Why does life have to hurt so much? This is a question I often hear in my Bahá’í-inspired life coaching practice. The Bahá’í Writings tell us:
Suffering is both a reminder and a guide. It stimulates us better to adapt ourselves to our environmental conditions, and thus leads the way to self improvement. In every suffering one can find a meaning and a wisdom. But it is not always easy to find the secret of that wisdom. It is sometimes only when all our suffering has passed that we become aware of its usefulness. What man considers to be evil turns often to be a cause of infinite blessings. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 434.)
Here is a story that came in my email today, followed by my all time favorite story. I hope they give you comfort.
A Refiner of Silver
Malachi 3:3 says: “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver”. This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.
One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.
That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining Silver.
As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.” She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time.
The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”
He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.”
If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has his eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.
Another quote from the Bahá’í Writings:
You are encouraged to continue to keep in mind the spiritual dimension of your struggles. We are assured by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the following words: “The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire the purer it becomes. The more you sharpen the steel by grinding the better it cuts. Therefore, the more sorrows one sees the more perfect one be¬comes. That is why, in all times, the Prophets of God have had tribula¬tions and difficulties to withstand. The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge be¬comes. Therefore I am happy that you have had great tribulations and difficulties… Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. XIV, No. 2, p. 41.)
Author Unknown – submitted by Daryoush Yazdani, Japan
A couple vacationing in Europe went strolling down a little street and saw a quaint little gift shop with a beautiful teacup in the window. The lady collected teacups and she wanted this one for her collection, so she went
inside to pick up the teacup, and as the story goes the teacup spoke and said:
“I want you to know that I have not always looked like this. It took the process of pain to bring me to this point. You see, there was a time when I was just clay and the master came and he pounded me and he squeezed me and he kneaded me and I screamed: “STOP THAT”. But he just smiled and he said, “Not yet”.
Then he took me and put me on the wheel and I went round and round and round and round … and while I was spinning and getting dizzier and dizzier I screamed again and I said, “Please get me off this thing … please get me off!!!” And the master was looking at me and he was smiling, as he said, “Not yet”.
Then he took me and walked toward the oven and he shut the door and turned up the heat and I could see him through the window of the oven and it was getting hotter and hotter and I thought, “He’s going to burn me to death”.
And I started pounding on the inside of the oven and I said “Master, let me out, let me out, let me out”, and I could see that he was smiling as he said “Not yet”.
Then he opened the door and I was fresh and free and he took me out of the oven and he put me on the table and then he got some paint and a paintbrush. And he started dabbing me and making swirls all over me and I started to gag and I said: “Master, stop it … stop it … stop it please … you’re making me gag” and he just smiled as he said “Not yet”.
Then very gently he picked me up again and he started walking toward the oven and I said, “Master, NO! Not again, pleeeeease”. He opened the oven door and he slipped me inside and he shut the door and this time he turned the heat up twice as hot as before and I thought. “He’s going to kill me”, and I looked through the window of the oven and I started to pound saying, “Master … Master, please let me out … please let me out … let me out… let me out”. And I could see that he was smiling, but I also noticed a tear trickle down his cheek as I watched him mouth the words.
Just as I thought I was about to die, the door opened and he reached in ever so gently and took me out, fresh and free and he went and placed me on a high shelf and he said: “There, I have created what I intended. Would you like to see yourself?” I said “Yes”, so he handed me a mirror and I looked and I looked again and I said, “That’s not me, I’m just a lump of clay” And he said: “Yes, that IS you, but it took the process of pain to bring you to this place. “You see, had I not worked you when you were clay, then you would have dried up. If I had not subjected you to the
stress of the wheel, you would have crumbled. If I had not put you into the heat of the oven you would have cracked. If I had not painted you there would be no color in your life. But, it was the second oven that gave you the strength to endure. And now you are everything that I intended you to be – from the beginning.”
