If the heart turns away from the blessings God offers how can it hope for happiness? If it does not put its hope and trust in God’s Mercy, where can it find rest? Oh, trust in God! for His Bounty is everlasting, and in His Blessings, for they are superb. Oh! put your faith in the Almighty, for He faileth not and His goodness endureth for ever! His Sun giveth Light continually, and the Clouds of His Mercy are full of the Waters of Compassion with which He waters the hearts of all who trust in Him. His refreshing Breeze ever carries healing in its wings to the parched souls of men! Is it wise to turn away from such a loving Father, Who showers His blessings upon us, and to choose rather to be slaves of matter? (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 102-103)
This is another one of those life-changing quotes for me as I came to understand that if I wasn’t grateful for the blessings constantly streaming down for me from God right now, why would He send me any more? The more I live in gratitude, the more things I find to be grateful for, and the happier I become.
At a time when I was pretty depressed and couldn’t see any hope for a future in this world, I developed a habit of finding 5 things to be grateful for before getting out of bed in the morning; and 5 more before falling asleep at night. Some days were harder than others to find the bounties and blessings, but the more I persisted, the more often I found myself thanking God in the moment, during the day, as I caught them.
If you’re having trouble thinking of any, this quote has a few to get you started:
God’s bounties are everlasting (meaning they last longer than any material thing we might think we absolutely have to have)
His blessings are superb
He never fails us
His goodness endures forever
His Sun gives Light continually
The Clouds of God’s Mercy are full of the Waters of Compassion
He waters the hearts of all who trust in Him
His refreshing Breeze carries healing
Just reading that list makes me feel better! How about you?
Knowing I don’t have to be a slave to my doubt and negativity and can choose to look for God’s bounties and blessings which are everywhere, 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!
They have not properly understood that man’s supreme honor and real happiness lie in self-respect, in high resolves and noble purposes, in integrity and moral quality, in immaculacy of mind. They have, rather, imagined that their greatness consists in the accumulation, by whatever means may offer, of worldly goods. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 18)
It’s so hard to be raised in a culture steeped in materialism and consumerism, where comparing myself to my neighbors is the norm. I’ve grown up learning that I will be happy when. When I have the next greatest thing. When I have the best of things. When I have more. When I have better than those around me. When, when, when!
So I love that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá reminds me that my supreme honor and real happiness is a choice not the result of circumstances. I can make a decision in any moment to be happy and if I don’t know how to do it, this quote is a great place to start because it gives me concrete steps I can take. What can I do in this moment that will give me:
immaculacy of mind?
Now, don’t you feel happier already? I know I do!
Knowing there is a secret to happiness and I’ve got it, 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!
…[L]aughter should not . . . be indulged in at the expense of the feelings of others. What one says or does in a humorous vein should not give rise to prejudice of any kind. You may recall ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s caution ‘Beware lest ye offend the feelings of anyone, or sadden the heart of any person . . . (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, v1, p.45, quoted on behalf of the Universal House of Justice in a memorandum “The Humorist” 12 July 1997)
When I was a teenager, I remember reading a book by Robert Heinlein, in which he made the point that all laughter is put-downs at someone else’s expense and I decided in that moment, that I would never tell a joke or put down anyone, ever. I also stopped laughing and started taking life very seriously. It was one of those defining moments in my life.
When I came into the Faith, one of the first books I read was “God Loves Laughter” by William Sears, and found many stories of how much ‘Abdu’l-Baha loved laughter and when he was in prison, asked everyone to think of the funniest thing that happened during the day, and He’d laugh until the tears rolled down His face. I often wonder about the content of those jokes. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall, to see what some of the jokes were. But maybe I don’t need to worry so much about being perfect. Maybe I can just ask God to help me take life less seriously and lighten up, trusting that my sensitive heart would still recoil at offending or saddening anyone.
Knowing that I have permission to find the humor in things, and laugh about them, 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!
