This I Belove…

belove.jpg
A Tattoo on the forearm reads, “BeLove”

Over time, particularly in Western cultures, the word believe has become quite narrowed in its meaning. For instance, in the context of my own Christian tradition, when people hear the word believe, they may hear it as—

. . . I believe in God.

. . . Do you believe in Jesus?

. . . I believe what the Bible says.

. . . Do you believe in heaven? —

people typically understand the word believe to mean “intellectual assent to a propositional idea.” In that framework, people consider these statements and questions, and then choose to affirm or reject them as logical possibilities.

But what if that’s too narrow a definition of the word believe?

The English word believe has been shaped greatly by the frameworks of the Enlightenment and Modernism. The words of the Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament, however, speak of something quite different in their original languages.

These are words of the heart. . . words of will. . . and words of action. The words that often get translated into the English word believe are actually verbs of love, devotion, trust, purpose, and action.

Recently, I was reading Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening by Diana Butler-Bass. (Great book. Check it out.) She suggests that if we want to best translate these verbs into English, it would be better to use a word like Belove. . .

. . . I belove God.

. . . Do you belove from Jesus?

. . . I belove the way of love that the Bible reveals.

. . . Do you belove toward the Transformation of All Things?

Of course, these sentences I’ve created are remarkably clunky. But they cast a different vision entirely, don’t they?

The life of faith is not some intellectual, get-it-right-or-else game, working to conform the intellect (and in some instances, stretch it to incredulity) toward a set of particular propositional affirmations. It is not an endeavor to complete a holy, ‘check yes’ list and thus secure a key to a distant, heavenly future – the ultimate fire insurance.

The life of faith is much deeper.

It is love of God — Love itself, revealed among us,

– and –

It is love of Neighbor — Love itself, enacted between us.

This I belove.

– Renee Roederer

“We Wouldn’t Want You to Go Hungry”

Chipotle
A burrito bowl from Chipotle.

I had a meeting at the University of Michigan campus, and when I finished, I realized I was really hungry. It was almost 10pm, close to Chipotle’s closing time. I walked in, and I was just about to order. Then, at the precise moment when the staff member asked me what I would like, I realized I had left my wallet in the car.

“Oh, you know what? Nevermind. Don’t start that. I just realized I left my wallet in the car.”

“That’s okay. We’ll make it for you anyway.”

“But I don’t –”

“Oh, no worries. Really, it’s okay. Glad to do it. We wouldn’t want you to go hungry.”

He said this in such a sincere way and seemed to take pleasure in offering this gift to me. I ended up with a free burrito bowl, and it was very kind.

When I left, I found myself reflecting upon those words of intention and action:
“We wouldn’t want you to go hungry.”
He meant it.
It was kind.

But when I left, I began to reflect. . . wondering how often people are honest that they’re hungry without ever receiving such a statement from us, or most importantly, the food they need. I found myself thinking about times when we’ve encountered the needs of people but consciously or unconsciously, put them into the category of, “They’re always hungry. That’s a type of person who is hungry. And a person to avoid.” Racism and classism are certainly a part of this.

I found myself remembering that there are humanitarian food crises in parts of the world right now.

And then there are people we meet in our daily encounters.

“We wouldn’t want you to go hungry.”

That intention and that action needs to grow in us.

– Renee Roederer

Nature-Noticing

My best stress reliever involves walking around and noticing nature. I also love to photograph what I find and share it, usually on Instagram and Facebook stories.

If you find your thing, keep it going. Here are photos of colorful leaves and colorful flowers.

Wise Care

heart flowers
Image Description: Three pink flowers on a vine, each in the shape of a heart. A blue sky is in the background.


Years ago, a therapist said to me,

“I never challenge a client or bring up a deeply-held, difficult topic until I can tell that the person is really close to saying it themselves.”

Years ago, a professor once said to our class,

“When I was training to be a pastoral counselor, I worked with a supervisor and talked my sessions over with him. Once, I had a client who was deeply in denial. It was so obvious. One week, as I was planning for our session, I came up with a process to really tell her the truth and point all that denial out to her. But my supervisor stopped me. He said, “You know, the reason people have defense mechanisms is… they have things they need defending from.”

These are wise forms of care.

Renee Roederer

A Way to Be Culturally Subversive

Mentor,help, Climbing, Hand
Image Description: Two silhouettes; One is helping pull another up while climbing a rock. There’s a blue, starry sky in the background.


Truly, a way to be culturally subversive…

Ask for help — for what you need. Big things and small things. Do it frequently. Invite people into your needs, and trust (even if you feel those cultural messages begin to rise within you) that it gives people joy, gratitude, and a sense of connection to be asked to help you.

(Don’t you feel that way when people ask you for help? Why should you believe you’re the one exception?)

So be culturally subversive —
Face those internalized messages head on,
That you’re somehow burdensome
or a bother,
or asking too much,
or being too much.

Face it, and be a full-time, authentic rebel,
Need it,
Name it,
Ask it.

Renee Roederer

The Joy of Silly, Spontaneous Memories

A few days ago, I spontaneously laughed aloud at the grocery store when I saw an assortment of decorative gourds. (Photo, above). In and of themselves, there’s nothing particularly funny about them. They just reminded me of something.

They reminded me of my first job. How many people can say this? As a high schooler, my first job ever was

Gourd Shellacer.

Yep, I worked at a farm where my main task was to spray shellac on decorative gourds to make them SHINE. Shine with all their decorative glory!

And to me, the funniest thing about this is that when I later applied for my second high school job, the application asked for my previous employment history. I didn’t know what to write for my previous job title. So I wrote,

Gourd Technician.

What a ridiculous thing to say. I suppose partly this was for my own amusement. But the person interviewing me did actually ask, “So what is a Gourd Technician?” and I had to answer!

I think in the moment, I laughed about it, said I was a Gourd Shellacer, but I didn’t know how to name that precisely on an application.

Thankfully, I got the serving job despite the oddities.

You know, if we pay attention throughout our day, I bet we can all find a bunch of silly, spontaneously memories. And they might just bring us some joy, as strange as they and we might be.

– Renee Roederer

Mirroring

mirror


After pausing the music, then giving the sopranos a direction, our choir director said, “I know you can do it,” with a big smile.

That’s when I saw something really sweet:

I watched the body language of the big group of sopranos who smiled back immediately with a sense that they were truly internalizing what he just said. I could see that happen. Just one comment. But a comment of confidence from a person who is trusted, funny, caring, genuine, and inviting us to create.

That opened up a larger thought for me about encouragement, connection, and mirroring.

No one is able to define us — no person, no group — nor should it ever be that way.

— And at the same time —

I don’t think any of us comes to know ourselves, really and truly on the deeper levels, without the encouragement, connection, and mirroring of others.

We need to see ourselves seen. That is how we know we are loved. That is how we come to know and trust some of our best attributes, gifts, and particularities. That is how we know we belong and that we are believed in, even in the moments when we make mistakes or fail.

We need to give this gift to each other.

And I also wonder, even larger than the interpersonal, is it possible to do this with whole groups of people? Providing encouragement, connection, and mirroring in directions that convey…

hope is not a pipe dream…?

change is possible…?

we have the attributes, gifts, and particularities to build a better, safer, more loving world…?

Renee Roederer

I Love This Story About Fred Rogers

fred


I’ve started reading this wonderful, new biography about Fred Rogers, entitled, The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King. In particular, I love a story in this book which I’ve never heard before.

Once, an intern who was working on the Mister Rogers Neighborhood television show traveled with Fred Rogers to Boston. A very influential executive at the Boston public television station had invited them to dinner with the rest of his family. The executive arranged for a limousine to pick up Fred and the intern and bring them both to his home. Once the limousine arrived at the house, the driver asked what time he should return to pick them up again. But instead of sending him away until a later time, Fred Rogers just invited him to the dinner! And the wife of the television executive was completely caught off guard and bewildered by this.

Then after the dinner was over, Fred Rogers sat up front with the limo driver and spent time getting to know him. His name was Billy. After connecting so wonderfully, Billy invited Fred and the intern over to his parents’ house. While there, Fred played the piano and people from the neighborhood kept coming over and joining the spontaneous time together. And Fred and Billy stayed in touch. A few years later, Fred learned that Billy was in the hospital and dying, and he made a personal phone call to say goodbye.

Connection, friendship, and kinship can happen at any time. And I suppose if we want to live in a world where they transform us, we have to be willing to do the unexpected and upend the labels and class structures that divide us.

Renee Roederer

This story is found on page 39 of The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. It comes from an interview with Elaine Rogers Crozier, Fred Rogers’ sister.