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Moving to the Will of God

May your movement and your stillness be guided by the gentle winds of His Will, and may He bestow upon you the enduring bounty of being enabled to serve Him in accordance with His wish.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Auxiliary Board members throughout the world, 3 January 2022)

When I first read the 20 or so pages coming out of the series of letters from the Counselors’ conference, outlining the goals of the 9 year plan and the general plans for the next 25 years, I was, as I often am, overwhelmed with the enormity of what we are being asked to do.

I’m still recovering from burn-out and not actively participating in the affairs of my local community, and it all seems totally daunting and overwhelming.  Finally, at the end of reading all 4 letters, the House of Justice concluded it all with the above quote, and I immediately recognized it as coming from one of the prayers I often say and burst into tears of relief and gratitude.  They understand me and my limits!

Yes, the task ahead of us is rigorous and herculean; and yes, all of the institutions are going to need our support and our best effort, and yes, it’s OK to “let my movement and my stillness be totally directed by God”.  In the past, I’ve let the urgency of the plans, and the inactivity of the Bahá’ís around me, cause me to push myself to try to do it all, way beyond the point of endurance and it’s taken a real toll on my physical and mental health.

It’s such a relief to know that the House of Justice has given me permission to be still when I need to be, within the context of these plans!  It’s not just Bahá’u’lláh saying this to the world in Prayers and Meditations, it’s the House of Justice saying it in the context of the next 25 years.  I don’t have to do it all, and I don’t have to do it today, if today I need to rest.  I can forgive myself for not being a “good Baha’i”.  Such an incredible relief!

Having permission to move according to the will of God, I am profoundly grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  Please share your thoughts below.

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Praying for Others

Should a person recite but a single verse from the Holy Writings in a spirit of joy and radiance, this would be better for him than reciting wearily all the Scriptures of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Recite ye the verses of God in such measure that ye be not overtaken with fatigue or boredom. Burden not your souls so as to cause exhaustion and weigh them down, but rather endeavour to lighten them, that they may soar on the wings of revealed Verses unto the dawning-place of His signs. This is conducive to nearer access unto God, were ye to comprehend.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 225)

Someone recently asked me how I manage to pray for so many people on my prayer list.  This was such a good question because it definitely reflects my situation.  People around me understand that I take prayer seriously and see that I use the 5-Steps of Prayer for Solving Problems in my life every day, and they witness the wonderful things that happen in my life, and they believe that I must have a direct line to God (and they don’t).  I hate it when people say that!  I’m no more loved by God than anyone else.  He loves every single one of us unconditionally.  That’s why He created us.  In the Arabic Hidden Words, number 3, Bahá’u’lláh tells us:

I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.

So, people ask me to pray for them, and I’m honored to be asked; and I enjoy praying for and with people and do it almost every day.  I don’t always hear the end results and I have to leave that to God.

At one time, I put all my prayer requests for me and for others, in the Notes section on my phone, calling it “Prayer Requests”.  I had great fun crossing off the prayers as they were answered, but the list soon grew too long to be useful anymore.

Now what I do, is pray for the person at the time the request is made.  Sometimes I use a formal prayer from the prayer book, other times, based on the quote above, I recite just a single verse from the Holy Writings.  Sometimes it might be “Ya Baha’u’l-Abha (the Greatest Name of God).  Frequently it might be Ya Allahu’l-Mustaghath (to be said in times of trouble, difficulty or great need).  Sometimes it’s just “O God please help this person!”  No matter what I say, I make sure I do it in a spirit of joy and radiance.  After I’ve prayed, I write the person’s request on a slip of paper and put it into my God jar, trusting that God heard my prayer the first time, and I don’t have to keep reminding Him!

If the person and their problem come to my mind later, I can pray for them again, more to relieve my own heart than because I don’t trust that God is already on the job.

I’ve learned not to be so thorough and perfect as to be overtaken with fatigue or boredom or for these prayers to cause exhaustion and to let the burden of other people’s problems weigh me down.

Growing closer to God by letting go of the need to be perfect in how I pray for others, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  How do you pray for others?  Please share your thoughts below.

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The Importance of Conquering Myself

 

I want to say a few words now about the Guardianship.  “And when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ passed away, the whole world became dark for him (Shoghi Effendi). All light had gone out. And when he came to the Holy Land, he had in mind, from the things ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ had said to him, and I am telling you what he said, that ‘I had in mind that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ would give me the honor of calling the great conclave together which would elect the Universal House of Justice. And I thought in His Will and Testament that that was probably what He was instructing be done.’   ” ‘But,’ he said, ‘instead of that, I found that I was appointed the Guardian of the Cause of God.’ He said, ‘I didn’t want to be the Guardian of the Cause. In the first place, I didn’t think I was worthy. Next place, I didn’t want to face these responsibilities.’ ” ‘I didn’t want to be the Guardian. I knew what it meant. I knew that my life as a human being was over. I didn’t want it, and I didn’t want to face it. So as you’ll remember, I left the Holy Land. And I went up into the mountains of Switzerland, and I fought with myself until I conquered myself. Then I came back and I turned myself over to God, and I was the Guardian.’ ” ‘Now,’ he said, ‘Every Bahá’í in the world, every person in the world, has to do exactly that same thing. Whether you’re a Hand of the Cause, whether you’re a Knight of Bahá’u’lláh, whether you’re a member of a national Assembly, whether you’re a teacher, whether you’re a pioneer, whether you’re an administrator, regardless of what you are, with anything in the Cause, every Bahá’í must fight with himself and conquer himself. And when he has conquered himself, then he becomes a true instrument for the service of the Cause of God. And not until then! This is what every Bahá’í in the world should know.’  (A Talk by Hand of the Cause of God Leroy Ioas Transcribed from a recording made in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 31, 1958)

This is one of my favorite stories and the part that has always resonates with me is “I fought with myself until I conquered myself” and “every person in the world, has to do exactly that same thing”.

I’m sure I first heard this when I was a new Bahá’í, and God knows, I tried!  But here I am, 40 years later, with a much deeper appreciation of what exactly that means.  The older I get, the more I understand myself and my motives, and the better I see the veils between me and God; the more I have to “fight with myself till I conquer myself”.  As I set the bar higher and even higher with every Writing I read; and every letter from the House of Justice I strive to understand; and every Ruhi book I tutor, I often collapse under the weight of so mighty an effort.

Recently I watched the new movie the House of Justice commissioned on the occasion of the Centenary of the passing of `Abdu’l-Bahá (Glimpses of a Hundred Years of Endeavor),  and what stood out for me was that all the progress of the Faith stands on the shoulders of those who came before us, and as we die, the progress of the Faith will stand on our shoulders.

I get inspired by stories of the early believers, and long for my service to match theirs, but I’m not them.  As important as they were in their day, they alone were not responsible for establishing the Most Great Peace, nor am I.  I just need to keep conquering myself, one day, one decision at a time.

Knowing that the more I struggle to conquer myself, the more I become a true instrument for the service of the Cause of God, and I am grateful!

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Waiting on God’s Direction

However, relying upon God, we conducted ourselves with the utmost patience and submission, resignation and calmness; so much that if one did not know anything about these matters, he would have thought that we were in perfect ease of soul, enjoying the tranquility of heart mind, and were engaged in happiness and felicity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 45)

It’s hard for me to rely on God when I’m impatient for something to happen or a quick decision to be made and I’m learning that it’s at these times I need to hold tight to His cord even more.  Test number one!

It’s even harder to do it with patience, let alone “utmost patience”.  Test number two!

It’s harder still to submit to God’s will, especially if I have to be “utmost patient” for years, as I’ve had to do with several important issues that apparently, it’s not within my power to rush.  And even harder when God’s given me a disappointing NO!  Test number three!

It’s also hard to be resigned (or worse yet, radiantly acquiescent) in the face of so many tests.  Test number four!

And calm?  Really, God?  On top of everything else, you want me to be calm, when so many emotions are churning around inside me? Test number five!

And finally, to not let anyone know I’m struggling, to wear that “Feast face”, so that everyone around me would think that I’m “in perfect ease of soul, enjoying the tranquility of heart mind, and were engaged in happiness and felicity”.  Test number six!

So many tests embedded in that one quote.

Knowing that reliance on God comes with other things I have to consider, and that all He wants is for me to strive, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  Please share your thoughts below.

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Have Hope. This Too Shall Pass

Thou wert created to bear and endure, O Patience of the worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Fire Tablet, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 317)

Remember My days during thy days, and My distress and banishment in this remote prison.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Tablet of Ahmad, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 210)

Have hope. It will not always be so.  (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2015)

As we were entering into our 4th (this time semi) lockdown, with the rapid spread of the Omicron virus, I began to despair.  Not this again, I thought.  I can’t bear it.  But of course, I can, and I must and I will.

I was contemplating these three quotes and trying to elevate my thoughts and overcome my despair, when I came across the following perspective from a someone on Facebook.  I’m not sure how it popped up on my feed, as I don’t know him, and don’t have any mutual friends, so I can only believe it was the hand of God, trying to reassure me.

For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900. When you are 14, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday with 22 million people killed. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until you are 20. Fifty million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

When you’re 29, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, global GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy. When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet.

When you’re 41, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war and the Holocaust kills six million. At 52, the Korean War starts and five million perish.

At 64 the Vietnam War begins, and it doesn’t end for many years. Four million people die in that conflict. Approaching your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, could well have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening.

As you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends. Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How do you survive all of that? A kid in 1985 didn’t think their 85 year old grandparent understood how hard school was. Yet those grandparents (and now great grandparents) survived through everything listed above.

Perspective is an amazing art. Let’s try and keep things in perspective. Let’s be smart, help each other out, and we will get through this. In the history of the world, there has never been a storm that lasted. This too, shall pass.

It gave me such hope, that I posted it on my own Facebook page, and my cousin reminded me that our grandmother had been born in 1900 and moved on a horse-drawn covered wagon from Nebraska to Edmonton, in western Canada with her family, for the free land grants.  Not only did she endure every one of the calamities above, but her entire world also changed in that move.  Could I withstand so many ordeals?  I really doubt it!  Leaving my “severe mental tests” from childhood trauma aside, all I have to deal with is “stay home to stay safe”.  It seems like such a small thing, in comparison with everything she suffered.

I have a hard time relating to Bahá’u’lláh’s suffering, but I can certainly understand my grandmother’s.  If she can do it, it’s in my DNA and I can too.

Knowing I have resilience built into my DNA, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  Please share your thoughts below.

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The Truth About Unbearable Tests

No one should expect, upon becoming a Bahá’í, that faith will not be tested, and to our finite understanding of such matters these tests may occasionally seem unbearable. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 341)

This Plan will test their stamina, their willpower, and the strength of their love for those who dwell alongside them. (Universal House of Justice, to the Bahá’ís of the World, 4 January 2022)

I’ve just been reading 19 pages from the last 3 letters arising from the meeting between the Counsellors and the Universal House of Justice, outlining the upcoming 9-year Plan, including the most recent letter which came out today.  Needless to say, it’s overwhelming!

Several things stand out in my mind – the focus seems to have gone from community building to society building, which is really exciting!  And there will be more focus on developing LSA’s again, when so many have been lost.  International pioneering will again be a focus.  Ruhi will be revising but not creating new branch courses – that will be the responsibility of the institute boards.  And more than any plan I’ve thought I’ve understood before, the focus seems more than ever, on the working in groups of people.

So where do I fit in?  This seems to be answered on page 6 of the 30 December 2021 letter to the Conference of the Continental Board of Counsellors:

The challenge facing the friends serving at the grassroots is essentially the same in every place.  They must be able to read their own reality and ask:  what, in light of the possibilities and requirements at hand, would be fitting objectives to pursue in the coming cycle or series of cycles?

As an isolated believer in an inactive cluster, serving an online community and loving to serve the Faith from behind my computer screen in my pajamas, where does that leave me?  Don’t expect not to be tested!  I may have to give up my comfort zone and detach from the things I hold most sacred, in order to enable the Faith to grow according to God’s will and not my own.

Ya Baha’u’l-Abha!

Seeing the end in the beginning, through the vision of the House of Justice, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  Please share your thoughts below.

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

 

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