Monday Meditation: Fourth Week of Advent

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

The week of Christmas has arrived. As the days of Advent dwindle, our thoughts turn to love – the final theological theme of this holy season of spiritual preparation. “Love” is a word we use frequently in conversation, but often in a way that diminishes its meaning. For instance, “I love ice cream!”

The love of God as described in Scripture is relational, self-sacrificing, and unconditional. The celebration of Christmas focuses on God’s expression of love for the world through Christ: “This is how God showed his love among us: God sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). Our spiritual preparation during this season of Advent has been preparing us to worship the newborn King, yet the baby cannot remain in the manger.

In his daily meditation yesterday, Father Richard Rohr reflected on God’s love as expressed through Christ:

“The celebration of Christmas is not merely a sentimental waiting for a baby to be born. It is much more an asking for history to be born! Creation groans in its birth pains, waiting for our participation with God in its renewal (see Romans 8:20–23). We do the Gospel no favor when we make Jesus, the Eternal Christ, into a perpetual baby, who asks little or no adult response from us. One even wonders what kind of mind would want to keep Jesus a baby. Maybe only one that is content with ‘baby Christianity.’

“Any spirituality that makes too much of the baby Jesus is perhaps not yet ready for ‘prime-time’ life. God clearly wants friends and partners to be images of divinity, if we are to believe the biblical texts. God, it seems, wants mature religion and a thoughtful, free response from us. God loves us in partnership, with mutual give and take, and we eventually become the God that we love.

Just as Mary pondered in her heart the meaning of Jesus’ birth, this week ponder what it means to be an image of divinity, a conduit of God’s love on earth.

Published on December 21, 2020

Monday Meditation: Third Week of Advent

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

Yesterday morning, I lit the rose-colored candle in our Advent wreath as my husband and I worshiped via Zoom – the candle of joy. The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday – the Latin word gaudete means “rejoice.” In many churches, these words from Philippians 4:4-6 were sung or read: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Rejoice! How do we rejoice when 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, yet only 10% of them receive treatment?

Rejoice! How do we rejoice when drug overdoses in the U.S. continue to rise, having tripled over the past two decades?

Rejoice! How do we rejoice when women in our community continue to be abused and trafficked?

Rejoice! How do we rejoice when people of color continue to suffer from the ongoing effects of generations of racism in this country?

Rejoice! How do we rejoice in the midst of a global pandemic as loved ones suffer and die?

Rejoicing is an act of defiance. Rejoicing is way of resisting the temptation to give into hopelessness. Rejoicing takes spiritual discipline.

The writer Alex Haley was known for saying, “Find the good and praise it.” Perhaps we could modify his words and say, “Look for where God is at work and praise God.” We must learn to pay attention – reasons to rejoice remain present in our work and in our world.

We can rejoice because women continue to come to TND seeking treatment for their addictions. We can rejoice because lives are being saved as God works through us. We can rejoice because women are safe in our care.

Despite the challenges of 2020, we can rejoice as we light the rose candle. Kate Bowler observes, “Though it seems that joy is in short supply and despair reigns supreme, this candle suggests that there is something more for which you were made. It is the oxygen that makes it possible for you to keep going.”

Restore to me the joy of my salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12

Published on December 14, 2020

Celebrating World AIDS Day

– Written by Tina Ross at NashvilleCARES

Celebrating World Aids Day

World AIDS Day was founded in 1988 to commemorate those who have passed away from AIDS related illnesses, provides an opportunity for people around the world to unite in the fight against HIV, and to show support for those living with HIV. With new scientific advances in treatment, people who contract the virus rarely advance to an AIDS diagnosis. We now have hope that one day there will be a cure, but for now, medication is key to being successful living with HIV and preventing HIV infection.  We now know that if an HIV infected person takes their medication as prescribed, with no missed doses, they will get to what we call “undetectable.”  This simply means that there is so little virus in the body it cannot be spread through sex. It has not been tested and proven through sharing needles.

