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I am Seen

O Friends! Verily I say, whatsoever ye have concealed within your hearts is to Us open and manifest as the day; but that it is hidden is of Our grace and favour, and not of your deserving.      (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian  60)

When I was a child, I was taught this song.  The first verse goes like this:  “God sees the little sparrow fall, it meets his tender view; if God so loves the little birds, I know he loves me too.”

The implication was that He is All-Knowing and All-Seeing.  I didn’t feel seen by God, though.  For years, I’d prayed for the abuse in my family to stop and it only got worse, so I really believed that just like other families were different than ours, God’s relationship with me was different too.

When I read the above quote, it gave me great comfort, because it suggested that even know no one had ever called my parents to account for the terrible things they did, God saw them all.  This let me rest in His justice and His timing.

When I looked at it through the eyes of my own sins, it also gave me comfort:  He knows what I’m thinking and doing, good and bad, and it’s hidden from others as a protection from my ego, and until such time as I can ask for His forgiveness.

God sees me and protects me and loves me and is continually showering His favor on 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 Violence and Abuse:  Reasons and Remedies 

 

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Taking Steps to Protect Children and Junior Youth

 

As Baha’i communities become more complex, the protection of children and junior youth becomes increasingly more important, especially in a world where sexual and physical abuse still prevails.  The following guidelines have been developed by the Canadian NSA – they may not be applicable in your country.

The protection of the youngest members of our communities depends upon the sustained capacity in individuals, communities, and institutions to cultivate safe environments where young people can grow and flourish:

As the negative forces affecting children, junior youth and youth accelerate, and while new, previously-unimagined threats target the most vulnerable members of society, the protection of youth and children depends upon the sustained capacity in individuals, communities, and institutions to cultivate safe environments within which young people can grow and flourish.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

 Risk Management

Different conditions and concerns are taken into account:

The programs for children, junior youth and youth offered by the Bahá’í community in Canada range as to their degree of formality, size and scope, their relationships with other organizations and institutions, etc. Each degree along this spectrum gives rise to different conditions and concerns that are taken into account in this assessment.   (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Large programs:

A large program, engaging hundreds of children and youth in its activities presents higher degrees of risk in the complexity inherent in overseeing a larger program. Thus, over time, structures emerge as needed to coordinate and oversee these activities.   (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

The elements of accompanying and supervising volunteers become necessary in large programs, as befits the assessment of risk such larger numbers bring to the safe provision of the programs.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Small programs:

A smaller program, composed primarily of individual initiatives with children, junior youth and youth already known to the volunteer through a network of family, friends and acquaintances, presents considerably less risk.  A coordinator for these programs is generally not deemed necessary at such a stage, while numbers of activities remain small.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Who is Responsible?

The Institute Boards in each region are responsible to ensure the implementation and supervision of the National Assembly’s child protection policies:

The National Assembly has given the training institutes the task of implementing programs of children’s classes and junior youth groups operating under its aegis across Canada. It is thus the responsibility of the Institute Boards in each region to ensure the implementation and supervision of the National Assembly’s child protection policies in all formal training programs operating under that Institute Board’s supervision. (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

In clusters with the capacity to oversee the training, screening, and accompanying of volunteers, the Institute Board may appoint a coordinator:

The appointment of a coordinator for a program overseen by an Institute Board has been deemed an appropriate indicator of both the presence of capacity in a cluster to oversee the training, screening, and accompanying of the volunteers, as well as the degree of complexity and scale exhibited by the stage of growth of the programs. It will be the responsibility of the Institute Board or relevant overseeing agency to monitor the needs for structure and support of activities on an ongoing basis.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

The National Assembly will oversee or assign the tasks where any children’s class or junior youth group takes place in a locality that falls outside the jurisdiction of an Institute Board:

Should any children’s class or junior youth group take place in a locality that falls outside the jurisdiction of an Institute Board, the National Assembly will directly oversee the implementation of the relevant provisions of these policies, or assign this task to  a proximate institution or agency (such as a Local Spiritual Assembly).  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

For programs and activities for children and junior youth at events that are not organized by an Institute Board (seasonal schools or conferences), the agency or institution under whose aegis the event is organized is responsible for overseeing the implementation of these child protection policies with all of its volunteers:

For programs and activities for children and junior youth at events that are not organized by an Institute Board, such as seasonal schools or conferences, the agency or institution under whose aegis the event is organized is responsible for overseeing the implementation of these child protection policies with all of its volunteers.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Local Spiritual Assemblies or other agencies should not impose alternate or additional screening policies and/or requirements on children’s class teachers or animators beyond the National Assembly’s policies:

As the programs for the spiritual education of children and the junior youth empowerment program are national programs, Local Spiritual Assemblies or other agencies should not impose alternate or additional screening policies and/or requirements on children’s class teachers or animators beyond the National Assembly’s policies. (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Who is covered?

Child protection policies established by the National Assembly should cover all volunteers:

The child protection policies established by the National Assembly cover all volunteers working with children in programs under the supervision of any agency or institution of the National Assembly, including children’s classes, junior youth groups, and programs for children and junior youth at events such as seasonal schools and conferences. Volunteers serving these activities may be of any age. (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Members of the local population (i.e. parent helpers, local youth assistants, etc.) who wish to serve:

  • will be welcomed as participants in the community-building activities of the Bahá’í community
  • will not be authorized to serve in a position of responsibility for children and junior youth without screening

While members of the local population (i.e. parent helpers, local youth assistants, etc.) who wish to serve will be welcomed as participants in the community-building activities of the Bahá’í community, they will not be authorized to serve in a position of responsibility for children and junior youth without screening. Should individuals express interest in serving as children’s class teachers or junior youth animators, they will be required to begin the training process and undergo screening before they will be considered for such specific service as volunteers of the National Assembly.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

What is required? 

Steps for approval

  • Volunteers study the volunteer agreement and Spirit of Excellence document in the company of an individual designated and approved by the overseeing agency.
  • This person should be well known to the candidate and able to provide an informed recommendation.
  • The volunteer signs the agreement, giving consent to:
  • participate in the screening process
  • Their information being retained in the agency’s confidential files.
  • The coordinator recommends the candidate to work with children and junior youth, by signing the Volunteer Agreement Form.

Volunteers are required to study the volunteer agreement and Spirit of Excellence document in the company of an individual designated and approved by the overseeing agency. Such an individual could be a tutor or another volunteer, but should be well known to the candidate and able to provide an informed recommendation. Upon completion of the study, the volunteer is required to sign the agreement and accompanying consent form for participation in the screening process and retention of information in the agency’s confidential files. The coordinator or designated accompanying individual should subsequently indicate his or her recommendation for the candidate to work with children and junior youth, by signing in the space provided on the Volunteer Agreement Form.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Regardless of the scale and complexity of the program, two checks are required for volunteers working with children and youth within the programs of the National Assembly:

  • A vulnerable sector check is required for all volunteers working with children and youth

Vulnerable sector checks will be required for all volunteers working with children and junior youth, regardless of cluster or locality. If the results of the background checks reveal any prior allegation of offense involving children and/or offenses involving violence, illegal substances, indecency and any conduct contrary to the mission of the Bahá’í Community of Canada, the volunteer’s application will be reviewed on a case by case basis to determine if the results of the VSC indicate present patterns that would impact the service with children, junior youth and youth. All background checks must be performed in accordance the vulnerable sector screening requirements. Additional mental health screening is not required.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

All volunteers are required to annually renew their information regarding the VSC by either providing a updated VSC or providing a signed statement that their criminal records history has not changed, nor have they been the subject of any allegations or investigations since the previous VSC.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

  • A Bahá’í administrative background check is required for all Bahá’ís

For those volunteers who are registered as members of the Bahá’í community, background checks will be conducted through the National Spiritual Assembly to ensure that the applicant is a Bahá’í in good standing and that there are no restrictions precluding his or her service with children and youth for any reason. This background check must be carried out for all volunteers registered as members of the Bahá’í community, regardless of cluster or locality. Following this initial check, the National Assembly will keep Institute Boards informed of any changes in individuals’ administrative status or suitability to continue working with children and junior youth.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

The role of the training institute

The process of human resource development in place by the training institutes, when executed with excellence and diligence, is highly conducive to the effective screening of its volunteers, beyond what can be generally achieved through isolated interviews and written applications:

The National Assembly has noted from experience that the process of human resource development in place by the training institutes across the country, when executed with excellence and diligence, is highly conducive to the effective screening of its volunteers, beyond what can be generally achieved through isolated interviews and written applications. Screening is thus an ongoing process, reviewed continually as new information emerges, and has been interwoven into the process of human resource development set in motion by the institute, brought forward more explicitly in the measures described in greater detail in the forthcoming sections.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

How has this been helpful?  Post your comments below.