The point is this: that to gain control over physical bodies is an extremely easy matter, but to bring spirits within the bonds of serenity is a most arduous undertaking. This is not the work of everybody. It necessitates a divine and holy potency, the potency of inspiration, the power of the Holy Spirit. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 276-277)
When I read this quote I’m struck by the first part: How do we gain control over our physical bodies and what makes it easy? Just for today, I need to accept it as truth.
I want God’s serenity. It helps me accept the things I can’t change. I’m willing to do the work. Every day, I get up and look at all the things on my “to do” list. Many days I am in overwhelm and can easily fall into self-pity. At those times, it’s hard to remember that happiness is a choice. I can choose to be a happy and joyful being. I can choose to not let trouble harass me. I can choose to no longer be full of anxiety. I can remember to turn to God, trusting that He’s got my back. Those things all lead to serenity but this quote suggests I need more than just awareness and choice. I also need inspiration and the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t have to do this alone.
Knowing I can ask God to help me bring my spirit within the bonds of serenity, 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!
I think this is the first story I heard from Inez Greeven, at her home in Carmel , California , around 1980. Please feel free to share it in any way you wish to…
Inez’ sister India Haggarty was a pioneer living in a hotel in Paris in 1931. This was 10 years after the passing of the Master, and 20 years after His visit to that city. There was another pioneer in Paris at that time, and I‘ll call her “Mrs. S”.
One night in 1931 India had a vision of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He appeared to her and told her that He wanted her to go, right then, to her Bahá’í sister Mrs. S. “Bring her flowers, and bring her money,” He said.
India got up out of bed and immediately prepared herself to leave her hotel. As she was fixing her hair in the mirror, her face was still radiant from the vision of the Master. She called down to the hotel clerk to summon a taxi for her.
She gathered up all of her money. She set aside the money she needed for her personal expenses, and put all the rest of her cash into a small purse.
She went downstairs and asked the clerk, “Where is the nearest florist shop?” The clerk answered that there was one quite close by, but as it was just 5 o‘clock in the morning, it was of course closed.
India said thank-you, and waited for the taxi. When it arrived she said to please take her to that florist shop. The driver said all right, but it’s closed. She said, knowing that the Master had a way for her to get flowers, that he should take her there anyway. They arrived, and the windows were all dark. “I told you it was closed,” the driver said. India said to take her to the next florist shop, and it, too, was closed.
As they drove through the city, they came upon the farmer’s market area, where all of the local growers brought in their vegetables and flowers to sell to the local stores. There was a wagon filled with flowers, and India got out of the taxi and went over to the driver. She came back with an armful of red tulips, and got into the taxi.
She handed the driver a slip of paper with the address of Mrs. S. on it, and they drove across Paris in the early morning darkness.
[At this point in the story, Inez said to me, “Now imagine. A conservative American woman is going across Paris at 5 in the morning to bring flowers and money to another conservative American woman.”]
The taxi dropped India off at Mrs. S’s front door, and she stood there, with her arms full of red tulips. She knocked at the door. She heard a rustling, and the door opened. Mrs. S. was standing inside, wearing a heavy black coat, and it was obvious that she had been crying. Her face showed great distress. Mrs. S looked at India, and at the red tulips, and cried out, “OH! ABDU‘L-BAHA!” and burst into tears.
She sobbed and sobbed.
She and India went into her home and sat down, and India tried to comfort her friend. After she was composed, Mrs. S asked India , “Why have you come here?”
India answered that the Master had come to her in a vision, and that He had told her to bring flowers, and money. She handed the purse to Mrs. S. Mrs. S. was astounded. When she could speak, she said, “You think I am rich. Everyone does. And I did have money, but I ran out, and I was ashamed to tell anyone. There isn’t one speck of food in this house. As you can tell, the house is cold; I cannot afford to heat it. I have been suffering, and I could no longer bear it. I decided last night, to end my life. I awoke this morning, and I went and put on my coat. I decided to cast myself into the Seine, and drown myself. I went to the front door, and was just putting my hand on the doorknob to go out, when suddenly, you knocked. I opened the door, and you were standing there. I could not believe my eyes.
