Saturday, January 31, 2009

Let All Associate In this Great Human Garden

Uploaded on February 14, 2007by FallenPegasus licensed under Creative Commons

Tonight I had a really wonderful experience. I had the bounty of being invited by a friend of mine to a party where most of the guests were members of the local Sunni Muslim community.

At first, I knew only two people out of dozens. We broke the ice with the usual conversation starters "what do you do for a living?" "where do you live?" but before long we were happily chatting away like old friends.

We discussed the vision of nature in Islam, how to help a family who just arrived from Somalia (they need winter coats), what the best ingredients are in Persian cookies (rosewater!), how to avoid stress at work, and courtship and engagement and the secret of a happy marriage (spent a long time on that one!). My new found friends are warm and generous and inviting and humorous!

The evening brought to mind a favorite song of mine, the words are based on the writings of 'Abdul Baha':
Let all associate, therefore, in this great human garden even as flowers grow and blend together side by side.
Love ye all religions and all races with a love that is true and sincere and show that love through deeds.


(The song is available for listening here )

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire and State of the World's Children

Today we saw the powerful film "Slumdog Millionaire". The film is a tender Bollywood love story about destiny and loyalty. But it is also a glimpse into the sometimes tragic life of children who are not protected. Children in conflict zones or in poverty who are not sheltered by their families can fall victim to those who wish to exploit them or cause them harm. For more information on the state of the world's children and how you can help please see the Unicef website.

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Lehigh Parkway, Allentown

Today we hiked a 6.5 mile loop around the Lehigh Parkway in Allentown. The day was clear and bright, but a bit cold. We carefully navigated the snow and sometimes ice covered trails.

Covered bridge at entrance to the parkway

Along the stream

Another one of several bridges in the parkway

Friday, January 23, 2009

Peruvian Food in Philadelphia

Last night I went to El Balconcito in Philadelphia to try some Peruvian food. Although it appears that Peruvian cuisine is not the most "vegetarian friendly" I had a nice meal of potatoes with sauce, corn, and plantains. We were having so much fun we didn't even notice the painting of Machu Picchu was hanging crooked!

(photo courtesy of Nicole)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day of President of the United States of America Barack Obama

Today we witnessed the historic inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.

I realized today that "American" does not just refer to the geographic place of my birth, but to a commitment to the ideals of freedom, equality, and unity. From President Obama's inaugural speech:

...we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

In 1912 in Chicago, Illinois, `Abdu'l-Bahá offered the following prayer for America. May it come true today, and may America be a standard-bearer for a new era of freedom, oneness, and unity.

O Thou kind Lord! This gathering is turning to Thee. These hearts are radiant with Thy love. These minds and spirits are exhilarated by the message of Thy glad-tidings. O God! Let this American democracy become glorious in spiritual degrees even as it has aspired to material degrees, and render this just government victorious. Confirm this revered nation to upraise the standard of the oneness of humanity, to promulgate the Most Great Peace, to become thereby most glorious and praiseworthy among all the nations of the world. O God! This American nation is worthy of Thy favors and is deserving of Thy mercy. Make it precious and near to Thee through Thy bounty and bestowal.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have A Dream

Today I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Keneseth Israel in Allentown. They sponsored a diversity fair and I met many new friends from various faith communities in our locality, including the Catholic Diocese, the Lehigh County Conference of Churches, the Muslim Assocation of the Lehigh Valley, the Center for Jewish Christian Understanding, and many more.

While researching Martin Luther King's writings, I came across the following quote which sums up the day for me:

This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great "world house" in which we have to live together - black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.

This means that more and more our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men.
-Dr. Martin Luther King

Please enjoy the historic "I Have A Dream" speech in memory of this great man.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What Small Thing Can I Do Today To Change the World?

