A Silly Question

Masters of Disguise, the Cuttlefish – Marine Ecology @ HSU
Image Description: An orange (for now!) cuttlefish. Public domain image.

I was in a Zoom meeting last week in which people were meeting each other for the first time. The host was interviewing a few of us us. We had already talked about vision for an organization, our experience in community work, and the importance of community dialogue. Then he asked,

What’s your favorite sea creature?

Everyone on the screen got to answer that question, and the answers were really silly and delightful. I found myself enjoying that playfulness became a part of this meeting too.

This week, I’m going to be holding a number of meetings as well, and I hope that moments of connectional silliness can show up at the right times.

Oh, and also, it’s a cuttlefish. Oh, and also, narwhals are real.

Renee Roederer


To Do
Image Description: A list written in green colored ink on a yellow piece of paper. Some items on the list have lines running through them. A green pen lies on top.

Our worth is not based upon our productivity.

This is the caveat to everything else I’m going to say (and the once-more reminder).

Our worth is not based upon our productivity.

Mastery feels good. A goal achieved feels good. The quick “down, up” stroke of a check mark on a list feels good.

There are days when we’re depressed, languishing, or lethargic, and we cannot do these. And that is valid and okay. Once more, our worth is not based upon our productivity. There are also days when we are anxious, and it’s difficult to get started. That is valid and okay too.

But I remember being in a stress reduction class, and we talked about setting goals, even small ones — how setting an intention for them and then acting upon them can provide a vital benefit to our mental health. When we’re depressed, languishing, lethargic, or anxious, small goals are immensely significant ones. They’re valid. They matter. Those small goals, either written down, or internalized bring a good and meaningful feeling when we’ve taken action on them.

I think about a wise statement from a therapist I know. “I like ask myself — not, “Do I want to do this?” — but, “Will I have wanted to do this?”

In other words, on the other side of that action, maybe even the one I don’t feel like doing, will I feel better? Will I be glad that I did it?

Renee Roederer

Sometimes, we can get too perfectionistic about our tasks and lists as well. One day when I was feeling like that, I wrote a poem, entitled, “For the Goal.”


speech bubble hi clip art - Clip Art Library
Image Description: A purple speech bubble says, “HI!” in white letters.

I facilitate five support groups in my work role at the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan, and this is one of my favorite aspects of the job. Each group has its own character, and I enjoy the ways they collectively create the experience. Four groups meet over Zoom, and one meets over a conference call. This particular group enjoys connecting over the phone. They were the first group we ever organized, and it has our largest participation. Though a conference call may seem behind the times for this era, they enjoy it like this, and they make it a deep and meaningful opportunity for connection. In fact, this group calls itself a chosen family, and its members show up in each others lives in beautiful ways, including rhythms of calling each other throughout the week.

All of this is lovely. And as I shared, full of character: There’s a fun, silly practice that this group does week to week, and I’ve been pondering this sweet, simple act of care. When people are signing into the conference call, I can see who is about to join on a computer screen. Their name emerges on the screen about five seconds before we hear the beep announcing their arrival. In that time, I’ll tell the people already on the line, “Here comes [Name].”

And we wait in silence.


“Hi, [Name]!” says everyone in unison and with gusto.

We call it surprise-partying.

Depending on when they emerge, [Name] gets somewhere between 5-15 people greeting them playfully and enthusiastically.

And this is a small thing, but in this era in which we live, it can feel so lovely to be greeted with joy in a way that genuinely conveys, “Everyone is glad that you are here.”

Each group has character, and I love this one.

Renee Roederer

Presence is Enough

Free, Public Domain Image: Two Businessmen Walking Along a Sidewalk Stock  Photography
Image Description: Two people walking down a pathway together. Public domain image.

Sometimes, people name difficulties that you desperately wish you could take away, but you don’t know how. You listen, and then they say how much that means. Presence is enough.

Sometimes, people are grieving, and they are exhausted by all the cliches they’ve needed to dodge. You take a walk together or just sit in silence. Presence is enough.

Sometimes, a young person is lonely and feeling overwhelmed. You watch a tv show together or text back and forth. Presence is enough.

Sometimes, people bring a difficult, personal challenge to a Zoom screen among others who care. They discover they’re not alone — in that problem, and in being loved as they are. Presence is enough.

Sometimes, people are feeling isolated and disconnected. Their friends give them an old fashioned phone call. Presence is enough.

Sometimes, you’re feeling sad, anxious, or weighed down, and you tell trusted people what you need. Presence is enough.

Renee Roederer

Parallel Universes

parallel world  parallel universe  universe free photo
Image description: Bubbles with stars and gas clouds in them, resembling the idea of parallel universes. Free image found here: https://www.needpix.com/photo/1633151/parallel-world-parallel-universe-universe-physics-multiverse-more-world-theory-quantum-mechanics-star-cosmos

With several groups, I’ve had the occasion to ask this fun question lately:

If you can imagine yourself in parallel universes, what are some of the things you’re doing?

As you think back on paths you could have taken, but didn’t ultimately, how might those have shaped your life? What are you doing in those parallel universes? And as you ponder those, what are some life pathways you almost took in this universe? And what are some that you never tried, but you can imagine yourself doing?

As for the two I could have actually taken, there is a parallel universe where I finished a music composition degree in college, and I’m now teaching music theory at a university. That’s what I originally wanted to do vocationally. I changed my mind. There’s also a parallel universe where I’m teaching theology at a seminary. When I went to seminary myself, from the start to the finish, that’s what I most wanted to do. My path changed when I was invited into a local campus ministry position. That changed my life in meaningful ways, and among other things I do, I’ve worked alongside young adults ever since.

