Monday, September 13, 2021

Cowboy Thinking

Football is back! Amidst all that is going on in our world today, there’s a bit of a spring in my step with football season finally here. I had my eyes glued on the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers game Thursday night.

Since I was old enough to know what a cowboy was, I declared that I would be a Dallas Cowboy fan for life. To add to my craziness, I was intent on moving to Dallas, Texas after college because I wanted to be near my Dallas Cowboys. A true story that became reality.

Being a Cowboy fan has had its ups and downs, for sure. Most of us are aware of the “downs". But that game on Thursday night with the Buccaneers gave me a renewed hope that maybe THIS year, things would be different. Maybe THIS year, they could make their way to the Super Bowl. What could stop them? (TBD)

With plenty of years on this planet, I’ve learned to adjust my thinking on what’s important. As much as I love my Cowboys, if they don’t win, I’m gonna be just fine and not lose sleep over it. I’m learning to have more of an eternal perspective, with my eyes fixed on heaven. So, it’s like I have a foot here on the earth, but one in heaven as well. Maybe, I’ve learned that from seeing the emptiness of earthly things. It reminds me of Paul’s words in Colossians 3:1-3:

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
 Colossians 3:1-3

The believer is to “seek the things above.” “It literally means to aspire to, desire and seek with passion. In order to seek these things, the mind must be set on them.” (Morgan) As I grow older, I desire even more to aspire to the things of heaven and meditate and dwell upon Christ’s life.

I remember a tough season in my life where I longed to be married and the people I spent the most time with were married women with kids. My mind was constantly questioning my unique circumstance. Had God forgotten me? What about me? How do I live among this community and thrive? It was a challenging season for sure, but God gave me this exact verse, Colossians 3:1-3, to live by. I took it to heart. I lived it. I learned to thrive as a single in my environment.

It’s so very easy to let our minds, circumstances, and realities of our day take us down a “stinkin’ thinking” mindset. We set our minds on the realities around us. These realities will eventually fade away. Sports teams. What people think of us. Politics. Status in life. How people fail us. The list goes on and on.

Today, you and I have a choice. Will we seek the things above? I’m all for a Cowboy win, don’t get me wrong. I gotta’ keep my eyes on Him.

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

Monday, September 6, 2021

Looking Back

It was a year ago, Labor Day weekend, when I got a call from my husband, Ben, saying he had been in a bad bike accident. I remember physically trembling as I got in the car and drove to the site of the accident. I knew it was bad when Ben said he couldn’t move.

That Labor Day weekend was one that I’ll never forget. I was just looking forward to a nice relaxing, quiet weekend and it ended up being anything but that. The ensuing days were like a very bad dream, but very real just the same.

Even though that weekend was NOTHING like I had planned it to be, I look back on it now with gratitude toward God. I’m not thankful for the bad thing that happened, but I am thankful for how God showed up during the bad thing. There have been plenty of tears, heartache, sadness, and frustrations to go around for this past year. Yet, God has shown Himself to comfort me amidst all my emotions:

SADNESS- Perhaps, you like me, have had some things to grieve about this year. It’s a horrible feeling. Grief involves loss. Loss of life, loss of job, loss of home, loss of physical capabilities, loss of freedoms, loss of life like we knew it, etc. Grief is exhausting, especially when it goes on and on. It’s been exacerbated when there is the death of a loved one, and we can’t even say goodbye in a timely manner! I remember running to Jesus and taking up His invitation found in Matthew 11:28-30. It says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus invites us to lean into Him. Resting in Jesus for me involved literally laying all that’s on my heart down at his feet and trusting that He will work things out. I reached out to Him constantly in the midst of my weariness. He was so faithful to meet me there. Every time.

ANXIETY: I remember the days following Ben’s accident, I struggled with fear, worry, and anxiety. Will he make it through the surgery? Will he be able to resume the activities that he loves? How will I care for him? I know 2020-2021 hasn’t been a breeze for anyone. There’s a nagging, lurking thought in all our minds “What if there’s more craziness in the months ahead?” Anxiety has been a prominent emotion for many of us during this last year.

I find such comfort in an Old Testament prophet named Isaiah who offers such peace in times of trouble. “Fear not, for I am with you. I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10) No matter what we’re going through, the God of the universe promises to strengthen us and help us through it. He will help us and hold us when we need some helping and holding. He is God and longs to carry you. We keep looking around for some sense of hope, normalcy, and consistency in our troubles. Why not look to God? I can testify God helped and held me through a very difficult season. He will do the same for you.

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

Monday, August 30, 2021

Questioning God

If you could ask God any question, what would you ask him?  What is my purpose here? Why is there so much evil? Why do bad things happen? Habakkuk was a man who had lots of questions for God and passionately sought answers from Him. He was troubled by what he saw, and it broke his heart. Here are his questions to God:

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?” (Habakkuk 1:2-3)

Habakkuk’s questions would be summarized “How long?“(vs. 2) and “Why?“(vs. 3) Maybe you’ve had those same questions for God? I know, I have!

God’s silence can feel deafening and scary. I’ve asked those same questions of God. Why? Why did you allow a difficult experience in my life that crushed me? How long do I have to wait for the things near and dear to my heart? As I look back on these circumstances, I see now what I didn’t see then. I see now that God was in complete control, even when I struggled to believe it at the time.

Habakkuk was a prophet to God’s people and was extremely sensitive to the injustices in his society. He was desperate to hear from God and understand what God was doing. He was upset, angry and had some very specific questions he boldly asked of God! He didn’t hold back one thing!

Please note the beauty of this. God allows us to ask Him anything! We can give Him all our questions. I believe, He eventually answers with a “yes, no, or wait.” Just look at Habakkuk! In Habakkuk 1:5, the Lord answered Habakkuk: “Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

Habakkuk had real questions. He believed God, yet he looked around and saw that the world doesn’t seem to match up with how God wants it to be. Check out the book of Habakkuk, because you will see at the end of the book, a different Habakkuk. He prayed! Habakkuk knew that God was going to discipline Judah and it wasn’t going to be pretty. He also knew the character of God. Because of that, He would still rejoice in the Lord. Check this out:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to go on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Question God. He can handle it. But don’t miss that He is and will always have your very best interests. Seek Him. Rejoice in Him. Don’t run from Him. He is near and loves you perfectly.

"We cannot see all that God is doing, and we cannot see all that God will do. But we can be assured that He is God and will do what is right. Knowing this can give confidence and hope in a confusing world.” (Life Application Study Bible, NIV, Habakkuk 3:19 commentary)

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

Monday, August 23, 2021

Good Dose of Peace

 Anyone lacking peace these days? There are enough circumstances swirling around us to have us hankering for a good dose of peace. I need a good dose of peace that is different from what the world has to offer, don’t you?

Just this morning, I was reading John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  This dose of peace is different. I want it, don’t you?

Just think! Jesus shared these comforting words with His disciples before He died. Jesus knew the chaos, strife, and challenges that life would bring for the disciples. He explained that He was leaving His peace with them to care for them after He left the earth. His peace would reign over the peace that the world tried to give. Peace is a gift that God gives through knowing Jesus as our Savior. What a gift!

Maybe you, like me, lacked a bit of peace this week. As I preparing to travel, I was stressed out. My husband and I questioned whether we should fly with the COVID situation. I stressed about all the things I had to do. I stressed about getting up at the crazy hour to depart on a  5:45 a.m. flight. Yep, I let stress get the best of me.

The next morning, I calmed my anxious thoughts by just meditating on a verse in the Bible. Colossians 3:15 says “Let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts.” 

I wanted Christ to rule in my heart, but how? Priscilla Shirer, in her study titled “Discerning the Voice of God,” said this “In the New Testament city of Colossae, believers struggled with a number of temptations and decisions. Regarding these issues, Paul told them to let peace be the guiding, determining factor in their choices. The Greek word that is translated rule in our English Bible-to rule in their hearts-is significant. It means to act as a judge or umpire.”

Will you allow the peace of God to rule in your heart? It is really a daily and honestly, a moment-by-moment choice to permit the peace of God to rule in your heart. He promises us peace and it’s there for the taking. What hinders your peace? Are you focused on all the bad news? Have you forgotten the gift of gratitude? Have the circumstances of your life allowed your peace to dwindle? Have you forgotten or dismissed God from your life?

Abide in Christ. Rest in His love. You will experience perfect peace as You keep your mind on God. (Isaiah 26:3) I dare you to try. Right now, invite God to allow you to experience His peace. May you enjoy His peace today.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

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

Monday, August 16, 2021

To Be A Somebody

When was the last time you felt forgotten? Not important? Insignificant? Set aside? I felt that feeling recently and it stung. I won’t forget that feeling anytime soon.

The anonymous writer of the book “Embracing Obscurity” said this: “We’re drunk all right. We’re intoxicated with a desire to be known, recognized, appreciated, and respected. We crave to be a “somebody” and do notable things, to achieve our dreams and gain the admiration of others. To be something-anything-other than nothing.“

I think that desire to be known, recognized, appreciated, and respected resonates with most of us. Perhaps, that’s why it’s easier in conversations to talk about ourselves, rather than ask questions of others. There’s an innate desire to be a somebody. Most of us don't enjoy being a nobody.

How can I push down this strong welling up in my soul to be a somebody? For me, I needed to pray for a different response and act accordingly. Second, I needed to turn back to the Gospels and look at Jesus’ life. Jesus is the epitome of humility. There was nothing that rose up in him to say, “Wait a minute, I need to be heard... I'm important."  He had little concern over his reputation. Sure, he held his own with the “important” people of his day. Even though he was surrounded by so many people, (some who admired him and others that abhorred him) He didn’t base his worth on what people thought of him.

While Christ was always humble and lived a life of a servant, his followers always tended to blow it. This is true today as well. His followers often were arrogant, focused on self, full of pride. This is true today as well. So, how do we stop that desperate need to be a somebody?

Jesus is our example. In my own real struggle, I found such encouragement as I read this portion of scripture over and over, Philippians 2:5-11, in The Message:

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death- and the worst kind of death at that- a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth- even those long ago dead and buried- will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God.”

I’m in awe of Christ’s selfless humility. Is it possible to allow His disposition to overtake mine and yours?  Yes, it is. The more I get my mind off myself and redirected to Christ, I come to appreciate my true place in this world.

Every day, whether if it’s in your families, where you work, or with friends, we have an opportunity to humble ourselves. We’ve got a God who absolutely adores each one of us! God sent Jesus into this world so we could find our lasting worth and significance in Him.

“It is one thing to follow God’s way of service if you are regarded as a hero, but quite another thing if the road marked out for you by God requires becoming a doormat under other peoples’ feet. God’s purpose may be to teach you to say, “I know how to be abased” (like Paul). Are you ready to be less than a drop in the bucket? To be so totally insignificant that no one remembers you even if they think of those you served. Are you willing to give and be poured out until you are all used up and exhausted-not seeking to be ministered to, but to minister?” Oswald Chambers, (YMCA leader who was commissioned by the YMCA to go to Zeitoun, Egypt where he ministered to troops from Australia and New Zealand during WWI)

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

Monday, August 9, 2021

Seeing As Jesus Sees

I remember the catastrophic experience of getting glasses in elementary school. I needed them, for sure. But they were a bit too cat-eye-ish for the times. As time went on, I was happy to get contacts. I still stash a pair of fashionable glasses away, to bring out on certain occasions. I might note, they also actually helped me see better.

Good vision is great, but I want to see others in a new way. Like Jesus sees people. Now, more than ever, everybody we meet is carrying some type of heartache. COVID has affected all of us and it’s a shame when we try to cover up our pain and act like everything is hunky-dory.

Every day, my “seeing people like Jesus does” mindset can get caught off guard by several little blips in the road. I can get irritated, annoyed, or find myself judging others rather than loving them. I can get lost in myself and my own needs. I can just be tired, even of people! I truly need God’s help in seeing as Jesus sees!

Do you believe that the image of God exists in every human being that you meet? I know, there are some you question whether this is true. But it is true. Yet our own inability to see people as Jesus does is because of our own judgments, our own baggage, our own sin, and triggers. Sometimes, seeing as Jesus sees requires a humble heart before God, pleading with Him for help. Trust me, Jesus will help you when you ask Him.

Gosh, I think about how Jesus is so different that each of us….

Jesus doesn’t care about failure or success.
Jesus doesn’t see accomplishments as a reason for acceptance.
Jesus doesn’t look at who’s popular and who’s not.
Jesus doesn’t judge those “haves” and “have-nots.”
Jesus doesn’t hold on to past grudges.
Jesus sees what we lack and yet sees what He can give.
Jesus doesn’t condemn or disapprove. He makes a way for dealing with our sin.
Jesus doesn’t shame us; we heap shame on ourselves.
Jesus is motivated by compassion. Always.  
Jesus forgives.
Jesus values all of us.

When we read the Gospels, over and over, we get to see the character of Jesus. Really see. Jesus is different. If we saw Him as He truly is, we would fall down in love and worship, like the Apostle John.  (Revelation 1:12-19)

Invite Jesus into your life. Learn from Him. Read the Gospels. Pray and ask Jesus to help You see others as He does.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

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

Monday, August 2, 2021

Stuff Happens

 Stuff happens in our lives that just make life unsettling. It’s not the way you want it to be. I get it. Life is full of challenges, and we usually can’t go through a week without facing a few things that we’d like to avoid! Whether your challenge today is big or just a minor inconvenience, it's helpful to hear how others handle challenges.

Paul in the Bible had his share of stuff that happened. Take, for instance, his “current situation” as penned in the book of 2 Corinthians.

"We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part." (2 Corinthians 1:8-11 The Message)

We don’t know the exact nature of Paul’s trouble while in Corinthians. But he literally said, “It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it.” Paul’s circumstances were beyond what any of us had ever experienced and then some! He compared it to being sent to death row. Then Paul said something so amazing! He said “As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally!” God rescued Him! And… He said the Corinthian's prayers mattered. Prayers prayed a crucial part in how Paul got through his challenge.

Whether it’s a heightened new fear of COVID, health issues, relational struggles, or some yucky trouble that has you down, I just want to remind you today of Paul’s perspective with troubles. He was able to see how the “trouble” turned into a positive thing as it forced him to trust in God, not himself.

I need that reminder, don’t you? Just the other day, I was feeling a little down, struggling with my own set of insecurities. It was this verse that lifted my spirits and reminded me of a new perspective. Paul’s life and words give me hope and encouragement for this new day. I want Paul’s attitude, don’t you?

Don’t forget, you’re on this earth to be a blessing to others as they go through their challenges, just like the Corinthians did for Paul. Our prayers can play a crucial part in others’ lives!

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