Taking Flight

Leaving Egypt: Freedom + Closed Doors

When I would hear the saying “when God closes a door, He opens a window” or some variation of God closing and opening some way of passing through into some other place, one image always came to mind.

I imagined a long hallway that seemed to go on forever. There was no end to this hallway. Not only was there no end, but it was small, the ceiling low hanging, maybe not even 8 feet tall and so narrow that two people couldn’t even walk side-by-side. The only light in this cramped hallway came from your standard light bulbs – emitting hardly enough light to see by as they hung naked from the fixtures above. There were no windows, no natural light. Only the dim, exposed orbs floating overhead. But there were doors. There were lots of doors, one right after the other as far as the eye could see in this infinitesimal yet infinite passageway spaced evenly apart, maybe every three feet or so, all looking the same – your standard wood door with your standard brass knob. Nothing to distinguish one from the other. Some are completely locked as if there were a deadbolt on the other side and the knob is locked, too. It doesn’t turn, doesn’t give at all. Some the knob turns, but when you push, there’s nothing. And then there are some that are a complete tease. The knob turns, it opens. And you get excited because finally there is a way out of that dingy, creepy hallway that never ends and seems to have no way out at all. You just want a little bit of sunlight, a little bit of something different, something good. All in one instance you push forward, you see that light you’ve been longing to see, and…

There’s a chain on the other side of the door that holds tight. What happened to knock and it shall be opened? You thought it was your turn. You were certain this was your door. The door you had prayed about. The door you had pleaded with God to open because all you want is a little bit of sunshine, even a small window to look out of would do.

If this image doesn’t scare you, if it doesn’t terrify you just a little bit and make you feel so small that a part of you feels like you want to curl up in a ball, it should. This should make you feel small and incapable and completely overwhelmed at this whole knocking on doors nonsense. It sure does me. In general, I don’t like small spaces and I’ve come to realize I’m not a huge fan of the indoors. I don’t like feeling closed off and isolated and I don’t like not being able to see a way out.

If this is the image you have of this saying we so often throw around, if you have the same image that I once had, then there are three things.

One, God has more than just a prison-sized peephole for us to look forward to. He set us free from slavery and He didn’t intend for us to go back. All too often we’re willing to go back to a form of slavery because it’s easier, it’s immediate, but it’s also misleading. The prison always gives the illusion of greener grass, but we’re not really free. We’re surviving, not thriving as Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan write in Wild and Free. But Christ bought our freedom and he intended for us to thrive.

“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Two, I’ve learned that life isn’t the infinite hallway with no light, no hope. It’s the road out of Egypt.

Right now, there’s a door you’re trying to find and you’re seeking with all your might, both eyes wide open, but it’s desert or prairie – or whatever terrain is the best metaphor – for miles and miles. An oasis or natural spring would be nice about now. A village just over the horizon would be even better.

Right now, there’s a door you’re waiting to be opened. You might even be trespassing a smidgen trying to peek in through the windows and going around back to see if anyone’s home.

For now, be patient.

The village will come soon enough. Enjoy the journey even though it’s hard. Your throat is parched, but there’s Living Water for that. You’re starving. That’s good. It means you have an appetite for goodness. Stay hungry just a little longer.

The door will open when the time is right, but in the mean time take in the beauty around you. There are things that need to be done outside of that door, people who could use you and who you could learn a thing or two from. The whole world isn’t on the other side of that door; instead, there’s a whole world outside that door just waiting for you to explore it.

And three, because life isn’t a cramped and creepy hallway, there’s room for company. You aren’t alone. You are not the only one waiting, wandering, knocking and wondering.

(photo by Kathryn Patterson Photography)

(Originally published to my former site, thetakingflightblog.com, on June 24, 2016.)

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Taking Flight

An Open Invitation

If you’ve been keeping up with Taking Flight or have known me for any length of time, you probably know that my faith is a huge part of my life. Or at least I hope you know that. I hope you’ve had the chance to see just a little bit of Christ in me – in the way I talk, in the way I interact with others especially you, in the way I write. I hope that I’ve taken every opportunity to be Jesus to you and to show you his love and compassion, his grace and mercy.

Even if you and I have only had a 30 second conversation in the entire time we’ve been on this incredibly large yet very small planet together, I hope that conversation was filled with Jesus. We may have never even talked about faith or God or anything significant at all, but I hope more than anything that there was something in that conversation that you could pick out and say, “Is that what Jesus looks like? It might be.”

And if I have succeeded in being Jesus to you in any way, shape or form, then I have a small request to ask of you, or rather an invitation.

An invitation for you to ask.

An invitation for you to ask me about my faith, to ask me about Jesus, to ask me about the God that I believe in regardless of the messiness life might through at me or you.

An invitation to learn about the Savior without any Bible-beating or condemnation.

