The Most Great Festival, Ridvan

Arise, and proclaim unto the entire creation the tidings that He Who is the All-Merciful hath directed His steps towards the Ridvan and entered it. Guide, then, the people unto the garden of delight which God hath made the Throne of His Paradise. We have chosen thee to be our most mighty Trumpet, whose blast is to signalize the resurrection of all mankind.

– Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 31

The Festival of Ridvan lasts for 12 days, and is a wonderful time in the Baha’i community.  There are 3 holy days (1st, 9th, and 12th days), there are the elections of the Local and National Spiritual Assemblies, and every 5 years the election of the Universal House of Justice occurs at Ridvan.  It is hard to believe that 2 years ago at this time I was in Haifa, preparing for the 10th International Convention.  This year, I am preparing for the National Convention in Wilmette for the election of the National Spiritual Assembly, which will happen next week.  I wander the gardens of the House of Worship (where the tulips are blooming!), instead of the gardens of the Shrines in Israel.

Have a joyous Ridvan!

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Lost in time

The other day I was searching for something random in the Baha’i Writings, and came across this passage from Baha’u’llah.  It is just fascinating to me, and I thought I might share it with you.  Baha’u’llah explains how language has changed, that there are things we don’t know anything about, but that in the end, we can’t allow the past and its confusion to get in our way.

“And now regarding thy question, “How is it that no records are to be found concerning the Prophets that have preceded Adam, the Father of Mankind, or of the kings that lived in the days of those Prophets?” Know thou that the absence of any reference to them is no proof that they did not actually exist. That no records concerning them are now available, should be attributed to their extreme remoteness, as well as to the vast changes which the earth hath undergone since their time.

Moreover such forms and modes of writing as are now current amongst men were unknown to the generations that were before Adam. There was even a time when men were wholly ignorant of the art of writing, and had adopted a system entirely different from the one which they now use. For a proper exposition of this an elaborate explanation would be required.

Consider the differences that have arisen since the days of Adam. The divers and widely-known languages now spoken by the peoples of the earth were originally unknown, as were the varied rules and customs now prevailing amongst them. The people of those times spoke a language different from those now known. Diversities of language arose in a later age, in a land known as Babel. It was given the name Babel, because the term signifieth “the place where the confusion of tongues arose.”

Subsequently Syriac became prominent among the existing languages. The Sacred Scriptures of former times were revealed in that tongue. Later, Abraham, the Friend of God, appeared and shed upon the world the light of Divine Revelation. The language He spoke while He crossed the Jordan became known as Hebrew (Ibrani), which meaneth “the language of the crossing.” The Books of God and the Sacred Scriptures were then revealed in that tongue, and not until after a considerable lapse of time did Arabic become the language of Revelation….

Witness, therefore, how numerous and far-reaching have been the changes in language, speech, and writing since the days of Adam. How much greater must have been the changes before Him!

Our purpose in revealing these words is to show that the one true God hath, in His all-highest and transcendent station, ever been, and will everlastingly continue to be, exalted above the praise and conception of all else but Him. His creation hath ever existed, and the Manifestations of His Divine glory and the Day Springs of eternal holiness have been sent down from time immemorial, and been commissioned to summon mankind to the one true God. That the names of some of them are forgotten and the records of their lives lost is to be attributed to the disturbances and changes that have overtaken the world.

Mention hath been made in certain books of a deluge which caused all that existed on earth, historical records as well as other things, to be destroyed. Moreover, many cataclysms have occurred which have effaced the traces of many events. Furthermore, among existing historical records differences are to be found, and each of the various peoples of the world hath its own account of the age of the earth and of its history. Some trace their history as far back as eight thousand years, others as far as twelve thousand years. To any one that hath read the book of Juk it is clear and evident how much the accounts given by the various books have differed.

Please God thou wilt turn thine eyes towards the Most Great Revelation, and entirely disregard these conflicting tales and traditions.”

(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 174)

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Last night I went to the Delorean & Miike Snow show at the Metro.  It was fantastic.  I enjoyed myself immensely.  It was pouring rain when we parked and went in, my feet were aching at the end of the night, and a couple of guys started arguing in the middle of one of my favorite songs.  I asked them to stop, and they did. :-)  These are the things that make a show, outside of the music itself, of course.  If you don’t know who these bands are…check them out.  Trust me.

In other news, Nineteen Months has been updated for the month of “Glory“.  I am SO impressed with the talent involved in this project.  Check it out, tell your friends!  You can also join our Facebook page or add us on Twitter.

The story behind my photo: I was approaching the deadline, on my lunch break, and worried that I had nothing to contribute.  After failing to capture anything that I liked by Lake Michigan or in the gardens of the Baha’i House of Worship, I went into the lower level of the House of Worship to say hi to friends.  One lovely lady and her daughters were there, and as their mother worked on some things, I had a change to talk to the girls and take photos.  Elsie, the littler one, insisted on seeing the photos after I took her picture.  She is really rather young, but already knows about cameras. :-)  It made my day to see such lovely children, and I got my photo.

