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Witnessing the Tokens of Divine Assistance

The more they strive for harmony, the greater their progress; the more they exert effort to achieve unity, the more they will witness the tokens of divine assistance.… (From a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—translated from the Persian, from Give me Thy Grace to Serve Thy Loved Ones, Compilation for the 2018 Counsellors’ Conference, [15])

I’ve long thought that it doesn’t matter what we accomplish for the Faith in terms of activity or results but what does matter is the efforts we make towards love and unity.  This newly translated quote seems to back this up.  According to `Abdu’l-Bahá, we only make great progress when we strive for harmony and we only get divine assistance when we’re exerting effort to achieve unity.  I wonder what would happen in our Bahá’í communities if this was the focus?

Recently I heard tales of wonderful things happening in Sydney Australia, so much so, that the Canadian NSA sent representatives from the learning sites to Sydney to find out how they did achieved so much.  They came back with glowing reports of a community where everyone’s efforts are encouraged, where everyone has a place in the Plan, where encouragement and love are highly valued and gossip and negativity aren’t heard.  That’s the kind of Bahá’í community I want to be involved in.

Knowing there are places in the world where love and unity are encouraged, 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!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Be Happy

 

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It’s OK to Feel Anxiety and Grief

To rise above the disappointments, obstacles, and pain which we experience in serving the Cause is difficult enough, but to be called on, in doing so, to be happy and confident is perhaps the keenest spiritual test any of us can meet. The lives of the Founders of our Faith clearly show that to be fundamentally assured does not mean that we live without anxieties, nor does being happy mean that there are not periods of deep grief when, like the Guardian, we wrap ourselves in a blanket, pray and supplicate, and give ourselves time for healing in preparation for the next great effort. (Shoghi Effendi, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 117)

In my meditation this morning, I was reminded of this quote, which is exactly the healing remedy I need for today.  Living with anxiety means I often feel guilty and judge myself harshly when I just read the first part of quotes like these.  Because it’s in the Writings, I make it black or white and live with a lot of guilt when I can’t reach the standards.  Not only do I have to rise above my disappointments, obstacles, and pain but I have to be happy and confident in doing it.  Either I’m doing it this way all the time, and I’m good or I’m falling short even once and I’m bad.

It’s so easy for me to beat myself up as being a “bad Bahá’í” especially when I start worrying about everyday concerns, or need to take time for healing, and I’m trying to stop this form of abasement.  This quote reminds me that if the Founders of our Faith can live with anxieties and grief, then so too can this lowly servant.  If even these people with superpowers I’ll never have also had moments where they felt the weight of their lives and needed time to recover their strength after some great disappointment, then it’s OK for me too.  If God didn’t punish them, then surely He isn’t going to punish me either!

Letting go of my need to be perfect, 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!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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Love and Fellowship

Love and fellowship are absolutely needful to win the good pleasure of God, which is the goal of all human attainment.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 410)

It’s easy to love those we like, but much harder when we don’t like them and harder still when they’ve done something to hurt us.  That’s when we need it the most!  That’s when we need to remember how much God loves us, and that He’s forgiven our sins, so we can extend that courtesy to others.  It doesn’t mean putting ourselves in danger of being hurt again.  Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for both of you is to walk away, pray for them, and leave them in God’s hands.  Other times you may find a way to be of service either to them directly, or in their name.

The other idea here is one of fellowship, which is also necessary to win God’s good pleasure.  In the Kitab-i-Aqdas, we are told to “respond to invitations”, which I used to think meant to accept all invitations.  Now I see that to “respond” might mean graciously declining at times.

As an introvert, there were times when I just needed to be by myself, so these injunctions are helpful in encouraging me to step out of my cave, and learn to both give love and receive love.  The only way I can do this is in fellowship with others.

Remembering that loving others and having fellowship with them wins me God’s approval, I am grateful!

 

 

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

 

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

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How to Be Happy

Never become angry with one another.  Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every hu­man being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God you will love them and be kind to them, for the world of God is the world of perfection and complete mercy. Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 93)

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking how difficult it is to “never become angry with one another.”  I’ve been immersed in a culture that models this behavior so well.  I don’t know what a peaceful interaction with everyone would be like or how to get there.  I love this quote because it gives me some tools.  All I have to do is “love them for the sake of God.”  Just as God loves me, no matter what I do, I can extend that same love to all my fellow men and when it seems almost impossible, I can do it “for the sake of God”, not because they deserve it.

There are many people who’ve let me down, many more who I feel superior towards.  I may think I feel temporarily happy to be righteously angry and to hold onto my bitterness but in the end, it just comes back to bite me.  When I can see with the sight of forgiveness and be kind to them and love them for the sake of God, it’s a much more delicious sort of happiness.

Discovering the secret of how to be happy and starting to apply the formula, 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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God Knows Me

Ye are better known to the inmates of the Kingdom on high than ye are known to your own selves. Think ye these words to be vain and empty? Would that ye had the power to perceive the things your Lord, the All-Merciful, doth see.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp.  316-317)

Whenever I called myself to account at night, I used to see only the defects and never the assets or virtues.  That changed the day someone reminded me that the root word “account” was found in the word “accountant”, and that accountants always looked at both assets and liabilities when putting together any balance sheet.  You couldn’t have one without the other.

That still didn’t help me much, because, before learning the language of the virtues, I didn’t have a framework to think more positively about myself, and when I took the facilitator training for the Virtues Project, I assumed that the virtues applied to everyone else, but not to me too.

Now I’m learning to “be fair in my judgement”, to trust in God’s infinite love for me; to believe that He created me noble AND He created me to be a sinner and that both things are true.  I’m human.  I make mistakes, just like everyone else.

My prayers these days are:  “Help me to see my worth through your eyes”.

God sees me with all my sins and imperfections and He loves me just the way I am 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 Strengthening Your Relationship with God

 

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Seeing Ourselves through the Eyes of God

Continuing on the theme of recovery from low self-esteem, I think there are two more things we need to pay attention to – one is looking at how God sees us and understanding how much He loves us, just the way we are.

First of all, He created us because He loved us:

Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of my essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 3)

His love is inside of us:

My love is in thee, know it, that thou mayest find Me near unto thee.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 10)

His love for us cannot be concealed:

My grace to thee is plenteous, it cannot be veiled. My love has made in thee its home, it cannot be concealed.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 20)

He’s with us always:

With all my soul and spirit, I am thy companion at all moments. Know thou this of a certainty!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. 3, pp.557-558)

Know thou that God is with thee under all conditions, and that He guardeth thee from the changes and chances of this world. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p.122)

No matter what we might think of ourselves, the way He created us was perfect:

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, The Arabic Hidden Words 12)

He knows us better than we know ourselves, so we can trust Him when He tells us who we really are:

Ye are better known to the inmates of the Kingdom on high than ye are known to your own selves. Think ye these words to be vain and empty? Would that ye had the power to perceive the things your Lord, the All-Merciful, doth see–things that attest the excellence of your rank, that bear witness to the greatness of your worth, that proclaim the sublimity of your station! (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 316-317)

He sees the entire universe enfolded within us:

Do thou reckon thyself only a puny form when within thee the universe is folded?  (Bahá’u’lláh, Seven Valleys, p.34)

He sees us as a “mine rich in gems”:

Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.260)

He’s given us the capacity to exercise a particular influence and given each of us a distinct virtue:

It is therefore important to appreciate that God in His bounty has endowed every created thing, however humble, ‘with the capacity to exercise a particular influence, and been made to possess a distinct virtue’.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 2 December, 1985)

Our station is so glorious that if we wanted to see it, we’d never be able to live in this world:

Such is the station ordained for the true believer that if to an extent smaller than a needle’s eye the glory of that station were to be unveiled to mankind, every beholder would be consumed away in his longing to attain it. For this reason it hath been decreed that in this earthly life the full measure of the glory of his own station should remain concealed from the eyes of such a believer… If the veil be lifted and the full glory of the station of those who have turned wholly towards God, and in their love for Him renounced the world, be made manifest, the entire creation would be dumbfounded.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, pp.110-111)

God understands our low self-esteem:

Thou art even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 72)

I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 13)

Here’s my favorite rendition of this quote, by Nabil and Karim.

