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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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Withstanding Physical, Mental and Emotional Storms

O ye beloved of God! When the winds blow severely, rains fall fiercely, the lightening flashes, the thunder roars, the bolt descends and storms of trial become severe, grieve not; for after this storm, verily, the divine spring will arrive, the hills and fields will become verdant, the expanses of grain will joyfully wave, the earth will become covered with blossoms, the trees will be clothed with green garments and adorned with blossoms and fruits. Thus blessings become manifest in all countries. These favors are results of those storms and hurricanes.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 12-13)

In the most recent letter of the House of Justice (25 November 2020), they made reference to the “furious storms lashing humanity.”   I could certainly relate!  This phrase resonated very deeply as I feel like my tests have accelerated mightily since COVID hit, and just when I think I’ve got a handle on one test, six more challenging ones pop up.  So today’s quote really helps remind me that not only are severe trials an inevitable part of life, the divine spring that follows is God’s favor for riding the wave of the storms and hurricanes.

In the same letter, they also noted “Your resilience and your unwavering commitment to the well-being of those around you, persistent through all difficulties, have filled us with tremendous hope. But it is no wonder that, in some other quarters, hope has become a depleted resource.”  I think the reason hope has become a depleted resource is that people expect that a good life is one continuous summer, without tests, but nature proves otherwise.  In the depths of winter, when everything is cold and seemingly dead, it’s hard to remember that spring will come again.  I need these reminders over and over because I forget, and when I forget, it’s hard to elevate conversations with those who’ve lost hope, and impossible to ensure the well-being of those around us.

Knowing there’s hope for better days ahead following life’s tests, 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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A Prayer for a Favorable End to One’s Life

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 favors. 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 of a prayer for a favorable end to one’s life (ḥusn-i-khátimih), extracted from a Tablet of ʻAbdu’l-Bahá written for Áqá Mírzá Áqáy-i-Afnán[1])

A dear friend of mine is dying (but aren’t we all at the end of the day!), and I wanted to pray for the ease of her passing so when I found this provisional translation of a new prayer the other day, I was absolutely thrilled at God’s perfect timing.  It’s such a sweet prayer and it resonated with me on so many levels.

Don’t we all want God’s grace and bounty, His protection and support, His kindness and security every day of our lives and especially when we’re in the last of our days?

Don’t we all want the end of our lives to commence the bestowal of God’s manifold favors?

Don’t we all want some gift or blessing of God’s to reach us at every moment?

Don’t we all want one of His pardons and mercies be granted to us with every breath?

Don’t we all long to return to that Kingdom which is worthy of praise?

Don’t we all like to be reminded that God is Beneficent, Kind, and the Lord of grace and bounty and not the punishing God of our childhoods?

Knowing there is a specific prayer to say for my dying friends and family and one that I can also say for my own passing, 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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[1] https://adibmasumian.com/translations/ab01954/

Drawing on Each Other’s Love

Indeed the believers have not yet fully learned to draw on each other’s love for strength and consolation in time of need. The Cause of God is endowed with tremendous powers, and the reason the believers do not gain more from it is because they have not learned to fully draw on these mighty forces of love and strength and harmony generated by the Faith. (From a letter dated 8 May 1942 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 19)

I love this quote and was happy to read it today because it reminds me of the importance of developing deep friendships with other Bahá’ís, that goes well beyond our joint service to the Cause.  Growing up I learned how to silence myself and distance myself from others so I wouldn’t “tell the family secret” by mistake.  I know how to be a really great listener and how to help people hear their own truth.  I’m an expert at deflecting attention away from myself to keep other people talking about their own lives.  I didn’t even know how hurtful this was both to myself and others until recently.  It’s hurtful to myself because when I was finally wanting to open up and get some support from others, they could’t hear me because I’d broken the unwritten contract that says all communication was about them.  It was hurtful to others, because they made me their god and didn’t allow them to develop their virtues of compassion, love, strength and consolation.

When I first became a Baha’i, I was hungry for this kind of friendship described in the quote, but there didn’t seem to be a time or place.  Feasts and Holy Days had their prescribed agendas and then we went home.  I had to go outside to find love and strength and harmony, often from paid therapists.  I loved when the House of Justice started encouraging us to study prayers together and make home visits, because these activities opened up a space for real heart-to-heart conversations.  I’m so happy that the community building process is all about building relationships and creating the kinds of communities where we will be able to turn to each other’s love for strength and consolation in time of need, more and more often, and where children and junior youth will learn how to do this and feel the benefits of it, from a very early age.

Learning how to give and receive love in concrete ways, 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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True Service 

Let each one of you become the servant of the other; let each sacrifice himself for the sake of the other. (From a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—translated from the Persian, from Give me Thy Grace to Serve Thy Loved Ones, Compilation for the 2018 Counsellors’ Conference, [15])

I’m absolutely amazed at how creative people around the world have been since the start of the pandemic.  People self-isolating are finding ways to use technology to stay in touch, have children’s classes, and junior youth programs, study circles and devotional gatherings.  Because they are online, they can embrace larger numbers of people.  Parents at home are more receptive to encouraging their children and youth to participate or even to get involved with the community building process themselves.  People are reaching out to friends, neighbors and acquaintances more often, especially those in places where the numbers of people infected with the COVID-19 virus are high.

This week, my landlord (who owns many apartment buildings across a large geographic area, called to see if I was OK and to determine if there was anything I needed.  One of my neighbors dropped off some home-made muffins and this morning, my 80-year old neighbor called to say she was going grocery shopping and asked if I needed anything.  People all over the world are becoming servants to one another, and sacrificing themselves for their neighbors.  Never before in the history of mankind, has everyone in the whole world agreed to take a certain course of action, for the betterment of the world.  This will have long term implications and bring us a lot closer to the longed-for Most Great Peace.

Knowing the world has taken a giant step forward, 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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Witnessing the Tokens of Divine Assistance

The more they strive for harmony, the greater their progress; the more they exert effort to achieve unity, the more they will witness the tokens of divine assistance.… (From a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—translated from the Persian, from Give me Thy Grace to Serve Thy Loved Ones, Compilation for the 2018 Counsellors’ Conference, [15])

I’ve long thought that it doesn’t matter what we accomplish for the Faith in terms of activity or results but what does matter is the efforts we make towards love and unity.  This newly translated quote seems to back this up.  According to `Abdu’l-Bahá, we only make great progress when we strive for harmony and we only get divine assistance when we’re exerting effort to achieve unity.  I wonder what would happen in our Bahá’í communities if this was the focus?

Recently I heard tales of wonderful things happening in Sydney Australia, so much so, that the Canadian NSA sent representatives from the learning sites to Sydney to find out how they did achieved so much.  They came back with glowing reports of a community where everyone’s efforts are encouraged, where everyone has a place in the Plan, where encouragement and love are highly valued and gossip and negativity aren’t heard.  That’s the kind of Bahá’í community I want to be involved in.

Knowing there are places in the world where love and unity are encouraged, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through 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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