Why Are We Tempted?

 

This is part 4 in a series of 6 articles about Temptation.  If you’ve missed the previous articles, please scroll down to the bottom of this one for the links.

There is a purpose to our temptations – they exist to purify us and make us stronger in our Faith:

There are before you so many temptations, trials, afflictions, calamities and difficulties because you have to be purified through fire and sifted through the sieve in order to separate the wheat from the tares. Verily, I say unto you: none will be saved but the believers, and from the believers only the sincere, and even those are in great danger, especially in such a time.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 443)

. . . sifting out the weak and raising up the strong in that constant purification of the ranks of the faithful which takes place in the course of the growth of this World Community.  (Custodians, Ministry of the Custodians, p. 351)

Our lower nature wants us to believe that our tests and difficulties have no value, but without trials, we’d never overcome temptation.  We need tests in order to develop our skills at avoiding temptation and turning back to God:

The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge be­comes. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. XIV, No. 2, p. 41)

Can anything good come from our temptation?

Why does God want us to overcome temptation?  When you don’t it becomes your sin.  It creates veils between you and God, when God wants communion with us:

I desire communion with thee, but thou wouldst put no trust in Me . . . Imperishable glory I have chosen for thee, yet boundless shame thou hast chosen for thyself. While there is yet time, return, and lose not thy chance.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 21)

Since our purpose is to know God and we can’t know Him if we have veils between us, getting rid of the veils, overcoming temptation has to be a priority.

There are blessings for enduring temptation.  Every temptation opens the doors to God’s blessings, if we yield to them.  For example, God uses our trials to help remove the veils between us:

These tests, even as thou didst write, do but cleanse the spot­ting of self from off the mirror of the heart, till the Sun of Truth can cast its rays thereon; for there is no veil more obstructive that the self, and however tenuous that veil may be, at the last it will completely shut a person out, and deprive him of his portion of eternal grace.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,  p. 182)

And helps us grow spiritually:

Life in this world is a succes­sion of tests and achievements, of falling short and of making new spiritual advances. Sometimes the course may seem very hard, but one can witness, again and again, that the soul who steadfastly obeys the Law of Bahá’u’lláh, however hard it may seem, grows spiritually (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, pp. 359-360).

And helps protect us from further tests:

The one who compromises with the law for the sake of his own apparent happiness . . . does not attain the happiness he sought, he retards his spiritual advance and often brings new problems upon himself.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, pp. 359-360).

And increases our bounties:

The souls who bear the tests of God become the manifesta­tions of great bounties . . . they cause the holy souls to ascend to the highest degree of love and solidity. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 2 December, 1985)

I hope you’ll let me know what you think of these ideas, and then continue on to the next few articles, as I explore this topic more fully.

In part 1, we look at What is Temptation?

In part 2, we look atThe Steps of Temptation Leading to Sin

In part 3, we look at The Ways in Which we are Tempted

In part 5, we look at Things We Can Do When We are Tempted

In part 6, we look at The Consequences of Temptation and How to Prevent It


Protection

If you seek immunity from the sway of the forces of the contingent world, hang the Most Great Name in your dwelling, wear the ring of the Most Great Name on your finger, place the picture of ‘Abdul-Bahá in your home and always recite the prayers that I have written; then you will behold the marvelous effect they produce.

When I first disclosed my abuse in therapy and then to my perpetrators, I was feeling very vulnerable.  Would I be killed?  I’d believed that this would be the outcome of giving voice to my experience, all of my life, which is what had kept me silenced for so long, even to myself.  Therefore, I was happy when I discovered this morning’s quote by ‘Abdul-Bahá.  It was something practical I could immediately implement.

I went from looking over my shoulders and not wanting to leave home, to trusting that I would be protected from any recriminations.  And I was!  It was a heady experience!

Later, once my life had stabilized and I was experiencing triggers at work with abusive bosses, I would read that quote again, and realize I was again being protected.  I had choices this time, where I did not as a child.

Even later, when I realized the impact of materialism on my life, and longed for a simpler lifestyle, this quote reminded me that by living on a limited income, I was being protected from the worst of it.

I love discovering deeper layers of meaning in quotes as I grow in faith!

“Reliance on God is indeed the strongest and safest weapon”

Although this is a quote to inspire those who are trying to teach the Faith, it appeals to me, who often feels powerless in the face of abuse.  There were so many times when I was totally powerless against my oppressors.  They were bigger and stronger than I.  But when I found this quote, I realized I wasn’t on my own.  God was with me.  All I had to do was remember to turn to him.