This coming weekend is the Religion Communication Congress, in which several Baha’is and publications will be receiving awards.  I have several friends attending, and I can’t WAIT to hear their stories.  I’ll also be reuniting with one of my dear friends that I served with in Haifa…she and I have some catching up to do!

Finally, I updated my blog layout.  The previous one was rather awkward and this one is much cleaner.  I also added a contact page.

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A Haifa morning

This morning was a Haifa morning.

I stepped outside and the air smelled like (home), like stone paths, the bay, flowers, and a breeze off the mountains and desert that lifts you up…

Warm and cool, the kind of cool that only requires a light sweater. Full of excitement.  The gardeners watering plants as I walked up the mountain, past the wall of flowers, the silent woosh of doors as I stepped into the cool stone corridors.

The kind of morning where I would bounce into work, 8:30 am, ready to do what I was meant to do.

It is a little different here, this new home, my new place. My car transports me to work past elegant Victorian homes, antique shops, schools, and the train.  The streets are wider, and I can’t see the water from here (but I know it is close).  After the last few years of being able to sense the water nearby, it seems odd to ever consider living away from water again.  Whether the Mediterranean or Lake Michigan, it seems right to base my orientation on the water.

I wanted to hold onto the feeling of a Haifa morning today, just walk with my eyes closed, pretend that I was still there.  Pretend that the stones were digging through the thin soles of my shoes, that my flatmates and I were rushing out of our apartment to get to work (service), that I would walk up a flight of stairs to the lunchroom at 12 pm and the same old crew would be sitting at a big table.  That I would take a walk around the Arc with a friend, would stop by the Food Center for an afternoon snack, and walk/slide down the steep slopes at the end of a long day to pray in the Shrine of the Bab before going home.  Every late night conversation with my friends, staring out over the lights of a city on the mountain.

This is Chicago, though, I am half a world away and this is life, now.  Some things are the same, and I still drink too much caffeine during the day, and I am working in a job that I love.  This is my life, now.  I don’t write or speak using British English anymore, I’ve reverted back to American.  There are no hills or mountains here.

I am holding close the feeling of a Haifa morning, and feel grateful that I remember what it feels like.

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The magical launch of Nineteen Months

Some of you may remember a little photoblog project I was a part of called “Nylon Parla“.  Well, things have evolved a bit.

Introducing: Nineteen Months.

We are a group of photographers from all over the world who are members of the Baha’i Faith.  The 19 months of the Baha’i calendar each have a name, and the photographs for each month are based on those names.  The first month of the Baha’i year is “Splendour”.

After participating in the nineteen days project for the second year in a row, I am extremely excited about the start of Nineteen Months, as they are sort of sister blogs.  It is an amazing way to practice photography, feel connected with people from all over, and share with everyone our love of the Baha’i Faith and photography in one go!

Please spread the word (blog, twitter, FB, smoke signal, etc).  We are Baha’is, but the photos are meant for everyone to enjoy.

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This is the Baha’i new year (167 B.E.).  I am feeling…settled, at peace.  I seek out peaceful things, spaces, and sometimes people these days.  Other times, I want to be surrounded by crowds.

The Naw-Ruz post for nineteen days is up: AMAZING photos.  I am sad that the project is over, but so glad I had the opportunity to participate.

I spent the day cooking yesterday in preparation for the Naw-Ruz celebration in Chicago.  I will make a blog post about that soon (with photos).  I had an amazing dinner at The Sitdown (they have a gluten-free menu!!) with some lovely ladies, then went over to the Smart museum for the Chicago Baha’i community’s celebration.  After the program of music and prayers, we wandered around the museum for a bit, then there was food and dancing.  I think I danced TOO much.  Exhausted today!

I attended the devotional (prayer) gathering at my friends’ house today, which was small and joyful event, and we laughed a lot.  A nice, low-key day.  I am looking forward to this next (Baha’i) year.

“Praised be Thou, O my God, that Thou hast ordained Naw-Rúz as a festival unto those who have observed the fast for love of Thee and abstained from all that is abhorrent unto Thee. Grant, O my Lord, that the fire of Thy love and the heat produced by the fast enjoined by Thee may inflame them in Thy Cause, and make them to be occupied with Thy praise and with remembrance of Thee.” -Baha’u’llah

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Nineteen Days!!

My photos are up over at nineteen days, the photoblog about the Baha’i Fast.  Check it out, leave a comment (here or there), and definitely check out the photos from the 6 days of the Fast so far.  I’m stunned at how amazing the other contributors are.

I went to the Baha’i House of Worship at around 6 am this morning to take photos for the “sunrise” photo.  Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating and I was scrambling to find a decent shot.  I finally got some, but I was worried that none of them would work out!

The “sunset” photo was a bit easier, since the barista was a rather pleasant gentleman who suggested that I come behind the counter to avoid shooting through the glass.  Thanks, if you get a chance to read this!

