Intention Words

love

Image Description: A fountain pen is lying on a piece of paper. The word Love is written in cursive in blue ink.

Perhaps there’s a word that keeps emerging for you. It might want your attention. It might want to be felt, or expressed, or acted upon.

Or if nothing comes to mind immediately, maybe we can ask for it: If we quiet ourselves down and ask for what we need, a word might arrive or even cry out in our thinking or feeling.

How can this word be a framework for this challenging time we’re living? This week? This day? Right at this moment? A word to be felt, or expressed, or acted upon?

Over the weekend, folks from my family chose these words:

Fun
Joy
Resilience
Return
Create
Clarity
Calm
Compassion
Energy
Focus

And each day, we each take a moment to think, ponder, pray, envision, or energize those words for each other. We hope these words for each other.

What would you choose? What word do you need?

How can we think, ponder, pray, envision, or energize that word for you?

Feel free to share your word.

Renee Roederer

 

Finding the Intersection of Calling

Smuggling Grace

Image Description: A busy street intersection with crosswalks, street lights, buildings, and pedestrians.

I find Frederick Buechner to be an especially quotable author. He just has so many good things to say, and over the years, I’ve passed on a lot of his words to people. In particular, I’ve shared this quote with a lot of college students who are doing vocational discernment:

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

This is a statement that is helpful to college students and young adults who are pondering vocation and calling. But also, whatever our age, we’re continually discerning these things all the time. Perhaps this framing is particularly important in this moment we’re living, this consideration of where deep gladness and deep need meet.

The needs and injustices around us are enormous, and we may be grappling with…

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We Are That House

This week, I created a number of blog post reflections based on Psalm 23. Today, I’m posting the sermon reflection I prepared for Northside Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

After our worship time on Skype, I also spoke it again on Facebook Live. I’m sending along that along if might like to see a face and hear a voice during this topsy-turvy time! (If you don’t see the video embedded below, click here

Part 6:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

Psalm 23 is a psalm of presence and comfort.

I found myself grateful last week when I looked to see which scriptures were listed in the Revised Common Lectionary for Sunday, March 22. There it was: Psalm 23. It seemed to be right on time. We’re living a collective moment disruption, concern, and large-scale change. We need a psalm of presence and comfort.

We also just need… presence and comfort. We need these from each other. Gathered in our various places across technology, we invite each other to Beyond-Presence and a Within-Presence that many of us call God. In this God, there is a love deep and abiding, even larger than disruption, concern, and large-scale change. And without diminishing any part of how challenging these are — they are real and upsetting; after all, they are disruption, concern and large-scale change —we may need to remind each other that love shows up even there. God shows up there. We want to show up there with our love with and for each other, with and for our neighbors.

Psalm 23 tends to show up right there — right in these kinds of realities. Psalm 23 is often read at the bedsides of those who are sick or dying. It’s read in memory care nursing homes, and sometimes, people with dementia are still able to recite it along with others, because they put it to memory so long ago, and it’s in a deep place where they can recall it. Psalm 23 is read in times of war. It’s read at funerals. It’s been recited internally in people’s thoughts, awake in the middle of the night during high stress and insomnia.

It would be remarkable to know the full history of this Psalm — all the places where it has been read, all the languages, and especially, all of the specific situations it has spoken into. I would like to know that. I am sure many of us have specific stories, and specific situations we would lift up from our own lives of the lives of loved ones. Maybe it might help to bring those people and those moments and those loves to mind too. We can invite them to provide presence and comfort for us.

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.

The Psalm begins this way.

I don’t want the beginning of this psalm to be a mere platitude in any way. We know that some *are* in want. That was already true before COVID-19 ever came on the scene. It’s true now in even deeper ways as the virus disrupts our typical rhythms, and some find themselves suddenly without work or resources. This is real, and we may need to grieve these changes. But is this not precisely the kind of place where love should show up? Where God should bring presence and comfort, and where God can stir up our presence and comfort to address these needs tangibly?

