Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday Haiku: Waterfall

      Falling over rocks
           the ancient waters enter
           a pool of new life.

                            ~ CK


Photos by Charles Kinnaird
taken at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Recipes My Daughter Likes: Falafel

One of my favorite restaurants in Birmingham is The Pita Stop which features Middle Eastern food. It has been in town for many years and was originally started by a Lebanese family. It was there that I first became acquainted with falafel, which immediately became my favorite thing on their menu.  If you are ever in town, The Pita Stop is well worth the visit.

Years ago I was talking with a colleague about how much I liked the Middle Eastern dish. His wife was Egyptian, and he mentioned that she had a recipe and often made her own falafel. I asked if she would mind sharing the recipe, which thankfully she did.  I immediately tried it at home and it is now one of my daughter’s favorites. While she was home visiting this summer, she requested that I make it again.

Here is the recipe that I have kept in the form of a handwritten note and used for years: 

Ensaf's Falafel

  • 4 cups dried chick peas
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 whole garlic
  • 2 bunches parsley
  • Hot peppers (I use 4 jalapenos in my half recipe version - 5 if you like it really spicy!)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground pepper


Soak the chick peas overnight, drain.
Combine chick peas, onion, garlic, parsley and hot pepper. Grind twice in an electric meat grinder.
Add salt, pepper, cumin, and baking powder. Mix thoroughly.
When ready to fry the falafel, add baking soda.
Shape into patties 1 ½  inches in diameter and ½ inch thick.
Fry in deep hot oil until light brown and crisp. (I use peanut oil in a large frying pan)
Serve hot with tomato slices in Arabic (pita) bread in the form of a sandwich with tahini sauce and sliced onion. Garnish with parsley.

The falafel batter may be frozen. Thaw and add baking soda just before frying.

*  *  *  *

I should note that when I make this, I just make a half recipe, which is as much as I want to deal with at a time. I use a food processor to do the grinding. First, I'll grind the chick peas (I do it in small batches in the food processor) then with the second grinding, I'll add the parsley, onion, and peppers I end up with a large mixing bowl full of batter with just a half recipe.  I usually have it with brown rice, sometimes with pita bread. Also, I must confess that I have never used tahini sauce when serving these at home, but I found a recipe online that looks good. You can find it here.

Falafel (photo from Wikipedia)


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50 Years Ago today

Remembering the 1963 March for Jobs and Justice in Washington, D.C. -- today we celebrate the hope that was launched that day with Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. It is also a day to carry the dream forward. The hope has been steadily met with resistance, yet the hope persists as long as there are people of good conscience. Here is the speech Dr. Martin Luther King gave that day, in it's entirety.

 "Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy."

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Music: Sure on this Shining Night

Morten Lauridsen Has composed some of the most beautiful choral work I have heard. Here is his choral setting of the poem by James Agee. Agee is perhaps best know for his book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, written in collaboration with photographer Walker Evans. "Sure on this Shining Night" is a beautiful example of sensitive, evocative poetry set to wondrous and equally evocative music.

[Note: The soundtrack for the video above has been removed for copywright reasons. You can see and hear the Westminster Chorus performing the same work at]

Sure on this Shining Night

Sure on this shining night
Of star-made shadows round
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.

The late year lies down the north,
All is healed, all is health
High summer holds the earth,
Hearts all whole.

Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder
Wandr’ing far alone
Of shadows on the stars.

James Agee (1909-1955) 
From “Description of Elysium,” stanzas 6-8, in Permit Me Voyage, (1934)


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Haiku: Not Forlorn

The ragged-limbed tree,
     ugly to the human eye,
     holds beauty for birds.

                           ~ CK


Photo: Public Domain
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Recipes that my Daughter Likes: Pasta Primavera

Someone shared this heart-healthy recipe at work. I thought it looked good, so I tried it at home. My daughter loved it and requested it on occasion thereafter. Last summer she was at home after graduating from college and about to start graduate school out of state. I promised to prepare the dish before she made the 12 hour trek to her new school. Actually, it was on the night before her departure that I made the pasta primavera again.

I had been bummed out four years earlier when my little girl went off to college, but it seemed that after four years of college I was better adjusted to the fact that she was growing up and moving on. It seemed that way, but then there were those tell-tale feelings that could be touched upon in ordinary conversation.  As I was getting the kitchen ready for dinner preparation, my daughter was packing things up for her trip the next day. “It won’t be long now, will it, Dad?” I thought to myself, “No it won’t be long before my daughter makes the big move away.” Then I realized that she was talking about dinner – it wouldn’t be long before dinner was ready. I chuckled inside at myself and told her it wouldn't be long.  She went ahead with her packing and then left to put a few things in the storage facility.