And I, the tea cup, heard myself saying something I never thought I would hear myself saying: “Master, forgive me, I did not trust you, I thought you were going to harm me, I did not know you had a glorious future and a hope for me. I was too shortsighted, but I want to thank you. I want to thank you for suffering. I want to thank you for the process of pain. Here I am! I give you myself – fill me, pour from me, use me as you see fit. I really want to be a vessel that brings you glory within my life”
I’d like to conclude with a quote from the Bahá’í Writings:
Naturally there will be periods of distress and difficulty, and even severe tests; but if the person turns firmly towards the Divine Manifestation, studies carefully His spiritual teachings and receives the blessings of the Holy Spirit, he will find that in reality these tests and difficulties have been the gifts of God to enable him to grow and develop.
Thus you might look upon your own difficulties in the path of service. They are the means of your spirit growing and developing. You will suddenly find that you have conquered many of the problems which upset you, and then you will wonder why they should have troubled you at all. (Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, pp. 35-36.)
What are your experiences with painful tests? Post your comments here:
In my Bahá’í-inspired life coaching, many clients wonder about the role of service in their lives. I often hear: I don’t have time to add another thing to my already busy life. So why is it so important?
In the Bahá’í Writings, ‘Abdul-Bahá tells us:
By assisting in the success of another servant in the Cause does one…lay the foundation for one’s own success and aspirations . . . (‘Abdul-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 6, #6, p. 44)
I like to use this story, which I found in a book called “The Simple Truths of Service”, by Ken Blanchard and Barbara Glanz. It illustrates how service can be as easy as a state of mind, and can be implemented into our life, in every action we take.
No one can make you serve customers well. That’s because great service is a choice. Years ago, my friend, Harvey Mackay, told me a wonderful story about a cab driver that proved this point. He was waiting in line for a ride at the airport. When a cab pulled up, the first thing Harvey noticed was that the taxi was polished to a bright shine. Smartly dressed in a white shirt, black tie, and freshly pressed black slacks, the cab driver jumped out and rounded the car to open the back passenger door for Harvey. He handed my friend a laminated card and said: “I’m Wally, your driver. While I’m loading your bags in the trunk, I’d like you to read my mission statement.”
Taken aback, Harvey read the card. It said:
Wally’s Mission Statement: To get my customers to their destination in the quickest, safest, and cheapest way possible in a friendly environment.
This blew Harvey away. Especially when he noticed that the inside of the cab matched the outside. Spotlessly clean!
As he slid behind the wheel, Wally said, “Would you like a cup of coffee? I have a thermos of regular and one of decaf.”
My friend said jokingly, “No, I’d prefer a soft drink.”
Wally smiled and said, “No problem. I have a cooler up front with regular and Diet Coke, water and orange juice.”
Almost stuttering, Harvey said, “I’ll take a Diet Coke”
Handing him his drink, Wally said, “If you’d like something to read, I have The Wall Street Journal, Time, Sports Illustratedand USA Today.”
As they were pulling away, Wally handed my friend another laminated card. “These are the stations I get and the music they play, if you’d like to listen to the radio.”
As if that weren’t enough, Wally told Harvey that he had the air conditioning on and asked if the temperature was comfortable for him. Then he advised Harvey of the best route to his destination for that time of the day. He also let him know that he’d be happy to chat and tell him about some of the sights, or, if Harvey preferred, to leave him with his own thoughts.
“Tell me, Wally,” my amazed friend asked the driver, “have you always served customers like this?”
Wally smiled into the rear view mirror. “No, not always. In fact, it’s only been in the last two years. My first five years driving, I spent most of my time complaining like all the rest of the cabbies do. Then I heard the personal growth guru, Wayne Dyer, on the radio one day. He had just written a book called You’ll See It When You Believe It. Dyer said that if you get up in the morning expecting to have a bad day, you’ll rarely disappoint yourself. He said, ‘Stop complaining! Differentiate yourself from your competition. Don’t be a duck. Be an eagle. Ducks quack and complain. Eagles soar above the crowd.’
