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Do What You Can

You may be interested to know that, within the limits of their capacity and the uncertain circumstances, Bahá’ís inside and outside Ukraine are responding directly to the crisis. The believers in the country are supporting their compatriots to the extent possible, and the friends in the neighboring countries have arisen to support Bahá’í and other refugees.  (Universal House of Justice, to an individual, 1 April 2022)

I have been looking at the effects that incest and childhood sexual, physical, emotional, and ritual abuse have had on me for awhile now.  I’m starting to experience a lot of feelings I’ve spent a lifetime trying to stuff down.  As a result, I haven’t been as active in my local cluster as I’d like to be, as I think a good Bahá’í “should” be.  I’ve been “shouldding” on my self, and this has caused me deep despair.

Somewhere recently I thought I’d remembered that when war broke out in Ukraine, the House of Justice had asked them to carry on with the Plan.  I know the Plan is the only salvation for the world, but when your world is being bombed and torn apart, and you’re afraid every day for your life, how on earth are you supposed to have energy to work the Plan?  If this wasn’t the advice given to the Ukraine, I’ve seen in given in times of other tragedies (the hurricane that devastated Vanuatu comes to mind).

When I looked at the standard expected of the Ukrainians in this war, I felt deeply ashamed that I wasn’t able to attain that same standard.  Bombs aren’t falling on me physically, but they sure are emotionally.  I know I have a tendency to beat myself up, and I’m working on reducing the times I do it, but I can only do it when I find Bahá’í Writings that tell me I’m OK.  So this letter, which came out last week, really helped.  In it, the House of Justice was responding to someone who asked about the events in Ukraine.  I was very comforted to read:  “within the limits of their capacity” and “to the extent possible”.  I can do that.

Knowing I have permission to recognize my capacity in any given day and that I can do what I can, to the extent possible, I am grateful!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

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War Makes Me Sad

The problem:

I hope you are all happy and well. I am not happy, but very sad. The news of the Battle of Benghazi grieves my heart. I wonder at the human savagery that still exists in the world! How is it possible for men to fight from morning until evening, killing each other, shedding the blood of their fellow-men: And for what object? To gain possession of a part of the earth!  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 28-30)

The solution:

When soldiers of the world draw their swords to kill, soldiers of God clasp each other’s hands! So may all the savagery of man disappear by the Mercy of God, working through the pure in heart and the sincere of soul. Do not think the peace of the world an ideal impossible to attain!  Nothing is impossible to the Divine Benevolence of God.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 28-30)

This morning, I was reflecting on the state of the world with a friend whose parents and in-laws were holocaust survivors.  She shares my terror and powerlessness around the current state of the world.  We’re both in full-blown PTSD responses.  We’re both trying to help each other rise above them and learn to trust in God.  This is really hard when I’m in the grips of terror.

Yesterday I found myself feeling like Chicken Little, running around saying “the sky is falling.  The sky is falling” and finding no one as seemingly concerned as I was (which was my clue that this terror was more from a frightened child inside of me, afraid of the monster under the bed than from any immediate threat to me in Canada).

I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy trying to bring those terrorized child parts into the present, saying things like:  “This is 2022.  We’re 65 years old.  Our parents died a long time ago.  Nothing is going to hurt us.  There’s a lock on the door.  No one can come in.  You’re safe.  I can’t say this anymore.

A friend of mine sent me this quote, exactly in the moment I needed it – with the solution embedded with the problem:  “When soldiers of the world draw their swords to kill, soldiers of God clasp each other’s hands!”  That’s what the House of Justice is telling us in the current series of letters.  Our focus is on building a society where mothers will no longer allow their sons to go to war.  We aren’t there yet, but we know that day is coming, and we have the tools to get there.

Remembering that the solutions to the world’s current problems give me concrete steps I can take, I can relax, and 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 Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

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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.

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

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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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The Definition of Heroism

These, indeed, are the days when heroism is needed on the part of the believers. Self sacrifice, courage, indomitable hope and confidence are the characteristics they should show forth, because these very attributes cannot but fix the attention of the public and lead them to enquire what, in a world so hopelessly chaotic and bewildered, leads these people to be so assured, so confident, so full of devotion? (From a letter dated 26 October 1941 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 17)

When Shoghi Effendi wrote these words in 1941, the world was in a very different place.  When I think of heroism, I often think of the soldiers fighting in World Wars 1 and 2, or the firefighters who rushed to save people on 9/11.  So  many acts of bravery and heroism that came out of those times.

In this wonderful age, we’ve been given a new definition of heroism.  Today’s heroes are the community builders, who sacrifice their time, money, and sometimes even their educations and careers to focus on engaging the wider community and winning the goals of the plans.

I’ve learned just how much courage is needed for me to step outside my comfort zone to invite people to participate in the core activities.  I have faith, hope and confidence in the plans set before us by our beloved Universal House of Justice, and somedays I can even reach between the veil of now and the future, and see people engaged in all the core activities in every street of my neighborhood.  I long to find the stamina needed to help these community building initiatives keep going, sometimes in the face of the world’s indifference and contention.

I’m thrilled to see in learning sites all over the world, Baha’is and non-Baha’is are working together for the betterment of their communities, and to witness first hand how these activities act as magnets, drawing the confirmations promised by the Central Figures.  In communities such as these, we see first hand how the general public are wondering what leads these people to be so assured, so confident, so full of devotion, in a world so hopelessly chaotic and bewildered and long to join in.

Knowing what it takes for me to be a hero in today’s world, and seeing heroes all over the world, I am grateful!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

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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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