An invitation to experience, to know the best and greatest and most amazing thing in the universe – the gift of salvation that is free and abundant.

And if we have never talked about anything even close to that, if you didn’t even know I was a Christian, if you didn’t know that I was this serious about my faith, then the invitation still stands. Because I want to talk about my Creator and my Savior more than anything in the world. More than writing or traveling or books or coffee. It doesn’t matter if you’re a believer who is as passionate about God as I am (or even more so) or if you’ve never even heard of God or if you’re somewhere in between.

I want to talk to you. I invite you to ask me.

It might be uncomfortable for the both of us at first and I can’t promise that I won’t open up my Bible or tell you about a verse because it’s kind of a package deal. But I repeat: I promise there will be no Bible beating or condemnation.

And I promise it could be life changing for the both of us in the most amazing and awe-inspiring way possible.

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Taking Flight

Our Harshest Critics

Ruth 1

As someone who creates through words, there is no one more critical of my own writing than myself. I remember in high school when my friends would tell me I was a good writer. They would read something I had written and would praise me for how good it was, and I would always think that it wasn’t good enough. It had to be better. It could be better. I could do better. Even to this day, a friend will tell me what a great writer I am and sometimes I don’t believe it because I have this nagging voice in my head saying I’m not as good as I could be.

Sometimes we are our own worst critic and unnecessarily so. But there is a harsher critic, and she is our fellow woman.

They start out are girls who think that if you’re not chasing every boy who walks by then what kind of girl are you. And they are girls who aren’t boy crazy but who condemn those who are.

Then they grow into girls who think that girls who go to Christian universities are only looking for their MRS degree. And they are girls who think that girls who go to state schools are evil and unholy.

They grow up to be women who have worked and lived in one place their whole life who think women who like new challenges, a bit of risk taking and adventure, and having more than one job over a 10 or 20 year span are foolish. And they are women who like a challenge and that bit of risk who think women who have stayed in one place their whole life just like to play it safe, are boring, and simply don’t understand.

They are women who think that women who aren’t making a certain amount of money or not at that position in the work place are not that successful. And they are women who make enough just to be comfortable who think women who make six digits are only out to make six digits.

They are working moms who look down on stay-at-home moms for not doing anything with there life. And they are stay-at-home moms who look down on working moms for depriving their children of motherly affection and declare them to be bad mothers because they aren’t staying home with their kids.

Women are all too good at criticizing each other. We treat it almost like sport. To see who can find more to criticize about who.

The Ruth of the Bible is no stranger to the sport of criticism from her fellow woman. Some of the criticism she endured is laid out for us, but some of it you have to read between the lines to pick up on.

She was criticized for sticking with Naomi…by Naomi herself and I have no doubt by her family, friends and neighbors as well. Why would you come with me?

She was criticized for not seeking out a man and the security that would come with taking another husband after losing her first. After all, she would be provided for, given every necessity and earthly desire she could possibly want, and most likely have the opportunity to bear children. Would you remain unmarried for them?

She was criticized for leaving her homeland, the one place she had always known and probably loved, to be a comfort and support to the mother of the man she had loved. Everything. Her culture. Her family. Her memories. She was leaving it all for a nation that boasted in being the chosen people of the “one true God”—whatever that meant. She was leaving her people for a people who had a rap for being pretentious because they thought they were “chosen.” She was criticized from leaving the gods of her childhood and seeking the God of the Jews, the one true God. The God of said pretentious people. Your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. God back with her.

From her mother-in-law to her sister-in-law, from the people of her homeland and to the people of the Israelite nation. Who was in Ruth’s corner? No one. Even her late husband was probably rolling over in his grave at the prospect that she was going to the place he and his family had left and thought of as a desolate wasteland full of famine and grief. A place God had forsaken and brought famine down on.

There’s constructive criticism that comes from wisdom and experience. And then there’s criticism for the sport of it. It becomes a matter of how many flaws can I find in her so I can make esteem myself, elevate myself, put myself on a pedestal.

I think about the two women Paul specifically calls out in Philippians.

Euodia and Syntyche.

Two generally godly women who had served along side Paul and Clement but who were having some kind of disagreement. I have no idea what the disagreement was about. I’m not a Bible scholar or an expert in this matter, but I could almost guarantee that they were heavy into criticizing each other. Maybe for life decisions. Maybe for a matter that really had little significance to the outcome of the kingdom.

And as Paul pleaded with these women to agree, to put aside the criticism and work for His glory, I only ask to put aside whatever criticism you harbor to the woman next to you – your neighbor who God commanded you to love – and at the very least agree that glorifying God is the pursuit. But more…remember grace, love, kindness and compassion and put the fruits into practice.

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Taking Flight

The Heart of a Planner

Confession. Sometimes my heart gets ahead of me. Correction. Sometimes my heart gets ahead of God.

