Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Building Bridges: Hosting Dorothy Amenuke at St. Jane House and Redeemer Center for Life

One of my deepest pleasures in life is connecting people. Recognizing the range of beautiful humans I have the privilege of knowing and being in relationship with, I hold dear the opportunity to introduce friends from different parts of my world to one another. This past month, a series of these opportunities presented themselves, when my Ghanaian artist friend Dorothy Amenuke came to town, and we had a slumber party of sorts at St. Jane House in North Minneapolis. While I no longer own my own home for hosting such international friends, I do have access to a delightful spot that is increasingly growing in popularity for such cultural exchange opportunities. St. Jane House, so named after Jane de Chantal, co-foundress of the Visitation Monastery, is the lovely retreat and dialogue space run by the Vis Sisters of North Minneapolis and their lay companion, Brian Mogren. The following are images made possible through the St. Jane House affiliation and the 36 hour whirlwind of connection and conversation that ensued.

Big Thanks go out to:
Brian Mogren
The Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis
The Centering Prayer Group
Janet Hagberg, Redeemer Center for Life, (member of the Centering Prayer Group, who had this idea to connect Dorothy with other women who work with fabric).
Harriet Oyera, The Living Room, Redeemer Center for Life (Member of the Centering Prayer Group.)
The Colonial and Redeemer Lutheran Quilting Groups (who convened and shared work with Dorothy)
Pastor Kelly, Redeemer Lutheran Church
Trish Kloeckl, Friend of the Visitation Sisters (who stopped to meet Dorothy and help select a piece of her batik for the wall at St. Jane House.)
Ann Dillard, Project Safety Nets, Senegal, West Africa, (who stopped by St. Jane House to connect with another woman in leadership around such life, sustainability, creative arts education issues.)
Barbara Cox, Multicultural Voices Initiative, Perpich Center for Arts Education (who introduced me to Dorothy)
Pat Black, Fiber Artist, St. Paul Host for Dorothy
Dorothy Amenuke, Fiber Artist, Sculptor, Kumasi, Ghana

Dorothy Amenuke warmly greeted by Harriet Oyera at the
Redeemer Church BBQ in North Minneapolis

Redeemer and Colonial Quilters Connecting with Batik Artist, Dorothy Amenuke

Janet Hagberg, Redeemer Lutheran, in line for the community meal with Dorothy

Introducing Pastor Kelly to Dorothy

A warm welcome from Harriet Oyera to the Living Room at the Redeemer Center for Life

Quilters admiring Dorothy's work

So many fabrics

Harriet shares her quilting work with Dorothy

Trish Kloeckl and Dorothy Amenuke chilling at St. Jane House

Ann Dillard, from North Minneapolis, presents her work in Senegal, West Africa

The juxtaposition of Ann and Dorothy underneath the Visitation
Painting of Elizabeth and Mary makes me smile.

Ted Kennedy on Universal Health Care

The following arrived in my email this morning. As a way to honor Senator Kennedy, and inspire any and all who wonder longer about passing a bill for Universal Health coverage, I offer his words and own story in the following post. Ted Kennedy is a privileged, fully-covered member of Congress. I wonder how this vote might take a turn if our senators knew first hand, in their own bodies and through their own bank books, what health care costs? (Hats off to Senator Brown from Ohio who declines this coverage until everyone in his home state gets it.)

This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver—to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, "that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American...will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege." For four decades I have carried this cause—from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me—and more urgency—than ever before. But it's always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.

— Ted Kennedy

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Love to Sun Prairie, Saxonwold, Shiraz! Readers around the World...

Wisconsin, South Africa, Iran. These are some of the places that people came from to view my blog this past week. I marvel how anyone outside my immediate circle stumbles upon my site, and what inspires those who choose to come back.

Love in Wisconsin?
Friendship in South Africa?
Political intrigue in Iran?

Google analytics provides these sorts of reports that could inspire the joy in any blogger's heart, deeper curiosity in the average voyeur, and wonder in the likes of me, who so craves two-way conversation.

If you find yourself coming back, please drop a note! Leave a comment. Email your thoughts. Do I know you? Do you know me? What brings you back time and again?

Thanks! Blessings!
Happy day to each and everyone who arrives here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From Richard Rohr: Contemplation in the face of Messy Politics and Discourse

I went searching tonight for something that might calm me. Something that, in the midst of the political, spiritual, incendiary debates about health care, might really bring me peace. These words from Richard Rohr, posted before the recent peak of the hubabaloo in Sojourner's blog "God's Politics," were helpful. I share with you, and all who seek to transform -- see Justice and Love and Wellness be the rule for ALL of us. Yes. Enjoy Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM's thoughts!


God's Politics

What Sustains Me: Contemplation

by Richard Rohr 06-15-2009

Editor’s note: In the July issue of Sojourners magazine, we asked social activists to share how they stay refreshed while working for social justice. From John Perkins to Bishop Vashti McKenzie, the responses flooded in with deep insight into the spiritual disciplines of those who work to bring justice and peace to others. To read all of the responses, see the July feature article, “What Sustains Me.” Below is the response from Father Richard Rohr.

