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One Soul Can Illuminate a Continent

Human frailties and peculiarities can be a great test. But the only way, or perhaps I should say the first and best way, to remedy such situations, is to oneself do what is right. One soul can be the cause of the spiritual illumination of a continent. (From a letter dated 30 September 1949 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 39)

The thing that’s always stood out for me when I read this quote is “one soul can be the cause of the spiritual illumination of a continent”, and o how I long to be that soul!  How I long for my life to matter and to make a real difference in this world.  I used to think this required big things (like bringing large numbers of people into the Faith or finding a cure for cancer), but I’ve since come to believe that when I’m given my life review at the pearly gates, the highlight of my life might have been that I smiled at the right person at the right time.  None of us know.

I’ve been a homefront pioneer in one place or another, for most of my Baha’i life, and whenever I am overcome by my human frailties it really helps when people remind me that I’m a bright light in a dark place, if nothing else.  But what does it mean to “do what is right” and how can this be the cause of the spiritual illumination of a continent”?  My hunch is that just by integrating the Baha’i Writings to the best of our ability, we all have a far greater impact on way more people than we realize, and maybe that’s a good thing because it keeps us humble.

When one person influences a few others, there is a ripple effect that, over time, can actually impact thousands of people over many generations.  I’m reminded of the “butterfly effect”, where a simple event can cause a cascade of other events, even on the other side of the globe.  Or the the “hundredth monkey effect” where there is a spontaneous transference of knowledge throughout a species once a certain number of individuals has learned a new idea.  Both of these have been proven scientifically.

Think of ten people who, just by saying or doing one thing at the right time, have had a profound impact on your life. Some of them may be people you hardly even know.  The same thing works in reverse. We have no idea how many people we can influence and help just by sharing our experiences and insights.  Simply talking to our neighbors can start a chain reaction.

The House of Justice is continually giving us guidance on what we can do to make a difference – it can be as simple as doing a home visit, or elevating the level of discourse around us, encouraging the people around us to stay focused on the long-term goal and by being the one person they can turn to for hope.

Knowing I can make a difference in spite of my frailties and peculiarities, 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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One Person Can’t Do Everything

A unity in diversity of actions is called for, a condition in which different individuals will concentrate on different activities, appreciating the salutary effect of the aggregate on the growth and development of the Faith, because each person cannot do everything and all persons cannot do the same thing.  (The Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters 1983-1992, p. 80)

I live in a tiny cluster, maybe 25 Baha’is on paper, mostly inactive.  It used to be a very active cluster when we all had kids at home, but they grew up and most of them left the Faith.  Those left behind couldn’t deal with the change in the direction the teaching work took, once we formalized clusters and started the community building process.

I was one of the first group of tutors in Canada to be trained and stayed current with the letters of the House of Justice and tried valiantly to bring the rest of the community along.  When they wouldn’t, I started taking on jobs that weren’t mine to do and burned out.

I too, have become mostly inactive, but definitely not apathetic.  I still say my prayers, read the Writings, Fast, donate to the Fund, take care of my obligations to the Right of God – all the basics.  I just don’t have the bandwidth to participate in study circles or devotional gatherings anymore.  I want to say “as a result”, our cluster is not even at milestone one, but I realize it’s not my fault.  I can’t make it happen all by myself.  That’s why I love this quote so much.

It reminds me I can’t do everything.  I tried!  In order to get to milestone one, we need a diversity of actions, with different individuals concentrating on different activities.  Until we have this, no real progress can be made.  Please God, hasten the day!

Knowing that one person can’t do everything, I can relax, trust that God loves me 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 Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

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Greedy for God’s Approval

To be approved of God alone should be one’s aim. (Words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha recorded by Dr. Edward C. Getsinger during his pilgrimage to Haifa in 1905; Star of the West, Vol. VI, No.6, p. 43; Compilation: Lights of Guidance)

 

. . . at all times seeking the approval of men is many times the cause of imperiling the approval of God.  (Words of Abdu’l-Baha in answer to questions asked by Dr. Edward C. Getsinger during a few brief meetings at Haifa, January 26 to February 5, 1915, and recorded by Dr. Getsinger at the time; Star of the West, vol. 6, no. 6, June 24, 1915)

This morning I was reflecting with some friends on how we look to other people for external validation, to earn people’s love and respect or to prove our worth.  A lot of people I know define their self-worth by how many “likes” they get on a social media posting.  Many of us hang out with people who have similar tastes and compatible opinions in order to have fulfilling relationships and feel loved by friends and family.  We tend to avoid or rebuff criticism or unwanted advice, no matter how well-meaning.   I’m coming to appreciate that creating this false face and trying to please everyone else before myself not only stunts real intimacy, but it makes me an invisible chameleon and drains me of my energy.

Changing my behavior isn’t easy, when I am immersed in a sea of gossip and am greedy for the approval of others.  I know how to get that drug that never satisfies.  I understand all this, but what I don’t understand is how I can get even more greedy for God’s approval and what would it look like if I found it?  How would I recognize it when it comes?

I don’t hear Bahá’ís talk about this much, so I’m baffled about what to look for, so that I can move from my lower nature (looking for the approval of others) to my higher nature (looking for God’s approval).  I took a poll and some people mentioned feeling the quiet satisfaction of a job well done; or having a feeling of peace and serenity at the end of a day; or feeling grounded and in the flow; or being grateful for fresh insights that could only come from God.  Any other ideas?

Finding ways to recognize and become greedy for God’s approval, 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 Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

 

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Our Reality as Heroes, Guides and Servants

And remind them that they are the illumined souls envisioned by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in His prayer: “Heroes are they, O my Lord, lead them to the field of battle. Guides are they, make them to speak out with arguments and proofs. Ministering servants are they, cause them to pass round the cup that brimmeth with the wine of certitude. O my God, make them to be songsters that carol in fair gardens, make them lions that couch in the thickets, whales that plunge in the vasty deep.”  (27 December 2005, Universal house of Justice to the Conference of the Continental Counsellors)

What exactly is a hero?  Recently I had a discussion with one of my readers about a role we can perform as a “spiritual midwife” ushering someone into the next world. I’ve had this experience a couple of times, totally unexpected, totally through the grace of God both times.

The first time, one of my neighbors found out that a previous boyfriend, spending time in a maximum-security prison, was dying of cancer.  She petitioned to the prison authorities and won the right for his discharge into her care, so she could look after him in the final week of his life.  I never knew what his crime was, and it doesn’t matter.  Close to the time of his passing, she called and asked if I could confirm what she thought was a “death rattle”.  I’d never heard one before and didn’t know what I was listening for, but I grabbed my prayer book and for an hour, I said all the prayers for his steadfastness, imagining him turning towards the light.  I said all the prayers for forgiveness, asking God to forgive his sins.  I prayed for the ease of his passing, for the healing of those he was leaving behind and every other thing I could think of.  After about an hour, my voice was tired, and my friend suggested I take a break and come into the kitchen for a cup of tea.  While she was making it, she looked out the window, and saw him going!  We both rushed into the bedroom and I took a mirror to confirm that he had passed, and he had.  Then the most surprising thing happened, something that an hour before, I never would have imagined myself doing in a million years:  I offered to wash his body!  She agreed, so I rushed upstairs and grabbed some attar of rose and performed that sacred task for him, a man I didn’t even know, but who I’ve felt deeply spiritually connected to ever since.

The second story is this: recently a friend of mine committed suicide and it troubled me greatly. When I was pouring my heart out to God, I was instructed to say prayers for his steadfastness, to help him turn towards God in the last second of his life, remembering that there is no time or space in the next world. I pray that it worked. I will not know for sure till I get there myself, but it gives me great comfort to believe that I can still perform this act retroactively.

I wonder if being a hero is just being in the right place at the right time, performing small but meaningful acts as directed by God.  We are illumined souls by virtue of our access to the Bahá’í Writings.  We are guides when we speak out with arguments and proofs based on the words of God we’re able to share with others. We’re ministering servants when we provide the God-inspired Writings that provide people with the wine of certitude.  I wonder if that’s God’s idea of being a hero?

Knowing I can be a hero through teaching and service, 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 Learning How to Be Happy

 

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Creating a Warm Community Atmosphere

Unless and until the believers really come to realize they are one spiritual family, knit together by a bond more lasting than mere physical ties can ever be, they will not be able to create that warm community atmosphere which alone can attract the hearts of humanity, frozen for lack of real love and feeling.  (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 439)

A friend of mine passed away this week.  We knew it was coming, but because of COVID, my biggest fear was that she would die alone, with people unable to be with her.  I had to give this one over to God, and He came through, big time.  She went into palliative care in her local hospital on Friday, after being able to live alone up till then, and died on Sunday.  Because she lives in a small town, and all the COVID cases were sent to a large centre, she was allowed to have visitors.  We were all notified when her breathing changed early in the morning and 5 of her closest Bahá’í friends were at her bedside for several hours before she passed.  I live 6 hours away and am her executor, so I too was notified as were her friends around the world, all of us praying for her steadfastness till the end of her life and for the advancement of her soul in the next world.  In case you haven’t seen it, here is a newly translated prayer many of us were saying (in addition to a whole lot of others):

He is God! O Lord! Grant me such grace and bounty, such protection and support, such kindness and security that the last of my days may excel their beginning, and the end of my life commence the bestowal of manifold favours. May some gift or blessing of Thine reach me at every moment, and one of Thy pardons and mercies be granted me with every breath, that beneath the vast shade cast by the hoisted standard, I may return to that Kingdom which is worthy of praise. Thou art the Beneficent, the Kind, and Thou art the Lord of grace and bounty.  (Provisional Translation. A prayer for a favorable end to one’s life (extracted from a Tablet of ʻAbdu’l-Bahá written for Áqá Mírzá Áqáy-i-Afnán)

Her non-Bahá’í cousins and neighbors were all watching this unfold and saw first hand that we were able to “create that warm community atmosphere”.  Please God, let this attract the hearts of everyone watching and let them be impressed by this outpouring evidence of “real love and feeling”.  What better legacy could she leave than that?

Knowing that there are times we get this right, 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 Learning How to Forgive

 

 

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