Twenty years ago, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá came to my house, in this city. And when I opened the door to receive Him, He was standing on my front porch — with an armful of red tulips. And to see you standing there with these tulips, and bringing this money, I could not believe it.”
O God, my God! Thou art my Hope and my Beloved, my highest Aim and Desire! With great humbleness and entire devotion I pray to Thee to make me a minaret of Thy love in Thy land, a lamp of Thy knowledge among Thy creatures, and a banner of divine bounty in Thy dominion. Number me with such of Thy servants as have detached themselves from everything but Thee, have sanctified themselves from the transitory things of this world, and have freed themselves from the promptings of the voicers of idle fancies. Let my heart be dilated with joy through the spirit of confirmation from Thy kingdom, and brighten my eyes by beholding the hosts of divine assistance descending successively upon me from the kingdom of Thine omnipotent glory. Thou art, in truth, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the All-Powerful. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, p. 56)
This month’s selection is a song called “Be Hopeful”, by a group of collaborators of the Ruhi institute. It was created for Ruhi Book 3, Grade 1, Lesson 18, to make it easier to for children in children’s classes to learn. It’s a good song for adults too!
The euphoria of the new millennium has passed, and now the world is desperately seeking a reason to hope for a better future. That’s why Karen and Justice St. Rain have reissued their best-selling Bahá’í Teachings for a New Millenniumwith a new cover, title and introduction that speaks to our current needs.
This is the booklet for seekers who want to go straight to the source. Here readers will find over one hundred carefully selected quotations that offer an uplifting and hopeful vision of humanity’s potential. The cover is beautiful. The interior text is deep purple. The type is large. The quotations cover a wide range of topics, organized around the idea of maturity and God’s love. Section headings include
Building a New Relationship with God
Tools for Social Progress
The Role of Religion
Envisioning the Future
A Selection of Baha’i Prayers.
Hope is what makes it possible to live through difficult times. While blind hope allows us to hold on for another day, informed hope offers guidance on how to turn our hopes into reality. Members of the Bahá’í Faith are guided by informed hope that is built upon the founding principles of our religion.
In these pages you will be reminded of God’s love for you. You will gain a greater understanding of what it means to be a child of God, and you will be given some visionary guidance as to how humanity will soon learn to live in peace. By the end, I hope that you will not only understand the Bahá’ís’ hope for the future, but that you will share it.
Firoozeh Bowden has a story of hope and transformation. She was on one of the last planes to leave Iran, before the US Embassy was seized and the US hostages were taken. She arrived alone in the US to attend college, not knowing a soul, and not speaking much English! After college, her goal was to get married, have a family, and do her best to bring up children that were spiritual, balanced, strong, and confident in this world. By her early 30’s, she had not found anyone compatible, and not knowing God had other plans for her, she became depressed.
During her pilgrimage in 1999, she had a very long and sincere conversation with God, and asked him to please show her her mate so that she could share the rest of her life with him. Two nights in a row while there, she dreamt of a specific gentleman. In one dream he asked to marry her! Six months later she met him, and they have been together ever since.
Since her 20’s she suffered with headaches with neck and back pain which got progressively worse, until she was bedridden for 10-15 days a month recovering. She would get tired very quickly after simple tasks, and her hands and body were almost always shaking. Various doctors, including MDs, naturopaths, nutritionists and allergy specialists, all had different ideas about what was causing the problems, but most agreed that stress was an important factor. Life did not seem worth living. Not being able to create her art, enjoy her loved ones and serve her community was killing her. Once again she had an openhearted conversation with God.