This week in Washtenaw County, we TP-ed each other’s houses. This is true, but in a totally different way than that phrase usually suggests. Local organizers started a Facebook page called Washtenaw County Mutual Aid + Resources. If you’re a Facebook user, I suggest checking that out. In that space, people are helping one another to address a variety of needs.

It was beautiful to watch this happen this week. In that space, some are letting people know about public resources and how to access them. Some are advocating for sick leave. Some are requesting Venmo, PayPal, and CashApp accounts of those who are losing incomes due to cancelations and job losses, and they’re sending money along.

And you guessed it: We started a thread that invites people to pass toilet paper along to those who need it. We are TPing each other’s houses.

In my faith tradition, there are stories about Jesus feeding crowds of 4,000 to 5,000 people from a mere five loves of bread and two fish. These enormous crowds had been following him and assembling together to request healing and to listen to him teach. As you might remember, the disciples wanted to send them away to surrounding towns to buy food, but Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.”

Maybe right then, there was the sound of crickets. Silence. “How do we do that?” They certainly wondered.

They were probably panicking. It’s a task too large, and they didn’t necessarily want to be responsible for people growing weak and fainting.

And maybe they also want a break.
Please. I need some introvert time. Send them awaaaaaay for a while.

“We only have five loaves of bread and two fish,” they said. Could that have been a sarcastic response? Or maybe just a declarative, matter-of-fact one? A practical one?

“We’re not going to be able to do it,” they think.

But then, a miracle happens. Jesus begins to break that bread and share that fish, and everyone has enough to eat. They even finish with twelve baskets left over.

What happened here? The traditional interpretation I’ve heard most is that Jesus reveals himself to be a creator: He’s in alignment with The Creator and is one and the same. He miraculously creates and multiples this food out of virtually nothing. That’s a beautiful interpretation.

But I’m also intrigued by another interpretation:

What if Jesus began giving this food away to the first few people as a deliberate teaching moment? Modeling this first, what if people then understood he was issuing an invitation? What if they then reached into their pockets or satchels or baskets or whatever they used back then and began to share the food they have too? Giving and receiving, what if they passed it all around to their neighbors and were amazed to discover that there’s enough? Even more than enough?

That invitation continues right now.

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.

There is presence and comfort in that statement, but it’s not a platitude. If God is our shepherd, we might be a part of that vision and calling, adding our own presence and comfort, adding our own resources.

So we might ask ourselves these questions:

What need do I see or know about?
What abundance do I have?
How do I make them match?

Or even… What meager, small thing do I have? What tiny thing can I share as part of a collective contagion of giving? Something that might chip away at a need and inspire more giving?

These are good questions.

The Psalm ends this way:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

So… if we’re part of houses of worship, we’re not quite in the house of the Lord, at least, in the typical ways we think of it. We’re separated from our sanctuaries, and there is some very real grief about that. It’s okay to feel it. But maybe we can be remind ourselves again that we make up that house in our relationships, so we still exist there, and we can’t do anything but exist there, even our whole lives long, because we love each other, and we are that house.

So we’re separated in a particular sense, but we’re together, declaring goodness and mercy. And even distanced physically, we can receive goodness and mercy. And we can share it. Let’s put relationships into this psalm of presence and comfort. Let’s add our presence and our comfort too.

Renee Roederer

Show Up For Each Other

long table

Image Description: A very long, brown table with brown chairs with red table settings. The table is located in a room with white, cinderblock walls and a large number of windows. Florescent lights are hanging above the table. Public domain image.

This week, I’m creating blog post reflections based on Psalm 23.

Part 5:
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

We’re all at the same table right now, so to speak.

And… maybe that metaphor doesn’t work fully since we are quite literally spread out and quarantined. But this collective experience impacts us all. We are all disrupted in various degrees.

And those degrees are… yes, varied. There are some among us that are particularly vulnerable. I think about people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. I think about those who have very few resources, and thus, very few choices. Some are homeless. Some are living on SSDI. Some are incarcerated. Some are in immigration detention. These people matter, and we need to do what we can to protect and support them.

