Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21 International Day Of Peace

Today is the International Day of Peace, a global call for ceasefire and nonviolence. From the United Nations website: The UN invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.

A Million Minutes for Peace is a multi-faith initiative to pause at noon and pray for peace. You can sign up for the pledge: "On September 21, I will pause at noon and, in my own way, pray for peace. May my one minute, magnified a million times, begin to change our future."

However you choose to commemorate this day: by studying about peace, praying for peace, thinking a positive thought for peace, or taking part in a service project in your neighborhood, may we all join together in a spirit of goodwill and work to create a more united future where all of us can live in peace and security.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Focus on the Climate

This weekend I spent a lot of time focusing on our climate!

Saturday was the Pennsylvania Renewable Energy Festival in Kempton, Pennsylvania. I learned about solar, wind, and geothermal energy. There were informative talks all weekend as well as vendors set up to discuss renewable energy solutions. We learned about the importance of local food to sustainability.

In the evening was a wonderful concert by Ben Sollee, as part of his Ditch the Van tour. He is touring the US on his bike with cello in tow and performing all across the country. He also spoke about mountain top removal coal mining; he is from Kentucky and sees the destructive impact not only to the land and streams but to the entire culture of Appalachia.

Sunday my friends Hong and Sally Foo had a Bahá'í Fireside Brunch at their home. A fireside is an opportunity to discuss with friends topics of spiritual importance. I chose a discussion on the Bahá'í International Community Statement "Seizing the Opportunity: Redefining the Challenge of Climate Change". We discussed the importance of ethical and moral considerations when finding solutions to climate change. We must no longer view ourselves as isolated state units pursuing our own economic interests, we have the opportunity to view ourselves as inhabitants of one interconnected biosphere. We broke into small groups to talk about practical ways to solve the environmental crisis at the individual, community, and international levels. Many of our discussions focused on the importance of education to instill these universal values of responsibility, justice, and care for the Earth in our children starting at the earliest ages. We also talked about the importance of public service, so that youth can develop the ability to initiate projects which translate this new awareness into action.

Learning about solar energy at the Pennsylvania Renewable Energy Festival

Sculpture on the grounds of the festival

A beautiful late Summer day with the golden hues of September

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Solace in Nature, A Day At Hawk Mountain

This morning I spent some time watching the news about the fateful September 11 9 years ago. At that time, I was out of the country and only heard the reports after the tragedy had already occurred, I didn't watch the events unfold. It was hard to absorb the full significance of what had happened, it seemed like a story that wasn't real. But it was real, and so many lives were altered permanently, and the world has never been the same. Every year, our lives pause, and we stop and remember the terrible consequences of hate.

I am encouraged by the stories of fellow citizens working hard to create a world where that magnitude of hate is no longer possible. Many of us realize we have a direct responsibility to chart the direction our world is heading. Our small actions slowly make a difference: creating new friendships in our communities, teaching our children about other cultures, reaching out to neighbors, lending assistance to other parts of the globe. We are one interconnected whole.

What I find most comforting is time in nature. This is one of the most beautiful seasons of the year, we still feel the warmth of summer, but the foliage is every so slightly starting to change, the air is a little bit cooler. To celebrate this transformation, and to observe the seasonal migration, I spent some time this afternoon at a favorite place of mine, Hawk Mountain. We saw many broad winged hawks, several osprey, and were treated to a spectacular view of a bald eagle. We were actually looking down on the bird in the valley below and saw his brilliant white head and tail!

Look! A hawk!

View from the mountain. Still mostly green, but golden yellow is starting to appear...

Looking into the valley below

Beautiful farmland of Pennsylvania

Friday, September 10, 2010

Breaking news! This just in! America surprisingly tolerant, diverse nation!

For those of us who are beginning to despair over the news of the past few weeks, there's another story going on, somewhat less sensational, somewhat quieter. Just when it seems that the voices promoting intolerance and disunity are ruling the national conversation, I've noticed that people are surprisingly coming together to support one another and learn to know their neighbors.

A church (that's right, a church!) has pledged to distribute Qur'ans to "prisons, to hospitals, to shelters, or to any place where there are Muslims without access to their sacred text." (see Massachusetts Bible Society).

A woman who was widowed on 9/11, Susan Retik, will be speaking at a mosque in Boston asking members to help her battle poverty and illiteracy in Afghanistan (see The Healers of 9/11 ).

Ali and Bassam Tariq just completed a visit to 30 mosques in 30 days and found "that America still embraces immigrants and the nation is filled with welcoming and loving people" (see CNN story on Ramadan road trip ).

We no longer need to feel helpless, we can add voices of tolerance to the conversation and help to heal our community. If you need some ideas, you might want to try the following (and add your own ideas in the comment box!)

1. Educate yourself. Learn about diverse religions and cultures. Here are some great films that you can watch online including "Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think" which helps to clear up some misconceptions: Ground Zero Dialogue. Here's another place to find films: 20,000 Dialogues. Bonus points for inviting a couple of friends to watch!

2. Ask your religious or secular youth group to work with another church, mosque, synagogue or group on a project such as cleaning up a park or serving food at a shelter. When youth work side by side we learn that we have a lot of values in common. In Allentown we do this once a year in a citywide event, any many more times informally. Here's our 2009 event and our 2010 event.

3. Research your own religious, spiritual, or secular tradition for messages which encourage unity and peace.

4. Ask your neighbor or coworker to lunch, especially if he or she is from a community you don't know well.

We do not have to despair during these times. People from every tradition and culture are beginning to see the need for the world to come together and are working to unify our communities, one conversation and one heart at a time. We can be part of that movement, we can change our world.


I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.

Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.
When soldiers of the world draw their swords to kill, soldiers of God clasp each other's hands! So may all the savagery of man disappear by the Mercy of God, working through the pure in heart and the sincere of soul. Do not think the peace of the world an ideal impossible to attain!

Nothing is impossible to the Divine Benevolence of God.

If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men.

-'Abdu'l-Bahá , Paris Talks, p. 29

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Green Acre Bahá'í School, Eliot, Maine for Labor Day Weekend

I spent this Labor Day weekend at Green Acre Bahá'í School in Eliot, Maine. Our program was led by John Hatcher, professor emeritus of English Literature at the University of South Florida, on his new book "The Face of God Among Us: How the Creator Educates Humanity" (hint: it's all about love). I have six of his books, and I handed some over one at a time for signature because I was too embarrassed to present him with the entire stack at once.

I also did serious damage to my bank account at the book store this weekend.

Dr. Hatcher was an excellent presenter and a very knowledgeable scholar. We had a wonderful time and learned a lot.

A beautiful day on the porch waiting for Hurricane Earl. Earl just slightly swept by us, depositing a little bit of rain in the late evening and bringing some cooler temperatures.

Sarah Farmer Inn

Another view of the beautiful building.

On this sunny afternoon we also played a game of croquet and then later had a bonfire. We played a game which involved the consumption of unusual flavored jelly beans (centipede, skunk, baby wipes, and others which I won't even mention). I, however, did not participate in the game out of fear of picking the centipede jelly bean... The children laughed a lot and enjoyed the marshmallow roast.

On Labor Day we had a picnic and also a commemoration of the 1905 signing of the treaty in nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire which ended the Russo-Japanese War.

Raising of the Peace Flag.

Later that afternoon we were treated to a concert by Randy Armstrong joined by Marty Quinn who played instruments from all over the world.

Marty and Randy on a xylophone type instrument that looks like it's made from gourds

Last day the children's class presented the devotional program.

Our program group. Lots of new friendships were formed!


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