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Re-Engaging Youth During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This week I had an email from a reader in Pakistan, asking me to reflect on these four subjects:

1)  What have we learned from the COVID-19 ??

2)  Our youths are sleeping until noon/afternoon and are active on social media (cell phone) during the whole night. Any specific topic or mini-compilation will be a great help as our Baha’i activities are suffering much due to this bad pattern of sleeping.

3)  Any article or mini compilations on meaningful ways of using social media.

4)  A compilation on media is a need of the hour.

Our children and few other Baha’i youths are doing active online courses (such as Transformative Leadership for Youth, The Baha’i Faith and the Arts, etc) with the Wilmette Institute in the USA.

I replied:

You ask some very important questions, and my heart goes out to you and to the youth of Pakistan.

Unfortunately I haven’t had any experience working with youth so I’m not the best person to ask.  Also, after reading their reality, each community needs to have a tailor-made program which will work for their population.  There are vast differences around the world, and within a country, from cluster to cluster.  So anything I could contribute would be from my perspective as someone living in an inactive cluster in rural Canada and not necessarily relevant to your corner of Pakistan.

Some thoughts did come to my mind after praying about how to help.

  1. I strongly believe that this is an issue of vital importance to the NSA, Baha’i Council, Auxiliary Board and Institute Board. Have you consulted with these institutions?
  1. These are topics which could be discussed with the animators, who could then introduce them into the junior youth empowerment program.
  1. If your Bahá’í youth are sleeping until noon/afternoon and are active on social media the whole night, their peers are probably doing the same. The problem may not be their sleeping pattern, but capitalizing on it to reach out to engage their cohorts in:
    • Meaningful conversations
    • Animator Training
    • Youth Conferences
    • Service to their Communities
    • Teaching Children’s Classes
    • Holding Devotional Gatherings
    • Completing the Sequence of Ruhi Classes
  1. Many ideas and suggestions can be found in the current guidance of the House of Justice, particularly the following letters.

Since then, there have been messages to Canada and the USA on the topic of healing racism.  There may have also been similar letters to your part of the world.

Perhaps a youth gathering could be organized on a platform such as Zoom, where youth and/or youth animators can gather together to study these messages and make plans.

  1. Perhaps youth could be encouraged to attend Bahá’í Summer Schools. If none have been organized in Pakistan, this is a good year to participate anywhere in the world they may want to go.   Perhaps a team of youth could research the dates, topics and registration details for summer schools around the world and encourage the youth to participate.
  1. Here are some articles discussing what Bahá’ís around the world are learning from the pandemic:

· Pilgrimage Travel Advisory Coronavirus (COVID-19):  https://pilgrimage.bwc.org/traveladvisory/

· Baha’i Education Efforts Move Online in a Hurry:  https://www.bahai.us/bahai-education-efforts-move-online-in-a-hurry/

· Spiritual Conversation: Spiritual Resilience in the Time of COVID-19:  https://www.bahaiblog.net/2020/06/spiritual-conversation-resilience-in-the-time-of-covid-19-video/

· From Baha’i to Zoroastrians, Jews to Jains: Keeping the Faith Amid COVID-19:  https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/covid19-singapore-religious-faith-ramadan-12764482

·  Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson – COVID-19 Special with Dr. Robert Kim-Farley:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBqHbFTb0Vo

· Hope and Support in Italy During a Global Health Crisis:  https://news.bahai.org/story/1401/

· Reflections on the Coronavirus and the Oneness of Humanity:  https://bahaiteachings.org/reflections-on-coronavirus-and-oneness-humanity/

· Rising to the Occasion in a Global Crisis:  https://news.bahai.org/story/1404/

·  Covid-19 and the Digital Era – Esther Kaufman:  http://blog.umd.edu/bahaichair/2020/06/15/covid-19-and-the-digital-era-esther-kaufman/

· Why are Blacks Dying at Higher Rates from COVID-19?  https://blog.umd.edu/bahaichair/2020/07/20/why-are-blacks-dying-at-higher-rates-from-covid-19-professor-rashawn-ray/

· Keeping Baha’i Prisoners, Iran Threatens the Entire Country’s Health:  https://religionnews.com/2020/04/16/keeping-bahai-prisoners-iran-threatens-the-entire-countrys-health/

· Heroes of the COVID-19 Era:  https://blogs.adobe.com/adobelife/2020/06/23/heroes-of-the-covid-19-era/

  1. Perhaps the following articles would spark some ideas of activities the youth could do. (I apologize for the Western focus but it was what I could find in my Google search.   You might do better from your part of the world.  The search terms I used were “Bahá’í Youth Covid”):
    • Elevate(a platform of resources that support a growing movement to develop spiritual consciousness and the capacity to serve society):  https://www.elevateworld.org/
  1. Perhaps youth animators could use some of these articles to find ideas to stimulate discussions in their junior youth programs:

· 10 Ways Young People are Leading the Way Against COVID-19:  https://womendeliver.org/2020/10-ways-young-people-are-leading-the-way-against-covid-19/

· Is COVID-19 Social Media’s Levelling Up Moment?  https://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanholmes/2020/04/24/is-covid-19-social-medias-levelling-up-moment/#29d55ba6c606

· Is the Media Creating Division on COVID-19 Health Practices?  https://news.gallup.com/poll/312749/media-creating-division-covid-health-practices.aspx

· Using More Social Media During COVID-19? You’re Not Alone. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/using-more-social-media-during-covid-19-youre-alone-ryan-holmes/

My most fervent hope for humanity during this pandemic, is that all mankind recognize the oneness of humanity; that this pandemic shows us our oneness and that we finally treat one another at home and around the world, as one.  This picture, taken during the early days, gave me great hope:

What jumped out for you as you read today’s article?

If you liked this article, you might also like my books, now available on Amazon.

What other ideas would you suggest to this reader?  Post your comments below.

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Praying for Ourselves as Well as Our Oppressors  

Cleanse them, then, O my God, from all idle fancies and vain imaginations, that they may inhale the fragrances of sanctity from the robe of Thy Revelation and Thy commandment, that haply they may cease to inflict upon me what will deprive their souls of the fragrances of the manifold tokens of thy mercy, that are wafted in the days of Him Who is the Manifestation of Thyself, and the Day-Spring of Thy Cause, and that they may not perpetrate what will call down Thy wrath and anger. (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations, pp. 307-308)

In the days when I found it hard to forgive my parents for the abuse perpetrated on me as a child, I liked to use this prayer to pray for them.  In this prayer I was asking God to:

  • Cleanse them from all idle fancies and vain imaginations
  • Help them inhale the fragrances of sanctity from His robe

So that they would cease to inflict upon me what would deprive their souls of the fragrances of the manifold tokens of His mercy and that they would not perpetrate what will call down His wrath and anger.  It was a bit self-serving, but I could do it because it was a prayer and I wanted to align my wishes with prayer.

Lately, I’ve been looking at it a little differently.  I remember that whenever I point a finger at someone else, there are 3 fingers pointing back at me.  I can use this prayer to ask God to cleanse ME of all idle fancies and vain imaginations; and to help ME inhale the fragrances of His unconditional love, so that I can stop feeling guilty for not being the Baha’i I want to be, following all injunctions and laws and actively engaged with the core activities and community building.

Knowing I can pray for myself as well as my oppressors, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Overcoming Abuse and Violence

 

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Caroline Lehmann – First Baha’i in Our Cluster from 1916-1940

By Heidi Lakshman

Presentation on the 25th Anniversary of the Gravenhurst Bahá’í Community, 25 March  2000

There are different milestones in the evolution of a Bahá’í community, and today we remember the arrival 25 years ago of the first Bahá’í pioneer, Francis Cowan, in Gravenhurst, and the development of the local Bahá’í community since then.

When our Assembly was in the middle of planning this event last summer, someone discovered in the back cover of the 1934-36 Bahá’í World Volume a map of the United States and Canada, showing localities where Bahá’ís resided as of May 1st, 1935.  There were 229 localities in all, only 8 of which were situated in Canada, scattered right across the land:  there was an Assembly in Montreal and one in Vancouver (with at least 9 Bahá’ís in each), and centers with only 1 isolated believer (meaning very lonely Bahá’í) living there, — one in Alberta, one in Saskatchewan, one in New Brunswick, one in Prince Edward Island, and two in Ontario: one in Toronto, and the other — lo and behold — in WEST GRAVENHURST!  We got out a magnifying glass to make sure we were seeing right, and sure enough, there it was …

This meant that the history of the Gravenhurst Bahá’í community had obviously started much earlier than we realized, and that there was another milestone to be uncovered here.  The search for this early believer began immediately, and what followed had all the characteristics of a true detective story.

Our first move was to put an ad in BAHA’I CANADA (September 1999 issue), inviting anyone with information about this believer to contact us, but — not surprisingly — no one did.  Next, we contacted the Records Department and Archives Office at the National Bahá’í Center in Toronto, but they could not help us either since their records go back only to 1948, when the Canadian National Spiritual Assembly came into existence.  All prior records were still being kept at the National Bahá’í Center of the United States in Wilmette, Illinois.

Next, we searched in Dr. van den Hoonard’s book, The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada, for any clues about a believer in Gravenhurst, but found nothing there either.

In the meantime, we had started making inquiries with some of the senior citizens in town as to whether anyone remembered meeting a Bahá’í in the 1930’ies.  But without knowing the name of the person we were looking for, nor even whether it was a man or a woman, this effort was going nowhere.

Eventually, we succeeded in obtaining the email address of Dr. van den Hoonard at the University of New Brunswick and asked for his assistance in identifying the believer who resided in West Gravenhurst as of May 1935.  On the very next day (August 30) he responded as follows:

“…. you will be happy to know that the history of West Gravenhurst goes even further back!  Between March 1916 and May 1940, Mrs. Caroline Lehmann lived in West Gravenhurst.  She was taught the Faith by Isabelle Brittingham.  Her previous religion was Lutheran and she was of German background.  You can find a reference for her in Bahá’í World (vol. 8: 699 [actually 703] and the [American] Bahá’í News (July 1940: 10).”

This was the news we were hoping for, and now that we had a name, a gender, and a 24-year time frame, our search could begin in earnest.

There were a few Lehmanns listed in the local telephone book with which we could start.  But then, on the same day as the above message arrived, one of my Red Cross Homemakers (Claudia) mentioned that her colleague’s (Sherry Rheaume’s) grandfather, who had passed away a few months earlier, was a Mr. Carl Lehman. As she was going to meet Sherry that night at the Leisure World Nursing Home, Claudia offered to ask her, whether Caroline Lehmann was any relation of hers.

Sherry had never heard of this name before, but was going to ask her grandmother (Carl Lehman’s widow) about it.  A couple of days later, Sherry gave Claudia the amazing news that Mrs. Caroline Lehmann was her very own great-great-grandmother!!

It is interesting to note that Sherry was one of the Red Cross Homemakers assigned to me, when I first visited the Cowans in August 1997 in order to prepare my move to Gravenhurst.  She lived just a block away from the Cowans and was known to Fran since her childhood. Sherry continued to provide homecare services to me for more than a year following my move to Lofty Pines Drive, and we had a good many conversations about her Bible studies as well as the Bahá’í Faith.  She took some literature, as well as a Bahá’í colouring book and some balloons and prayer cards for her children. When her grandfather was ill, she borrowed the “Health and Healing” booklet, and when he passed away, she read the “Death — Messenger of Joy” booklet and found it very comforting, particularly as she had also lost her father not long before that.  After her grandfather’s funeral, Sherry and I took a walk over to the Mickle Cemetery, just down the road from my place, and had some prayers at the Lehmann family grave. Little did we know then, that we were praying for the descendants (two sons and a grandson) of the first Bahá’í of Gravenhurst!

On 12 September 1999 I called Sherry’s grandmother, Mrs. Lila Lehman, and she confirmed that Caroline was her great-grandmother-in-law, and that she had lived “in a pink house on the first farm on the right going towards Bala”.  She also said that Caroline and her husband had operated the General Store in Kilworthy (a suburb of Gravenhurst), and that they are both buried at the Kilworthy Lutheran Cemetery.

It was a beautiful Sunday, and Shapour Ostadi (a local Bahá’í friend) and I went looking for the pink farm house on the road to Bala.   But nothing we saw there fitted that description.  We then drove to Kilworthy, where we easily found the Kilworthy General Store.  The present owners confirmed that it had indeed belonged to the Lehmanns, who had operated it until the late 1920s.  Judging from its aged looks, it probably hasn’t changed much since the times the Lehmanns had been there.

For more (heartbreaking) pictures of this once lovely building

We received directions to the Lutheran Cemetery, which is located on top of a hill, in a bend near the end of Muskoka Road 19 (of all numbers!).  It is a well-kept, peaceful place, surrounded by forest on three sides.

We found the Lehmann grave near a low lilac bush, almost in the center of the cemetery.  We were extremely moved to read on the gravestone that Caroline Lehmann (nee Yaekel) was born in 1845 — just one year after the inception of the Bahá’í Faith — and that she was 95 years old in 1940, when she passed away.

Susan Gammage visiting her grave site

As such, her life spanned almost the entire first century of the Bahá’í Era and made her a contemporary of both the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, `Abdu’l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi!  She was 71 years of age in 1916, when she accepted the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, — only 4 years after `Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to Canada — and was among the very first resident Canadians to do so.  (According to Dr. van den Hoonard’s book, there were only 31 Bahá’ís in the whole of Canada as of 1916, some of whom would no doubt have been pioneers from other countries.)

Through her acceptance of Bahá’u’lláh, the light of God’s new Revelation has dawned upon this small community of Gravenhurst only 72 years after the Faith began in Persia!  This is all the more remarkable when one recalls how long it took all the other major world religions to reach Canadian shores.

Having come empty-handed, we gathered some wild flowers to put on her grave, and Shapour chanted some beautiful Persian prayers there, — likely the first one to ever do so at that site.

Having solved the mystery of who this early West Gravenhurst believer was, our focus no shifted to learning more about her life and finding someone — anyone — who might still have a living memory of Caroline.  Regrettably, her last living son, Carl, had passed away just a few months before we even knew about her existence. According to Sherry Rheaume’s own research, no one among the members of her family has any personal memory of her, nor do they have any photographs or other documentation of her life and activities.  They did mention, however, that she was not the only Bahá’í here, but that another Bahá’í lady who had taught her the Faith was with her for some time, and they believe it may have been her sister.

The only person who still vaguely remembered the old Lehmanns was a Mrs. Hazel Schell, longtime resident of Kilworthy, and grandmother of Joan Allen, another one of my Homecare workers.  I talked to her by telephone in late Fall 1999, and she confirmed to have met the old Lehmanns in her youth, but better recalled their daughter, Emily Beatty, who took over the Kilworthy Store from her parents.  Hazel Schell, herself in her ninetieth, passed away just a few weeks after we had this conversation.

Her grand-daughter, Joan Allan, had referred me to a book about Kilworthy, A Legacy almost lost, published by the Kilworthy Historical Committee, which contained several references to the Lehmanns. It also provided a fairly good picture of what life was like for the early pioneer settlers in the 19th century, when they were there.

For More Information

The book contains a census of the Townships in Muskoka of the year 1871, in which Gustav and Caroline Lehman, and 2 of their children, are listed as having come from Prussia (East-Germany), and that they were then 39 and 23 years of age.  It also shows that the Lehmanns had a farm “on the north shore of Sparrow Lake”, and that Gustav Lehmann bought the Kilworthy Store in 1875 and started the first Post Office there in November 1876.  Gustav Lehmann was Postmaster until 1914 and, in 1927, turned the Post Office and the Store over to his daughter, Emily Beatty.

Apparently, he and Caroline then moved to the farm in West Gravenhurst, where Gustav passed away in 1929 and Caroline in 1940.

The case lay dormant over the winter but,  during the Fast earlier this month (March 2000), Shapour and I ventured out once again in search of the “pink house” in West Gravenhurst. We rang some doorbells in the general area and were directed to 270 North Street, which turned out to be Carl Lehman’s place.  We took some pictures of their old house and also had an opportunity to briefly talk to his widow, Mrs. Lila Lehman, who said that Caroline visited that home on occasion and stayed there for one week, when her youngest son (Sherry’s father) was born.  She then gave us direction to the Lehmann farm, which is located about 2 miles further toward Bala, beyond the small convenience store and just around the bend on the right hand side.  There is an old barn and a (green) house standing close to the road, and the old building on the back of that property was the Lehmann homestead.  We found it to be a larger building with several added sections, yellowish in colour, empty, and in dilapidated condition.  Only on the back did we see reddish siding that some people might consider “pink”. No wonder we couldn’t find it before! We photographed the building from all sides and had prayers there as well. (The address is lot #1272 on Highway 169, and the current tenants’ name is Waggs).

We were determined to also find the first Lehmann farm on Sparrow Lake and, on the following day, called the Franklins who, according to the book about Kilworthy, had bought the farm from the Lehmanns.

We spoke to a Mrs. Harvey Franklin who said that the Lehmann farm had been purchased by her uncle and is the property where the Silver Pines Cottage Resort is now located, about 3 miles West from the Kilworthy store.  Shapour and I went there and spoke with the proprietor, Andy Fisher, who confirmed that this was the old Lehmann farm, but that Lehmanns did not build the house on his property.  He had acquired the place only 15 years ago and did not know where their homestead would have been.

We drove down to the lake and along the shoreline just to look around a bit, and there, about 2 lots away from the Silver Pines property,  discovered a whole complex of very old abandoned farm-type buildings along a creek!  The first one, though much smaller, looked strikingly similar in style, age, and colour to the Lehmann house we had seen in West Gravenhurst!  We photographed it, of course, and went back to Andy Fisher to ask him about these buildings. He didn’t seem to be aware of them nor who the present owners were, but he confirmed that the original farm was much larger than his current lot and had gone all the way over to the Delmonte Resort. This meant that the old buildings we had found were located well within the boundaries of the old farm.

We went back to the Kilworthy Store to ask the owners about the farm, and they directed us to Mr. Bruce Schulz, whose grandfather had bought the Kilworthy Store from Emily Beatty, Lehmann’s daughter.  Mr. Schulz is a member of the Kilworthy Historical Society who had published the book, and he was very interested in our research and in receiving a copy of our findings for the Kilworthy Archives.  Although he had no information about the Lehmann farm on Sparrow Lake, he said that he would try to find out about it at their next meeting.

Last not least, a letter was received from the National Bahá’í Archives in the United States in response to my inquiry, forwarding copies of the references about Caroline in Bahá’í World Volume 8 and the July 1940 edition of the American Bahá’í News.  The first is a Bahá’í Directory of 1938-40, and the second an “In Memoriam” notice of her passing in 1940.  The Archives could not provide any additional information about her at this time, nor verify when and where Isabelle Brittingham and Caroline Lehmann have met, and whether she might, in fact, have been the “other Bahá’í lady”, who had stayed with Caroline, as remembered by her family.

Their letter (dated 16 March 2000) states that Caroline Lehmann

does not appear on the 1916, 1920 and 1922 membership lists maintained by the Bahá’í Temple Unity [precursor of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada]. However, the lists were sent in by local communities, so not all isolated believers were listed, unless they were near an active community.”  It also said that “the National Spiritual Assembly files are still not open so we cannot check if she corresponded with the National Spiritual Assembly.”

Consequently, it is possible that some information about Caroline Lehmann would eventually be found.

As for Caroline’s resting place, we asked Mr. Bruce Schulz about the future of the old pioneer cemetery where the Lehmanns are buried, and what would happen to it.  He assured us that it is there to stay and is presently being looked after by some individuals including himself, and that it would eventually be turned over to the Municipality for maintenance.  No doubt, the historical significance of this gravesite will be publicly recognized in due course.  (It should be noted in this context that Mrs. Lehmann would have retained her church membership until the time of her death as was common among early Bahá’ís living in Christian communities.)

*~*~*~*~*

Had forwarded a shortened version of the above presentation to the Bahá’í Archives in Wilmette and, shortly thereafter, the following additional information was received:

QUOTE

Subject: RE: An early Gravenhurst believer

Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2000 16:17:36 -0600

Dear Ms. Lakshman,

Thank you for the information on Caroline Lehmann. I have come across some more information about Caroline Lehmann. She had filled out an historical record card in the mid-1930s.  I am mailing a photocopy of the historical record card to you. In the card Mrs. Lehmann wrote that she became a Baha’i in March 1916 in New York City. She had been making  visits to her daughter, Helen Lehmann, and had learned of the Baha’i Faith. Isabella Brittingham*, Mother Beecher** and Ali Kuli Khan*** had been her teachers. She also gives her birth date as November 17, 1846.

There is a Mrs. Helen Lehmann in the 1916 and 1920 New York City membership lists but not in the 1922 New York City membership list.

With warm greetings,

Roger M. Dahl, Archivist [The National Baha’i Archives of the United States]

UNQUOTE

*         One of the first believers in the United States, called the  “Bahá’í-Maker” by `Abdu’l-Bahá

**       Grandmother of Hand of the Cause, Dorothy Baker

***     Secretary of `Abdu’l-Bahá, and Persian Consul to the United States

The copy of the handwritten historical record card was received and is the first personal document we have of this early believer. — In 2003, a b&w negative of Caroline Lehmann’s photograph, which she had attached to the history card, was also provided by the U.S. Bahá’í Archives.   The negative was digitally cleaned-up and several prints were made.

Both photograph and copy of the historical record card were included with a shortened story and other documents and pictures in the Lehmann binders forwarded in 2003/2004 to the following institutions:

The National Bahá’í Archives of Canada;

The National Bahá’í Archives of the United States;

The Local Spiritual Assembly of Gravenhurst;

The Archives of the Town of Gravenhurst;

The Sparrow Lake Historical Society

and Kilworthy Historical Committee

This Century 

In the ages to come, though the Cause of God may rise and grow hundredfold and the shade of the Sadratu’l-Muntahá (Tree of Life) shelter all mankind, yet this present (20th) century shall stand unrivalled, for it hath witnessed the breaking of that Morn and the rising of that Sun.  This century is, verily, the source of His Light and the dayspring of His Revelation.  Future ages and generations shall behold the diffusion of its radiance and the manifestations of its signs.  (`Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of  `Abdu’l-Bahá,  p. 67)

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

What is true love?

The essence of love is for man to turn his heart to the Beloved One, and sever himself from all else but Him, and desire naught save that which is the desire of his Lord.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 155)

The real and great love is the love of God. That is holy above the imaginations and thoughts of men.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 365)

What is the love between two people?

But the love which sometimes exists between friends is not (true) love, because it is subject to transmutation; this is merely fascination. As the breeze blows, the slender trees yield. If the wind is in the East the tree leans to the West, and if the wind turns to the West the tree leans to the East. This kind of love is originated by the accidental conditions of life. This is not love, it is merely acquaintanceship; it is subject to change.  Today you will see two souls apparently in close friendship; tomorrow all this may be changed. Yesterday they were ready to die for one another, today they shun one another’s society! This is not love; it is the yielding of the hearts to the accidents of life. When that which has caused this ‘love’ to exist passes, the love passes also; this is not in reality love.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 180)

 How to think about heartbreak

O My servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain.   Gleanings From the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p.232

Why do we get our hearts broken?

Anybody can be happy in the state of comfort, ease, health, success, pleasure and joy; but if one be happy and contented in the time of trouble, hardship and prevailing disease, it is the proof of nobility.  Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas, Baha’i Publishing Committee, 1909 edition Pages: 730

What to do when your heart is broken

Turn towards the “Best Lover”:

There is nothing greater or more blessed than the Love of God! It gives healing to the sick, balm to the wounded, joy and consolation to the whole world, and through it alone can man attain Life Everlasting. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 82)

By the life of God! A single drop of the ocean of His love is more profitable unto thee than the earth and that which is thereupon, because this will vanish and perish, but that drop of love will remain eternally and everlasting in the worlds of God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 669)

In a letter written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi uses the analogy of the plant turning in the direction of the sun to explain the spiritual significance of turning towards the
Qiblih:

…just as the plant stretches out to the sunlight–from which it receives life and growth–so we turn our hearts to the Manifestation of God, Bahá’u’lláh, when we pray; … we turn our faces … to where His dust lies on this earth as a symbol of the inner act.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 169)

Understand just how much He loves us:

He gave us life because He loved us so much:

O Son of Man! Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty. My love is in thee, know it, that thou mayest find me near unto thee. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 3).

O Son of Man!  I loved thy creation, hence I created thee.  Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 4).

O SON OF THE WONDROUS VISION!  I have breathed within thee a breath of My own Spirit, that thou mayest be My lover. Why hast thou forsaken Me and sought a beloved other than Me? (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 19)

His eye of favors is directed towards us:

Know thou that, verily, the eye of favors is directed to thee and is beholding thee with a divine glance, so that thou mayest, with clear eyes, see the lights of the Kingdom upon the horizon. Remember, at all times, this great favor and thank thy Lord and supplicate to Him every day.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 132)

Through this love, we receive eternal life:

There are four kinds of love. The first is the love that flows from God to man; it consists of the inexhaustible graces, the Divine effulgence and heavenly illumination. Through this love the world of being receives life. Through this love man is endowed with physical existence, until, through the breath of the Holy Spirit—this same love—he receives eternal life and becomes the image of the Living God. This love is the origin of all the love in the world of creation.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 180)

Understand the bounties and blessings of losing a loved one:

Live free of love, for its very peace is anguish; Its beginning is pain, its end is death. Peace be upon him who followeth the Right Path!  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Seven Valleys, p. 41)

And if, confirmed by the Creator, the lover escapes from the claws of the eagle of love, he will enter THE VALLEY OF KNOWLEDGE and come out of doubt into certitude, and turn from the darkness of illusion to the guiding light of the fear of God. His inner eyes will open and he will privily converse with his Beloved; he will set ajar the gate of truth and piety, and shut the doors of vain imaginings.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Seven Valleys, p. 11)

Love is a veil betwixt the lover and the beloved.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Four Valleys, p. 60)

Play Music

…. the Manifested Light, Baha’u’llah, in this glorious period has revealed in Holy Tablets that singing and music are the spiritual food of the hearts and souls. In this dispensation, music is one of the arts that is highly approved and is considered to be the cause of the exaltation of sad and desponding hearts. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 9, p. 131)

Forgive

. . . if a person falls into errors for a hundred-thousand times he may yet turn his face to you, hopeful that you will forgive his sins; for he must not become hopeless, neither grieved nor despondent. This is the conduct and the manner of the people of Bahá’. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 436)

Avoid Gossip

He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vain-glory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century. (Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, p. 193)

Remember, above all, the teaching of Baha’u’llah concerning gossip and unseemly talk about others. Stories repeated about others are seldom good. A silent tongue is the safest. Even good may be harmful, if spoken at the wrong time, or to the wrong person.   (Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 125)

That seeker should, also, regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul. He should be content with little, and be freed from all inordinate desire.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 264)

Service

O people of God! Do not busy yourselves in your own concerns; let your thoughts be fixed upon that which will rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind and sanctify the hearts and souls of men.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 93-94)

Be not the slave of your moods, but their master. But if you are so angry, so depressed and so sore that your spirit cannot find deliverance and peace even in prayer, then quickly go and give some pleasure to someone lowly or sorrowful, or to a guilty or innocent sufferer! Sacrifice yourself, your talent, your time, your rest to another, to one who has to bear a heavier load than you. (The Research Department has found that these words were attributed to Abdu’l-Baha in an unpublished English translation of notes in German by Dr. Josephine Fallscheer taken on 5 August 1910. As the statement is a pilgrim note, it cannot be authenticated)

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Forgive

 

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Children Learn First to Obey their Parents, and then to Obey God

Parents must exert every effort to rear their offspring to be religious, for should the children not attain this greatest of adornments, they will not obey their parents, which in a certain sense means that they will not obey God. (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Education, p. 6)

Children learn to be obedient to their parents first because they are the only authority figure they know. This allegiance is then transferred to God. For children like me, who grew up with abusive parents, who never received love or mercy or forgiveness, the concept of a loving God is just an intellectual knowing.

I’m 63 and my parents are long dead, but I’m still waiting for God’s punishment and have driven myself into burnout and adrenal exhaustion trying to earn enough spiritual brownie points to earn a place in heaven.

Just this week someone helped me finally see why, after being a loyal, devoted and deepened Bahá’í for nearly 40 years, I react so strongly and negatively to Ruhi and letters from our beloved House of Justice: I’ve seen them as a growing list of tasks from God (my Father), which I have to complete on time, perfectly or I will be punished by God or His representatives on earth (the Institutions). It’s been a terrible way to live! Thank God I now understand!

Never having personal experience with anyone approaching the All-Loving, the All-Merciful or the Ever-Forgiving, I can step out in faith, trusting God to heal this deep and far-reaching primal wound, and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Overcoming Abuse and Violence

 

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