God understands how looking at our failures affects us:

Each one of us, if we look into our failures, is sure to feel unworthy and despondent, and this feeling only frustrates our constructive efforts and wastes time. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, page 447)

He shows us how to overcome it:

Remembrance of Me cleanseth all things from defilement, could ye but perceive it.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.294)

Forget yourself. God’s help will surely come! When you call on the Mercy of God waiting to reinforce you, your strength will be tenfold.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p.38)

Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 22)

Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 13)

Wherefore come forth from the sheath of self and desire that thy worth may be made resplendent and manifest unto all the world.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 72)

The thing for us to focus on is the glory of the Cause and the Power of Bahá’u’lláh which can make of a mere drop a surging sea! (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, page 447)

He wants us to eat from His heavenly table:

…the gate of boundless grace is opened wide, the heavenly table is set, the servants of the Merciful and His handmaids are present at the Feast. Strive ye to receive your share of this eternal food, so that ye shall be loved and cherished in this world and the next.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p.77)

Shoghi Effendi has no patience with our self-indulgence:

You certainly have no right to feel negative; you have embraced this glorious Faith and arisen with devotion to serve it, and your labours are greatly appreciated by both the Guardian and your fellow-Bahá’ís. With something as positive as the Faith and all it teaches behind you, you should be a veritable lion of confidence, and he will pray that you may become so.  (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, page 447)

Finally, we are promised:

Now I say unto you, bear this on your hearts and in your minds. Verily your light shall illumine the whole world, your spirituality shall affect the heart of things. You shall in truth become the lighted torches of the globe. Fear not, neither be dismayed, for your light shall penetrate the densest darkness. This is the promise of God, which I give unto you. Rise! and serve the Power of God!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris TaIks, p.168)

Knowing all of this should bring us delight and happiness, gladness and joy:

By thy life, O my beloved! if thou didst know what God had ordained for thee, thou wouldst fly with delight and happiness, gladness and joy would increase every hour.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í World Faith, p.363)

And if this wasn’t enough, Bahá’u’lláh has given us one of the most comforting passages here:

Rejoice thou with great joy that We have remembered thee both now and in the past. Indeed the sweet savours of this remembrance shall endure and shall not change throughout the eternity of the Names of God, the Lord of mankind.

We have graciously accepted thy devotions, thy praise, thy teaching work and the services thou hast rendered for the sake of this mighty Announcement. We have also hearkened unto that which thy tongue hath uttered at the meetings and gatherings. Verily thy Lord heareth and observeth all things.

We have attired thee with the vesture of My good-pleasure in My heavenly Kingdom… At this moment We call to remembrance Our loved ones and bring them the joyous tidings of God’s unfailing grace and of the things that have been provided for them in My lucid Book.

Ye have tolerated the censure of the enemies for the sake of My love and have steadfastly endured in My Path the grievous cruelties which the ungodly have inflicted upon you. Unto this I Myself bear witness, and I am the All-Knowing. How vast the number of places that have been ennobled with your blood for the sake of God.

How numerous the cities wherein the voice of your lamentation hath been raised and the wailing of your anguish uplifted. How many the prisons into which ye have been cast by the hosts of tyranny. Know ye of a certainty that He will render you victorious, will exalt you among the peoples of the world and will demonstrate your high rank before the gaze of all nations. Surely He will not suffer the reward of His favoured ones to be lost.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p.245)

For more on this topic, you might enjoy:

A Love Letter from God

And Nabil Moghaddam’s Talk on this Hidden Word

O SON OF SPIRIT!

My claim on thee is great, it cannot be forgotten. My grace to thee is plenteous, it cannot be veiled. My love has made in thee its home, it cannot be concealed. My light is manifest to thee, it cannot be obscured.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 20)