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Reassurance

 

I swear by My life! Nothing save that which profiteth them can befall My loved ones. To this testifieth the Pen of God, the Most Powerful, the All-Glorious, the Best Beloved.  (Shoghi Effendi, Advent of Divine Justice, p.  69)

This is a really hard quote for those who want answers to “why is this happening to me?”  No matter what life throws at us, the bottom line is that it’s happening to profit us.  Somehow, it’s for our good, and that can be hard medicine to swallow, especially when we’re going through really hard times.  I’ve come to understand that all of our tests serve 2 purposes:  to draw us closer to God and to help us acquire the virtues we’ll need in the next world.

When my brother was killed and my daughter died and I suffered through years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, I felt like a victim and even for many years, blamed God.  If there was a God, (and for many years I couldn’t accept that there was), how could He do these things to me?  I’ve come to realize that God doesn’t think the way we do.  I will never understand why He gave us free will and then stood by watching what mankind would do with it.  But with these quotes, and others like it, I’ve come to recognize that my life is better with God in it.  I can more easily handle everything that comes my way, I can appreciate that it’s strengthened my relationship to him, and no doubt I’ve developed a lot of virtues, resilience among them.

Knowing that all my tests are for my benefit, 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 Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

 

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Overcoming Confusion

All humanity is disturbed and suffering and confused; we cannot expect to not be disturbed and not to suffer – but we don’t have to be confused. On the contrary, confidence and assurance, hope and optimism are our prerogative. The successful carrying out of our vari­ous Plans is the greatest sign we can give of our faith and inner assur­ance, and the best way we can help our fellow-men out of their confu­sion and difficulties.  (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 225)

I try to avoid the news as much as possible, because it takes me down into hopeless, helpless despair.  Last night, though, I watched a documentary about the state of the world’s affairs and it was truly heartbreaking.  There were glimmers of hope, though, as I watched the youth organizing and arising to overcome injustice in their communities.  All the way through the movie, I repeated the Baha’i prayer for disaster (Yá Allahu’l-Mustaghath)   It felt good to know there was something I could do too.  I was worried that I would go to bed with the negative images seared on my brain, disturbing my sleep, so I asked God to take care of the world, and let me nestle under the wings of His protection and I did indeed sleep well.

I also called to mind something I’d heard in one of Tom Price’s talks.  He said that whenever he was disturbed by something terrible going on in the world, he reminded himself if was the “decline of the old world order.”

We are indeed blessed in this Faith, to know that God’s got His finger on the pulse of the world and it’s all leading us to the Most Great Peace.  It may not be happening as fast as I’d like, but I’m not in charge of the world!

The Writings give me the hope and optimism, assurance and confidence to help myself and others out of the confusion caused by the problems in the world, 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 Be Happy

 

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Choosing Joy

For instance, a merchant may lose his trade and depression ensues. A workman is dismissed and starvation stares him in the face. A farmer has a bad harvest, anxiety fills his mind. A man builds a house which is burnt to the ground and he is straightway homeless, ruined, and in despair.  All these examples are to show you that the trials which beset our every step, all our sorrow, pain, shame and grief, are born in the world of matter; whereas the spiritual Kingdom never causes sadness. A man living with his thoughts in this Kingdom knows perpetual joy.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 109-110).

Everyone has tests in life – it’s how we grow spiritually.  They remind us to turn towards God and result in developing the virtues we’ll need in the next world.  So they’re just a given.  We all get them.  So how can we be happy in the midst of them?  This quote gives us a clue.  It shows us that it’s our thoughts about the tests that are the problem.  All our sorrow, pain, shame and grief, are born in the world of matter.  Isn’t it interesting that even though these tests are a part of God’s plan, they aren’t meant to cause us sadness.  That’s our choice.  It reminds me of a story, which comes from the Taoist tradition (its origin is unknown.)

It’s a story of a farmer and his horse.  One day his horse runs away. And his neighbor comes over and says, to commiserate, “I’m so sorry about your horse.” And the farmer says “Who knows what’s good or bad?” The neighbor is confused because this is clearly terrible. The horse is the most valuable thing he owns.  But the horse comes back the next day and he brings with him 12 feral horses. The neighbor comes back over to celebrate, “Congratulations on your great fortune!” And the farmer replies again: “Who knows what’s good or bad?”  And the next day the farmer’s son is taming one of the wild horses and he’s thrown and breaks his leg. The neighbor comes back over, “I’m so sorry about your son.” The farmer repeats: “Who knows what’s good or bad?”  Sure enough, the next day the army comes through their village and is conscripting able-bodied young men to go and fight in war, but the son is spared because of his broken leg.  And this story can go on and on like that. Good. Bad. Who knows?

Nothing is accomplished by overanalyzing, overthinking, overplanning, overlabeling.  Labeling something good or bad only keeps me stuck.

When I keep my thoughts in the spiritual Kingdom I feel perpetual joy, no matter what life throws at me, 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 Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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Stumbling Blocks and Setbacks 

 He is very happy to see that you have put into practice one of the most encouraging precepts of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in which He said that we should try and make every stumbling-block a stepping-stone to progress. In the course of your past life you have all stumbled very gravely; but, far from being embittered or defeated by this experience, you are determined to make it a means of purifying your natures, improving your characters, and enabling you to become better citi­zens in the future. This is truly pleasing in the eyes of God.  (Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, p. 26)

Recently it’s occurred to me that no one is free of the stumbling blocks of life.  We need them all in order to grow.  Each one becomes a stepping stone to progress.  When we aren’t being tested, we don’t grow.  If I look over my life, I can see that the greatest growth has come during the darkest times in my life.  So I need every test, and I’m grateful for all of them.

It’s as if all of us “mines of inestimable value” have been put into God’s giant tumbling machine, where we bump up against other people’s jagged edges and use them to help smooth out ours.  Sometimes other people are tests for me and other times I am a source of tests for them.  No matter what, we all have a chance to grow and develop.  Even when we’re the only one doing the work, we still have the ability to pray for the others, and when we change the dance we’re dancing with them, they are forced to change their dance too.  Remembering we are all one, all created and cared for by the same loving father, there is no separation between us.  It’s only imaginary.

Knowing that when I remember to turn every struggle into a stepping stone, I purify my nature, improve my character and become a better citizen, 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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Hardship

. . . if thy daily living become difficult, soon thy Lord will bestow upon thee that which will satisfy thee. Be patient in time of affliction and trial, endure every difficulty and hardship with a dilated heart, attracted spirit and eloquent tongue in remembrance of the Merciful. Verily this is the life of satisfaction, the spiritual existence, heavenly repose, divine benediction and the celestial table! Soon thy Lord will extenuate thy straitened circumstances even in this world!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Divine Art of Living, p. 93)

We all have times in life that are difficult.  That’s how we grow spiritually and attain our purpose in life, which is to draw closer to God and acquire the virtues we need in the next life.  In the middle of these times, though, it’s hard to remember.  We often compare ourselves with others, who seem to slide through life with a silver spoon.  Envy only makes things worse.  Here we see what we need to remember:

  • It won’t last forever
  • In the meantime, be patient
  • Endure these times with a dilated heart, attracted spirit and eloquent tongue in remembrance of God

Not only will this make the tests easier to bear, they give us a life of satisfaction, spiritual existence, heavenly repose, divine benediction and the celestial table. That seems reason enough to stop complaining and change my attitude!

Knowing how to survive times of hardship, 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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Disaster Planning for Baha’i Communities

In many places in the world, our communities have faced sudden calamities, for which they weren’t prepared.  The NSA in the USA has given us some good guidelines on how to prepare and how to respond, and I thought would be helpful to share with all my readers.  Baha’i communities can be most effective when they are prepared for calamities and disasters, so they can best respond when they happen.

In times of national disaster, National Assemblies have 2 major lines of action:

Efforts at the national headquarters are, in time of crisis, divided between two major lines of action that operate from a broader perspective than regional or local levels of administration:

  • Meeting current needs: creating infrastructure and mechanisms for information and funds flows, resolving regional problems and communicating with the Bahá’ís nationally and globally
  • Thinking strategically: reaching out to non-Bahá’í sources for information, asking “what next” questions about recovery and future needs and assessing community and humanitarian resources for meeting them. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28)

National member databases should be up to date:

Community membership lists should be corrected and kept current in the National Membership Database at the Bahá’í National Center, so accurate records of believers are available for identifying and following up the Bahá’í population in the event of a disaster. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29)

Regional Councils are intimately familiar with the human resources, development and conditions of the localities in their region:

Regional Councils are an essential link in the administrative network of the Faith, more intimately familiar with the human resources, development and conditions of the localities in their region, closer and better placed to respond to immediate needs than offices at the national level. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28)

Local Assemblies should consider how they will function in carrying out their emergency plans:

An Assembly should consider how it will function to carry out its emergency plans and serve the community in the event its regular meetings are disrupted and/or one or more members become unavailable. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28)

Assemblies should be familiar with guidance from the NSA re contact with officials:

Before making such contacts, Assemblies should be thoroughly familiar with guidance from the National Spiritual Assembly’s Office of Public Affairs regarding contact with officials and non-Bahá’í organizations, and should educate the community about such contacts. Contact the Office of Public Affairs at http://publicaffairs.bahai.us/, bahaisus@usbnc.org or (202)833-8990 for more information.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28)

Assemblies should inform every one of the emergency plan:

An essential ingredient of any disaster recovery plan is to fully and effectively communicate the emergency plan to those it will affect, to be sure believers are informed about where they can turn for help, and to practice carrying out whichever components of the plan are possible to practice. The practice afforded believers through the institute process is what enabled Bahá’í communities affected by the hurricanes to effectively implement responses to the conditions presented.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 27-28)

Assemblies should have a communications plan:

  • Each community should establish a communication plan that includes contacts who are likely to be outside a disaster-affected area. This plan should be shared with the Bahá’ís, so they know where to turn, and where to check in, when the need arises.
  • (800) 22-UNITE currently can serve as a supplement or backup, though not a replacement, for local provisions for locating displaced community members.
  • Email and text messaging after Hurricane Katrina often worked when land line and cellular phones did not; community email and cell phone lists should be considered by communities that do not already have them, and this information be included in the members’ contact information given each Local Spiritual Assembly.
  • Local Assemblies can identify commercial services that can assist with communications. For example: there are a variety of web-based services that automatically call an organization’s membership database and play a recorded message as a means of broadcasting information and alerts.
  • Local Assembly Secretaries should use their Assembly email accounts as the first place they turn for information and alerts from the National Assembly, if their internet connection is functioning. Assemblies that do not regularly check their agency email may not be as current and well-informed as those who do. Assemblies may wish to investigate acquiring solar-powered laptops, batteries, or other communications devices that would be able to operate independently during power outages.
  • The national Bahá’í community website at American.bahai.us is the National Spiritual Assembly’s primary method of up-to-date general communication.
  • As some members of the community may not have cell phones or computers, and for emergencies when available technologies fail to work, Assemblies may also wish to devise alternate plans for contacting community members. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29)

Assemblies should complete an Emergency Contact Information Sheet for all its members:

Assemblies are encouraged to collect information to better enable them to serve the friends in their care should an emergency occur, whether a widespread disaster or an individual situation such as the death of a community member without local family. Each Assembly should create a list of information it would need to suit the particular circumstances and needs of its community.

It is suggested that a broad range of information be gathered from believers, similar to the information on the sample form, Emergency Contact Information Sheet to facilitate:

  • Contacting relatives or friends
  • Locating a person who may have been evacuated from the area
  • Aiding and assisting disaster victims with health or other issues
  • Assessing community resources
  • Preparing a disaster plan
  • Being better able to respond to any number of unanticipated situations.

The Emergency Contact Information Sheet is available on the national Bahai community website in the Supplements to Guidelines section. All such information should be preserved with the utmost confidentiality and kept in a safe but readily accessible place. Assemblies should not send emergency information forms to the Bahá’í National Center. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29)

Assemblies should encourage personal safety plans:

Assemblies may want to encourage believers to prepare a personal safety plan and to collect emergency supplies and essential documents that might be needed in an emergency or disaster. There are many sources for information on what such a plan might entail and what supplies and documents might be needed.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29)

Assemblies should keep their members up to date with procedures to follow:

Each Assembly should be sure to let the members of its community know of various ways to contact it, the Regional Bahá’í Council, and the National Spiritual Assembly during emergencies and any procedures it would like them to follow. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29)

Assemblies should be a rock on which the friends can seek solace:

Local Spiritual Assemblies are the stewards of their communities. If the Local Assembly itself is not temporarily dislocated as a result of the disaster, it can be the rock upon which the friends can steady themselves and seek solace.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28)

Local communities can work with relief agencies in planning and mobilizing community resources in times of crisis:

Local communities may wish to promote and achieve higher visibility vis-à-vis local relief agencies, non-profits and local governments as a way to participate in disaster response in the planning stages, especially on issues with implications for social values and attitudes. This could also streamline the process of mobilizing community resources in times of crisis, locating displaced Bahá’ís and assessing needs, since existing relief agencies often have vital information the Bahá’ís do not.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28)

Individuals provide selfless service in a manner consistent with Bahá’í principles:

It is impossible to anticipate the features of a future disaster, a fact which argues against elaborate response plans. Because Bahá’í communities and institutions are not relief agencies, there are limits to what they can and should do in response to a disaster. The focus of the friends on the Faith’s mission and on the goals of the current teaching plan have been instrumental in shaping a spiritually oriented response to disaster, whether on the part of those directly impacted, or of those who come to the aid of others in need.  While Bahá’ís should never lose sight of the mission of the Faith or goals of whichever Plan is in progress, they should not seek to take advantage of a crisis to teach in a crass way, or to claim credit for their services; the orientation must be toward selfless service in a manner consistent with Bahá’í principles. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 27)

They respond to the needs of Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís alike:

The Bahá’í community’s experience with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita gave ample evidence of the friends’ spontaneous creativity, generosity and dedication as they responded to the needs of Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís alike. A wide latitude of action should be given the friends to follow the dictates of conscience and motivation, as they are capable of devising innovative solutions to urgent problems as they arise.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 27)

They draw on people’s diversity:

One of the most salient strengths of the Bahá’í community is its diversity. Planners should do their best to appreciate and draw upon that diversity. Differences in personality, aptitudes, skills and training determine to a great extent the ways in which people are more or less effective in actual crisis situations. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 27)

They adapt the core activities to the new needs:

Years of work in establishing children’s classes, devotional gatherings and study circles have provided local Bahá’í communities with a skill set and a structure of activities which they have used to good advantage in extreme situations. The Hurricane Katrina example showed how the ability to create and staff children’s activities was both recognized and valued in these new circumstances. Devotional gatherings were also used by the friends to offer a place where they and their fellow citizens could focus on the disaster, provide spiritual aid to the dispossessed and sort through the upheaval they were witnessing. Familiarity with the service or practice component of the study circle process enabled the friends more easily to organize food drives and other local forms of direct assistance adapted to situational needs.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 27)

Resources

There are many disaster planning materials and websites that offer useful information and ideas for all aspects of personal safety and disaster recovery. Local governments may also be able to provide referrals to resources suitable and/or available in the area.

Just a few of the many useful internet resources are:

  • S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at www.fema.gov which provides a list of state emergency management planning offices that may offer useful planning resources and contact information to local communities.
  • Reuters Foundation AlertNet at www.alertnet.org which offers multiple resources, an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) directory of humanitarian agencies, and resources for disaster response training.
  • One thorough and well-organized state-level planning site is www.readycolorado.com which offers checklists across a wide range of situational needs, information about different kinds of disasters, and links to further information. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29)

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