Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Beautiful Messes

Monday, March 11, 2019

Dog Gone Disaster

I couldn’t believe what I saw when Zoe, our English Springer, came prancing out of the dog groomers to greet me! Picture a child getting a hold of a pair of scissors and deciding it’s time for a massive haircut. It’s usually not a good thing.
What was I to do? Zoe had a Canines for Christ event at our church's Upward Basketball games on the weekend. She looked awful! Now I know this hair cutting disaster is not a big deal when it comes to things like world peace, but it marginally affected my otherwise very good day. (Thankfully, the children flocked around her at the game and didn’t even notice.....)
I began to think about it after the shock of her appearance wore off. Frankly, Zoe didn’t care a thing about how she looked. She pranced out of the groomers like she was queen for a day! And it hasn’t bothered her a bit since that frightful day. She’s just as loving. Just as sweet. Just as happy.
We humans can be so focused on our outer appearances! Just yesterday, I was looking at the amazing wrinkles that are just coming out of nowhere on me! It’s fascinating how they arrive over night! I can’t wait for more! NO! We don’t say that! Instead, I try to do what I can to hide them, but alas, nothing seems to work.
I love the heart of God! He tells us what’s most important to Him! In 1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  We can become so focused on how we look that we forget what’s most important to God. We forget that God looks at our heart. What does He see when He looks at your heart?
Do you focus more on your body at the expense of your spirit? I can work out until I’m blue in the face. That wouldn't be good either. But, what if I miss the most important thing?
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain for the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

A Void @ la Madeleines

As I walked into la Madeleines, I heard the lady in front of me quietly visiting with the hostess. Something seemed very wrong. I looked up and saw a sign on the register in front of me. The sign told about upcoming services for a man named Don. The name didn't register with me at first. All at once it hit me! Don was the man who ALWAYS greeted and took my order at la Madeleines. I shared my condolences with each staff person as I walked down the line toward the register to pay.

Even though I didn’t know Don personally, I was so sad as I ate my Caesar Salad. I had been coming to this restaurant for years and he was a fixture. Here one day and gone the next. I thought about how exceptional he was in his role of welcoming, greeting and helping patrons order.

Welcoming others seems so simple, but often a lost art in our society. Don did it so well! Showing hospitality is not about impressing others with our lovely decorated homes or gourmet cooking. In our work environment, it’s not just about showing off our great YMCA facility. Hospitality is a way of loving our neighbor in the same way God has loved us. (Adele Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, page 139) It’s about sharing and caring, loving and listening.
Safe places and safe people are few and far between these days. Truly welcoming and nurturing people can be a lost art with our phones in our faces. It takes men and woman who can put our phones down and engage with people with the welcoming heart of God. What a difference we make when we do!
There is a void @ la Madeleines today. But, take note. You can be a new face of hospitality. Parker Palmer describes hospitality as a way of “receiving each other, our struggles, our newborn ideas with openness and care.” Who doesn’t want to be a part of such a movement?
“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:7
“Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!” Hebrews 13:1-2 The Message
"People will forget what you sad, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Maya Angelou
"Do what you do so well that they want to see it again and bring their friends." Walt Disney
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain for the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Monday, February 25, 2019

You Say

Sometimes, we just don’t know who to believe in this world. There are voices all around us, some with very positive messages and others with very hurtful messages. We can’t forget those voices that swirl around in our minds. How do we decipher what is really true about ourselves? Consider the words of this song, You Say, by Lauren Daigle:
I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know.
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing.
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, Oh I believe
What you say of me….
(Songwriters: Paul Mabury, Lauren Ashley Daigle, Jason Ingram)
So, what’s it feel like to not feel the love?  What does it feel like to not measure up with others? How do you handle those moments when you feel so weak and insecure? Or how about those days at work when you know you’re falling short? It sure stinks to sometimes feel like you don’t fit in or belong, doesn’t it?
Perhaps the success of this song is that we have ALL felt these feelings and insecurities at one time or another. What we do with them matters.
I make it a habit of starting my day reading the Bible and praying. Why? Because I am fairly sure this song is about me. I’m so desperate for God to remind me of what He says about me. I’m desperate to walk in His confidence. And I totally need that confident reassurance that I belong to Him. Time with God meditating on Scripture helps jumpstart my day and give right thinking.
Listen to the rest of the words of this song:
The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In you I find my worth, in You I find my identity, (ooh oh)
Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You have every failure, God, and You’ll have every victory. (ooh oh)
Do you find your worth and your identity in God alone? Can you take all you have and lay it at God’s feet? What would happen if you did?
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain for the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Gentleness: A PR Strategy

