Monday, September 16, 2019

Face to Face

It’s so easy to find our social media practices as our primary way of connecting with people. I have to admit I’ve loved being able to connect with old friends from high school and former places that I’ve lived on social media. But, I also see how social media can intercept the face-to-face connections that we need with people. Just last week, I felt the need to call an old friend, rather than text her a short message. Sometimes, it's just better.
We’re so in touch with people, yet so not in touch with people at the same time. I must be old, but rarely do we call people anymore to just ask “How are you doing? or “I just want to thank you for…..”  It’s easier to give a “like” on facebook, than take the time to actually ASK someone about their special occasion.
Beth Moore writes “We still need face to face, legit, warm flesh and blood friendships. We still need someone to hold our hand when we’re broken-hearted, to laugh with us til we cry or cry with us til we laugh. We need people with whom we’re safe. A screen can’t do that for us. Friends>phones.”  Sometimes, I need that reminder. I can get so busy that I miss this! I long to be this type of safe friend for others.
What keeps us from having these face-to face connections? People are longing for safe people to be face to face with. As a chaplain, one of the things I always say to people when I meet with them is that what they say to me is held in confidence. I think people fear sharing their true self for fear of their secret being shared. Secondly, I think we fear being open about our own brokenness. When we share our stuff, it allows others to know that they’re not alone! When we’re open about our own mistakes, struggles and shortcomings, we allow others to know they’re not alone.
What would our relationships, work and family like look like if you initiated with others with Christ’s love? How would your relationships change if you practiced keeping confidences and loving others well? Who might you initiate with by picking up the phone or setting a lunch date? What family member might need to hear from you?
Ally Yarid writes “What Jesus did not say: Love one another when it’s convenient, you benefit, and they love you back. What Jesus did say: Love one another JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU. Loving one another wasn’t a suggestion, it was a command. Treat it as such.” How might you love well this week?
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Monday, September 9, 2019

When Hurricanes Come

I’ve found myself checking the Weather Channel more than normal lately. Usually, in South Texas this time of year, the weather is about the same and there is absolutely no need to check. Sunny and hot. Hot and sunny.
But with Dorian on the loose, I’ve been checking the weather with a bit of fear for those in its path. I pray this morning for those in the Bahamas and along the East coast that God would care for those that lost loved ones or experienced other horrific loss.
I read that Dorian was the slowest, strongest hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas. No one seemed to know where or when Dorian would hit. I can’t imagine all the feelings one goes through when you’re faced with a hurricane coming your way. Do we stay? Do we go? Will we lose everything? Will we survive? Hurricanes are such a reminder that we’re never ever fully in control.
Some hurricanes happen in our environment, but many hurricanes are in our own minds. They may occur in our homes, our work, our health and our hearts. We have our own fears and catch ourselves worrying about many things that never actually happen. Yet, when those challenging things do happen, what do we do?
I can’t help but think of the verse found in 1 Peter 5:7 that says  “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  ‘Casting’ actually means to throw upon and to deposit. God wants us to throw and deposit ALL our burdens upon Him. God literally wants us to have a target to which we direct our anxiety….that target is God Himself! (Bible Knowledge Commentary, Grant Richison)
When faced with challenges too big for us to handle, God wants to be the One we go to! We move from trusting in our own resources (which fail) to resting in God and His resources.
What are you facing today that is bigger than you can handle? What mental hurricanes have threatened to wreak havoc on your mind?  Did you know that God is willing to partner with you and carry your biggest burden? Just ask.
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio

Monday, September 2, 2019

Million Dollar Baby

I  suppose one of the most memorable moments in my life was meeting my birthfather, Charles. When I set out to pursue finding him, I had no idea how quickly it would happen! However, there was a slight twist. He lived in the bush in Queensland, Australia! Before I knew it, he had planned a trip to the states to visit family and meet me.
It was a pretty special meeting moment outside a small hotel off the 91 Freeway near Fullerton, California, where I lived at the time. It was dinnertime, so off we went to a nearby Mexican restaurant, where Charles filled me in on my unknown past. Charles shared that my birth mom, Dolly, needed money because her pregnancy caused an end to her career, a professional dancer.
He shared that he had saved a considerable amount of money and had invested it in the stock market. He got some wise advice and invested in the first computer business located in the Silicon Valley. When he sold it, it had nearly doubled. Had he kept those shares another ten years, he would have been quite a wealthy man. He looked at me with a twinkle in his blue eyes and said “You’re a million dollar baby and worth every penny of it.”
Those words just broke me. Tears ensued. Million Dollar Baby. I’ll treasure those words forever, realizing that both Charles and Dolly gave up so much, for me to be born.
There are times, however, that I don’t feel like a million dollar baby. I can start comparing myself with others and come up short. I can worry about what others may think. I can feel shame or blame for the silliest of things. I can feel that I just don’t matter.
As I grow in relationship with God, I learn that my identity is in Christ, not in all the other labels that others (or myself) may give me! Check out just Christ says about us:
In Christ, I’m a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I’m forgiven. (Ephesians 1:8)
I have peace. (Ephesians 2:14)
I am not alone. (Hebrews 13:5) I
I am holy and blameless. (Ephesians 1:4)
I am adopted as His child. (Ephesians 1:5)
I have purpose. (Ephesians 1:9 and 3:11)
I have hope. (Ephesians 1:12)
I am Christ’s workmanship. (Ephesians 2:10)
I can be humble, gentle, patient and lovingly tolerant of others. (Ephesians 4:2)
Immerse yourself in the truths of these Scripture.  It’s time to know Whose and who you are! It’s Christ alone that can make you a new creature. You’re a treasure to Him! You’re more than a million dollar baby….He gave His LIFE for you and me. Will you enjoy this amazing relationship?
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Inability to Speak

