The Elders Came Bearing Gifts of Tea and Scones

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Hooboy, I did not feel great last week. I had a number of wonderful things in my days, but physically, I became sick in a way that just seemed to plummet more and more throughout the week. I can’t remember the last time I felt quite like that. On Saturday, things began to turn around. I had the most wonderful springboard for it:

S and J came over, bearing gifts of tea and scones.

We had already planned this. Well, sort of. We had put out some feelers to the Michigan Nones and Dones community the week before, wondering if we might have a potluck together, but I didn’t hear much interest. And feeling the way I did, I didn’t follow through much beyond that.

But S just picked up on it all. Somehow, she sensed that I was feeling really badly. “Should J and I come over and take care of our Renee?”

I said yes to that, and they really did! With so much intention, they brought tea and blueberry scones that they had personally made. I extended the spread with coffee, fruit, and fresh tomatoes from the garden. And for two hours, our conversation danced around laughter, wisdom, and personal sharing.

It’s amazing how community relationships can impact our bodies. This moment was nothing short of good medicine.

This week, I am totally back on the up and up.

Grateful for elders.
Grateful for friends.
Grateful for tables of food.
Grateful for care.

Grateful to be back in the land of the living this week!

Renee Roederer

The Sign Holder

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I was walking in downtown Ann Arbor when I crossed the street and encountered a man holding a sign.

AMERICA

Welcomes

IMMIGRANTS

Including my

ANCESTORS

I began to pass by him and a made a round of applause gesture in affirmation of what he was doing. But then, I decided to stop. I requested his permission for a photo and asked if I could share about this on my blog. “Sure!” he said enthusiastically.

His name is Kent Bourland, and it was wonderful to take a little time to get to know him. I asked him, “What motivates you to do this?”

He said, “I’m out here almost every day. And I will be out here almost every day until all the migrant children are reunited with their parents. Every single one.” Some of his other signs address these separations directly.

I asked him why he chose to act in this way. Arguably, in response to his sign, America isn’t welcoming of immigrants right now, at least on the whole. He said that he wants to counter the narratives behind that.

“You know, I decided to do this because I got tired of feeling like there was nothing I could do.” He found something he could do uniquely, and in doing so, he has started a lot of conversations and encouraged more forms of action.

I noticed he was wearing a suit. “Gracious, you must be really hot,” I said, also noticing that water bottles were sticking out of his suit pockets.

“Yeah, I want to come dressed like this because I don’t want anyone to write me off saying, ‘Oh, he’s just some hippie.'” Kent Bourland is outside holding signs, building empathy and changing perspectives.

“You know, I decided to do this because I got tired of feeling like there was nothing I could do.”

I wonder what we can uniquely do.

Renee Roederer

A Table Made Messy With Names

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It’s still August, and I want to continue doing some storytelling throughout the month. As I think about that, I find myself pondering this… Sometimes, the small stories of our day carry a great deal of meaning. I’m learning to trust these and and more.

And by that, I mean that small, storied moments can carry us through when we’re looking for direction. They can give us sustenance when we’re experiencing a time of stress. Part of the trust involves expecting their arrival, even if you can’t predict which stories will show up.

Yesterday morning, I was finishing up my preparation for leading worship. All summer, I’ve been filling in at Northside Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor (this opportunity has been such a gift) as their pastor and my good friend is experiencing a well-deserved Sabbatical. Just before leaving the house, an idea popped into my mind, and I decided to follow it. On my way out the door, I put some paper and colored pencils in a bag.

I had prepared a sermon based on this beautiful text from Paul,

“But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we were determined to share with you, not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”
– 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

We left some space during that sermon to voice aloud the names of people who have become very dear to us. People who have formed us… People whom we’ve participated in forming… as we’re all forming each other all the time.

But after voicing these names aloud, we had a time where we wrote down these names and placed them on the communion table. We made that table very messy with names! People turned the pages down, but you can see how many names were written, and with colored pencils strewn about too.

This is a small story that carries a lot of meaning.

Renee Roederer  I’ll be writing about small stories all week!

The Joy of Small Stories

I’ve been thinking a great deal about stories and have decided to tell some here during the month of August. It’s easy for us to recall stories that are especially hilarious or meaningful, but sometimes, the small stories sustain us in special ways.

Like last Saturday.

I was at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, when I saw a student I know, working at one of the booths.

“Wanna paint me?” I heard.

“Okay!” I responded with some enthusiasm.

This student had a lot of face paint and wanted me to create whatever I’d like. I said, “I’m not a very good painter.”

“That’s okay,” the student responded. “You can make whatever you want. It’s just about connection and bonding.”

That was a sweet thing to say and a great way to frame it. So I painted, and we connected and bonded.

This is the joy of small stories.

Renee Roederer

The Band of Our Dreams

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I was once in a band where no one played any instruments.

And I find this to be equal parts hilarious, precious, and ridiculous. Above all, I find this to be so middle school.

Well, to be exact, so junior high.

I didn’t go to a middle school. In the quirky-named town of Floyds Knobs, Indiana, our elementary schools went through 6th grade. This placed 7th and 8th graders together in the junior high, which was located in the same building as the high school, but separated enough so that we youngins wouldn’t be too bullied, intimidated, or enamored by our older counterparts.

We lived there in limbo between younger childhood and older adolescence. Just dorky and free. Just awkward and full of ridiculous dreams. Like starting a band when no one played any instruments.

We did this in all seriousness by the way. That’s what makes it equal parts hilarious, precious, and ridiculous. D and H, two of my closest friends, and I joined together in the hopes of starting a band, writing our own music, and really becoming great.

Are you ready for our band name?

Because it’s also pretty ridiculous.

Our band’s name was just one, single word….

Wretch.

Yes. We were Wretch — not a cover band, mind you, but a band that wrote its own stuff. And true, none of us knew how to play any instruments… But we would! We would learn! In fact, we even chose assignments. D would play drums, H would play rhythm guitar, and I would play the bass. H and I would split the vocals.

We were so earnest about this.

Oh, also, none of us had money to buy these instruments… But we would! We would find a way!

Instead, for six months to a year — I don’t remember the timing, exactly — Wretch wrote song lyrics. That is something we actually did do. In the evenings, the three of us would write them individually in our own respective houses, then hand them to each other in class or while passing each other in the hallways.

And none of these songs had actual melodies. We would wait to write those when we could play the instruments. I mean, first things first, right?

But why not go ahead and write down lyrical masterpieces? Why not pen a prolific number of songs as potent and powerful as Renee’s own creations, such as the goofy, nonsense song entitled, “Cumulus Cloud” or the remarkably emo classic entitled, “Freak”? (I still have these along with many others. They’re in a folder in storage. I’m not telling you where.)

I suppose at some point, this absurd dream of ours just faded. Only a mere couple of years later, we could laugh hard about our go-nowhere, no-music, barely-teenage, only-song-lyrics band.

But for a while, that dream was alive.

And forever and always, that dream will whisper our name.

Wretch.

Renee Roederer

Playground Bragging Rights

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What sorts of things do little kids brag about on the elementary school playground?

“I can jump off of this swing!”

“If I race you to that pole, I bet I’ll win!”

“My Mom gave me stickers!”

“I have Lunchables in my lunchbox today!” (Those were so cool in my elementary years).

But me? Well…

“I’m Abraham Lincoln’s 8th cousin!”

Yeah, that was different. And also a bit over-specific. But it’s true. I am. I actually am Abraham Lincoln’s 8th cousin.

This was a point of pride among the Fosters. It came mostly from my Grandfather Jim Foster, who was Abe’s 6th cousin (Ooh! Even closer!) Papaw Jim was an orphan (there’s a very sad story there) and I think this knowledge served as a source of satisfaction that he came from someone as great as a President. I actually had no idea about my ethnicity or family tree until I did 23andMe this year. If any of my relatives knew about these, they never shared them with me. But Abe? Oh yeah, we’ve got that one, single family tree branch that goes straight to him. I also trust that it’s legit.

So standing on the playground in 1st grade, I thought I would assert my special belonging as well.

“I’m Abraham Lincoln’s 8th cousin.”

But no one would let me inhabit this truth about myself or let me have this satisfaction. Oh, 1st graders and their pre-operational thinking! (See Piaget) They could only say the exact same sentence to me over and over. And they believed what they were saying!

“Nuh uh, cause you’d be dead.”

But you all… I’m right here.

I just kept thinking, “I don’t think you all know how cousins or time work.” I didn’t say this, of course. I was just a little sad that they didn’t believe me. And that I didn’t get my own, specific-to-me bragging rights.

Well, earlier this week, the gloatiest President of all time tweeted (because, of course he did…) that his approval ratings among Republicans are higher than any President in history, including “honest Abe.” Of course, there were no approval polls during the lifetime of Abraham Lincoln.

But most of all, I’m pleased to tell you that when an informal Jimmy Kimmel poll asked people, “Who’s the better President? Lincoln or Trump?” our playground Bragger in Chief was trounced. And by whom?

MY 8TH COUSIN, ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

Hooyeah.

With fervent bragging,
Renee Roederer