As I did errands tonight, the towns around me slowly filled with fog.  It would have been perfect for some photography, but it was already too late and I had groceries in the car.  Another time, I hope.  I love fog, it makes everything a little scary and closed in.

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A little late for Ayyam-i-Ha…

I was talking to my hilarious, beautiful cousin Sahar J on the phone a few nights ago (she lives in New York City), and as we talked about how we celebrated Ayyam-i-Ha this year and how the fast is going so far, she mentioned that she has this amazing photo from an Ayyam-i-Ha party in Cardiff by the Sea.

Of course, she is the little girl holding the bat, waiting to hit the pinata.  I love so many things about this photo…the “One Planet, One People…Please” t-shirt, the kid in the glasses who looks like he is going to throw something, the little boy in the checked hat, the guitar-playing guy in the background.  Most of all, I love the look on my cousin’s face as she waits to attack that pinata.

Her smile is a bit more mischievous now, but it isn’t any less adorable!  Thanks for sharing this, Sahar.

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The First Day of the Fast!

As I was reflecting on the Baha’i Fast, I remembered my time in Haifa, Israel.  I was lucky enough to participate in two years of the fast while serving there.  The photo below was taken from my flat one early morning during the fast in 2007 as the sun was rising over the mountains bordering Lebanon.

This year, like last year, I am participating in the Nineteen Days photoblog project.  There are 38 photographers this year, however!  I am SO excited.

A photo book was created from the submissions from last year, which you can order here.

Speaking of photos, the latest photoblog entry from the Baha’i photographers project, Nylon Parla, is up.  The theme this month was “Gifts”.  I’m looking forward to some fantastic changes to the project that are coming next month.

This is, O my God, the first of the days on which Thou hast bidden Thy loved ones to observe the Fast.  I ask of Thee by Thy Self and by him who hath fasted out of love for Thee and for Thy good-pleasure—and not out of self and desire, nor out of fear of Thy wrath—and by Thy most excellent names and august attributes, to purify Thy servants from the love of aught except Thee and to draw them nigh unto the Dawning-Place of the lights of Thy countenance and the Seat of the throne of Thy oneness.  Illumine their hearts, O my God, with the light of Thy knowledge and brighten their faces with the rays of the Daystar that shineth from the horizon of Thy Will.  Potent art Thou to do what pleaseth Thee.  No God is there but Thee, the All-Glorious, Whose help is implored by all men.

Assist them, O my God, to render Thee victorious and to exalt Thy Word.  Suffer them, then, to become as hands of Thy Cause amongst Thy servants, and make them to be revealers of Thy religion and Thy signs amongst mankind, in such wise that the whole world may be filled with Thy remembrance and praise and with Thy proofs and evidences.  Thou art, verily, the All-Bounteous, the Most Exalted, the Powerful, the Mighty, and the Merciful.

– Bahá’u’lláh

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The First Day of Ayyam-i-Ha

Are you doing anything special this year to celebrate Ayyam-i-Ha?  What things did you do as a kid, if you grew up as a Baha’i?  If you don’t know about this time of charity, gift-giving, and celebration, what would you like to know about it?

My God, my Fire and my Light! The days which Thou hast named the Ayyam-i-Ha (the Days of Ha, Intercalary days) in Thy Book have begun, O Thou Who art the King of names, and the fast which Thy most exalted Pen hath enjoined unto all who are in the kingdom of Thy creation to observe is approaching. I entreat Thee, O my Lord, by these days and by all such as have during that period clung to the cord of Thy commandments, and laid hold on the handle of Thy precepts, to grant that unto every soul may be assigned a place within the precincts of Thy court, and a seat at the revelation of the splendors of the light of Thy countenance.

These, O my Lord, are Thy servants whom no corrupt inclination hath kept back from what Thou didst send down in Thy Book. They have bowed themselves before Thy Cause, and received Thy Book with such resolve as is born of Thee, and observed what Thou hadst prescribed unto them, and chosen to follow that which had been sent down by Thee.

Thou seest, O my Lord, how they have recognized and confessed whatsoever Thou hast revealed in Thy Scriptures. Give them to drink, O my Lord, from the hands of Thy graciousness the waters of Thine eternity. Write down, then, for them the recompense ordained for him that hath immersed himself in the ocean of Thy presence, and attained unto the choice wine of Thy meeting.

I implore Thee, O Thou the King of kings and the Pitier of the downtrodden, to ordain for them the good of this world and of the world to come. Write down for them, moreover, what none of Thy creatures hath discovered, and number them with those who have circled round Thee, and who move about Thy throne in every world of Thy worlds.

Thou, truly, art the Almighty, the All-Knowing, the All-Informed.

(Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 65)

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Here is an update about the first day of the trial of the Baha’is in Iran. International pressure is increasing, but things are still very perilous for the believers there.

In light of the situation in Iran and last night’s horrific earthquake in Haiti, it is fitting to offer a prayer for assistance with tests and difficulties. Regardless of your faith tradition, prayer is a universal force.