As I make plans for the direction of this blog, I find myself just wanting to hit the ground running. I’ve got so many ideas that it has literally been killing me not to go ahead with them. But the timing just hasn’t been right.

One of the things I hate most in life is steamrolling (granted, it’s sometimes a necessary evil), but in all the exhilarating emotions that come with motivation and new ideas, on an almost daily basis I find myself trying to steamroll God. ‘Trying’ being the operative word. I make these plans in my head. I get so excited over them that I sometimes lose sleep. I’ll spend the last few minutes or hours before going to bed writing or thinking of ways to grow Taking Flight and even when I put down my work and go to bed, my mind is going a million miles an hour and sleep evades me. In my head, I imagine God saying, “Um excuse me miss” as I say, “Now I’m gonna do this and that.”

James 4:13-15
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

This week has been no different even though it’s OU’s finals week and in the midst of studying I still found myself dreaming wildly and planning my next adventures with Taking Flight. (Don’t worry, Mom! I still studied my little heart out.) If you were to look in the margins of my Cognitive notes and study guide, you would see little notes to myself on ideas for articles and next steps in growing this site. As I studied, it took every fiber of my being not to switch gears and take a “study break” (that, if we’re being real, would have been a complete hiatus from studying).

There have been times in the last two weeks where I’ve had to pray “God, help me stick to the task at hand” because even though we have those outlets where we feel we are serving God at our optimum level, that is not the only place our servitude is needed. Sometimes those outlets where we feel we are most serving God are actually the outlets the feed our ego and arrogance (James 4:16). And sometimes our service to His kingdom is needed in the day to day and not in the grandiose because sometimes it is the menial where His name is glorified the most.

Colossians 3:23-24
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Though writing would have been a lot more fun than studying Cognitive Psychology, my heart cannot speed past God’s heart.

This blog has become one of my favorite adventures. With each knew post, I get to grow as a writer and a daughter of the King. I love that feeling I get when I start writing an article and I hit a cord not only in my own heart but in the hearts of others.

Anyone who writes or creates in anyway knows that feeling and it’s exhilarating! It motivates me to want to write more, which is why it’s hard to stick to the task and glorify Him in the menial.

However, finals are over (PRAISE!) and I can now get back to doing what I love most – writing for Taking Flight.

I’m a huge planner and I’ve been dreaming like a maniac over this blog! I am beyond excited to reveal some of those plans in the next few weeks and coming months, but until then bear with me as I wait for the right timing. God’s timing!

(Photo courtesy of Kathryn Patterson)

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Taking Flight

I’m a Christian and I go to a public university

I’m one of the few. Let’s just say that. There weren’t many kids from my youth group or church camp who decided to go to a state school like I did.

I’m in my third year at the University of Oklahoma studying public relations. And I’m a Christian.

When I first told people that I was for sure going to OU, I got some mixed reactions from other Christians. I could tell by the looks on people’s faces and the silence or the few comments that followed that it wasn’t a choice everyone approved of and the disapproval had nothing to do with sports rivalries.

You can imagine that I started to have second thoughts even though from the start of my one and only college visit to Norman I knew it would be my home for the next four years.

There were times when I wondered if I was doing the right thing? If I was following God’s will by going to such a “worldly” place?

That was until a friend said the most encouraging thing anyone ever said to me when it came to my college decision.

“State schools need Christians, too.”

To this day, I carry that memory in my mind. Whenever I start to doubt OU as the right decision, I remember what she told me because, yes, state schools desperately need Christians.

They need Christians because we are called to be a light on a hill.

They need Christians because every semester there are countless men who call themselves Christians that yell at the students simply walking to class on the South Oval and tell them that they are going to Hell.

They need Christians because there are a lot of lost souls at a state school.

They need Christians because if there aren’t Christians on campus, then they only know the stereotype.

They need Christians because if there aren’t Christians, then the Bible-beating, Hell-fire-and-brimstone preacherman who stands outside of Dale Hall will be the only thing they know about Christ.

Though people never told me, I think there were a few who had expectations of me falling away or at the very least my faith not being a strong as it could be.

In some ways they would be right. I don’t start my day with chapel. I don’t have hundreds or thousands of Christians surrounding me in class or at extracurricular events. I don’t have professors who start class with a prayer or scripture reading.

Instead, daily Bible reading and study is up to me and me alone. I’m surrounded by people who curse and who think that the harder they partied and the more “turnt” they got last weekend, the more of a person they are. And I have professors who will straight up say I’m ignorant for believing what I believe and have no problem trashing those beliefs. But it’s because of all this that I am a stronger Christian. It’s a kind of strength going to a Christian school never could have afforded me.

(Photo courtesy of Kathryn Patterson)

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Taking Flight

What is True Humility?

