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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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Praying for our Parents

O Lord! In this Most Great Dispensation Thou dost accept the intercession of children in behalf of their parents. This is one of the special infinite bestowals of this Dispensation. Therefore, O Thou kind Lord, accept the request of this Thy servant at the threshold of Thy singleness and submerge his father in the ocean of Thy grace, because this son hath arisen to render Thee service and is exerting effort at all times in the pathway of Thy love. Verily, Thou art the Giver, the For­giver and the Kind!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers (US Edition), p. 65)

In the days when I was so angry with my parents for the abuse they perpetrated on me as an adult, and their choice not to talk to me about it; in the days when I couldn’t forgive, I found this prayer that I could use, remembering that the Bab had promised that:

Thousand upon thousand of what thou hast asked for thy parents shall be thy recompense! (Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 217).

Although I wasn’t yet ready to forgive, I knew that I could ask God to forgive them for me, and that it would benefit me as well as them.  That’s what was in my heart, when I was saying this prayer.

I like using this prayer because it reminds me:

  • God accepts our intercession in behalf of our parents
  • Asking for God’s forgiveness for my parents is one of His special infinite bestowals
  • The service and efforts I make will submerge them in the Ocean of His grace
  • God is the Giver, the For­giver and the Kind (for both me and my parents)

Knowing that when I use this prayer, God will also forgive me, and submerge me in the Ocean of His grace, 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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Showing Our Love by Obedience

On no subject are the Bahá’í teachings more emphatic than on the necessity to abstain from faultfinding and backbiting while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings. If we profess loyalty to Bahá’u’lláh, to our Beloved Master and our dear Guardian, then we must show our love by obedience to these explicit teachings. Deeds not words are what they demand, and no amount of fervour in the use of expressions of loyalty and adulation will compensate for failure to live in the spirit of the teachings. (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, pp. 5–7)

During this worldwide pandemic, a lot of people around me, including some of my closest friends, have been taking a lot more risks than I’m comfortable with and I have found myself filled with criticism and judgement, leading to a lot of estrangement between us.  This morning, I find myself wanting to talk to one of them, and am rehearsing in my head what I want to say – mostly centered around the fact that there’s a big difference between being afraid that I might get or give the virus to others, and being obedient to the government.  I want to align with and honor the sacrifices of my Bahá’í brothers and sisters in Iran, or in Germany during the Nazi regime or in South Africa, during apartheid, where Baha’i’s might not approve of the government’s policies, but have steadfastly been obedient at horrific expense to themselves.

Obviously, I can’t make the call when I’m feeling so critical and judgmental.  I don’t want to even reach out to others for support in what to say, because that would be backbiting, which is a sin far worse than the risks they are willing to take in their lack of obedience to the government.  I may not like what others are doing, and I may even feel alone in my decision to adhere to the directives and feel lonely as a result, and even still, I will take a deep breath and give all of it to God, so that I can stop even breathing in the sins of others.

Reading the Writings morning and night and finding exactly the right quote when I need it the most, 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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Drawing on Each Other’s Love

Indeed the believers have not yet fully learned to draw on each other’s love for strength and consolation in time of need. The Cause of God is endowed with tremendous powers, and the reason the believers do not gain more from it is because they have not learned to fully draw on these mighty forces of love and strength and harmony generated by the Faith. (From a letter dated 8 May 1942 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 19)

I love this quote and was happy to read it today because it reminds me of the importance of developing deep friendships with other Bahá’ís, that goes well beyond our joint service to the Cause.  Growing up I learned how to silence myself and distance myself from others so I wouldn’t “tell the family secret” by mistake.  I know how to be a really great listener and how to help people hear their own truth.  I’m an expert at deflecting attention away from myself to keep other people talking about their own lives.  I didn’t even know how hurtful this was both to myself and others until recently.  It’s hurtful to myself because when I was finally wanting to open up and get some support from others, they could’t hear me because I’d broken the unwritten contract that says all communication was about them.  It was hurtful to others, because they made me their god and didn’t allow them to develop their virtues of compassion, love, strength and consolation.