It’s kind of like electricity – it’s always there, but until we plug something in, or flip a switch, we can’t access it.  It’s like that with God.

So now, whenever I’m feeling powerless, no matter what the reason, I turn to God, saying my favorite prayer:  “O God guide me, protect me.”

Click here to see where you can find more quotes like these.

Defeating Disappointment

We’ve all been there. We think we’re well on our way towards a specific goal – whether it’s a new career or a new lease on life – when all of a sudden disaster strikes! We have a setback. Perhaps you didn’t capture the heart of your crush, the promotion fell through, or somehow your perfect plan just didn’t work out. Sometimes we even ask, “Why me?”

The Bahá’í Writings teach:

Every soul seeketh an object and cherisheth a desire, and day and night striveth to attain his aim. One craveth riches, another thirsteth for glory and still another yearneth for fame, for art, for prosperity and the like. Yet finally all are doomed to loss and disappointment.(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 204)

So, disappointment is only human. However, knowing how to accept, manage, and strategize beyond disappointment is the real key to success!

Here are some excellent tips to enable you to stay on track, remain motivated, and defeat your disappointments so that you can overcome them and reap your success:

1.Accept reality. Disappointment is a necessary part of life. In order to experience success, every person must face setbacks or disappointment sometime in their life. The reality of life gives us the polarity of setbacks and successes to better appreciate our wins. Such setbacks also encourage us to strive harder to achieve our goals.

·Overcoming challenges brings us the wisdom to reach even higher goals.

2.Accept relativity. Facing up to the fact that life will always bring trials to overcome will help you beat disappointment in your current mission. Hindsight will inevitably show you that no setback is as big as you thought it was at the time.

·Realizing that life could have handed you a much larger disappointment helps you put the setback in perspective.

Do not dwell. When you are hit with a challenge to obtaining your goal, it can be very easy to sink into disappointment. If you find yourself having a pity party, pull yourself up with some positive thinking. Above all else, do not dwell on the last snafu in your struggle to succeed. Dwelling on your disappointment will not change the fact that it happened.

·Spending your time feeling sorry for yourself will delay your success as well as permeate your life with unnecessary pessimism and futility.

Repeat this line from a Bahá’í prayer for spiritual growth:

I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, p. 151)

 

3.Create realistic expectations. Like many people today, you may be harboring an unrealistic expectation of yourself. Perhaps you had this inspiring idea to change your life in some grand way. Naturally, you want to achieve your goal now and without anything less than stellar performance! However, realistically, you must recognize that achieving your goals may take some time. You can always adjust your expectations higher and higher as you conquer new goals!

·Having unreal expectations of yourself will only set you up for failure, as you cannot reach impossible heights.

As the Báb says in the Bahá’í prayer for protection:

Whatever God hath willed hath been, and that which He hath not willed shall not be. (The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 190),

so know that whatever happens, the universe is unfolding as it should.

4.Learn from your mistakes. When a setback occurs, the first thing you’d like to do might be to toss in the towel on the whole enterprise! However, a much wiser person bent on success will acknowledge the disappointment as a learning experience.

·If you examine how and why the unwanted situation occurred, then you may be able to restructure your strategy for even bigger and better things than you had originally planned!

5.Stay positive. Lastly, you can surely find your success and win your prize by obliterating disappointment with positive thoughts. Know that you will obtain your goal! Pessimistic thoughts can swallow you whole if you let them, forcing you to delay or give up your dreams altogether.

·Following your positive thoughts with decisive, confident and positive action will propel you to new heights.

Even though disappointment may creep into your life when you least expect it, you can take it in stride by following these techniques. Setbacks don’t define your life; it’s how you react to them that will determine your success. When you face disappointment, learn from the situation, deal with it positively, and confidently move forward toward your goal. Success is yours!

As the Bahá’í Writings state:

Be thou not unhappy; the tempest of sorrow shall pass; regret will not last; disappointment will vanish; the fire of the love of God will become enkindled, and the thorns and briars of sadness and despondency will be consumed! Be thou happy; rest thou assured upon the favors of Baha’, so that uncertainty and hesitation may become non-existent and the invisible outpourings descend upon the arena of being!(Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v3, p. 557)

What helps you deal with your disappointment?Post your comments here.