Time Travel

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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

“This is the Real World”

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Image Description: A communion set with a cup, pitcher, and plate of bread is on my dining room table. The set was created by Karla Johnston-Krase, and it has beautiful colors of red, orange, yellow, and brown.

If you would have asked me last year, or frankly, at any point in my life, if I would have foreseen occasions when I might break bread, pour wine, and practice communion over a video conferencing platform called Zoom, the scenario would have never crossed my mind.

But I did do this for the first time with a church community today, and it invigorated me. There’s something kind of odd about everyone being in their own separate places, providing whatever bread, juice, or wine they have to the moment. And yet, that feels beautiful too, like little loaves and fish multiplied into a feast of meaning (fish metaphorically, of course, unless someone brought some without me knowing!)

Over the last couple of years, my communion prayers have become remarkably mystic in their language and imagery. Wherever we are, we are connected… frankly, to everything. All the lives and loves that have preceded us… all eras of time… all of the earth… all the cosmos… all sacred meaning… all the ways that God, The Sacred, has shown up and will show up. And all of this becomes revealed in incarnation… Jesus journeying with us and accompanying the many outcasts of every time, revealing a love that threatens power… the time and place of this specific meal… this bread and this cup… this gathered community.

This Zoomunity for Sacred Zoomunion.

Okay, that’s silly, but is that not incarnational too? So specific to this time, these needs, and these people before us?

All I know is that when we shared visions, words, and dreams like this today, I felt fully alive. And I felt a lot of love made real.

And I thought about something that David Nelson Roth used to say. He is my most formative predecessor, a Balcony Person among that Great Cloud of Witnesses that surrounds us in such a meal.

He, too, a pastor, said this,

“Sometimes people think we gather together for worship to escape the real world. But this is the real world.”

Together, in this communal setting, we are invited to ponder what is most real, most true, and most sacred — what undergirds our living and calls it to traverse pathways we haven’t fully realized.

This Love.

This Love is the real world, inviting our living in its direction.

Renee Roederer

What’s the Opposite of Kairos?

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Image Description: A blue clock with black clock hands, surrounded by a distorted image of a city skyline, encircling the clock.

What’s the opposite of Kairos?

This question keeps swirling around in my mind and heart.

When I think about the vision of my Christian tradition and my own mystic, spiritual leanings, I love the multifaceted concept of time and the ways that time impacts reality and how we make meaning.

So what’s Kairos?

In the Greek New Testament, there are two words for time, and they have different meanings (I’m going somewhere we this).

— One is ‘chronos.’ This is the linear way of thinking of time, and it’s the way we most conceive of time as well. We find ourselves in a specific moment, surrounded by a sequence of minutes, hours, days, years, and more.

— Then, there’s ‘kairos.’ This is a beautiful concept. Kairos is fulfillment-time breaking into our everyday, mundane lives. If we were to think about what is most true, most beautiful, most abundant, most hopeful, most connectional and most fulfilling — the ways things should be — that is Kairos time. And there are moments when we marvel at how things have come together or how they reveal what is most full and beautiful. In this framework, the most sacred possibility is a unit of time that breaks into our chronos, everyday linear living. It is a moment in which fulfillment manifests itself.

But what’s the opposite of Kairos?

Because do we feel that sometimes?

I do.
I feel it right now in these days that I am living.
I feel it right now these days that we are living.

If Kairos is the realest-real, the truest-true, and the-way-things-should-be made manifest,

…aren’t there also moments when the non-real, the falsest-false, and the-way-things-shouldn’t-be are made manifest? Do these not also take form? Do these not also break into our chronos, everyday linear living?

Of course they do.

Falsehood made manifest.

Non-reality (false narratives, untruths, distortions) taking shape and entering our daily reality to harmful effect.

Is this a form of time?

Untruth and what-shouldn’t-be manifested to real effect, shaping our everyday existence.

How do we grieve the times when what-shouldn’t-be breaks into our reality and… is?

Renee Roederer

It’s Okay to Need

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Image from Allyson Dineen, @notesfromyourtherapist, shared with permission. The text is embedded in the post.

A great deal of cultural messaging says to us,

“It’s wrong to need.”

“It’s shameful to need.”

“It’s selfish to have needs.”

“It’s embarrassing to need other people.”

But shouldn’t we be suspicious? So frequently, aren’t the cultural forces and systems of greed and power, along with their benefactors, the loudest messengers in these directions?

Let’s take in this quote from Allyson Dineen (@notesfromyourtherapist on Instagram):

“Growing up with the message that ‘you’re not supposed to need other people’ is going to require a TON of shame to maintain — since it’s going against millions of years of human evolution in a species with a nervous system built exactly FOR: safety, connection, and relationship.”

What do you think?

