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Meditation Monday: Running on Fumes

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

The Parable

In Matthew 25:1-11, Jesus uses a parable about ten bridesmaids to describe the kingdom of heaven. In this story, the ten bridesmaids have gathered to await the bridegroom’s arrival, for they will accompany the groom in a festive procession to the wedding banquet. All ten bridesmaids have come equipped with oil lamps, but only five of them have brought flasks of oil to enable them to refuel their lamps. These five women were wise, for the groom was delayed. When he finally arrived at midnight, the wise bridesmaids were ready to go with fuel to spare. Unfortunately, at this key moment, the lamps of the unprepared bridesmaids flickered out.

You could read Jesus’ parable and view the five prepared bridesmaids in a negative light, since they refuse to share their oil with the other five bridesmaids, but to do so misses a key point: There are some things in life that can’t be borrowed.

The Demonstration

In her memorable sermon on this passage titled “Filling Stations,” Rev. Dr. Anna Carter Florence describes a scene from one of her seminary classes. A lamp that only had a little oil left in the reservoir was placed on a table in front of the class. The wick was lit, and the students watched with interest as the lamp burned up all the oil and flickered out.

“What just happened?” Dr. Florence asked the class. “The oil ran out, so the light went out,” the students replied. This object lesson was used to convey a vital message: A Christian with no oil can’t be the light of the world for anybody, no matter how much they want to.

The Lesson

There are some things in life that can’t be borrowed. You can’t borrow someone else’s relationship with God. You can’t borrow someone else’s faith. You can’t borrow spiritual maturity. You can’t be light for the world if you lack spiritual fuel.

You likely won’t be able to do a very good job of nurturing others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. You won’t be able to serve God as energetically as you desire if you are physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually burned out. That’s not to say that God can’t use you when your reserves are running low. God certainly can and does do this – I can testify to this reality. However, we would be foolish – like the five unprepared bridesmaids – if we allow ourselves to always run on fumes.

We can’t expect to fill ourselves up spiritually once a week and think that will be sufficient. If we desire to love God with our heart and soul, mind and strength, we need to fill up our spiritual tanks frequently. Some of us feel spiritually energized when we do things with others and for others. Some of us need to be alone, quiet, and still in order to recharge. Perhaps you need a little of both. We can find God both in times of devotion and in times of service.

We need plenty of fuel in order to burn brightly. What will you do today to fill up your spiritual tank?

Life-giving God, fill us up so that we may be the light of the world. Amen.

Published on June 8, 2020

 

Monday Meditation: Disappointment

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

Disappointed.

This word has been popping up repeatedly over the past few months as a result of the physical distancing necessary to minimize the impact of the pandemic.

  • High school and college students are disappointed that they were not able to celebrate their academic achievements at traditional in-person commencement ceremonies.
  • Brides and grooms are disappointed that their wedding plans have been dramatically altered.
  • Grieving families are disappointed that they have been unable to gather for funeral services to remember loved ones who have passed away.
  • Athletes from children to Olympians are disappointed that they have been unable to compete.
  • Singers and dancers and musicians are disappointed that performances have been cancelled – and their fans are disappointed, too.
  • Parents are disappointed that their children have been unable to attend school.
  • New grandparents – like me – are disappointed that they have not been able to meet their newborn grandchildren.

The list goes on and on. How would you complete this sentence?

I am disappointed that _________________________________.

 

Disappointments are a part of life. At The Next Door, we are disappointed each time a client chooses to leave AMA or ACA. We are disappointed when the difficult decision must be made to ask a client to leave. During this unprecedented period in the history of TND, we are disappointed that some of our team members cannot work alongside us for financial reasons. We are disappointed that volunteers cannot safely join us in our work. We are disappointed by all the disruptions, personally and professionally.

In the Spirituality in Recovery group, clients regularly express three primary levels of disappointment:

  • They are disappointed in themselves.
  • They are disappointed in family members.
  • They are disappointed in God.

God can handle our disappointment. We need not fear being honest with God – after all, God knows what we are going to say before a word is even on our lips. We can express the depth of our disappointment and ask God to help us to make meaning of these troubling circumstances. What does our disappointment reveal about the routines and rituals that are important to us, the people who are important to us, the values that are important to us? In the midst of our disappointment, can we still see God at work?

 

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise God again—my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:5-6a)

Published on June 1, 2020

One Word for 2019

by Kate McKinnie, Director of Development of The Next Door

For the past 8-9 years, I have chosen a word of the year.  I begin praying in December for how I want the next year to be different.  I pray for wisdom of what one word of focus could be to help me get there.  This year, my word is INTENTIONAL.

What led me to this word was that I felt like at work in my role as Director of Development, everything I do is with great intention, purpose and strategy to achieve the fundraising goals for The Next Door.  However, outside of work, I don’t live with much intention.  I chose this word for 2019 because I want to be intentional with relationships in my life I want to strengthen, and I want to be intentional with my health, fitness and dietary habits.  There are several other ways in my personal life I need to be more intentional, because I believe when you approach things with intentionality, you are more likely to see change that you want in life.

Because I love this annual exercise of choosing my word of the year, I decided to ask our clients about theirs.  On New Year’s Day, I put up a sign next to the elevators on each residential floor and asked a simple question:  “What one word do you want to guide you and define you in the new year?”   During the entire month of January, as new clients have come into the program, I have enjoyed seeing their responses.  Here is what they wrote:

  • Happy
  • Humble
  • Serene
  • Sober
  • Peaceful
  • Recovery
  • Thankful
  • Strong
  • Productive
  • Sunshine
  • Resilient
  • Amazing, sober mother
  • Real
  • Different
  • Blessed

While I thought, prayed and toyed around with several words that I wanted to guide and define me in 2019, the women in treatment at The Next Door last month most likely came up with theirs in a brief period of time, while waiting for the elevator!   The simplicity of their answers was inspiring.  To merely want peace, serenity, happiness, strength or sobriety as they look at a new year may seem simple to me, but for our clients, this could be a major shift from the life they are living now.

Each day I work in this ministry, I realize that I have MUCH in common with women of The Next Door.  I may not struggle with addiction, trauma or mental illness, but what I do long for – like each woman within our doors – is a new start and moving from weak to strong in some area of our lives.  Whether that’s to be more intentional in my approach to relationships and fitness or women simply wanting to wake up sober and productive each day of 2019, we each seek change.

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19

I hope each of you is having a wonderful start to your new year.  Remember:  we love to have visitors at The Next Door!  If you feel led to be involved in some way in this life-changing ministry for women and find common ground with these courageous women like I do each day, come see us!  To arrange a visit, please contact me:  kate.mckinnie@thenextdoor.org.

I Love Data!

by Ginger Gaines, Chief Operating Officer of The Next Door

My co-workers, family and a few friends know how much I love a good spreadsheet.  I am by nature very analytical, and I want to have all the facts before making any decision.  Of course, when deciding where to eat dinner this can be infuriating to my husband who would say, “Just pick one!” and then have no angst about the choice.  If there is an unfamiliar option, I would first want to review the menu, other diner’s feedback and their prices, to start.  Are you like that?  I just love putting everything in a spreadsheet, at least mentally, to reveal the obvious best choice!

Well, did you know that January 22-27, 2019 is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week?  I was recently reviewing much of the research data found on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website about substance use disorder, alcohol use, suicide rates and so forth.  Even loving data, I quickly became overwhelmed by the magnitude of the growing drug and alcohol addiction impact to communities and families today.

While all the national and state-level data is quite daunting, I am excited about the difference that The Next Door (TND) is making – one life at a time.  I am so grateful to serve at an organization that restores hope! TND exists to empower women for lifetime recovery in an environment of faith and healing.  I can really get excited about the data and feedback gathered through client surveys regarding treatment service experiences at TND.  For example, 1461 clients received treatment services at TND Nashville in 2018 and of those 1461, the overall satisfaction ranged from 91-95% positive!

Let me share just a few of the actual client comments from surveys in 2018:

  • Treatment with genuine care and respect
  • Liked opportunity to engage in service work in the dining room
  • So grateful for all of the staff, they are awesome!
  • The Next Door is an amazing, safe compassionate program
  • This place means the world to the rest of my life.
  • It means so much that the staff try so hard to love us during this crucial time.
  • Admission process was very smooth. Made us feel welcome & loved.  Staff were calm and patient. Quick response when call for treatment.
  • Detox saved my life, it was exactly what I needed.
  • Our group facilitator is wonderful.
  • The Therapist included us in the development of our treatment plan.
  • The Case Manager included us in the development of our discharge plan.
  • The accountability requirements really helped me stay in line and learn more responsibility.

Of course, TND also learns from the constructive feedback from every client. My favorite this year being that Food Services serves too much broccoli!  Seriously, we gather and utilize the feedback of our clients for continuous improvement.  We know that not only does every life matter, but also every life represents a network of more lives finding wholeness and hope for the future.  Though this is difficult data to quantify, in a spreadsheet or not, it brings me great joy!