Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Deeper Basis to Invitation

Our National Spiritual Assembly sent out a letter the other day with a question: What can we do to prepare our contacts to receive an invitation to the bi-centenary of the birth of Baha'u'llah next year?

What an interesting question.

I mean, it may just be me, but when I think of a holy day, I imagine looking at the calendar and saying, "Oh, there's a holy day next week." Then I would begin to freak out and slap together a quick program, usually with a few readings and a couple of stories. Maybe there would be a talk. (One year we actually had three separate programs. We began with prayers that included lots of live singing, and then divided the room into three. One part was for food and conversation; another part was a public talk; the third part was a crafts section around the theme of the holy day. It was great.)

Oh, and then I imagine calling up a friend and the conversation would go something like this. "Hey Joe." "Hey Mead." "Uhm, we're celebrating a Baha'i Holy day on Thursday. You wanna come?" "Sure. I guess so."

And that's that.

But preparing my friends? That's an intriguing thought.

A friend and I were chatting about this the other day and we had some interesting thoughts on this.

"Ruhi Book 4", we began. "After all, it's the story of the Twin Manifestations."

Well, it is and it isn't.

We initially thought that it would be good to bring our friends through Ruhi Book 4, The Twin Manifestations, but then quickly realized that this wasn't the purpose of the book. It's actually designed to help Baha'is tell the story of the Twin Manifestations to their friends. So rather than trying to get our friends to take the book, we should take it and perhaps tell these wonderful stories over the next year.

This got us looking at the book again, and that was when we noticed something else of interest: Unit 1. You see, as I'm sure you know, dear Reader, Units 2 and 3 are the stories of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, but Unit 1 is something totally different. It's about the importance of this Day.

Then, as we looked at this, we realized that the other two units are about a lot more than just the stories. The whole book is structured around the idea of crisis and victory, and this carries through all three units, helping us recognize the pattern that is so much there in all of history.

Now, when looking at the question, "What can we do to help prepare our friends to receive an invitation to the bi-centenary of the birth of Baha'u'llah" a whole new concept begins to arise.

And this gets to the heart of what prompted me to write all this.

Do you think it is any mere coincidence that we are seeing a significant rise in prejudice and fanaticism at this time?

When we look at recent history, that of the 20th century, we can trace this pattern so clearly. The century began with the amazing victory of "civilization" having spread all over the world, but one of the inherent problems with it was the spread of the colonialist attitude. However, there was also the tremendous victory of the various peace treaties between the countries that ensured peace between the nations. These peace treaties, however, were convoluted and weak, leading us straight into World War 1. What a crisis. And from that crisis came the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations. What a victory. However, this treaty was incredibly unjust towards Germany, and the League had no way to enforce its decisions. World War 2. Crisis.

From this global conflagration we saw the emergence of the United Nations. Another incredible victory. But it was tainted by the permanent members of the Security Council, a principal that says in effect "All nations are equal, but some are more equal than others." Through the various political intrigues between these five nations, there were many good decisions that got vetoed. Crisis.

This is where we are today. Basically.

So let's look at these members: China, France, Great Britain, Russia and the United States.

At the time of the formation of the Security Council, having permanent members with the right to veto any decision may have seemed like a good idea, but I suspect we're beyond that now. Of course, this is just my own personal opinion, and nothing official, but it's like a parent imposing rules on a child. There just comes a time when the parent no longer has that right.

And when I look at what is happening around the world today, with human rights abuses on the rise in some countries and prejudicial attacks rising in others, it seems to me that these five countries no longer have any possible claim to moral superiority to justify them being in this position over others.

I think we need to talk about this. With our friends.

And we need to look at what is happening in the world, the concerns that our friends rightly have, and help them see how to place this all into the context of crisis and victory. We know we are in the middle of a crisis. We also know that there is a glorious victory just ahead. We can see it.

We also know that this vision given to us was given to us by Baha'u'llah, whose 200th birthday is coming upon us very soon. We need to help spread the word about this vision, and about this Person. And as we do, we will be in a far better position to invite our friends and contacts to a celebration of His birth. And they will be far more open to receive it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Wedding Reception

"What do you mean", my wife recently asked me, "you haven't written about our time in the Holy Land?"

Marielle and I recently applied for Pilgrimage, and that got us talking about the last time we were in Israel, which was for a dear friend's wedding.

But before I tell you that story, I have to share this other one with you. Well, it's not actually a story, but more just a bit of a note. Marielle was talking with her mother a little while ago and Lise, her mom, asked her about the idea of no women on the House of Justice. Marielle truthfully said that she had no idea why this would be the case, but that 'Abdu'l-Baha had said that the reason would, in the future, be more manifest than the sun.


This, as you can imagine, did not satisfy Marielle, nor her mother, until our family went to the Holy Land.

As I mentioned, we were there for a wedding. Well, as with all good weddings there was a reception afterward. Marielle, Shoghi and I all went downstairs to it, and the room was fairly crowded.

Now, crowded means that adults couldn't just easily walk through the room. There were enough people there that we were not exactly packed, but all standing fairly close together.

This would stop an adult from running through the room

But not a child.

Say, a child of just over a year in age who was just beginning to learn to walk.

Like Shoghi at that particular time.

When we went down there, Shoghi decided that he really wanted to be on the floor. And while the room was crowded, it wasn't that crowded. When Shoghi began to squiggle like that, I usually let him down so that he could begin to explore the world around him.

That day was no different.