Renee Roederer

Support

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Hello, Dear Friends! Thank you for visiting Smuggling Grace and reading my daily posts here.  I’m committed to sharing my written content free of charge, and I hope that these pieces provide some hope and encouragement during challenging times. Once per month, for those who would like to support this work, I offer opportunities to contribute.

If you would like to become a monthly patron, I have a Patreon Page. Feel free to check it out. Or, if you’d like to give a one-time gift, you can do so here.

Imagine… with a small donation, you can provide the funds for a highly isolated, pandemic person to have Chipotle delivered joyfully to her house this weekend. Do you know how much this writer loves Chipotle delivered to my house?

Thanks for reading and commenting!

The Spiritual Practice of Community

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Image Description: A orange paper chain of people holding hands; light shines behind them.

This summer, the Michigan Nones and Dones community is exploring spiritual values and practices, and we’re applying them to commitments of anti-racism. We’re also asking ourselves: As we think about our religious/spiritual upbringing, what did we learn about these values? What do we want to shed? What do we want to retain? What do we want to deepen or take on in a new way?

We recently held a conversation about the spiritual practice of community. We asked, “How is community a spiritual practice?”

With permission, I am sharing our answers.

As a spiritual practice, community is…

1) a set of relationships where we can discuss ideas,
2) a set of relationships that “love us into being,”
3) something we are connected to whether it involves physical gathering or not,
4) something greater than ourselves over time to which we belong,
5) a gift to which we tend and into which we invest,
6) a space in which we can receive and always bring what we have to offer,
7) a discipline that takes work and intention,
8) a relational space where we can lean on each other,
9) a relational space where we are real with each other and can expose our pains,
10) a relational space where we can be ourselves, bring what we can bring, and learn from each other,
11) a space for artistic creation and expression, affinity, bonds, and transformation,
12) a resource space where we can use our gifts, skills, and passions,
13) a place where we are wanted,
14) a web of care where we build kinship and choose each other.

What would you add?

Renee Roederer

 

The Spiritual Practice of Abundance

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Image Description: An expansive field of golden wheat with a blue sky and clouds above. Public domain image.

This summer, the Michigan Nones and Dones community is exploring spiritual values and practices, and we’re applying them to commitments of anti-racism. We’re also asking ourselves: As we think about our religious/spiritual upbringing, what did we learn about these values? What do we want to shed? What do we want to retain? What do we want to deepen or take on in a new way?

We recently held a conversation about the spiritual practice of abundance. We asked, “How is abundance a spiritual practice?”

With permission, I am sharing our answers.

As a spiritual practice, abundance is…

1) a mindset of possibility,
2) a sense that community can be expansive,
3) vulnerability that leads toward freedom,
4) love and the overflowing feelings of caring for one another,
5) expansive support,
6) the Holy Spirit that pervades everything in our world in a limitless way,
7) receiving and receptiveness,
8) resources that should be shared and can be shared,
9) connections to gratitude,
10) a sense of being together, including being together while we go through difficulty,
11) awareness of the challenge that some have less than what they need and how we need to change that,
12) recognition and noticing of what we have even in the midst of challenge and hardships,
13) expansive belonging and chosen family,
14) a reconsideration of what is actually needed in our lives versus wasn’t isn’t needed,
15) a connection to creativity, and
16) openness to using language in new and creative ways.

What would you add? And as you think about abundance in these directions, how can these move us toward anti-racist thought, imagination, and action?

Renee Roederer

A Reflection on Joshua Trees

While taking a walk, I spotted a Charlie Brown tree in one of the yards.

And by Charlie Brown tree, I mean a tree that looks rather pitiful and sad, like the famous and beloved Christmas Tree in the television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The tree grabbed my attention, and I paused there on the sidewalk to gaze at it for just a moment. I felt like I was honoring some kind of grief, likely because I am aware of a great deal of grief taking place right now in our world. I honored that tree, and hopefully, it didn’t mind that I snapped a photo (nor its inside humans).

There it was, bent over. I wondered how it had come to grow that way.

I wondered how it would continue to grow.
I wanted to add my acknowledgment.
“I see you.”

I wanted to add my hope.
“You’re beloved.”

Of course, this was just one tree in one yard that had tapped into larger realities beyond one yard. But an interesting thing kept happening as I walked through that neighborhood. More trees continued to grab my attention. Interesting and intriguing trees. . . I wondered what their stories were. How and why did their branches bend, stretch, snap, or grow just as they did? How did each one get to be a tree in its unique way?

As I continued to walk, other trees demonstrated grief and loss as well.


This tree has had its branches and leaves cut off.

Then one tree made me smile with its eccentric confidence.

It’s curvy!

Its house had a hopscotch game lovingly sketched onto the sidewalk. I looked over my shoulder first, but I won’t lie to you. With no one around, I hopped across it with eccentric confidence.