As the name of our center probably makes clear (The Center for Action and Contemplation), my daily and primary practice is contemplation. I try in every way, and every day, to see the events, people, and issues in my world through a much wider lens that I hope is “Christ Consciousness.” I have to practice letting go of my own agenda, my own anger, fear, and judgments in very concrete ways and through daily practice. In that empty space, it seems God is able to speak and sometimes I am able to hear. In that space, I find joy.

I have worked for most of my life and with the help of my Franciscan tradition and other spiritual teachers to spend a good chunk of every day in silence, solitude, and surrender to what God and the moment are offering. I fail at it far more than I succeed, but grace grants me just enough “wide-lens experience” to know that it is my home base, my deepest seeing, and by far the best gift I can also offer to the world.

Without a daily contemplative stance, I would have given up on the church, America, many people, and surely myself a long time ago. Without a daily contemplative practice, I would likely be a cynical and even negative person by now, but by Somebody’s Kindness, I am not. With contemplative eyes, I can live with a certain non-dual consciousness that often allows me to be merciful to the moment, patient with human failure, and generous toward the maddening issues of our time. For me, it is the very shape of Christian salvation or any salvation. My sadness is that so few have been taught this older and wiser tradition, although many still come to it by great love and great suffering.

Father Richard Rohr is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province. Click here to read more about the spiritual disciplines of social activists.

Data on Health Care Costs and Home Foreclosures

Here's an article by Christopher Robertson, at Harvard Law School, on the Medical Causes of Home Mortgage Foreclosures that I found on the Social Science Research Network.

For me, this speaks to our need to focus on health care coverage for all as a way to impact the economy in a positive way. I've underlined and boldfaced the abstract below where information stands out to me. I encourage people to read the entire thing.

Thoughts? Questions?

Get Sick, Get Out: The Medical Causes of Home Mortgage Foreclosures Christopher T. Robertson Harvard University - Harvard Law School

Richard Egelhof affiliation not provided to SSRN

Michael Hoke
affiliation not provided to SSRN

Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine, Vol. 18, No. 65, 2008

In recent years, there has been national alarm about the rising rate of home foreclosures, which now strike one in every 92 households in America and which contribute to even broader macroeconomic effects. The "standard account" of home foreclosure attributes this spike to loose lending practices, irresponsible borrowers, a flat real estate market, and rising interest rates. Based on our study of homeowners going through foreclosures in four states, we find that the standard account fails to represent the facts and thus makes a poor guide for policy. In contrast, we find that half of all foreclosures have medical causes, and we estimate that medical crises put 1.5 million Americans in jeopardy of losing their homes last year.

Half of all respondents (49%) indicated that their foreclosure was caused in part by a medical problem, including illness or injuries (32%), unmanageable medical bills (23%), lost work due to a medical problem (27%), or caring for sick family members (14%). We also examined objective indicia of medical disruptions in the previous two years, including those respondents paying more than $2,000 of medical bills out of pocket (37%), those losing two or more weeks of work because of injury or illness (30%), those currently disabled and unable to work (8%), and those who used their home equity to pay medical bills (13%). Altogether, seven in ten respondents (69%) reported at least one of these factors.

If these findings can be replicated in more comprehensive studies, they will suggest critical policy reforms. We lay out one approach, focusing on an insurance-model, which would help homeowners bridge temporary gaps caused by medical crises. We also present a legal proposal for staying foreclosure proceedings during verifiable medical crises, as a way to protect homeowners and to minimize the negative externalities of foreclosure.

Robertson, Christopher T., Egelhof, Richard and Hoke, Michael,Get Sick, Get Out: The Medical Causes of Home Mortgage Foreclosures(August 18, 2008). Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine, Vol. 18, No. 65, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

From Dr. Soetoro: President Obama's Mother

I just ran across this Op Ed Piece in the New York Times, and it took me utterly by surprise. After reading Obama's first book, "Dreams from My Father" I thought I had a pretty solid account of his upbringing: what shaped him, inspired this US president and gave rise to his way of governance, inspiring rhetoric and actions. But Dr. Michael Dove's piece about President Obama's mother, Ann Dunham Soetoro, gives me pause. His writing makes me consider anew the roots of Barack Obama, and how his leadership might have been impacted subtly or quite directly by this woman.

Here's an excerpt from today's Op/Ed piece followed by a link to the full article. I encourage everyone to check it out. I welcome responses.

Running through Dr. Soetoro's doctoral research, as through all her work, was a challenge to popular perceptions regarding economically and politically marginalized groups; she showed that the people at society's edges were not as different from the rest of us as is often supposed. Dr. Soetoro was also critical of the pernicious notion that the roots of poverty lie with the poor themselves and that cultural differences are responsible for the gap between less-developed countries and the industrialized West.

Op-Ed Contributor
Published: August 10, 2009