Summoning a Story

Image Description: The word ‘lan-guage’ as an entry in a dictionary. Public domain image.

One of the most transformative and empowering acts of care we can offer is an invitation to tell a story. When people can put their experiences into words, they connect meaningfully with others, and perhaps most significantly, they make meaning of their own lives. People remember who they are and become crafters of narratives that convey some of their most significant experiences.

Trauma researchers have written a great deal about this; healing often comes with the ability to share narratives and make meaning out of challenging experiences. We never want to inquire about trauma experiences in intrusive ways, but when people begin to open up, and we sense that they want to share, an invitation of, “Would you like to tell me more about that?” can be remarkably transformative.

Likewise, invitations to share stories of positive experiences can be just as transformative, especially when people are feeling down, sad, confused, or burned out. At the right time — and it is important for it to be at the right time — have you ever asked someone to share about their own resilience? Or about a moment when they felt joy? Or about a time when they felt really engaged and alive in what they are doing?

As they share, these positive memories of the past become present, physiologically speaking. These stories flow through people’s bodies as they tell them, and the act telling them changes how their bodies are feeling in that moment.

So yes, one of the most transformative and empowering acts of care we can offer is an invitation to tell a story.

Renee Roederer

Naming Difficulties in Brave Spaces

Be Brave Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures
Image Description: The words ‘Be brave,” are written in black cursive from within an uneven, circle-like shape of pink. Public domain image.


When people share similar sentiments across various community groups I’m in, I tend to give special notice to them. Multiple times last week, in different groups altogether, people voiced aloud,

“It’s so helpful to be able to name difficulties in this group without knowing you’re going to be (judged, dismissed, discounted, or told to ‘get over it’).”

I am thinking about this even more intentionally after hearing various versions of that sentiment.

This is one of the greatest gifts community can provide, particularly if the community culture feels safe enough or as someone said recently, like “a brave space.” Being brave, of course, doesn’t mean people need to be stoic or have it all together. In fact, brave spaces often invite the opposite.

It is extremely valuable when we can trust people to hold pain and difficulty just as it is in that particular moment. We don’t need to clean it up. We also don’t have to assume it’s static and immoveable.

In fact, sharing it changes its reality just a bit. We’re not alone, and we’re loved and accepted as it is and as we are.

Renee Roederer

May This Speak In Your Direction (Whatever Direction)

I’m on an Avett Brothers kick this week.

Here’s another song I really love. Sometimes, people write music, poetry, or prose that can speak into a large variety of life directions. This song is like this, so may it encourage you in whatever direction you need.

“If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected.
Decide what to be, and go be it.”

Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

There’s a darkness upon you that’s flooded in light
And in the fine print they tell you what’s wrong and what’s right
And it flies by day and it flies by night
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

Glimpses of Beauty

Sunflower Field Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures
Image Description: A field of sunflowers and blue sky with clouds above. Public domain image.

“I wonder, what can I share from my walk?” I asked myself.

Questions shape what we experience. We often see and perceive what’s before us in particular ways because we’ve asked asked a specific question.

While walking alone, I looked for beauty in my very-familiar-to-me neighborhood. Because I asked that question, I noticed new things. I wanted to take a photo of something beautiful and share it.

I saw some sunflowers. I’ve never walked in their direction before, even though they are in view from the route I travel nearly every time I walk through my neighborhood. I snapped a lovely image and shared it with several people.

Sometimes, we need small glimpses of beauty, and we shouldn’t underestimate the ways they can lift people’s spirits or help us feel connected to each other. I had not thought of this in a long time, but years ago, my friend called me and left a really lovely voicemail. With her permission, I shared it on my blog. I’m going to share it again.

She said,

“I feel so happy every time I have to drive this way because sunflowers are in full bloom now. We have these huge fields and fields and fields of sunflowers being grown as crops, and they’re just so pretty. Unfortunately, they’re not ever in a place where I can pull over and take a picture because they’re on the freeway, and there’s not much of a shoulder. But I wanted to tell you about that, because I thought that is something that would also bring you joy like it does me.”

Let’s share our little glimpses of beauty.

Renee Roederer

Kairos: Prince’s Super Bowl Performance

A few years ago, a video about Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl performance made a resurgence. (See above). People passed it around social media and remembered his great life and presence. And I love this video.

I cannot get enough of it as a moment.

What I mean is that some elements of the experience happened apart from anyone’s decision or control. Namely, lots and lots of rain. But Prince and his team also embraced those elements to synergize a moment of creativity, connection, and electrifying energy. At Super Bowl XLI, Prince sang ‘Purple Rain’ in an absolute downpour. It was magical.

Along with sections of the performance itself, the video above includes interviews with Half Time Show designers and managers. They agree this performance was truly  a remarkable moment. In their own words, they share what made them so impressed:

Prince embraced a situation of potential inconvenience,
and completely transformed it.

Prince demonstrated confidence on the stage,
and performed music written by others.

Prince rolled with a great deal of spontaneity,
and launched it into the world as if this is exactly what should happen.

It all leads to the finale. As Prince wraps up “The Best of You” by Foo Fighters, he flashes this foreshadowing look across his face that something special is about to happen. And then it does. Fireworks explode, and standing in the downpour, Prince captivates the stage even more as he starts to sing, “Purple Rain.” The crowd goes wild.