What is HIV and how do you become infected?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system, specifically the CD4 cells.  CD4 cells are critical in fighting infection and play an important role in immune function; when these cells are depleted, the immune system becomes impaired.  A normal range of these cells in a human are 500-1200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood.

Ways to get HIV:                                                                                                                       

  • Sharing needles
  • Unprotected sex
  • Though very rare, mother to child transmission does happen

Fluids that contain HIV:

  • Seminal fluid
  • Vaginal fluid
  • Blood
  • Breast Milk
  • Rectal fluid

Women who are HIV positive are advised not to breastfeed and usually have C-section deliveries to control the bleeding and to avoid vaginal fluid.  As treatment advances, the only time we see mother to child transmission is when a mother is not in prenatal care.

What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, and it can develop in a person who is HIV+.  An AIDS diagnosis is determined if the CD4 cell number falls to 200 or below or if a person develops an opportunistic infection. With testing as a prevention method, early diagnosis and treatment help ensure that those who are HIV+ will never see an AIDS diagnosis.

Contrary to what people think, we do not test for AIDS (there is no test for this), we test for the virus that can cause AIDS, which is HIV. AIDS is a diagnosis that only a doctor can give based on a group of symptoms occurring together. An AIDS diagnosis doesn’t mean a person will die. With treatment, a person can come out of an AIDS diagnosis, and their immune system can build back up to fight infection.  We call this a recovery because a treatment regimen must be followed to maintain a healthy immune system.  Stopping HIV medication can cause the immune system to become severely impaired again, placing someone back in the AIDS category.

HIV Statistics Among Women

Per the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), HIV diagnoses have declined in women in recent years; however more than 7,000 women in the US received an HIV diagnosis in 2018.  Most of the infections among women were attributed to heterosexual contact, that’s around 85% (6,130 cases).  Injection drug use among women made up 15% (1,049 cases). With COVID, these numbers will increase, as many women have relapsed.

African American women account for 57% of new diagnoses.  That’s around 4,114 out of the 7,000 diagnosed in 2018.  Caucasian women made up 21% (1,526 cases), and Hispanic women made up 18% (1,264 cases).  The majority of these women fell in the age group of 13-45, mostly child bearing years. Women who abuse drugs are at a higher risk not only because of sharing needles but because many women resort to selling sex in exchange for drugs.

Additionally, factors like homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, mental health issues, lack of access to healthcare, etc can increase a woman’s risk of contracting HIV. Unfortunately, women are usually the caregivers of the household, and they often put other’s health ahead of their own. The Office of Women’s Health leads National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which happens every year on March 10.

About Nashville CARES and My House Clinic

Nashville CARES was founded in 1985, and we are  the premier HIV/AIDS service organization in Tennessee.  From 2018-2019 we served more than 50,000 individuals living with HIV and those that are at risk for HIV. Due to COVID-19, our clinic is closed, but we continue to provide essential services to our current clients. We are providing nutrition services and case management with our active clients, and we are doing drive-thru HIV and HepC testing every Friday throughout the rest of the year.

For those that cannot make it on Friday to get tested, we can mail out a home test kit discreetly with instructions on how to administer the test.  mission is to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Middle Tennessee by providing education/outreach, advocacy, and most importantly supporting those at risk or living with HIV.  We now have a clinic located at 442 Metroplex Drive, Bldg D, Nashville, TN 37211, telephone 615-499-7502.

With our clinic now open, we are treating new diagnoses the same day, thanks to Gilead Sciences.  We also offer PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) and PEP (Post-exposure Prophylaxis) to individuals that are at a higher risk of getting HIV or have been exposed to HIV.  You can visit our website, to find out more about what we do and how you can volunteer.