Glorified art Thou, O Lord my God! Every man of insight confesseth Thy sovereignty and Thy dominion, and every discerning eye perceiveth the greatness of Thy majesty and the compelling power of Thy might. The winds of tests are powerless to hold back them that enjoy near access to Thee from setting their faces towards the horizon of Thy glory, and the tempests of trials must fail to draw away and hinder such as are wholly devoted to Thy will from approaching Thy court.

Methinks, the lamp of Thy love is burning in their hearts, and the light of Thy tenderness is lit within their breasts. Adversities are incapable of estranging them from Thy Cause, and the vicissitudes of fortune can never cause them to stray from Thy pleasure.

I beseech Thee, O my God, by them and by the sighs which their hearts utter in their separation from Thee, to keep them safe from the mischief of  Thine adversaries, and to nourish their souls with what Thou hast ordained for Thy loved ones on whom shall come no fear and who shall not be put to grief.

– Bahá’u’lláh

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A trial that should not be happening

What if all you wanted to do was improve the lives of the people around you,  assist with education of all people and obtain an education, and be able to worship without fear of persecution?  We know these things to be basic human rights, yet the Baha’is in Iran are suffering because they believe in a religion that that the government of Iran does not agree with.

The government is putting on trial seven people tomorrow.  Seven people who are upstanding citizens who have never done anything to oppose the government.  They stand accused of espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities, and propaganda against the Islamic republic, none of which are true.

Now the government has accused the Baha’is recently arrested of having weapons in their homes, a baseless and ridiculous accusation, as it is against the principles of our Faith.

“Furthermore each and every one is required to show obedience, submission and loyalty towards his own government. Today no state in the world is in a condition of peace or tranquillity, for security and trust have vanished from among the people. Both the governed and the governors are alike in danger. The only group of people which today submitteth peacefully and loyally to the laws and ordinances of government and dealeth honestly and frankly with the people, is none other than this wronged community.”

(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 293)

If you want to know more about the situation facing the Baha’is in Iran, go to to read the articles there, which include links to CNN and other news sources that are reporting on this matter.  Please say prayers for all of the people of Iran, that this turmoil comes to a peaceful conclusion, and especially for those in prison for no other reason than for being Baha’is.

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Traveling in dreams

I love the idea that our dreams can transcend space and time.  Baha’u’llah discusses this theme in a fascinating passage from Gleanings:

“As to thy question concerning the worlds of God. Know thou of a truth that the worlds of God are countless in their number, and infinite in their range. None can reckon or comprehend them except God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. Consider thy state when asleep. Verily, I say, this phenomenon is the most mysterious of the signs of God amongst men, were they to ponder it in their hearts. Behold how the thing which thou hast seen in thy dream is, after a considerable lapse of time, fully realized.”

In the above section, He explains that sometimes we dream things that later come true.  I don’t believe in psychic phenomena, ghosts, or that I have any special powers.  I DO think that we don’t understand the nature of the soul and abilities of the mind.

Had the world in which thou didst find thyself in thy dream been identical with the world in which thou livest, it would have been necessary for the event occurring in that dream to have transpired in this world at the very moment of its occurrence. Were it so, you yourself would have borne witness unto it. This being not the case, however, it must necessarily follow that the world in which thou livest is different and apart from that which thou hast experienced in thy dream. This latter world hath neither beginning nor end.”

He then points out that since that dream did not happen in this world (as we would have experienced it in this one if it had), it must have happened in another “place”.

“It would be true if thou wert to contend that this same world is, as decreed by the All-Glorious and Almighty God, within thy proper self and is wrapped up within thee. It would equally be true to maintain that thy spirit, having transcended the limitations of sleep and having stripped itself of all earthly attachment, hath, by the act of God, been made to traverse a realm which lieth hidden in the innermost reality of this world.”

Ok, I have to admit that this kind of baffling, in an awesome way.  On one hand He is saying that this other world is inside of us, and on the other that our spirit goes to another place while we sleep!

“Verily I say, the creation of God embraceth worlds besides this world, and creatures apart from these creatures. In each of these worlds He hath ordained things which none can search except Himself, the All-Searching, the All-Wise. Do thou meditate on that which We have revealed unto thee, that thou mayest discover the purpose of God, thy Lord, and the Lord of all worlds. In these words the mysteries of Divine Wisdom have been treasured. We have refrained from dwelling upon this theme owing to the sorrow that hath encompassed Us from the actions of them that have been created through Our words, if ye be of them that will hearken unto Our Voice.”

(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 151)

Wow. Helps check the ego a bit, doesn’t it?  We’re God’s creation, and He loves us, but there are other creatures out there.  And we really don’t understand a lot of things about our own existence.  That isn’t frightening to me, though.  It just means that the human race has more potential than we know.

So I’ve just given my very limited input on the subject.  What do you think?

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“Waiting for the Sunrise” book review

This book “is the personal account of an interracial family’s struggle against pervasive racism in the U.S. and the horrors of the civil war that plagued Rwanda in 1994. Raised in the American Midwest, author Elizabeth Gatorano, who is White, had no idea of the trials she would face after marrying Phanuel, who is Black and an immigrant to the U.S. from Rwanda.” (from Baha’i Distribution Service)

“They’re dead.  I know they are dead.” Phanuel stated without looking up.

“Phanuel, we don’t know.  Please don’t let go of the hope that some are still alive.  They need you to keep the hope,” I pleaded.

“What can I do, Liz?  What can I do?  I can’t do anything.  I don’t think you understand how it feels to not be able to do anything.  On top of that, I am watching every day as my classmates, my teachers, my neighbors are being killed.  It is not just my family.  My history is being murdered,” Phanuel said as tears began to form in his eyes.

(excerpt from the book)

Reading Waiting for the Sunrise helped me gain insights into the difficulties that an interracial/intercultural marriage can face, informed me about the impact of the Rwandan civil war and Rwandan culture, and often brought me to tears.  I found myself getting so engrossed in the book that I would look up and realize that it was several hours later than I thought it was.  Their story is a compelling one, and necessary in a world that has more porous borders than before, but still struggles to learn how to accept the reality and necessity of the oneness of humanity.  There are not enough accounts of the transforming power of love, service, and faith, and the author writes in an engaging and personable way that made me wish the book would never end.

You can buy this book at Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble.

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a reminder

“When we see the condition the world is in today, we must surely forget these utterly insignificant internal disturbances,  and rush, unitedly, to the rescue of humanity. You should urge your fellow Bahá’ís to support you in a strong effort to suppress every critical thought and every harsh word, in order to let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh flow into the entire community, and unite it in His love and in His service.”

(Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 17)

“He feels that you should do your utmost to call the attention of the friends to these large things and real triumphs, and away from their personal differences and petty pre-occupations. Now is certainly not the time for any man to think of himself, or busy himself with the weaknesses of his brother; but, rather each and every Bahá’í must concentrate in the tasks ahead and be reborn in the service of Bahá’u’lláh.”

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the Area National Teaching Committee (USA), July 17, 1950: Bahá’í News, October 1970, p.3)

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News, updates, photos…

The trial of the seven Baha’i leaders in Iran has been postponed.  As this New York Times article so aptly put it: “The Bahais have long served as the proverbial canaries in the coal mine of Iran’s theocracy.” Injustice against one minority group does not bode well for the rest, which is why it is so important to fight against injustice of this nature.  Individuals should not be jailed because of their religious beliefs.  You would think that this is common sense, but unfortunately humanity still has a lot to learn.

My new camera is wonderful.  I’m still learning to use it, and am looking forward to investing in more lenses.  That will have to wait, however, as I’m considering the purchase of a laptop (I’ve not bought a new computer since 2001!).

I’ve been traveling for work, moving to a new apartment (my sublease is up at the end of the month, so I found another sublease until mid-October), trying to keep up with emails, photos, and other web-related things.  I have not had a chance to write much for Soulpancake, or for myself for that matter.  And, of course, spending time with my family and friends, who tend to get neglected when life gets busy.

If I haven’t told you lately that I love you, please know that I do!

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You need to know

Occasionally I like to bring web sites to your attention.  I don’t arbitrarily pick sites…these are hand-chosen, finely tempered sites with class and sophistication. ;-)  This post’s theme is “art & education”.

First of all, my latest interview (in collaboration with Ramin), with artist Alberto Cerriteño,  is up at Soulpancake.  Go read it.

Progress Gallery is a fantastic business that I’ve had the pleasure of being acquainted with for a number of years now (I even helped them move into their current space several years ago).  I was delighted to hear that they put up a website, opened an Etsy shop where you can buy prints and other things, and Bob Reddy, the owner/artist, did an interview with Soulpancake.  Their gallery is located in Evanston, Illinois, so be sure to stop by if you’re in the area.

Speaking of the Reddy family, Shannon Ekundayo Reddy has re-branded as Plot Twist.  You can download his beats, check out his design work, or hire him. 🙂

The Chicago Youth Animators “are a group of professionals from diverse ethnic, professional, and religious backgrounds who are interested in helping adolescents in Chicago schools develop the qualities and skills they will need to achieve their own life goals.” They use the junior youth materials published by Palabra, and combine “reading material, group activities, and community service projects.”

Misha is an artist who uses vibrant colors…whenever I see her art in someone’s home, I immediately know it is hers.  She has an online store where you can see and purchase some of her work.

Andrew Johnson, (, has re-launched his site as a portfolio for his work. Go look.

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The trial of the 7 Baha’is in Iran

O army of God! Beware lest ye harm any soul, or make any heart to sorrow; lest ye wound any man with your words, be he known to you or a stranger, be he friend or foe. Pray ye for all; ask ye that all be blessed, all be forgiven. Beware, beware, lest any of you seek vengeance, even against one who is thirsting for your blood. Beware, beware, lest ye offend the feelings of another, even though he be an evil-doer, and he wish you ill. Look ye not upon the creatures, turn ye to their Creator. See ye not the never-yielding people, see but the Lord of Hosts. Gaze ye not down upon the dust, gaze upward at the shining sun, which hath caused every patch of darksome earth to glow with light.

O army of God! When calamity striketh, be ye patient and composed. However afflictive your sufferings may be, stay ye undisturbed, and with perfect confidence in the abounding grace of God, brave ye the tempest of tribulations and fiery ordeals.

– Abdu’l-Baha

The seven Baha’is that have been in prison for over a year are supposed to go on trial in Iran in a few short hours.  Pray for their safe return to their families and a stop to the persecution of Baha’is in Iran.

A few recent articles on the subject:

Reports of a trial date for Baha’i leaders falsely accused of espionage

Roxana Saberi and USCIRF Call for Release of Iranian Baha’is

CNN: U.S. panel demands release of Baha’is facing trial in Iran

Times Online: It is not just democracy that is illegal in Iran-Cherie Blair

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“With aching hearts, Baha’is of the world focus on the events unfolding in Iran, the birthplace of their religion.” -Baha’i World News Service

Every day I read the news.  Whatever tragedy has happened in the world, the media is covering it (I use that term loosely, as I’m rather cynical about the way news is reported).

For the first time in 30 years, the American media is again focused on Iran.  They’re dusting off the talking heads, pundits, and anyone they can find with a connection to the events happening there.

Baha’is have a connection with Iran because it is where the Baha’i Faith began in 1844.  And since its inception, Baha’is in Iran have been persecuted, blatantly or subtly.  The situation is volatile, complicated, and very sad.  And today we hear that the trial date has been set for July 11 for the seven Baha’i leaders who have been in jail for a year without formal charges.  It is possible that they could be executed, simply for being Baha’is.

I have been watching, and waiting, as the situation in Iran has turned chaotic over the election results.  Things are summarized into sound bites, and everyone loves a story about the people fighting against tyranny.  However, it seems rather irresponsible to just throw my opinion out there.  It is so easy to forward an email, post a news story, or blog about a hot news topic.

“The Great Being saith: Human utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth moderation. As to its influence, this is conditional upon refinement which in turn is dependent upon hearts which are detached and pure. As to its moderation, this hath to be combined with tact and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets.” –Baha’u’llah

We don’t know what is really happening there, and perhaps it is not our place to interfere.  Yesterday I said the following on Twitter:

“Wisdom in speech, writing, & web postings. Perhaps we should have that as our mantra. We don’t know how our actions affect others.”

“If we are true Bahá’ís speech is not needed. Our actions will help on the world, will spread civilization, will help the progress of science, and cause the arts to develop. Without action nothing in the material world can be accomplished, neither can words unaided advance a man in the spiritual Kingdom. It is not through lip-service only that the elect of God have attained to holiness, but by patient lives of active service they have brought light into the world.

Therefore strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers. Turn towards God, and seek always to do that which is right and noble. Enrich the poor, raise the fallen, comfort the sorrowful, bring healing to the sick, reassure the fearful, rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless, shelter the destitute!” -Abdu’l-Baha

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A few minutes in between

These last few weeks have really done a number on me.  I finished up my work helping organize the 3rd Annual Baha’i Choral Festival at the Baha’i House of Worship.  The Festival was wonderful, you can read about it here, and watch the hour-long performance here.  (There were readings as well, but had to be cut out of the DVD.)  Then I moved over into another job, which is quite fun and keeps me very busy.  I’m only 4 days into it, and already feeling a bit like I did a year ago, right before International Convention.

I live out of suitcases and my car, my friends’ couch and my parent’s home.  My work is so far from home that commuting is painful.  But I get to see my friends a lot more now, and being in the city is wonderful.

On the continuing theme of my clumsiness, I knocked over a glass last weekend, and promptly sliced my finger open as I tried to rescue it.  Luckily it wasn’t too bad, and thank God for medication.

I went to a lovely wedding this past weekend.  That, combined with several friends visiting from out of town and the usual weekend festivities, created the deadly combination of no sleep, crazy meal schedules, and getting nothing done on my to-do list.  My poor to-do list is feeling quite neglected.

Twitter was sending me into a spiral of distraction, so 9 days ago I took a break.  I don’t really miss it, and I’ve stopped thinking in terms of tweets.  Maybe when things settle back down I’ll get into it again, but right now I’m enjoying the silence.

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Ascension of Baha’u’llah

One year ago.

We walked in the darkness, the glow of lights far away.  The mosquitoes attacked if we sat too long, and so we walked.  The night was damp, the seats surrounding Bahji covered in dew, the rocks less dusty than usual.

We walked up the stairs and down again, we bowed our heads at the threshhold and let tears fall down our faces.

I stood in the room where the Blessed Beauty was freed from this mortal life, and felt the universe revolve around that spot.

We stood at the top of marble columns and looked out over the world, and we stared into the warm summer night, in surprise and awe at this wonderful luck. How were we here at this moment, in this place?

We told stories, whispers that carried through to hearts, and we looked up at a full sky of stars, down at our feet that carried us down the silent paths, and at the light that reflected off our eyes and souls.

Let not your hearts be perturbed, O people, when the glory of My Presence is withdrawn, and the ocean of My utterance is stilled. In My presence amongst you there is a wisdom, and in My absence there is yet another, inscrutable to all but God, the Incomparable, the All-Knowing. Verily, We behold you from Our realm of glory, and shall aid whosoever will arise for the triumph of Our Cause with the hosts of the Concourse on high and a company of Our favored angels.

(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 139)

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Beautiful music

“Raise ye a clamour like unto a roaring sea; like a prodigal cloud, rain down the grace of heaven. Lift up your voices and sing out the songs of the Abha Realm. Quench ye the fires of war, lift high the banners of peace, work for the oneness of humankind and remember that religion is the channel of love unto all peoples. Be ye aware that the children of men are sheep of God and He their loving Shepherd, that He careth tenderly for all His sheep and maketh them to feed in His own green pastures of grace and giveth them to drink from the wellspring of life. Such is the way of the Lord. Such are His bestowals. Such, from among His teachings, is His precept of the oneness of mankind.”

(Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 35)

“When eloquence of expression, beauty of sense and sweetness of composition unite with new melodies the effect is ever great, especially if it be the anthem of the verses of oneness and the songs of praise to the Lord of Glory.”

(Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 59)

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This time last year

Today is the First Day of Ridvan, and we celebrated by having some friends over for lunch.  Now I am having a quiet afternoon, enjoying the silence, reflecting, and trying to recover from a cold.

The Most Great Festival is, indeed, the King of Festivals. Call ye to mind, O people, the bounty which God hath conferred upon you. Ye were sunk in slumber, and lo! He aroused you by the reviving breezes of His Revelation, and made known unto you His manifest and undeviating Path.

(Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 59)

This time last year…I was at Bahji for the celebration of the Holy Day.  We were 5 days away from the Tenth International Baha’i Convention, and I was surprisingly put together and relaxed.  It was spring, but felt a bit more like summer.  Everything is a blur…you know that you need to remember the details, but you don’t have time to write everything down.  The anticipation of waiting for the delegates to arrive, making sure last minute tasks were taken care of, phone calls and emails…

But on the Holy Day, everything stops for a moment.  There is silence, then the sound of chanting filling the gardens at Bahji, and the sunlight strong on my face and hair, the crunching of stones underfoot as over 500 people circumambulate the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, the joy of talking with friends and laughing as the sun begins to set.

…and then back to work.

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the end of winter?

“Unless the season of winter appear, thunder roll, lightning flash, snow and rain fall, hail and frost descend and the intensity of cold execute its command, the season of the soul-refreshing spring would not come, the fragrant breeze would not waft, the moderation of temperature would not be realized, the roses and hyacinths would not grow, the surface of the earth would not become a delectable paradise, the trees would not bloom, neither would they bring forth fruits and leaves. That fierce inclemency of cold, snow, frost and tempest was the beginning of the manifestation of these roses, hyacinths, buds, blossoms and fruits.”

(Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v3, p. 655)

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Naw Ruz

Today is the Baha’i new year, Naw Ruz.  It has been one hundred years since the remains of The Bab were laid to rest in the Shrine on Mount Carmel.  For one and a half years, I could see the Shrine from my apartment.  Such a blessing!

“…’Abdu’l-Bahá had the marble sarcophagus transported with great labor to the vault prepared for it, and in the evening, by the light of a single lamp, He laid within it, with His own hands — in the presence of believers from the East and from the West and in circumstances at once solemn and moving — the wooden casket containing the sacred remains of the Bab…”

‘The most joyful tidings is this,’ He wrote later in a Tablet announcing to His followers the news of this glorious victory, ‘that the holy, the luminous body of the Bab … after having for sixty years been transferred from place to place, by reason of the ascendancy of the enemy, and from fear of the malevolent, and having known neither rest nor tranquillity has, through the mercy of the Abha Beauty, been ceremoniously deposited, on the day of Naw-Ruz, within the sacred casket, in the exalted Shrine on Mt. Carmel… By a strange coincidence, on that same day of Naw-Ruz, a cablegram was received from Chicago, announcing that the believers in each of the American centers had elected a delegate and sent to that city … and definitely decided on the site and construction of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar.'”

(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 276)

I remember how often he [Shoghi Effendi] would tell the visiting pilgrims that because a simple candle was denied the beloved Bab during His imprisonment in Mah-Ku, His resting-place was to be eternally a temple of light. This was also true inside His tomb, where there is a magnificent chandelier, with almost a hundred electric bulbs that, when lighted, turn the sombre dim light of the inner chamber into the full glory of brilliant sunshine.

(Ugo Giachery, Shoghi Effendi – Recollections)

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Things you should know

NYLON PARLA, the photoblog that I contribute to, has this week’s theme up, which is “Streetlife”.  Check it out!

Also, the illustrious and illustrative Ekundayo has made this awesome poster, which I want to share with you.

A Public Service Announcement

The caption on the picture states:

“I’m not saying comedy and satire have no place in the racial discussion. I’m saying that lately its become acceptable, especially among young white males and the peers and comedians they look to for social cues, to say incredibly hateful and ignorant things behind a smokescreen of irony or shock humor. Saying “I’m not racist” after thinking of and deciding to actually say something racist is not enough to get you off the hook. Spread this around if you agree.”

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Nineteen Days

day six

Check out today’s posting…it took quite a bit of effort to get those pictures to the wonderful ladies at nineteen days, as I did not have internet access last night. I used Twitter at around 6 am to inform them that I was running late, and would send them soon!  After waking up for breakfast before dawn, I raced over to the local Kinko’s (in my pajamas) and tried to connect my laptop…no luck. So I put my memory card in the computers they had there, paid my $1.75 fee, and sent off the pictures and quotation. Whew!

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Some new material regarding the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran

First, and most importantly, is this amazing letter from the Baha’i International Community that was sent on March 4, 2009 to the Ayatollah.  If you want a clear explanation of the situation of the Baha’is in Iran, distilled to a few pages, this document is ideal.

Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi
Prosecutor General
Islamic Republic of Iran

Your Honor,

Your recent announcement regarding the administrative affairs of the Bahá’ís of Iran has brought to the arena of public debate issues which not only affect the safety and livelihood of the members of that community but also have profound implications for the future of every citizen of that esteemed nation. The steps that have been taken to formulate the response of the Iranian Bahá’í community to your announcement have surely been communicated to you. The Yaran and the Khademin, the small groups that have been attending to the spiritual and social needs of the several hundred thousand Bahá’ís of Iran, the former at the national level and the latter at the local, have expressed their willingness to bring to a close their collective functioning. This decision has been made for no other reason than to demonstrate yet again the goodwill that the Bahá’ís have consistently shown to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the past thirty years...

Read the rest of the letter here.

Also, there is a map of incidents in Iran where persecution has taken place at a new site called Baha’i Watch.  Very well done.

Finally, there is a video that gives “A brief overview of the historical, and current day persecution Baha’is have endured in Iran. Includes a glimpse into how Baha’is around the world are agents for change.”

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Baha’i Fast Survival Kit


  • freeze-dried food and energy bars (for waking up too late to cook breakfast/emergency hunger at sunset)
  • an alarm with built-in sunrise and sunset times, which beeps as you get closer to the deadline
  • a clothespin for your nose (for while you cook or have to be around yummy smelling food)
  • a prayer book
  • extra-strength toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash
  • sleeping mask for those daytime naps
  • energy drink (for the after-dinner food coma)
  • instructional manual with list of best foods to eat during the Fast, how to explain to your friends that Fasting is medically healthy for most people, and activities one can engage in besides eating (sudoku, knitting, origami, cross-stitching, organizing paperclips, etc)

Only $19.95!

This little idea came out of a conversation I had with a friend about cooking dinner during the Fast.  It is the last few hours which are the hardest, as you prepare food and anticipate the moment that you will eat and drink again.  I tend to get more creative during this time…I want to eat really good food!  In the last few days I have made: homemade spaghetti (none of that canned stuff), burgers, mashed potatoes, pineapple meatballs, scalloped potatoes, Persian rice, and a few other random things that I can’t remember.

The Fast is a spiritual time, but you DO have to keep a sense of humor about it. :-)  I was going to put a picture of food to illustrate this post, but decided to be kind.  Also, it is time for my nap.

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Something new

I decided to change a few minor things on my blog, the most noticeable of which is the addition of a second sidebar, where I have linked to a number of blogs of friends of mine.  I cleaned up a lot of old links, and if you haven’t updated your blog in 3 or 4 months, I probably took it off of the list.  Blogging is about interacting and posting!  If you’re blogging…keep up the good work!  If you think I might not know about your blog, please send me an email or comment to let me know.  I like to keep up with everyone.

I also updated the “Links” and “About me” pages…

NYLON PARLA, the photoblogging project that I am a part of, has started up again after a short hiatus. Link to it and spread the word!

During the Baha’i Fast (which starts today), the photoblog nineteen days will be featuring a guest photographer each day, with a contribution from all of us on Naw Ruz.  I’m so excited about being a part of it, and can’t wait to see what everyone contributes.

Speaking of the Fast, this is the first time that I’ve fasted at home since I was in high school (except for the occasional weekend home from university), and I’m really looking forward to it.  As usual, I am awake at a very late hour and hope that waking up at 5:45 am won’t hurt too much.

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