Then he pulls the crowd into the creation of the experience too. They sing along with him, and suddenly, everyone is participating in this strange yet magical moment. They are drenched but connected with wonderful energy.

It’s beautiful.

There’s an ancient Greek word for moments like these: Kairos.

Kairos is a type of time. It’s different the most common conception of time, which more clearly matches the Greek word chronos – time which marks things linearly i.e. one event leading naturally to the next, as the past leads to the present, etc.

But Kairos is a form of time which marks a significant moment.
Some might even call it a sacred moment.

Kairos is not measured by length in seconds, minutes, days, or years.
It isn’t about length or anything linear at all.
It’s about an experience.

Kairos an opportune moment where everything comes together.
It isn’t a measurement, but a recognition,
a realization that a moment is to be embraced and savored.
Kairos is a moment to be fully alive.

In those moments, what can else can we do but take it all in and say thank you?

That’s what one of the interviewees says in the video: “When he did do ‘Purple Rain,’ that was one of those times where things just work magically, and there’s nothing you can do but say, ‘Thank you.’”

Renee Roederer

Living Timescales

Image description: A circular clock with roman numerals; it’s surrounded by ripples as if it was dropped in water.


I’m pondering timescales and the ways that change is connected to time. If we want to participate in the creation of lasting change, we might…

. . . work for seven generations beyond ourselves, as the Haudenosaunee nations have taught us.

. . . feel through one day, for as Jesus says,”Do not worry about tomorrow. . . Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

. . . live fully in the present, as this time has been given to us for significant impact and enjoyment.

. . . expect that today’s work ripples meaningfully into the future, perhaps in valuable directions we cannot even anticipate.

. . . recognize that our liberation is bound up in the liberation of others, and our lives are intimately connected to the devastation and deliverance of the past and future.

. . . trust that collective intentions toward justice are truly moving in the direction of justice, even if we cannot see this at its completion, and that future expressions of justice call forward our work for today.

– Renee Roederer

Right Place, Right Time

Image Description: A rainbow stretches across a cloudy, evening sky above the trees.

I had the most incredible walk in my neighborhood.

I have hardly ever seen so many different, beautiful scenes in the sky in one night. If I looked in one direction, I saw a deep, glowing, gorgeous orange. Around a corner, I discovered swirling pinks and purples.

We also had a light rain. So my favorite moment happened when I turned a different corner. I suddenly saw a full rainbow. I wasn’t expecting it at all, and it was breathtaking.

I stood there and enjoyed it. Rather ephemeral, it only lasted about two minutes before fading away. Suddenly, the sky looked typical, as if it hadn’t even happened.

But I knew it did. And I smiled with gratitude to have seen it.

For the rest of the rainy walk, I found myself reflecting upon that. There are probably so many moments each day where things line up in remarkably beautiful and surprising ways – not only in nature itself but also among human beings. Those moments rarely make the news, but people know about them. Perhaps they smile with gratitude to have experienced them.

Sometimes, solidarity is about being in the right place at the right time and choosing to add deep connection to the moment.

Let’s look for opportunities to discover it.

– Renee Roederer

Time Travel

Time2
Image Description: A close up on a person’s eye; roman numerals surround it like a clock.

We carry time within us.

Sometimes, a simple smell, sound, or sight can transport us to another time –
a time long ago, but a time we still carry within ourselves.

Somehow, the present moment can bring the past right into focus. In the midst of this, we feel connections to previous moments and people who were a part of them. We even experience this in our bodies. The past makes itself known in our feelings and physical sensations.

All of this is true
in our very best memories and connections,
in our relationship to grief and loss, and
in our experiences of trauma.

Time travels so easily because we carry time within us. This is part of being human.

But we are not solely passive agents in the midst of this. We can make some choices about how we bring time to ourselves. We can build connections between moments, and these connections can give us ahas of insight. We can make space to feel our emotions. We can honor people who have died. We can allow time to speak to us and make new meaning for the present.

And

We can be a Mediator. We can facilitate communication between past and present — toward healing, toward insight, toward laughter, toward joy.

Then speaks to Now,
Now speaks to Then,
Older and younger versions of ourselves are in communion.

Renee Roederer

Insight is Tied to Urgency

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Image: Five light bulbs are hanging down in front of a blue background. From left to right, four of the lightbulbs are hanging straight down. The fifth and last lightbulb is swinging out as if it’s about to hit the remaining four and catalyze movement in them. Public domain image.

My friend and colleague Allen Brimer once said this phrase during a sermon:

“Insight is tied to urgency.”

Isn’t that true?

When insight comes —
when the fog lifts,
when the unknown reveals itself, or
when the possibility emerges —
there is urgency to
act,
make a change, and
(re)/align ourselves with particular priorities.

When we know differently, we are summoned to act differently.
And often, there is urgency to this.

And likewise, isn’t the reverse true as well?

“Urgency is tied to insight.”

Sometimes, insight is hidden until urgent conditions emerge.

Urgency arrives,
and we cannot stay in the same
frame of mind,
space of heart, or
orientation of action (or inaction).

We simply cannot stay where we are.
New insight comes.
It changes us.

These things are connected,
insight to urgency, and
urgency to insight.
They unfold layer upon layer with each other.

Renee Roederer