Though our culture is getting more cynical and critical by the day, we really don’t have to follow suit. Loving people well goes a long way in life. One way we can love people well is by exhibiting a gentle spirit.
Paul in Philippians 4:5 says “Let your gentleness be evident to all." Gavin Ortland writes “It is easy to be gentle on some occasions, with some people. But this verse seems to be envisioning a public, consistent gentleness. Let everyone see it. Gentleness as a PR Strategy. I love that. We need more gentleness.”
So one way we can love people well is by responding and interacting with gentleness. How would embodying gentleness affect your work, your family, your relationships? 
The Greek word for gentleness is broader than our English word for “gentleness.” The closest word would probably be “forbearance.”  Grant Richison writes “It is a sweet reasonableness toward others. It involves the willingness to yield our personal rights. The word connotes the willingness to show consideration to others. It submits the need for flexibility, pliability.” (Grant Richison, Bible Exposition Commentary)
So, how do we respond when we’re interrupted at work? Or our schedule changes?  Someone disagrees with us? Our children don’t obey? Our plane is delayed 4 hours? A gentle person does not take things the wrong way. A gentle person doesn’t quickly take offense. A gentle person does not take things personally.
I don’t always act naturally with gentleness. Having consistent gentleness requires that I invite Christ into my day-to-day life. He helps me do what I can’t do on my own. In and of myself, I’m sure to blow it. But, Christ before me, behind me and around me helps me build a stronger gentleness into my life. 
“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” Saint Francis de Sales
"I choose gentleness….Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clency my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.”  Max Lucado
“Jesus never mistreated anyone just because they mistreated Him.” He confronted them in a spirit of gentleness and then continued to love them.” Joyce Meyer
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain for the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Letting Stuff Go

It seems that we can easily be offended by others these days. There’s not one of us who hasn’t felt that twinge of pain come over us at some time or other. As much as we try, try, try to NOT be offended, we sometimes can’t let stuff go.
Being offended can make us feel mad, resentful, annoyed and/or irritated by the treatment of the offender. These feelings can roll around in our mind and keep us performing mental gymnastics that lead to a fierce mental headache, not to mention anger.
I remember being single and the “interesting” comments I would get from people in my church. “Why aren’t you married? What’s your problem? Can we set you up with so and so? I can’t believe you haven’t found someone yet!!!! “  I remember these comments being so hard to deal with. But as time went on, God began to give me tools to help.
I had to let go of people’s comments and realize many weren’t true. I began to pray about those things that offended me and literally hand them over to the Lord. God helped me forfeit my right to be offended. He showed His truth about myself. God even helped me see that I had a part in offending others too. Ouch.
Check out Brant Hansen’s words in the great book “Unoffendable”: "Whatever anyone’s done to me, or to anyone else, I stand just as guilty. People have lied to me, but I’ve lied too. People have been unfaithful to me, but I’ve been unfaithful too. People have hurt me, and I’ve hurt them. I get angry toward murderers, and then here comes Jesus, telling me if I’ve ever hated someone- and I have- I am the murderer’s moral equal. No one likes to hear this. We want to think people are worse than us. It’s one of our favorite pastimes.” (page 10, Unoffendable)
I’d say Jesus Christ had a perfect handle on how to live being “unoffendable.” Look at how he treated Peter, who denied him three times! Jesus knew Peter would betray him. But, it didn’t stop Jesus from loving him. He didn’t give up on Peter. It’s so easy to give up on people. Stop. Pray. Drop your anger. Let stuff go. Embrace God’s forgiveness and choose to be unoffendable.
Quotes by Brant Hansen, Unoffendable-
“I can let stuff go, because it’s not all about me. Simply reminding myself to refuse to take offense is a big part of the battle.” 
“Yes, the world is broken. But don’t be offended by it. Instead, thank God that He’s intervened in it, and He’s going to restore it.”
“We can risk loving people-incredibly difficult, insulting people- because He loves us.”
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain for the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Tony Romo and Identity

I wasn’t at all excited about the Super Bowl this year. Once the Dallas Cowboys were eliminated, I lost interest. But, I still enjoyed celebrating the day with friends and family. The best part about the game was listening to Tony Romo, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback serve as a color analyst alongside Jim Nanst. I guess that’s the closest Tony will get to a Super Bowl. I wish it had been with the Cowboys.
Romo is known for his ability to predict plays on live TV. Some are saying he’s the best in the booth these days. It wasn’t that long ago that he was throwing footballs with the Cowboys, so maybe he remembers the defenses he threw against. Maybe he’s just good at what he does.
Romo hasn’t always been known for being good at what he does. Many Cowboy fans criticized him for his quarterback abilities over the years. Once he retired, many of those same people wished him back on the team. Public opinion can be so fickle.
I’ve often wondered how Romo navigated all the love and hate from people. I do believe his faith plays an important role in what really matters. Romo knows his identity isn't in what He does, but who He is in Christ.
When we find our identity in our job title, what happens when the job is gone? When we find our identity in our physical prowess, what happens when you can’t do what you once did? Shocking reminders of life's realities.
You are a child of God! Take that in. God thought about you and created you uniquely and perfectly in His image. You are His masterpiece created in Christ Jesus to do the good works He prepared in advance for you to do. You have a role in God’s kingdom. And what He thinks of you? Well, that’s what matters.
Walk with confidence in Whose you are. Knowing your identity changes everything.
“To the degree that we embrace the truth that our identity is not rooted in our success, power, or popularity, but in God’s infinite love, to that degree can we let go of our need to judge.” Henri J. M. Nouwen
“Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4
“Five lies of identity: 1) I am what I have. 2) I am what I do. 3) I am what other people say or think of me. 4) I am nothing more than my worst moment. 5) I am nothing less than my best moment.” Henri J. M. Nouwen

Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.