You can read more of her story here
As a result of her own healing, she decided to become an energy coach, teaching people to open their hearts and improve their own daily lives by strengthening their connection with God. Through this process, she helps you discover your higher purpose in the universe.
Firoozeh believes that when stress is allowed to build up and store in our bodies, it closes the connection between us and God. Her clients come to her online sessions to rid themselves of daily stress and to reconnect with Divine Energy in order to refresh and rejuvenate the body so it can naturally heal itself. Her 45 minute sessions start with an assessment of your needs, followed by 25 – 30 minutes of relaxation/meditation, and finally a few minutes to get feedback.
Firoozeh Bowden is also an artist specializing in handcrafted jewelry, accessories, and other works of art. She has a wonderful selection of prayer beads, as well as meditation necklaces and bracelets.
She has been making jewelry and clothing accessories since she was a small child and as an adult she studied industrial design and metal smithing. She’s merged these skills to capture and set the latest trends in contemporary fashion. Her vision for each piece comes from the shapes and patterns she sees in nature, and she incorporates semi-precious stones, leather, chainmail and metal to create accessories that convey both beauty and originality.
At her site you can find earrings, bracelets, necklaces, meditation beads, belts, purses, watches, fantasy art shoes and wall art. All of her pieces are uniquely hand-crafted and one-of-a-kind, but if you’re interested in an item that has sold, she may be able to fashion a similar piece for you.
Thanks to all who write in! Your encouragement really keeps me going!
By the way, I accept donations! If you like the materials in these newsletters and on my website, please consider making a donation. Your help and feedback is GREATLY appreciated, to defray the costs of making these available to you!!! There’s a PayPal “Donate” Button at the bottom of every page on my website. Thank you!!!
See you next month! Hope it’s a month filled with might!
Since at least the early 1990’s the House of Justice has been encouraging us to encourage, and I hear this concept mentioned over and over again, but what exactly does it mean, and how do we do it? Let’s look at what the Bahá’í Writings have to teach us!
Whose Responsibility is Encouragement?
Individuals must support each other in a strong effort to suppress every critical thought and every harsh word, in order to let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh flow into the entire community:
When we see the condition the world is in today, we must surely forget these utterly insignificant internal disturbances, and rush, unitedly, to the rescue of humanity. You should urge your fellow- Bahá’ís to take this point of view, and to support you in a strong effort to suppress every critical thought and every harsh word, in order to let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh flow into the entire community, and unite it in His love and in His service. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 91)
Assemblies must master the art of making use of the talents of individuals and rousing the mass of the friends to action:
Although Spiritual Assemblies are good at specifying goals, they have not yet mastered the art of making use of the talents of individuals and rousing the mass of the friends to action in fulfilment of such goals. Removing this deficiency would be a mark of the maturation of these institutions. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
The community as a whole should be involved in efforts to encourage:
The community as a whole should be involved in efforts to resolve such issues. A single answer would, of course, be inadequate, there being so many diverse elements and interests in the community. These matters require not only your own independent consultation but consultation with the Counsellors as well. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
Who Needs Particular Encouragement?
We all need encouragement!
The friends everywhere need encouragement. (Universal House of Justice, 1998 Apr, Training Institutes)
Assemblies must give unlimited encouragement to women:
The members of the House of Spirituality must give unlimited encouragement to women. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 336)
Special encouragement should be given to believers of unusual capacity:
Special encouragement should therefore be given to believers of unusual capacity to consecrate their abilities to the service of the Cause through the unique contribution they can make to this rapidly developing field of Bahá’í endeavour. (Universal House of Justice, Scholarship, p. 13)
Inactive and unresponsive believers especially need encouragement, love and assistance:
It is very discouraging to find inactive and unresponsive believers; on the other hand we must always realize that some souls are weak and immature and not capable of carrying on an active administrative burden. They need encouragement, the love of their fellow Bahá’ís and assistance. To blame them for not doing more for the Cause is useless, and they may actually have a very firm belief in Bahá’u’lláh which with care could be fanned into flame. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 84)
Those who are attracted to the Cause are in need of encouragement while they strive toward recognizing and accepting Bahá’u’lláh:
As the teaching intensifies, all believes can anticipate being surrounded by an increasing number of people who are attracted to the Cause but in need of encouragement while they strive toward the recognition and acceptance of Bahá’u’lláh. (International Teaching Centre, 1992 May 09, Inviting Seekers to Embrace the Cause)
Why do We Encourage?