This past week, I had gum surgery. I highly don’t recommend this procedure, (because of the sheer torture) but it’s one of those things that happen as you get older. You get to go for two days without speaking and when you do actually speak, it’s not pretty, because everything is swollen out of control. 
I saw something on social media this week that totally connected with my inability to speak. The question was: Which is the HARDEST for you to say? 1. I love you. 2. I was wrong, I’m sorry. 3. I need help.  4. Worcestershire Sauce.  5. I appreciate you.
At first, I said, Worcestershire Sauce, cause I’ve had trouble with that since I was a little kid. But, upon second thought, I think all the rest are hard too! It’s so easy to take people for granted and not express my love for them. Of course, it’s often hard for me to tell someone that I was wrong and I’m sorry. Who else, like me, hates to admit they need help?  I do love to appreciate people, but often forget to do so.
So, what does one learn when you can’t speak? For me, I learned the power of words. When I could only say a few words, I wanted to make each one count. I wanted them to be the RIGHT words. I thought before a spoke. I was intentional, because the pain and swelling forced me to limit what I said.
As we go about our workday, remember that our tongue has the power of life and death. (Proverbs 18:21) In James 3:9-10, it says “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”  Words are powerful. They mark us forever. How many of you have been deeply hurt by what someone said to you? All of us.
When we know God, the Spirit of God lives in us and partners with us to help us renovate our tongues. God welcomes helping you create a new habit to replace an old habit of speech. Stop reacting with anger or irritability.  Be determined to not give in to gossip. Stop yelling, cursing and belittling others. Become aware of your words and tone of voice. Realize how you say what you say can crush another human being.
I’m so thankful that each day I’m speaking a bit better. But what I really want, what I really long for, is to speak better in WHAT I say. I want God to be pleased with my words and others to be encouraged.
“Guard your tongue, and use it for good instead of evil. How many marriages or friendships have been destroyed because of criticism that spiraled out of control. How many relationships have broken down because of a word spoken thoughtlessly or in anger? A harsh word can’t be taken back; no apology can fully repair its damage.” Billy Graham
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain for the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Just Breathe

Based off the last few days’ traffic analysis, I am confident that traffic jams are in our near future. More cars. More urgency. More minivans. More make up applications at traffic lights. More phone checks at traffic lights. More very long lines at traffic lights. More school zones that actually are flashing again.
Even without kids, we feel the school rush in our household. Currently, our kitchen is totally undone while the cabinets are being painted. (Is there ever a good time to paint cabinets?) My husband started a new position teaching at St. Mary’s University and of course, he’s off to the races these days. All the while, we have a young woman coming to live with us starting today for the fall semester. Did I say busy?
I have to say my schedule these days feels like the song “Breathe”. Love the words….
Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life
Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day
When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel You say just
Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breath….) 2015 Centricity Music Publishing/ Johny Diaz
How do we not go crazy in the craziness? By taking God up with his invitation to come and rest at His feet. Yes, rest at his feet even while the chaos calls. 
What does that look like? For me, it’s starting my day reading God’s word and praying for Him to help throughout the day. I pray about my meetings. I pray about what I need wisdom for. I pray about having a calm spirit when I feel rung out. I don't leave the house without time with God. 
Mark 1:35-39 describes Jesus rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark and going out to a desolate place to pray. Simon and those with him searched for him and chided him “Everyone is looking for you!”Jesus seemed to be quite nonchalant about things saying “Let’s get going to the next town so I can preach there! That’s why I came.”
Jesus was a very busy man too! Kevin Deyoung in his book “Crazy Busy” writes “He was busy, but never in a way that made him frantic, anxious, irritable, proud, envious, or distracted by lesser things. Jesus knew the difference between urgent and important. He understood that all the good things he could do were not necessarily the things He ought to do.”
I want to take my cues from Jesus. He will get me through this busy time, not just surviving, but thriving as I look to Him for how it’s done. Just breathe. Come and let's rest at His feet.
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain for the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Our Prayer Life

