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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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A Problem That Can’t be Easily or Immediately Resolved

It is difficult for the friends always to remember that in matter[s] where race enters, a hundred times more consideration and wisdom in handling situations is necessary than when an issue is not complicated by this factor.  (Shoghi Effendi, Pupil of the Eye, p. 87)

A lot of my friends have been participating in protests or changing their Facebook pages to honor the death of George Floyd and other black and indigenous people killed unjustly.  A lot of people are posting articles and videos, libraries are posting books to read.  Some are suggesting that if you don’t take action and speak up, you’re part of the problem.  I haven’t felt inspired to do any of these things and the more guilt-inducing messages I read, the less I want to.  Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook – I don’t know who to attribute it to – which said exactly what is in my heart:

Some of us are quiet because we don’t know what to say.  Some of us are quiet because we recognize our lack of understanding.  Some of us are mourning, as you mourn.  Some of us are listening with our hearts, and intentionally keeping our mouths closed.  Some of us are sincerely pondering what we’re hearing and seeing.  Some of us value your actual experience more than our own priviledged perspective.  Some of us are searching our own hearts.  Please don’t mistake our quietness for apathy.

This is a complex problem which effects all of us on the path to oneness.  Bahá’ís have the spiritual solution, and we’re learning how to implement it.  I’m grateful to learn more about my white priviledge, steeped as I am in it and unable to see it on my own.  I like knowing that a hundred times more consideration and wisdom in handling situations is necessary, because with God’s help, and little by little, day by day, I’ll do my part in tearing these walls down in my own life.

Knowing there are many ways to make a difference, and that I can find my own, 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 Bad is Lying? 

If the sum of all sins were to be weighed in the balance, falsehood would, on its own, countervail them; nay its evils would even outweigh them and its detriment prove greater.  It were better for thee that thou shouldst be a blasphemer and tell the truth than that thou shouldst mouth the formulas of faith and yet be a liar.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Trustworthiness, p. 12)

I love the visual imagery in this quote.  There are certain sins which weigh heavily on my mind long after I’ve asked God to forgive them, and yet, compared to lying, they weren’t that important.  I like to think of myself as fairly honest and trustworthy, yet recently it’s come to my mind that I do a lot of lying to myself.  I don’t think that’s unusual – lots of people are in denial about something.  I’ve covered a lot of these in my previous article:  The Lies We Tell Ourselves  and We are Not Our Thoughts

But what about white lies?  A white lie is typically about a small or seemingly unimportant matter told to avoid hurting another person.  Our culture accepts white lies and even condones them.  Some studies have shown that Americans tell (on average) 1-2 lies a day.  We might tell lies to flatter (no you don’t look fat) or to avoid conflict (it was on sale).  No matter our motives, we lie to protect ourselves and, in the end, lies only harm us.  One lie could lead to another, creating a slippery slope that erodes trust leading to suspicion and eroding unity.  Since everything Bahá’u’lláh came for was to promote unity, and all His laws lead us there, it makes sense that lying would outweigh all other sins.  When we strive to be authentic, fighting through the awkwardness of potentially hurting, disappointing or frustrating people, we learn how to deliver the truth with words as mild as milk, which brings people together and strengthens the bonds of affection and trust.

Knowing that with God’s help, I can find the courage to be truthful, 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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White Privilege in the Face of Injustice

Let the white make a supreme effort in their resolve to contribute their share to the solution of this problem, to abandon once for all their usually inherent and at times subconscious sense of superiority, to correct their tendency towards revealing a patronizing attitude towards the members of the other race, to persuade them through their intimate, spontaneous and informal association with them of the genuineness of their friendship and the sincerity of their intentions, and to master their impatience of any lack of responsiveness on the part of a people who have received, for so long a period, such grievous and slow-healing wounds. (Shoghi Effendi, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 40)

As I watch in horror as a week of protests, in the wake of yet another black man senselessly killed by a white police officer, led to rioting and looting across America, I hear a lot of my white brothers and sisters wonder what we can do.  I’m glad Shoghi Effendi has made it easy for those of us with white privilege to find a place to start.  If we look at this quote as a series of steps we can take, we can examine our actions.

  1. make a supreme effort in their resolve to contribute their share to the solution of this problem
  1. abandon their usually inherent and at times subconscious sense of superiority

How can I do these things?  There are many sites online giving lots of ideas.  I can start there, to educate myself and find ways to change my behaviour.

  1. correct their tendency towards revealing a patronizing attitude towards the members of the other race

This can include deeply hurtful statements like:

  • I don’t see colour.
  • My best friend is black.
  • All lives matter.
  • There’s only one race – the human race.
  1. persuade them through their intimate, spontaneous and informal association with them of the genuineness of their friendship and the sincerity of their intentions

I can find ways to form genuine friendships and include them in activities.

  1. master their impatience of any lack of responsiveness on the part of a people who have received, for so long a period, such grievous and slow-healing wounds

I can let go of any expectation that they can simply just “get over it”

Knowing there are concrete steps I can take to change my behavior, instead of protesting, 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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Service May Look Different if You’re an Introvert

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)

Recently I’ve come to accept myself as I am, not as I thought I wanted to be.  For example, for most of my Bahá’í life, I’ve immersed myself in the Writings and in the letters of the House of Justice and tried valiantly to align myself with what I understood the guidance to mean.  I drove myself to the point of exhaustion and burn out, trying to put every injunction into effect, truly believing that if I didn’t do everything being asked of all of us, I would personally be responsible to God for delaying the advent of the Most Great Peace.  Truly.  I believed this!

Then someone reminded me that humanity (including me) has been invited to the banquet table of the Lord.  All the Writings put together can be seen as a giant potluck meal and all I have to do is take what I can eat.  If I put more than that on my plate, it will be wasted and do me no good.  As an extreme introvert, I’m more comfortable writing than speaking; I prefer the solitude of a small circle of people, preferably one-on-one because social engagements leave me feeling exhausted and drained.  Much though I want to participate in the core activities, I feel best when doing activities that can be performed alone, and that’s OK.  There’s room in this Faith for all of us, doing the best we can, serving in ways that are aligned with the will of God and not done to please others.

Knowing that God loves me and appreciates every effort I make in service, I can stop judging myself so harshly, 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 Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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The Power of God’s Healing 

Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor in both this world and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 261)

During this pandemic, my energy level has gone way down.  Instead of welcoming all the Zoom meetings I’m being invited to, I dread another invitation.  As an extreme introvert, I can’t cope with the volume of emails, phone calls, text messages and invitations being sent to me.  I want to respond to them all, and I can’t.  Not only that, but my bandwidth for participating in my usual meetings has gone way down.  Now instead of 5-6 events in a day, I can only handle 1 or 2.  I’m having to make difficult choices about which ones I will attend, which ones I will limit my time on, and which ones I will have to say no.  This week I found myself having to say no to a devotional gathering over the phone, which has been going on every week with a dear friend, for almost 20 years. I didn’t want to cancel but I knew I couldn’t handle it.  I was trying to talk myself out of it, saying:  “nothing is better than saying prayers and immersing yourself in the Words of the Writings.  It will be good for you.”  Everything inside of me said NO!  I couldn’t do it.

I decided to say the short healing prayer by myself instead.  It’s a prayer I’ve memorized and said many times over the 35 years I’ve been a Bahá’í, and yet several phrases really stood out for me:

  • Thy name is my healing . . . remembrance of Thee is my remedy: Sure, immersing myself in the Writings is healing.  Participation in the core activities is healing.  But so is remembering Him and repeating His Holy Name.  I don’t have to do more than that.
  • Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor: I don’t have to do anything to please God.  If I don’t attend the devotional gathering (or Feast or a Holy Day), I’m not going to lose out on His love.  There’s nothing I have to do to earn His love.  His mercy to me is my healing; not what I think I have to do to deserve it.

Knowing I can relax into God’s mercy and stop judging myself, 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 God – Strengthening Your Relationship with God

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