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Do You Believe in Miracles?

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

During the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, broadcaster Al Michaels uttered these memorable words as the final seconds ticked off the clock during the medal round of the men’s ice hockey tournament. This game between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. would determine which team would go on to face Finland in the gold medal round. On paper, the U.S. team seemed to be no match for their Soviet counterparts – amateurs vs. professionals – yet the U.S. won that pivotal game 4-3. The event would henceforth be known as the “Miracle on Ice.”

Do you believe in miracles?

Jesus’ disciples did. So did the crowds who witnessed his compassionate acts of healing, his stunning acts of power. The lame could walk again. The blind could see again. The deaf could hear again. Those in pain found lasting relief. Those plagued by demonic spirits were restored to wholeness. Those afflicted by seizures were made well. Those with leprosy were made clean.

Jesus not only restored individuals to health; he also resurrected people from the dead. Jairus’ daughter was raised from her death bed. A widow’s son arose from his coffin. Lazarus walked out of his tomb.

But Jesus’ miracles were not limited to healing and resurrection. Jesus walked on water. Jesus calmed a storm. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast. Jesus fed thousands of hungry men, women, and children with five loaves of bread and two fish.

The Greek word that is translated as “miracle” is dynamis; this word is also rendered in the New Testament as “mighty work,” “strength,” or “power.” When the crowds witnessed one of Jesus’ miracles, they marveled at his mighty works and praised God. Those who were healed by Jesus experienced transformation that exceeded the cessation of the original symptoms of sickness. Jesus offered holistic healing of body, mind, and spirit. Jesus offered restoration of relationships. Jesus offered reengagement with community.

Do you believe in miracles?

That’s a question still worth asking. If you could be a fly on the wall of my office, I think you would believe in miracles. The word comes up often in conversations as clients sit across from me and share their stories.

“I overdosed. I flatlined. But the paramedics revived me with Narcan. It’s a miracle that I’m alive today.”

“I shouldn’t still be alive. I’ve overdosed too many times. It’s a miracle. I don’t know why God saved me, but I now believe that God has a plan for my life.”

“After the wreck, I was told that I would never walk again. But look at me! Now I’m walking. It’s a miracle.”

The evidence of God’s healing, redemptive power is abundant at The Next Door. The full spectrum of miraculous transformation is on display daily. Clients who once thought they had lost everything realize that all is not lost. They do not have to be defined by their past. Day by day, the claws of addiction loosen their grip. Day by day, freedom is regained. Day by day, hope is renewed. Day by day, health is restored.

God still works miracles in our world. God is working miracles in this place. The Next Door is able to empower women for lifetime recovery because God empowers the staff to use their gifts and training and skills and compassion to facilitate healing – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. Hope and encouragement are freely dispensed by staff members who are further along on the road of recovery. As clients are welcomed into our community by our staff and volunteers and treated with respect, they realize that they are worthy of love and deserving of the best treatment we can provide. Seeds of faith are planted and nurtured as clients reconnect with God or connect for the first time with their Higher Power. Wholeness is no longer an impossible dream.

The offices, medical suites, clinical suites, group rooms, dining rooms, consult rooms, and bedrooms at The Next Door’s treatment center in Nashville are filled with walking miracles. The apartments at the Freedom Recovery Community in Nashville are filled with walking miracles. The community spaces and group rooms and bedrooms and offices at the Correctional Release Center in Chattanooga are filled with walking miracles.

Do you believe in miracles?

I do.

Thanks be to God, who continues to work miracles in our world. Thanks be to God, who continues to work miracles at The Next Door.

“You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” – Psalm 77:14

Monday Meditation: The Beatitudes

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

When Jesus sat down on a mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee to deliver what would come to be known as “The Sermon on the Mount,” I imagine that the women and men and children who gathered around him leaned forward, straining to hear his provocative words. The opening passage of this sermon is called “The Beatitudes” – a list of blessings. Jesus’ litany of those who are blessed is somewhat surprising. For example, how can those who are mourning be considered to be blessed? And yet, upon closer inspection, we can see a pattern in Jesus’ words.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3-10)

The poor in spirit are those who have learned that they must rely on God in all circumstances. Those who mourn depend on God to sustain them as they move forward into a future without the companionship of their dearly departed ones. The meek are not people who are weak; they are those who approach God and others with humility. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness trust God to guide their lives, to direct their paths. Those who are merciful demonstrate Christ-like compassion for others. Those who are pure in heart manifest integrity – there is no differentiation between their public life and their private one. Those who are peacemakers desire to live in harmony with God and others. Those who are persecuted for doing what is right take comfort in knowing that they do not walk alone on the path of righteousness.

Do you see the connection – the thread running through all of the blessings? Jesus does not equate blessing with fame or fortune. Blessing flows from an individual’s intimate relationship with God, from an individual’s dependence on God.

Jesus’ words remind me to look for blessings in unexpected places, in unanticipated ways. May you experience the blessing of God this week

When I Grow Up

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney   

During the pandemic, my extended family has gathered weekly via Zoom to stay in touch. With participants ranging in age from 7 months to 81 years, these experiences have been memorable and life-giving for us.

One feature of these virtual gatherings is a trivia game, and if a family member has a birthday coming up, then the trivia game focuses on them. One of the standard questions is: “When I was a child, what did I want to be when I grew up?” The answers have been enlightening and hilarious.

When I was a child, I wanted to be a reporter. I started my own newspaper in 6th grade; as I recall, the issues of this short-lived publication focused almost exclusively on the Cincinnati Reds. During junior high school, I considered becoming a meteorologist, primarily because I was a huge fan of Tom Siler the Weather Wizard on Channel 2.

Looking back, I can now see how my desire to become a reporter was rooted in my love of reading and writing, which eventually blossomed into a fondness for researching, teaching, and storytelling. When I responded to God’s prompting in my life to go to seminary, I was confident that writing and teaching would be a part of my calling. Although I was initially surprised while in seminary by my newfound love of preaching, I realize now that it was an outgrowth of my desire to share stories.

As I listen to the stories that the clients share at The Next Door in group settings and in one-on-one sessions, I am aware that none of them dreamed of becoming an addict when they grew up. None of them hoped to become homeless. No one set a goal to spend time in jail. None of them desired to have children and then lose them to state custody.

Even though their lives have not turned out the way they imagined, many of our clients cling to the hope that the future can be different. As they embrace a newfound faith in God or recommit their lives to following the God they first learned about as children, they are optimistic that new dreams are within reach. They sense that their lives are now on an upward trajectory. They are growing spiritually as healing takes place in their bodies, minds, and spirits.

At mid-life, I have been surprised to realize that I still don’t feel like a grown up. I am aware that I still have a lot of growing to do; I still have so much to learn. The faith in Christ that I embraced as a child has been transformed and deepened through the years. Like our clients, I am still growing up spiritually. God has given me new dreams, and I am grateful.

 

A prayer for spiritual growth: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please God in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to God’s glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:9-14)

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)

Resources: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-let-there-be-peace-on-earth

Published on December 7, 2020

Monday Meditation: Why Are You Doing What You’re Doing?

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

Do you ever stop to ask yourself why are you doing what you are doing? In her book Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky writes: “Amid the trials and tribulations of our work, it is possible to lose sight of why we’re doing what we’re doing. When we carve out the time to contemplate our intentions, we renew our connection to the needs and desires that have shaped our experience. We remember that we can take action to alter the course of our lives. This will help us to alleviate the sensation of being tossed around in the waves of uncontrollable and overwhelming events.”

To help us navigate these waves, van Dernoot Lipsky suggests that each morning we take a moment to ask ourselves, “Why am I doing what I am doing?” Remember your calling. Reflect on your gifts and how you are using them. Acknowledge that you are making a choice to do the work that lies before you. Accept this responsibility and freedom with gratitude. Ask God for wisdom and courage for the living of these days.

As a companion of fishermen, Jesus knew something about waves – on one memorable evening, Jesus spoke and the waves were stilled. Let us cling to Jesus’s words of comfort and hope during these disorienting days: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Note: You can download a free PDF of Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others.

Published on July 6, 2020

Monday Meditation: A Cry For Help

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

Where do you turn when you are struggling to survive, when you are experiencing oppression, when you are fighting forces and feelings that threaten to overwhelm you? For 1,000 years, people have turned to Psalm 18 to give voice to their experiences. The psalmist begins this timeless prayer by expressing love for God, praising God’s character, and recalling how God responded to his desperate cries for help.

“I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;

my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.”

Psalm 18:1-6a

 

Can you relate to the psalmist’s words? These vivid images could apply to so many situations, but they are particularly illustrative of the perils of addiction. Recovery is indeed a matter of life and death.

The psalmist imagined what it looked like when God responded to his cries for help. The earth was shaken to its core as the anthropomorphized God breathed smoke and fire and mounted a cherubim to swoop down from heaven amid a hailstorm. The psalmist’s enemies were scattered by bolts of lightning; they were no match for the thundering voice of the Lord. The psalmist was comforted by the image of a powerful God who was willing and able to rescue him in his time of need.

“God reached down from on high and took hold of me; the Lord drew me out of deep waters.

God rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.

They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.

God brought me out into a spacious place; God rescued me because God delighted in me.”

Psalm 18:16-19

When has God rescued you? When has God been your support? When has God graciously brought you out to a spacious place where you could experience the freedom God intended?

Like the psalmist, take a moment today to thank the Lord, who is worthy of praise.

Published on June 22, 2020

Talking To Your Children About COVID19 (And Other Hard Things)

– Written by Elizabeth Scoville, Family Interventionist

A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine was putting her eight-year-old son to bed, and he was crying.

“What’s wrong?” she asked him.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life.”

Raise your hand if you agree with him.

 

When COVID-19 pushed school districts to close, parents were at a loss with how to help their children cope because the adults felt scared and uncertain. How are we supposed to talk to our children about something we don’t understand? Wouldn’t it be better if we protect them from all the negativity, chaos, and uncertainty?

When we don’t talk to children about difficult things, we put them at a disadvantage and potentially harm their healing processes. Children have an idea of what is going on. They see their parents are more stressed out than usual; they see things are different. The children in our lives are going just as stir crazy as the rest of us. They miss their teachers, friends, and their sense of normalcy. If we pretend that everything is a-okay the children might think something is wrong with them for feeling scared.

Instead of pretending that nothing is wrong in front of our children, we can (and have a responsibility to) talk to them about these challenging things–COVID19, addiction, ACEs–in a way that doesn’t traumatize them. We don’t need to tell them every single detail. But we do need to tell what’s going on. Their schedules and routines have changed. We shouldn’t lie to them when they ask us questions. Don’t dumb it down, rather answer their questions in a way they can digest.

Developmentally, children feel the same emotions that adults feel, and they feel them at the same intensity. As adults, we can identify our feelings (even the uncomfortable ones) and manage them. Children don’t have that skill set yet. They are building it. That’s why children throw tantrums; they don’t know what to do with all of their emotions, so they may react and explode.

Talking about these difficult, hard things and how we feel about them helps children improve their ability to cope by expanding their emotional literacy and vocabulary. As adults we literally set the example and show them another way to cope with their emotions by giving them language to describe their emotions so they understand how to talk about their feelings. Children need to know that it’s okay to talk about this. It will prepare them for the hard things that they will experience in the future. And when they go through hard things, they’ll be able to talk about it and cope with it rather than push it down and ignore it.

Here are some ways you can help your child right now:

  1. You might be worried about paying bills and your job. Your children are worried about their friends and what school will look like next year. Both are important. Don’t forget to focus on your children, their emotions, and their experience through this, too.
  2. Increase mindfulness and honor the here and now, the present moment with your children. As much as possible, leave the future in the future.
  3. Normalize and validate their struggles. They need to know that how they feel (no matter what those feelings are) is normal and okay.
  4. Be authentic with your children. Show your children that YOU have emotions, too. It will allow them to increase their emotional awareness and talk about emotions.
  5. Create a place where it is safe for children to get it wrong. Parents set the example for how to cope, but children aren’t perfect mimics. Take advantage of the extra time with your children to teach them healthy coping skills.
Published on June 18, 2020

There’s Something Special About This Place

By Karen P., volunteer at The Next Door

“There’s something special about this place,” she said, dabbing her eyes. We all nodded in agreement.

We sat in a circle — eight clients, myself, and my co-leader on a rainy Wednesday night for our weekly Spiritual Wellness small group gathering. The subject of the teaching had sparked some meaningful dialogue —an opportunity to affirm these precious women of their worth and value in the eyes of their heavenly Father.

“Today is a great day,” I commented, focusing my attention on another young woman, who had shared how difficult it was to be separated from her children while working on her recovery at The Next Door. She was not alone in her anguish. “Today is a great day because you are right where you need to be. You made it through another day of sobriety! The Lord has good plans for you. He has good plans for your family. And that ache that you feel for your children tonight? God’s love for you is infinitely deeper than that. God tells us in His Word that He is making all things new— all things.” The room was quiet. I watched their faces, their body language, as glimmers of hope rose within them. “Lord,” I prayed silently, “heal their wounds, bind up their brokenness and shower them with your great love.”

For many of the women who come to The Next Door, grasping the truth that they are worthy of God’s love and treasured by Him is daunting. Often, they feel guilt and shame, regret and fear that God is angry at them, or that He has forgotten them.

As a regular volunteer, it is my great joy and privilege to share the Good News with them—to encourage them and remind them that they are not alone — that our gracious, powerful God longs to walk this journey with them. Sometimes a door opens for me to speak these words of truth. Other times, it is simply by being a calming presence in an intake room with an anxious newcomer, or walking with a weary client to the clinic, or believing God for miracles as I pour over the stack of prayer requests at home on my kitchen table.

I’m just one person of many who share the vision of The Next Door, and my small contribution sometimes feels insignificant. But I know that God is working through all our contributions of time, money, talents, and prayers. He is making streams in deserts, He is quieting storms, He is writing beautiful stories.

There truly is something special about The Next Door, and I’m humbled and thankful to be a tiny part of the big things God is doing!

That Glow!

by Holly Cammuse, Assistant Director of Nursing of The Next Door

As I waddle around the building the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I have heard this phrase over and over again, “You are just GLOWING, Holly!”  I have assured all parties involved that the “glow” they are imagining is probably just sweat glistening from my newly formed mustache… O the joys of pregnancy hormones!  As we encroach upon temperatures nearing 100, I can’t help but reflect on the ease and simplicity of carrying my first child through the winter months. The other comments such as “There must be more than one in there!”, “You must be due ANNNYY day now!”, and “WOW, you’re carrying low!” make me giggle at the transparency of those women that we serve at The Next Door… transparency that I respect and have learned to love over the course of three years.

As I squeeze onto the elevator (because who wants to take the stairs at 9 months pregnant?!), I bump bellies with another Momma-To-Be, only this Momma is a client of The Next Door. So many things make The Next Door unique, but this is by far my favorite. We serve and embrace ALL women, even those fighting to better a life other than their own.

The Next Door took a leap of faith and began serving pregnant women in the winter of 2016. It was obvious that because we were one of few treatment facilities to accept a woman with child, the services that we provided would be sought out by women all over the state of Tennessee. NICUs were at capacity with children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a condition in which a newborn withdraws from drugs it was exposed to while in utero. Why couldn’t The Next Door play a part in ending this vicious cycle?

To date, we have served nearly 100 pregnant women, can you imagine the glow that has radiated from these walls!? Obstetrics certainly wasn’t our specialty, and we proceeded that first year with caution and good faith, putting some restrictions on what risks we were willing to take. All pregnant women using illicit drugs are high-risk, most have experienced many other births, some with poor outcomes, but if we weren’t willing to accept them into treatment, who would? There is such a small window of opportunity to make such a generational impact. It was a no-brainer to our ambitious team.

Although the future still holds many exciting opportunities for pregnant women at The Next Door, we have certainly come a long way in terms of knocking down barriers for this population. We are currently revising our admission requirements to allow pregnant women , even those with little or no prenatal care, to walk through our doors free of stigma and full of hope. We have a Registered Nurse Care Manager who assists these women with finding an obstetric provider and keeping appointments, an OB-GYN that assesses these women once a week, a Licensed Therapist that spends time unraveling fears and instilling lifeskills related to parenthood, and valuable resources like 180 Health Partners that provide a warm hand-off once discharged from The Next Door and through those critical postpartum months.

A dream of mine would be to provide housing for newborns with their mothers upon delivery; however, my view is still pretty sweet, as is, from my desk window. One of the first pregnant clients ever served at The Next Door now resides in our Freedom Recovery Community apartments, just behind our building on 22nd Avenue. What a precious sight to see her sober, successful, and pushing her little miracle in a stroller. Now THAT glow is one that cannot be beat.

Encouragement in Recovery

by Kristy Pomeroy, Community Services Manager of The Next Door

Freedom Recovery Community is a very busy place this summer. We currently have 21 women and 22 children living on property full time and have 12 children who come for visitation. Most of the days are quiet as women are working and children are at day care or day camps. Their evenings are spent in family time outside or playing games, going to groups and much more. My favorite thing about our community is the way this group encourages each other. In order to reach all of the families we have a group text where we send reminders about group schedule, activities and chores on a weekly basis. The women also communicate to each other through the group text. Here are some examples of the recent texts that have been posted:

“Went to a really good 12-step meeting at a church tonight. Going back next Wednesday for anyone who wants to ride along.”

“Thank you for the fresh vegetables from the garden as we are having cucumbers and tomatoes for dinner!”

“Good girl! Change the Stigma!”

“You have some amazing and awesome kids who helped me carry in my groceries. You have no idea how much I needed that today!”

“So what’s next? You heal. You grow. And you help others.”

“Trying Celebrate Recovery tonight…who wants to go?”

“I have never led a meeting, but I am willing (to try) today.”

“I am so grateful for my sisters at FRC.”

The women at FRC are truly living out the scripture to “Encourage one another and build each other up” (Thessalonians 5:11) on a daily basis.