I think we often have a hard time with prayer. It’s one of those things we probably know we “should” be doing, but never seem to get around to it. But, when we do take the time to pray, we always feel better. It changes us and it changes our circumstances. God delights in answering prayer. He hears everything we pray and loves when we talk to Him. 
This summer, I wrote out a special section in my prayer journal devoted to a number of things I wanted to consistently pray for. The list was quite extensive and included my husband, my relationship with God, my friends, family, co-workers, and a number of personal things. As the days marched on, I added more pages of prayer requests, because there were more things to pray for as the summer progressed. Here’s some thoughts from my summer prayer journey:
  • God answers prayer- I saw God answer very specific prayers in a way only He could. In once circumstance, it was so obvious the hand of God orchestrated a most beautiful outcome to what could have been really tough situation. I will never forget how He intervened on my behalf and provided me a miracle!
  • Never give up. I refused to give up praying for what I prayed for. We can sometimes just throw in the towel on God when He doesn’t give us what WE want. But, is that the purpose of prayer? What if it’s more about a relationship with God and trusting Him as we wait for answers? What if it’s about what we’ll learn as we persevere in prayer with Him? 
  • God cares about everything- God has given me an increased desire to pray about EVERYTHING. I will write down the tiniest of concerns and the biggest of concerns. God wants us to take EVERYTHING to Him in prayer. He cares about EVERYTHING. He cares about your productivity today. He cares about your relationships. He cares about the concerns of our country and world. He cares about your finances. He cares about your hurts and pains. He cares when you are left out or rejected by someone. He cares about who you date and who you marry. He even cares about a good parking space. God cares!
  • Why wouldn’t you pray? If we humans can have access to God and enjoy relationship with God, why wouldn’t we pray? God’s attributes are those characteristics that help us to understand who He truly is. Here is a summary, although not complete of His attributes: Eternality, Goodness, Grace, Holiness, Immanence, Immutability, Mercy, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Righteousness, Self-Existence, Sovereignty and Transcendence.
Now, if you studied each of God’s attributes and grew in your understanding of Him, it would draw you to pray. Why? Because God is so great and so powerful and so loving and so gracious and all-knowing.... How could we possible think we can handle life on our own?
Oh, may your heart be softened and opened today to the power and presence of our amazing God. May you realize that He delights in you coming to Him in prayer. May God bless you in your journey as you seek to pray about everything. Remember prayer changes things. Prayer changes you.
 “Then Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.”  Luke 18:1
"We ought to see the face of God every morning before we see the face of man." Dwight L. Moody
"Sometimes when your child talks, your firends cannot understand what he says; but the mother understands very well. So if our prayer comes from the heart, God understands our language." Dwight L. Moody
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Hope in a Crazy World

The shootings that have occurred this past month have been so tragic. While working out at the Y on Saturday at noon, I watched another shooting unfold, this time at a Walmart in El Paso. Mayor Dee Margo said of the shooting “This is a tragedy we would have never ever thought would happen in El Paso.” Sadly, tragedy can happen anywhere at anytime to anybody. How do we live in light of such sobering tragedies?
I sometimes wonder why God allows such tragedies? Couldn’t He do something about Him since He is omniscient? God knows what will happen tomorrow, next week, the week after that, next year and the next decade. So, why doesn’t He stop these things from happening?
This world is not a safe place. Since the days of Adam and Eve, our world is full of sin. Yes, we may get shot in a mass shooting. We may get hit by a car. We may fall and hurt ourselves. We may get cancer. That is reality. God knows the pain and suffering we encounter in this world and He had a plan. Jesus Himself left the safety of being the Son of God to come to this earth for 30 years and took on our sin, to pay the penalty of death.
So, Jesus gets this crazy world. He died a torturous, slow death. He wants to give us His greatest gift-eternal life. There is gut-wrenching pain in this world. I think we all know that deep in our souls, there’s got to be something better. To be sure, though, God offers each of us a better place. Life with Him forever.
Just recently, I did something that was a bit fearful to me. Yet, I invited God to go with me, help me, give me confidence, strength and an ability to conquer my fear. I found myself repeating over and over in my mind “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe.” (Proverbs 18:10) And just like that, I walked through the circumstance with His confidence and peace! It occurred to me that I am always safe in Him, even though something bad may happen to me.
No matter what happens to you, God can be there for you! He longs to have a relationship with you! We live in a world where people don’t follow God’s ways, but God will still take the horrible circumstances and bring about His plan in the midst of them.
Start your day by saying a prayer for those who are injured, have lost loved ones and those somehow impacted by this shooting. Pray, really pray for them. Ask God to give you a sensitive heart for those that are suffering, not only today, but always. Open up your dusty Bible and be willing to see His plan amidst the craziness of our day. There is hope. There is healing. There is perfect love. His name is Jesus.
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio