Sunday, February 9, 2020

Every Little Detail

So, I want to share a little story about the goodness of God and how He cares for every detail of our lives.
You might remember that my husband and I had to put down our precious Zoe, an English Springer, the day after Christmas. We both have sorely missed her and still find it hard to come home and not see her there waiting for us.
Needing some time to grieve, we planned on getting a new dog in February. We had plenty of time to deliberate about a name for our new female pup. With the sorrow of her loss, we thought about how much joy a new pup would bring us. Given Ben’s desire to find another Greek word for a name, we looked up the Greek word for “joy.”  The word was Chara. Our new pup, Chara, will be coming to home this week!
We are getting Chara from a woman named Tracy, who doesn’t live in San Antonio. She had two female pups for us to pick from and sent us pictures a few weeks ago. To our surprise, one of the pups she named “Joy!” Tracy had no idea our desire for a name to represent joy. That wasn’t a coincidence! That was God! You know which dog we picked!
To me, it was as if God said “This is your dog!” I know God cares about the details of our lives, but sometimes I wonder, does He care about the little things, like which dog is best for us? This story is once again a reminder that God cares about EVERYTHING in our lives!
He cares about….
  • Your challenge at work that seems insurmountable
  • Your concern for a diagnosis
  • Your decisions and plans
  • Your relationships
  • Your fears about ________ (name it)
  • Your schedule for this day
  • Your test that you have to pass
  • Your elderly parents' challenges
  • Your future and your plans
  • Your finances
I still marvel that God cared so much about our dog that He would literally help us pick it out! God is THAT personal! He cares about the little things and the big things going on in your life. It’s so very cool to go to Him for anything. I honestly would feel lost without Him!  God cares about everything in your life. How could knowing this change how you live your life?
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139: 1-6
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain for the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Feeling the Lost

Maya Angelo once wrote “When great trees fall…lions hunker down in tall grasses.”  When a great tree falls, it’s felt for miles around. When a great human being falls, its effects are felt deep and wide. Perhaps, this is why the loss of Kobe and Gigi Bryant and 7 other precious souls hit us so hard. The shock of the January 26 helicopter crash reverberated around the world.
For many of us, we watched Kobe from a distance, on TV or at a NBA game. His amazing basketball IQ, his wisdom, determination, passion, energy and love for people made him seem invincible. His inspiration and keen interest in mentoring the next generation in the game of basketball was exemplary. He was a “girl dad” and you could visibly see his love for his daughters. His zeal for life inspired us.
So, here we are today feeling this loss. For me, Kobe’s death reminds me that no one is exempt for death, albeit even sudden death. No matter how much money and fame we have in life, we still die. Life is fragile and brief and we’re not guaranteed tomorrow. In reality, we humans would prefer to be in control and call the shots. It doesn’t work that way.
There is something we can always count on, though. We can hope. Hope is found in God. We have a God who is good and worthy of our trust, even with our questions. When you think that God can’t possibly understand what you are going through, remember, there is no sorrow or pain that God does not know or care about. He is there and longs for you to walk with Him through the difficulties of life. Loss is so very painful and when one goes through tragic loss, life on this side of eternity will never be the same.
Hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised will happen. He is and will always be a faithful God. I’ve been around long enough to know that I can’t trust in myself. I really have no clue what tomorrow holds, or today for that fact! Proverbs 27:1 says “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”  Instead, we live our life in synch with a God that knows all and has His best in mind as we rely on Him.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Am I Cynical?

Have you woken up some mornings wondering what has gone wrong with our world? It doesn't take long in the morning to see the bad stuff surface! Just go online, watch the news or drive to work and get cut off. You can pretty easily get a streak of cynicism going!
Sharon Hodde Miller writes in her book: Nice:Why We Love to be Liked and How God Calls us to More, “The word cynicism generally refers to pessimism about or skepticism toward other people. It can develop in a number of ways: slowly over time through a series of wounds or bad experiences or as the result of a bias toward a specific group.”
Something painful occurs in your life. (breakup in relationship, financial need, job exit, social media challenge, car wreck, physical challenge, etc) You can enter a state of painful disillusionment where you think things should be a certain way. But they’re not. This can shake you to the core and leads to cynicism. How about you?
  • What brings on cynicism for you?
  • What beliefs do you have about people and the world around you? Are they true beliefs?
  • Do you pass your cynicism on to others?
  • What absolutes do you live by? “All…Every….Always… Everytime…”
Let’s not be people known by our cynicism, but by our love. Just look to the Gospels and note Christ’s life. Jesus was hurt, betrayed, mocked, humiliated and experienced a humiliating death. Do you think at any point in Jesus’ life that He was cynical? Jesus models a different way and invites us to walk with Him.
Miller writes in her book: “As much as we want to enlist our cynicism to prove how much we know, cynicism accomplishes the opposite. It reveals our wounds, our pride, or our personal axes to grind, but it does not bolster our authority.”  What would our organization, family and relationships look like if cynicism were eliminated?
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen….Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:29, 31)
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Just the First Step

Today is a good day. A really, really good day. Today, we celebrate the achievements of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a moral and spiritual leader who became a giant of the American civil rights movement in the 1960’s.
I picked up my MLK Tee shirt at the Y last week. I loved that it was purple and was even more intrigued by the design of the shirt…. A staircase with the following quote: “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just the first step.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Think for a few moments about a goal that you really want to accomplish, but your uncertain if it will ever happen. You worry if you can really can get that master’s degree, pay off your school loan, get a promotion, influence your city, run for office or even run a marathon. For me, my own insecurities and fears can get in the way of making my goals a reality. But King encourages us to at least start the journey toward our goal even if we can’t see the complete path toward it. We trust in faith that we will reach our goal.
The writer of Hebrews states: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) We may not see the top of the staircase right now. Instead, we partner with God, trusting Him each step of the way, knowing He will see us through. We learn to walk by faith, not by sight, when we don’t see what we want to see. We ask for help when we fall backwards, knowing that God loves to extend His grace and mercy. That’s the faith journey and so worth it! 
Martin Luther King’s life embodied faith and trust in God. He didn’t have to see the top of the staircase.  He knew his weakness, insecurities and fear and trusted in a faithful God to carry Him. What if He had tried to plan out his entire life until the ripe old age of 85 or 90? He died at 39! King had learned wisdom from God to trust him for each day. Take a moment today and invite God to show you how you can learn from Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio

Monday, January 13, 2020

Jonah and the Whale

Do you remember the story about Jonah and the whale? God gave him a special assignment to go to the land of Nineveh and tell the people that their evil ways had broken God’s heart. Jonah must have been a people pleaser, because the idea of doing that was too much for him! He ran away and got on a boat that was going in the opposite direction of Ninevah!
Well, ya' can’t run from God and Jonah found that out the hard way! The boat he was on blew and shook in a storm. Jonah knew God had sent the storm and so Jonah told the sailors to throw him into the water. A big fish swallowed up Jonah! While inside the fish, Jonah prayed, and after he was done praying, God commanded the fish to spit him out.
So, God still wanted Jonah to do what He asked- to go to Ninevah.  So this time, Jonah obeyed God. Jonah told the people that their evil ways broke God’s heart and guess what? The people were sorry and asked God to forgive them. Jonah learned that ALL people are precious to God! Jonah obeyed God this time!
It struck me today that I’m really a lot like Jonah. Maybe you are too. We claim to follow God, but when He gives us a specific direction, we really prefer to go another way. Sometimes, in fact, we run the opposite way! It’s so easy to cling to our comfortable ways and steer clear of an intimate walk with God. I’m learning in this challenging season that He is the only place where true comfort is found. Why would I want to run way from God?
Don’t forget to note how God is always at work in this story! Even when Jonah disappointed God, He didn’t leave Jonah. He pursued Jonah. He provided for Jonah and even saved him from the belly of a fish! He made a way even when Jonah was walking away from God. Wow… God is so good.
Have you walked away from God? Do you feel like you can run your life better than God?  Stop making excuses for keeping God at bay. God may be using this “storm” in your life to help you see His unfailing love for you. Consider Jonah and his ways. Change is possible.
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio. 

Monday, January 6, 2020

Keeping God First in 2020

Just the other day, I was thinking about God and what keeps me from seeking Him more in my life. One word came to my mind: SELF. Self and its priorities can become way too important, even more important than God.
Yep, self (me, myself and I) is the biggest roadblock to allowing God to have His complete freedom in my life. I get in the way. Self is a powerful force in humans. We learn from an early age to get our needs satisfied. As we get older, we learn to control ourselves, fight for ourselves, defend ourselves, take care of ourselves, and protect ourselves.
What would it look like for you to be no longer concerned with your own will and happiness? What would it look like for you NOT to be the center of your own little universe?
I’ve gotta’ admit, it’s in my nature to want things to go my way. How about you?  How do you handle the following situations?
  • When things don’t go as planned
  • When someone says something hurtful to you
  • When difficulties and circumstances overwhelm you
  • When you get turned down for a promotion
  • When you don’t get what you worked so hard to acquire
  • When you’re left with a void that shakes you to the core
So, what is our human response on these circumstances? Frankly, when these things happen to me, it bothers me. It rubs me the wrong way. I go over and over them in my head and it can even make me angry! Self has far too much power and we often don’t know what else to do! Thankfully, God gives us a different way to live.
In the Scriptures, Jesus described the “dying to self” process. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24) He then went on to say that “dying to self” is actually a positive, not a negative practice: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) Our own natural self freaks out at the idea of dying to self. Yet, as we learn to practice this, we literally get to experience the abundant life Christ came to bring. You see, when we die to self we set aside our own wants and desires and instead focus on loving and obeying God and valuing others as more important than ourselves. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Just think...... As you start the year, your greatest life could take place as you give up focusing on you and your own interests. I admit, it goes against our natural tendencies, but God has a different way and He will help you live your best life ever!
“Self is the most treacherous enemy, and the most insinuating deceiver in the world. Of all other vices, it is both the hardest to find out, and the hardest to cure. “ Richard Baxter
“Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him.” Ignatius
“Let God have your life; He can do more with it than you can.” D. L. Moody
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Joy in the 2020 Journey

With 2020 just around the corner, how can we be ensured that our 2020 will be full of joy? What would it look like to live 2020 with joy?
The day after Christmas, Ben and I had to put our precious dog, Zoe, down. I’ve never had a dog like Zoe, so the loss has broken my heart. Zoe was five years old and the liver cancer just took over her little body. The days leading up to Christmas were wrought with pain, agony and concern for her. There was not much that felt “merry” about our Christmas.
Since that dreadful day, our home seems to scream of her loss in every nook and cranny. With every sound I hear, I expect her to appear in our presence. With every squirrel we see in the backyard, we expect her to make a fast dash outdoors.
I had to come to grips with the fact that I’m far from happy. But, then God reminded me of something! Something I already knew, but needed a refresher course to help me through this season of grief.
We tend to get happiness and joy mixed up. Happiness comes from an Old Norse root, happ, for happiness. It is defined as “chance, good fortune, or good luck.” We’re happy if we get a promotion. We’re happy if we win a new car. We’re happy if we go on a vacation. With happiness, we rely on circumstances and our good fortune, which cannot and will not always be there for us. Happiness is sure great, but we can’t always rely on having it.
But, joy is different. Gaio is the Greek word for joy, and this root word always points back to “great pleasure, rejoicing, happiness.” Many of us tend to confuse joy with happiness. We want so much to be happy that we will seek to control our lives at all lengths to achieve happiness. We eventually fall short of achieving it.
I’m not very happy today, but I have joy. Throughout the Bible, I read about folks who continue to have joy and praise God amidst the bleakest of circumstances. Paul was in prison when we wrote Philippians and said “Rejoice in the Lord and again I say rejoice."(Philippians 4:4) Paul and others in the Bible help me see that we can choose joy, no matter what is happening externally. True joy is not about chance or luck or getting what I want. God is the giver of joy and it involves living our lives for Him, knowing He is in control of all things….even when it doesn’t feel like it. As we surrender our lives to the Father, we trust Him, even amidst the pain, confusion and doubts.
I may shed a tear at the drop of a hat. I may even be sad for the next while. My heart is broken. But, at the same time, God can give me joy, even when I’m not happy. I’m expecting to live a life full of joy in 2020. Are you?
“There is a joy available that the deepest grief cannot put out. No circumstance or person can take away the joy God gives.” Timothy Keller
“Regardless of where you are today, God is with you. God is wooing you. God wants you to experience Him. Whatever you are going through today, you can find His joy and peace. However distant your dream may seem, God is working things out, and today is an important part of the process.” Lisa TerKeurst
Nancy Abbott is the Chaplain of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio.