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Man’s Highest Station

Man’s highest station, however, is attained through faith in God in every Dispensation and by acceptance of what hath been revealed by Him . . .

This quote came to my attention at just the right moment.  My life has been fraught with so much abuse, trauma, loss and disappointment that I often long for my next life to begin.  The Bahá’í Writings promise a much better life next time round and I’m looking forward to that.  I know that one of the purposes in this life is to acquire the virtues I’ll need in the next world, so some time ago, maybe when I was a new Bahá’í, I decided to set the bar high for myself, so that I could perfect as many virtues as possible, to acquire as many “spiritual brownie points” as possible to guarantee my best possible life in the next world.  The Writings are full of “if you do this, God will do that” and being a black and white thinker, I latched onto these and strove to put them all into practice, and then beat myself up mercilessly when I couldn’t reach the standards I thought were being set for me by the Writings and the ongoing guidance of the House of Justice.

Nowhere do I feel this more keenly than when the statistics officer calls and asks what service I’m offering to my mostly inactive, very white cluster with a handful of elderly Bahá’ís who don’t have the energy to participate anymore.  Because I haven’t been able to interest the local Bahá’ís or the wider community in the core activities, most of my service is in this online environment.  My articles for this blog and for the Bahá’í Teachings blog reach so many people that I can take comfort that I am participating in a mass teaching event, and I can view the online environment as my receptive population, but none of it counts in the statistics.  None of it helps my cluster get to milestone 2 (when we aren’t even at milestone 1 yet).  None of it can I find in the ongoing messages of the House of Justice.  All of this leads me into such deep despair that I burned out trying.

I believe that God is happy with my puny efforts, and can look Him in the eye when I get to the Pearly Gates.  I see evidence that He magnifies my teaching and service activities and sends me opportunities to serve in ways that unfold easily and effortlessly.  I know at some level that I can’t bargain with God for a better future, and slowly I’ve been learning about God’s infinite love, mercy and forgiveness of my sins.  I’m learning that I don’t need brownie points.  All of this flies out the window when I read the latest letter from the House of Justice and can’t find me and my efforts in it.  For some time, I’ve been praying most fervently for God to show me in the Writings that my efforts are OK.  Through this process, I’ve come to remember that my purpose in life is to know and worship God and not to get my cluster to milestone 2.

All of this to say that this quote seems to be what I was looking for.  I’ve already reached my highest station, because I have faith in God in every Dispensation and I totally accept everything that has been revealed by Him.  Thank you God for answered prayers.  Please help me remember, so I can stop abasing myself!

Knowing I’ve already reached the highest station there is, I can stop judging myself 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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Greedy for God’s Approval

To be approved of God alone should be one’s aim. (Words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha recorded by Dr. Edward C. Getsinger during his pilgrimage to Haifa in 1905; Star of the West, Vol. VI, No.6, p. 43; Compilation: Lights of Guidance)

 

. . . at all times seeking the approval of men is many times the cause of imperiling the approval of God.  (Words of Abdu’l-Baha in answer to questions asked by Dr. Edward C. Getsinger during a few brief meetings at Haifa, January 26 to February 5, 1915, and recorded by Dr. Getsinger at the time; Star of the West, vol. 6, no. 6, June 24, 1915)

This morning I was reflecting with some friends on how we look to other people for external validation, to earn people’s love and respect or to prove our worth.  A lot of people I know define their self-worth by how many “likes” they get on a social media posting.  Many of us hang out with people who have similar tastes and compatible opinions in order to have fulfilling relationships and feel loved by friends and family.  We tend to avoid or rebuff criticism or unwanted advice, no matter how well-meaning.   I’m coming to appreciate that creating this false face and trying to please everyone else before myself not only stunts real intimacy, but it makes me an invisible chameleon and drains me of my energy.

Changing my behavior isn’t easy, when I am immersed in a sea of gossip and am greedy for the approval of others.  I know how to get that drug that never satisfies.  I understand all this, but what I don’t understand is how I can get even more greedy for God’s approval and what would it look like if I found it?  How would I recognize it when it comes?

I don’t hear Bahá’ís talk about this much, so I’m baffled about what to look for, so that I can move from my lower nature (looking for the approval of others) to my higher nature (looking for God’s approval).  I took a poll and some people mentioned feeling the quiet satisfaction of a job well done; or having a feeling of peace and serenity at the end of a day; or feeling grounded and in the flow; or being grateful for fresh insights that could only come from God.  Any other ideas?

Finding ways to recognize and become greedy for God’s approval, 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 Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

 

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Not My Capacity, But God’s 

Do you think it is the teachers who make converts and change human hearts? No, surely not. They are only pure souls who take the first step, and then let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh move them and make use of them. If any one of them should even for a second consider his achievements as due to his own capacities, his work is ended, and his fall starts. This is in fact the reason why so many competent souls have after wonderful services suddenly found themselves absolutely impotent and perhaps thrown aside by the Spirit of the Cause as useless souls. The criterion is the extent to which we are ready to have the Will of God operate through us.  Stop being conscious of your frailties, therefore; have a perfect reliance upon God; let your heart burn with the desire to serve His mission and proclaim His call; and you will observe how eloquence and the power to change human hearts will come as a matter of course.  (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahai Administration, p. 26)

I absolutely have a love/hate relationship to this quote.  On the one hand it reminds me to”stop being conscious of my frailties and have perfect reliance on God” (about which I need frequent reminders) and on the other, it makes me despair that in my burnout and adrenal exhaustion, this might mean I’m one of those “many competent souls have after wonderful services suddenly found themselves absolutely impotent and perhaps thrown aside by the Spirit of the Cause as useless souls.” I know that these kinds of thoughts are just another way to beat myself up with the Writings and cause me to fail to recognize my nobility. In that moment, I need to “have perfect reliance on God” that what I’m doing is enough.  This is one of my most frequent tests these days.

Once I can set aside this consciousness of my frailties, there are certain things I need to do, according to this quote.  I need to:

  • let go of any belief that my achievements are due to my own capacity
  • be ready to have the Will of God operate through me
  • have a perfect reliance upon God
  • let my heart burn with the desire to serve His mission and proclaim His call
  • take the first step, and then let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh move me and make use of me

Finally, I love when promises are embedded in quotes.  In this case we’re promised that if we let go of all consciousness of our frailties and do these things, we will observe how eloquence and the power to change human hearts will come as a matter of course.  Don’t we all want it to be that easy?

Knowing that God keeps His promises when do what’s asked of me, 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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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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Self Image

 O Son of Spirit! Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 22)

Recently I was studying the long obligatory prayer with a Bahá’í friend and we noted that in the preface to a paragraph near the end, Bahá’u’lláh asks us to “rise and say:  “O God, my God!  My back is bowed by the burden of my sins, and my heedlessness hath destroyed me.”  It’s always seemed a strange posture to take when talking about my sins.  Normally I would want to crumble, turn in with shame and refuse to look Him in the eye, but no.  He won’t let me do that.  He wants me to stand strong and tall before Him when admitting to my sins.  He wants me to see my nobility before Him.

We’ve all been created noble.  We’ve all been created with a lower and higher nature.  We’ve all been created as sinners.  We’ve all been created with free will.  We’ve all been created weak.  God knows that we are going to abase ourselves because of our weakness or stubbornness or ignorance.  It’s all part of the Divine Plan.  But it’s also part of His plan that we don’t define ourselves by all the ways we fall short in our quest for obedience.  We rise, because we know we’ve been forgiven before we ever transgressed.   We rise because of God’s love for us, whether we believe and accept it or not.

Knowing that God doesn’t judge me as harshly as I judge myself, 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 Overcoming Abuse and Violence

 

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The Strongest Spiritual Test We Can Meet

Yet who can doubt that all the central Figures demonstrated to the whole of mankind an assured and happy way of life? Here is where their example seems particularly precious. To rise above the disappointments, obstacles, and pain which we experience in serving the Cause is difficult enough, but to be called on, in doing so, to be happy and confident is perhaps the keenest spiritual test any of us can meet. (Shoghi Effendi, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 117)

O dear!  I don’t like that not only do I have to find a way to rise above disappointments, obstacles and pain, but I also have to be happy and confident too?  Sometimes I really think God asks too much of me!  That’s how I feel today, in the middle of feeling sorry for myself.

This morning, believing I was acting on a prompting from spirit, I tried to tackle a 2-person job all by myself.  I failed miserably and made the problem worse, and sunk into hopelessness, despair and self-pity as a result.  Fortunately, I don’t indulge in those emotions as often as I used to, because I’ve learned that happiness is a choice, as this quote seems to imply.  I identified the feeling, got up and walked for 10 minutes, praying for my neighbors as I walked and came back feeling ready to tackle the next meeting, grateful to have had the opportunity to be of service to someone.

Learning how to behave from the central figures of our Faith, 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 Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

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