “learning to write in cursive is shown to improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory.” The argument for teaching cursive handwriting remains a heated debate even four years after Boone’s article was first published. Although both sides have reasonable points, cursive handwriting should still be taught in schools. It is not a “big, old waste of time.”

Works Cited
Anderson, Suzanne Baruch. “The Benefits of Cursive Go Beyond Writing.” The New York Times.  30 April 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2017.

Boone, John. “Cursive Handwriting Will No Longer Be Taught in Schools Because It’s a Big, Old Waste of Time.” E! Online. 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2017.

Smyth, Julie Carrr. “Should students learn cursive? Some states say yes.” Yahoo. 14 Nov. 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2017.

 

The Gift of Boredom (Harriette Adams)

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Humans constantly crave to be entertained. Whether it is reading or looking at phones or screens, people want to escape boredom. But is boredom a bad thing?

Boredom is an emotional or psychological state in which an individual feels they have nothing to do. They may become unsatisfied with their surroundings or feel the task at hand is tedious or dull. Manoush Zomorodi, host of WNYC’s podcast Note to Self, wrote a book called Bored and Brilliant. In it she explains the positive effects boredom has on one’s day to day life.

She argues that boredom often permits one to slow down, allowing the mind to wonder, to think deeply, and to create without distraction. This deeper thinking allows one to see the world and how truly exquisite it really is. The deeper appreciation of the world grows dramatically due to a change of one’s routine and familiar environment.

Therefore, don’t be afraid to be bored. When you are willing to slow down without distraction, you might just find yourself thinking and creating more than ever. And you might just learn to appreciate the earth with all its specific, ever-changing details.

Family Camping (Ann Marie Godfrey)

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Friday. Everything was ready. All week we had been preparing for this trip. The tent had been aired out, the lanterns and roasting sticks packed into a plastic tub. Mom had planned the meals far in advance, and the food was packed in a big cooler waiting to be taken to its destination.

School that day seemed longer than ever, even with it being a short day. As soon as school let out, though, we sped home, hoping to load the car up as fast as possible. Though our time of departure was a couple of hours later than planned, we finally hit the road. Six people crammed into a car with everything we would need for a weekend sleeping in the great outdoors.

When we arrive, it will be a mad scramble to set up camp before the sun sets. The tent must be pitched, air mattresses blown up, and the kitchen tent with food put in order. However, we’ll look forward to Saturday morning–seeing the site in the full light of the sun for the first time, putting on layers of clothing to keep warm while the sun makes its way into the sky, and eating breakfast surrounded by the beauty and tranquility of nature. We’ll plan our hike for the day and eagerly confront the adventures to follow: rocks to climb, streams to cross, new paths to make and new views to see. After our hike we’ll look retreat to our hammocks. There we will rest and read until dinner is ready.

At night there will be a fire. S’mores will be roasting and our six camp chairs will encircle the warm glow. It will just be us. Just our family and the great outdoors.

Only a couple more hours left now until we are there.

Net Neutrality (John Richardson)

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American freedoms are being threatened by the idea of repealing net neutrality. To begin, net neutrality is the idea that no matter what websites you go to, you will receive the same internet service speeds. The company you purchase service from cannot slow down your internet when you go to a lesser known website. If net neutrality laws are repealed, any internet service company can begin charging you more for services that require more data. Expect to pay more money for possibly lower internet speeds. Americans should be outraged over this because it walks right over their First Amendment rights. The First Amendment guarantees the right to express oneself freely. In modern times this expression has translated to the majority of our internet use. If the net neutrality rules were repealed, any internet service provider would have the right to throttle content they deemed wrong or unfit. This means that facts and articles could be manipulated for millions of internet users, and since the web is where most people find out information, it could effectively change the culture. This issue is extremely important, yet many Americans have never heard of net neutrality. Spread the word. Let Congress know that you support the freedom of net neutrality.