Monday, January 23, 2023

Mistakes

I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan for as long as I can remember. Of course, I was thrilled to see the Cowboys beat the Buccaneers last week. They looked like legit Super Bowl contenders, except when the kicker, Brett Maher, was on the field.

I read the horrible statistic about his four missed field goals. Supposedly, Maher is the only player in the NFL since 1932 to miss four extra points in one game, regular-season, or playoffs. (@Toddarcher)

Twitter went crazy with memes, jokes, rants, etc. about Maher’s misses. One favorite was: “If you can kick and are currently in the stadium right now come on down to the field, we got a jersey for you.”  I really liked this quote too “I’ve had days like the Dallas kicker.” You and me both, dude.

I think if we were super honest, we would admit that we prefer to hide our mistakes. We learned at an early age that our personal mistakes can hurt us. Others may joke, ridicule, gossip, put us down, ignore or shame us. In turn, we can often beat ourselves up in our minds for our mistakes.  As a result, it’s often hard to admit we made a mistake.

As I reflect on Maher’s game, I felt so badly for him. Can you imagine the whole country talking about your kicking mistakes? Can you imagine all the thoughts that went through his mind? Can you imagine how he felt about all the jokes on social media about him? Maher had a week that none of us would want. 

As a follower of God, I’ve grown to appreciate more and more the grace of God in my life. When I understand what God says about me, it truly changes my perspective. God forgives me. God accepts me. God loves me unconditionally. God doesn’t gossip and put me down when I make a mistake. God cares about every feeling I have and longs to encourage me. I can live in the absolute freedom His grace gives.

I want to learn from my mistakes, but not be debilitated by them. I want to be open about my mistakes, not hide them. I want to gain wisdom from the mistakes that I make. Because I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life, I have sensitivity for others that make mistakes too. I want to treat them like our heavenly Father treats them. 

I’ve also learned the value of prayer in my life. Prayer helps me as I seek God for wisdom, choices, and actions. As I read God’s word, I learn to trust Him with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding, which is often wrong. (Proverbs 3:5-6) Sure, I’m going to still make mistakes, but maybe fewer mistakes, with God’s help.

We all make mistakes. Seek God. Seek forgiveness. Learn from your mistakes. Receive God's grace and mercy and don’t forget to extend that to others.  
So thankful for God's forgiveness! Take a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZVjKrmvYYQ

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

Monday, January 16, 2023

Humility and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, we observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I want to focus on a quality of MLK that we could emulate as well. Humility. He carried his selflessness wherever he went. Americans could not help but take note, learn from MLK and change their behavior. MLK was different. Take note of his words on humility:

“If an of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize- that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards- that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison….” (A portion of what was written by Martin Luther King Junior before he was brutally murdered in 1968.)

Where are selfless leaders today? What selfless leader would inspire you toward change? Sadly, humility is seen as a weakness by some. Yet, humility is the exact opposite. It is strength…… a quality that MLK emulated.

I refer to Richard Foster’s book, Learning Humility: A Year of Searching for a Vanishing Virtue.”  He writes “I rather think that pride seems so strong because it orients all our desires and all our appetites around the self. The human self becomes the most central thing in our thinking and our living. Add to this that a key element in pride is the love of power. It contains this need to control and manage everything…and everybody.” (pages 62-63)  He goes on to write “Humility is so very appealing when we see it in another person. Conversely, when we watch someone consumed with pride it feels unnatural, deformed, and twisted. Humility is beautiful, whereas pride is ugly.”

Do you yearn to be a woman or man that walks in humility? Do you see the beauty of humility in Martin Luther King, Jr.? You know, I think we all know humility when we see it. We know pride as well. But, reflect on these words, again by Richard Foster in his book, Learning Humility:

“Today I sit and watch people going about their daily tasks. I listen to the conversations that go on. I notice their body language. Some, it seems, are working hard to impress others. Some appear timid and fearful. Some are loud and appear determined to dominate everyone else. Still, others seem to be adjusting their position relative to the group. But a distinct few seem quite different. They listen to others with genuine interest. They speak easily but not to impress, only to participate in the conversation. They have an unusual ease about themselves. Most of all they are marked by a wonderful freedom from self-absorption. These, I think, are the truly humble ones.”
 (Page. 65)

Who are you? Who am I? May the Lord help each of us to walk in humility.

