Morning Light Devotion: Meditation on the Acts of the Apostles

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10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

The opening lines of the book of Acts teach us something very important about how to live our lives here on Earth. Jesus had just told the apostles that they were to “receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And then he was gone ascended into Heaven, just as miraculously as he came.

What a disappointing blow it must have been for them. This enchanting, irresistible encounter with  the real person of Jesus. For 3 years in ministry together, these men had eaten, slept, traveled, preached, and spent enormous amounts of time together in community. They had probably shared, argued, and joked around with Jesus, who is God — and like any human being, they probably didn’t appreciate any of it until this very moment as they stood staring up into the clouds.

It doesn’t say how long they were standing there looking hard into the spot where they last saw Jesus disappear,. It might be that the 2 men were sent there to gently nudge them down to reality before they began to dwell too hard on the sorrow and confusion of his leaving. Where would the rest of us be if those apostles had given into despair and refused to return to the pressing matters of reality and selfishly hoarded the gospel?

I confess that I do this all the time. I am so focused on my own discomfort and sorrows that I spend most of my time staring up into space after Jesus, that I forget that there are people all around me to be ministered to. Kind words to be said, gentle forgiveness to be given, serving to be done. Reality.

Thank you Jesus for granting us the power of the Holy Spirit when we first believed. We believe that the Spirit that lives inside us is the same that brought you to life again. Because we have this wonderful power, we pray in your will that we would not refuse to use it intentionally and constantly. Not that we ourselves are powerful but that you are powerful, and are able to work out any miracles you want.

I Regret

large-2I’m 1 month shy of my 29th birthday and I have grey hairs. More than a few, like enough to warrant never parting my hair on the left. I’ve never really bought into all the “oh no, I’m 30 :(” hype. But in entering the last year of my 20s I’m starting to understand what they mean by being perplexed about it.

We all have our bucket lists and things we woulda-coulda-shoulda done by a certain age. According to my calculations I should have finished grad school at 24, married at 25, been a mother by 27, and be a great career woman working as a journalist in the city trying to have it all. Needless to say, I’m falling a little short.

I hate when people say “never have regrets”. Especially when they interrupt you while you are actually confiding “You know, I really regret XYZ”. The only thing they mean by that, is that you can’t change it so why waste time talking about it. Well I’ll tell you why I want to regret the things I’m not proud of – I don’t think it’s harmful – IF they lead you to wiser choices next time.

Regret, or sorrow over my past mistakes can be holy, and even pleasing to God because it means that you understand that whatever happened caused you to miss out on God’s blessings.

For me, the prospect of turning 29 makes me want to simultaneously weep with regret and jump for joy. Having personally lived through those years, I can tell you I made plenty of bad choices, but also, I wouldn’t be where I am, wouldn’t have grown the way I did had it not been for those choices. And knowing that I might have missed out on many blessings then, being so blessed as I am now, only makes me want to walk rightly all the more.

hubs and spokes

The airport always reminds me of this great sermon i heard by Steven Furtick from elevation church called “Hubs and Spokes”. The main point was that sometimes God needs to “send” you to a certain place until you’re ready for what he has in store. I think it was in a series about waiting on the Lord, and boy have I needed that message in the past few years. Sadly i confess i have spent much of the last 2 years complaining and whining about not having what I wanted, which was to be married to my boyfriend. It’s always easier to say that in hindsight, and now that I have the ring on my finger (thanks be to God!) NEW desires have been placed on my heart. To be a devoted wife, a loving mother, a gracious hostess, perhaps a bible study leader, looking ahead to the new church and circles of friends we will encounter when we move in together. These are just the few things that occur to me now, but I’m sure there are more.
However I feel the most important at this moment is to continue to seek after Jesus and grow up in faith under his watchful eye. I naturally undulate between dissatisfaction and contentment so I pray harder than ever that this can be a particularly fruitful time of sweetness and growth.

God used my anxiety

God used my anxiety

A few years ago, I spent 5 days in the hospital being treated for anxiety, panic, and depression. As part of my discharge plan, I was required to attend 12 hours a week of group therapy. I absolutely loathed it.

On the days we had group, I went around dreading the 3 hour session. Once there, I spent the time in the corner of the room, on the verge of tears. I was unwilling to participate, or if I did, I did so reluctantly. I did not want to share anything; I did not want to hear their stories, and I did not want to participate.

All I could think in my head during those painful sessions, was “No, no, no. I do NOT want to be here. I HATE this. All I want to do is go home. No, no, no.” My heart was broken and I was torn up inside. Having to withstand more was like insult to injury. The clinical social workers didn’t see that I actually felt worse.

Instead, I was threatened with an ultimatum: if I didn’t finish out the therapy, they couldn’t bill my insurance, but I would become responsible for the entire cost ($2-300 sessions, plus private cognitive-behavioral therapy). Praise be to God that somehow, I received permission from my doctor after just 2 months to stop attending.

There was, and is, something about “group therapy” that grates on me. Maybe it was the openness to strangers who did not share my faith in God (however little and withered it was), or the group exercises that I felt were pointless and based on pop-psychology. All I know is that every fiber of my being cries out against it.

Even work, church and social gatherings were a source of anxiety and panic for me. There have been too many Sundays to count where I have literally driven to church, parked my car, walked up the front steps, and tuned on my heel and gone home. I have abandoned plenty of parties, meetings, and fellowship groups because of the overwhelming anxiety that plagued me. Managers have driven me home from work and HR requested I take a three-month leave of absence to get well. I could not bear to appear in public and open myself up to others. An evil and life-draining force suffocated me and did not allow me to rest.

It pleased God to slowly bring me out of the depths. He did not forsake me, He only allowed me near enough to the precipice to feel despair, pulling me away at the last moment.

About once a month some girls from church get together for breakfast where we chat and read scripture and pray for one another. As we were together this morning, I thought about how far I have progressed. The dark time serves as a strong reminder of my depravity. And to think how He saved me from that, I can glorify Him all the more because of it! Now, I am able to look forward and enjoy coming together to share a table with my sisters. I get to share their burdens and be aware of how God works in the world.

How good God is to us! Praise be to God!

I think you’re really great!

I spent yesterday evening at a friend’s high school graduation party. As we were watching him open his cards and read all the inspiring messages, I thought back to my own high school graduation and how everyone came over to our house and watched me do the same thing way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth in 2004.

One thing I don’t think I understood then (and maybe my friend is more aware than I was) was that people really believed in me.

I wouldn’t normally gauge someone’s belief in my future by the money, but when a distant relative decides to be generous and gives you $100, that gets your attention. I was thinking, “Geez, what did I do to deserve this?” All I did was stay in school and do my work and do what I was supposed to…but Ok!

I was too ignorant then to appreciate how much my family and friends really loved and supported me. Today I want to think about how I have received so much love and support and truly savor it. I challenge you, dear reader, to do the same. How have others blessed you with love at an important time in your life? Maybe take the time today to pat someone on the back and say “Hey, I really think you’re great!”