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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: Seeking a New Narrative

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

Years ago while traveling through the West, I paid a memorable visit to Kartchner Caverns State Park. Located in the Whetstones, a mountain range in southeastern Arizona, this pristine limestone cave is decorated with speleothems – spectacular mineral deposits with whimsical names like cave bacon and soda straws.

Because Kartchner Caverns is a live cave – one where calcite formations are still growing – extraordinary measures have been taken to preserve the caverns from harm. The dry desert air above ground must not be introduced into the humid cave environment; otherwise, the cave will quickly die. Visitors also pose an existential threat to the cave, since they can inadvertently be carriers of substances that could harm the cave’s delicate formations or the bats that call the cave home.

Those who take a tour of Kartchner Caverns must first walk through an air curtain that blows lint from their clothing.  Next, visitors pass through a chamber where mist forces any remaining lint against their clothing. Finally, visitors enter an airlock that preserves the cave’s 99% average relative humidity. The cave remains alive and well because of these safeguards.

That experience of walking through the air curtain has stuck with me through the years. Lately I have been thinking about how I need to pass through a spiritual air curtain – a process that could help rid me of the pollutants I have been carrying around in my heart and mind for too long. Ideas that were once presented as “Truth” have been revealed to be false, antithetical to the loving God who created us. I am seeking a new narrative – for myself and for my world.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” the psalmist prayed (Psalm 51:10). May God cleanse us of all that we carry that threatens the health of our neighbors and our world.

Published on June 29, 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!