When I first became a Baha’i, I was hungry for this kind of friendship described in the quote, but there didn’t seem to be a time or place.  Feasts and Holy Days had their prescribed agendas and then we went home.  I had to go outside to find love and strength and harmony, often from paid therapists.  I loved when the House of Justice started encouraging us to study prayers together and make home visits, because these activities opened up a space for real heart-to-heart conversations.  I’m so happy that the community building process is all about building relationships and creating the kinds of communities where we will be able to turn to each other’s love for strength and consolation in time of need, more and more often, and where children and junior youth will learn how to do this and feel the benefits of it, from a very early age.

Learning how to give and receive love in concrete ways, 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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Praying for Ourselves as Well as Our Oppressors  

Cleanse them, then, O my God, from all idle fancies and vain imaginations, that they may inhale the fragrances of sanctity from the robe of Thy Revelation and Thy commandment, that haply they may cease to inflict upon me what will deprive their souls of the fragrances of the manifold tokens of thy mercy, that are wafted in the days of Him Who is the Manifestation of Thyself, and the Day-Spring of Thy Cause, and that they may not perpetrate what will call down Thy wrath and anger. (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations, pp. 307-308)

In the days when I found it hard to forgive my parents for the abuse perpetrated on me as a child, I liked to use this prayer to pray for them.  In this prayer I was asking God to:

  • Cleanse them from all idle fancies and vain imaginations
  • Help them inhale the fragrances of sanctity from His robe

So that they would cease to inflict upon me what would deprive their souls of the fragrances of the manifold tokens of His mercy and that they would not perpetrate what will call down His wrath and anger.  It was a bit self-serving, but I could do it because it was a prayer and I wanted to align my wishes with prayer.

Lately, I’ve been looking at it a little differently.  I remember that whenever I point a finger at someone else, there are 3 fingers pointing back at me.  I can use this prayer to ask God to cleanse ME of all idle fancies and vain imaginations; and to help ME inhale the fragrances of His unconditional love, so that I can stop feeling guilty for not being the Baha’i I want to be, following all injunctions and laws and actively engaged with the core activities and community building.

Knowing I can pray for myself as well as my oppressors, 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 Overcoming Abuse and Violence

 

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A Problem That Can’t be Easily or Immediately Resolved

It is difficult for the friends always to remember that in matter[s] where race enters, a hundred times more consideration and wisdom in handling situations is necessary than when an issue is not complicated by this factor.  (Shoghi Effendi, Pupil of the Eye, p. 87)

A lot of my friends have been participating in protests or changing their Facebook pages to honor the death of George Floyd and other black and indigenous people killed unjustly.  A lot of people are posting articles and videos, libraries are posting books to read.  Some are suggesting that if you don’t take action and speak up, you’re part of the problem.  I haven’t felt inspired to do any of these things and the more guilt-inducing messages I read, the less I want to.  Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook – I don’t know who to attribute it to – which said exactly what is in my heart:

Some of us are quiet because we don’t know what to say.  Some of us are quiet because we recognize our lack of understanding.  Some of us are mourning, as you mourn.  Some of us are listening with our hearts, and intentionally keeping our mouths closed.  Some of us are sincerely pondering what we’re hearing and seeing.  Some of us value your actual experience more than our own priviledged perspective.  Some of us are searching our own hearts.  Please don’t mistake our quietness for apathy.

This is a complex problem which effects all of us on the path to oneness.  Bahá’ís have the spiritual solution, and we’re learning how to implement it.  I’m grateful to learn more about my white priviledge, steeped as I am in it and unable to see it on my own.  I like knowing that a hundred times more consideration and wisdom in handling situations is necessary, because with God’s help, and little by little, day by day, I’ll do my part in tearing these walls down in my own life.

Knowing there are many ways to make a difference, and that I can find my own, 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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