“That hit me right between the eyes,” said Wally. “Dyer was really talking about me. I was always quacking and complaining, so I decided to change my attitude and become an eagle. I looked around at the other cabs and their drivers. The cabs were dirty, the drivers were unfriendly, and the customers were unhappy. So I decided to make some changes. I put in a few at a time. When my customers responded well, I did more.”
“I take it this has paid off for you,” Harvey said.
“It sure had,” Wally replied. “My first year as an eagle, I doubled my income from the previous year. This year I’ll probably quadruple it. You were lucky to get me today. I don’t sit at cabstands anymore. My customers call me for appointments on my cell phone or leave a message on my answering machine. If I can’t pick them up myself, I get a reliable cabbie friend to do it and I take a piece of the action.”
Can you see how this story demonstrates how serving others, helps us too?
I’d like to end with some quotes on service, from the Bahá’í Writings, which have helped my life coaching clients:
In the first, we learn that God sees our services and loves us for them:
I bear witness to the services thou hast rendered Me, and testify to the various troubles thou hast sustained for My sake. All the atoms of the earth declare My love for thee. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 309-310)
In the second, we see the power of service to change us into something much better than we could possibly imagine:
The power of God can entirely transmute our characters and make of us beings entirely unlike our previous selves. Through . . . ever-increasing service to His Faith, we can change ourselves. (Shoghi Effendi, Spiritual Foundations, p. 17)
What are your experiences with being of service? Post your comments here:
Have you ever experienced the presence of God? One of my Bahá’í-inspired life coaching clients sent this to me this morning, and I thought it demonstrated it perfectly. It’s a piece of inspirational fiction written by poet Ruth Gillis.
I hope you enjoy it, but get your Kleenex out before reading further:
A drunk man in an Oldsmobile
They said had run the light
That caused the six-car pileup
On 109 that night.
When broken bodies lay about
And blood was everywhere,
The sirens screamed out eulogies,
For death was in the air.
A mother, trapped inside her car,
Was heard above the noise;
Her plaintive plea near split the air:
Oh, God, please spare my boys!
She fought to loose her pinned hands;
She struggled to get free,
But mangled metal held her fast
In grim captivity.
Her frightened eyes then focused
On where the back seat once had been,
But all she saw was broken glass and
Two children’s seats crushed in.
Her twins were nowhere to be seen;
She did not hear them cry,
And then she prayed they’d been thrown free,
Oh, God, don’t let them die!
Then firemen came and cut her loose,
But when they searched the back,
They found therein no little boys,
But the seat belts were intact.
They thought the woman had gone mad
And was traveling alone,
But when they turned to question her,
They discovered she was gone.
Policemen saw her running wild
And screaming above the noise
In beseeching supplication,
Please help me find my boys!
They’re four years old and wear blue shirts;
Their jeans are blue to match.
One cop spoke up, They’re in my car,
And they don’t have a scratch.
They said their daddy put them there
And gave them each a cone,
Then told them both to wait for Mom
To come and take them home.
I’ve searched the area high and low,
But I can’t find their dad..
He must have fled the scene,
I guess, and that is very bad.
The mother hugged the twins and said,
While wiping at a tear,
He could not flee the scene, you see,
For he’s been dead a year.
The cop just looked confused and asked,
Now, how can that be true?
The boys said, Mommy, Daddy came
And left a kiss for you.
He told us not to worry
And that you would be all right,
And then he put us in this car with
The pretty, flashing light.
We wanted him to stay with us,
Because we miss him so,
But Mommy, he just hugged us tight
And said he had to go.
He said someday we’d understand
And told us not to fuss,
And he said to tell you, Mommy,
He’s watching over us.
The mother knew without a doubt
That what they spoke was true,
For she recalled their dad’s last words,
I will watch over you.
The firemen’s notes could not explain
The twisted, mangled car,
And how the three of them escaped
Without a single scar.