One of our beloved clients and volunteers, Margaret, was diagnosed with HIV in 1990 as a result of using a dirty needle shooting cocaine.  She was a drug runner, she prostituted, and she did whatever she needed to do to support herself and her drug addiction. Her addiction was so severe that a nearly fatal trip to the ER in September 2000 wasn’t enough to convince her to change her habits. She was convicted of felony drug charges the day before her 54th birthday. She served her sentence along with eight years of parole before finally making lasting changes in her life.

Upon her release from prison, Margaret had to do 240 hours of community service, so she walked in Nashville CARES to work off her hours. She completed all her service hours, continued to volunteer, and took advantage of groups that was available to clients of CARES.  Through volunteering and sharing her story with others, Margaret has maintained her sobriety and attributes that all to Nashville CARES and the staff that continues to support her through her journey.  Today, Margaret is still very much involved. Even during COVID, she shows up every Tuesday and Wednesday to help with the distribution of food to our clients.

Miss Margaret (that’s what we call her) does whatever she can to give back. She has raised more than $2,000 for agency fundraisers, speaks at various events, and she also goes to Washington D.C. for AIDS Watch, an annual advocacy event. Miss Margaret also gives back to the recovery community by volunteering every year at Recovery Fest and speaking at women’s treatment facilities.


Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U)
HIV Testing
PrEP information
National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Published on December 10, 2020

Monday Meditation: The Second Sunday of Advent

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

As I child, I remember learning the song “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth,
the peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father,
brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me;
Let this be the moment now.
With ev’ry step I take
let this be my solemn vow:
To take each moment
and live each moment
in peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me.


As I child, I wasn’t bothered by the exclusively masculine pronouns in the song; today I would much prefer the use of the inclusive word “siblings” instead of brothers. But the sentiments behind the lyrics still ring true.

History of the Hymn

This popular folk song was composed in 1955 by Jill Jackson-Miller and her husband Sy Miller. Jill was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1913 and was adopted as a child by the Jackson family. As a young woman, she moved to Hollywood and launched her acting career. At the age of 31, she attempted suicide after her first marriage failed. Five years later, she married Sy, and they collaborated to create this song, with Jill penning the lyrics and Sy composing the melody.

Jill’s reflections about the inspiration for this song are poignant: “When I attempted suicide and I didn’t succeed I knew for the first time unconditional love—which God is. You are totally loved, totally accepted, just the way you are. In that moment I was not allowed to die, and something happened to me, which is very difficult to explain. I had an eternal moment of truth, in which I knew I was loved, and I knew I was here for a purpose.”

Life Application

When the peace of God takes root in a person’s life, transformation ensues. As individual lives are changed, families can be changed, communities can be changed, the world can be changed. Over the course of the past year, I have heard dozens of clients offer testimonies similar to Jill’s: After a near-death experience, they have come to believe that God must have a purpose for their lives. They are grasping for God’s love like never before, clinging to the belief that they are loved and worthy.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Shalom is the Hebrew word that is translated as peace, and shalom means far more than the absence of conflict. To experience shalom is to be at peace internally and to live in harmony externally. Shalom means wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. Our Jewish friends both say hello and goodbye to one another using the salutation “Shalom!” – a wish for peace in their comings and their goings. How lovely.

We are called to peacemaking work at The Next Door, but we must have first-hand experience with peace ourselves in order to faithfully model it for our clients. So let us strive to walk in harmony with one another. Let us solemnly vow to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with us.

Shalom, friends.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:8)


Published on December 7, 2020

How Food Feeds the Mind

– Written by Rebekah Miller, RDN, LDN at HBC Nutrition

The Gut-Brain Connection

Food not only nourishes the body, it feeds the mind. Glucose from the foods we eat acts as energy to keep the brain active and engaged. Fat from our diet helps to build the brain, which itself is 60% fat. Anyone who has experienced butterflies in the stomach knows that emotions and feelings experienced in the brain are also felt in the stomach. Ever get irritated or upset when you’re hungry? That gut-brain connection works both ways, with the brain sending signals to the digestive system and the digestive system sending signals back to the brain. Using the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), the GI tract and brain speak to each other through a nerve network that links emotion and cognition in the brain with the function of the gut. In fact, there are as many nerves in the gut as there are in the spinal cord.

The Main Character

How, then, can we use this connection to influence our mind and emotions? Are there foods that support healthy cognition and emotional regulation?  Indeed there are, but there is one more character heavily involved in the story of food and its role in the brain.  The GI tract is filled with nerves, but it is also filled with microbes.  These tiny bacteria reside throughout the digestive tract, even in the acidic environment of the stomach.  Each bacteria performs its own essential work.  Microbiota help create vitamin K, protect the lining of the intestine, improve food absorption and, most importantly, activate neural pathways between the gut and brain.

Microbes in the stomach are also responsible for regulating serotonin, a popular hormone known to stabilize mood, regulate sleep, inhibit pain, and aid in digestion. In fact, 95% of the serotonin produced in the body is produced in the GI tract.  While the science behind how exactly the serotonin from the gut can impact the serotonin in the brain is somewhat complicated, the basic principle is that a healthy microbiome in the gut improves the brain’s cognition and mood.  Changes to microbiota affect both gut and brain serotonin levels.

What Can We Do?

What can we do to help our microbe friends?  How do we increase the number of beneficial microbes in our digestive tract? How do we keep the ones we already have? Increasing the number of microbes can be done in two ways:

Eating Fermented or Cultured Foods

Eating foods like yogurt, miso, tempeh, and fermented vegetables like kimchi or sauerkraut, or drinking fermented drinks like kefir or kombucha on a regular basis helps build a powerful plethora of beneficial bacteria. Just be sure to buy these foods with active cultures in the refrigerated section of the store. Anything canned and shelf-stable no longer has many active bacteria.

Taking a Probiotic Supplement.

There has been research that suggests that food is a better carrier than supplements, but either way works. If supplements are a more preferred route, one study suggests that the ingested bacteria survive best when taken during a meal that contains some fat content, or up to 30 minutes before or after the meal.

Probiotics increase the number of bacteria. Prebiotics feed the bacteria already present.  Prebiotics are found in foods that contain fiber. Bacteria in the gut love to eat the parts of plants that are harder for our system to break down. Common prebiotic rich foods that can increase the health of your bacteria include: almonds, asparagus, bananas, garlic, kiwi, oats and whole wheats. Fiber is not only a good food for bacteria, but it also helps to regulate blood sugar and promote regular bowel movements. Remember! When increasing fiber in your diet, always do it slowly over a span of weeks, and be sure to increase the amount of water you drink as you increase fiber.

Other Ways to Promote Healthy Gut Flora

Stay active and manage your stress. Stress decreases the amount of bacteria in your gut and limits blood flow to the intestines, making digestion less effective.

Limit the amount of foods with refined sugars or too little fiber. Sugar encourages the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut. Too much harmful bacteria leaves little space for the beneficial ones to thrive.

Alcohol, too, can kill bacteria. Choosing recovery is a great step toward a healthy gut and brain!

Although we can’t see them, these little bacteria friends help us thrive.  They are one tool in our tool chest of ways to maintain a healthy mind and happy mood.

What will you do to feed your own microbiota?

Published on November 19, 2020

Monday Meditation: The Right to Vote

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

On the eve of Election Day, we give thanks for those who have worked to extend voting rights to all Americans. Our country was 144 years old before women were granted the right to vote, with Tennessee playing a decisive role in the ratification of the  19th Amendment. This year marks the centennial of the of the passage of that amendment. Although the 15th Amendment – adopted in 1870 – barred voting rights discrimination on the basis of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” people of color were denied the right to vote by poll taxes, literacy tests, and other discriminatory practices in subsequent decades. The passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 dismantled some of the systemic discriminatory practices, but efforts to intimidate voters of color continues to the present election.

We would be wise to remember that while some people were motivated by their faith in God to work for universal suffrage, viewing voting rights as an issue of human dignity and justice, others used religious language to bolster their rationale for excluding women and people of color from voting booths. American history is unfortunately filled with disturbing examples of people who have done ungodly things in the name of God.

