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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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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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Creating a Warm Community Atmosphere

Unless and until the believers really come to realize they are one spiritual family, knit together by a bond more lasting than mere physical ties can ever be, they will not be able to create that warm community atmosphere which alone can attract the hearts of humanity, frozen for lack of real love and feeling.  (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 439)

A friend of mine passed away this week.  We knew it was coming, but because of COVID, my biggest fear was that she would die alone, with people unable to be with her.  I had to give this one over to God, and He came through, big time.  She went into palliative care in her local hospital on Friday, after being able to live alone up till then, and died on Sunday.  Because she lives in a small town, and all the COVID cases were sent to a large centre, she was allowed to have visitors.  We were all notified when her breathing changed early in the morning and 5 of her closest Bahá’í friends were at her bedside for several hours before she passed.  I live 6 hours away and am her executor, so I too was notified as were her friends around the world, all of us praying for her steadfastness till the end of her life and for the advancement of her soul in the next world.  In case you haven’t seen it, here is a newly translated prayer many of us were saying (in addition to a whole lot of others):

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 favours. 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. A prayer for a favorable end to one’s life (extracted from a Tablet of ʻAbdu’l-Bahá written for Áqá Mírzá Áqáy-i-Afnán)

Her non-Bahá’í cousins and neighbors were all watching this unfold and saw first hand that we were able to “create that warm community atmosphere”.  Please God, let this attract the hearts of everyone watching and let them be impressed by this outpouring evidence of “real love and feeling”.  What better legacy could she leave than that?

Knowing that there are times we get this right, 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 Spiritual Forces at Our Disposal

Above all, the friends need to remain ever conscious of the magnitude of the spiritual forces that are at their disposition. They are members of a community “whose world-embracing, continually consolidating activities constitute the one integrating process in a world whose institutions, secular as well as religious, are for the most part dissolving”. Of all the peoples of the world, “they alone can recognize, amidst the welter of a tempestuous age, the Hand of the Divine Redeemer that traces its course and controls its destinies. They alone are aware of the silent growth of that orderly world polity whose fabric they themselves are weaving.  (27 December 2005, Universal house of Justice to the Conference of the Continental Counsellors)

As I watch so many terrible things unfold as the world continues its relentless descent into darkness as the Old World Order is being rolled up, my prayers and the prayers of people all over the world intensify.  I’ve been encouraged time after time, at the soft landing of many events which could have unfolded much more disastrously than they have, and I’m reminded of this quote.  We do trust that we have spiritual forces at our disposal, which is why we pray, both individually and collectively in our devotional gatherings.

What I often forget, though, is that we Bahá’ís are members of a community “whose world-embracing, continually consolidating activities constitute the one integrating process in a world whose institutions . . . are . . . dissolving”; and that we alone “can recognize . . . the Hand of the Divine Redeemer that traces its course and controls its destinies; and that we alone are aware of the silent growth of that orderly world . . . whose fabric we ourselves are weaving.

I so often take for granted that my puny efforts are weaving the fabric of the new world order.  I forget that my little efforts at prayers and the core activities and other undertakings of our Bahá’í community are being supported by spiritual forces I can call on, at all times.  Remembering that is what keeps me going.

Knowing that the Hand of the Divine Redeemer is tracing the course of world events and controls its destinies, I can relax 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 Learning How to Consult Effectively

 

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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

 

Help Keep This Site Alive

 

 

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

 

Help Keep This Site Alive

 

[1] https://adibmasumian.com/translations/ab01954/