Because our teachings call on us to encourage each other:
Related to this is the tendency of the friends to criticize each other at the slightest provocation, whereas the Teachings call upon them to encourage each other. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
So that we can win victories for the Faith in our own spheres of life:
At this exact time in history when the peoples of the world are weighed down with soul-crushing difficulties and the shadow of despair threatens to eclipse the light of hope, there must be revived among the individual believers a sense of mission, a feeling of empowerment to minister to the urgent need of humanity for guidance and thus to win victories for the Faith in their own sphere of life. (The Universal House of Justice, 1994 May 19, response to US NSA)
So we don’t stunt the growth and development of the community:
But human beings are not perfect. The Local Assemblies and the friends must be helped through your example and through loving counsel to refrain from such a pattern of criticism, which stunts the growth and development of the community. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
Because more beneficial results are achieved by encouragement than by threats or the imposition of sanctions:
At the present stage . . . far more beneficial results are likely to be achieved by encouragement of the believers and by their education in the principles and significance of Bahá’í administration than by the threat or imposition of sanctions. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)
In order to nourish a culture of growth:
Training alone, of course, does not necessarily lead to an upsurge in teaching activity. In every avenue of service, the friends need sustained encouragement. Our expectation is that the Auxiliary Board members, together with their assistants, will give special thought to how individual initiative can be cultivated, particularly as it relates to teaching. When training and encouragement are effective, a culture of growth is nourished in which the believers see their duty to teach as a natural consequence of having accepted Bahá’u’lláh. (The Universal House of Justice, Ridván 158, 2001 01 09, to the Conference of the Continental Counsellors)
Encouragement is the secret of universal participation:
The real secret of universal participation lies in the Master’s oft expressed wish that the friends should love each other, constantly encourage each other, work together, be as one soul in one body, and in so doing become a true, organic, healthy body animated and illumined by the spirit. (Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 43)
An upsurge in teaching activity depends on “sustained encouragement”:
In the same message, the House of Justice also stated that an upsurge in teaching activity depends on “sustained encouragement.” (ITC, 2003 Apr 23, Building Momentum, p. 13)
Without encouragement, families cannot prosper nor women advance:
Parents have responsibility toward their children, and children toward their parents, but beyond responsibility, the emphasis is on love, respect, courtesy, kindness and encouragement, without which families cannot prosper nor women advance. (Baha’i International Community, 1990 Sept 06, Women Development in Pacific)
What prevents us from being encouraging?
Our deep love for the Faith means we want to see it free of any flaw:
Such tendencies are of course motivated by a deep love for the Faith, a desire to see it free of any flaw. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
What actions are not encouraging?
An accumulated impression of institutional disapproval and a fear of criticism inhibits our initiative:
Even if you are doing nothing deliberately to discourage such freedom, their accumulated impression of institutional disapproval, however derived, and their fear of criticism are, to a considerable extent, inhibiting their exercise of initiative. (The Universal House of Justice, 1994 May 19, response to US NSA)
When we lay down too many rules and regulations:
You should also be fearful of laying down too many rules and regulations. The Cause is not so fragile that a degree of mistakes cannot be tolerated. When you feel that certain actions may become trends with harmful consequences, you may, instead of making a new rule, discuss the matter with the Counsellors, enlisting their support in educating the friends in a manner that will improve their understanding and their conduct. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
Criticism prevents any decision from being enforced:
It is again not permitted that any one of the honoured members object to or censure, whether in or out of the meeting, any decision arrived at previously, though that decision be not right, for such criticism would prevent any decision from being enforced. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 88)
What Actions are Encouraging?
