Well, Bless Your Heart, Son of Spinach

Image Description: Son of Spinach, a backyard groundhog, stands near a rose of sharon bush.

This story about my favorite groundhog ended up in my sermon yesterday. So I thought I’d share this little piece again. Enjoy!

Over the years, I’ve had many animal neighbors in the backyard, including a number of groundhogs. One of my favorites was a groundhog named Son of Spinach (at least, that was his name to me). Sadly, he died last year. He was quite a character.

He didn’t show up every day, but he had a den nearby, so from time to time, he would show up in the backyard. And to say something both true and alliterative, Son of Spinach was so overly skittish. At the smallest noise, he would run away to hide, sometimes under the deck. This quality felt like an endearing, funny, sad combo.

Occasionally in the mornings, Son of Spinach would feast on the backyard grass quite out-in-the-open. And if I made the slightest sound, like unlocking the screen door, he ran for cover under the deck. I found myself wondering, how long will he stay down there? How much recoup time is necessary for the popping sound of a lock? How long will it be before he feels safe again?

Then, sometimes, I’d think of us – that is, we humans. We hide and recoup too. Sometimes, we need alone time or sustained opportunities for self and community care.

But other times, we just doubt ourselves.

When it comes to the second, I hope we know there’s a whole out-in-the-open living opportunity for us.

– Renee Roederer


Image Description: A person with light skin, brown hair, and brown eyes looks into the camera while wearing a blue mask with small white flowers. Public domain image.

On August 7, a family held a wedding in the Millinocket-area of Maine, taking few if any precautions concerning COVID. As a result, 270 people contracted the virus.

And here’s the main thing I want to point out:

Because of these choices, 8 people died, and *none of them attended the wedding.*

Our choices impact other people’s outcomes — the quality of life that people are having and even the outcome of living itself. When we make risky choices while having the ability to choose otherwise (some don’t have that ability, and that upsets me too, but many of us do) we are denying people the liberty we say we’re trying to uphold. Liberty involves being able to make your own choices to live, correct?

Approximately 224,000 people have died from COVID, and yesterday in the U.S., we had the highest number of daily contracted cases that we’ve had since this virus started moving through our population.

Hospitals in Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Wisconsin are filling up beyond capacity. One of the members of my family is a physician in Colorado, and that hospital reached total capacity two days ago. And when people came in for acute care — for COVID or for something else — there was nowhere to send people because all the neighboring hospitals were filling too.

COVID is hard to control totally, yes, but the spread of this virus did not have to be and still does not have to be this broad and extensive. 224,000 people is a high number… But people are more than numbers. This is another matter entirely when this is about your Grandmother, or your Son, or your Best Friend.

And though 224,000 is a high number of lives lost, an even larger number of people are dealing with Long-Covid — sickness that is lasting months and seems to be causing long-term damage to respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological systems.

And as COVID runs through our population, the economy is stalled and more people are losing jobs. Because healthcare is often tied to employment, people’s healthcare is now at risk during a pandemic.

No matter how deeply we’re impacted personally, all our lives are disrupted. The longer we refuse to think collectively, the longer this persists with all its damage…

If we care about liberty, we have to care about the liberty of people beyond ourselves.

Renee Roederer

Election Questions

Image Description: A drop falls into water and creates a ripple effect.
Public domain image.

Some questions for reflection:

— Do you have a voting plan?

— Do you have a plan for how you will act, mobilize, and care for neighbors if this election is contested? and/or if there is election interference of some kind, or disinformation, throwing the results into dispute?

I know that people are carrying a lot of anxiety around the next couple of weeks. Support for us all in this.

It’s helpful, I think, to make some plans ahead of time for these questions, so that we are empowered, organized, and connected to each other (even if socially distanced right now) in care and protection.

Also, we can’t individually do all the things that will be needed, so…

Where is your deepest “yes,” deepest help, or deepest contribution?

What’s your best role?

What are you best at doing?

What can you best offer?

What can you best provide?

What resources do you have?

What connections do you have to other people?

How do you connect these with what other people are doing and building?