Except that it was.

It was different.

We were in the Holy Land.

And at this party, there were some very special people. Shoghi, at just over a year of age, was placed on the ground, and he practically sprinted across the room. I went to go after him, but there was just no way that I could keep up. He was small, able to run between people's legs. I, however, was not.

He ran straight across the room and just about dive bombed Kaiser Barnes, grabbing his leg and giving him a big hug. Mr Barnes, who was a member of the Universal House of Justice at the time, let out a surprised full-bellied laugh at this.

But Shoghi wasn't done. No sooner had Mr Barnes noticed him than he was off again, rushing across the room to give Peter Khan, another member of the Universal House of Justice, a hug, too.

Dr Khan looked surprised, but smiled down at his little "attacker", who proceeded to run off again.

This time he went to give Farzam Arbab a hug. Mr Arbab was yet another member of this illustrious institution, and by now many people had stopped to watch this little child dive-bombing certain people with his adorable little hugs to their legs.

After Mr Arbab, Shoghi went to Hooper Dunbar and then Paul Lample, the fourth and fifth members of the Universal House of Justice who were there.

Five members were present at this wedding reception, and Shoghi got them all.

When Marielle told this story to her mother, she finished with, "I don't know why Baha'u'llah would decide to limit membership to men, but if Shoghi could pick them out of a crowd at that age, I'm going to trust this decision. There must be something special about them."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bring Thyself to Account Each Day...

Once again it has been quite some time since I have had the chance to write. While there are many reasons for this, there are no excuses. If you want to see a bit of what I've been working on, you can check out another blog I've been writing:

That's one that a friend and I have been working on for some time, and it has been very rewarding. Only recently have I gone back to the beginning of it and started re-reading some of our insights into that wonderful book, the Kitab-i-Iqan, the Book of Certitude.

But for now, I've been thinking about a question someone recently asked me. I've talked about it before, but I really want to write about it again and thought, "Hey, why not?" It's about that Hidden Word, number 31, "O SON OF BEING! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds."

How, he wondered, do you bring yourself to account?

Well, as you know, dear Reader, this is just my own way of doing it. Nothing official. But it works for me.

To start, I'll re-tell a story of something that happened shortly after I declared myself a Baha'i.

First, let me just explain that after a long search, with lots of my testing to see whether or not I believed that Baha'u'llah was Who He said He was (and my use of capitals should give you some clue as to my thoughts on that), I decided that I would strive to do whatever He asked of me in the Writings.

And so I read, "Bring thyself to account..." Now I don't think this is just a good idea. He didn't say, as far as I can tell, "You might want to bring yourself to account...", or "It's a good idea to bring thyself..." No. To me, and it's a personal understanding still, it was a command. "Bring thyself..." Do it.

So I did. Or at least I tried.

I started off by looking at all the bad things I had done during the day, feeling bad about it, promising to try and do better, and going to sleep each night. After a few months of this, I began to feel really bad about myself. After all, I was looking at all the things I was doing wrong. I would count the sweets I had, the helpings of ice cream, or root beer, forgetting the vegetables I had enjoyed.

Then, a month or so later, I realized that if I were an accountant, and all I was looking at was my expenditures, I'd be a pretty lousy accountant. I needed to take into account all the good things I had done, too.

So began my daily look at all the good things I had done, all the bad things I had done, all the really good things I had done, and all the really not so good things I had done during the day. As long as the bad things were balanced by the good stuff, I was feeling pretty ok with myself.

But somehow, way in the deep recesses of my brain, I began to look at it all as some sort of cosmic balance. Bad things taken care of by the good? Well, if I have a few extra good things in the balance, then I can have some fun with the less than good things, right? I can enjoy that extra helping of ice cream.

Not quite.

This led to my pausing throughout the day and thinking to myself, "Oh, I'm going to have to account for this at the end of the day. Do I still want to do it?" And this, naturally, led to a change in my own behaviour.

And that, dear Reader, is when my life really began to change.

But all that was somewhere around 30 years ago.

What about now?

Well, the basics haven't really changed all that much, except that a lot of my questioning during the day is more habitual by now. I try not to judge myself, leaving that to God, but still try to judge my own actions. One thing, though. that has changed is my actual looking back over my day in a more detailed sort of way. Now, at least once a day, I try to actively recall as much as I can about my day. I think about how I woke up, whether I was refreshed or not, and what I did when I got out of bed. I think about washing up, making breakfast, what I ate. I think about walking my son to the bus, and what we discussed on the way.

I actually try to go through most of my steps, my thoughts, my reactions. I try to consciously recall my entire day and look back at it objectively, remembering what I did, what I enjoyed, and what I would like to do in the future.

And I find that I am more aware of my life. I remember more of what I have done.

For years, if you had asked me what I had for dinner the night before, I would not have been able to answer you. Today, I could probably tell you what I had a few days ago.

Taking the time to actively look back on my day has given me a greater awareness of the continuity of my life. It has helped me see where I have come from, where I am heading, and led me to a greater appreciation of what I truly value.

So many people tell me that our children grow up so quickly. And while that is true, I feel that I have had a lot more time in my son's life because I feel like I have lived it twice. While the years may seem to rush by, every day takes its time, allowing me to savor the joy of it.

Too often, I think we live unconsciously, letting the days drift by, unaware of any particular one, but taking the time to bring myself to account every day has helped me to be more aware of each day.

And that, my Friend, is a good thing.

Unless I had that extra helping of ice cream.