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b2ap3_thumbnail_P10405671.jpgThis week I did something I've never done before, something that I, and I'm sure many people out there, have wanted to do, even if just to cross it off their bucket list: I climbed a mountain. Not just any mountain, either, but Slieve Donard, the highest mountain not only in Northern Ireland's Mourne Mountain range, but in the country all together. I wasn't originally going to; my friends and I just wanted to go into the Mournes, because they're pretty and I know songs about them. The woman at the visitor center pointed it out, though, and informed us of its status, and we thought, "why not?" 

Well, there are a good many reasons "why not." It's exhausting and takes forever, and just when you think you're almost there, you round a bend and see a whole other portion you couldn't before, and you can almost hear the stupid mountain mocking your pain. Then you get to the top and have to hang on tight because you feel like you're going to be blown clear off the other side. I don't know if I'd ever had quite so clear a demonstration of the "fear of God," before, but the peak of that mountain painted a pretty spectacular analogy for me. By the time I was done I was spent. I had blisters, my feet were no longer positive they knew how to function properly, my legs felt like jelly and I was starving. 

And it was incredible. 

I think anyone who has ever done something like this can liken it to a life lesson or something philosophical. There are certainly enough songs out there to prove it (ex. "Climb Every Mountain," "The Climb," etc.). Most people have "mountains" in their lives and it's nice to hear songs that encourage you through them.  However, actually pounding the pavement, so to speak, definitely gives you a fresh perspective, (as well as a good deal more respect for the characters in Lord of the Rings). 

Standing on the top of Slieve Donard, I felt a lot of things. I wasn't kidding when I said I was afraid I was going to be blown away, because I was legitimately terrified; the wind was quite literally pushing me around. At one point it actually knocked me over. I wasn't kidding about the "fear of God" comment either. As petrified as I was of it, I was in complete awe of the gusts' power, and really, genuinely grateful for it the last few feet up the slope, because I wasn't positive I'd make it if not for that push.

 I also felt wonder; I don't think you can look down at the world from that high and not experience a sense of wonder. This earth is truly a beautiful creation, and this island is a chilly little paradise as far as I'm concerned. One of the biggest things I felt, though, was a crazy sense of “Wow." Wow, look at this; wow, I'm on top of a mountain; wow, wow, wow, I did it, I made it. On top of all of that, too, I knew I couldn't have done it without a little help; I kept sending silent wee prayers up periodically, and I couldn't help but send up one of thanks when that strong wind forced me up that last stretch. I hate to sound cliché, but it felt like one of those life lessons to me. I didn't think I could make it, and with His help, I did. I think that says a lot. 

So yes, it was hard; yes, it was grueling; yes, I was genuinely afraid I was going to die. There were points I wanted to stop and go no further, but I am forever going to be grateful that I kept going. Because, at the end of it all, it was amazing, and so, so worth the trouble. 

 

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Matthew 5:43-45- “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Many heroes of the faith have given me encouragement over the years – Elizabeth Elliot bravely ventured into the village of Auca Indians who had killed her husband. When she shared Christ with them and they saw her passionb2ap3_thumbnail_Matt-5.png and courage, they knew there must be something powerful in the God she served and the whole village came to know Jesus. Gladys Aylward led hundreds of children to safety in occupied China during WWII. Eric Liddell, of Chariots of Fire fame, left fame and fortune to re-enter the mission field and died in a concentration camp in Japan.

 But few are as brave and inspiring as St. Patrick. He spent six years as a slave in Ireland before escaping back to his home in England. When he became a priest, though, he realized God was calling him back to the land of his captivity. Those were the people who most needed to hear about hope and freedom through Jesus Christ. Patrick countered the prevalent Druid religion of the region and taught locals using objects they could understand. The most famous is his use of the shamrock to explain the Trinity. Just as the shamrock has three equal leaves to form one shamrock, the Trinity has three equal persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who make One God.

My question for you today is, are you prepared to love your enemies as St. Patrick did? Are you willing to lay down your life not just for your friends but for those who challenge you and everything you stand for? Are you willing to stand up for Jesus Christ even if it could cost you your life?

 

I leave you with St. Patrick’s Prayer:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

 

Blessings,

Rev. Carolyn Poteet

 

cpoteet@waynesburg.edu

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First semester freshman year, I anxiously sat waiting for my second class of the day to begin. My Survey of Music course had just let out and as I trekked across campus, gasping for air as I climbed the hill to Buhl Hall, I wondered what else was in store for me.

High school was over. College was a new animal.

I took a seat in the front near the door, not wanting to draw attention to myself, but still wanting to get as much as I could from the lecture. As students filed through the door, I pulled out my fresh notebook, a mechanical pencil and my agenda, making sure everything was labeled properly (some things wouldn’t change) and that I had what I needed.

When I finally looked up, a man shuffled into the room whistling as he closed the door behind him. He set his things on the desk in the front of the room and then turned around to write his name on the board.

“My name is Dr. Bob Randolph,” he said over his shoulder as he wrote. “But you can call me Dr. Bob.”

When I enrolled at Waynesburg, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with my life, so I declared my major as “exploring.” During freshman orientation, I met with my given advisor. As we sat across from each other she showed me my schedule for the semester, which had been put together based on my interests and general requirements. Her red pen pointed at each line, creating a small dot at the beginning of each course name.

·Survey of Music

·College Composition I

·Environmental Biology

·Fiat Lux

When her pen settled on a line that read “Introduction to Creative Writing” a sudden surge of excitement took over. I was going to write.

Dr. Bob turned around and gave a reassuring smile to the room full of unsure freshman students, settling on my own nervous face for a moment before continuing. He told us what the class was about and the more he talked, the more drawn in I became. We were going to write fiction, poetry and a small memoir. I could not wait to get started. The first thing we would write would be a flash fiction story—500 words, due the following week.

I became intent on creating a suspense filled award winner. The idea for the story came quickly and I feverishly typed out the plot line. My story was about a young woman whose husband had gone to war and died, or so she thought. She mourned over their pictures together, remembering the day she watched him climb onto the plane. One stormy night she wandered out to their old creaky barn and found a letter from him. He was alive. They weren’t safe. He would send for her.

As funny as it all sounds to me now as I look back on that semester (and that ridiculous story), my freshman self was intrigued—emotionally invested. Full of new ideas and concepts for stories, I had found a passion. By the middle of that semester I was in my advisor’s office proudly declaring my major as English, creative writing.

What I have learned as a creative writing major at Waynesburg is far more than how to write a compelling story. I have learned how to incorporate new ideas into otherwise tedious writing, I have learned how to show emotion in a way that relates to those I am trying to appeal, and I have learned how to write grammatically correct, effective pieces of work.

Story-telling, I have found, is an art form. Through it, we become inspired, we feel and we dream. Creative writing is more than writing poetry, fiction and nonfiction. It is observing and understanding the world and those in it; it’s sharing experiences with people from various demographics; and it’s coming up with new ways to explain the things that affect us all as human beings.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Kayla_Painting.jpgHow art courses at Waynesburg have changed my life (as a non-major).

1. The first time I picked up a paintbrush was my sophomore year at Waynesburg. It was the fall term and as I scoured the thin book of offered courses, I stumbled upon an acrylics class, open to all majors. Aside from some sketching here and there, I had never put much effort in to becoming an artist; all I wanted to draw were horses. I had spent my childhood drawing horses until I nearly mastered them. They ran, jumped and reared on the page, never accompanied by a scene of any sort, just a ghost on a sheet of printer paper. Simply put, I couldn’t draw anything else. It was difficult for me to envision myself painting, but I had heard the professor graded based on progress not talent (friendly to anyone with a true interest in learning) so I joined. In a few short weeks, I found myself consumed in the technique of putting paint to canvas— the smooth, gentle glide of a brush and the act of finishing my own work-of-art. It was after my first painting that I (reluctantly) called myself an artist.

2. That fall semester my sophomore year proved to be a challenge, yet, when my feet found their way to the art room time stopped. I sat at the long table with my easel, pushing my brush against the canvas sheet, and I felt my mind lift from the haze of upcoming exams and papers. I couldn’t get enough of the freedom I felt when I was covered in paint, leaving fingerprints on the things I touched. When I realized just how therapeutic painting had become for me, I decided to order more supplies and bring the studio to my own kitchen. The sink, table and floor quickly became their own masterpieces, dripping with paint to my mother’s disliking, while I worked on my paintings. I allowed my thoughts to drift off to happier places where the world I envisioned was the world I became a part of, not the one I actually lived in.

3. Art, I have found, is not always realistic or the popular definition of beauty, yet as I stand in front of a sculpture or a painting with its odd limbs and colors, suspended in midair, I find myself lost in it amidst a lack of understanding. I wander toward it, staring, hoping I’ll have that “ah ha” moment where it becomes clear what exactly is in front of me. I never do, but the interest remains. I continue to look, hopelessly. Questions fill my mind, pressing me to think outside of my normal worldviews. Picasso, Warhol, Kandinsky, what dreamlike places did you travel while you transposed your thoughts to paper and paint to canvas? I want to know where you’ve been.

4. There are nights when I look at the blue and orange sky shifting to pinks and purples over tree branched mountain tops and I want to scoop them up and spread them over a fresh, white canvas, letting the colors mold into one another as they kiss the corners of the page. I want to mark that image forever in my mind, hang it on the wall or mount it in a gallery for the world to see the things I have seen in that very moment. Sometimes I grab my camera to keep that image tucked away, somewhere, for a second glance, but what I have found, through my art courses, is nothing can quite capture an image the same as an artist’s eye.

5. When I think about the peculiarity in the nature of a piece of art, I think of God and His own designs. What inspires God to mold, cut, mix and scrape his creations into their final forms? With infinite amounts of color, materials and tools, the possibilities are endless, yet he chose to create me. What greater, peculiar, humbling love could a person ever encounter?

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This past weekend I had the immense pleasure of spending time in the Republic of Ireland's capital, Dublin City. Among the many things we saw, one of the b2ap3_thumbnail_P1040283.JPGplaces that I had the opportunity to experience was, what I consider, a physical embodiment knowledge and study- a visit to the Trinity College, containing the Book of Kells and the old library's "long room."

The Book of Kells is an Ancient Irish text, a beautifully illustrated Latin rendition of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Trinity has an extensive exhibit leading up to the book, telling all one could wish to know about the book, even down to the ink and the binding. The book is incredibly well preserved after over 1000 years and shows with clarity the devotion of the artists and the  calligraphers in their creation of this copy of the gospels. It's a very unique and special feeling, reading- the little I could understand- out of the word of God, penned so long ago and with so much care, to see the reverence for the words in the flawless presentation of them.

The old library is a whole other experience, one that I don't think I'll ever forget. Walking into that majestic room, I literally had to catch my breath. Books, thousands of wonderfully old books, fill shelves that reach to the ceiling while dozens of busts of doctors, writers, and philosophers silently keep guard along the edges of the room. Among the many things knowledge and learning can be, a powerful and important tool that people have been striving for throughout the ages, something that is a monumental  part of our lives, especially in the first 18-25 years, a force to be reckoned with- it can also be absolutely beautiful. I don't think I've ever seen anything that so clearly encompasses that in any tangible sort of way, but Trinity's library certainly does. Looking into it, you can almost see the centuries of study and the tremendous amount of learning presented in the long room of Trinity College's old library.

These are some of the things I find spectacular, things that ignite my imagination and desire for that same passion and knowledge that the people who made these things, who penned and painted the Book of Kells, who built and maintained the library, even the figures represented in marble and the many books that line the shelves. These, and things like them, are some of the most wonderful sights for a scholar's heart.

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