Renee Roederer

The Simple Refrains of Complex Prayers

Image: The paved pathway of the B2B Trail. Trees with brown and red leaves are on the left side of the pathway. Photo, Renee Roederer.

Anne Lamotte wrote a book entitled, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. The title is pretty explanatory: We’re constantly expressing these three movements of thought — need, gratitude, and wonder. Whether we choose to address them to a spiritual source or just think and feel them inwardly, these three expressions are foundational to our lives.

Yesterday, as I continued my daily hike on the B2B trail, I let my thoughts and feelings move wherever they needed to go. I felt delight, grief, curiosity, and fatigue at different points on that walk.

I realized that I too was constantly in a prayerful state of,

Maybe it’s helpful to become even more conscious of feeling, thinking, and expressing these. They connect us with ourselves too.

Renee Roederer

Image Description: The sun shines through the bright orange leaves of a tree.
Photo, Renee Roederer.


Image Description: A tree within a forrest with visible roots. Public domain image.

Each of us is unique and particular, distinct and differentiated,
(and these are great gifts)

But in every moment,
each person is a We.

Every single one of us is a Collective —
we are Plural
not only in a myriad of
memories, and
each as plentiful and contradictory as the next —

but also

We represent internalized others.
We are a nexus of relationships, embodied.

Who is always rooted in Whose.

Whose —
not possession or ownership.
not fate or determinism.

Whose —
collective calling,
sacred possibility.

Sacred actuality.
We only need to awaken to it.

Renee Roederer

Curiosity and Delight

Image Description: The Huron River with leaves of various colors along both sides.
Photo, Renee Roederer

For the last week, bit by bit, I’ve been walking the Border to Border Trail — otherwise known as the B2B — throughout my county. From start to finish, it’s 70 miles long, so I suspect I’ll be walking it for a good while!

Most of it follows the Huron River. I’ve enjoyed this new endeavor throughly. Right in the peak of autumn colors in Michigan, I’ve captured many beautiful images and shared them on social media.

When you slow yourself to a walking pace, as opposed to driving through town quickly, you notice many details you would otherwise miss. But my favorite experience has involved finding entire stretches of my county I didn’t know existed. When I’ve discovered them along the way, I’ve felt so much delight.

Image Description: A dirt and gravel pathway in Frog Island Park in Ypsilanti, MI. There is grass to the right and trees on the left with yellow, red, orange, and green leaves.
Photo, Renee Roederer.

I’ve found three, totally-unknown-to-me stretches of nature in my county. I suspect I’ll discover many more.

Image Description: Pine cones piled together.
Photo, Renee Roederer.

In the midst of this, I’ve also felt so much curiosity. I’m deeply in the moment, eager to explore these new settings.

Image Description: A close up of red leaves and branches.

And I wonder…

… how might I apply the same level of presence, curiosity, and exploration to my daily routines and work?

… how might I explore new experiences inside buildings and with people after this pandemic eases?

Renee Roederer

Image Description: A tree with bright, yellow leaves and a blue sky above.
Photo, Renee Roederer.

Hearing Our Names

Image Description: A black and white name tag sticker says, “Hello, my name is” with a blank space to write a name.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear some folks encourage a particular person, and I noticed that something kept happening quite naturally. Instead of simply saying, 

“We’re with you. . . We believe in you. . . We know you can do this. . .”

they also kept adding the person’s name:

“We’re with you, [Name]. . . We believe in you, [Name]. . . We know you can do this, [Name].”

Throughout all of this, I was reminded of how powerful names can be. In the context of expressing love, gratitude, or encouragement, names themselves can be words of deep affection.

After I had already been pondering this, in a different context, a friend said that she wanted to hear her name more. She felt like people hadn’t said her name as often lately, a name she shares with a relative she lost years ago.

Perhaps somewhere within us, we’re all longing to be addressed by name. This sacred process of speaking and hearing names comes from a place of being known and honored as the ones we are. We are seen and cared for in all our particularities.

When addressing others with love, gratitude, and encouragement, I’m going to start speaking names much more often and much more intentionally.

– Renee Roederer