We ignore the bad qualities and search for the good ones:
If a man has ten good qualities and one bad one, to look at the ten and forget the one; and if a man has ten bad qualities and one good one, to look at the one and forget the ten. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 83)
We put the past behind and refrain from mentioning subjects which have led to misunderstanding and inharmony:
When criticism and harsh words arise within a Bahá’í community there is no remedy except to put the past behind one and persuade all concerned to turn over a new leaf, and, for the sake of God and His Faith, refrain from mentioning the subjects which have led to misunderstanding and inharmony. (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)
We help each other overcome our problems, deepen in the Faith, and increase their unity and love for each other, our work will go ahead speedily:
The friends should be helped to overcome their problems, deepen in the Faith, and increase their unity and their love for each other. In this way you will find that your work goes ahead speedily, and that the National Body is like the beating of a healthy heart in the midst of the Community, pumping spiritual love, energy and encouragement out to all the members. (Shoghi Effendi, Unlocking the Power of Action)
We appreciate the nature of the power of action which they possess:
As to your worry about over-controlling the friends: by appreciating the nature of the power of action which they possess, you will be able to gauge how best to guide and direct them. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
We give people a wide latitude for action and a large margin for mistakes:
A wide latitude for action must be allowed them, which means that a large margin for mistakes must also be allowed. Your National Assembly and the Local Assemblies must not react automatically to every mistake, but distinguish between those that are self-correcting with the passage of time and do no particular harm to the community and those which require Assembly intervention. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
We help people feel a greater sense of freedom to engage in a wide range of activities originating with themselves:
A new burst of energy would accrue to the operation of the Three Year Plan if the friends, both individually and collectively, could feel a greater sense of freedom to engage in a wide range of activities originating with themselves. (Universal House of Justice, Unlocking the Power of Action)
We recognize that each person cannot do everything and all persons cannot do the same thing:
A unity in diversity of actions is called for, a condition in which different individuals will concentrate on different activities, appreciating the salutary effect of the aggregate on the growth and development of the Faith, because each person cannot do everything and all persons cannot do the same thing. This understanding is important to the maturity which, by the many demands being made upon it, the community is being forced to attain. (The Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters 1983-1992, p. 80)
In every interaction, we ask: Would ‘Abdu’l-Bahá behave like this?
The people of the world today, whether Bahá’ís or non-Bahá’ís — no matter how desperately they need everything in the Bahá’í administration — are not going to benefit by being banged on the head by rules and regulations; they need love and encouragement. They need the spirit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá showered upon all men, the reason He is our Exemplar. A good question for every one of us to ask our own selves is ‘Would the Master behave like this? (Ruhiyyih Khanum, A Manual for Pioneers, p. 19)
From this we see the following actions are helpful:
ignore the bad qualities and search for the good ones
put the past behind and refrain from mentioning subjects which have led to misunderstanding and inharmony
help each other overcome our problems
help each other deepen in the Faith
appreciating the nature of the power of action which they possess
give people a wide latitude for action and a large margin for mistakes
give people a greater sense of freedom to initiate a wide range of activities
recognize that each person cannot do everything and all persons cannot do the same thing
in every interaction, ask: Would ‘Abdu’l-Bahá behave like this?
In spite of all the loving encouragement we may give, not all Bahá’ís will become active in the work of the community:
In spite of loving encouragement given by their Assemblies, not all Bahá’ís are active in the work of the community. This does not, of course, necessarily indicate withdrawal. An Assembly should carefully distinguish between those who are not active but still identify themselves with the Faith, and those whose inactivity indicates complete lack of interest and a wish to have nothing more to do with the Cause. (Universal House of Justice, Withdrawal from the Faith, 4 April 2001)