As I was putting the finishing touches on the pasta primavera, my wife came in and said, “You know she’s gone, don’t you?” I was thinking, “I am well aware that my daughter is actually leaving – she’s moving on to the next chapter in her life; she is leaving the nest for good, she's really gone this time…” Then I realized that my wife was talking about the fact that she had gone over to the storage rental facility. I took a deep breath and laughed at myself again, but I knew that these were signs that part of me was having difficulty with the changes ahead. I had full confidence in our daughter, but I would miss these days of having her home.

So we had a great dinner and the next day my daughter and I were on the road. I travelled with her on that first trip and helped her to get settled into her new digs at grad school. Here is the recipe for the pasta primavera that we enjoyed that night:

Pasta Primavera

  • 1 (8-ounce) package fettuccine
  • 1 teaspoon margarine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Dash of ground red pepper
  • 3 small carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup low-fat sour cream
Cook pasta in a large Dutch oven according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well, and set aside.

Melt margarine in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic; sauté until tender. Add broccoli and next 7 ingredients; cook, uncovered, over medium heat until vegetable are tender. Drain.

Add pasta to vegetable mixture in skillet, and cook until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat, and transfer to a large bowl. Add parmesan cheese and sour cream, tossing lightly to coat. Yield: 8 (1 1/2-cup) servings.

Nutrition facts:
Count 1 serving as: 2 Vegetable, 1 Starch, 1/2 Meat/Dairy, 1 Fat
Per serving: Calories 221 Fat 7g Sat Fat 4 Protein 12g Carbohydrate 28g Fiber 3g Cholesterol 44mg Sodium 579mg

 (Note: I did not use a Dutch oven; I just used a large pot to cook the pasta. I also omitted the garlic due to family preference.)


Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Music: Sea Image (The Chieftains)

"Sea Image" is one of my favorite songs performed by the Chieftains. It appeared on The Chieftains 8 album and was also used as the main theme on the soundtrack for the movie The Grey Fox.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday Haiku: Garden Spider


Having spun her orb,
     nature’s bounty will reward
     as she rests and waits.

                                                                ~ CK


Photos by Charles Kinnaird
Black and yellow garden spider (argiope aurantia)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

There's a New Saint in Town

St Kateri Tekakwitha on the grounds of
St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Adamsville, Ala.

Growing up in Tallapoosa County in east central Alabama, I very quickly became aware of the fact that I was living and walking on ground that was once the home of Native Americans, or “Indians” as we said back in the 1960s. “Tallapoosa” after all is a Native American word.  Depending upon whom you believe, it comes from the Choctaw term for pulverized rock, or a Creek word meaning “golden water" (I like golden water - it's how the Tallapoosa River looks after a big rain).  In addition to our county name, there were other place names that derived from the former Native American inhabitants. In fact, Alabama is full of Native American place names: Saugahatchee, Wetumpka, Tuscaloosa, Eufaula, Sylacauga – they are too numerous to mention here.  Not only did the place names reflect Native American heritage, their history was ever present.  Arrowheads could still be found on occasion during hikes in the woods and on walks along the lake.

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, on the Tallapoosa River and just a few miles from our home, memorialized the defeat of the Creek Nation at the hands of General Andrew Jackson and his army. Jackson’s role in the Indian wars set him on a path to the presidency where he would sign into law the Indian Removal Act. The Cherokee Nation went to court and won when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that act unconstitutional.  Undaunted by the rule of law, President Andrew Jackson proceeded with the forced removal of Native Americans from their tribal lands in what would be known as the Trail of Tears.

Withered Memories

Having grown up in the shadow of Native American history where Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctoaw influence had been reduced to place names and withered memories, as a young adult I began to wonder how my life might have been different, how our culture could have been different, if we had learned to coexist with native tribes  rather than implement the genocidal policies our forbears chose.  How might our development as a country have been augmented? What values would we hold as a society? Would we be closer to nature and more respectful of the environment? Would we be more inclusive and less xenophobic? How would I see the world differently if I had grown up in a land that included its native population and respected their culture?

Questions like these led me to come to appreciate the words and witness that I found in works such as Black Elk Speaks, by John Neihardt which relays the story and vision of the Lakota shaman Black Elk in his own words; and Russell Means' autobiography, Where White Men Fear to Tread, which gives an account of the modern day plight of Native Americans from their viewpoint told by one of their own, beginning with the Wounded knee massacre. Knowing that as a descendant of Scots-Irish settlers I walked on blood-stained ground, I therefore wanted to learn more about the stories of the Native Americans who once walked the same ground.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Last month when I learned that there would be a “Native American Mass” at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church (Adamsville, Alabama) for the feast of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, I was naturally intrigued and made it a point to attend. Kateri Tekakwitha, I learned, was canonized just last October – the first Native American saint to be recognized by the Vatican. Known to devotees as “The Lily of the Mohawks,” her official feast day is July 14.  When I arrived for the service I was surprised and amazed that there was a beautiful shine to the Algonquin saint on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Church.  I learned that there is a Kateri Circle that meets at St. Patrick’s whose purpose is “to promote Native American spirituality within the Catholic Church.” I learned from the parish’s website that the shrine was dedicated in 2005.

I went to the Mass at St. Patrick’s with the full understanding of the complicated nature of the church’s relationship with the Native American population.  The conversion of American Indian tribes to Christianity was a mixture of genuine compassion on the part of many missionaries and a sense of patriarchal condescension on the part of many Christians. Moreover, it was one element in a larger attempt to eradicate Native American culture as white settlers sought more land to occupy.  Today, much too late by some standards, we are coming to have a better understanding of Native American cultures. We are beginning to recognize that while there is value in cultural exchange, efforts at wholesale conversion can be just another form of aggression on the part of the dominant culture.  That being understood, I was interested in seeing what a Native American Mass would be like.

When I arrived for Mass, the service was simple and straightforward. Scriptures for that day were read from the lectionary and prayers were offered.  The hymns that were sung included "We Are One in the Spirit." The priest, Father Vernon Hugley, gave a homily recounting some of his experiences growing up as a minority (African American) in the South and offering St. Kateri as an example of living with simplicity. 

After the Mass, the congregation processed to the Woodland Garden. It was then that I first laid eyes on the Shrine to the new saint. There was a gentleman there who played a Native American flute as more prayers were offered. There were some people visiting from New York of Mohawk descent who spoke of their veneration to St. Kateri Tekakwitha. One of them, dressed in Native American garb, explained the custom of smudging then offered the ceremony to all who wanted to participate (which was everyone present). Smudging, she explained was a cleansing ritual in which a smoke, or incense, derived from the burning of sage was fanned upon an individual using fan made of bird feathers. Native Americans would typically undergo smudging just prior to entering into ritual dance. Smudging was also often done for a household if there had been a visitor who had brought any kind of negativity or disharmony to the family therein.

I participated in the smudging ritual and listened to members of the Kateri Circle explain the medicine wheel which stood next to the statue of St. Kateri. The conversation turned back to St. Kateri when one lady from the Mohawk tribe in New York told of how her obstetrician had told her when she was pregnant that her child would be born handicapped. Her grandmother, not knowing of the doctor’s report sensed something was wrong and appealed to Kateri for a healthy child. That same “baby” was with her that day as a completely normal 20 year-old young lady.  [Kateri had been named “venerable” by Pope Pius XXII in 1943, and “beatified” by Pope John Paul II in 1980.  According to Catholic practice, that made veneration appropriate, though she had not yet been named a saint.

The members of the Kateri Circle and the Native Americans who spoke to the group that day were delighted that the Vatican has recognized St. Tekakwitha. They saw it as an affirmation of their culture. “We were not even recognized as citizens of the United States until 1924,” one person pointed out (that was the year the Indian Citizenship Act was passed).  As the ceremonies were carried out with the Native American flute playing in the background, there was a definite sense of progress in multicultural relations. Whereas in the past, there had been an attempt to eliminate Native American languages and cultural practices from American Indian tribes, on this day there was an affirmation of Native American customs.

When she was declared a Saint in October of 2012, Kateri Tekakwitha was named patroness of the environment and ecology.  As the Roman Catholic Church has made room for Native American customs within her fold, may we likewise make room for some of the values shared by our Native American friends.  Respect for the environment and consideration for future generations would be a good place to begin.

The plaque on a stone by the Medicine Wheel reads:
"An ancient symbol of the Sacred Connection
of the Creator, all People, and all Creation.
It is still a powerful sign of good medicine"


All photos were taken by Charles Kinnaird


Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Music: Bobby McFerrin, "Ave Maria"

Bobby McFerrin does something remarkable at a music workshop with "Ave Maria." I post this today in honor of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary coming up this week on August 15.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday Haiku: Wakefulness

 One cup of coffee –
      Sipping in the morning light;
      Gratefully awake!

                          ~ CK

Photo: Public Domain
          Wikimedia Commons


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Celebrating our Commonalities; Respecting our Differences

[As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan comes to a close, I am offering one more essay on the value of interfaith dialogue. - CK]

In his inaugural lecture at Cambridge University, C.S. Lewis stated that “Christians and Pagans had much more in common with each other than either has with a post-Christian. The gap between those who worship different gods is not so wide as that between those who worship and those who do not.” He was talking about how Europeans had for so long seen their history as divided into two eras, pre-Christian and Christian, but that today we must acknowledge a third, the post-Christian era.  Lewis was speaking in 1954 in England, and his view was understandably quite Eurocentric. 

Today, we live in a world that is far more diverse and less Eurocentric.  Moreover, we of European descent find ourselves in a world that is not only post-Christian in terms of culture, but also multicultural in its diversity. In fact, both Christian and post-Christian cultures are, depending upon your point of view, either in decline or awakening to find themselves as one among many viable communities.

From my perspective as one who tries to champion interfaith dialogue, C.S. Lewis’s observation that Christians and Pagans had more in common than either has with the modern world is an excellent starting point for dialogue. As one who regularly participates in Christian worship and tries to be a practitioner of faith, when I see Muslims gather at the mosque, Jewish friends meeting on the Sabbath, or Hindus meeting for worship, I see fellow travelers and pilgrims who, like me, are attempting to connect with the divine realm in order to bring meaning to their lives.

Those of us who seek peaceful dialogue with other faiths, however, too often focus only upon the things we hold in common. In actual fact, we cannot simply look at our similarities, have a kumbaya moment and go in peace. We must acknowledge that there are indeed differences that cannot be glossed over. There are a number of resources that I have found which can help those who wish to become more engaged in interfaith endeavors.

Resources I have found helpful

I. God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World — and Why Their Differences Matter, by Stephen Prothero.  In Stephen  Prothero’s book he argues that we are not advancing toward a better world by claiming that all religions are essentially the same. He opts for realism over idealism and says we do more good by a healthy understanding of the differences found the world’s religions.

Prothero’s point is well taken, that we cannot just gloss over religious differences and think that all religions are the same. It is also true that what a person believes about God or ultimate reality will affect how that person engages with others in society. Prothero uses a sports analogy to drive home his point. You cannot say that baseball, football and basketball are the same, because they have different goals and rules. You cannot say that baseball is superior because it scores more runs, when the other sports do not even have scoring runs as a goal. I have a clergy friend who was telling me about an interfaith group she was a part of. There were Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and Christians in the group, and they did not try to say that they believed the same things. What they were trying to do was to find ways to live together and projects in which they could cooperate. So I can agree that all religions are not the same.

Prothero uses the sports analogy. I might use a different analogy, though. People throughout the world speak different languages. Even though these languages are not the same, and often concepts are lost or diminished by attempts at translation, each language has grammar and syntax, and each language has communication as its purpose. So in some sense, languages are the same even though the words, sounds and structures are completely different.

II. The Search for God at Harvard, by Ari L. Goldman. Goldman’s approach is different from Prothero’s. Goldman is a journalist and an observant Jew. The book is about his experience taking a year’s leave of absence to study at Harvard Divinity. He states that his preconceived notion was, “If you know one religion, you know them all.” Diana Eck, professor of World Religions at Harvard, gave him a wake-up call on the first day of class when she said, “If you know one religion, you don’t know any.” Goldman came to understand that “It is unfair and unwise to understand one religion by the yardstick of another.” The author came to appreciate other faiths in the course of his studies by seeing them from the inside.

On passage in particular illustrates Goldman’s intent in writing the book: “I am sitting in a black Baptist church and feel swept away by the incredible combination of pain, joy and music ricocheting through the building. I am sitting in a Russian Orthodox Church surrounded by statues and icons, and feel a sense of mystery and transcendence. I am sitting among Quakers at a Friends' meeting and feel a serenity I have never before known. In each case I leave as a Jew, rooted in the richness of my own faith but nourished by the faith of others.”

III. When Faiths Collide, by Martin Marty keeps the reader firmly planted in the real world and calls for active engagement, not simple tolerance in interfaith matters. Those who advocate tolerance usually hold matters of faith and religion lightly and think everyone should do the same so that we can all “live and let live.” In reality, however, there are many for whom religion is central to their identity and world view and they will not relegate it to a lesser role. For Marty, hospitality is what is called for in dealing with religious conflict. Marty goes to great pains to describe the culture that dev eloped in the United States as we moved toward a more pluralistic society. Using the terms “belongers” and “strangers” Marty illustrates how attitudes develop, misunderstandings arise, then suspicion and conflict ensues. 

In terms of interfaith opportunities Martin Marty prefers the term “conversation” rather than “dialogue,” adding that no one ever comes away saying “I won that conversation.” He advocates telling stories since stories are important to everyone and they are more open-ended than doctrinal statements. He also advises the reader to expect conflicts but to realize that conflict can lead to more creative interaction. 

Martin Marty makes no claims to having a solution to the problem of belongers vs. strangers, but hopes to “present readers with some understanding of the zones where the religious meanings and intentions of strangers have become confused and heated” so that we can begin to “explore understandings, options, and alternatives that we may have been overlooking before.” The key lies in overt acts of hospitality in which one can welcome the stranger without denying one’s own faith or attacking the faith of the other.

IV. Beyond Tolerance by Gustav Niebuhr is a very hopeful and helpful book, in my opinion. It is written by the grandson of Richard Niebuhr (and great nephew of Reinhold Niebuhr).  In his role as journalist, Gustav Niebuhr gives accounts from across the country of ordinary citizens engaging in meaningful communication and collaboration with people of other faiths.  This short and readable book offers a basis for a true regard for the faith practices of others and actual examples of interfaith dialogue.

V. The Jew in the Lotus, by Roger Kamenetz is a fascinating account of a delegation of rabbis who travel to Dharamsala, India for dialogue with the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama had invited them for a visit because he wanted to learn from them “the secret of Jewish spiritual survival in exile.” The book is a wonderful discovery of Tibetan Buddhism and Judaism. It offers an example of purposeful interfaith dialogue.  The effect upon Kamenetz was a rediscovery of his Jewish roots.

The Global Village

The global village is becoming more and more evident as we find ourselves living in close proximity with people from other cultures. This proximity is more common today than it has been in the past. We are seeing more bilingual communication on road signs, in community flyers, and on food labels in the supermarket.  For those of us accustomed to being the “belongers,” we can find ourselves becoming irritated that “strangers” have come into our midst. Those societal and cultural bearings that were our center may not feel as secure as they once did. Unfortunately,  the response of the dominant culture (the belongers) is often to redouble their efforts in keeping the past alive and to do all manner of things to make things more difficult for the immigrant, the newcomer, the Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu (the strangers).

For those of us in our respective faith communities, we have an opportunity to practice hospitality in order to learn from our neighbors and to help in building a pluralistic society that benefits the common good. We can show by example how to welcome the stranger and how we can be true to our own faith and culture while listening to the stories of those from different faiths and cultures.  It requires listening with true regard for the other as well as a concern for the well-being of all of society – not an uncomplicated task or an easy one, but a task well worth taking up.


Note: Some sections of this essay were taken from previous blog posts:


Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Music: I and I

Here is one of Dylan's most remarkable pieces. It is a haunting and mythic look into the realm of self awareness -- one of his more psychologically probing songs. It comes from his 1983 recording, Infidels.

I and I
By Bob Dylan

Been so long since a strange woman has slept in my bed
Look how sweet she sleeps, how free must be her dreams
In another lifetime she must have owned the world, or been faithfully wed
To some righteous king who wrote psalms beside moonlit streams

I and I
In creation where one’s nature neither honors nor forgives
I and I
One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives

Think I’ll go out and go for a walk
Not much happenin’ here, nothin’ ever does
Besides, if she wakes up now, she’ll just want me to talk
I got nothin’ to say, ’specially about whatever was

I and I
In creation where one’s nature neither honors nor forgives
I and I
One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives

Took an untrodden path once, where the swift don’t win the race
It goes to the worthy, who can divide the word of truth
Took a stranger to teach me, to look into justice’s beautiful face
And to see an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth

I and I
In creation where one’s nature neither honors nor forgives
I and I

One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives
Outside of two men on a train platform there’s nobody in sight
They’re waiting for spring to come, smoking down the track
The world could come to an end tonight, but that’s all right
She should still be there sleepin’ when I get back

I and I
In creation where one’s nature neither honors nor forgives
I and I

One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives
Noontime, and I’m still pushin’ myself along the road, the darkest part
Into the narrow lanes, I can’t stumble or stay put
Someone else is speakin’ with my mouth, but I’m listening only to my heart
I’ve made shoes for everyone, even you, while I still go barefoot

I and I
In creation where one’s nature neither honors nor forgives
I and I
One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives

Copyright © 1983 by Special Rider Music

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday Haiku: Blue Heron

                                  She wades in the creek
                                       Silently keeping her guard.
                                       Suddenly – aloft!


Photo: Great Blue Heron
             Public Domain
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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