As we see video footage of women and people of color voting, keep the story of Fannie Lou Hamer in mind. On an August evening in 1962, Mrs. Hamer heard a sermon at William Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Ruleville, Mississippi, that launched her on a trajectory of voting rights activism. She made three attempts to register to vote before she succeeded, but her efforts came at a cost: she and her husband lost their jobs at the plantation where they worked, she faced death threats, and she was severely beaten. Nevertheless, she persisted. Her activism was rooted in her Christian faith, in her belief that all people are created by God in the image of God and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. Voting rights are human rights.

On the eve of Election Day, let us give thanks for Mrs. Hamer, and let us commit ourselves to working together for liberty and justice for all.

Published on November 2, 2020

Not Just Another Statistic

– Written by Jane Saffles-Granville, LMSW, Treatment Therapist

As a therapist in alcohol and drug treatment, one of the first things I ask my clients in our initial therapy sessions is a simple question: “Why did you come to treatment?” It has a handful of common answers. “For my children,” “I want to learn how to be sober,” or “I need coping skills.” One of the responses that has always given me pause is “I don’t want to be another statistic.”

When my clients say that, I hear not just “I don’t want to die,” but also “I don’t want to be forgotten.” The statistics of overdose death are harrowing. Most see the headlines, shake their heads, and go about their day. It can be hard to truly internalize the sheer number of deaths, the amount of loss, the number of grieving loved ones left behind.

For the past few months, it has felt like so many more people are dying. COVID has taken so many lives, and I think the full scope of its toll cannot be fully understood until you also look at so-called “deaths of desperation”—drug overdoses and suicide.

I have this seen firsthand in the past few months in a way I haven’t in my near decade of work in social services. The truth is, I’ve been navigating my own grief for too many clients of mine who have died. Women who had been in my outpatient group just days before, and women who had graduated residential treatment years ago, and many more in between. Women I saw cradle their pregnant bellies and cradle their infant children. Women who shared their own grief for loved ones who died of overdoses. Women who cheered on their peers for leaving an abuser, just as they had once done. Women who fought so hard for a way out of a system that was stacked against them. Women who made me laugh and exasperated me at the same time. Women who gave me hope. Women who were so vitally alive when they were sober, it was hard to imagine them in their addiction then and even harder now to imagine them gone.

I don’t know what led to their relapses. I don’t know what their last days were like, or how long they had been sober after the last time I saw them. It can be so easy to focus on the death by overdose, and see it as failure. But when I reflect on this feeling, a line from the poem “Failing and Flying” echoes in my head: “Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.” When we hear about the mythological Icarus, it is a cautionary tale of hubris and preventable tragedy; but what of the miraculous flight that happened first? His wax and feather wings did not last indefinitely, and yet he did fly. Isn’t that true for people who die from addiction? We struggle to look past the death to see the successes before it, the love before it, the life before it.

And so, I believe “I don’t want to be another statistic” has another meaning: “If my addiction kills me, I don’t want my memory to be reduced to my cause of death.” Sadly, some of those women who told me this have since lost their battle with addiction. They became what they feared: a statistic, one of the many lives lost this year. Overdose is a lonely and tragic way to die, stealing the futures of too many worthy people. On National Overdose Awareness Day, it is our job now to remember their lives, not just their deaths; their names and not just the numbers. They cannot, and will not, merely be a statistic.

Published on August 31, 2020

Monday Meditation: Tending the Soil

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

Are you familiar with Jesus’ parable of the sower?

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:3-9)

At first, Jesus’ disciples did not understand the message of his story, so they requested clarification. Jesus explained that the seed represents the message of God’s liberating kingdom, and the soil is the recipient of the message. Sometimes God’s good news cannot take root because the hearer simply cannot comprehend the message. Sometimes the message is initially received eagerly, but the good news fails to take root when trouble arises. Sometimes the recipient hears and understands the message, but the distractions of life choke out the hope of God’s word, resulting in no lasting spiritual fruit. When the good news of God’s kingdom is sown in the life of someone who hears the word, understands the word, and metabolizes the word, then the fertile soil of this life yields a great spiritual harvest.

Perhaps this parable has another layer of meaning that is relevant to our work at The Next Door. Some clients come to us unable to comprehend the good news that healing is possible. Others arrive with eagerness, but as soon as frustrations arise, they give up and walk out. Still others understand that they don’t have to remain in bondage to addiction, and they know that mental illness can be treated. They earn their certificates and return home, but when the distractions of life become unmanageable, they return to old habits and relapse.

But there are success stories – thousands of them – women who hear and understand and metabolize the good news that healing is possible. With our help, they have learned to tend the soil of their lives. They have gained tools that help them to remove the obstacles that hinder recovery and growth, tools that help them to extract the thorns that have choked out the abundant life that God offers them. By the grace of God and with our help, their lives are bearing much fruit.

Let us keep tending the soil of our clients’ lives. Although it may initially appear that our labors are in vain when a client chooses to leave without completing the program, let us trust that incremental change is happening in the soil of their lives. Perhaps one rock was removed, one thorn was extracted. Perhaps one lesson was learned, one glimmer of hope was transmitted.

As we tend to the soil of our clients’ lives, let us also tend to our own gardens. How will you nurture your soil/soul today?

Published on August 24, 2020

Monday Meditation: A Time For Everything

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)


The writer of Ecclesiastes lays out a series of dichotomies in this oft-recited passage, as if we can only do one or the other in a particular season of life. But have you found yourself living on both sides of a phrase simultaneously? For instance, have you been searching for something while also giving up something? Have you felt led to be silent about one thing but prompted to speak about another? Have you wept over one circumstance in your life while also rejoicing over another?


In this period of the pandemic, what time is it for you? What is being born in your life today? What needs to die? What have you been planting? What needs to be uprooted? Take a moment and reread the passage. Allow the Spirit of God to give you insight into this season of your life.

Published on August 21, 2020

Monday Meditation: Devotion vs. Doing

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed Jesus into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And Martha went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:38-42)

This brief passage of Scripture speaks volumes about family dynamics. Did you notice how Martha, in her frustration, attempted to triangulate Jesus to resolve her conflict with her sister? I suspect that this was not the first time that Martha had been aggravated with her sister. I also suspect this was not the first time Mary that was oblivious to her sister’s exasperation.

Unfortunately, this passage has frequently been used to pit women against women – elevating those who worship over those who work, contrasting devotion with doing. Jesus certainly did not disapprove of serving others; he told his disciples that he came not to be served but to serve. Jesus and his disciples depended upon the willingness of others – particularly women – to serve them, feed them, shelter them, and support them financially. To follow Jesus meant – and still means – to embrace a life of service.

Jesus was not condemning serving when he responded to Martha’s request for intervention. So what did he mean when he declared that Mary had “chosen the good portion”? Neither sister was aware that Jesus’ days were numbered, but Jesus knew his time with his friends was limited. Mary seized the moment to sit in the presence of her Lord, to listen and to learn with intentionality. Is that the one necessary thing – to recognize in a given moment what is most important?

Every day we are called upon to make choices regarding where we will focus our attention. Situations that appear to require urgent attention often crowd out the interactions that are truly important. When we are anxious and troubled about many things, our ability to discern what is most important is impaired.

Perhaps sitting at Jesus’ feet is the antidote to our anxiety. In drawing near to Jesus, we gain perspective on what is truly important. Carving out time to be still, meditate, and pray can help us draw near to Jesus. But we can also pray as we serve, remembering that God is with us, within us. Throughout the day, we can seek the Spirit’s guidance to recognize the one thing that is necessary in a given moment. With God’s help, may we choose the good portion.

Published on August 3, 2020