I also think about about my Asian-American friends who are experiencing multiple fears at once. We are hearing racist rhetoric blaming Chinese people for this coronavirus. This is not the Chinese Virus or the Kung Flu. It is the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. This is a worldwide pandemic. We are quick to blame, scapegoat, and label people as ‘enemies’. It’s racist, and it’s wrong.

It’s also leading to violence. My Asian friends and colleagues are afraid to be out in public right now in the rare moments that they are outside. Some have had racist epithets yelled them. Yesterday, a colleague shared that her Dad’s tires were slashed at a store. This is racist, and it’s wrong.

We need to support Asian and Asian-American friends. And we need to support the local neighbors we’ve never met. Shop at their local grocery stores. Send kind words. Ask friends how they’re doing in this social climate.

We’re all in this together, but yes, impacted differently and uniquely. We need to show up for each other.

Renee Roederer

Trauma Life Hacks

BJenny

Image Description: A cartoon by Bjenny Montero. The sun is rising out of the window. A person lying in bed asks the sun, “Again?” and the sun says, “Again.”

This week, I’m creating blog post reflections based on Psalm 23.

Part 4:
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

   I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff—
   they comfort me.

During this difficult time, we have occasions to provide gifts of presence. I realize this may sound absurd since we’re largely quarantined and physically separated from one another. But just last night, the Canterbury House community from the University of Michigan gathered folks over Zoom. Together, we checked in with one another, and we shared, music, readings, and prayer. It was a lovely and meaningful time. Beyond this example, we may all have unique ways of providing virtual presence with family members, friends, coworkers, and larger communities.

Our memories can provide presence too. We can bring loved ones to mind. Here’s something lovely: In New Testament, the word typically translated for ‘remember’ means much more than “thinking about/recalling a person or an event.” It means that we “make it present.” We can do more than ponder our loved ones. We can live in vivid memory of them. Our bodies remember what it was like to be together. We can bring that to mind and even feel that comfort physically. We can make each other present to a certain extent.

During this difficult time, we have occasions to provide gifts of comfort. These things I’ve mentioned above are helpful, but we’re also going through a collective crisis, and it is trauma. It’s okay to name that. This is our individual and collective experience at the moment. We will need comfort from each other. We can also take heart and courage in sharing what we need. Then we can offer comfort and support toward one another in those very needs. It will be important to do that.

This is trauma. It may feel like the deepest valley.

Our bodies may feel this stress.
Our relationships may feel this stress.
It may ebb and flow.
It may occasionally feel acute.

We will need forms of presence. We will need comfort.

We will also need the wisdom of one another. I appreciate what Shannon Dingle has been writing on Twitter. She is a trauma survivor, author, and disability advocate. She’s also a Mom of six children and as of last summer, tragically a widow. She’s been sharing “Trauma Life Hacks.”

Here are just a few of them:

1) “Trauma life hack:

“Name it to tame it’ is an axiom used in therapy circles. There is power in naming things, in putting words to your own inner story.

“For starters, name this moment as a time of collective trauma. This feels like trauma because it is trauma.”

2) “Trauma life hack:

“Befriend your insomnia. Sure it’s an asshole, but when we judge us — our sleep, what we ate or drank last night, our anxiety, not turning off lights — we lose.

“If you’re awake, you’re awake. It sucks, but you don’t have to be awake *and* unkind to yourself.”

3) “Trauma life hack:

“Eat something with protein. We’re in traumatic times, but it might be that you’re mostly hangry.”

4) “Trauma life hack:

“If you deny trauma with your brain, it’ll demand to be heard in another way.

“… digestive issues, tension headaches, screaming or unkindness, substance abuse, or other forms of numbing, irritability…

“whatever you use to deny it, trauma will demand a hearing.”

And I especially want to share this next one. It goes along with a trauma life hack I also want to uplift.

5) “Trauma Life Hack:

“Naming feelings helps us process them. That feeling you’re feeling a lot lately… it’s grief.

“Grief for life as it was. Grief for the loss of certainty. Grief for funerals and celebrations that won’t happen as planned or at all.”

We will need to feel our feelings. As we do, I hope we find presence and comfort Beyond and Within (I call this God and the way of the Spirit) and in the ways that we show up for one another.