And as for the path I never tried but I can still imagine, there’s probably a parallel universe where I’m a choral conductor. I did a lot of choral music in undergrad, and to this day, I wish I would have studied the skill of choral conducting. I never did it, but I think I would enjoy it.

So here’s what I want to know: What about you? What are yours?

Feel free to share in a comment.

Renee Roederer

Love on the Screen

No photo description available.
Image Description: A person is sitting with a laptop open.

I went to a virtual meeting yesterday. Like all of us, I’ve been to an innumerable amount of virtual meetings over the last two years. This particular meeting had two parts to it, and some participants were scheduled to arrive half way through.

“Okay, I’m going to let in the others,” the host said.

Suddenly, four additional people popped onto the screen, and I don’t know what it was about that extremely small, mundane, has-been-done-so-many-times-in-this-pandemic moment, but when those four additional smiling faces arrived, I felt something deep and meaningful.

Last week, I wrote a piece about what it feels like to know you’re creating together. There is also a particular kind of bond we can feel alongside the people with whom we’ve created. I felt that yesterday.

I recently stepped down from my role as Director of the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County. This was a hard decision for me to make, but with additional responsibilities coming my way, I knew I could not continue to stay in this position. Yesterday, Board members from the Interfaith Round Table met with students at the University of Michigan. They’re taking a class entitled, “Interfaith Organizing and Social Justice.” We talked about what we’ve experienced and what we’ve been able to cultivate together through our relationships, shared dialogue, and interfaith events.

There is truly a special kind of bond between people who have created together. I felt that deeply when they arrived on Zoom. It was such mundane moment, but there was love on the screen.

Renee Roederer

Names, Not Numbers

May be an image of 3 people, beard, people standing and indoor
Image Description: Friends and family lay hands upon Rev. Matthew J. Warfield at his ordination.

Each morning, I go to The New York Times website to check the COVID-19 numbers, and each day, the graph moves upward without a flattening curve. I see the number of new cases, the number of hospitalizations, and the number of deaths alongside the percentage increase from two weeks ago.

Average numbers from January 8:
656,478 new cases (14 day change of +226%)
127,225 hospitalized (14 day change of +78%)
1,524 deaths (14 day change of 12%)

These numbers, though informative in their own way, do nothing to tell the stories of upending grief.

My heart hurts because a young pastoral colleague died from COVID-19 over the weekend. He has a name. My heart hurts because people I love are aching. They have names.

The Rev. Matthew J. Warfield is the name of a beloved human being — loved by his family with names, his friends with names, his seminary colleagues with names, and the staff and members of First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor, all with names. He came to serve that church in August 2021. He was only 32 years old.

There are beloved people with names who knew him more closely than I did. But I enjoyed his presence and could tell he was very special. He was the first person I met when I arrived for a gathering of campus ministers at the University of Michigan. We sat together and enjoyed bagels. Then, months later, when another resident minister was ordained, I sat next to him, and while sharing a hymnal, we sang in harmony with gusto.

This beloved person with a name created a number of significant moments with beloved people I love, all of them with names, all of them now hurting. And I realize that the numbers cannot capture the stories of precious lives gone. This is devastating.

His memory is not gone. His impact will last as long as all his loves keep living, and likely, beyond that time too. But it hurts.

May his name be said with love. May all the names be said with love.

Renee Roederer

With A Full Moon in Each Eye

File:Winter-moon.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Image Description: A full moon, large in contrast with branches. Image by Jon Sullivan, Wikimedia Commons.

Why not live this way?

A poem by Hafiz:
“With that Moon Language”

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
Someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a
Full moon in each eye that is always saying,
With that sweet moon language, what every other eye in
This world is dying to hear?

2022’s Most Pressing Needs

New Year 2022 Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures
2022. Public domain image.

This morning, I’m meeting with a community group over Zoom, and we’re going to discuss these questions:

What are 2022’s most pressing needs? — Personally and collectively? How do we want to be a part of addressing those needs this year?

The author Frederick Buechner says that you are called to the place where “your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” What is that intersection for each one of us, and how might that be a part of addressing needs together in 2022?

Renee Roederer

Rehearsing the Gratitudes

I love this cartoon by Bjenny Montero. I highly recommend following more here. Image Description: A cartoon person is lying in bed, and out the window, a cartoon sun is shining and smiling. The person says, “Again?” and the sun answers, “Again.”

In an era of so much collective upheaval, we are each impacted in particularly difficult ways. In the midst of that, in an effort to bring a cliche (albeit a true one) to life, I really try to focus on one day at a time.

What would make this day a meaningful day?

It helps me to ask that in the morning and then to rehearse in my mind the aspects of the day that are before me. What am I looking forward to doing or experiencing? Or how can I/we make this meaningful?

Sometimes, I sincerely look forward to simple joys: I’m going to have coffee today. (P.S. Coffee is really dang good). But this also helps me bring more intentionality into work, or rest, or conversations, or whatever the day may bring.

But this is my favorite part: Before bed, I rehearse in my mind the day I ended up having. I tell it to myself like a story. I got to do this… This happened… It was so funny when… I loved when… And I feel grateful for a lot. By the end of the day, even if it’s just simple joys, I have more to say about the day and more unexpected gratitude than I named at the beginning.

It feels good.

Now, all of that being said, do not let this post be about toxic positivity (I say this to you all, but also to myself). If there are days where tears need to be shed at the end of the day — or for that matter, at the beginning or the middle — this is valid, and may it be. If anxiety needs to be processed, this is valid, and may it be. If anger rises, this is valid, and may it be. Everything should get space.

But I do name this practice in writing today because it helps me a lot, and I wonder if it might help someone else too. I hope so.

And… Guess what?

Right after pushing ‘publish,’ I’m gonna go into the kitchen for some coffee.

Renee Roederer