From the Kiva newsletter:

"This month Intel launched the Small Things Challenge, a partnership between Intel, Kiva and Save the Children.
You can participate by visiting the Small Things Challenge website today and clicking the "we'll donate 5 cents for you" button on the Web site. Intel will donate 5 cents for every person who clicks on the button - up to $75,000 per quarter this year to be split equally between Kiva and Save the Children. That's a lot of clicks so you can get started right away! "

Go ahead, click this link, Small Things Challenge, and click the button to donate 5 cents! Also, check out the above video and learn how small things can change the world.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

All You Can Eat Vegan Pancakes at the Wildflower Cafe and a Frosty Walk

We had a wonderful snowy weekend in Eastern Pennsylvania. Friday night I went to the Nawab Restaurant for vegetable samosas, aloo gobi, and mango lassi. Saturday it snowed most of the day, so I spent the day watching the Travel Channel and eating homemade vegetable noodle soup, occasionally stepping outside to shovel.

Sunday was all you can eat vegan pancake day at the Wildflower Cafe in Bethlehem. How can you go wrong? I had the banana, banana walnut, and cranberry pecan. By the time they brought out the blueberry pancakes, I was already stuffed!

Mural on the side of the Wildflower Cafe.

Chef making the vegan pancakes is in the corner.

The Wildflower Cafe is a local live music hangout. This picture captures the snowy sidewalk in a reflection.

Later I dropped by L.L. Bean for their end of season jacket sale and picked up a coat which should keep me toasty and warm! I tested it out on a walk along the Ironton Rail Trail in Whitehall, and I am happy to report that for the most part I was nice and comfortable!

A few feathered friends have a snack. Dozens of juncos, sparrows, a blue grey nuthatch, and a downy woodpecker were waiting in a nearby tree until I left. Later I saw a fat Carolina wren that looked like a feathery golf ball!

Snow covered pine

Snowy branches along the stream

This water looks cold!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Merrill Creek Reservoir

Today we hiked a 6.5 mile loop around Merrill Creek Reservoir. The day was sunny and bright, the air was crisp, but there was very little wind, making for a very comfortable winter hike.

Looking over the water

The reddish browns of winter

An icy wonderland!

Serene tranquil lake

More views of the lake and crisp winter sky

Moon is visible in the winter sky.

The white line is actually a flock of thousands of snow geese.

Hiking group, photo courtesy of Al

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year! The Year 2008 in Review and Looking Ahead to 2009

Uploaded on January 1, 2007by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton licensed under Creative Commons

Happy New Year!

Today I took some time to conduct an annual review of 2008 and make plans for 2009 as suggested by one of my favorite bloggers Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Nonconformity (see his post How to Conduct Your Own Annual Review).

2008 was quite a year of exploration on many levels for me. I have a goal to see many of our National Parks, and this year I started with a wonderful hiking trip to stunning Yosemite National Park. The hiking was challenging but fabulous, and the experience was nothing short of spectacular. I also have a goal to experience intercultural travel, and I had a wonderful time exploring Puerto Rico "off the beaten path". I also had a weekend of hiking in the Adirondacks, and spent some time reconnecting with family in Washington, D.C. where I met my beautiful little grand-nieces and spent time with my nephews and their families. I connected with some hiking and travel groups and made many new friendships. I took up running again and ran a 5K in the Fall. I participated in a historic Baha'i Conference in Connecticut called by the Universal House of Justice and experienced first-hand the amazing diversity and warmth of community of our beloved Faith.

One of the highlights of my year was volunteering at an Interfaith Youth Community Service event in Philadelphia. It was amazing to see youth from all backgrounds working side by side to clean up a local park. They reflected on the values which led them to participate in such an event, such as love for Creation, stewardship of the Earth, and caring for present and future generations. I was amazed by the depth of perception and sensitivity of these young people. I have found a local Lehigh Valley group which is planning an Interfaith event in the Spring, and I am looking forward to taking a more active role in this event. I also am hoping to get involved in some environmental concerns.

Looking ahead to 2009, my new goals really are on the same trajectory as 2008! I'm looking forward to more hiking and more social connections, and I have a few ideas for travel plans. But in 2009 I would like to have a renewed emphasis on service, specifically the interfaith youth events I am involved in. I truly believe that the best way to work for a better future is to encourage and facilitate the growth of the next generation, and to enable youth from different cultural communities to work together and learn to know each other. I am sure I will face many challenges along the way, and I doubt it will be easy. As 2008 was a year of exploration for me, I am envisioning and hoping for 2009 to be a year of service and connection. Insha'Allah (God willing)!

Let me know some of your fond memories of 2008 and your hopes and plans for 2009 in the comment box!

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