Sometimes we see verses in the Bible on humility and we think that means self-deprecate. Why wouldn’t we? After all, if you were to look in any dictionary ‘humble’ is defined as having a modest or low opinion of your own importance and ‘self-deprecate’ is defined as expressing disapproval of yourself or dismissing something as being unimportant. They sound exactly the same, and maybe by human standards they are. I sure thought so.

I think most people think that if they self-deprecate then they have succeeded in humbling themselves thereby doing what God has asked them to do because the Bible clearly tells us that we are to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord. But I think the creators of modern English dictionaries are wrong. Self-deprecation is not the same as humbling yourself.

C.S. Lewis recognizes the disparity between self-deprecation and humbling yourself when he writes “by this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever mean trying to believe they are fools” (The Screwtape Letters).

We think self-deprecation takes the form of humility, but that’s not the case. Self-deprecation is when an attractive person thinks him or herself unattractive, when an intelligent person thinks him or herself unintelligent, or when a person with a great personality thinks him or herself as having no personality or having too much personality. And if this is self-deprecation then by deprecating ourselves we are also deprecating God’s creation. We are saying that what God created isn’t what God actually created it as. And by doing this, we are discrediting God and making him seem less important than he actually is. In summation, we are humbling God when what we were actually trying to do was humble ourselves.

So what is true humility? What definition of humility should we be going by as we seek to humble ourselves?

C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity that “true humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” I agree with Lewis, but I also propose that true humility is thinking ourselves as important but less important than God, beautiful but not as beautiful as God, intelligent but nowhere near as intelligent as God, and full of personality in a unique and God-given way but only full and complete in personality because of God.

So yes, humility is to think of yourself as less important…than God. It is not to think of yourself as not important at all because as one of my favorite books/movies says, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

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Taking Flight

A Call to Teach

Many of the teachers I have had throughout my life often said that the best way to know you’ve mastered a subject or concept is your ability to teach someone else. Another thing I also heard from many of my teachers is that when you start teaching others, you often times turn into the student, learning something from people you never thought could teach you anything and learning in ways you never thought you would.

In my twenty years of existence, I’ve had some stellar teachers from school, Bible school, in my family and among my friend groups. All in all, these teachers have taught me to love the Word and to love words (which is saying something coming from an introvert). I could list these teachers and the many things they have taught me but to do so would take too long. Instead, I will just say that all the amazing men and women who have taken the time to teach me have affected my life more than I ever thought they would.

There have been many points in my life where I have seriously considered and toyed with the idea of being a teacher because of the extraordinary people who taught me. Starting in 8th grade, I told my academic counselor that I wanted to be an English teacher. Within a year I thought about being a journalist and then as I progressed in high school I wanted to do PR, but the idea of being a teacher never completely went away. I remember in my freshman year of college I seriously debated getting a degree in both public relations and English because I thought one day I would want to teach, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it right out of college. And now I’ve started to seriously consider getting a master’s and the thought of getting a master’s in English education has crossed my mind a time or two, but so has a master’s in strategic communications or mass communications management.

Though the plans of the eighth grade version of me have faded in and out of my mind year after year, my love for words has not. My mom likes to say that she never could get a football out of my brother’s hands and books out of mine (and that’s probably partly her fault). When I was first learning to read, I remember we would read about the hilarious adventures of Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park. It was a night-time ritual of ours because she thought I wasn’t reading at the level I should be. From that point in my life I became the kid who would take a book to recess or work on stories I was writing…I guess that was the hazard in helping me read so what I’m trying to say is that this is all your fault, mom! But I wouldn’t have it any other way because as I went through middle school and high school my love for words continued to grow. From seventh grade to my senior year of high school, the line up of English teachers I had is the academic equivalent of the 1992 U.S.A. Olympic basketball dream team. I’ll let them fight over who would be Michael Jordan in this scenario.

At a whole other level is a place special made for the teachers who taught me about the Bible. Regardless of the career I have, these are the teachers I want to imitate. Regardless of the career I have, this is one subject I hope I will always teach. Whether it be in an actual Bible class or in the way I live me life, I aim to be a source of God’s Word even to those who don’t believe.

Last week, I had the opportunity to both imitate and teach the Word at a church camp in south central Oklahoma. For a whole week, I was a counselor to fifth and sixth grade girls and these girls changed my life. People tell me I’m brave, but bravery as nothing to do with it. It takes a bit of patience and a lot of love and with that you can teach anyone. During a week where it rained non-stop for three days straight, it took more patience, or “bravery” if you prefer, to teach by example than to teach these young, squirmy and loveable girls in the two Bible classes I taught. It rained so much, I thought I would never be dry again, but the positive attitudes from both the campers and the counselors left me with lessons learned from young ten and eleven year old girls who I thought wouldn’t and couldn’t teach me all that they did.

If the question is to teach or not to teach, then the answer for me will always be to teach regardless of my career path.

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