“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Paul, Ephesians 4:1-3


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

Monday, January 9, 2023

United in Prayer

Ben and I were watching the Spurs game last Monday night when I was alerted on Twitter to an emergency taking place at the Monday Night Football game. I immediately switched channels to hear of the horrific injury to Damar Hamlin, a Buffalo Bills player. As Ben and I realized the seriousness of the injury, we took a moment and prayed for Damar’s healing. We knew many others across the country were doing the same.

It didn’t take long to realize that nothing quite like this had happened in professional football. No one knew what to do. Playing football didn’t seem to matter. This was a matter of life and death. Thankfully, the game was suspended, while the ESPN broadcasters did their best to talk through the situation. They responded with such care and compassion.

Over and over that night we heard about the importance of thoughts and prayers. I loved when Dan Orlovsky, NFL analyst, and former player, said this “I heard the Buffalo Bills organization say that we believe in prayer. And maybe this is not the right thing to do, but it’s just on my heart and I want to pray for Damar Hamlin right now. I’m going to do it out loud, I’m going to close my eyes and bow my head, and I’m just going to pray for him.”

This was Orlovsky’s prayer: "God we come to you in these moments that we don’t understand, that is hard because we believe that You’re God, and coming to you and praying to You has an impact. We’re sad. We’re angry. We want answers, but some things are unanswerable. We just want to pray, truly come to You, and pray for strength for Damar, for healing for Damar, for comfort for Damar. Be with his family to give them peace. If we didn’t believe that prayer didn’t work, we wouldn’t ask this of you, God. I believe in prayer. We believe in prayer. We lift up Damar Hamlin’s name in your name. Amen."

I saw Orlovsky pray on national television and it drew me to tears. I have watched it since then and I still cry. I sense that Damar’s injury brought together a ton of people from all over the country and unified us around healing and prayer on Damar’s behalf. We saw every NFL team tweet out “Pray for Damar #3”. We saw the Buffalo Bills kneel in a circle on the field in prayer. We saw people just gathering and praying in the stands. It was a beautiful and perfect response.

As of this past weekend, Damar is in critical condition but continues to make progress in his recovery. He addressed his team via Facetime with the breathing tube out! I believe that God is answering our prayers and using the amazing medical staff along the way. Why should we be surprised? God is able to do anything!

Maybe it’s time to go from ‘thoughts and prayers’ to praying! Maybe, it’s time for us to realize that God invites us, encourages us, and wants us to talk to Him! Do we believe that God can do anything? (James 1:5) Do we pray with persistence, not giving up? (Luke 18:1) God longs for a relationship with us through His Son, Jesus Christ. He welcomes our prayers!

This past week, we learned that life can change in the blink of an eye. Life is a precious gift. None of us are promised tomorrow. We saw the beauty of a country united in prayer. We came together to pray for someday we didn’t even know! And God is answering our prayers. To God be the glory!

What about you? How does Damar’s crises challenge you in your relationship with God? What might it look like to believe that God can do anything? What if you took prayer seriously? How might things change?
Will you believe that God can do anything? He can. Take a listen! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTkYjd3RD6k

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

Monday, January 2, 2023

Life-changing

My husband, Ben, and I always make a trek to Fredericksburg before Christmas. We just happened to pick the coldest day of the year! We bundled up and stopped first at a snug, rustic lunch spot called Rathskeller, in the basement of an old building.

After our meal, the waiter pointed out on the whiteboard the dessert specials. Hey, it’s the holiday season, so why not? I noticed the peach bread pudding and asked about it. The waiter responded with utmost enthusiasm…. “It’s life-changing!”

Bread pudding? Life changing? To be honest, it was a pretty good bread pudding. But, life-changing? We had a bit of fun joking about our life-changing bread pudding that day.

But honestly, who doesn’t like the thought of something life-changing?

We have just begun 2023. What are your hopes and dreams? How will you learn from the struggles of this last year? As you face the new year, what do you fear or dread? What do you hope for? How would you like to experience life change?

Each year, I like to take time to reflect on last year and refocus on what I’d like to see happen in my life in the coming year. It’s a time to ask and reflect on these very questions. I take time to write what I call faith goals based on my responses. These faith goals require me to take action as well as trust God to work in my life.

This time of year is a good time not to ignore all those tugs in our hearts. Often, we ignore our own hearts because we can’t possibly believe that God can help us and walk with us through what we want to change in our lives. He very much wants to help You grow!

Max Lucado writes “Hope is not what you’d expect; it is what you would never dream. It is a wild, improbable tale with a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming ending. Hope is not a granted wish or a favor performed; no, it is far greater than that. It is a zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks and be there in the flesh to see our reaction.” (God Came Near)

God longs for us to depend on Him. He wants to walk with us and help us change for the better. He longs to surprise us! He is for YOU and me! God can do more than you or I could ever ask or imagine! (Ephesians 3:20) Will you trust God to do in you what could not be done without Him?

Dear God, Thank You for your love for us and your desire to be in a relationship with us. Help each of us trust You for the year ahead. We ask that You help us really think about what needs to change in our lives. Humble us. Help us hear your voice. Help us establish faith goals for this next year, knowing we need your help to accomplish them. God, help us experience real life-change because of You in our lives. Amen.
I find this song such a perfect song of blessing for each one of us as we begin 2023: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R84PqRdZ7_Y

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

Monday, December 19, 2022

Interruptions

My otherwise lovely and enjoyable Christmas season was abruptly interrupted this past week by a dental emergency. Nothing like a toothache to get your attention. I’ve always had a fear of losing a tooth, so this was a significant interruption.

My first reaction to this interruption was fear. My normally very low blood pressure skyrocketed as I sat in the infamous chair. As I glanced outside through the blinds, I saw a robin just sitting on a tree limb. Immediately, God reminded me of his presence! I reflected on the verse in Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” God used that bird to calm me down and remind me that He sees, and cares for me in that very moment. God carried me through this interruption!

The Christmas story involved a blatant interruption. The shepherds were watching over their sheep when suddenly an angel appeared. The shepherds’ lives would never be the same. Take a look at the scripture:

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. An Angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12

The shepherds’ first response to their interruption was fear! And who wouldn’t be afraid when they suddenly saw an angel? Interruptions interrupt what we’re doing and the shepherds had a job to do! Interruptions change the status quo. Interruptions prompt change and we humans really don’t like change.

I find it so beautiful that God chose the shepherds to be among the first to encounter Jesus. That interruption was a good interruption. Think about it…. the shepherds were not seen by most, not appreciated, and even looked down upon. Not very important. Not known about town. Yet, it was the Shepherds, that stood face to face with Jesus. It seems that God wanted to communicate that He saw those shepherds and honored them for who they were.

Do you ever feel overlooked? Unloved? Forgotten? Unappreciated? Take a look at the Christmas story and study the shepherds in more detail. Just like them, God sees you. God knows you. God loves you. God cares for You. You are important to Him, even if You don’t feel like it. Remember that in our interruptions, God is there and very present. He used an angel for the shepherds. He used a robin for me. He’ll use anything to remind You how much He loves you.
Picture what it would be like that holy night. How would you respond to what you saw and heard? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRuunhHiEPg

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

Monday, December 12, 2022

Keeping Things Real

If I could name a bit of tension in our home each Christmas, it would be the type of Christmas tree we choose. Yes, we’re a divided household. Ben prefers artificial trees. I prefer real trees.

There’s a bit of personal history behind this. One of the traditions in my house growing up was that my dad would go and get a potted Christmas tree each year. After Christmas, he would quickly take it down, and off it would go to be planted behind our house. To this day, there is a row of evergreen trees of all sizes behind that home.

So far, in our house, Ben has given in to a real tree each year! (#realchristmastree) Of course, he does the lion’s share of the hard work in getting it set up, which I’m grateful for! But really, who doesn’t love the yummy smell and look of a real Christmas tree? Have you ever smelled a fake tree?

It occurred to me that there’s nothing wrong with either choice, real or artificial. It’s a matter of preference. But when we get down to the Christmas season, I would prefer keeping things real.

This really did happen:

“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary: you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” Luke 1:30-31

“For today in the city of David, there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
 Luke 2:11

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”
 (which means “God with us”) Matthew 1:23

Do you believe that this really did happen? If so, how will it affect your Christmas celebration? Your joy? Your peace? Your love?  Christ’s coming to this earth changes everything. This really did happen, and it changes everything!

Here’s the deal: The magical nature of our own version of a Hallmark Christmas can take a more prominent role than what took place in the city of David. Our version of Christmas pales in comparison to what took place in a stable so long ago! 

Yet, the reality of life hits us every Christmas and affects us deeply. Are you grieving the loss of a spouse or close family member? Are you wishing you could be somewhere, but you can’t? Do you want things to be different in your life? Do you struggle financially to give gifts? Is there a deep “lack” in your life that comes back to haunt you every Christmas? There is obviously much pain at Christmas.

The gift of Christ, Immanuel, is our greatest treasure, not just at Christmas but throughout the entire year. Whether it be a time of celebration or honest brokenness, Jesus is still with us. Jesus still loves us. Jesus still cares. Press in close to Him today. Keep Christmas real with Jesus at your side.
I can't listen to this song without crying! Christ's birth changes everything! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cG6fQmh9F_Q

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

Monday, December 5, 2022

Thinking About Christmas

Christmas is just twenty days away. What does that cause in your spirit? Are you jumping for joy? Are you thinking about all the things you must do in those twenty days? Are you worried about the family gathering and how things will go? It seems that every year about this time, we can get a bit anxious about the coming holiday.

The thing with Christmas is this. It’s not really about all that we have going in our lives when it comes to Christmas. It’s about what we actually think about Jesus. Consider this verse:

“To us, a child is born, to us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace, there will be no end.”
 Isaiah 9:6-7

I find myself getting so side-tracked at Christmas time. I’m already writing down the dates of parties, organizing the food, and thinking about even writing a Christmas letter this year. This verse stops me in my tracks. There’s absolutely nothing more important than Jesus and his birth and how we personally respond to His greatness and glory. It’s something very personal that each of us should consider.  

Yet, I stop in my tracks when I read this prophecy in Isaiah 9:6,7.  TO US. This child was born for us! This child would be a man, but more than a man. He would also be the Son of God. We, humans, needed a perfect, infinite Being to offer a perfect infinite atonement for our sins. (Enduring Word)

How does Christ carry the government on his shoulders? The government of the entire world already rests on his shoulders and will into the Millennium. His government shows itself in daily life through God’s people. Caring for orphans. Serving the poor. Bringing peace, hope, and encouragement to those around us. Practicing thinking of others as more important than ourselves. Listening to people and valuing others. Finding someone to serve in some way and do it for a while.

Also, wrapped in this verse, we see various names of Jesus:

Wonderful 
- Jesus is wonderful and what He has done for us should fill us with wonder. You can never really look at Jesus, really know Him, and be bored. (Enduring Word) Who is more wonderful than Jesus?

Counselor-Every day, I start the day asking God to guide me and counsel me for the things of that day. Jesus can help us with all our problems. He may help us through the Bible, through His presence, or another person, but He is our Counselor. He has extraordinary wisdom! He advises, consults, plans, and guides us.  We can go to Him about anything! How do you need Him to be your counselor today?

Mighty God- He is God Almighty, creator, and sustainer of the whole universe. God in the flesh. God with us! He can do anything!

Everlasting Father- The Hebrew word translated as “everlasting” has the idea of “without end” just as we read at the close of the verse “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:7) Imagine all the things in this life that come to an end. Then picture our Everlasting Father. Always and forever.

Prince of Peace-
 He will be characterized by peace. Because of Christ’s work, we can have peace with God, peace with men, and peace in this world. He can give us inner peace when our hearts are in turmoil. He is in control. Always, even when we’re not.

Pour a cup of coffee and tea. Grab a warm blanket. Turn on your Christmas lights. Sit with this beautiful verse. Marinate on Christ’s names. Let your Christmas be about Him.
Unto Us A Child is born....Oh, how we need Him! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XWY_OmEG1Q

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