But on the cop’s report was scribed,
In print so very fine,
An angel walked the beat tonight on Highway 109.
Have you had any miracles in your life? Post your comments here:
Every once in awhile, one of my life coaching clients sends me an email that brings tears to my eyes. This one reminds me of the Bahá’í Hidden Word which says:
O SON OF BEING!
With the hands of power I made thee and with the fingers of strength I created thee; and within thee have I placed the essence of My light. Be thou content with it and seek naught else, for My work is perfect and My command is binding. Question it not, nor have a doubt thereof. (Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, Arabic 12)
At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:
‘When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection.
Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do.
Where is the natural order of things in my son?’
The audience was stilled by the query.
The father continued. ‘I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.’
Then he told the following story:
Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, ‘Do you think they’ll let me play?’ I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a f ather I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.
I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, ‘We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.’
Shay struggled over to the team’s bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my e ye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.
In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay’s team scored again.
Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be n ext at bat.
At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?
Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.
However, as Shay stepped up to the home plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay’s life, moved in a few steps t o lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.
The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.
As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.
The game would now be over.
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman.
Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.
Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman’s head, out of reach of all team mates.
Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, ‘Shay, run to first!
Run to first!’
Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.
He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.
Everyone yelled, ‘Run to second, run to second!’
Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.
By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball. The s mallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team.
He could have thr own the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher’s intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman’s head.
Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.
All were screaming, ‘Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay’
Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, ‘Run to third!
Shay, run to third!’
As Shay r ounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet ; screaming, ‘Shay, run home! Run home!’
Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.
‘That day’, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, ‘the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world’.
Shay didn’t make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!
Do you have a similar experience to share? Post your comments here:
The Bahá’í Writings teach:
Backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 265)
In a Bahá’í-inspired life coaching call tonight, we had a long talk about the effects of gossip and backbiting in a community, and what my client could do to help people understand its effects. I thought of this story – one of my son’s favorites, and mine too. Hope you find it helpful.
A woman repeated a bit of gossip about a neighbor. Within a few days the whole community knew the story. The person it concerned was deeply hurt and offended. Later the woman responsible for spreading the rumor learned that it was completely untrue. She was very sorry and went to a wise old sage to find out what she could do to repair the damage.
“Go to the marketplace,” he said, “and purchase a chicken, and have it killed. Then on your way home, pluck its feathers and drop them one by one along the road.”
Although surprised by this advice, the woman did what she was told. The next day the wise man said, “Now go and collect all those feathers you dropped yesterday and bring them back to me.
” The woman followed the same road, but to her dismay, the wind had blown the feathers all away. After searching for hours, she returned with only three in her hand. “You see,” said the old sage, “it’s easy to drop them, but it’s impossible to get them back.
So it is with gossip. It doesn’t take much to spread a rumor, but
once you do, you can never completely undo the wrong.”
What have been your experiences with gossip and backbiting? Post your comments here:
In my Baha’i-inspired life coaching practice, I often work with people who are too busy to appreciate the beauty all around them, and they come to me for ideas on how to bring more moderation into their lives. I often recommend they stop what they are doing, and listen to some music.
There are a number of passages in the Baha’i Writings in praise of music. ‘Abdu’l-Baha for example, asserts that “music, sung or played, is spiritual food for soul and heart. (Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 201)
But what happens when we don’t take time to listen? To “eat” the spiritual food provided to us? This story came into my email this morning and I thought it was worth passing along. You can read more about this story, and hear the music at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html
Something to think about…
Washington DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007: He played
six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the
till and, without stopping, continued to walk.
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his
watch and started to walk again.
A 3 year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly, as
the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception,forced them to move on.
The musician played. Only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About
20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32.
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one
applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best
musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever
written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua
Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station
was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about
perception, taste and people’s priorities. The questions raised: in a
common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best
musicians in the world playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ….
How many other things are we missing?
What are your thoughts? Post your comments here: