Taking Flight

Mercies instead of blessings

(Photo by Siddharth Kothari on Unsplash)

For some reason, it feels a bit like cheating, piggy-backing off of some thoughts from a book. The past two summers the college group at church as done a book club so every week we read a chapter from the book and then discuss it. This practice has been hugely influential for me in my faith as I ponder new ideas with my brothers and sisters. But there is nothing new under the sun so I feel somewhat safe continuing.

A few weeks ago, we were reading the chapter in the book that was all about God’s compassion and graciousness proclaimed in Exodus 34.

And I found it interesting that these qualities of God (compassion and graciousness) can also be translated to mean mercy, a word that is related but still distinctly different from the synonym.

This, for some reason, got me thinking about those words you’ve used so many times in a term paper that you end up looking for the fanciest synonym to replace it a few times. After all, you have to make sure your professor thinks you look smarter than you are.

Or at least that your vocabulary is more robust than it is.

Admit it. You’ve done it.

While technically there are similarities, there are also important discrepancies that give each word a specific identity, a unique identity that changes how we interpret the surrounding words and the overall meaning.

Language and semantics are complicated and messy. And I love it.

And mercy has some complicated and messy connotations, if you will. On the positive side of the coin, I think everyone would agree that mercy is a wonderful thing that we love to be applied to us in great abundance. We love the moments where we scrape through by the skin of our teeth and barely avoid what we had coming for us and sigh a relieved “That was a close one.”

When the police officer lets you off with a warning, when someone seems to believe the lie or half-truth you nervously squeaked out, or when gossip gets back to the “gossipee” and she chooses to let it slide, your relief fills the atmosphere and sits heavy like humid Oklahoma-summer air. Your body tingles with the adrenaline of “phew.”

But the word “mercy” is a double-edged sword. Because in any situation in which mercy is doled out there is a certain amount of baggage that preceded it.

There’s a reason that we receive mercy and never is it a response to good.

Mercy is not a response to perfection. It’s a response to our shortcomings, to our missing of the mark, to our flat out defiance and rejection to Perfection.

Mercy is not a response to good but a response that labors to bring good out of bad.

Because we all know receiving mercy is wonderful, but giving it…not so much. Giving mercy is a labor and much like forgiveness it is something you have to choose day after day after day after day. Mercy is not only forgiving someone the moment they wrong you, but also it is overlooking that wrong the next day and the next day and the next week and the month after that and so on.

That is hard, backbreaking, spiritual labor…

…because if you’re anything like me, forgiveness in the moment is trivial. It’s like that tough workout that as the day goes on the pain fades. But wake up the next morning and your heart is screaming with anguish and frustration and confusion. And all you want to do is give that person a piece of your mind and rip them a new one.

I’ve probably just struck a deep cord in everyone who reads this. I’d almost be willing to bet that all of you instantly pictured someone in your mind. Because that’s how hard mercy is.

And our God doles that out

every

single

morning.

Nothing we have in this life or the next have we earned. We like to think we deserve all the good things that come our way. We like to think our blessings are a result of our works…or at least that a portion of them are because we were good. But if I’m speaking honestly, our blessings are all colored by a tinge of mercy’s hue.

Blessings are more than just presents or God saying, “I just thought I’d do a nice thing. Just because.” Every good thing we have in life is probably a peace offering from God, Him saying, “I forgive you. Now let Me show you so you can come to Me and know Me.”

The author of Lamentations was inspired to proclaim this very truth in chapter 3.

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Changing our view of blessings to mercies could be life changing. Like eternal life changing. It could mutate the very spiritual DNA that has been evolving in us since we became a New Creation.

Changing how we forgive others.

Changing how we approach the Father. May this draw us closer to Him.

 

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Taking Flight

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Thankful to be out of the chilling daggers of Oklahoma’s winter winds, I slammed the door of my car and exhaled the breath I had been holding the whole walk from the Barnes and Noble front door. Actually, it was more of an equal parts sigh and exhale. The day before it had been in the 60s for a high. Today my car thermometer read 28 around mid-day.

After I took a moment to savor the shelter from the wind, I whipped out my phone from my purse to cue up Spotify and saw the email notification. Mini @ Book and Corner had nominated me for The Sunshine Blogger Award (more on what that is in a minute).

My initial thought was This is kinda cool! When I first started blogging in probably 2014, these awards weren’t a thing or at least I wasn’t aware that they were. I was a bit of an incognito blogger who maybe published once a month. I didn’t really share my posts anywhere. I hadn’t figured out the whole tags and categories benefits. I didn’t even understand or even know about the whole social media aspect to WordPress.

