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Our Sacred Duties

In addition to teaching every believer can pray. Every believer can strive to make his “own inner life and private character mirror forth in their manifold aspects the splendour of those eternal principles proclaimed by Bahá’u’lláh. Every believer can contribute to the Fund. Not all believers can give public talks, not all are called upon to serve on administrative institutions. But all can pray, fight their own spiritual battles, and contribute to the Fund. If every believer will carry out these sacred duties, we shall be astonished at the accession of power which will result to the whole body, and which in its turn will give rise to further growth and the showering of greater blessings on all of us.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 43)

As I get older and less able to take on all the responsibilities, I was able to carry out when I was younger, I frequently feel inadequate in my teaching and service as a homefront pioneer in an inactive cluster, especially when the needs of the Faith are so urgent.  I judge myself harshly and mercilessly because of it, and then beat myself up for that too.  When I came across this reading, I found it both timely and very comforting.  Thank you, God, for giving me exactly what I need, when I need it most!

I’m grateful the House of Justice acknowledges that not all of us can give public talks or serve on administrative institutions. But I can pray.  I can fight my own spiritual battles, and I can contribute to the Fund, especially to deputize those who are on the forefront of the community building process.

Knowing that doing these simple things will give rise to further growth and shower greater blessings on all of us, 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 Strengthening Your Relationship with God

 

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A Comforting Prayer for Those Who’ve Died

O Thou Provider, O Thou Forgiver! A noble soul hath ascended unto the Kingdom of reality, and hastened from the mortal world of dust to the realm of everlasting glory. Exalt the station of this recently arrived guest, and attire this long-standing servant with a new and wondrous robe.  O Thou Peerless Lord! Grant Thy forgiveness and tender care so that this soul may be admitted into the retreats of Thy mysteries and may become an intimate companion in the assemblage of splendours. Thou art the Giver, the Bestower, the Ever-Loving. Thou art the Pardoner, the Tender, the Most Powerful.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Prayers of ‘`Abdu’l-Bahá, trainslated at the Bahá’í World Centre March 2021, #11)

As someone who has spent a lifetime trying to earn God’s love through good behavior and following all the rules, saying this prayer out loud lowers my anxiety and assures me of God’s absolute love and forgiveness.

I forget sometimes that one of the names of God is “the Forgiver” or the ever-Forgiving”, expecting Him to be the “Judge”, the “Wrathful” and the “Punishing”.  I know He is all these things too, because we need to know both the love of God and the fear of God, but I have the fear of God down pat.  Now I need to learn about and remember the love of God.

Imagine!  God sees me as noble and as a long-standing servant.  I want to see myself as noble and I yearn for God to see my decades of loyal and faithful service.  I want Him to magnify my puny efforts.  I want His forgiveness and tender care, so that I can be admitted into the retreats of His mysteries and become an intimate companion.  When I say this prayer for friends who have recently passed away, I imagine saying it for my future self.  I hope that someone will say it for me.

In the meantime, it’s a good reminder of all the good that God has in store for 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 Learning How to Forgive

 

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Whatever Hath Befallen You, Hath Been for the Sake of God  

Whatever hath befallen you, hath been for the sake of God. This is the truth, and in this there is no doubt. You should, therefore, leave all your affairs in His Hands, place your trust in Him, and rely upon Him. He will assuredly not forsake you. In this, likewise, there is no doubt. No father will surrender his sons to devouring beasts; no shepherd will leave his flock to ravening wolves. He will most cer­tainly do his utmost to protect his own. If, however, for a few days, in compliance with God’s all-encompassing wisdom, outward affairs should run their course contrary to one’s cherished desire, this is of no consequence and should not matter.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Crisis & Victory, p.  171)

A friend of mine once asked me how this quote addressed the issues of childhood abuse.  How can the abuse that has befallen me, be for the sake of God?  I think there are two issues at stake here:  one is the purpose of tests and difficulties and the other is the purpose of justice for the perpetrator.

There are many quotes which suggest that God will send “severe mental tests to the peoples of the West, to purge, purify and prepare them for their noble mission in life.”  (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 50). The severe mental tests that came out of the abuse and violence I experienced as a child include all the negative chatter which can easily dominate my thinking:

  • Did it happen or didn’t it?
  • Some things are unforgiveable, and childhood sexual abuse is one of them
  • I was justified in estranging myself from my perpetrators
  • It’s ruined me for life
  • I’m obviously unloved and unloveable . . .

I can maximize the list, but it only abases me so I hope you get the idea!  God doesn’t want me to abase myself, but to recognize and reclaim my nobility so I can arise to serve His Cause.

God has promised to never forgive another man’s injustice, so I can leave the need for punishment and justice and revenge and karma in God’s hands and focus on my own spiritual growth by leaving all my affairs in His Hands and placing my whole trust in Him.

God wants us to give Him our full attention.  We can’t draw closer to God when we “busy ourselves with another” by focusing on our perpetrators and giving them more attention than we give to our “Creator, Friend and Best Lover”, any more than we can get to Chicago by looking in our rear-view mirrors.

Knowing that things going against my wishes are of no consequence and shouldn’t matter, I can relax 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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Love Conquers Fear

Love is a light that never dwelleth in a heart possessed by fear.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Four Valleys, p. 58)

When referring to the Báb, he mentioned that “love had cast out fear”.  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh  and the New Era, p. 22)

Everywhere in the world, humanity is going through the trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  In trauma, people typically react through fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.  Let’s look at what each of these looks like and how love helps get us through.

Fight:  we attempt to gain control through outbursts of irritation, anger or bitterness

Flight:  we attempt escape through addictions (drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, sex, work, food, shopping etc) or suicide

Freeze:  we fall into hopeless, helpless despair leading to depression

Fawn:  we focus our attention on people pleasing, approval seeking and compulsive caretaking

While each of these are understandable, none of them are particularly helpful.  The things that help me are remembering that:

  • This pandemic is part of the disintegration of the old-world order, in order to build up something much better. To the extent that I can focus on applying the blueprint given to us by Bahá’u’lláh, I can turn away from all the things I can’t control.
  • The purpose of my life is to know and worship God. To the extent that I can develop and strengthen this relationship, laying all my affairs in His hands, I can trust what’s happening.
  • The purpose of my life is to also develop the virtues I’ll need in the next world. To the extent that I can focus on applying the virtues that I need in any given day, I can improve the quality of my life.  I find the ones I need the most often are faith and trust in God’s plan; detachment from my own response to lockdowns, stay at home orders, economic hardship, marriage and parenting problems, vaccine shortages and so on; patience with the process; and gratitude that we’re in a pandemic and not a world war, among others.

So let’s turn to love as a solution.  To love ourselves when we’re in fight mode, we can focus on what we can control and take action.  To help others we can get lots of physical exercise to dissipate the anger.

To love ourselves when we’re in flight mode, we can immerse ourselves in the Bahá’í Writings and the Dawnbreakers and biographies of early Bahá’í heros and heroines.  To love others we can make time to nurture friendships and forgive them for not being who we want them to be.

To love ourselves when we’re in freeze mode, we can get out through coming into the present by focusing on the breath, moving our bodies through exercise and/or finding ways to be of service.  To love others we can respond to invitations and get out of the house.

To love ourselves when we’re in fawn mode, we can put self-care first and spend time developing a loving relationship with ourselves. To love others we can recognize how manipulative we are when we take on roles that aren’t ours.

Seeing practical ways to overcome fear through love, 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  Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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How Hate Repels Us Away From the Truth

 He must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of . . . hate may linger therein, lest . . . that hate repel him away from the truth.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 264)

This quote reminds me of one of the phrases Linda Popov (of the Virtues Project) used in all her trainings:  “Don’t get furious, get curious.”

I have a tendency to believe that everyone thinks the same way I do, and has the same values as I do, especially if they are Baha’is, but I’m coming to discover, late in life, that this is very seldom true.  I have my way and everyone else has theirs, and they are all equally valid (unless they’re in direct opposition to the teachings of the Faith, of course).

It’s easy to get resentful when people do things that hurt or disappoint me and not so easy to remember to be loving and forgiving.  When I remember to get curious, to look for their truth, and I have an explanation I can accept, even if I don’t agree with it, the resentment melts away.

Being reminded to replace hate for curiosity and remember to look for the truth, 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 Anger and Bitterness

 

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Personal Ambitions Don’t Bring Happiness

The fulfillment of our personal ambitions in life is very seldom what brings us happiness. On the contrary, it usually arouses an entire group of new ambitions. On the other hand, when we immerse ourselves in our duties both as human beings, to our families and our associates, and as Bahá’ís toward the Cause of God and serving it to the best of our ability in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we begin to know what happiness means. (Shoghi Effendi, letter dated 23 May 1956 in Family Life, #108)

As a recovering work, service and activity addict, I’ve had to learn this the hard way.  I was into my 60’s before I could see that my ambitions weren’t bringing me happiness.  Keeping busy filled a lot of time and helped me feel productive.  Work, service and activities kept the grief of the past from overwhelming the present and it also drove people away because I didn’t make time for relationship-building.

When I was turning 60, I did some research about what to expect from the next decade, expecting to find a lot of information on planning for retirement, but instead what I found were a lot of articles talking about the importance of relationships and health.  According to some research, if we don’t have nurturing relationships by this time in our lives, we are more likely suffer more complex health challenges and to die earlier.  The more I studied addiction, the more this made sense.  Current thinking is that addiction isn’t caused by the thing we’re addicted to – it’s caused by lack of relationships and using other substances and activities to fill the holes in our souls.

So I was happy to find this quote in my reading today, because it reminded me that instead of focusing on achieving my own ambitions to the exclusion of all else, there were other things I could do to have more balance and moderation in my life:

  • immerse myself in my duties towards myself (including self-care)
  • immerse myself in my duties towards my family and friends (including more contact, more love, more forgiveness)
  • immerse myself in my duties as a Bahá’í toward the Cause of God (including more prayer and meditation; and striving to put the Teachings into action)
  • serving the Cause of God to the best of my ability in the circumstances in which I find myself (including reading my reality and aligning my service to the will of God instead of forcing myself into activity meant for someone else)

Being reminded of where true happiness lies, I can focus my attention away from my own ambitions 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 Learning How to Be Happy

 

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