I’m a trauma survivor too. I’ve lived through a number of long-term, high-stress situations. Here’s the trauma life hack that I’d like to lift up. My biggest advice is to take this one day at a time. And if you’re in a place of acute stress, take it one hour at a time. Maybe even take it one 20 minute segment at a time.

As we do this, and as those days add up, some forms of our previous normalcy will find their way back into our days. Some forms will show up just as they were (and we’ll probably appreciate them even more) and some will show up a bit adapted. Then forms of totally new normalcy will creep in, and these will be gifts too.

I’ve lived this kind of process enough times to know that for a period — in our case, maybe even months — 1) high stress, 2) old normalcy, and 3) new normalcy will all mingle together. At first, this will be confusing because we’ll feel totally outside of what’s typical for us with a lot of unpredictability. But we can take this one day at a time: High stress is then concerned with what’s going on in that 24 hour period instead of feeling everything at once, or feeling all our fears at once (after all, we don’t know what it will be like a week, month, or year into the future, but it will have gifts and challenges alike). As we live day by day, old normalcy and new normalcy will also be appreciated as gifts.

We’ll need presence.
We’ll need comfort.
We’ll need wisdom.

And we’ll need Trauma Life Hacks.

What would you add?

Renee Roederer

Restoration

img_6640

Image Description: A dandelion grows the cracks.

This week, I’m creating blog post reflections based on Psalm 23.

Part 3:
“He restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.”

Restoration…

As we’re taking intentional precautions collectively to slow the spread of COVID-19, we’re hearing about destruction. We know that some are experiencing the pains of this time quite directly. Some are hospitalized, and some are distanced from loved ones they cannot visit in nursing homes and living facilities.

Restoration…

As we’re taking intentional efforts personally to recapture the pieces of normalcy that we can, we’re hearing about disruption. At the moment, everyone I know is experiencing the pain of this disruption quite directly, though to varying degrees. We are mostly indoors, separated from communities and friends. Many people are losing income as businesses are closing and gigs are being canceled. Some are feeling loneliness and panic. These forms of disruption impact our physical, mental, emotional, and financial health.

Restoration…

— And —

As we’re taking intentional measures to live this time together, might we also hear about restoration? Is it possible that in this time, some of the best of us might arise too?

There’s no need to sugarcoat the destruction and disruption. We are seeing it, experiencing it, and feeling it. It’s real.

But I also wonder…

–Could this moment restore pieces of who we are? Pieces we thought we lost?

–Could this moment restore awareness of what’s most important to us?

–Could this moment restore the use of skills and talents we haven’t used in a long time?

–Could this moment restore the knowledge that we really belong to community?

–Could this moment restore a greater sense of solidarity?

–Could this moment restore our generous giving?

–Could this moment restore the some of best or ourselves, individually and collectively?

Along the destruction and disruption, I’m going to look for this too.

Renee Roederer

 

More Than We Can See

roots near water

Image Description: Tree roots criss-cross visibly near a still body of water.

This week, I’m creating blog post reflections based on Psalm 23.

Part 2:
“He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters.”

There is more water than we can see.

When we think of water, we think of what comes through pipes and taps. And we think about the bodies of water we’ve seen — streams, creeks, ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans. But a whole lot of water exists underground and outside of our view. There’s a whole lot of water traveling through intricate root systems, allowing trees to share resources of nutrients together.

There are also more resources than we can see.

In a time like this, we can expand our recognition that we all have particular needs, and we all have unique skills and resources we can provide. We need to turn both of these toward one another.

This week, I am seeing people give money to complete strangers online. I am seeing people call the governor in my state fervently to demand that water shutoffs end in Detroit and other areas of the state. (If you are quarantined without water, how do you sustain yourself? How do you wash your hands and faces?) I am seeing mutual aid networks popping up all over the country to support service workers whose places of employment are now closed. I am seeing houses of worship delivering groceries and medications to their neighbors.

We all have particular needs.
We all have unique skills and resources we can provide.

We can put these more in view. We can turn both toward one another.

Let them be seen and shared.

Renee Roederer