Then, for a couple of years I wasn’t even on WordPress. You can read more about that here. But now I’m back and I am so grateful that Mini thought of Taking Flight when she was nominating!

So here’s how this works. The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to bloggers who are creative, positive and inspiring as they spread sunshine to the blogging community. It’s a privilege to know that what I write here on Taking Flight is making a positive difference. My prayer is that God his revealing Himself through every word that is written here and I can’t help but think that this award is a small piece of proof for that.

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or your blog.

So let’s get started with questions!

  1. What is your guilty pleasure? There aren’t many things that I would say are my guilty pleasure. I’m pretty comfortable in my interests and hobbies, but if I had to pick something I would say a Dr. Pepper from McDonalds. Being for a more southern state, I think it’s part of my DNA to love this fizzy beverage so if I can conveniently zip through a drive-thru on the way home and grab on for just $1, then why the heck not!
  2. If given a chance to meet an author, who would you meet and why? Assuming this has to be a living author, I would sat J.K. Rowling for obvious reasons…the woman created an instant classic with the Harry Potter series that will define my generation’s relationship with literature and reading for the rest of our lives.
  3. Why do you blog? I blog because God gave me a gift for writing that I want to invest in and make more of Jesus with. However, not only do I write about faith, but I’ll also write about book reviews and my travels…which only reminds me of the myriad of posts I have floating around in my head and pending on my drafts.
  4. Describe your reading style. Are you a planner or a random reader? I would say I’m a combination of both. I don’t set out each year with a list of books that I desperately cling to, but I also have an idea of what I’m going to read next based on a number of criteria. For example, there are a few books on my Goodreads To-Read list that are coming out with a movie in the next couple of months so between now and April I plan to read A Wrinkle in Time (which I’m currently reading), Ready Player One, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I also try to always have a religious book going so I am also reading The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel (which I would definitely recommend if deep philosophical questions are barring you from walking in faith).
  5. What would you choose; Book or Internet? Book. If I’m being honest, sometimes the internet and social media grind my gears. Technology is a double-edged sword in my opinion so I will always and forever choose a book over Internet.
  6. Three things you always carry with yourself. A book, lip balm, and my phone.
  7. Where would you like to live and why? I’ve always had some weird obsession with London, England. I think the over-2,000 years of history draw me, but also some of my favorite authors are from there. Also, one of my hobbies/goals in life is to learn French so I also think living in France for immersion purposes would be need. But realistically, I have no idea where I want to live…God will lead me where he wants me.
  8. If you had to choose one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be? Assuming this were a perfect world and I wouldn’t reap the consequences, I would say pancakes. I. Love. Pancakes. So. Stinking. Much.
  9. Tell me one fact about yourself. I wrote a novella my senior year of high school for an English project.
  10. If traveling became free, where would you like to go? United Kingdom, France, Greece, Israel, Egypt, South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand. That would be my short list!
  11. What is at the top of your bucket list? Learning French!

Now, it’s time for another round of nominations and questions! I don’t think I follow 11 blogs that have new content consistently, but here are the ones that I find to be positive and encouraging and all around fun to follow.

Editing Advantage

The Godly Chic Diaries

MySweetJesus

Okie Sunshine

RoamWildandFree

And I think if I could return the nomination and include Book and Corner here, I would. But I’m not sure that’s allowed. Any who, I can’t wait to see their responses to these questions!

  1. What television show are you watching right now (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, network TV, etc.)?
  2. More importantly, what are you reading right now?
  3. What is your coffee drink of choice?
  4. Why do you blog?
  5. If traveling were free, where would you like to go?
  6. If you were stranded on an island, what three people would you want with you?
  7. What is a feat that you think is really cool, but would never do (e.g. climbing Everest)?
  8. What are your three favorite books of all time?
  9. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
  10. What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
  11. What are your reading goals for this year?

Hope you enjoyed this break in between Thoughts on Matthew!

Sunshine Blogger

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Taking Flight

New year, new site…sort of

(Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash)

So, I feel like I should explain all this moving around and junk that’s been happening with Taking Flight.

If you’ve been following this site by WordPress Reader for like three years and wondering why I’m showing up on your feed again, then you’re questions will be answered shortly.

If you subscribed by email for forever and a day ago and you’re all of a sudden getting email updates when I post after receiving two years of nothing from me, then you’re in the right place.

If you’ve noticed that I’ve been posting articles that are old but mysteriously have never been published on this site, then just hold on to your seats.

If you’ve been keeping up with Taking Flight through my various social media channels and you’re wondering why my link has suddenly changed or why the site has a fresh new look, then stay tuned for just a teensy bit longer because I’m about to answer all the little inquiries you’ve kept in your noggin for the last few weeks.