The entire experience of walking through these visual and imaginary tree narratives brought me back to an experience several years earlier. Before moving to Ann Arbor, I lived in Southern California, and one weekend, I had the occasion to visit Joshua Tree National Park. Until entering that place, I had never seen a single Joshua Tree, let alone an entire park of them. When I saw them together in one place, I was delighted, and I could not stop giggling in their presence. Instantly, I felt as though I had entered a Doctor Seussian reality. Like any of the trees in my Ann Arbor neighborhood, one Joshua Tree might grab my attention and express its uniqueness. But as I entered the Joshua Tree neighborhood, there was a sudden proclamation of particularity.

These trees were all shaped so differently. Some reached their branches upward in ways that seemed most typical for a tree.

This tree has its branches upward. The sun is setting. Public domain image.

Some branches grew entirely downward.

A tree in the foreground has two primary branches pointed downward.

Some trees appeared to be windswept, but had actually grown that way. “My left side is my good side,” they seemed to say.


This tree in the foreground is growing to the left! Public domain image.

“Well, I prefer my right side,” others would reply.

This tree in the foreground is growing to the right! Public domain image.

The branches of others burst with growth in all directions once, reminding me of the snakes in mythical Medusa’s sinister hairdo.

This trees branches are growing in many directions. Public domain image.

To see all of these together. . . It was nothing short of hilarious to me! And it was a freeing kind of hilarity — a delightful proclamation of particularity.

This delight piqued my natural curiosity. How could all of these be Joshua Trees, while each tree was so dramatically different in the presence of another? How could they be the same plant species yet so unique? I wondered how I could understand these differences.

Could it be genetics? Clearly genetics did not mold them uniformly or limit the directions of their growth. Could it be the environment? This might be true if they were scattered in different locations, but in this park, they were in one place with the very same environment that was granting them the freedom to be sculpted in a variety of ways.

So naturally, I did a Google search. And that’s how I came to learn the beautiful process by which Joshua Trees grow.

For the first few decades of their lives, Joshua Trees simply grow upward with no branches at all. Then at some point — who can predict it? — each Joshua Tree does something it has never done before. It produces a blossom. It’s monumental, and it’s beautiful.

A joshua tree blossom. Public domain image.

But that’s just the beginning of a new process of growth. When that blossom falls off, it leaves dried stalk behind, and from that stalk, a new branch begins to grow in an entirely new direction. It can literally jut out in the quirkiest of ways.

And the process continues. . . Eventually, this branch too will blossom. And when it blossoms, another flower will fall to the ground, allowing the space for an additional branch to burst forward with its own unique angle in mind. It goes on and on.

But here’s the thing that really grabbed me —
Each branch is made of the very same type of material as the trunk.

It appears as if each branch expresses newness, yet is connected to the whole.

I thought about all of this again as I walked through my Ann Arbor neighborhood, recalling the stories of grief in our world.

Grief invites the compassion to pause and acknowledge, “I see you. I may not understand fully, but honor how painful this really is.”

And it invites the compassion to pause and add our hope-filled reminders, “You’re beloved. Don’t forget that truth no matter what.”

Witnesses to grief should never try to clean it all up or dismiss its impact. We must be present to human lives in such a way that we recognize their authentic pains and sadnesses. But with the best sensitivity, witnesses can also add a powerful reminder that the story isn’t over. Our lives, even with its unexpected twists and turns, constitute a delightful proclamation of particularity. Sometimes the possibilities surprise us.

Joshua Trees always remind me that the story isn’t over.

And so, to the bent-over tree in my neighborhood —
I wonder how you will continue to grow.
I add my acknowledgment.

“I see you.”

And to you, I add my hope.

“You’re beloved.”

 

“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 recently 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

Our Lives Begin Before Our Lives

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I love this photo of a darling, smiling 2nd grader. She’s Ruby Mae Foster, my Grandmother, when she was just 8 years old.

My Grandmother died at the beginning of 2018. We called her Memaw, one of the silliest sounding Grandma names in the lexicon of Grandma names — though of course, it was not said with silliness but affection. Thankfully, she lived a long, full life. She was partnered with Jim Foster, my Grandfather (Papaw) for many years, though sadly, he died much sooner. She had two children and four grandchildren, and now, she has four great-grandchildren in the world.

I recently found this photo of Ruby Mae once more, and then, I found myself thinking,

Our lives begin before our lives.

I would not, and I could not exist as the person I am, had this 8 year old also not lived. In part, I come from her. And there is a whole period of her life, a whole historical period, to which I am connected (1933-1982) simply because she lived it before I was born. My life is inextricably linked to these things.

And this is true all the time — yes, in relatives with whom we share DNA, but also, so many others. A whole myriad of humans shape us and continue to shape us.

Our lives always begin before our lives.

I like to wonder sometimes. . .

Who shaped the people who shaped me,
Who mentored the people who mentored me,
Who gave me life in some way before my life ever started, and
How do these people show up in my living?
Perhaps in deeper ways than I am even aware?

Our lives begin before our lives.

And the lives of others are beginning in ours. We’ll meet some of them, but many, we’ll never know about. Individually and collectively, our lives are shaping the particularities that will shape others. It’s not totally deterministic – a good thing, after all, as some particularities are hard. But this is deeply connective. Deeply creative. I think this is a mysterious, marvelous thing.

Renee Roederer

 

The Journey Out of Ignorance — How Scales Fell From My Eyes on My Own Racism (MaryBeth Ingram)

Image Description: A road is leading toward sunlight. Trees line the road on either side. Public domain image.

 

I’m grateful to invite my friend, MaryBeth Ingram, to share a story with us today as a guest blogger. I appreciate her candor, insight, and compassion toward the work of anti-racism. Thank you, MaryBeth.

 

It was January 2017, just a few months after starting to attend at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Westerville Ohio, when I joined a Wednesday night study group on anti-racism. Frankly, I don’t remember thinking that I had a lot to learn. I was simply curious.

We were led by Cherie Bridges Patrick, a woman of color with a PhD in Leadership and a Masters in Social Work and who possesses a deep faith. Her husband was part of the group. Cherie began to reveal parts of racist history that were new to me. In fact, I wasn’t sure I even agreed with some of what she was presenting. You see, I was a good white person, raised in a good white family, living in a good white neighborhood. I was skeptical but willing to listen and learn.

 

As part of our study, Cherie suggested we all go online and take the Harvard implicit bias test (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html). Sure, why not! If you have ever taken such a test, you know how these work.  It’s natural to try to outsmart the these tests if for no other reason than to make sure you get a good result. I was full of confidence as I began. I thought I was doing great. So imagine my surprise when my results came out “you have a strong preference for white.”

At our next session, Cherie asked if anyone had taken the test and I volunteered that I had and also confessed my results. I was truly mortified. I was embarrassed. But no sooner had I said to the group, “The test showed I have a strong preference for white” than Cherie’s husband forward looking straight at me and said, “Don’t worry MaryBeth, so do I.” Amazement stacked on amazement! And that’s when real learning began for me.

Like scales falling from my eyes I listened as he went on to describe growing up as a Black kid, and even now as a Black man, came the messages he internalized – messages of white superiority, the same ones that formed me but with entirely different consequences to our psychesHe went on to share his own story of being Black in America and the impact of those ‘inferior’ messages that he learned, absorbed, and lived with most of his life.  I don’t know how to pass along the visceral understanding that began to take place as Cherie’s husband shared, and has continued to this day to share his lived experience with me. Cherie and her husband are ‘allies of color’ who purposely enter unsafe white spaces to inform and educate. Only recently have some, not all, white people discovered how harmful it is to ask a person of color to “teach them” about racism. You are asking people to relive pain for your benefit!  What a perfect example of white superiority!  Instead of me doing my own work, you teach me. We are used to having things delivered and not having to go digging for it ourselves.
 

One more moment in my journey … another embarrassing moment and one I fought, so much so that the moment has never disappeared from my memory.  In 2005 I used the phrase “black as sin”.  A person called me on it, “MaryBeth, that’s racist.”  My first reaction was dismay – how did we veer off to that?  So I just said, “What?”  It was further explained to me that what I had said was racist and what I heard was a judgment, “You are racist” and so that was my response, “but I’m not racist.  That’s just an expression.  My mother used it and I’ve heard it all my life.  It’s just an expression like white as snow” said my unaware self. My kind friend proceeded to ask me how I would feel if every morning when I looked in the mirror to comb my hair or brush my teeth I heard the message, “black as sin”.  How would I, he asked, feel to be associated with sin because of the color of my skin?  I really didn’t get it.  I still felt accused of being a racist.  But that exchange has never left me.  I often used it as proof of how silly my friend was and how he called me a racist.  That’s how hard whiteness stood its ground in me.  By the way, another way to say “white as snow” is “pure as the driven snow” – now hold that up to the light.  Not pretty.  White equals pure.  Black equals sin.

There are so many layers to my journey. As Robin DiAngelo said in a recent interview, “I can’t say I’m ‘woke’ – I’m waking up.”  She’s right … I’m waking up and I never expect to be ‘woke’ if for no other reason than my lived experience can never be Black. I will work every day to learn and understand more, call out racism and a privilege system that advantages some while purposely withholding privilege to others. Dismantling that system is the goal.

-MaryBeth Ingram