For those who follow Taking Flight blog on Facebook (shameless plug…please hop on over and like that page real quick if ya don’t mind), you probably saw my post about going back to WordPress.

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 11.24.00 PM

About two years ago–almost to date–I decided I wanted to try Squarespace. I was starting to get really serious about my writing again, and I had big ambitions about taking my blog even further. Honestly, at the time, I anticipated having a full time job and being out of college at this point…or at least not going right into grad school after my undergrad. So, even if Taking Flight wasn’t…well taking flight quite like my ambitions had anticipated, then at least I would have a decent income to support my hobby until it might take off a little more.

Fast forward two years later, I am in grad school (which I love…mostly) with not a ton of time to write and not a ton of income either. Not to mention that before making the move back I took about a 5 month break from writing, which resulted in readerships tanking and social media algorithms leaving me behind in the dust. Thus, I decided that it might be time to leave my cushy and official domain and Squarespace behind and go back to freely blogging without a fee.

But there would be a downside to leaving Squarespace other than losing the super easy CMS and fancy shmancy domain–I couldn’t sync anything from Squarespace back to WordPress like I could when I switched from WordPress to Squarespace.

So, before canceling everything, I quickly copy and pasted every article I wrote and published on Squarespace to Word documents so that I could sporadically add my old articles back here. Which explains why you’ve been seeing old dates in parentheses along with some blog posts. It’s kind of turned out to be a win-win because I won’t be losing content that I worked so hard to create AND that content gets to work overtime without the pay…a great ethical tactic as long as no humans or living things are involved.

Well, there you have it! That’s what’s up with Taking Flight, and I hope you stick around to read more awesome posts to come or that you’ll jump back into Taking Flight and be part of all the fun!

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Books

123 Book Tag

What adds to the merriment of blogging is the community of people of like minds and common interests that comes with it. I wasn’t tagged for this book tag, but neither was the blogger (@ Book and Corner) who I followed so I figured why not give it a go anyhow. After all, I am smitten with books and that is the only reason I need to procrastinate on writing a short story for grad school to instead write a short blog post on three books. Not to mention I was having coffee with a dear friend recently and he requested more book reviews or book related posted intermittent with my posts about faith.

Without further ado, here is my 123 Book Tag!

1. A one-word book title (Uglies)

UgliesbyScottWesterfeld.jpg

2. A book with twins (Harry Potter)

Harry Potter

3. An author with three names (The Secret Life of Bees)

The Secret Life of Bees

What would you 123 Book Tag look like?

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Taking Flight, Writing

Confessions of a Blogger

Confessions

The title of this post is “Confessions of a Blogger” but could just as easily be confessions of a millennial or confessions of being human.

This goes with out saying but I love blogs! I have a blog (duh!), I follow a lot of blogs on a regular basis and I read a lot of other random blogs here and there.

This blog has been a ton of fun for me! I get to do what I love, which is writing, and use that passion to share the experiences and thoughts I have as a 20-something college student. Blogs are a fun way to share what’s going on in your life with family and friends, to share ideas with people far and wide, and to learn about other people and their views.

But while blogs can be used for great purposes, there is one struggle that I and many bloggers like myself all share and that is the struggle over numbers. We struggle to be authentic and I am no different. I struggle with writing to what will get the most likes or shares. It’s not just about writing something people will like, but sometimes you just want them to love it and a lot of the time they don’t love it. They merely enjoy it and that should be enough.

I struggle to share real life – my very real and imperfect life – with y’all. There is a line between being brutally authentic and keeping some things private. It’s so easy to write the “5 things” kind of post and they can be a lot of fun to write, but people want to feel. I want to feel and I want to know that other people want to feel, too. And maybe they want to feel the same things, too.

The internet is not always the best place to share some of the most vulnerable and tender parts of your soul that are best kept between you and a friend over coffee or put in God’s hands over prayer. But there’s something to be said for being able to put into words the pain and struggles that other people can’t always express. It’s a blessing. It’s a gift. To not use it would be to disgrace God. I would be no different than the servant who was given the one talent to invest in only to bury it for safe keeping.

But more than anything I struggle with what people might say when I decide to write in a very raw and brutally authentic way. People won’t always like what I write. Some might honestly hate it – find it insensitive or too sensitive. Some people will think that I just need to get over it and not get too caught up in X, Y or Z, but for every person who thinks an article is “too (fill in the blank)” there is someone who I have encouraged, someone who feels heard and represented instead of falling through cracks of a planet with 7 billion people on it.

So I must speak. I must write and not for the likes and shares. But I must blog with all the authenticity I can muster.

What does being authentic mean in your life?

(Originally published to my former site, thetakingflightblog.com, on February 15, 2016.)

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